The first three months of year were good to many Flagstaff residents hoping to sell their home -- or at least better than last year.

Prices were up by 9 percent in the first quarter compared to the same three months in 2012, with the median price hitting the $259,900 mark, according to figures provided by the Northern Arizona Association of Realtors.

That's still not as big a rise as in Phoenix, where prices jumped 23 percent in February compared to a year ago, the Associated Press reports.

And the 2013 first-quarter Flagstaff median price is still 29 percent below the 2007 peak for the same period.

Sales of single-family homes during the first quarter were down by 14 percent, with a total of 146 homes being sold in the greater Flagstaff area. Realtors sold 170 in the same period. Stephen Brighton blames the decline in sales on shortage of homes priced below $350,000.

He says there is no lack of demand in terms of the number of homebuyers willing to put cash down on affordably priced homes. Buyers, Brighton says, greatly outnumber sellers in this market.

Jerome Naleski, a Realtor with Re/Max Peak Properties, notes he has begun to show a lot more houses in the last few weeks.

"Under $350,000," he said. "There is a lot of demand (from buyers.)"

One issue, he said, is there are fewer sellers. Many are still underwater, he believes, owing more to the bank than they are worth.

"People are waiting for prices to come up and come back," Naleski said.

The type of housing inventory has also changed, Brighton says, noting that the amount of distressed sales for the first quarter was down to 31 percent. A year ago, the number of distressed homes was roughly 50 percent.

A change in how NAAR measures sales, Brighton notes, does not currently let him measure the median size of single-family residential homes.

Still Brighton is optimistic that the trend of prices increasing will continue. He notes that sales prices have been up for the past four months

"The market is beginning to pick up," he said.

Real estate, however, is nowhere near the peak of 2007 when the median sale price of a single-family home was $367,750.

Jacquie Kellogg, the current president of the Northern Arizona Association of Realtors and the owner of West USA Realty Flagstaff, agrees.

"Not everybody is open to a short sale," she said.

Kellogg notes the property management arm of her business has begun to pick up, noting an increased interest in vacation rentals.

"I was talking to (a co-worker) about one of her big rentals (she manages) ... she gets $590 a night for it and she is booked for the entire summer," she said.

Joe Ferguson can be reached at 556-2253 or jferguson@azdailysun.com.

Flagstaff single-family home sales

1st quarter # sold median $

2013 146 259k

2012 168 240k

2011 155 246k

2010 130 299k

2009 103 325k

2008 121 360k

2007 184 368k

2006 169 360k

2005 199 313k

2004 207 235k

2003 196 221k

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