Marin May Market Report | April 2018 Data

April marked a record 91st consecutive month of job gains while the unemployment rate dropped to 3.9%, the lowest since 2000. Economic output in the form of GDP is growing as well.  The Commerce Department reported that in the first quarter of 2018, Real GDP grew at an annualized rate of 2.3%—the best first quarter growth since 2015. Interest rates have been profoundly low until quite recently but higher interest rates are expected as GDP grows and large federal deficits begin to appear.

Market Snapshot

In Marin County, April’s real estate market began its seasonal up-tick with 196 homes sold during the month, an increase of 45% from March. However, compared with the same month last year, the number of sales were down 7%. The Average Sale Price also increased to $1,735,606, up 8% from March and 8% compared to April 2017. Luxury market sales in April were soft, with 17 homes sold above $3 million, compared with 27 homes sold in April of 2017. There was one notable sale of $10 million in Belvedere—the highest sale in the county year-to-date, Golden Gate Sotheby’s International Realty represented both the buyer and the seller in that transaction. The majority of sales continue to be homes in the $1-2 million range, with 110 sold in April.

Number of Homes Sold

Sales in April were down 7% compared to the same month last year. The number of home sales in April was up 45% from last month, with a total of 196, as a result of anticipated seasonal increases in activity.

Average Price Sold

The Average Sale Price of Marin Single Family Homes was $1,735,606 in April, up 8% compared to March and up 8% compared to the same month last year. This represents the highest average price point over the last year and was buoyed by the sale of the $10,000,000 Belvedere estate.

In Contract by Area

San Anselmo had the highest percentage of Homes in Contract in April (48%), followed by Mill Valley (43%), Fairfax (39%) and Novato (38%). Less active markets included Larkspur (18%), Tiburon (17%) and Greenbrae (15%).

 

Home Sales by Area

San Rafael and Novato had the highest number of sales in April at 53 and 45, respectively. Belvedere had the highest maximum sale price at $10,000,000, followed by Ross at $6,539,000 and Tiburon at $5,260,000. San Rafael’s highest sale at $5,550,000 is also significant and we have seen an increase in sales in the luxury market in San Rafael.

Sales by Price Point

The highest number of homes sold (110) continues to be in the $1-2 million range. The activity in the luxury market was slow in April, with only 5 homes sold in the $4-5 million range. A notable 8 homes sold between $3-4 million.

San Francisco Market update

I ran into one of my favorite San Francisco real estate agents at Rulli’s in Larkspur this morning.  He said the homes that came on the market in the early spring that were ‘show ready’, priced right and had few, if any downsides flew out the door to buyers who had been waiting for more inventory.   Sounds familiar….

Newspaper Story (‘old media’) Brings in Viewers and Buyers!

When my listing at www.40Steven.com was featured in the Friday Chronicle “Walk Through” section, the hits on the website went through the roof!   Well, to be fair, the home was also featured on SFGate.com, but most buyers who came through over the next couple of weeks had seen the old-fashioned paper article.  We may have an offer coming in from Denver buyers who did see the SFGate photos, and put the home at the top of their ‘must see’ list on their next trip out.   There is still some room for good press!

Davidson Middle School: Impressive, a Surprise

Davidson Middle has an image problem.  In part due to perceptions that have been cemented over the last decade or so…in part due to low scores on standardized tests.   As a real estate agent in Marin County, I have provided test scores to my clients as an important part of the buying process…and even as an element in pricing homes for sellers.    In every transaction in central San Rafael, the topic of Davidson Middle School came up.   When I was invited to tour the campus, I felt I had to take a look for myself.  I heard there were dramatic changes, so I visited the campus last week, skepticism in tow.

Wow!   The campus was pristine — frankly in better shape than the ‘good’ schools in Marin County.  No litter, no graffiti, and some beautifully remodeled buildings and classrooms.    The teachers I saw had wonderful command of the classroom.  Students who were not behaving had their names go on board for staying in the class during lunch.  The kids were as respectful as any I’d seen in other schools…and frankly, more respectfully dressed (although in the winter it’s a little easier to achieve that)   The curriculum seemed rigorous.   As to the scores, if the non-English speaking students were separated out, the principal says the school would be one of the top scoring middle schools in the county.

Mortgage Rate Bottom?

