Spring has sprung – and with it, a raging seller’s market. The first two months of 2013 showed a market that appeared to be moderating after steady price increases throughout 2012 – recall that the median price declined for the first two months of 2013…but in the third month of 2013 – wow. The median home price in March of 2013 soared to $583,500 – up 18.6% year-over-year, and up a gi-normous 28.2% from February 2013, the month prior. What is going on? A lot of things are going on – there’s a lot of moving pieces to this real estate market. But please watch the video below to get a quick summary of where we are at. Aside from the median price, there are some other interesting numbers to look at – such as inventory, which remained virtually unchanged at the end of March, at 277 available units county-wide (vs 279 units at the end of February). The sales volume did pick up strongly in March, with 156 homes having closed escrow – an increase of 28.93% over the month before, but a decrease of 8.2% from a year ago, March 2012. Last week I attended a conference where the keynote speaker was Leslie Appleton-Young, a VP and the Chief Economist of the California Association of Realtors. Leslie gave a very well received presentation about the state of the national and California real estate markets. As you might expect from someone as high up in the Realtor® organization as Leslie, she is very bullish on the California … Read More
What she doesn’t say is that there is a lean supply of homes because so many people are waiting for the market to turn around before they sell – and many many other people who would like to sell cannot, because they are effectively trapped in their homes which are “underwater” (that is, they owe more on the homes than they are worth). … It means that in the face of weak employment and stagnant incomes, when interest rates rise (as they are apparently rising now), the prices people will be able to pay for housing are going to drop – and that’s going to bring house prices right on down too. … Suffice it to say that while it may be true as the President says that there is a clear trend of lower unemployment – that trend could be easily reversed and, as the article I linked to notes, the drop in unemployment is largely due to the fact that 206,000 more people have given up looking for work and are no longer counted as unemployed. I’ve sipped the last of my Earl Grey and I’m looking down at what’s left in my cup, and I’m trying to make sense of what I see there. … Our pre-tax payment will be considerably higher than that, of course – so I for one really hope they don’t pull the plug on the mortgage interest tax deduction – which could , of course, have a really deleterious effect on home prices depending on how it is implemented.
You really need to look at the year before to see how the market performed – and from the statistics, we can see the median home price, county-wide, is actually down 33.5% in April of 2009 compared to a year ago. … Honestly, I am mystified how people can take a few anecdotes, completely ignore the state of the economy and the housing market as a whole, and now herald, with strident authority, that we are now at the bottom of the market and THIS, TODAY is the time to buy, or you will miss out on the chance of a lifetime. … Well, that’s not true – short sales can also occur at those prices, and some people who have had their homes a long, long time may have enough equity in them to compete with all the REOs and short sales. … Personally, I think it’s going to put increased pressure on the bottom of the market, as many people who were looking at buying a lower-priced “starter” home may now be thinking of stretching to go for one of these “premium” foreclosures which I expect we’ll be seeing.
Fact is, we have been seeing multiple offers for well over a year now on these bargain-basement properties in Watsonville – and pretty much anywhere in California where bank-owned foreclosures are sold several percent cheaper than competing properties – these properties attract multiple offers and sell quickly. … Pretty much – I didn’t go into 87 Arista when it was on the market, but from what I can tell on the MLS from the pictures, the choice of paint colors and level of amenities in this home was about on par with my listing. … And then, a scant two months later, my own listing comes on with an asking price of $250,000 – that’s 3.8% less than the sale price of a very very comparable property which closed just two months earlier…and I’m on the market eight days, and I’m standing in a field of chirping crickets . … But not too far below – if in fact you were able to buy a home for 10% below true market value, you could not do a thing to the property, then turn around and sell that property to someone else the next day for 10% more than you paid for it.
A few days ago, after about a month’s silence, I wrote something of a “doom and gloom” blog entry about Santa Cruz real estate – in fact, I’m proud to say, the entry was even picked up on the HousingDoom.com blog, which I read now and again to stay in touch with my darker side. You see, I felt the need to vent about what I see as a lot of hype by various individuals and organizations saying what a great time it is to buy some real estate. As I’ve said before, it may in fact be a good time for you to buy some real estate here in Santa Cruz. In any market, it really depends on your situation. All I’m saying is, don’t buy into the hype – positive or negative – about the current real estate market. Do your own research, make up your own mind. Make an informed decision, and be prepared to live with the consequences. It may be that you decide that it makes sense for you to buy some real estate right now in Santa Cruz. Over a hundred people bought property in the county in February – and did all of these 100 people make a horrible mistake? Indubitably, some of them did. Just as indubitably, some of them made very shrewd investment decisions which will yield rich rewards down the road. After all, let’s not forget the golden rule of real estate: you make money when you buy, you reap the cash when you sell. If … Read More
As has been the case for several months, there is a bit of good news – the sales volume (number of houses, condos, etc., which have sold) has increased for the seventh month in a row, year-over-year. Unfortunately, sales were not up month-over-month; in December of 2008, there had been 112 sales of single-family residences in Santa Cruz county; in January ’09, that number had sunk back down to 79. … The important thing to look at, I feel, is the year-over-year gain or loss, and this year, sales were up a whopping 21.5% from January 2008. … If you watch TV or listen to the radio, you may have heard a commercial or two from the National or California Association of Realtors telling you this is a great time to buy , that there are a lot of homes for sale. … There are not many homes for sale at all – the amount of inventory is down 21.6% from January a year ago, and inventory has been declining for nine straight months.
Happy New Year! I hope everyone had a safe and sane New Year’s Eve, and I hope that as I type this on January 2nd, most of you are taking the day off to spend on vacation, or with friends and family. We’ll all get back to the grindstone soon enough, but I think that after all the chaos and tumult of 2008, everyone deserves a four-day weekend to start off the new year. Can you feel it? I’m feelin’ it. I am, of course, referring to the angst surrounding the real estate market. There are a lot of people out there who would like to buy a home in Santa Cruz in 2009. There’s also a lot of people who would like to sell a home in Santa Cruz this year, too, but feel they cannot or should not because they now owe more than their homes are worth. Thanks to the likes of Google, many of you can easily find the predictions for the 2009 real estate market. I’ll give you a summary of what they’re saying: prices are expected to continue dropping through much of 2009 (probably all of it, if you ask me) but not by much. Interest rates should remain low at least for the first half of the year. We may start to see a rebound in prices in 2010, but it will be moderate. The much-loved California Association of Realtors has put out a report titled State of the California Housing Market 2008-2009. Unfortunately, they want you to pay … Read More
Still, though – if you have a house in Santa Cruz, you’re looking at it being worth about $58,725 less than it was this time last year, if your house is something like the median house. … I looked at Sold Single Family Residences: Median Price of Sold Houses in June & July of 1999 Watsonville: $247,000 (1.0) East side Santa Cruz: $390,500 (1.58097) West side Cruz: $395,000 3/2 1486 (1.59919) Capitola: $360,000 (1.457489) Soquel: $379,000 (1.5344) Felton: $310,000 (1.2551) What this says is that back in the summer of ’99, the median-priced house in Capitola cost about 1.457 more than the median-priced home in Watsonville. Now, let’s look at sales data from September 2008: Watsonville: $352,000 (1) East Side Santa Cruz: 615,500 (1.74857) West side Santa Cruz: 702,500 (2.0468) Capitola: $711,000 (2.01988) Soquel: $610,000 (1.73295) Felton: $486,500 (1.3821) (* August 2008) You’ll notice that compared to the 1999 ratio, the sampled areas in the county appear considerably higher relative to Watsonville than they have been historically. If we use the same ratio from the summer of ’99, here’s what prices in the rest of the county should look like today: Watsonville: $352,000 East Side Santa Cruz: $556,501 West side Santa Cruz: $562,914 Capitola: $513,004 Soquel: $540,108 Felton: $441,795 What does all this mean?
In the latest edition of my newsletter (if you don’t already get it, I invite you to subscribe to my Santa Cruz Market Trends newsletter ), I provide lots of juicy data about how real estate values are continuing to drop in Santa Cruz. As of August 2008, the median home price in Santa Cruz county is now down to $585,000 – and in July of this year (just a month ago!)… In other words, it’s easier to sell your house this year than it was last year, so long as you are willing to sell it for 25.9% less than it would have sold for a year ago. … The median price for a condo in Santa Cruz county in August 2008 was $420,000 – that’s down 17.2% from a year ago, but up 3.4% from last month. … When you look at the MLS, it is very interesting to see where the “pending” listings (that is, houses that are in contract, pending sale) are in the spectrum – about 90% of them are below the median price of “active” listings.
If there is an even number of homes sold, you take the two in the middle, you find the difference in prices, and all that difference in price to the lower-priced house (or subtract it from the higher priced house) to get the median home price. … It’s interesting to note that the Zillow blog entry talks about the OFHEO Housing Price Index – because the OFHEO housing price index is probably going away now, since the OFHEO (Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight) itself is slated to be merged into a new entity, the Federal Housing Financing Agency. … So looks like we po’ folk out here in Santa Cruz are just going to have to stick with the trusty, rusty median home price as a rough measure of what’s going on. I think it’s pretty clear by now that all housing types, in every location throughout the county, are off their peaks, some of them (south county, north county) by huge margins.