October 3, 2011 (Shirley Allen)

Buyers in Phoenix took advantage of the lowest interest rates in 50 years and the lowest housing prices since 1998 to push the sales of new and resale homes to their highest levels in five years according to the latest data released from DataQuick.

A total of 9,657 new and resale houses and condos closed escrow in the Maricopa-Pinal counties area in August. Sales were 8.1 percent higher than the 9,050 homes sold in July and a whopping 35.8 percent higher than the amount of homes sold in August of 2010.

Existing home sales typically drop 0.1 percent between July and August and were 4.1 percent below the average number of homes typically sold in August.

Last month’s sales benefitted from August having three more selling days than July. When total home sales are compared on a daily basis, sales actually declined by 3.8 percent from July to August, but were still 29.9 percent higher than August of last year. The large difference in home sales from a year ago is a result of the sharp drop in the number of homes sold following the expiration of the home buyer’s tax credit last year.

Cash buyers accounted for 42.4 percent of all purchases in August, which was up slightly from 40.0 percent in July and up 37.6 percent from 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 are paying continues to decline as the median price paid by a cash buyer in August was $85,000 which is down from $86,000 in July and down from $95,000 in August 2010.

Absentee buyers, usually investors and vacation home buyers, accounted for 44.1 percent of all homes sold in August, down from 45.4 percent in July and they paid a median average price of $96,000 during the month, down from $98,010 in July.

The overall median price paid for new and resale homes and condos in August was $118,000, which was down from $120,000 in July and 9.2 percent below August of last year.

The current median price is 55.3 percent below the peak median price of $264,100 in June 2006 and has fallen year-over-year for the last 14 consecutive months.

Distressed sales represented 61.5 percent of the re-sale market in August, down from 63.8 in July, as foreclosure sales accounted for 47.6 percent of all re-sales, down from 49.8 in July, and short sales accounted for 13.9 percent of all re-sales, down from 14.0 in July.

Foreclosures increased 9.2 percent from July to August, but were down 32.7 percent from August of 2010.

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