Mohave County invaded by vacant homes

Realtors say market shows signs of growth

KINGMAN - The number of vacant homes in Mohave County has increased by more than 11,000 in the last 10 years from 17,253 in 2000 to 28,372 in 2010 putting the county eighth in the state, according to the U.S. Census.

Unoccupied homes in Mohave County in 2000 was 22 percent, and the increase in unoccupied homes translates to the cities and the unincorporated areas as well. Kingman's unoccupied home rate jumped from 9 to 12 percent, Bullhead City's rate went from 25 to 29, Golden Valley's rate ticked up 1 percent from 16 to 17 and Lake Havasu's jumped from 22 to 28 percent.

At the same time, all three of the major cities in Mohave County and Golden Valley saw an increase in the number of homes built. According to the census, Kingman went from 8,604 to 12,724 homes. Bullhead City went from 18,430 to 23,464 homes. The number of homes in Golden Valley increased by 2,167 from 2,175 homes in 2000 to 4,342 homes in 2010. Lake Havasu City saw the largest increase from 23,018 to 32,327, a more than 9,000 home increase.

All three cities, the county and Golden Valley also saw an increase in population during those 10 years. The number of people living in Mohave County grew from 155,032 to 200,186. In Kingman, the population increased from 20,069 to 28,068. Bullhead City saw its population climb from 33,852 to 39,540 and Lake Havasu City saw its population jump from 41,859 in 2000 to 52,527. Golden Valley's population increased from 4,587 in 2000 to 8,370.

But the census numbers can be misleading, according to Kathleen Murray of Realty Executives. Some of those unoccupied homes may be summer homes (especially in the Lake Havasu area), homes moving into foreclosure or temporarily vacant rentals. Some of those homes may also be homes where a census taker wasn't able to get a hold of the owner, no one answered the door and the home looked vacant, she said.

Murray also pointed out that the figures used in the census were collected between 2009 and 2010.

"What was current then, may not be current now," she said. "Those figures are probably a little high."

For example, according to the active listings that Realtors like Murray use, there were 148 vacant homes on the market in Kingman Tuesday afternoon. In Bullhead City there were 229, in Lake Havasu 279 and in Golden Valley 45, she said. However, those listings do not include vacant rentals.

She also pointed out that the market for homes is starting to pick up, decreasing the supply of vacant homes for sale. In 2007, approximately 635 single-family residences were sold in Kingman. In 2008, the number increased to 644. It increased again in 2009 to 884 and again in 2010 to 951 homes, Murray said.

However, the average purchase price of a home in Kingman has dropped from $202,625 in 2007 to $100,360 in 2010, she said. The number of days a home stays on the market has also dropped from 163 days on the market in 2007 to 130 days in 2010.

Interest rates for home loans have also dropped, although the amount of paperwork to get approved for a mortgage has increased. All good indicators that people who were priced out of the housing market are now looking and buying, Murray said.

However, the market is still being effected by the high unemployment rate, Murray said. Being unemployed restricts how much a person can afford to spend on a house.

Another positive change in the market Murray has noticed is a decrease in the number of heavy investors.