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Home Sales Nosedive, Prices Rise

It's a seller's market in Martinez, analysts say.

If single-family home sales in Martinez have slowed to a trickle, it’s not for want of interested buyers.

The median price climbed from to $292,500 last July to $314,500 this year, which real estate analysts say is one of the upshots of a diminishing supply. And supply has diminished drastically in the Martinez: July saw 64 transactions, already well below the average for this time of year, and this month numbers sunk into the 40s, agents say.

Veteran Muir West Realtor Cha Cha Amato Hughes said she's never seen such a drought -- only 46 homes for sale at a time of year that normally sees a good 100 transactions, she said.

Some say that is in part because owners, who can rent properties for more than their mortgage payments, are holding out as they watch the market continue to improve. 

“The supply/demand issue is affecting most of the Bay Area,” said Valerie Crowell, broker associate with Keller Williams. “I knew we were in a seller's market in December of 2010.

"For the next 10 months, everyone argued with me that I was wrong," she said. "I wasn't. Now everyone is complaining about inventory, which is the by-product of a seller's market.”

Maureen Ingalls reports selling single-family homes “in a week or two” and fielding multiple offers.

Sales “have been real hot in the price range up to $450,000, and at the low end we’re getting multiple offers,” said Ingalls, who has been selling homes here since 1986.

“If there were more homes, they would be selling," she said. She just received 17 offers on a short sale (a transactions in which the sale price falls short of what is owed on the property).

Fixers are selling for “dirt cheap” to buyers intent on quick fix followed by a quick flip, "but we’re running out of those,” she said.

Properties in demand include single-story homes, for staircase-averse, aging clients.

A few factors actually thin out the volume of house hunters looking to buy in the general area, said Crowell.

“Martinez is actually slightly easier because the price point is a little higher and there's no BART station there,” she said. “And there's a stigma about the refineries which puts off some people who haven't been there from wanting to be there.

DataQuick analysts show Contra Costa County as a whole falling slightly behind in Bay Area sales. The San Diego-based organization monitors real estate activity.

The most vigorous home sales market was in San Mateo County, where numbers of home sales climbed by 44.2 percent.

Overall, residential sales in the Bay Area rose for the 13th straight month in July. Median prices at $421,000 reached highest since August 2008.

“The market has really been lopsided the past couple of years, tilted toward low-end bargain chasing,” writes John Walsh, DataQuick president in a new report. “Now it’s re-balancing, slowly, with increased activity in mid and move-up markets. But mortgage availability remains one of the big challenges in the Bay Area.”

Other findings from the DataQuick August report include these:

  • Government-insured FHA home, loans favored by first-time buyers, hit a new low since August 2008.
  • Jumbo loans (mortgages above the old conforming limit of $417,000) shrunk from 60 percent of the loan market in 2007 to less than 40 percent today.
  • The most active lenders to Bay Area home buyers last month were Wells Fargo with 17.7 percent of the market, RPM Mortgage with 4.2 percent and Bank of America with 3.5 percent. 
CHACHA August 23, 2012 at 07:34 PM
Why no one here in this article commented on the "now tighter, more stringent" credit/mortgage loan requirements thats resulted in a "shrunken buyers /sellers market" which is one of the biggest reason for the reduction/slowdown?!
Old Monnkey August 25, 2012 at 05:11 AM
Neither are they commenting on the lack of of inventory caused banks who can't afford to eat the losses on inventory they would otherwise be lothe to unload. Can you say Japan?

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