Though there are those who currently complain of a lack of affordable housing in Williams, the com-munity has seen an unpre-cidented rise in real estate sales since this time last year. Reasons are varied, but experts agree the biggest push is coming from a rising American trend to get back to small town life.
“I think it picked up earlier and faster,” said Nelly Rensink, realtor and office manager at Blue Cloud Real Estate and Development in Williams, contrasting the present with the same period last year.
The reasons are numerous.
First, obviously, is the existence and continuance of low interest rates.
Secondly, many of Williams’ new residents stream over from California, where housing prices are so high, that even a relatively small two bedroom, one bath house fetches upwards of $450,000 in Los Angeles. According to Blue Cloud, about 75 percent of those they’re selling to come from California.
That principal isn’t exclusive to California, however. Many still are coming from higher-priced areas within the state – such as Flagstaff – looking for something more reasonably priced that they can afford, even though housing prices in Williams are measurably higher than similar properties elsewhere in the country. There are also Phoenix and southern Arizona homeowners looking at northern Arizona in an effort to escape the heat in the Valley of the Sun.
At the same time, realtors are seeing a trend that suggests Americans in general are growing tired of the fast-paced, big city lifestyle that seemed so popular in the 1980s.
Rich Gorney of Williams-based Bankers Real Estate — which has already had 120 properties in escrow this year — agrees, saying that the trend started with the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
“I think it all started with 9-11,” Gorney speculates. “We’ve been progressing since then and I think it’s been that people want a different lifestyle, they want to get out of the big cities. They want to get down to more of a small-town atmosphere.”
Gorney added that the enthusiasm of Arizona Territory, coupled with the buzz of Dogtown III, has brought on a rise in inquiries as well.
“We’re probably running at about a 125 percent increase,” Gorney said.
This all comes at a time when some Williams residents have complained of a shortage of affordable housing, which begs the question, ‘Where are these properties that are selling so fast coming from?’
A portion is summer homes that are being sold for a variety of reasons. Some are elderly people that need to leave the high altitude for health, and some are moving on to bigger or better properties. The fact that families grow and shrink over the years is also a factor, and Bob Dean — an associate broker at Blue Cloud — admits that some are even Europeans unloading land that they were swindled into buying “sight unseen.”
Commercial properties don’t seem to be moving nearly as fast, but another portion of the high amount of properties being sold is empty lots. According to Bankers, these are selling so fast, that contractors are having difficulty keeping up. Buyers, meanwhile, are willing to wait nearly a year to get a house built on land they’ve purchased.
The consensus of most of the realtors in Williams is that the trend will probably continue, even with the typical fluctuation in interest rates, because there are no signs of people not wanting to escape big-city life.
The city welcomes the boom for a number of reasons, according to Williams City manager Dennis Wells.
“I think it is a positive in a number of ways,” Wells said.
Aside from increased tax revenue for the city, one big benefit of the real estate boom is that as properties are sold and values increase, many of the city’s older, unsightly properties are being torn down and replaced, or completely rennovated, making the city look better and better with each project.
The only potential for danger would be the “bubble” factor, whereby interest in properties exceeds the amount of availability so much, that a botoming out could occur. That scenario, however, is unlikely according to city officials because the factors driving the market have no signs of ending anytime soon.
Eventually, though, if Williams wants to keep selling, the city will have no choice but to expand and allow contractors and developers to build housing.
That, of course, will have to wait until Williams is able to get through its water shortage problems.