Silicon Valley housing prices and the emotional stages they’ll put you through

Stages of Silicon Valley real estate sticker shockGetting over Silicon Valley real estate sticker shock happens in stages.

First there is disbelief or denial.  “It cannot be that bad – people are exaggerating.”  That’s followed quickly by “I thought it was bad where I used to live!”

Then there may be outrage (anger is too mild a word): “Why would anyone pay that to live there?”

Next, a little bargaining: “What’s the work around? Are there any bank owned homes?  How about something older – I don’t mind a 15 year old house…” (To us, that’s a young house, by the way.) “What about buying a lot and building?”  Or the commute negotiation “I thought I had to be within 15 minutes, but I could go 30.”  A typical commute might be 30 minutes in the morning, but 45 in the evening.  Many people have worse than typical, though, as they want a bigger, nicer home, better schools, quieter location, etc.

Depression soon follows suit.  This may be accompanied by “We just cannot do it” or “We are not willing to do that” (until they see that rents are $4000 for a smallish house in an only OK area and $6000 per month for a decent sized home in a good area.)

Acceptance comes at last.  It may lead people to decide to go all in, bite the bullet, and buy locally.  It may lead them to move way out of the immediate area and embrace an hourlong commute – or to take the Apple or Google bus to work, if applicable.  It could lead them to move to Seattle, Orange County or somewhere a little less overwhelming in terms of housing costs.

Prices are up 30 from 2 years agoSometimes people think they are at “acceptance” as they write offers which are habitually 5-15% too low.  In reality, they are actually still in the “bargaining” phase, hoping for a good deal amidst our raging seller’s market.  That doesn’t usually happen, so writing a lot of unsuccessful offers frequently leads to depression (and sometimes blaming their agent for their offers not going through, even when it’s clear at closing that their offer price or terms were the issue).

How fast can you get to acceptance and write a realistic purchase offer?  For people who could have bought 12 months ago but are still shopping now, that wait has cost them about 10% of their home price in many cases.  For those looking 2 years, it’s easily double that, and in some cases prices are up a full 30%.  That’s like setting a match to your entire down payment.

If you want to be a successful home buyer in this crazy Silicon Valley real estate market, you will need to get onboard quickly, because the longer you take to get to acceptance, the more expensive your final home will cost when the market isappreciating, as it has been for about 3 years now.  Time is money and nowhere is that more true than in the San Jose, Silicon Valley, or South Bay real estate market.

 

 

Looking for more Silicon Valley real estate resources?  Here are a few of my other sites, blogs, and market stats tooks:

popehandy.rereport.com – real estate statics for San Mateo County, Santa Clara County, and Santa Cruz County

popehandy.com – Silicon Valley real estate, Los Gatos real estate, info on many areas of the realty market in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties

SanJoseRealEstateLosGatosHomes.com – Santa Clara County real estate, special focus on San Jose areas of Almaden & Cambrian and also Los Gatos with info on the real estate market, neighborhoods, and more

LiveInLosGatosBlog – Los Gatos real estate, neighborhoods, events, businesses, parks. Many photos and neighborhood or subdivision profiles.

The Crazy Silicon Valley Real Estate Market

There is most always a big shock when folks relocate to Silicon Valley and start to learn how far their money goes – or doesn’t go – here.  This has been the case for a very long time, since long before I got into the business 20 years ago.   Prior to to looking online, you may hear that it’s bad, but you don’t really know what people are talking about until you get into a car with a Realtor and go see what $500,000 or a million or more will buy you here.

And now, too add to the already high home prices, the real estate market is overheated due to a severe inventory shortage of homes for sale in the San Jose and “South Bay” areas, too.   Most properties are selling over list price – and that was high to start with, particularly for out of state or global buyers.

In most parts of the U.S., a half a million dollars will buy you a great home.  Here, not so much.  A million dollars will buy you a nice home in a decent area, but it won’t be fancy, and you’re unlikely to have a large lot unless your commute is huge and you’re on the outskirts of the valley. It’s more than a million to have a really nicely remodeled home with great schools; that price point seems to start at about 1.2 million in most parts of the valley. Have a look at the median and average sales prices for houses in Santa Clara County – this will give you a sense of how the market has been behaving, but also of the cost to purchase homes generally.

Santa Clara County (Silicon Valley - San Jose area) Prices and Sales Feb 2013

Santa Clara County (Silicon Valley – San Jose area) Prices and Sales Feb 2013

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The Santa Clara County Real Estate Market

The Silicon Valley real estate market is spread out over a few counties, primarily Santa Clara County but also much of San Mateo County and part of Alameda and Santa Cruz Counties.  Santa Clara County is home to about 1.8 million residents, more than half of them in the big city of San Jose.  The high tech companies such as Cisco, Apple, Google and more are spread out around the valley, and each neighborhood has a very different set of housing market conditions.  Even so, we’ll take a broad view of the county today to give some general indicators on what you might expect when moving here.

