September 1, 2008
Credit for this post really goes to 3 Oceans contributor Eric Trailer who sent me this content in a letter this week. My clients got it last week, and the blogoshpere can now benefit. We can assume that Eric has better things to do on Labor Day than blog. I’m guessing something involving his lovely wife and son . . .
To see current market data and price trends over the past year for local communities and confirm or refute Eric’s prognostications on the local market in Palo Alto and the surrounding communities,
CLICK HERE to see real-time market data, courtesy of our friends at Altos Research.
As you have likely been hearing, there continues to be more and more evidence that it will cost prospective home buyers more to purchase a home in select areas of the Bay Area as they allow time to go by.
Why? Let’s look at the basic reasons, then review an example:
1. The median price across the board in Palo Alto and the surrounding communities has risen since the beginning of the year.
2. On a national basis, the trough of the market was reached in April.
3. The conforming loan limit will DECREASE over $100,000 in 2009 to $625,000.
4. Rates have risen about .5% since the beginning of the year, despite the increase in the conforming loan limit to $729,750
5. Loan qualifications are becoming more restrictive with each passing week.
6. More restrictions on loans and a tighter supply of money forces rates to go up
7. Because loans require more work to process them (requirements today are 4x what they were a year ago), rates will go up.
8. Inflation is the number one concern of the Fed, and should be the number one concern for all of us.
Let’s say for a moment that you agree that rates are on the rise, but feel as though prices may come down on a $1mm property today; thus, you want to wait. Let’s further assume that you are right and the future price is $950,000, but rates have increased .5% at that future time. Using 20% down, waiting just cost you an ADDITIONAL $117 per month-over $1,400 per year.
But now let’s be more realistic given the appreciation rates of desirable areas of the Bay Area. If rates increase and the $1mm home appreciates to $1,050,000, you are looking at an ADDITIONAL $550 PER MONTH-OVER $6,000 PER YEAR!
What’s the take-away here? Price matters much less than true cost… My motto has always been that it always pays off to buy sooner than later, provided your holding period is greater than four years. And to prove that I walk the walk, I am happy to share my personal situation written as an article titled, “How to Afford a Home in Palo Alto Without a Trust Fund.”
To call Eric on his walking the walk comment, and get a copy of his article, “How to Afford a Home in Palo Alto Without a Trust Fund.”, click on his pretty picture over there in the contributor column to send him an email.
Tags: 4---mortgage-mania, absolute mortgage bank, mortgage rates, Mortgages, palo alto home prices, Palo alto housing market, palo alto market, palo alto real estate market
April 25, 2008
As our resident expert, Kevin Boer noted in his April 1 posting, the housing market officially hit bottom a couple of weeks ago. For those of you who were skeptical of his information given the April 1 posting date, and Kevin’s well known reputation for satire and irony, the California Association of Realtors published some new market data yesterday (April 24) showing how real estate really is local, and that the local real estate market in Silicon Valley is humming along nicely, thank you:
In case you’ve been wondering why high-end real estate markets continue to perform relatively well: One out of every 10,000 American families has an annual income greater than $10.7 million, according to two university professors who study the super-rich. By their tally, there are some 15,000 Americans who fit into that category. These individuals also are getting an increasing share of the economic bounty: In 2006, the super-rich possessed 3.89 percent of total income, up from .87 percent in 1980 and the highest level since 1916.
Strong employment and wage growth are two factors that have helped the San Francisco Bay Area stave off the kind of home sales and price declines experienced in the inland regions of California. For example, Santa Clara County residents earn nearly double the nation’s average weekly wage and surpassed Manhattan as the county whose residents take home the largest paycheck, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Santa Clarans take home an average of $1,585 per week, slightly more than Manhattanites, who earn an average of $1,544 a week. San Mateo County ranks fifth in the nation at $1,322, while San Francisco is eighth at $1,286. Nationally, the average is $818. San Francisco ranked tenth in new-job generation, adding 18,000 jobs for the twelve months ending Sept. 30, 2007.
Despite the above, some worry that California’s technology sector may be in for another “dot bomb.” But experts say technology and Internet companies are better prepared to weather the storm this time around. Their reasoning? Many Web 2.0 companies learned a lesson from their free-spending predecessors and have discovered ways to operate with fewer employees and at lower costs. That appeals to venture capitalists, who have tightened their criteria but continue to seek companies with strong revenue models.
Lately, I have been describing the market as “upside down”, where I am seeing unusually strong sales activity in the over $3 million market, while under $1 million is about the same as last year, or a little off depending on the neighborhood. What is interesting, is the $1 million to $3 million market, what I call “tweeners”, because these homes are in-between the entry-level and high-end.
Gross simplification warning: Buyers of “tweener” homes have significant amounts of cash or equity to put down, but still need a mortgage, and often a significant one. As banks and other mortgage providers have tightened their lending guidelines from recent years, it has become harder to get a $1.5 - $2 million mortgage, and those have become more expensive. As a result, more people aren’t upgrading, or they are getting priced down from say, $2.5 million to $2 million. Thus reducing demand relative to supply and creating a soft spot in the market.
