Ok, by now it’s probably not surprising that Bay Area housing is a whole lot more pricey than real estate elsewhere in the country. But at the same time, an argument can be made that it’s also one of the best long-term investments when compared to other housing markets in America. That’s the finding of a new analysis by real estate analytics firm RealtyTrac, reported recently by MarketWatch.
RealtyTrac reported that San Mateo County, Alameda County and Santa Clara County ranked 1-2-3 in the top five most “profitable” housing markets in America. And yes, there were some outside the Bay Area as well. Middlesex County, New Jersey, and Multnomah County, near Portland, Oregon finished fourth and fifth.
The analysis found that home sellers in San Mateo County saw a 65% difference ($388,000, on average) between the price they paid for their homes when they bought them and what they sold them for in 2015.
The main reason sellers in San Mateo saw such large profits is that the county is a popular housing market for Silicon Valley tech executives and high-paid employees, RealtyTrac noted. The city of San Mateo itself is a short drive from the headquarters of Google parent Alphabet, Facebook and Oracle, just to name a few tech titans.
In Alameda County, sellers saw a 64% difference between the price paid for their homes for and what they sold them for in 2015, walking away with $246,000 on average. The East Bay has benefited in recent years from an influx of buyers who have been priced out of San Francisco and Silicon Valley housing markets.
Santa Clara County came in right behind its neighbors to the north and the east in the analysis. Sellers there took home an average profit of $315,000, with a 63% difference between their buy and sell prices. Middlesex County, New Jersey, and Multnomah County, Oregon, followed with a 52 percent and 49 percent profit, respectively.
These big price gains come as home prices nationwide are on the rise with nearly 40% of the real-estate markets in the U.S. hitting new home-price peaks in 2015, RealtyTrac found.
But the Bay Area counties far outpaced gains in the rest of the country. For the U.S. as a whole, RealtyTrac says sellers in 2015 realized an 11% gain (or an average of $20,378 profit) in sale price compared with purchase price.
The full report can be found here.
Below is a market-by-market report from our San Francisco Bay Area offices:
North Bay – Inventory is alarmingly low, our Greenbrae manager says, and once again, almost all new listings that came on the market in the last two weeks got multiple offers. It’s been difficult for agents to convince their clients this is a time to sell, when there is so little inventory. Would-be sellers feel they need to wait until spring, and other would-be sellers have no idea where they would move. Consequently inventory continues to at an all time low. On today’s tour in Central Marin there are only 3 new single-family residences and 5 new condos. Sales activity in the Novato area is beginning to increase for 2016. Inventory is still extremely low, keeping buyers from purchasing. Agents are anticipating an increase in inventory for February and March while sellers prepare their homes for the spring market. It appears the San Rafael area market has not yet jumped into the spring buying and selling season. There is still a shortage of inventory and our local manager expects buyer and seller activity will start to increase soon. Open House activity is still brisk with real buyers looking at what inventory is available. As of this week there were only 64 homes and condos available in San Rafael with 40 homes and condos in contract. Our Santa Rosa Mission office manager says the local market has not shaken out of its holiday doldrums quite yet. But Super Bowl Sunday and nicer February weather (if it happens) promises to bring a mid-winter thaw to the market. Lots of agents are talking about new listings that may be coming to market soon. The luxury market remains slow due to lack of inventory. Demand exists but we’ll need to see new listings before the Previews market kicks into gear. The overall Southern Marin market is very strong on the demand side. Under $1 million is almost all multiple offers due to lack of inventory. From $1-2 million, you have to be priced competitively and in move in condition. The market will gain more momentum with more inventory, which will occur after Super Bowl. Buyers will be discriminating in 2016 and less accepting of structural and cosmetic deficiencies. Buyers are viewing luxury Previews properties, but not offering. There is no sense of urgency and no multiple offers above $2 million yet. Therefore, buyers are watching and waiting.
San Francisco – Sparse inventory continues, according to our San Francisco Lakeside office manager. Buyers in more affordable categories continue to be competing quite a bit. Our Lombard office manager reports increased listings and sales this week, but coming off a very dormant January. Closings the last two months have been closer to asking, and there’s a growing percentage at or under asking price. A post-Super Bowl listing surge may happen, and the buyers are out there. Our Market Street office manager notes that sellers are still in hibernation, while buyers are actively on the hunt. Those few homes that are being held open are seeing lots of traffic (even those that have been on the market for a while). And agents are seeing some multiple offer situations (ranging from 2 to 6 during this period). Still, many properties are being sold with one good offer as prices continue to hold steady.
