As bargain housing inventory in Carson Valley disappears, demand from increased sales appears to be driving home values back up, according to data released by the Douglas County Assessor's Office.
In the second quarter of 2012 within the East Fork Township, home prices reached their highest level in a year. The median sales price jumped from $169,950 in the first quarter of the year to $203,500 in the last three months ending June 30. The average sales price jumped from $215,410 in the first three months of the year to $236,919 in the second quarter - a 10 percent increase.
The latest figures are the highest in the last four quarters. In the third quarter of 2011, the market hit a new bottom, with a median sales price of $180,250 and average sales price of $222,896. Values continued to slide through the end of the year.
In second quarter of 2011, the median sales price stood at $200,000, and the average sales price at $269,845. In other words, values are creeping back toward a higher level lost a year ago. The median sales prices has already inched past the $200,000 mark, though the average sales price is still down about 12 percent from a year ago.
Higher values in recent months have come with higher sales. Total number of sales reached 204 in the second quarter of this year, up from 162 in the first quarter of the year, and up from 147 in the second quarter of 2011.
Jim Valentine, an agent with Re/Max Realty Affiliates in Gardnerville, said the numbers reflect "sustained demand."
"It's been sustained since January of this year," he said. "We're doing the volume we did in 2005. The prices are lower, but the number of sales are there."
Lowball inventory has been disappearing at a fast rate in certain neighborhoods, Valentine said, while the mid- to high-end markets have been gaining steam.
"We're reaching the higher price points. The $300,000 and $400,000 homes are selling more, and that's why we're seeing an increase in the median," he said. "There isn't much left in the lower price points. Where there used to be 15 or 20 homes in the Ranchos under $150,000, now there's only one or two. And it's the same thing in town."
Valentine believes the market has finally turned that elusive corner toward stability.
"Interest rates are incredibly low, prices are still very good, and there's sustained demand," he said. "It's a blessing. Sellers are comfortable selling right now. We previously had four years that were agonizing. Now, banks are being more cooperative in short sales, not all, but most are responsive, and a lot of people who aren't upside down are saying they're going to sell. Buyers want to buy, and sellers want to sell.
"It's exciting. It's what we've been waiting for for five years - that people have confidence in their actions in the market."
One challenge, however, is a new trend in the lending industry, Valentine said.
"Not the loan officers, but the underwriters and their criteria, and the very small, odd-shaped boxes you have to jump through," he said. "When those don't work, they get out the hoops, light them on fire and make you jump through those. The industry is seeing some really questionable judgment and silly denials, and that's one of the biggest hurdles we face today."
Although optimistic about the overall real estate market in Carson Valley, Valentine emphasized that market segments within the Valley vary widely in terms of inventory and value.
"Our Valley is 12 miles wide and 25 miles long, and there are a lot of pocket neighborhoods," he said. "Even in our Valley, it's hard to make an absolute statement. You really got to look at specific neighborhoods."