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

In our New Economy, real buyers have become less numerous and have placed increased emphasis on prestige locations, views, lifestyle amenities (usable yards, proximity to clubs/shopping, etc.), schools, and sensible scale. As reported all year, the luxury segment remains weighted towards homes priced under $3 million — although 4 homes priced over $4 million sold in October 2009. First and foremost, the economy must give reason for optimism and the stock market must continue to win back gains lost over the past year. Once some of those gains are recaptured, affluent buyers will feel more comfortable with major purchases again.

Meanwhile, the media has been placing a positive spin on economic news coverage, which will hopefully result in a positive feedback loop. For example, a story run in the A.P. last week noted that economic 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 and over 80 percent of economists surveyed by the NABE think the recession is over and recovery has begun. In addition, the San Francisco Chronicle ran a story last week regarding how low interest rates have spurred a modest increase in Bay Area home sales in September. Also concurring with the expectation of growth is the Mortgage Bankers Association Chief Economist Jay Brinkmann, who predicts that sales of existing homes will rise 11 percent in 2010, with sales of new homes climbing 21 percent.

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, 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 120 days. 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. Meanwhile, inventory in Kentfield is up 80% 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 45% of listings in Tiburon / Belvedere have experienced a price reduction and those reductions average about 12%.

Real Estate Market Chart by Altos Research

$2 Million to $4 Million Luxury Homes

Heading into the Fall, it is generally expected that sales will wane. Yet, buyer activity has picked up significantly. The number of homes in escrow in this price band is up 33% from last month. It seems that there is a lot of home shopping going on as patient buyers have begun snapping up homes. I expect that next month will see a large surge of sales. Inventory remains low with 128 homes on the market between $2 million and $4 million.

Cities recording sales in this price band included: Tiburon (1), Mill Valley (3), Kentfield (2), and Sausalito (1). These homes averaged 113 days on market. Their average sales price was $2.683 million (roughly $813 per square foot), with an average of 3,340 square feet. The absorption rate for Marin homes in this price band is about 18 months.

$4 Million & Up Ultra-Luxury Homes

The inventory level of Marin County’s ultra-luxury market (homes priced in the $4 million and up range) remained virtually unchanged with 53 homes for sale. The highest concentrations of homes in this price band are Tiburon, Belvedere, Sausalito, and Ross. As noted earlier, Marin County experienced 4 sales last month, doubling the previous month’s output.

By: Kyle Frazier, Certified Luxury Home Marketing Marketing Specialist (CLHMS), Certified Residential Specialist (CRS), Broker Associate, Realtor | Christie’s Great Estates — Morgan Lane International. Call Kyle Frazier at 415/350-9440 for more luxury home market information in San Francisco and Marin Counties.