May 16, 2012 (Shirley Allen)

Monthly sales of new and resale homes in the Phoenix area increased in March, though they still weren’t strong enough to beat last year’s tally, while home prices continued to recover, increasing by almost 15 percent since last August, according to the latest housing data released from DataQuick.

A total of 10,005 new and existing homes and condos closed escrow in the Maricopa-Pinal counties area in March. Sales were 22.2 percent higher than the 8,189 homes sold in February but were still 2.7 percent lower than the 10,279 homes sold in March of 2011.

Home sales typically increase 29.4 percent between February and March and were 4.1 percent below the average number of homes typically sold in March.

New homes sales were 27.1 percent higher than in the same month last year, their highest since March 2009, but were still well below what is average for the month. Sales of existing homes were 12.6 percent higher than the March average.

Cash buyers accounted for 44.8 percent of all purchases in March, down from 45.5 percent in February and down from 45.4 percent a year earlier. The record for cash purchases was in February 2011, when 48 percent of the sales were for cash.

The price that cash buyers paid for their purchases increased to $112,000 in March, which was up from $101,000 in February and $88,500 in March of 2011.

Absentee buyers, usually investors and vacation home buyers, accounted for 46.1 percent of all homes sold in March, up from 43.3 percent in February. The prices they paid for their purchases increased to $116,900 from $102,000 in February and were up from $100,000 in March of 2011.

The overall median price paid for new and resale homes and condos in March was $135,000, up from $128,000 in February and up from $120,000 in March of last year. It was the fifth consecutive month that home prices have increased year-over-year following 17 months of declines.

The current median price is 48.5 percent below the peak median price of $264,100 in June 2006, however, prices have improved by 14.8 percent since August 2011, which is when prices in the area reached its post-peak trough.

Distressed property sales accounted for 45.1 percent of the re-sale market in March, with foreclosure sales accounting for 31.8 percent of all re-sales, down from 34.3 percent in February, and short sales accounting for 13.3 percent of all re-sales, down from 15.6 percent in February. Distressed property sales were at their lowest level since April 2008.

Tags: existing home sales, Phoenix, distressed properties, resale homes, condos, cash buyers, investors, median price