As a whole, home prices in Santa Clara are rising due to a dire scarcity of listing inventory.  On average, houses sold in December were overbid and the sales price to list price ratio was about 102%.  Here are the numbers at a glance:

Trends At a Glance Dec 2012 Previous Month Year-over Year
Median Price $682,500 $685,000 (-0.4%) $530,000 (+28.8%)
Average Price $908,873 $885,921 (+2.6%) $714,562 (+27.2%)
No. of Sales 899 903 (-0.4%) 903 (-0.4%)
Pending Properties 980 1,500 (-34.7%) 1,396 (-29.8%)
Foreclosures Sold 25 34 (-26.5%) 112 (-77.7%)
Short Sales Sold 154 138 (+11.6%) 229 (-32.8%)
Active Listings 534 782 (-31.7%) 2345 (-77.2%)
Active Foreclosures 22 27 (-18.5%) 173 (-87.3%)
Active Short Sales 39 52 (-25.0%) 980 (-96.0%)
Sales Price vs. List Price 102.6% 102.3% (+0.3%) 98.7% (+3.9%)
Days on Market 36 32 (+11.3%) 63 (-42.8%)

Though there was a slight slippage in values from the prior month’s median sales prices, the average price was up 2.6%.  More dramatically, though, prices were up 27-28% from the year before!  Foreclosures and short sales are way down.  Inventory is critically low, off 77% from a year earlier.

It is a very deep seller’s market in Santa Clara County.  Some areas, such as Cupertino, are very difficult for buyers right now.  Cupertino’s prices are already past the last peak pricing and have only about 2 weeks of inventory.

Trends At a Glance Dec 2012 Previous Month Year-over Year
Median Price $1,343,880 $1,325,000 (+1.4%) $982,500 (+36.8%)
Average Price $1,304,180 $1,373,820 (-5.1%) $1,085,210 (+20.2%)
No. of Sales 26 27 (-3.7%) 24 (+8.3%)
Pending Properties 18 23 (-21.7%) 13 (+38.5%)
Foreclosures Sold 0 0 (N/A) 0 (N/A)
Short Sales Sold 0 0 (N/A) 0 (N/A)
Active Listings 13 26 (-50.0%) 31 (-58.1%)
Active Foreclosures 0 0 (N/A) 0 (N/A)
Active Short Sales 0 0 (N/A) 4 (-100.0%)
Sales Price vs. List Price 102.9% 104.4% (-1.4%) 96.4% (+6.7%)
Days on Market 31 33 (-5.8%) 52 (-40.7%)

To get the full report with much more data and information for all areas within Santa Clara County, please see www.popehandy.rereport.com.

Is This A Good Time to Buy A Home in Silicon Valley?

If you’ve recently relocated to the San Jose area, you may still be getting your “sea legs” here. Perhaps you’re still learning your way around, or maybe trying to get a feel for our market.  And very likely you are wondering, “should I buy a home now…or should I wait?”

There are no easy answers. Sweeping generalizations are often wrong in particular cases. I’ll explain.

Right now, if you want to buy a home in Saratoga, with Saratoga Schools and you require that the home be perfect (doesn’t need remodeling, doesn’t back to a busy road or have something else objectionable), and the price point is between one and two million dollars, you’ll have some competition. You’ll be in multiple offers if the home is priced appropriately.

On the other hand, if you want to buy an entry level condo in east San Jose or Morgan Hill, Gilroy or Santa Teresa, it truly is a buyer’s market. Home sellers aren’t giving away their pride & joy, but the market is definitely in your favor and you may well get a great deal.

Each situation is unique: you might need or highly value a short commute distance, or the very, very best schools, or a turnkey home. Or not. Depending on your circumstance, your budget, and your timeframe (if you buy, can you stay put for 3-5 years minimum?), this could be a great time for you to buy.

Some things to consider now – potential plusses:

Most often, November and December are wonderful months in which to purchase a home in Silicon Valley because sellers who market their home now are usually highly motivated. Inventory is lower, but prices are usually softer. When clients ask me, “when is the best time of the year to buy?” I usually tell them “November and December – but no promises for any given year”. Second best month is frequently August.

A big plus for this time of year involves your financing too. Since loans are really something you “purchase”, and the price is influenced by the ancient laws of supply and demand, getting a loan while everyone else is doing holiday things can be a boon to you. Loan rates frequently go up around Valentine’s Day. (I cannot predict that loan rates will go up or down, but historically the most favorable rates are often found at this time of year.)

Are there drawbacks to buying now? Sure. Inventory is restricted. In some price points and areas, that means that there may be multiple offers – even in this “normal market”.  Homes may not show as well in winter as they might in spring, so you may have to use a little imagination if the backyard is not as cheerful as you might like to envision.

Overall, I would say for most buyers, this IS a good time to buy a home in Santa Clara County. But call me or email me and we can chat about your particular situation, which may change everything for you!

If you’d like specific information on the housing markets around the San Jose area, please visit my online Real Estate Report, which breaks down the stats and trends. It’s a tremendous amount of very useful data.

Wishing you and yours a joyful Thanksgiving.