Realtors: Local housing market in holding pattern

By Gabriel Monte, Freedom New Mexico

Clovis and Portales Realtors are starting to see the housing market improve from a dismal first-quarter but say it’s still sluggish compared to last year.

But they are optimistic Cannon Air Force Base’s transition to a Special Operation’s Wing will bolster the area housing markets.

Aces Realty owner Benny Pacheco said the realty business has been in a holding pattern, partially from the wait on new personnel at Cannon and partially due to rising food and fuel costs.

“What’s happening is people’s confidence has dropped,” Pacheco said, “and they don’t have as much money left over.

“When your gas bill was $150 a month versus $300 or $400 a month, you had a little more confidence in what you could do.”

According to the Clovis Multi-Listing Service, 33 houses were sold in Clovis in January for $4.3 million. That number increased in July to 41 houses for $6 million.

In August, 18 houses have been sold for $2.9 million as of Aug. 18. The number of houses sold this year peaked so far in May at 43 for $7.4 million.

Pacheco said his market is mostly working-class families looking for houses in the $30,000 to $80,000 range. He said while sales are down, he’s at least getting more calls than he did a few months ago and he has received inquiries from airmen assigned to Cannon.

“All in all, I would say our market (in eastern New Mexico) is still healthy, we’re still making a decent living,” Pacheco said.

According to the listing service, 283 houses have sold since January for $42 million.

In 2007, 349 house were sold from January through August for $45 million.

There are 336 houses listed for sale presently in Clovis, according to the listing service.

“A year ago, we were selling eight to 12 houses a month,” Pacheco said. “That dropped by 50 percent.”

Kathy Graham of Kiva Realty said the rebound from first-quarter housing slump in Portales started in May.

Skip Overdier, managing broker of Coldwell Banker Colonial Real Estate, said he expects more houses sold once the population ramps up at Cannon.

He has seen a surge in the rental market, and feels it is partially due to airmen who can’t commit to buying homes in Clovis because they are the midst of selling their homes at their prior bases.

Other military members may rent because the commitment to Cannon and Clovis may be a short one.

“There are some military folks for some reason, need to rent rather than buy,” Overdier said. “Some of them are only here for a few years, some are on their last year of enlistment.”

Pacheco said he has heard from colleagues about the rental market surge. Even if a large number of Cannon personnel end up renting, that drives rental prices up, which in turn drives up home prices.

“The more of any group you get, the more buyers you get,” Overdier said.

Cannon officials have said the base population would climb to between 4,400 to 5,600 by 2014.