Thursday, May 13, 2010

May Silicon Valley Real Estate Market Highlights

Here are the highlights of April'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 over a year since we called the bottom of the real estate market in Santa Clara County -- March-April 2009. 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 increased to 975 from 917 last month and was up 7% from the same month a year ago. San Mateo County also saw higher SFR closings at 344 compared to 294 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. My analysis of the transactional information reveals:

* The supply of homes available for sale (inventory) has trended upwards these past few months after more than a year of continual decline. This is taking place in both counties. However, the levels still remain substantially below the year ago levels. Santa Clara County inventory of available SFR's increased 7% from last month and San Mateo County's inventory increased 16%.

* 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 101.0% in Santa Clara County and 99.2% for San Mateo County. Big news continues in the percent of closings where sale price exceeded list price -- Santa Clara County was 48.6% and San Mateo County was 37.8%. This indicates the overall market is stronger in Santa Clara County.

* 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. Whereas a lower figure for DUI means improvement. For April, Santa Clara County had a DUI of 43 for SFR, 48 for condos/townhouses and 72 for multi-unit properties. San Mateo County had a DUI reading of 44 for SFR's, 57 for condos/townhouses and 83 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 Santa Teresa, Cupertino, North Valley, East Valley, South San Jose, Santa Clara, Milpitas, and Sunnyvale. For San Mateo County, the hottest markets are those bay-side cities of Belmont, San Carlos, Redwood City and San Mateo. 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 are fewer of them. For Santa Clara County, we see buyer's markets in Los Gatos/Monte Sereno, Willow Glen, Saratoga. Los Gatos/Monte Sereno 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 or based on price levels 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).

> Median prices jump in Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties -- Santa Clara County median price for SFR's jumped to $630,000 versus $470,000 or 34% increase from April 2009. The median price for condos/townhouses was $342,500 or 28% higher than the same month a year ago. San Mateo County's median price for SFR's was $754,000, 24% 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! However, I advise my clients NOT to use an entire county's median price level to decide whether to buy or sell or time the market 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.

> Crazy Silicon Valley! -- If you told someone in most areas of the country that one-half of all closings are sold above list price, AND that the average sold price to list price ratio is 101% AND that 50% of closings sold within 20 days, they'd think you were crazy!

> Two-thirds of closings are regular transactions -- last year the figure was just 45%. Those REO-only agents have seen an average overall drop of about 65% in their business activity in a year.

> Bottom-Line Santa Clara County Market Analysis -- When you have about 1,000 closings of SFR homes out of an available inventory of about 2,500 or 40%, that's a HOT market!

Need help with understanding the market in your area? Give me a call or email me for a no-obligation consultation and research to help you make a better, more-informed 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.