Bay Area housing market cools, but it’s still nuts – SF Chronicle

By: Kathleen Pender 

The Bay Area real estate market went into 2018 with a bang and out with a whimper.

In the first half of the year, the median price rose almost 17 percent to an all-time high of $875,000 in June. In the second half, it fell 10.3 percent from that peak, ending at $785,000 in December.

The December price was down 3.7 percent from November but up 4.6 percent from December 2017, according to a report Thursday from research firm CoreLogic. It includes all new and existing homes and condos in the nine Bay Area counties.

An earlier report from the California Association of Realtors — which includes only existing, single-family homes entered into a multiple listing service — said the Bay Area median price fell to $850,000 in December, down 6.1 percent from November and down 3.6 percent from December 2017. That was the first year-over-year drop since March 2012.

Any way you look at it, the market downshifted in the last three months of 2018. As the stock market plunged and mortgage rates rose a half percent to almost 5 percent, buyers backed off, inventory grew, price cuts surged, and price appreciation slowed from the double to single digits on a year-over-year basis.

The number of homes sold in December fell to 5,341 across all nine counties, down 13.2 percent from November and 21.6 percent from December 2017. That was the lowest sales count for a December in 11 years, CoreLogic said.

Many sellers, perhaps unaccustomed to a less-than-ridiculous market, took their homes off the market or let their listings expire. A total of 2,493 listings in the nine Bay Area counties were withdrawn or expired in December, compared with only 1,154 in December 2017 and 1,487 in December 2016, according to analyst Patrick Carlisle of the Compass real estate firm.

“December was rock bottom,” said Chad Eng, a Redfin agent in Silicon Valley. “Buyers are hesitating, on the sidelines. Sellers are still focusing on comps from six months ago.”

Instead of selling in days like they were earlier in the year, homes took weeks or even months to sell. Homes that closed in December had been on the market 29 days before getting into contract. That was up from 23 median days on market in November and 17 in December a year ago, the Realtors association reported.

Eng said things picked up around the middle of January, as the stock market recovered and mortgage rates fell back into the 4.5 percent range. “I wonder if it’s a sign of what we will see in the spring,” or just a normal seasonal rebound, he said.

Santa Clara County was the hottest market in the Bay Area — and most of the country — for the first part of the year as prices rose in the teens and 20s year over year. In February, its median price topped $1 million for the first time, rising to $1,080,000, up 27.8 percent.

That was the month a two-bedroom, one-bathroom, 848-square-foot home on Plymouth Street in Sunnyvale sold for $2 million cash — making headlines as the height of Silicon Valley insanity.

That was and still is a record price-per-square-foot for Sunnyvale, said Doug Larson, a Coldwell Banker agent, who represented the seller. “Now with the softening market, I doubt that anybody will beat it, at least for a while,” he said.

After hitting $1.15 million in June, Santa Clara’s median price has fallen to $1 million in December, exactly where it was a year ago.

January is always a slow month for the real estate market, as sellers recover from the holidays and get their homes spruced up for the busy spring season.

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“Homes that sell in the winter are typically homes that have been sitting on the market awhile and have to take a price cut,” said Redfin Chief Economist Daryl Fairweather.

Right now, “buyers are in a holding pattern,” she added. “They don’t know if this is as good as it’s going to get, if prices come down or more homes come on the market.”

She noted that a slower market is good for buyers because “they have more negotiating power” and for sellers who are moving up to a more expensive home because “overall they are going to be saving more money.”

Fairweather predicts that prices will end the year about where they are now. “I would be surprised if they go down,” she said.

Nancie Allen, president of Bay East Association of Realtors, said the government shutdown in January made it hard to tell where the market is headed. The next two weeks will be a better indicator. The market now “is all over the place,” she said. Some homes in Fremont have been sitting on the market for a while, while one had 15 offers.

Aaron Terrazas, a senior economist with Zillow, said his data show that home prices in the last quarter of 2018 rose at their slowest annual pace for any quarter since 2010.

He predicts that prices will appreciate 5 to 6 percent this year in the San Francisco metro area and 7 to 8 percent in the San Jose metro area, assuming interest rates stay low.

Kathleen Pender is a San Francisco Chronicle columnist. Email: kpender@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @kathpender

I read this article at: SF Chronicle

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