The answer – according to area realtors – is a resounding: maybe.
“It’s creeping and crawling up,” said Cathi Marples, owner of Marples & Associates Realtors. She cautions, however, that the market is still wary. “There is fear of what happened … and it appears that it is going to be a slow recovery, but yes, things have shifted.”
That was then
Up until just a year ago, the market was dismal. More homeowners were underwater than weren’t, and the number of available listings had taken a serious nosedive.
“In 2011 our active listings had fallen by 64 percent,” said Keller Williams Realty Broker Leia Hartje, whose area covers, among others, East County. “And the year before that we were in the single digits (on the number of listings), with of course supply and demand being part of what pushed the numbers.”
Nationally, the numbers were equally as dismal. According to the National Association of Homebuilders (NAH) new and existing home sales reports, in 2007, 5,022,000 single-family homes and condominiums were sold. In 2011, that number had plummeted to 4,440,000.
This is now
The NAH reported, however, that by the end of November of 2012 the national numbers had surpassed 2007’s on the strength of 5,040,000 single-family and condominium home sales.
“It’s promising,” said Ken Strelo, senior planner for the City of Oakley. “We’ve seen activity in single-family homes, most of them being in already-existing subdivisions. No custom homes – but we’re seeing a fair amount of remodels and add-ons … It wasn’t too long ago that we weren’t seeing anything coming through our offices. At least now we’re seeing some more consistency, so that’s a good thing.”
According to the City of Brentwood, residential listings in September, October and November of 2012 remained steady, showing approximately 80 active listings each month and an average listing price of just over $600,000. The sold price, however, was in the mid-$300s. Antioch’s numbers were a little higher: 123 active listings in September and an average listing price for the three months of just over $240,000, and sold prices averaging around $215,000. Discovery Bay and Oakley’s asking prices were, respectively, $650,000 to $750,000 and in the $280s and mid-$300s. The sold prices were, respectively, in the high $300s to low $400s and mid $300s to high $200s.
“When you look at the market as a whole, there has been an almost 26 percent increase from December of 2011 to December of 2012. And in the previous year we were still in the single digits,” said Hartje, who added that such jumps come with a caveat. “Those numbers are almost a little scary. We don’t want it to get too big too fast or people will be afraid that the bubble will burst again. Steady and slow is how we want it.”
By the numbers
Marples said she has seen the market do a complete flip-flop in the past few years.
“The market has completely shifted,” said Marples. “We have very few bank-owned and short sales – and that’s a fabulous thing. Of the 100 percent we had on the market last year, 90 percent were distressed properties. But that also means that inventory right now is very scarce, so any listing is gold. It’s all about money – it’s always about money.”
According to Hartje, “Today we’re at about 20 percent short sales, 30 percent bank-owned and the rest of the market are traditional sales or investor flips. I’d say we’re cautiously optimistic.”
While the majority of the sales movement appears to be with existing homes, some local developers such as Meritage in Oakley are sensing changes in the wind.
“I do know that Meritage purchased the Shea Homes on the Cypress Corridor and they’ve been pulling permits, so there’s some activity there,” said Strelo. “And I know that Shea Homes is continuing to do lots of work out in the Summer Lakes South area. It wasn’t too long ago that we weren’t seeing any plot plans come through. Now at least we’re seeing some consistency.”
According to Discovery Bay General Manager Rick Howard, Kiper Homes has opened its model homes in The Lakes community in Discovery Bay and plans to continue to grow its Watersong at the Lakes community.
“People are definitely recognizing that now is a good time to buy,” said Hartje. “If you’re looking to move up, now is the time. If you’re selling, you’re in the driver’s seat – and it hasn’t been that way for a while. But if you’re a buyer, you need to be patient and persistent because there isn’t that much available right now.”
As for commercial real estate, Marples considers it last on the list. “Commercial real estate really wags the tail,” she said. “It’s always the last to recover.”
Keeping the faith
Despite the tumultuous ride, Americans continue to do what they do best, said Marples – believe: “I have to say that I feel there’s a great deal of feeling that we as Americans are going to will our way out of this. I’ve seen it before and I’m seeing a lot of that kind of determination now, everywhere.
“Am I cautiously optimistic? No, I’m not cautious about anything. I’m just very optimistic.”