July 23, 2008
CNN Money is a favorite consumer source for news and sensationalism about issues affecting us financially. A friend uses it as his homepage, and sent me this article on indications that the housing market is pulling out of its downward spiral. Judging by the commentary on the Yahoo news service that picked it up, most people think it is another self-serving article written by real estate agents who want to further dupe consumers into buying homes and further leveraging them selves with unnecessary debt. There, I said it, so you can save your comments.
Here in Sillycon Valley, we are continuing to see variations on the Tale of Two Cities theme, with markets like Palo Alto and Menlo Park holding up strongly (click the links to see current market data), while prices in parts of Sunnyvale and San Jose have fallen off a cliff this year. We won’t mention Sacramento, because it’s not nice to kick ‘em when they’re down.
So, the key leading indicators for monitoring the health of your local housing market are:
- Is the housing stock shrinking?
- Are home prices falling at a slower pace?
- Is it cheaper to rent than own?
- Are houses becoming more affordable (relative to local incomes)?
Locally, we are still kind of bumping along. The current housing stock in Palo Alto is up slightly, but that isn’t unusually during the late Summer. If the trend continues through Fall, it may signal a trend.
Home prices have been stable here, so that is tough to measure, though the multiple-offer / overbid madness is definitely a rarity these days.
Depending on how you measure it, it’s still cheaper to rent than own, but tell that to my clients who were tossed into the housing market when the rental property was sold and they received a 60 day notice from the new owner.
Houses here are still unaffordable, but take a look at the chart at the bottom of the page and compare San Jose and San Francisco. It may be a good time to get into San Jose, especially if you understand foreclosures and short sales. If not, contact 3Oceans contributor Bart Marchioni, aka Mr. Short Sale.
Remember, real estate is local, and be careful what you read on the internet.
Thanks for reading . . .
Tags: 2008 real estate market, housing market turnaround, mortgage crisis, mortgage mania, Palo alto housing market
February 19, 2008
. . . Said my friend Amy to me the other day. Since she is sort of a typical first time buyer, (actually not), I decided to make an example of her and contribute to her 15 mins of fame.
Amy is your somewhat typical Sillycon Valley MBA tech-marketing type. She works in marketing for a large company, so her income is derived from her salary, as opposed to commissions or stock options that may or may not vest. The company is stable, so her bonuses tend to be consistent and her income fairly predictable. She recently moved from one giant tech company to a large one, so she has a number of years of experience in her industry and job classification, excellent credit, and some equity from a condo that she sold.
Being an MBA, and financially conservative (politically liberal), she can comfortably afford something in the $650K price range, even in the current lending environment. The previous idea was for her to take out two mortgages, a conforming loan of $417,000, and then a second or equity line to cover the rest.
Now that Mr. W. has signed off on the stimulus package that included a short-term increase in the conforming loan limit for 2008, Amy’s interest in buying a house has gone up. The tax rebate will let her buy her kids a happy meal and some new jeans, so her interest is much more in the mortgage changes.
At the time of our conversation, the difference in rates between a conforming (under $417,000) and jumbo ($417,001+) loan was about .75%, depending on a million things, which I will leave to co-contributor Eric Trailer to explain. Jsut plugging in some numbers, on a loan of $585,000 (10% down on our $650K house), her payments would drop about $4300 a year excluding taxes if that loan was at the lower rate. Now we are talking interesting.
Admittedly, this is very simplified, because it doesn’t take into account the cost of a conforming first and then a second, or whether lenders will have tiered pricing based on the loan amount, or credit scores, documented vs. non-documented income, etc., etc., etc.
My intent is to show the effect of this new law on “normal” Silicon Valley home buyers who have “normal” jobs, and are trying to put a roof over their heads. While the tax rebates of a few hundred dollars will only have minor impacts on most of us (I get $300, I think), the effect on home buying capability will be potentially significant.
Let the comments fly, and thanks for reading.
Tags: 2008 loan limits, Conforming Loans, economic stimulus, Home buying, Jumbo Loans, Mortgage, mortgage mania, mortgage rates, new home buyer
Economic Forecast - Finally, you can believe what you read in the newspaper
January 21, 2008
I have long been a proponent of Bay Area real estate, and especially that rare piece of level ground on the Peninsula where the laws of Supply and Demand exert the greatest influence.
Amid tales of worldwide stock market tumbles (US markets were closed today in observance of Dr. King’s birthday), this little tidbit of sanity was embedded in an article in today’s online San Jose Mercury News:
Stock slides: Stocks sank around the world today, as U.S. markets remained closed for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
The most dramatic decline was in India. The bellwether Bombay Sensitive Index plunged 1408.35 points, or 7.4 percent - its largest ever single-day drop in points. The pan-European Dow Jones Stoxx 600 index continued its six week slide, falling 5.7 percent to 308.77 percent.
Yet among the spreading gloom, Silicon Valley is shining.
“Silicon Valley is in better shape than the overall U.S. economy,” said John B. Sloven, director of the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research. “My overall assessment is the Silicon Valley economy is going to come through this pretty well unscathed.”
Some facts to consider: Prices in Silicon Valley’s wealthiest areas are holding up. Meanwhile, prices are dropping on low-end homes, increasing affordability. The region added jobs in December for the third consecutive month. Finally, the San Jose region is supposed to lead the state in personal income growth over the next few years.
The interesting point is that the falling prices for lower end housing makes things more affordable for first-time homes buyers. My personal experience is currently supporting this, as I have a couple of clients shopping for their first homes in the $600,000 - $650,000 range, and are seeing personal benefit as homes that were recently listed tantilizingly close to their range, but just out of reach, at $700,000, are now being reduced to under $650,000.
The amazing thing about this area is that the economy continues to reinvent itself, the economic engine continues to churn through economic expansion and recession, and housing remains a scarce commodity because we have very little land to build new housing on.
Not to sound self-serving, but it is a great time to buy real estate here in Silicon Valley, especially if you can scrounge together a 20% down payment and have a history of actually paying your bills. Prices in some areas are down, flat in others, and interest rates continue to be near historic lows.
Donald Trump recently announced that he is seeking investors for a fund that will invest $100 million in California real estate in the next couple of years.
If California real estate is good enough for The Donald, isn’t it good enough for the rest of us?
Thanks for reading.
Tags: bay-area-real-estate, Home buying, home prices, home values, mortgage mania, palo-alto-real-estate, real estate downturn