Marin Real Estate (August 2009)

September 10, 2009

Marin real estate has, it appears, survived the worst of the downturn. While prices are down across the board no matter how you slice it, the road to recovery is in view. Yet, virtually every call I get from potential buyers, at some point in the conversation, eventually turns to short sales and foreclosures — distressed sales remain featured on many buyers’ dance cards. In fact, distressed sales are very competitive and often receive multiple offers. In Northern Marin (a.k.a Novato), 82% of homes priced under $500,000 are in escrow (that’s 40 out of 49 homes!). In San Rafael, 84% of homes priced at or below $600,000 are in escrow (that’s 32 out of 38!). These sales are propelled by value, the $8,000 tax credit, and the increased FHA loan limits which went into effect in April 2009.

Early in the year, buyers were ALL talking about how they anticipated interest rates would go down to 3% (and some buyers were insisting that rates would go even lower). I would just nod my head and concede that was a possibility. After all, what do I know about the unknowable? But, I always pointed out that whatever rates fell to, you could never know the bottom until it was gone. And that rates would surely go back up again — I was not going out on a limb; every economist on Earth is saying the same thing (most believe this will occur by the end of Q1 2010). Sure enough, it seems buyers are picking up on this inevitability and they are out in droves.

Standing back and looking at the higher price bands (especially in Southern Marin), things look a little different. Some sellers still suffer from pricing strategies that prevent them from realistically engaging with qualified buyers. These sellers are either: 1) NOT Sellers; or 2) are getting poor advice and direction from their agents. They will learn that “time on the market” is not their friend. Being a “smart seller” today means negotiating strong terms aimed towards a successful close of escrow within 30-45 days.
The chart below shows a 90-day rolling average of Mill Valley’s new listings and absorbed listings (e.g., sales), comparing current numbers with those of last year. Note that the while the numbers for new listings are about the same, the number of absorbed listings is about equal to 2008. If you would like to review a similar chart for any other town or city in Marin or San Francisco, please let me know.
[Click HERE for the rest of the article, courtesy of www.NorthBayRE.com.]

Marin Real Estate (July 2009)

September 10, 2009

The Marin County, CA real estate market is a mixed bag. Recent escrow activity levels have been refreshing, if not invigorating. New escrows generated in April – June 2009 represent the three best months since June ’07. This progress seems to be continuing. In fact, we could experience the busiest summer in MarinCounty real estate in recent years.

This increase in activity (not price appreciation) follows the slowest six month stretch we have seen in sixteen years. Closings of Marin County single family homes in the 4th quarter of 2008 (457) was the lowest since 1994. Closings in 1st quarter 2009 (222) and 2nd quarter ’09 (421) both set the sixteen year low as well. We feel this recent rally is a reflection of increasing consumer confidence either as a result of, or in combination with, the stock market rebound which began in March 2009. And just when Wall Street looked as though significant further downward movement was in the cards (after a month of week over week declines from mid-June to early July), last week’s results erased all losses from the past month as quarlterly earnings reports have been coming in higher than expected.

On a year-over-year basis, pricing of single family homes in Marin County is a completely different comparison. Depending on your neighborhood, the value of your home could be off 15% – 50% from its peak. As I have documented in previous newsletters, Marin County real estate was impacted by two financial events. Beginning in August 2007, the northern part of the county (Novato and areas of San Rafael) suffered from the sub-prime lending crisis. The activity level in Central and Southern Marin was nearly frozen from October 2008 thru mid-March 2009 — a result of the stock market meltdown.

Today, it appears that our housing recovery will be driven by an increase in units sold. Today’s buyers are driven by value and opportunity. Sellers clinging to what they recently paid for a home or what they “need to sell it for” seem to be grasping at “hope” and have become frustrated in a buyers’ market where days on the market produces diminishing returns.

[Click HERE for the rest of the article, courtesy of www.NorthBayRE.com.]

Marin Real Estate (June 2009)

September 10, 2009

This year has been peculiar in real estate. Obviously, prices are down in all categories. Obviously, short sales and foreclosures are featured on many buyers’ dance cards. And obviously, the market is suffering from a negative feedback loop fed by the media. I spend all day, every day, talking with prospective buyers, prospective sellers, and contemplative owners of real estate. Early in the year, buyers were ALL talking about how they anticipated interest rates would go down to 3% (and some buyers were insisting that rates would go even lower). I would just nod my head and concede that was a possibility. After all, what do I know about the unknowable? But, I always pointed out that whatever rates fell to, you could never know the bottom until it was gone. And that rates would surely go back up again — I was not going out on a limb; every economist on Earth is saying the same thing. Sure enough, since my last report, interest rates have jumped up almost a full point and the forecast does not look as though rates will fall back to the levels buyers were talking about just a short 2 months ago (let alone where they were three weeks ago). Meanwhile, it seems buyers are picking up on the FACT that rates are likely to climb and they are out in droves.

Predictably, the low end is getting the most attention. In Novato, 72% of homes priced under $500,000 are in escrow (that’s 44 out of 60 homes!). In San Rafael, 64% of homes priced at or below $600,000 are in escrow (that’s 29 out of 45!). Incredibly, 11 homes in Novato sold last month under $400K, 9 more sold under $500K, and another 11 sold under $600K. That’s 31 Novato homes selling under $600K. Three years ago, under $600K, you would see perhaps 3 or 4 for homes on the market at any given time. These sales are propelled by value, the $8,000 tax credit, and the increased FHA loan limits which went into effect in April 2009.

[Click HERE for the rest of the article, courtesy of www.NorthBayRE.com.]

