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PHOENIX -- When it comes to the economy in Maricopa County, there is one factor that will make or break the next five years, a Realtor said.

"Affordable housing is the most important issue affecting the economic development of Maricopa County in the next five years," West USA Realty Operations Officer and former president of Southeast Valley Regional Association of Realtors Todd Menard told News/Talk 92.3 KTAR's Bruce St. James Show on Wednesday.

Menard said the Valley currently has about 19,000 homes available, far below the 45,000 needed to maintain a normal supply. This has created a seller's market, driving prices up and also increasing available interest rates.

"The biggest issue right now is that obviously there are few homes available," he said. "We're suffering from a small amount of inventory."

However, this runs in contrast to many national reports that Phoenix is still fighting its way out of the Great Recession.

"Phoenix, much like most of the Sun Belt right now, is actually already recovered," said Menard. "It started recovering a year-and-a-half ago."

Menard said new programs that allow boomerang buyers -- those who lost their home through foreclosure or short sale -- have helped flood the market with new buyers, but all of those buyers have different circumstances that Realtors have to work with.

"Everybody has a different scenario and each individual has different sets of criteria, credit, income, debt and, of course, they need to talk to a qualified mortgage professional," he said.

When it comes to getting boomerang buyers back in homes, Menard said the sooner they take action, the better.

"The people need to begin finding out where their individual position is, what it takes for them to get from here to tomorrow to get back into the game."

Menard said the estimates show that Maricopa County will boast a population of about 4.5 million by 2020. Currently, about 3.75 million live in the county.

Bruce St. James and Pamela Hughes, Making Sense of the Madness, Mon-Fri., 9a-12p on 92.3 KTAR

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