Wednesday, April 14, 2010

April Silicon Valley Real Estate Market Highlights

Here are the highlights of March's transactions and market comments for Santa Clara and San Mateo counties. Your comments and questions are welcome. If you have an update as to what you are witnessing in your neighborhood, please don't hesitate to share with us. You may leave comments here, or contact me through my website.

> Market Overview -- It's been a year since we saw the bottom of the real estate market in Santa Clara County. Since then we've seen pretty much a steady improvement in market conditions and this is more apparent in Santa Clara County than San Mateo County. Closings of single family residences (SFR) in Santa Clara County were 917 versus 633 last month and 721 in March 2009. San Mateo County also saw higher SFR closings at 322 compared to 250 in the same month a year ago. Higher activity levels and more buyers willing to make the decision to purchase is what we're finding. Buyers seeking low prices AND a chance to garner a tax credit or two are a little late to the scene. My analysis of the transactional information reveals:

* The supply of homes available for sale (inventory) has turned upwards after more than a year of continual decline. This is taking place in both counties. However, the levels are still substantially below the year ago levels. Santa Clara County inventory of available SFR's increased 8% from last month and San Mateo County's inventory increased 12%.

* Headline you don't see in the San Jose Mercury News -- "HALF OF HOME SELLERS GET MORE THAN LIST PRICE FOR THEIR HOMES!" The sale price to list price ratio continues above 100% and stands at 100.9% in Santa Clara County and increased a bit to 99.6% for San Mateo County. Big news continues in the percent of closings where sale price exceeded list price -- Santa Clara County was 49.7% and San Mateo County was 39.9%. This indicates the overall market is stronger in Santa Clara County.

* The Days of Unsold Inventory (DUI) continues to show improvement -- as readers will remember that a lowering of this number translates into a faster market. DUI is conceptually the inverse of inventory turns ratio, where a higher number means improvement. A lower figure for DUI means improvement. For March, Santa Clara County had a DUI of 44 for SFR, 41 for condos/townhouses and 68 for multi-unit properties. San Mateo County had a DUI reading of 45 for SFR's, 45 for condos/townhouses and 105 for multi-unit properties.

> HOT Markets? -- You bet and there are more of them, too! For Santa Clara County the hottest (seller) market areas are South San Jose, East Valley, Evergreen, North Valley, and Milpitas with Cupertino not far behind. For San Mateo County, the hottest markets are those bay-side cities of Belmont, San Carlos, Redwood City and San Mateo, followed by more expensive areas of Menlo Park, Woodside, and Portola Valley. The characteristics of a seller's market are shorter time on the market, fewer number of homes available for sale, higher demand by buyers which translates into a higher probability of multiple offers, sale prices generally exceeding list prices and a tendency towards price appreciation.

> Cool Markets? -- Yes, but there is fewer of them. For Santa Clara County, we see buyer's markets in Los Gatos Mountains and Los Gatos/Monte Sereno. Los Gatos is my current "Best Buy" area in the county. In San Mateo County, besides the more expensive areas, there are buyer's markets in the coastal communities. To refresh you, characteristics of a buyer's market are longer time on the market, higher number of homes available for sale, lower demand by buyers which translates into a lower probability of multiple offers and a tendency for price stabilization or even depreciation.

Where do I get "Seller's" and "Buyer's" market information? This is not an opinion thing but a calculation I make using the number of homes for sale (supply) and the number of sales (demand) in the prior month which results in days of unsold inventory (DUI). Additionally, this is not based on price levels or my opinion but a supply-demand relationship.

> Median prices jump in Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties -- Santa Clara County median price for SFR's jumped to $600,000 versus $450,000 or 33% increase from March 2009. The median price for condos/townhouses was $375,000 or 57% higher than the same month a year ago. San Mateo County's median price for SFR's reached $800,000, 38% higher than the same month a year ago. Notice that with prices I don't use month to month changes but year over year. This eliminates seasonal fluctuations and is something that newspapers and most online pricing sources haven't figured out yet! Or, perhaps they use this intentionally to scare folks to sell newspapers! I advice my clients NOT to use an entire county's median price level to decide whether to buy or sell but use the trend information in a general manner. To formulate an effective strategy, I use analysis of the supply-demand characteristics of the neighborhood under consideration and advise my clients of the appropriate strategy to employ to maximize their dollars if they are selling and maximize their house if they are buying.

Need help with understanding the market in your area? Contact me at for a no-obligation consultation and research to help you make a better decision.

Thanks for reading my blog. I'm Tom McEvoy, Realtor -- Let me know your comments, questions, observations you may have or any future topics you'd like me to address.

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