Diablo Valley Real Estate March 2020 Report

There is a lot going on in the world right now and we won’t pretend to know how things will turn out or affect the local real estate market over the next few months. In the meantime, this report will look at the most recent data available, though the impact of the wild volatility in the financial markets and the unfolding situation with the coronavirus has yet to show up in reliable statistics. Typically, the spring selling season is the most active of the year.

One positive for real estate is that mortgage interest rates hit a historic low in early March, as illustrated below, and rates play a huge role in housing affordability.

Home Sales Breakdown

Listings Accepting Offers by Month

Mortgage Interest Rates Hit Historic Low 

In some of the following charts, other cities outside Diablo Valley are included for either greater context, or to increase the statistical reliability of the data – generally speaking, higher numbers of sales make trend lines more reliable and less subject to meaningless fluctuations.

Short-Term & Long-Term Trends
in Median Home Sales Prices

Home Values & Statistics by City

Selected East Bay Market Indicators since 2009

Diablo Valley Real Estate January 2020 Report

This report focuses on the cities of Diablo Valley, but sometimes includes other nearby cities to provide greater context to the market.

Generally speaking, after years of solid appreciation rates, annual 2019 Bay Area median home prices went down a little bit, went up a little bit or basically remained unchanged as compared to 2018.

For 2020, economist Ken Rosen at UC Berkeley has said he expects the Bay Area median price to remain basically flat, within a general range of up or down 2% – in other words, similar to what happened last year. We can’t predict the future, but that certainly doesn’t sound unreasonable, and happily avoids the sensationalism of many other media-grabbing forecasts.

Median sales prices are generalities and not exact measurements of changes in fair market value. They can be affected by a number of factors and are sometimes subject to anomalous fluctuations. This is especially true of very expensive communities with relatively low numbers of sales, and very wide ranges of sales prices: Outsized year-over-year changes should be taken with a grain of salt until substantiated over the longer term.

How median prices apply to any particular home is unknown without a specific comparative market analysis.

Economic Factors Affecting Real Estate Markets

Lamorinda Real Estate January 2020 Report

This report focuses on Lafayette, Moraga & Orinda, but nearby cities are sometimes included to provide greater context to the market.

Generally speaking, after years of solid appreciation, annual 2019 Bay Area median home prices went down a little bit, went up a little bit or basically remained unchanged as compared to 2018.

For 2020, economist Ken Rosen at UC Berkeley has said he expects the Bay Area median price to remain basically flat, within a general range of up or down 2% – in other words, similar to what happened last year. We can’t predict the future, but that certainly doesn’t sound unreasonable, and happily avoids the sensationalism of many other media-grabbing forecasts.

Median sales prices are generalities and not exact measurements of changes in fair market value. They can be affected by a number of factors and are sometimes subject to anomalous fluctuations. How they apply to any particular home is unknown without a specific comparative market analysis.

Economic Factors Affecting
Real Estate Markets

Lamorinda & Diablo Valley Real Estate September 2019 Report

Home Prices by City; Short-Term & Long-Term Appreciation Trends; Migration In & Out of the County; Price Reductions & Unsold Inventory.

After the heat of the spring market, activity typically slows down in July and August. In September, new listings start coming on the market again to fuel the relatively short autumn selling season. What occurs in the next 2+ months, before the mid-winter holiday doldrums begin, will be the next major indicator of market conditions and direction.

Migration: People Moving In & Out
of Contra Costa County

Using new U.S. Census estimates released 8/29/19, this chart attempts to identify U.S. counties, states and international regions with the highest number of residents migrating to and from our county. In the Bay Area, there is a general trend outward from more expensive to more affordable places, while in-bound migration is deeply affected not only by exchanges between Bay Area counties, but people arriving from other parts of the state, country and world. Areas often have large two-way exchanges of residents, as between Contra Costa & Alameda Counties.

Foreign in-migration is a huge issue in the Bay Area, but it will be another year before any impact of new U.S. immigration policy on foreign in-migration in 2018 shows up in census numbers.

Median Home Prices by City

Median House Sales Price Trends

Short-Term & Long-Term Trends
in Median Home Values

Selected Market Indicators –
Regional & County

Price reductions spiked at the end of last year and remain somewhat elevated.

The next chart measuring unsold inventory helps give greater context to market conditions and changes. The ups and downs since 2012 are relatively minor compared to the situation that prevailed during the 2008-2011 market recession.

Diablo Valley & Lamorinda Real Estate August 2019 Report

Sales & Values by City, Price Segment & Lot Size; Market Seasonality; Luxury Home Sales; Market Dynamics by City; Foreign Homebuyers.

The May Case-Shiller Home Price Index was released in late July for the 5-county SF metro area. This chart illustrates the difference in appreciation rates between the Bay Area (higher price markets) and the entire country. Case-Shiller does not use median sales prices but its own algorithm to calculate appreciation. January 2000 home price = 100; 250 = a home price 150% above that of Jan. 2000.