Marin Real Estate (May 2009)

September 10, 2009

The leading indicator of future sales is the number of homes in escrow at a given time. We have experienced over 60 new escrows in five of the past seven weeks and over 70 for the past three weeks. May 2009 new escrows will likely surpass the levels of April and May 2008. As you can see from the below chart (which goes back 6 months), the number of escrow is up 105% and sales are up 30%.

The upsurge in sales and escrows is seasonal, but also due to low 5% interest rates on conforming loans right now. We are also seeing a spike in home sales at the low end due to the increased FHA loan limit (now at $729,750). Given the activity we are seeing, it seems likely that the traditional Summer slowdown in home sales will be modest as buyers continue pursuing those “value” properties through the Summer. This year is shaping up to be one defined by “value.”

[Click HERE for the rest of article, courtesy of www.NorthBayRE.com.]

Marin Real Estate (April 2009)

September 10, 2009

March 2009 new escrows up 17% from March 2008 (and 58% from February 2009) – In Marin County our most reliable indicator of changing market conditions is new escrow activity. New escrow activity bottomed out in December 2008 and began a modest ascent through January and February 2009. I believe the sharp increase in new escrows in March 2009 is a combination of demand returning to our market and the cyclical nature of the business. It stands to reason that thought is that April and May closings will rise accordingly.

Another interesting trend is the surge of activity in central and southern Marin. In the first half of 2008, nearly 60% of the units sold were in central and southern Marin. By January 2009, largely a result of the October 2008 stock market meltdown, this activity gradually fell to 37% of the units sold in Marin. In February and March 2009 the percentage rebounded to nearly 50% of the county’s activity.This upbeat trend in central and southern Marin is consistent with the activity in my business and a solid sign of strengthening buyer confidence. We expect a strengthening Spring season in Marin County real estate.

[Click HERE for the rest of the article, courtesy of www.NorthBayRE.com.]

Marin Real Estate (March 2009)

March 24, 2009

Although February was a short and rainy month, Marin County, CA., still experienced a good number of sales. So far in March 2009. we are seeing increasing inventory similar to “normal” years (I hesitate to call 2009 a “normal” year in light of the current economic situation). Recent gains in the stock market are a welcome change. Interest rates are down to about 5% on conforming loans right now, which is great (that is more than 1 full point lower than this time last year). So, it seems the pump is primed. We’ll see if the real estate market responds.

Obviously, the more stringent underwriting policies of lenders are stifling demand. Although word on the street is that at least one big lender has taken steps to loosen up underwriting practices. It is obvious to everybody who comes into contact with the Marin real estate market that home buyers are continuing to wait for the perceived bottom. This, despite the FACT that interest rates are as low as could be realistically expected and prices in many Marin communities and neighborhoods have receded to 2003 or 2004 price levels.

[Click here for the rest of the report, courtesy of NorthBayRE.com.]

Marin Real Estate (February 2009)

February 13, 2009

 

As of this writing, the Stimulus Bill and its apparently watered down home buyer tax credit is being finalized. Yet economists and consumers are grim. Ergo, the Marin County, California real estate market continues its slow and steady march into the teeth of a tireless media storm of negativity. Yes, the market overall is fairly slow, but not as slow as it may appear. Sales in Northern Marin’s Novato were up 30% January 2009 over January 2008–as I like to say, “Give Yourself a Raise–Move to Novato!” 

The chart below shows a 90-day rolling average of Mill Valley’s new listings and absorbed listings (e.g., sales), comparing current numbers with those of last year. Note that the while the numbers for new listings are about the same, the number of absorbed listings is up in 2009 over 2008. Again, while the wheels of the real estate market are sticking and squeaking, they have not fallen off (although sellers are advised to wear seat belts). If you would like a similar chart for any other town or city in Marin or San Francisco, please let me know.

 

Real Estate Market Chart by Altos Research www.altosresearch.com

 

Obviously, the more stringent underwriting policies of lenders are stifling demand. In addition, I am quite aware that some home buyers are continuing to wait for the perceived bottom, despite the FACT that interest rates are as low as could be realistically expected and prices in many Marin communities and neighborhoods have receded to 2003 or 2004 price levels. As evidenced by frenzied investor activity, particularly in Novato, there is definite traction at the low end. And once prices stabilize at the low end, the rippling effect upwards will follow.

[click here for the rest of this article, courtesy of www.NorthBayRE.com].

Marin Real Estate (January 2009)

January 12, 2009

Marin County, California real estate has slowed. While largely a function of the season (Winter is generally slow), macro-economic considerations, and more stringent borrowing guidelines, I feel that the primary source of the current slowdown relates to a perception by home buyers that “now” is not a good time to buy. Nonetheless, interest rates are at ALL-TIME LOWS (the San Francisco Chronicle’s Real Estate section has noted these records lows each of the past four weeks), prices in many Marin communities and neighborhoods are well off their peaks, and there is a wide variety of home choices out there. As evidenced by the investor actvity of the past few months, “now” does have some momentum.

Inventory is down to 503 single family homes for sale (we had about 716 last month) in the Highway 101 corridor (this number excludes Western Marin inventory). 

[Click HERE for the rest of this market report, courtesy of www.NorthBayRE.com.]

Marin County Homes Report (December 2008)

December 26, 2008

Insofar as Marin County goes, the holiday season is not traditionally an active time for home sales–this year is no exception. Inventory is down to 607 homes for sale (we had about 716 last month). Although reports of multiple offers continue–especially on well-priced bank owned properties in Novato–even the foreclosures are sometimes taking a long while meandering to a close. Despite the ongoing financial crisis, interest rates are very attractive and they are being pushed down further for those that qualify. I do feel that there is a large level of pent-up demand that will expose itself in the new year. But, until then, enjoy your families, your friends, and the holidays. The graph below breaks down the current number of homes (not including condos) for sale …

[Click HERE for the rest of the article, courtesty of www.NorthBayRE.com].