Marin buyers who were waiting for bottoms may have seen one low point pass in the last few weeks: mortgage rates…..

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/26/realestate/26mort.html?_r=1&ref=interestrates

The good news is the rates are still lower than they were earlier in the year, and, of course, many points lower than they have been in the past.  

Buyers who are waiting for the bottom of the prices will know only when that milestone has passed, as well….and unfortunately those who need mortgages may be paying the different with a higher monthly payment.

Top 10 Mistakes Buyers and Sellers Make

Buyers

  • Using an out-of-town agent or relative who is not active, informed or connected in the area…or worse, expecting good advice from the agent representing the seller (who is paying the commission)
  • Starting to shop without first being pre-approved and having funds in place
  • Saving money by asking a friend or acquaintance to do inspections, rather than a qualified, thorough  inspector
  • Finally finding just the right home, fortunately it’s listed at a great price, and deciding it’s not a deal unless the sellers will take a random, fill-in-the-blank huge amount less.
  • Being reluctant to be the first one to move forward, then being put off if there are other offers

Sellers

  • Not spending the money to make their home look inviting and chic from day one on the market
  • Neglecting to review agents’ marketing materials, ad plans, property websites and tech know-how prior to committing
  • Not strategically planning the debut date for maximum impact
  • ‘Trying out’ a price that will strike most buyers as too high, leaving a negative  impression of the home
  • Becoming offended about the price the home is actually bringing in — and counting on the fact that it will change in the near future

Why Buyers Need Their OWN Agent (and a local one)

It’s a Sunday open that usually prompts a blog post like this.   It’s usually lost-looking potential buyers that come through after viewing homes that are completely wrong for them.   Inevitably, the buyers are ‘flying blind’, figuring they will find an agent later, or they feel loyal to an out-of-area agent, or they will use Aunt Millie from Manteca whose mouth is watering at the thought of a Marin-sized real estate commission.    Here are just a few reasons why, when you are ready to buy, it is a really good idea to have an honest, hard-working, local expert on your side.

– You save a lot of time because your agent can suggest itineraries for open homes based on your criteria

– Your agent will take you on a tour of the area if it is unfamiliar territory.   The good ones will include schools, pros and cons of various neighborhoods, micro-climate summaries, and the highlights of each town.

– A good local agent is up on all the latest news and regulations surrounding towns and transactions.  (Sewer line requirements, flood history, permit practices)

– If you make an offer, the last person you want writing the offer is the agent representing the seller.   Remember, the seller is paying the commission and has known the listing agent for much longer.   If you go into contract, will you have confidence in the agent’s recommendation against a fireplace or structural inspection?   Remember, the agent who does two sides of a deal has a lot at stake.   He or she will be doubly-motivated to make sure the deal goes through, possibly at your expense.

Take your time finding a knowledgeable, tough, straight-shooter to work with.   And make sure he or she is a likeable sort.   Why does ‘nice’ matter?  Because the listing agent is well aware of who may be more likely to act unethically during a transaction.    Buyer’s agents should be tough negotiators.   Walking away from the deal is your best weapon.  But as a buyer, you want to make sure that your agent doesn’t have the other side leaning away from you and toward another buyer before the negotiations even begin.

A Win at the Probate Window

I always enjoy a new experience of any kind, and presenting a sealed offer for a probate sale at Marin County’s Public Administrator’s Office turned out to be a good one.  My clients and I had monitored the competition on this sale for weeks, strategically planned inspections just prior to the offer, and submitted a very carefully thought out bid.   With no competition, and a strong pre-approval letter, they walked away with an acceptance on an incredible price.

It was a very strange place to get such great news… we were on one side of the plastic barrier at the counter — the official reviewing the offer on the other.  No matter… great news is great news… and even probates suddenly don’t seem as difficult a process as I expected.   Another interesting piece of information:  the county will sometimes do light remodeling on a home in order to bring in a higher price.   In some cases, like in any sale, it’s necessary to do some work for the home to sell at all.

April Brought Us More Marin Home Sales

The chart below shows a couple of interesting things.    First, the number of homes going into contract (the line with triangles) is up in April.  Second, even though it seems that a lot of homes are on the market, the number is less than last year.  Note the light green ‘for sale’ bars.  There was a big dip in the number of homes available over the holidays, many sellers waiting for better weather….and finally there was a big spike in available homes.