I think someone needs to tell all the other Phoenix real estate clerks that things have changed. All those big dreams, those millions and millions you were going to make in real estate?
Specializing in a planned community near Scottsdale, Barry lords over his territory in a canary-yellow Porsche Boxster whose vanity plate reads SAYSOLD. "It's a realtor thing," he says, half apologizing for, half drawing attention to his chariot. Locals tell me today is the coldest day of the year in Phoenix, but that doesn't dampen Barry's enthusiasm. "Let's put the top down!" he calls out as we get in the sports car for a tour of his domain.
Barry is skeptical of Zillow's valuations, especially in a market like Phoenix, where so many properties are languishing. If the Zestimates are based on sales, then Zillow is missing a whole lot of data. He points at a stack of pages from the MLS (for Multiple Listing Service, the nationwide database of properties for sale). "Look, 213 days, 353 days, 529 days," he says, referring to how long each house has been available. "There's a lot of fat in the market. Prices are still too high."
For any homeowner looking to sell, it's a gloomy message: These are the worst of times. Not long ago, Phoenix was the nation's fastest-growing market. The median price rose 55 percent in 2005. Agents were closing deals on the hoods of cars; investors flipped homes without ever moving in.
Fast-forward to early 2007: Throw a rock in any direction, and it'll bounce off a FOR SALE sign. "There are 45,000 listings in the Phoenix MLS, and that number hasn't changed in six months," Barry says as we cruise among lookalike stucco homes. With every passing week, the number of houses on the market rises, increasing the downward pricing pressure. "It's like a freeway pileup."
"You look out on the street and see five to ten houses for sale, but many people still don't believe things have changed," he says, shaking his head at a dirty carpet. "The average seller says, 'I need to get this much out of our house to move up.' But the market doesn't care."