A steep drop in distressed properties and inventory levels buoyed Phoenix area home prices to levels not seen since 2008, DataQuick reported Thursday.

The median sales price of $155,000 for new and resale Phoenix homes is the highest level reached in the market since November 2008 when the median hit $168,984. While the September median sales price edged up only 0.6% from August, it's 24% above year-ago levels, suggesting a deep turn in the marketplace.  

Not only did foreclosure resales fall pushing up prices, but DataQuick noted a considerable decline in transactions in the sub-$200,000 range.

Overall, the report suggests the once struggling real estate market is now benefiting price wise from a tighter supply of properties and a quick upturn in mid- to high-end transactions that are buoying prices.

Despite the sharp upturn in values, DataQuick is mindful of the fact that Phoenix's September median prices remain 41.3% below its all-time peak of $264,100 in June 2006. On the bright side, it's also up 31% from the market's trough when foreclosures and an ailing economy struck the region.

Researchers with DataQuick believe a more aggressive clearing of distressed properties in the shadow inventory could push prices down again due to an increase in supply.

The market is already showing signs of less distress with foreclosure resales dipping to 19% of all home sold in September, the lowest percentage of total sales since January of 2008.

Price-point mattered greatly in September with the number of homes selling for less than $100,000 falling 44.8% from year ago levels.  Meanwhile, sales in the $200,000-to-$400,000 range rose 20.6% from last year, pushing up the median home price. Sales in the above-$500,000 range also shot up 22%, while homes listed for higher than $800,000 increased 12%.

kpanchuk@housingwire.com