The Concord and Clayton real-estate market continues to struggle toward recovery, but the most recent sales statistics show it still has a long way to go. The volume of homes sold in Contra Costa County in May was down 13 percent, and the median sales price fell 13.3 percent, according to a report from the California Association of Realtors.
Late summer is typically a sluggish time for real-estate sales, but May typically would post the market's "best possible news."
In addition to the weak figures, the share of sales involving distressed properties, cash buyers and investors remained far above normal. Builders sold 370 newly built homes last month in the Bay Area, down 47.1 percent from a year earlier and the lowest number for a May since at least 1988. Builders have struggled with the weak economy and competition from the resale market, especially distressed properties.
“Given the sluggish start to this spring’s home-buying season, with sales 20 to 30 percent below average, it’s no surprise we’re logging sharper declines from 2010," John Walsh, DataQuick president, said in a news release.
"Sales got a big shot in the arm a year ago when people rushed to take advantage of expiring homebuyer tax credits. Today the market must stand on its own, and it’s having a hard time doing that in the absence of stronger job growth and consumer confidence. So far, low mortgage rates and lower home prices are not enough to overcome the concern some potential buyers have that prices could fall more. Other would-be buyers are unemployed or underemployed, or can’t qualify for a loan. Scores of would-be move-up buyers owe more than their homes are worth; so they’re stuck,” Walsh said.
“There are always bright spots and exceptions within a large regional housing market,” he added. “But there wasn’t much in the latest sales data to suggest the overall market will pull out of this rut any time soon. History suggests that, after a sharp downturn, the market could be stuck in that rut for quite a while, perhaps years. Eventually it will pull out, of course, as hiring accelerates, consumers feel more confident, and, we assume, credit flows at least a bit more easily. When rents start rising that will nudge more people into buying, too.”
The psychology of the average homebuyer out there might be a little more encouraging. Despite the struggling housing market, a recent survey of home owners and non-owners by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) showed the "American Dream" of home ownership is still going strong. Two-thousand people across the country who plan to vote in 2012 were asked how important owning a home still is to them.
The results showed 75 percent of the people polled said that owning a home was worth the risk despite the market fluctuations and 95 percent of people who owned a home said they were happy with their decision to buy a home. Also encouraging is that 73 percent of people polled believe that owning a home is a core goal.
"The survey results show that Americans see beyond the immediate housing market to the enduring value of home ownership,” says NAHB Chairman Bob Nielsen, a home builder from Reno.
In another recent study, more than half of economists, real estate experts and investment strategists polled by MacroMarkets LLC in June said they expect national home prices to hit a bottom sometime in 2011 and remain stable through 2015. MacroMarkets polls more than 100 housing experts with a wide range of views, including FusionIQ CEO Barry Ritholtz, Moody's Analytics economists Mark Zandi and Celia Chen, National Association of Realtors Chief Economist Lawrence Yun, Freddie Mac Chief Economist Frank Nothaft and Rosen Consulting Group's Kenneth Rosen.
Panelists were asked to project the path of the Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index over the coming five years. Robert Shiller is MacroMarkets' chief economist and co-founder.
"A significant majority of our panelists believe that the bottom for home prices arrived in the first quarter or will arrive sometime before year-end. Despite persistent macroeconomic uncertainty and unprecedented housing market dysfunction, almost two-thirds of the panelists see the U.S. residential real estate market as an historic turning point," Shiller said in a statement.
Other recent reports this week have indicated that rents are on the rise and mortgage interest rates are trending upward as well. Like the old saying says — "it's not hell but you can see it from here." If it's not the bottom of the real estate market, you can sure see it from here. Most any experienced Realtor would advise the time is ripe to buy because of low interest rates, plentiful inventory and near rock-bottom prices.
Only if the timing is right for you financially, though. If not, the market seems to be saying: "It's OK. This opportunity is still going to be here for awhile."
Here are a couple of interesting new listings this week in Concord and Clayton:
5251 Grasswood Court, Clayton
2 bedroom, 2 bath, 834 square feet
For the low price of a condo, this duet is a great home for someone who doesn't mind a smaller floorplan but would still like the feeling of a single-family home. And there are no HOA dues! It's in a great neighborhood surrounded by more expensive homes (always a good thing) and is on the Clayton border, so it offers desirable schools. It's at the end of a court and has a quiet location that is close to permanent open space. It has a back yard, attached garage, updated kitchen and bathrooms, and the refrigerator washer are included.
210 Falcon Place, Clayton
4 bedroom, 3 bath, 2,467 square feet
This home in the upscale Oakhurst Country Club neighborhood is on a cul-de-sac and has pretty hill views. It's in move-in condition and has an eat-in kitchen with bay windows, two sinks and an island. It also has an open, airy floorplan with plantation shutters, a wet bar, ceiling fans, and a "Jack & Jill" upstairs bedroom and bathroom in addition to two other bedrooms and a beautiful master suite.