Marin’s median home price spiked to $1.15 million in April, a 10 percent rise from the $1.045 million median price in April 2017, a real estate data firm reported Thursday.
Irvine-based CoreLogic also reported that the number of new, resale and condo home sales in Marin dipped slightly to 321, a decrease of .09 percent from the 324 homes sold a year earlier.
Across the Bay Area, the median price in April also jumped by double digits to $850,000, up 13.3 percent from the $750,000 median price in April 2017. That beat the record median of $830,000 set in March, said CoreLogic analyst Andrew LePage.
“The Bay Area has experienced strong gains in home prices this year, but a portion of the increase in the region’s median sale price can be attributed to a subtle shift in the market mix, where a higher share of sales are occurring in mid- to high-priced areas,” LePage said. “That’s in part because of the especially thin inventory of homes for sale in the more affordable areas, frustrating many first-time buyers.”
Sales volume in the Bay Area rose by 8.2 percent to 7,497 new and resale homes and condos sold in April, compared to 6,927 sold a year ago, LePage said.
Marin real estate professionals said the combination of rising mortgage interest rates, the hot spring buying season and lack of inventory in the under-$1 million price category have all pushed the Marin median price skyward.
“Buyers are saying, ‘If I’m going to buy a house and get the best interest rate, the time to buy is going to be now,’” said Barry Crotty, of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Greenbrae.
Crotty said he is seeing the majority of sales on the area’s Multiple Listing Service go for either at-asking price or higher. Of 225 sales he tracked in April on the MLS, only 68 were below-asking price and the rest were at-asking or above, he said.
Blaine Morris, a broker with Pacific Union International Realty in Kentfield, said the under-$1 million market is becoming “even more elusive,” frustrating first-time homebuyers.
“The Marin numbers (for median prices and number of sales) are rather telling,” Morris said. “There are so few sales on the low end, and more in the mid-range and higher, and that’s skewing the increase in prices.”
Morris said the competition in the Marin market is also hurting what he calls the “move-up market,” or people who want to buy a higher price home but have to make their offer contingent on selling their lower-priced home.
“They are stuck because they can’t compete with other buyers who don’t have a contingency,” Morris said. “They are afraid of selling their (existing lower-priced) home, and then not having any place to go.”
Compounding the problem is the increasing construction costs due to resources being drained to help the rebuilding efforts from the North Bay wildfires, Morris said.
“Bids (to renovate) are coming in way over expectations, due to increasing labor and materials costs,” he said.
“Couples are not getting the work done because they can’t afford it, and they’re not selling their house because that would leave them with nowhere to go.”
Crotty said he is seeing average mortgage interest rates now up almost a point higher than a month ago, from around 4 percent in April to close to 5 percent now. On a $750,000 home, that could mean a more than $200,000 increase in monthly mortgage payments.
“I’m seeing rates now at 4.625 percent,” Crotty said.
He said investors are moving their money out of the bond market due to the booming stock market, and so bond issuers have to pay a higher interest rate to attract investors, driving the interest rate on their products higher. The recent interest rate bump by the Federal Reserve Bank is also having some impact, but to a lesser extent, he said.
“The higher mortgage interest rates are pushing buyers off the fence,” he added.
Across the Bay Area, “inventory remained tight and affordability worsened with rising prices and mortgage rates,” LePage said. “The overall impact of higher rates isn’t clear given that, initially, rising rates can spur some buyers to purchase sooner than later for fear rates will climb higher.”
LePage added that while the region’s median sale price rose 13.3 percent over the past year, “a nearly 50-basis-point increase in mortgage rates over that period translates into a 19 percent year-over-year increase in the principal-and-interest mortgage payment on the median-priced home.”
Bay-Area-wide sales volume, however, though up 8.2 percent in April, was propped up by new home sales and lagging in the resale market, he said.
“Looking just at the month of April this year, new-home sales rose 12 percent year over year, helping to push overall home sales up 8 percent,” LePage said. “Still, this April’s total sales were the second lowest for that month in seven years.”
He blamed the lower numbers on lack of inventory, mirroring some of the trends described in Marin — which has a very low number of available new homes.
“In April 2018, sales of newly built homes — detached houses and condos combined — were 27.5 percent below average for the month of April, while resales were 14.6 percent below the month’s average,” he added. “Ignoring the 2003-2006 housing boom that was fueled by risky home loans, April 2018 resales were 10.5 percent below the long-term average for the month.”
Bay Area home sales April Percentage increases
Alameda: 1,393 1,544 10.8% $740,000 $840,500 13.6%
Contra Costa: 1.392 1,448 4.0% $578,500 $625,000 8.0%
Marin: 324 321 -0.9% $1,045.500 $1,150,000 10.0%
Napa: 102 120 17.6% $625,000 $609,000 -2.6%
Santa Clara: 1,593 1,759 10.4% $916,500 $1,130,000 23.3%
San Francisco: 485 530 16.5% $1,205,000 $1,320.000 9.5%
San Mateo: 557 588 5.6% $1,211,000 $1,320,000 9.0%
Solano: 598 598 0% $393,000 $430,000 6.9%
Sonoma: 513 589 14.8% $568,500 $610,000 7.3%
Bay Area: 6,927 7,497 8.2% $750,000 $850,000 13.3%