This week's Multiple Listing Service (MLS) shows 16 houses on the market with an average list price of $1,928,375 and average days on market (DOM) reported at 46 days. As we approach the end of the first quarter, how does this compare with last year?
Here's the news . . . the average sales price is UP from last year's average sales price of $1,598,136, and inventory is down. Average sales price is skewed by the fact that last year we sold several 2bdrm/2bth-starter homes with entry-level prices. This year, the entry-level home has barely made a showing, leaving many younger buyers waiting on the sidelines. Typically, starter-homes become available as families grow and expand, requiring a larger house. If the "four-year" home was bought in the last four years however, those buyers can't afford to sell in this market- just yet. Thus, we aren't seeing starter-homes churn the market, the way they have in the past. With inventory lighter than usual, demand should be high. So why isn't everything selling?
Demand is high, but buyers have become far more discerning, as have their lenders. Any flaw is going to be magnified three-fold in this more conservative marketplace where the buyers seem to be limited to those who "need to buy," versus those who "want to buy." Thus, the pool of buyers on any given Sunday, is largely comprised of those that are expecting, those that can afford to move, those that have had a job transfer and those that are downsizing. Still, they represent incredibly motivated buyers and I suspect, buyers that will have made timely decisions when this all plays out. In short, buying in a declining market, may be the smartest decision you make - value exists now. Previously, you were buying your appreciation up front and waiting for the market to catch up. Now your home should appreciate in real time - and that's good news!
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 15 years and has published more than 500 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.