Number of Sales & Median Sales Prices

Needless to say, there are many factors behind home sales and values in different communities. Home size is one of them, and median sales prices are not apples to apples comparisons: For example, in the small community of Diablo, the median home square footage is over 4000, while in Walnut Creek, it is under 2100 square feet. Lot size also plays a big role in our markets, which is illustrated a little further down in this report.

Number of Listings & Median ASKING Prices

If the median ASKING price (below) in a community is well above the median SALES price (above), it is usually indicative of some disconnect between seller and buyer expectations regarding fair market value, and/or the supply of higher-priced listings simply outweighs demand for such homes in that city.

Sales by Price Segment

Sales, Prices & Home Sizes by Lot Size

In San Francisco, houses selling for $8 million and houses selling for $800,000 can both be found on lots under 1/8 of an acre. In our market (and also in the wine country), lot size is a major factor in home size and price.

Market Seasonality

Listings and sales ebb and flow dramatically by season. In Diablo Valley and Lamorinda, the peak of activity – as measured by the number of listings going into contract – typically occurs in late spring. The relatively short autumn market – Labor Day to early November – is the last major selling season of the year before activity plunges in mid-November for the winter holiday period.

Luxury Home Sales

Market Statistics & Indicators by City

A few things should be kept in mind regarding the next 3 charts: Firstly, in or within communities of similar quality, a smaller home will typically sell for a higher dollar per square foot value. As an example, the median size of a home in Lafayette is about 28% smaller than in Alamo. Secondly, it is not unusual for higher price markets to have softer buyer-demand dynamics than more affordable areas, though this is not always the case. And thirdly, Q2 is commonly the strongest market of the year, and its statistics reflect that heat.

Foreign National Home Buying Tumbles

According to a new report by the National Association of Realtors – based on a survey of its members – the purchase of U.S. homes by foreign nationals plunged in the 12 months through March 2019. California, and the Bay Area in particular, have been top destinations for international homebuyers in recent years.

Stock Market Hits New High

The last 12 months have been an extremely dramatic time for financial markets as illustrated below. The confidence or fear generated by its swings has been a considerable factor in real estate markets. A parallel dynamic has occurred with the swings in interest rates.

Market Indicators by Price Segment

In recent years, within counties around the Bay Area, the heat of buyer demand has often been as strongly correlated with price segment as by the location of the home in a specific city or town.

Diablo Valley & Lamorinda Q2 Market Report – Compass

Stock markets hit new peaks and interest rates hit multi-year lows. The market had its typical spring bounce in demand, but generally speaking, remained cooler than it was in the first half of 2018. Year-over-year home-price appreciation has basically disappeared for the time being, with prices stabilizing, more or less, at last year’s peak levels. However, luxury home sales hit a new high in Q2.

Median Home Sales Prices

The overall median house sales price for the region is very slightly lower – a difference not statistically significant – than the peak price reached in Q2 2018.

This chart below looks at median home price changes in 3 area market segments by price range – markets that have relatively substantial numbers of sales on a quarterly basis. As one can see, they all fluctuate up and down quarterly, sometimes significantly, but have relatively parallel trend lines since 2015. (It is true that the Lafayette and Orinda markets are not the exact same, nor are the Walnut Creek and San Ramon markets, but their home values, appreciation rates, and general market statistics are typically very similar.)
Longer term trends are much more meaningful than short-term fluctuations in median sales prices.

Home Sales by Property Type & Bedroom Count
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Average Dollar per Square Foot Analyses

Median sales prices and average dollar per square foot values don’t necessarily move in lock step. If the median size of homes sold during a particular quarter goes down, then median sales prices will typically decline, but average dollar per square foot values will usually increase. And vice versa. All things being equal, smaller homes generally sell at a higher dollar per square foot. It is worth remembering that averages and medians are gross generalities bundling together an enormous variety of home sales.

Luxury Home Sales

Sales of homes selling for $2 million and above hit a new peak in sales volume in Q2, but in the $3 million+ segment, sales are a little below highs reached in 2018.

Selected Supply & Demand Statistics

After peaking during the big spring selling season, sales typically gradually decline toward the nadir in activity seen during the mid-winter holiday period.

Overpricing: Negative Effects for Sellers
& Opportunities for Buyers

We performed longer-term analyses of the effects of overpricing – as indicated by the need for price reductions before the property sold – on every major market in the Bay Area and the results were uniformly similar. As would be expected, there were dramatic differences in the sales price to list price percentage and time on market before sale. But there were also very substantial differences in the average dollar per square value realized upon sale.

So, overpricing lowers values for sellers – even in very hot markets – which also signifies opportunities for buyers who keep an eye out for price reductions and react accordingly.

Mortgage Interest Rate Trends