It is not at all unusual for the housing market to go flat or even decline a little in the second half of the year. In October, the local Silicon Valley real estate market got an uptick as prices rose from the month before, homes sold a little faster, and basically things inched back into the seller’s favor. Sometimes homes that sell between Labor Day and Halloween seem to be in a second spring of sorts. In November so far, though, the Silicon Valley real estate market softens again – slightly. It’s all slightly more depressed than in October: prices are a little lower, days on market a little longer, etc. It is still a seller’s market, but not nearly to the degree it was in spring.
In other words, it’s a good time to buy (at least compared to 6 months ago).
Home buyers are funny, as a rule. They tend to buy when it’s a frenzy and prices are skyrocketing and multiple offers are in the crazy zone with buyers going in without any contingencies. Once the foot comes off the gas and they can buy with some rights to contingencies and can purchase closer to list price, many buyers freak out and won’t buy at all. It’s like the market has to be against them if they are at all interested.
Let’s look at the numbers for Santa Clara County. I pulled these tonight from MLS Listings and the data reflects single family homes in Santa Clara County. (Remember, closed sales were usually ratified about 30 days prior.)
First – inventory – I think it’s very important to not just view the month-over-month changes, but the year over year. How does it usually look for this month in the past? 2017 was a weird year, so going back a little further in time provides helpful perspective.
The Silicon Valley market recently seemed to be on the skids from late spring through summer. The question was whether the decline in average and median sales prices was “seasonally normal” or if it was the beginning of a correction. Depending on which way you look at the data (or which data you used), you might come up with a different conclusion. What I did not expect at this point was an uptick in the market.
Today I did a quick study of pricing in Santa Clara County and San Mateo County. To my surprise, it appears that the closed sale prices so far in October are noticeably higher than in August – perhaps the sliding prices are sliding no more? Do we have an uptick in the market? We’ll have to watch and see. There are obviously very few sales so early in the month, but no matter which angle I tried, I did keep getting the same result: higher median and average sale prices in Santa Clara County and San Mateo County for single family homes. It was also strong for the condo / townhome market in Santa Clara County, but there’s a little dip for San Mateo County so far this month.
Here are some charts that I created from MLSListings, using the stats tools, today.
First, Santa Clara County single family homes, average sale price and median sale price. The uptick in sale prices is clear.
Santa Clara County – Average and Median Sale Prices over time – single family homes only
Next, the same criteria, but for San Mateo County, which also shows rising average and median sale prices :
How is the Silicon Valley real estate market? It’s more of the same this month, with too-low levels of available inventory of homes for sale in Silicon Valley. At this point, the low inventory is a chronic problem for everyone. Inventory is up from the beginning of the year, but no where near “normal”, as you can see in the data below.
Home buyers in the county or on the Peninsula have little or nothing to purchase, and sellers feel trapped – they cannot sell their current home as there are bad odds that they would be able to purchase something else if they did sell. Unless they expect to leave the metro area, they are going to hold on tight in most cases.
Have a look at the inventory of houses on the market from 2001 (the earliest year I can pull from the MLS) to today in Santa Clara County – June is highlighted in a pale yellow to make it easy to find and compare the same month over the last 17 years.
The Silicon Valley real estate market – a look at inventory of available homes for sale:
The numbers really say it all. Even if you are new to the San Francisco Bay Area, you cannot help but notice the relative scarcity of homes for sale this month as opposed to last month or any other dating back to 2001. Therefore, it’s no surprise that solid homes here that are not in the luxury tier for their area (and are aggressively priced, beautifully staged, professionally photographed, and easy to view) are getting multiple offers, high overbids, and selling with no contingencies for inspection, loan, or appraisal. It’s more difficult, but not impossible, for anyone trying to purchase with less than 20% down in multiple offer situations. The key is to have extra money, beyond that 10%, for a potential appraisal deficit.
Here’s how the numbers look for various Silicon Valley communities. You can see all the info for them at popehandy.rereport.com or view the PDF newsletter by clicking the link or the image below.
Frequently, people new to Silicon Valley and the San Jose area arrive from places where their last home was new construction, and they hope to find a brand new home here, too.
Unless you are looking to purchase a condominium or a townhome, though, it can be really challenging to find truly new homes for sale here. (There are tons of fabulous new condos in downtown San Jose, which is enjoying a great redevelopment period.)
For the most part, Silicon Valley had a post World War II housing boom that stretched primarily from the 50s into the 70s. By the 1980s, even, most of the open space was gone. Today we do have a few new patches of new homes “here and there”, but there aren’t many. Unfortunately, too, since most of the best land was built up long ago, some of the newest developments are in less desireable areas such as next to freeways.
For the Silicon Valley new home buyer, I want to suggest a couple of strategies: first, in addition to checking out whatever new homes are currently being built, consider homes that are younger than 20 years of age. Many of them are still in great shape. Some have already been remodeled! Another option is to look for the “fully remodeled” home. With the latter, you must be extra dilligent to make sure that the house has not just been gussied up to be be flipped, but is truly remodeled in areas you cannot see, such as the wiring and the pipes.
Please also read:
Myths and Misconceptions about Buying a New (or Newer) Home
Some younger neighborhoods:
Introducing a Beautiful Willow Glen Neighborhood, “The Willows”
The Almaden Winery Neighborhood of San Jose
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.