SIERRA VISTA — Like most of the country in the middle of a nationwide real estate boom, Cochise County real estate has been on a skyrocketing tear for the last year.

With selling prices of nearly two dozen single family homes and agricultural land in the last two weeks of October fetching prices of more than $400,000 — along with several soaring upward to $7 million— the county’s real estate market doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.

Buyers are coming from as far as Boothbay Harbor, Maine, Reading, Pennsylvania, various cities in Connecticut as well as across Arizona to plunk down cash for homes and land throughout Cochise County, especially in Sierra Vista, where the majority of real estate transactions occur. According to the Cochise County Recorder’s website, 16 single family residences in Sierra Vista sold in October for well more than $300,000, and five were purchased for more than $400,000. Two homes fetched $615,000.

Rural communities like Willcox and most notably, Hereford, have seen explosive sales figures on single family residences and land. As of Oct. 25, 12 of 24 properties sold in Hereford this month fetched between $400,000 and $3 million, while the ranching community of Willcox in the Sulfur Springs Valley has seen single family homes sell for $600,000. Several farms and agricultural land in Willcox also closed between $2 million and $7 million.

Huachuca City — where sales of residential homes hovered between $115,000 and $145,000 this summer — closed several contracts this month between $236,000 and $450,000, according to the Cochise County Recorder’s website.

It’s not only residential homes and land that have rung up unprecedented sales. Last month, an apartment complex on the west side of Sierra Vista sold for $12 million. In early November, a ranch in Pearce sold for $15.6 million and another in McNeal went for $5.25 million.

The Cochise County Recorder’s website — which records affidavits of property value — shows even unincorporated communities like Pearce and Dragoon east of the Chiricahua Mountains, where few real estate transactions generally occur, have experienced large residential sales in October, averaging almost $470,00 on several homes.

Benson, as well, recorded transactions ranging from $312,000 to $550,000.

So what’s drawing a slice of America’s population to the southernmost edge of Arizona’s high-desert country to call it home? Is it the weather, home value, a life change?

“Probably all three,” said realtor and property specialist Joan Wilson of Long Realty, who has been selling real estate for more than 20 years. “We have an ideal climate that many people who don’t want big-city life are looking for. We’re close to major shopping yet we’re still rural without a lot of crime. And as far as amenities, like shopping and restaurants, there’s everything you need here without being locked down in a major metropolitan area.”

In the past week, single family homes in Sierra Vista sold on average for $325,000 and were only on the market for 28 days, according to Guaranteed Rate Company, the eighth-largest retail mortgage lender in the U.S. That figure translates to $158 per square foot.

According to an Oct. 17 real estate market report on Sierra Vista by Sierra Vista Home Selling Team of Service First Realty, properties in the $300,000 to $350,000 range have sold the fastest over the last six months. The report also says in the last 180 days, 792 homes sold with a median sale price of $257,750 and were on the market for just 41 days.

While some sources say homes have been on the market for 58 days and others cite considerably less time, the fact is property in Cochise County is selling at a rapid clip and with higher price tags. That makes finding inventory to replace them worrisome for local realtors.

“We have people basically standing in line right now looking for new homes,” Wilson said. “I have a bigger backlog of buyers than I’ve had in a long while. I’m getting calls from people in Alaska, California, Wyoming and New Jersey looking for both new and newer homes, but there’s just not a lot (inventory) on the market right now. Many buyers want homes with a pool right under $500,000. When they get listed, they don’t last long.”

Wilson said home prices in Sierra Vista have leveled out since the skyrocketing prices when COVID-19 hit, with the median price tag of homes sold locally sitting at around $224,750. That’s an increase of 8% — nearly $18,000 — since last September, according to statistics Wilson calculated in a “Housing Matters” article to the Herald/Review.

“It’s higher than it’s been for a long time, but it’s not an unfair market,” she added. “If you want a half-decent, newer home with amenities like a pool and a nice yard, you’re looking at upwards of $330,000. Homes that are selling in the $400,000-plus range have been on the market for awhile. But now people are willing to pay that price.”

Right now, Sierra Vista is a seller’s market, meaning more people are looking to buy than there are new homes available with the sales-to-list-price ratio at 100%. What that means is homes in Sierra Vista sold for approximately the asking price in September, according to realtor.com, a real estate listings website, which is the U.S. in 2021 with more than 100 million monthly active users.

Since the pandemic gripped the U.S. more than a year ago, mortgage rates have dropped to record lows. Coupled with a depleted inventory, it has fueled a growing demand in the housing market.

According to CoreLogic, a data and analytics company, home prices nationwide — including distressed sales — increased year-over-year by 18.1% in August 2021 compared with August 2020, marking the largest annual gain in home prices in the 45-year history of the CoreLogic Home Price Index.

Arizona was one of two states that experienced the largest surge in housing prices. At a 29.5% clip, it was second to Idaho at 32.2% with the greatest year-over-year increases, while Phoenix led all metropolitan cities at 30.9%, CoreLogic says.

While the majority of October sales in Sierra Vista range from the mid-to-high-$200,000 area, single family residences on the city’s west side are selling in the mid-$100,000 category. Douglas’ home sales are generally averaging in the lower $100,000 range.

So where does that leave first-time buyers in Cochise County’s real estate future?

“First-time buyers can still buy a decent, older home in the $250,000 range,” said Wilson. “You can certainly purchase a home for lower than that, but it’s going to require more hands-on work in the terms of (do-it-yourself) home projects.”

If you are a potential first-time buyer, you better act soon. According to a recent CoreLogic consumer survey, 59% of consumers looking to purchase a home reported combined household earnings of at least six figures, compared to the 10% of consumers looking to purchase earning less than $50,000.