Home sales on the rebound

By Tonya Garner: Freedom Newspapers

The area housing market has experienced a major revitalization in the last three months, according to area real estate agents.

The spirited sales come on the heels of a prolonged period of plunging sales after the Pentagon announced a year ago today Cannon Air Force Base was being targeted for closure.

Cannon has since been placed on enclave status while the U.S. Department of Defense searches for a new mission for one of the area’s key economic cogs.

An average of 68 houses a month was sold in Clovis in February through April, according to Clovis Board of Realtors figures. From July 2005 to January of 2006, an average of 41 homes per month was sold.

At least one real estate agent is speculating the upturn in housing sales could be linked to Cannon receiving a new mission, which federal officials say could be announced in June.

“We (real estate agents) are feeling very good,” said Gayla Brumfield, owner of Coldwell Banker Colonial Real Estate in Clovis. “There is a lot of anticipation about what’s going to happen with Cannon.”

Brumfield and Clovis Board of Realtors president Dawn Armstrong said February was a particularly strong month.

“We are definitely seeing an uptrend,” said Armstrong, expressing uncertainty whether the improved market is related to Cannon. “It could be seasonal. This is the time of year when people are receiving their tax returns, which they can use for down payments.”

Armstrong said her company, Clovis Realty, is seeing investors purchasing homes to use as rental properties.
Portales real estate agent Doug Downs reported a two-thirds drop in sales beginning in June 2005. He said the dismal numbers continued through December.

“Things started picking up in late November,” Downs said, “and February was a good month for us. Downs, an associate broker with Prudential Master Properties in Portales, said home buyers in his area consist mostly of military personnel seeking off-base permanent housing for retirement and parents of Eastern New Mexico University students.

According to Downs, many Portales residents are also upgrading to larger properties and renters are becoming homeowners. People are purchasing homes now in anticipation of the prices possibly increasing, he said.
“Of course it’s all speculation, but people seem hopeful Cannon will have a new mission,” Downs said.

Armstrong reported 82 homes were sold in March 2005 and 71 homes in April 2005. The number dropped dramatically to 55 in May 2005, when the federal government put Cannon on the base closure list.

“It (months following BRAC) wasn’t devastating,” Brumfield said, “but it definitely wasn’t what we were used to.”

The most sought-after homes range in price from $140,000 to $150,000 and are less than five years old, according to Brumfield. Currently there are 197 homes on the market priced from $12,000 to $495,000.

“It’s a pretty balanced market,” Brumfield said. “There aren’t really any huge steals.”