Monday, June 15, 2009

June Silicon Valley Real Estate Market Update

Here are my observations of the most recent market actions for Santa Clara, San Mateo, Santa Cruz, and Monterey counties. You are encouraged to leave your comments and questions or even update us on what you are witnessing in your neighborhood.

> Market continues in turnaround mode! My recent posts have mentioned that the market activity is turning around. Well, May's activity continues the trend and provides more evidence that we could have seen the bottom! How can this be?
  • Buyers are all but tripping over each other to submit offers for homes in the more affordable areas of Santa Clara, San Mateo, Santa Cruz, and Monterey counties.
  • The supply of homes available for sale (inventory) continues to decline in each of the four counties. Normally, inventory is increasing at this time of the year. Lowered inventory and strong demand means HIGHER PRICES!
  • The number of initiated sales (in contract) have jumped in Santa Clara County and is trending higher in the other counties, too.
  • The Days of Unsold Inventory (DUI) has improved (decreased) substantially. The DUI for single family residences in Santa Clara County for under $450,000 is an astonishing 26 which means when freezing inventory, ALL homes would sell in less than month!. Anything less than 45 represents a Seller's market with market characteristics of multiple offers, high percentage selling above list price AND, price APPRECIATION.
  • Median prices have increased in each county except for Monterey.
> 2 Hot 2 Handle? -- How's 20 offers on a single family residence? Or, 81 or even 99 offers? Yes, those are real numbers of offers received on three listings that I'm familiar with. I coach my buyers that list prices don't mean a thing, especially when the list price is way under the fair market value of the home. Research must be done to determine, as best as possible, the fair market value so that an intelligent offer can be submitted otherwise you're just spinning wheels. No seller whether a bank or not is going to sell for less than it's market value. So what we have now is that sales are extremely high but closings (close of escrows) are running at the third worst month in the last ten years!

> Bank-owned homes offer the best deals? -- First, that's a myth in general as banks are actually sophisticated sellers. They've already lost money and maintaining a listing costs them even more so they hire listing agents, who in many cases, set list prices at ridiculously low prices to spur activity AND multiple offers. This sets up in the minds of potential buyers that they can actually buy the home at or even under the list price. Invariably, the home sells for it's fair market value.

Second, prices have adjusted tremendously in many areas so are a lot less than they were at the peak in real estate pricing which differs in each area.

> Seller's Markets? -- Yes, there are! Areas of Santa Clara County experiencing a seller's market condition are: Blossom Valley (hottest market in Valley), South San Jose, East Valley (Alum Rock), Santa Teresa, Cambrian and Evergreen. To refresh you, characteristics of a seller's market are fewer days on market, lower number of homes available for sale, higher probability of multiple offers with many sale prices exceeding list prices and some added price appreciation.

> Buyer's Markets? -- OK, yes, there are some of those too! Areas of Santa Clara County experiencing a buyer's market condition are: Saratoga (coolest market in Santa Clara County), Los Gatos, Almaden Valley, Mountain View, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Palo Alto. To refresh you, characteristics of a buyer's market are longer days on market, higher number of homes available for sale, lower probability of multiple offers or even an offer with most sale prices below list price with general price depreciation.

> Sales per Day -- The amount of average sales per day in May reached 56.7 for Santa Clara County. The last time this figure was this high was in May 2005 when the market activity was nearing a crescendo! The only other May that had higher sales per day was in 2004 which was over 64. The big difference between 2004 and 2005 and May of 2009 was that many transactions this year did not close!

> Median prices. Stuck at $450,000 for Santa Clara County these past few months, moved up to $470,000 in April increased yet again to $490,000. Median prices (the middle transaction) for an entire county are actually worthless to use as part of a strategy for buying or selling. Each area, down even to the neighborhood, has differing dynamics of supply and demand so needs to be looked at accordingly. We've observed that market mix has helped bring down median prices due to more low-priced homes closing as a percentage of total closings. With more of the lower-priced home selling briskly there will be a lot less of them available and buyers will have to buy some higher priced ones.

> Tale of Two Markets -- Sales of affordably-priced homes mainly in the less than $450,000 level are HOT. On the other hand, sales of higher-priced homes are virtually dead, as some would say, in the more expensive areas. For instance, there have been no sales of $5+ million homes in the last five weeks in Santa Clara County.

So keep this in mind that if you are considering a sale in an expensive area, you probably want to sell quickly rather than waiting but in any case check with a Realtor knowledgeable about current market conditions to guide you in positioning your home for maximum activity and price while minimizing time on market. You really don't want to be on the market for a year or more.

And, if you are considering a purchase of a home in an expensive area, get ready to buy! Why, get ready? I think we'll see list prices reduced and sale prices dropping more before they are likely headed higher.

> Want to sell with multiple offers? The percent of completed sales or closings with a sold price greater than list price stands at 37.1%. This level, up a bit, means that fully one out of three sellers received more than their asking price. Oh, and another 8.1% of sellers received their full list price!

Want to hear a little secret? Some of those sellers receiving either their list price or something higher had to reduce their list prices to generate one or more offers. These figures don't calculate what the sale price to original list price ratio is but only what the current list price was at the time of sale.

> Loan Traffic Jam Lets Up! Last month, I mentioned that if you have applied to refinance your existing mortgage that lenders were clogged with loan applications. Well, what a difference a month of increasing mortgage rates makes. There's still a backlog but if you were trying to play the interest rate game and waiting for another 1/8th or 1/4 point drop, the mortgage rates shot up almost a full point!

Moral of this story is that if the current rate works (benefits you financially) then lock in the rate and close the loan!

> Investor's Reawaken Somewhat - A bit more activity in the multi-unit properties but wanted to mention that those properties with list prices less than $600,000 are seeing much more activity. The days of unsold inventory (DUI) for this type of property in this level has dropped to 54 versus an improved 122 overall.

Thanks for reading -- what are your thoughts and comments?