Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Silicon Valley Market Update - March

This information summary and analysis uses MLS Listings Inc. (MLS) transactional data for February 2008. For single family homes in Santa Clara County, February saw the fewest closings going back a long time! There were 423 closings in the month with 768 initiated sales (accepted offers) that indicates that closings in March will be higher. This low closings levels occurred across the board in each of the counties I track closely: Santa Clara, San Mateo, Santa Cruz and Monterey.

Inventory of available homes was 4,794 up from 4,432 last month and up from 4,031 in December compared to a high of 4,925 in October 2007. We are close to an all-time high here and I wouldn't be surprised to have to report to you next time that we eclipsed the old record. Since we've had a significant number of homes come off the market in late 2007, I forecast that we'd see a rebound in inventory either in January or February as some of those homes come back on the market for another try. We did indeed see that occur and we may see even higher inventory in the months ahead as sellers who weren't able to sell their home last year will try again.

Days of Unsold Inventory (DUI) or the intersection of the inventory (supply) with the recent sales level (demand), shows Santa Clara County at 186 down from 214 last month and a nice improvement from 303 in December, San Mateo County at 128 down from 161 last month, Santa Cruz County at 200, down from 274 last month, and Monterey County at 341, down from 404 last month. Clearly, even with the drops in this indicator, these still are indicating a buyer's market condition as a reading of DUI above 90 depicts. For comparison, a seller's market will have a DUI of less than 45 and a balanced market will have a DUI between the two. Keep in mind that these are county-wide averages so there is an incredible variation between those areas experiencing terrible market conditions compared to those at virtually the other extreme. As I've mentioned, real estate is local (down to the neighborhood level in some cases) and market conditions can vary within each county and even within cities by a large amount. For instance, within Santa Clara County, Mountain View, Los Altos, Palo Alto have the best market climates in the county with a DUI reading of 55, down from 61, while Morgan Hill, San Martin and Gilroy have the worst reading of 374. The following is a ranking of selected Santa Clara County cities or areas with their current DUI readings and last month's calculation in parentheses. Even though there are a lot of "improving" notations made, these areas are still in what we call a "buyer's market" and have poor market climates. Just some markets are much better off than others.

  • Los Altos, Mountain View, Palo Alto - 55 (last month -61) - improving

  • Cupertino - 45 (61) - improving

  • Almaden Valley - 101 (129) - improving

  • Los Gatos/Monte Sereno/Saratoga - 112 (134) - improving

  • Campbell - 81 (79) - worsening

  • Cambrian - 110 (111) - improving

  • Sunnyvale - 69 (106) - improving

  • Willow Glen - 137 (140) - improving

  • Milpitas - 146 (141) - worsening

  • North Valley - 146 (248) - improving

  • Downtown SJ - 177 (242) - improving

  • Evergreen - 151 (213) - improving

  • South San Jose - 333 (372) - improving

  • East Valley - 342 (542) - improving

  • Morgan Hill, Gilroy, San Martin - 374 (440) - improving

The median price for single family homes in Santa Clara County was $785,000 down from $790,000 the same month a year ago and down from $799,000 in December. This is a decline of 9.6% from the record high reached in April 2007 of $868,400. There is still an emphasis (overweighted percentage) of higher-priced homes sold as opposed to the more affordable homes but not as pronounced as last year when the sub-prime loan problems started in February 2007. The bottom 10% median selling price was $506,000 in February a drop of 19% from the same month a year ago and the top 10% median price was $1,824,000 an increase of 19% from February of 2007. The median prices of single family homes in Morgan Hill, San Martin and Gilroy (South County) are now at the level first reached in May of 2004! All of their price appreciation has disappeared whereas the median prices in the northwest quadrant of the county including Palo Alto, Mountain View, Los Altos, Cupertino and parts of Sunnyvale (zip 94087) are at all time highs! Median prices for single family homes by county in February 2008 were:

  • Santa Clara County - $785,000 (Feb 2007 was $790,000)

  • San Mateo County - $913,450 ($870,000)

  • Santa Cruz County - $682,500 ($720,000)

  • Monterey County - $500,000 ($657,000)

The price range with the lowest DUI is called the "sweet-spot" of the market. For February it continues to be the $1,000,000 to $2,500,000 range. Next comes the $750,000 to $1,000,000 range and then the $2,500,000 to $5,000,000 range. For condo/townhouses the picture is similar but slightly better with a DUI reading of 187 down from 216 last month. Potential real estate investment buyers take heart as the DUI picture has continued post poor numbers and stands at 520, down from 563. This means under the current rate of sales of multi-unit properties, there are about 1.4 years of supply! The "sweet-spot" of the multi-unit or investor class is the range $1,000,000 to $2,500,000. Lenders have substantially increased the borrower's minimum requirements to obtain a loan for investor property purchases AND many are not allowing the use of home equity credit lines for their downpayments so I forecast that this area will remain weak.

Why is following all these trends and statistics worth it? I believe that informed clients make the best decisions. The research and staying on top of the changes to market conditions allows me to properly advise my clients on the appropriate strategy to employ so that they make the best decision possible. This is one area I part company from other real estate agents who don't invest the time and would rather spend time working on self-promotion ads for newspapers, magazines and stuff that fill your mailbox with either "brag" cards or "spray and pray" cards. The various real estate markets are too complex for media sound-bites or headlines as they generalize too much (i.e., the national real estate market, the Bay Area real estate market, etc.) and you lose the fineness of being able to use information strategically to make better decisions.

Just today an agent was telling us he was one of 20 offers placed on a Mountain View home and all were over list price! Clearly, you need strategies to deal with these differing market conditions and an agent who is able to digest and utilize data and trends to their client's best interests.

If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to post them here or send me an email at

Thanks for reading!

No comments: