Marin County, California, Luxury Homes Report (November 2009–Sales and Inventory Analysis)

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Building on a trend noted in last month’s report, media coverage of the overall economy has improved. In particular, reporting on the housing market. Forecasters are predicting that 2010 will be the first year since 2005 for housing to contribute to the growth of the U.S. economy (based on a survey by the National Association for Business Economics). According to that organization, home prices are expected to rise 2 percent next year — over 80% of economists surveyed think the recession is over and recovery has begun. The Mortgage Bankers Association Chief Economist Jay Brinkmann, predicts that sales of existing homes will rise 11 percent in 2010, with sales of new homes climbing 21 percent.

But, perhaps more importantly, the Dow Jones has rocketed up past 10,000 and the tone of the W-shaped recovery dialogue has moderated. It was announced today that JPMorgan Chase plans to hire 1,200 mortgage bankers in light of improved housing market and signs of stability.

Finally, we know from past experience that in down cycles, once the San Francisco housing market recovers, there is a domino effect on surrounding communities. Accordingly, in our current cycle, we believe that our best leading indicator regarding a healthy, appreciating market (particularly in Southern Marin) will be the home sales environment in San Francisco. And there can be no doubt that the San Francisco market has improved dramatically in recent months. Additionally, as the banking institutions regain their footing and again provide bonuses to their employees, we will also see a surge in luxury home sales. In fact, if bonuses are significant and broad-based, I predict a very strong luxury sales market early in 2010 as buyers snap up the many “values” out there in the luxury and ultra-luxury sectors.

As reported in previous months, real buyers have become less numerous. They are placing emphasis on prestige locations, views, lifestyle amenities (usable yards, proximity to clubs/shopping, etc.), schools, and sensible scale. And they are seeking “value.” The Marin County luxury market has favored homes priced under $3 million — although 5 homes traded over $4 million in November 2009. [For a detailed snapshot of current national trends from the Institute for Luxury Home Marketing, click HERE. And if you would like a hyper-local report relating to any town or zip code in Marin or San Francisco, e-mail or call me at (415) 350-9440.]

The below graph tracks asking prices for 3 “hot” locales in Marin — Tiburon/Belvedere (they are combined here because they use the same zip code), Mill Valley, and Kentfield. Interestingly, while Belvedere continues to see asking prices drop, Kentfield and Mill Valley have seen asking prices increase over the last 4 months. Of course, asking prices do not necessarily closely reflect selling prices and in Mill Valley, there are lots of homes on the market in the higher price bands, which have not sold.


The year over year inventory levels in Mill Valley have hovered at around 20% higher than last year for 6 months, but has dipped to about 15%. Meanwhile, inventory in Kentfield is up 65% and Tiburon – Belvedere inventory levels are over 90% higher than last year.

Below is a new chart focusing on the percentage of homes that have experiencd price reductions and the depth of those price reductions, on average. This chart examines these trends in Mill Valley and in Belvedere – Tiburon. It is perhaps not surprising that nearly 35% of listings in Tiburon – Belvedere have experienced a price reduction and those reductions average about 12%.

Real Estate Market Chart by Altos Research

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