Mesa and Gilbert are leading the pack in new-home sales this year, according to Street Scout Home Values, an annual analysis of metropolitan Phoenix’s housing market done with the Information Market.
The analysis showed the municipalities were the only two in the Valley to sell more than 300 new homes during the first quarter of 2016, with 347 sales in Mesa and 301 sales in Gilbert.
STREET SCOUT INTERACTIVE MAP: See Valley home values, compare ZIP codes
Rising home prices closer to Phoenix's urban core are driving more buyers farther out to find homes they can afford, with homes priced below $400,000 in particularly high demand. Mesa and Gilbert are delivering, with more than 50 actively selling new-home communities each and median home prices in the low- to mid-$300,000s.
"Gilbert is perhaps, at this particular point in the cycle, the most desired address in the metro Phoenix area from a demand perspective. It's always been very popular for new homes, even throughout the downturn," real-estate analyst Jim Belfiore said.
"The recession hit Mesa far harder, I think because it's such a large geographic area and so diverse, but it's now doing really, really well relative to other cities," he said.
Top-selling ZIP codes in Mesa this year — 85212, 85207 and 85209 — are concentrated on the city's east side, where incomes and education levels are higher and developments are newer.
Eastmark, a 5-square-mile, mixed-use project on southeastern Mesa's former General Motors Desert Proving Ground, is driving sales in 85212. Last year, it was ranked among the top 10 best-selling housing communities in the nation.
"This year, we're clicking along averaging 43 sales a month, so we're confident we're going to do as good as, if not better than, last year," said Dea McDonald, senior vice president for Eastmark developer DMB Associates.
"About 90 percent of our buyers are coming from within about 10 miles and are 'move-up buyers' looking for their second or third home," McDonald said. "These aren't entry-level buyers; these folks live in the East Valley, they like it and they're looking to stay."
DMB's vision of a sprawling "city within a city" with residential, commercial and employment sectors also is drawing buyers from outside the state.
Whitney and Ali Clayton looked at homes in both Mesa and Gilbert before moving their family from Cincinnati to Eastmark last year. Their 2,800-square-foot house is the second home they have owned.
"Eastmark caught our attention, because we both loved the idea of getting to be on the 'ground floor' of a growing community and helping shape it," Whitney Clayton said. "Eastmark is being built in a way that structurally supports the opportunity to develop relationships, with common areas like the parks and pools, where every evening you meet families you haven't met before."
Top-selling ZIP codes in Gilbert include 85298, 85295 and 85296, generally mirroring the top ZIP codes for single-family building-permits issued by the town, according to a map provided by Gilbert officials.
Popular housing communities include Adora Trails, which has consistently topped the best-selling list; Cooley Station, which analyst Belfiore described as "one of the hottest subdivisions in the Phoenix metro area right now"; and the Gilbert side of Morrison Ranch, known for its white picket fences.
Because the median price point is about $35,000 more in Gilbert than in Mesa, according to the Street Scout data, many current buyers are "mature" families looking to purchase their second, third or fourth home, rather than young couples or families just starting out.
Condo prices, at about $150,000 to $200,000, also tend to be higher in Gilbert than in some of the other East Valley communities, and stock is limited."A lot of these families have lived in Gilbert for some time, but with job growth climbing year over year and a fair amount of those jobs being in the East Valley, we have a lot of new folks coming into the market as well," Belfiore said. "Gilbert is desirable because of its schools, infrastructure, and freeways that run through it and by it and services that are provided there."
"Some of these new-home communities are selling phenomenally strong, and while there are a lot of choices, homes are selling rapidly," Belfiore said. "If I were talking to homebuyers, I would say that if you're looking at a home in Gilbert, expect it to be competitive to get the home that you want."
Republic reporter Catherine Reagor contributed to this article.
Source: Belfiore Real Estate Consulting. Data is from the period from mid-January to mid-March.