Sedona housing demand on the rise during pandemic

By Alexandra Wittenberg

As people around the country and worldwide have been forced to focus on their health for the last few months, Se­dona and the Village of Oak Creek have become even more of a coveted locale for homebuyers.

“We are seeing buyers from large metro areas and some suburbs look­ing to move to smaller density towns, which are perceived as a better place to live during a time with lockdown and social distancing from other people,” said Damian Bruno, who runs a local Coldwell Banker group along with his wife, Danielle.

This sentiment was also shared by Jeanette Sauer, who runs Pennington Luxury Group alongside Ed Pennington.

“Buyers want out of urban cities and want to live a healthy lifestyle, feel safer, have more elbow room and be surround­ed by natural beauty,” Sauer said. “Many working couples and families recognize they can telecom­mute and work from home in a beautiful environment.

And Village of Oak Creek fits that bill to a T. Bruno noted that many perceive the VOC as a “bubble,” far away enough from the “scary” developments in metro areas.

Sauer said that after sales were slow in March and even slower in April and May combined, June saw a huge jump in interest in the area.

“The calls are flooding in from buyers considering Sedona as their full-time or part-time vacation home,” she said. “And, you can purchase more for your money in the Village of Oak Creek. Even building costs are lower in the Vil­lage of Oak Creek and Big Park.”

Because of the cost to obtain build­ing permits from the city of Sedona, building in West Sedona, for example, could end up being thousands more than building in the VOC or elsewhere in the county.

Though interest in buying in the VOC is resuming, inventory is low right now, and the median price of VOC homes has risen.

Tim Cox, a Realtor with RealtyOne Group Mountain Desert, described the current Sedona and VOC surge in interest as pent-up demand from when showings and sales were limited during pandemic shutdowns. Spring is nor­mally the busiest time for buyers in all realty companies, including RealtyOne. With COVID-19 closures lasting for six weeks, right over prime season, the busy season has now shifted to the summer months.

As of June 29, Cox said there were 50 residential properties available for sale in the VOC market, including condos, townhouses and single-family homes. Of those, 38 are under contract, or pending final sales.

“That’s an incredibly low inventory level of 1.3 months,” Cox said. “Gen­erally speaking, less than six months’ worth of inventory is a seller’s market.”

In 2017, there were 235 sales in the VOC, Cox said. 2018 saw 273 sales and 2019 had 279. Now, midway through 2020, there have been 104 sales thus far in the VOC.

“The problem getting to historic sales levels this year is inventory,” Cox said. “Many people are waiting to sell as they don’t want strangers and COVID in their house.”

Sauer said that putting a house on the market right now while the inventory is low and interest is high is smart because it means more interested buyers that are willing to pay higher.

“It’s an election year and with the un­knowns and spread of COVID, if a hom­eowner is considering selling their home in the Village of Oak Creek or Big Park, they may want to consider putting it on the market now while the inventory is low,” she said. “We used to suggest wait­ing until the fall, but buyers are looking and making offers sight unseen.”

Although inventory has seen its all-time low, the average price of a home in the VOC has risen, according to Sauer. Despite having far fewer sales the past few months, Sauer said that at $137.6 million, Pennington’s sales volume for the VOC was 13% higher at the end of the first quarter of 2020 than 2019.

Sedona housing demand map
Sedona and neighboring Village of Oak Creek are seeing an elevated interest in housing

Pennington has seen the median price of a home in the VOC has gone from $525,000 in the last six months to up to $540,000 by the end of May, Sauer said. The median price per square foot was $296 in March and $300 per square foot in April.

Both Cox and Bruno said that while the closure of Big Park Community School in 2018 was a blow to the com­munity, it didn’t cause significant shifts in property value like many expected.

“Yes, families have left the area; however, many of those families were renting at the time and thus did not sell their homes upon moving out of the area,” Bruno said.

Cox believes what scares off young families from moving to the VOC is not so much the lack of a school, but the lack of affordable houses.

“The biggest impact on home values and inventory in recent years has been the state allowing vacation rentals,” Cox said. “The people who want to move here are now competing with people who want to invest here.

VOC has become more popular than previous years as most of VOC is within VOCA [the Village of Oakcreek Association] and the minimum rental period is 30 days within VOCA. People who don’t want to be in a neighborhood with vacation homes are moving to the Village.”

The Village of Oakcreek Associa­tion is a confederation of homeowners associations representing about 2,300 homeowners in the Big Park area sur­rounding Oakcreek County Club, which the HOA owns and for which the orga­nization was named.

Alexandra Wittenberg can be reached at 282-7795 ext 126 or at