Stephen Brighton is one of many local Realtors who see an encouraging trend in the housing market.
He understands there are both buyers and sellers who remain skeptical that the market is actually recovering, given a median sales price for all of 2012 that was the lowest since 2003.
But for Brighton, proof is in the number of houses sold, not the price. According to the Northern Arizona Association of Realtors Multiple Listing Service, the 886 single-family homes sold in the greater Flagstaff area in 2012 was up by 15 percent compared with 2011. It also was the highest number of homes sold in the last six years.
The median home price in 2012 was down 4 percent from last year while the price per square foot was essentially flat.
Brighton said the market also showed solid growth in the second half of 2012. The number of homes sold, the median price and price per square foot were all up, for the second half of the year, the fourth quarter and the month of December, he said.
December, usually one of the slowest months of the entire year for Realtors, saw a 26 percent increase in the number of sales and 10 percent increase in the median price over the same month in 2011.
"All the signs are that the market is starting to turn," Brighton, a Realtor with Century 21 Flagstaff Realty, said.
The hottest part of the market continues to be homes with an asking price under $300,000. Prospective homebuyers in this range greatly outnumber sellers -- even in the dead of winter.
"It is a real tight market for that price range," Brighton said.
He said it is not unusual right now for sellers with homes in that price range to start receiving serious bids within 24 hours of listing their property.
An extremely tight supply of homes has buyers getting into bidding wars, with many homes being sold for more than their asking price.
He said the shortage shouldn't be surprising to anyone.
"If they don't absolutely, positively need to sell their house during the winter ... they list them in the spring," he said.
Realtor Jacquie Kellogg, who owns WestUSA Realty in Flagstaff, is seeing a number of buyers willing to trudge through snow to peer into windows of homes for sale.
She is also beginning to see a new type of buyer other than just the typical investors and first-time homebuyers for small houses - those who have a short sale (selling a house for less than they owe on the mortgage) on their credit reports.
"All those people who did short sales in 2007 can come back into the market now and that is huge," Kellogg said. "Things are turning around because people are able to come back into the market who didn't think they were able to."
Jerome Naleski, a Realtor with Re/Max Peak Properties, said renters are also looking for homes under $300,000 because it is cheaper to own for large families than it is to rent.
The median home price has dropped over the last few years, but the rental market has changed.
"Rent prices have not dropped at all," Naleski said.
Kellogg agrees, saying homeowners who went into foreclosure or were able to get a short sale have been forced into the rental market over the last few years.
"That was a huge pressure on the market," she said.
Both are optimistic that the median sale price will not decline this summer, the typical peak of the Flagstaff housing market.
Joe Ferguson can be reached at 556-2253 or email@example.com.
Flagstaff Home Sales
Year/Price/# sold/$ per sq ft
Year/Price/# sold/$ per sq ft
-- Source: Northern Arizona Association of Realtors. Not all sales are listed.