Phoenix-area home prices continue to rise


May 31, 2012

Phoenix-area home prices continue to rise, but a short supply of available homes is causing the amount of activity in the market to fall. A new report from the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University gives an update on the hard-hit housing market of Maricopa and Pinal counties, as of April:

• The median single-family home price is up 25 percent from a year ago.
• The overall supply of homes for sale is down 54 percent from last April.
• The number of single-family homes sold this April was down 11.5 percent from last April, largely due to the lack of supply. Mike Orr Download Full Image

Anxious Phoenix-area homeowners will be relieved to see the median single-family home price in the area went up 25 percent, from $112,000 to $140,000, between April 2011 and April 2012. Realtors will note the average price per square foot went up 16.5 percent in the same timeframe. However, the new W. P. Carey School report indicates we could be seeing even more activity, if more homes were available for sale.

“April is normally a very busy month for home sales, but this year’s sales are weaker than last year’s due to the unusual lack of supply,” says Mike Orr, director of the Center for Real Estate Theory and Practice at the W. P. Carey School of Business. “We’re looking at only about 8,800 single-family homes for sale in the Greater Phoenix area, and more than 25 percent are priced at more than $500,000. The inventory of single-family homes for sale under $250,000 with no existing contract is equal to only 21 days of supply.”

Orr says we have a very unbalanced market with many more buyers than sellers. Prices have been going up since they reached a low point in September 2011. Condominiums and townhomes are included in the boost. Their median sales price rose about 23 percent from April 2011 to April 2012, going from $72,500 to $89,050.

“Demand remains strong in the market, as evidenced by multiple-bid situations for the majority of resale home listings,” says Orr. “Most homes priced well are attracting multiple offers within a couple of days. Up to 20 or 30 offers for a home are becoming common, and often, many offers exceed the asking price. As a result, in the single month from March to April, the overall median sales price increased by 3.8 percent.”

The areas that suffered the most price damage during the recession, such as El Mirage, Maricopa, Tolleson and Glendale, are now seeing the most positive price movement. A few areas that were least affected by foreclosures, such as Cave Creek, Fountain Hills and Wickenburg, are still showing negative price movement.

Overall, foreclosures are down 62 percent in the Phoenix area from last April. However, one note of concern comes from the number of foreclosure starts – homeowners receiving notice their lenders may foreclose in 90 days. That number went up 4.7 percent from last April. Orr says he has seen a slight uptick in the rate of foreclosure notices since the signing of a recent legal settlement between the states and five of the nation’s largest housing lenders.

New-home sales, normal resales and short sales are up year-over-year, and most lenders have recently encouraged troubled homeowners to use short sales as a preferred alternative to foreclosure. Meantime, sales of homes owned by banks, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the government are going down. In fact, so-called “distressed supply” dropped 81 percent from April to April.

“In order for us to see a more stable housing recovery, the basic rules of economics require prices to change enough to bring a new wave of sellers onto the market,” explains Orr. “That hasn’t happened yet, and so far, supply remains insufficient to meet demand.”

Orr’s full report, including statistics, charts and a breakdown by different areas of the Valley, can be viewed at http://wpcarey.asu.edu/finance/real-estate/upload/Monthly-Report-201205.pdf. More analysis is also available from knowWPCarey, the business school’s online resource and newsletter, at http://knowwpcarey.com.

ASU astronomers discover faintest distant galaxy


June 1, 2012

Newfound galaxy secures spot among top 10 most distant known objects in space

Astronomers at Arizona State University have found an exceptionally distant galaxy, ranked among the top 10 most distant objects currently known in space. Light from the recently detected galaxy left the object about 800 million years after the beginning of the universe, when the universe was in its infancy. galaxy LAEJ095950.99+021219.1 Download Full Image

A team of astronomers, led by James Rhoads, Sangeeta Malhotra, and Pascale Hibon of the School of Earth and Space Exploration at ASU, identified the remote galaxy after scanning a moon-sized patch of sky with the IMACS instrument on the Magellan Telescopes at the Carnegie Institution’s Las Campanas Observatory in Chile.

The observational data reveal a faint infant galaxy, located 13 billion light-years away. “This galaxy is being observed at a young age. We are seeing it as it was in the very distant past, when the universe was a mere 800 million years old,” says Rhoads, an associate professor in the school. “This image is like a baby picture of this galaxy, taken when the universe was only 5 percent of its current age. Studying these very early galaxies is important because it helps us understand how galaxies form and grow.”

The galaxy, designated LAEJ095950.99+021219.1, was first spotted in summer 2011. The find is a rare example of a galaxy from that early epoch, and will help astronomers make progress in understanding the process of galaxy formation. The find was enabled by the combination of the Magellan telescopes’ tremendous light gathering capability and exquisite image quality, thanks to the mirrors built in Arizona’s Steward Observatory; and by the unique ability of the IMACS instrument to obtain either images or spectra across a very wide field of view. The research, published in the June 1 issue of The Astrophysical Journal Letters, was supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

This galaxy, like the others that Malhotra, Rhoads, and their team seek, is extremely faint and was detected by the light emitted by ionized hydrogen. The object was first identified as a candidate early-universe galaxy in a paper led by team member and former ASU postdoctoral researcher Hibon. The search employed a unique technique they pioneered that uses special narrow-band filters that allow a small wavelength range of light through.

A special filter fitted to the telescope camera was designed to catch light of narrow wavelength ranges, allowing the astronomers to conduct a very sensitive search in the infrared wavelength range.  “We have been using this technique since 1998 and pushing it to ever-greater distances and sensitivities in our search for the first galaxies at the edge of the universe,” says Malhotra, an associate professor in the school. “Young galaxies must be observed at infrared wavelengths and this is not easy to do using ground-based telescopes, since the Earth’s atmosphere itself glows and large detectors are hard to make.”

To be able to detect these very distant objects which were forming near the beginning of the universe, astronomers look for sources which have very high redshifts. Astronomers refer to an object’s distance by a number called its “redshift,” which relates to how much its light has stretched to longer, redder wavelengths due to the expansion of the universe. Objects with larger redshifts are farther away and are seen further back in time. LAEJ095950.99+021219.1 has a redshift of 7. Only a handful of galaxies have confirmed redshifts greater than 7, and none of the others is as faint as LAEJ095950.99+021219.1.

“We have used this search to find hundreds of objects at somewhat smaller distances. We have found several hundred galaxies at redshift 4.5, several at redshift 6.5, and now at redshift 7 we have found one,” explains Rhoads. “We’ve pushed the experiment’s design to a redshift of 7 – it’s the most distant we can do with well-established, mature technology, and it’s about the most distant where people have been finding objects successfully up to now.”

Malhotra adds, “With this search, we’ve not only found one of the furthest galaxies known, but also the faintest confirmed at that distance. Up to now, the redshift 7 galaxies we know about are literally the top one percent of galaxies. What we’re doing here is to start examining some of the fainter ones – thing that may better represent the other 99 percent.”

Resolving the details of objects that are far away is challenging, which is why images of distant young galaxies such as this one appear small, faint, and blurry.

“As time goes by, these small blobs which are forming stars, they’ll dance around each other, merge with each other and form bigger and bigger galaxies. Somewhere halfway through the age of the universe they start looking like the galaxies we see today – and not before. Why, how, when, where that happens is a fairly active area of research,” explains Malhotra.

In addition to Hibon, Malhotra, and Rhoads, the paper’s authors include Michael Cooper of the University of California at Irvine, and Benjamin Weiner of the University of Arizona.

Nikki Cassis

marketing and communications director, School of Earth and Space Exploration