Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Prices Essentially Even During 2010

Buttressed by low, low rates and a stabilizing economy, prices in Piedmont dropped only about 2% over the course of 2010, based on both average prices and price per square foot. The average price of a Piedmont home sold in 2010 was $1.401 million, down from 1.432 million in 2009, according to the MLS. The typical price per square foot was $513, down from $522.

A range of other measures supported the positive outlook: Total sales increased to 99 (from 76), typical days on market declined to 29 days (from 44), the number of distressed sales (bank-owned and short sales) remained very low at under a half dozen in each year.

Fifty-five homes were pulled from the market for various reasons, similar to the number from 2009, though lower on percentage basis given higher overall sales this year.

Given that homes sold in the fourth quarter typically went into contract during the unsettled period in August and September, it's comforting that the quarter's figures were quite strong in the end: 25 total sales (compared to only 19 in 4Q09) averaging $1.413 M (compared to $1.216 M in 4Q09).

Prices during the year ranged between $479,000 and $5.15 million, and within the quarter ranged between $479,000 and $3.4 million, suggesting good activity all along the price spectrum. The typical home sold for 4% less than its original asking price. (See detailed info at the bottom of this post.)

Oakland sales totaled just over 3200, a drop from last year's torrid 3700 pace, while total sales in Oakland 94610 and 94611 (roughly Montclair and Crocker Highlands) increased from 307 last year to a total of 445 this year. The average price across the city increased from $296K to $350K, an increase of 18%. Don't forget that this average is affected by the proportion of lower-priced homes in distressed circumstances that were on the market last year (and remain to a large degree this year). In fact the median (half of properties sold for figures above the price and half below) is only $194,000, suggesting a huge presence of low-priced sales in Oakland.

Berkeley's sales figures also increased, from 424 to a total of 528 sales in 2010. The average price increased about 5% compared to 2009 (from $667.5K to $712.4K), though the median is much closer to the average than is the case in Oakland. The typical days on market in both Oakland and Berkeley was about 35 days.

Communities typically considered our competitors--Lamorinda and Mill Valley--fared well. Lamorinda sales were up 20%, and prices inched up from $957K to $961K on average. The typical home sold in 55 days, a tad fewer than in 2009. And Mill Valley saw a 4.6% rise in prices in 2010 compared to 2009, though the median price declined gradually during the course of 2010. The total number of sales was up about 10%, and the typical home took about three months to sell.

(See this link for more on the pattern of defaults and foreclosures in Piedmont--while I'm sure more of us are having a tough time making payments and may be underwater on our mortgages, Foreclosure Radar reports only three foreclosures in town through November, 2010. One of these was represented on the MLS.)

The Region

The New York Times interactive graphic examining home price trends (through September) across 20 MSAs can be found here. The San Francisco MSA is the ''strongest market in the country,'' they say. S&P just released the October data--it shows the San Francisco MSA's index is up 38% since 2000, down 1.3% (seasonally adjusted) in October compared to September, and up 2.2% over the course of the year.

The State

The Ca. Assoc. of Realtors, meanwhile, has data through November: Total sales (#) across the state were up nearly 10% in November compared to October, though down about 9% from November 2009 to 2010. Median prices were down about 2.5% across the state during the same window.

The proportion of REO sales was down through the year, while short sales (meaning direct negotiations among the seller, his/her lender(s) and a buyer) were up--perhaps lenders are realizing they will do much better to take a market-based offer from a straightforward seller and buyer than to incur all the costs and risks associated with a foreclosure, empty house, and bottom-feeding distressed sale specialists. The proportion of ''discretionary sales,'' the new moniker for non-distressed sales, was up from 38% of total sales to 47% through late July, '10.

The scale of unsold inventory has been stable and consistent with trends over the last few decades--6 to 7 months. Interest rates were about a half point lower in November compared to the previous November (but have now increased about that much through the end of the year).

(Click on the photo to enlarge and review it.)

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