Home prices in Tucson took another dive in September, plunging to levels not seen in more than 10 years.

The median sales price - at $117,500 - reached its lowest point since February 2001, numbers from the Tucson Association of Realtors Multiple Listing Service show.

That's about 19 percent lower than last September and 48 percent lower than November 2005, when the median peaked at $226,465. The median sales price is the point where half of homes sell for less and half sell for more.

Prices have fallen steadily for the past six months, with only an occasional uptick since the beginning of the year.

So just how much lower are they going to drop?

Because no one has a crystal ball, there's no easy way to answer that question.

In Tucson, as with other markets around the nation, sales of distressed properties have driven prices down. And that's not likely to change any time soon, said John Strobeck, owner of Bright Future Business Consultants here.

"We're going to see prices continue at this level for probably the next eight to 10 months," Strobeck said.

There are some signs, though, that the market may start to stabilize, Strobeck said. A main indicator is that fewer property owners have received foreclosure notices this year than last, he said.

Those notices tell homeowners they've defaulted on their mortgage and an auction has been scheduled on their house. From January through the end of September, there were 7,227 of them filed in Pima County. That compares with 8,939 in the same period last year.

With fewer homeowners defaulting, Strobeck said, the market can begin working through those properties and their negative effect on values will be less stark.

In recent months, sales of financially distressed properties have made up about half of transactions, said Rosey Koberlein, CEO of Long Companies in Tucson. Whether there was a spike in those sales last month - further driving down prices - Koberlein couldn't say without further analysis of the data.

"The good news about the market is that we are selling more units, albeit at a lower price point than we were last year," Koberlein said.

The numbers from Tucson MLS show a total of 1,064 unit sales in September, a 22 percent increase from the same month in 2010.

Even after the market begins working through foreclosed and other financially distressed properties, there are still many homeowners who've been waiting for conditions to improve before selling their homes, Strobeck said.

"We have probably close to a year of pent-up demand in people who haven't put their home up for sale," Strobeck said.

That increased inventory will likely keep prices from rising much for at least the next couple of years, he said.

Tracking area home sales

September's median sales price for residential properties was the lowest for the Tucson metro area since early 2001, according to data from the Tucson Association of Realtors Multiple Listing Service. The median, or middle number, comes from one month's total residential sales, which includes single-family homes, townhomes, condos and mobile homes.


Tucson median home price in January 2000


Tucson median home price in November 2005


Tucson median home price in September 2011

SOURCE: Tucson Association of Realtors

Contact reporter Dale Quinn at dquinn@azstarnet.com or 573-4197.