It's not the same real estate market it was three years ago. Back in 2005, before the real estate bubble burst, when news of a proposed theme park fueled high prices in the Williams area and even all the way north to Tusayan, home sales soared. Buyers arrived from all points of the compass to get in on the real estate game. Rural properties, especially, increased exponentially in 2005.
These days the market is a completely different beast, say many realtors. While speculation still abounds about the proposed theme park, some are beginning to liquidate their land at reduced prices when compared to their original investment in 2005. A number of real estate companies, which appeared in the Williams area at the height of the real estate boom, no longer have a presence in the community. A number have remained, however, and are managing to stay afloat despite hard times in the real estate world.
Bankers Real Estate owner John Rushton said that, while the market has been tough of late, he believes it is also beginning to show some signs of life.
"It's been sporadic. We have times that things will pick up for a couple weeks and then it will die right down for a couple of weeks. It's kind of a new thing for everyone with the way the banks are having their financial difficulties. It's kind of a challenge to get people to qualify for their loans," he said, adding that, compared to the 1980s financial crisis, the current economic problems, which started when the housing bubble popped, has made it more difficult for buyers to get approval for a mortgage.
"2005 was the big push when real estate just went crazy," Rushton said. "The market has pretty well corrected itself from the real estate bubble of 2005. We're seeing a larger correction with the rural properties than the homes in town."
Rushton said the market might also begin to improve following the November presidential election.
"A lot of people think that the elections are not going to affect the market in the short term. I think once the elections are over we'll see an increase in activity because people are going to feel more comfortable that the elections are behind us, no matter who is elected. The market is not going to correct itself overnight," Rushton said. "Buyers are out there. They're out there and they're available. It's a strong buyers market."
RE/MAX broker Debi Zecchin said she also believes the market is improving.
"It's been very slow; it picked up a little bit in the summer from May on," Zecchin said. "There are still buyers out there. We have a bunch of things happening here in my office. I think we'll have a decent fall, but overall it's significantly a different market. The sellers are frustrated and so are the realtors because the buyers are just not there. That's why everyone is worried and rightfully so. I'm hoping it will pick up in spring, but that's anyone's guess."
Despite a slow market, Zecchin said that now is definitely a good time to buy.
"It is a wonderful time to buy. If you don't have to sell anything, it's a wonderful time to buy," Zecchin said.
She said the real estate market in 2008, when compared to 2005, is down roughly 70 percent.
"If we're comparing 2005 with 2008, we had a 70 percent reduction in homes sold so far this year," Zecchin said. "In 2005 we had 187-some sold at the peak of the real estate boom. In 2008, so far this year we only had 42 this year. So maybe we'll have 60 by the end of the year."
The real estate that did sell, she said, stayed on the market far longer than they used to.
"There's less homes selling, they're on the market longer and the percentage of sales price to list price has gone down from 95 percent, in 2005, to 89 percent this year."
Zecchin said that land peaked in 2006, from an average of $65,000, to an average of $31,000 in 2008. Forty-acre parcels in Howard Mesa, highly speculated in 2005 due to theme park news, peaked at about $120,000. Those same parcels now sell for $70,000 or $80,000, Zecchin said. Golf Course lots around Williams, which sold for $130,000 in 2007, show no sales to date in 2008, according to the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). Most, but not all, realtors in Williams use the MLS.