SF Peninsula – Our Burlingame manager said the local market is experiencing an increase in listings and sales. Similarly, there is an increase in listings in the coastal area, according to our Half Moon Bay manager. Sellers are preparing their homes to be put on the market. She expects more coming on the market after the Super Bowl weekend. Our Menlo Park manager reports that both MLS and underground markets are as busy as can be with what is available. Inventory is rising one by one in the Palo Altos area. There still is very strong demand and agents are uncertain to what the first quarter will bring. Our San Mateo manager reports and upswing in the local market.
East Bay – The inventory is trickling onto the market, our Berkeley manager reports. Berkeley had 18 new properties come onto the market in the past 2 weeks for a total of 30 active listings. Overbidding is still 20-30% and open houses are heavily attended with an average of 100 groups of buyers through. Interest rates still remain at historically low rates and buyers from SF are still coming to the East Bay. More sales in outer areas, Richmond, El Cerrito, Pinole because housing is still affordable for first time home buyers. Lamorinda inventory is starting to slowly increase. Agents report Open Homes are very heavily attended with 70 people or more coming through. Homes that are competitively priced are receiving multiple offers. Our Walnut Creek manager that Walnut Creek and the surrounding area inventory supply continues to be low and buyer demand remains high. Low and mid-priced homes (i.e. anything under $1 Million) are almost always receiving multiple offers and there still is a good percentage of multiple offers over asking on Walnut Creek homes up to the $1.5 million price point so long as the list price is in line with previously sold comps. Homes over $1.5 million in Walnut Creek, as well as homes near or over $1 million in Concord and other surrounding areas, have lower demand, but are still selling if priced in line with previous sold comps.
Silicon Valley – Activity has finally picked up in the Cupertino area, thanks mostly to more listings hitting the market. The few open houses held have been packed. More listings are coming to market in the San Jose Almaden area, yet we’re still seeing multiple offers. Almaden sales were slower in January with only 16 compared to December and January of 2015, which had 27 each. Blossom Valley sales were slower in January as well with 60 sales compared to 83 last month. Yet sales were up by 16 compared to January of last year (44). Cambrian sales were at 32 for the month of January, which is down 46 from last month (78) but flat for January of 2015. There is a Pre Super Bowl buzz in the Willow Glen area. Active listing inventory is starting to trickle in. Our office had 9 new listings come to the market this past week with several agents announcing new listing inventory coming post Super Bowl weekend. The few open house are jammed with pent-up demand from buyers, and most are going into contract after just one weekend open house. Multiple offers well over list is the norm. Very little inventory is dampening sales activity in the Saratoga area. All offers are multiple.
South County – The new agent lament is that there is just nothing to sell. Inventory in South County is at an all-time low. Both the Morgan Hill and Gilroy offices are instituting a huge ad campaign informing sellers why this is the best time to sell. The campaign will consist of full-page ads in the local papers, a direct mail campaign and information provided to potential sellers via social media. At this point, homes that are offered on the open market are being sold quickly and for many thousands of dollars over their asking price. It truly is a seller’s market. Buyer demand remains very high, as does agent frustration as to the lack of inventory.
Santa Cruz County – January started out with historically low inventory, hovering around 180 active single-family homes in Santa Cruz County. Demand was strong with sales totaling 95 compared to 97 in January 2015, despite having close to half as many active homes available on the market as January 2015. The average sales price for single-family homes in Santa Cruz County for 2015 came in around $797,472, which equated to 4.5% appreciation of values for the year. The Previews Market in Santa Cruz County has been on par with the overall market in terms demand staying strong and comparing closely in number of sales to January 2015, with 11 total. Supply of homes active is currently at 27, which is just under January 2015’s number of 33. Currently we are seeing great showing activity with our Previews inventory.
Monterey Peninsula – The month of January saw an 8% reduction in unit sales but an increase of 22% in dollar sales, reports our Monterey Peninsula manager. The office average sale price is at a recent high of over $1,350,000. The inventory continues to be about a 5-6 month supply with new listings slowly coming to market. Stop in one of our local offices or open houses this weekend if you are visiting or looking for a property on the Monterey Peninsula.
Market Watch is a bi-weekly column by Coldwell Banker San Francisco Bay Area president Mike James. Click here to view past issues.