In my experience, in the $3 million and over market, Buyers have more cash, Euros, Rubles, Yuan, Dinars, stock, gold, trust money, etc. to use to purchase their new “executive home”, so they are less concerned or affected by interest rates and loan qualification hurdles.
Let’s hope that VC money mentioned in the article above keeps flowing so we can keep paying for our million dollar tract homes and $5 a gallon (you know it’s coming!) gas.
I know you will have an opinion or comment, share it here.
Thanks for reading.
Tags: 2008 real estate market, housing market, palo alto economy, palo alto real estate market, palo alto realtor, silicon valley economy, silicon valley real estate
January 9, 2008
Tomorrow (1/10/08) Ben Bernanke is scheduled to speak on his outlook on the economy, and the pundits are all expecting that by examining his comments repeatedly, reading tea leaves, and consulting their favorite oracle, they will be able to predict whether the US economy will slide into recession in 2008, and whether the Fed will cut interest rates again at their next meeting.
The stock market seems optimistic, with trading up today as investors shifted into sectors that are seen as resistant to recession and economic contraction. These are things that we spend on whether things are good or bad; food, medical care, gasoline and heating oil.
Some economists say we are already in recession because of a jump in unemployment in December coupled with little growth.
Nationally, I tend to agree with the doomsayers. Here in Palo Alto, Los Altos, Mountain View and Menlo Park however, we are still beneficiaries of the strong local economy. Local executives are still complaining that they can’t hire enough engineers, the housing market continues to be strong as we are seeing a net inflow of people, and minimal relative increase in housing (no more land), and we have a unique concentration of educational instituions, venture capital and innovation that enables Silicon Valley to continue to reinvent itself.
In summary - We will likely see a national recession in 2008 and 2009, with housing prices potentially falling by up to 30% in some areas where prices have been driven up by speculators/investors. The local real estate market will remain constrained by supply, so we will see fewer homes being sold, but prices will remain at current levels, or even continue to increase. Great news if you are planning to sell your home in Palo Alto, bad news if you want to buy in Palo Alto.
In the Central Valley this will sadly not be the case . . .
Stay tuned for a recap of tomorrow’s commentary by Fed Chairman Bernanke.
Thanks for reading.
Tags: 4---mortgage-mania, economy, Los Altos, Menlo Park, Palo Alto, palo alto economy, palo alto real estate market, Real estate, recession
December 18, 2007
With all of the media coverage about the implosion of the real estate market and the rising rate of foreclosures, every time I turn around someone is asking me about the health of the local real estate market in and around Palo Alto. They seem to expect me to echo what they are seeing on TV and reading in the newspaper. Nothing could be further from the truth, especially in Palo Alto, which is still enjoying a Seller’s Market with prices maintaining their stratospheric levels as hordes of well-qualified buyers patrol the city in hopes of seeing something new to look at. Last week there were a whopping three (that’s 3) new homes coming on the market in Palo Alto.
When hearing this unexpected good news on the health of the largest investment and asset that most non-Google employees have, a few folks have asked me if I think this market will continue (I do - subject of another posting), and that they are considering selling their homes in the Spring.
Spring, like April 2008? I ask
Well, that is when all the houses seem to come on the market, so that must be the best time to sell . . .
I have gotten better at controlling my reaction (giggling is a great way to start off on the wrong foot). But I then usually explain things in economic terms of Supply and Demand.
If you are a lemming seller and put your home on the market when everyone else does, how do you make it stand out from the competition? You can spend more on preparation (fresh remodel, landscaping, staging, etc.), more on marketing (more advertising, open houses, etc), or you can price it below the competition, or a combination of all three.
These approaches all result in less of a return for the homeowner at the end of the day, much like the price of oil usually drops in May because demand for heating oil has dropped off and the summer driving season hasn’t started yet. Alternatively, when oil is scarce like during a particularly cold winter, or if oil producers reduce production, prices go up.
What if you could make a house scarce? Would that increase the relative interest level and selling price?
Generally, we see the number of homes in Palo Alto for sale increase in mid-February and be high until around Memorial Day, then there is another seasonal increase after Labor Day until late October. Seasonal lows in inventory run from mid-November to mid-February, and then there is another drought in late Summer. Selling prices tend to run inverse of these seasonal inventory fluctuations, as greater scarcity creates greater perceived value for Buyers.
In Summary, an easy way to get your property to stand out is to put it on the market during one of the low inventory times. Serious buyers are always looking, and who would you rather have trooping through your home, serious, qualified Buyers, or people who like to look at houses on a pleasant weekend afternoon?
If you are considering selling, don’t be a lemming and wait until Spring, contact your real estate professional and have him or her show you market data and discuss how to get your home on the market during one of the “off-times”.
Skeptical? Don’t believe me? You can see objective market data for your area, courtesy of Altos Research here, or sign up for a customized report on the market in your area here.
Thanks for reading.
Tags: , 94301, 94303, 94306, Altos Research, Area-information, Buyer and seller tips, Home selling, market timing, Palo Alto, palo alto market, palo alto real estate market, palo alto realtor, palo-alto-real-estate, when to sell my home?