Home sales may be in the dumps, but they're selling faster here than in most other communities across the country.
Fresno ranks third on a list of the top 10 cities nationwide where houses are selling the fastest, according to a monthly real estate market survey conducted by Realtor.com.
Last month, houses in Fresno spent a median 57 days on the market, the survey said. Denver and Oakland beat Fresno with houses listed on the market for 39 and 47 days, respectively.
Local numbers show houses moved even faster than the Realtor.com survey found. In Fresno and Clovis, houses spent a median 37 days on the market in August, according to the Fresno Association of Realtors.
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That's an improvement over 2006, when the housing market went downhill and houses lingered for 90 to 100 days before being sold.
"Things have speeded up and the market is coming back," said Javier Cavazos, chairman of the association's Multiple Listing Service. "We're starting to see a little better product in a more active price range."
Rush for a deal
The affordable-housing market is attracting cash investors and first-time homebuyers who want the best deal.
Buyers are snatching up cheap foreclosures and houses priced at $200,000 and lower, real estate agents said. Even higher-priced homes are selling, but demand isn't as strong, agents said.
A combination of low home prices, low interest rates and a small inventory of houses for sale is creating a competitive market for buyers. In addition, investors using cash are creating challenges for traditional buyers using a mortgage loan.
"If it's priced right, a house can be sold in three or four days within going on the market," said Sandy Hornocker, real estate agent for Keller Williams Westland Realty in Fresno.
Fresno and Clovis have only about two months' worth of inventory, or about 1,800 houses, for sale, Cavazos said. In a healthy market, there should be 3,000 to 4,000 houses for sale to service half a million people, he said.
It's not unusual for a buyer to look at a dozen or so houses and write up six to seven purchase offers before an offer is accepted, said Jared Martin, who also works at Keller Williams Westland Realty.
Martin's client, Briana Seltzer, jumped at the opportunity to buy a house when she saved enough for a 20% down payment. She started shopping for a home in January, but didn't think it would take so long or be so difficult.
Seltzer and her husband, Lee, looked at about 15 houses and made offers on five. Seltzer even made a back-up offer on a home that already had nine offers.
"It was really exhausting," Seltzer said, "I learned to try not to invest myself into the home too much for fear of losing it."
Seltzer was surprised at how fast houses sold and how quickly she was forced to decide on whether to put in an offer. The first four houses she bid on, she had to decide within 24 hours whether to make an offer. On the fifth house, she had a few days to think about it and finally made a winning offer. Escrow is expected to close this week.
Speed is the key when houses fly off the market, said Will Youpel, an agent with Century 21 C. Watson.
"What's frustrating is finding your dream house and not being able to pull the trigger on what it's going to take for it or competing with a lot of other people," Youpel said. "To get those properties, it's about speed and getting your offer in."
Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly quoted July figures from Realtor.com: A median of 51 days on the market in Fresno, 32 in Denver and 46 in Oakland. The story has been updated to reflect August numbers from Realtor.com.