1. Pizzeria Picco, Larkspur
2. Bar Bocce, Sausalito
3. Tony Tutto, Mill Valley
At $1.25 million, the median sales price in Marin County reached a one-year high in May. Homes sold in an average of 34 days, the quickest pace of sales in a year.
The MSI increased slightly from April to 1.6, and buyers paid just a hair less than original prices: 99.7 percent.
Defining Marin County: Our real estate markets in Marin County include the cities of Belvedere, Corte Madera, Fairfax, Greenbrae, Kentfield, Larkspur, Mill Valley, Novato, Ross, San Anselmo, San Rafael, Sausalito, and Tiburon. Sales data in the adjoining chart includes single-family homes in these communities.
It’s the peak spring buying season, and a lot has happened with the Bay Area’s economy and housing market. A couple of months ago, we noted a possibility of slower activity in the luxury housing market if stock-market volatility persisted and venture-capital activity remained subdued. Although our local economy is still on strong footing and adding proportionally more jobs than any other part of the country, the Bay Area’s housing markets have seen some cooling and normalization.
Normalization is also evident among luxury home sales. For the purposes of this analysis, luxury homes are defined as those priced at $3 million or higher in San Francisco, Marin County, and Silicon Valley, the latter of which encompasses San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. In the East Bay — Alameda and Contra Costa counties — and Sonoma and Napa counties, luxury homes are defined as those priced at $1.5 million or higher.
The analysis below offers an in-depth look at housing market dynamics between April and May of this year and April and May of 2015. Generally, sales of luxury homes comprise about 3 percent of all transactions in the region, but in Silicon Valley, Marin County, and San Francisco, that share is closer to 10 percent. Silicon Valley was the only local region with more luxury sales this spring than last, and it is also the region where the decline in luxury home sales was most anticipated given the market volatility and venture-capital slowdown.
The share of luxury homes sales increased from last spring by 2 percentage points in Silicon Valley, and sales of luxury homes in total were 7 percent higher than last spring. This is of course partially driven by marked home price appreciation over the last year. Figure 1 summarizes the changes in sales activity for luxury homes across local regions. Two markets that suggest some concern in the luxury segment are San Francisco and Marin County, where sales fell by about 24 percent. On the other hand, while the East Bay had a relatively smaller decrease in luxury sales, Napa County offset most of Sonoma County’s decline. Taken together, the Bay Area has seen some decline in sales of luxury homes, but not consistently across the region and not in closely watched Silicon Valley.
While there were generally fewer luxury sales, there is also some evidence that the $3-million-plus luxury market is taking a breather. Today, it takes longer to sell a luxury home than it did a year ago, at least in Silicon Valley and San Francisco, which dominate the Bay Area’s luxury market (see Figure 2).
Marin County had an interesting anomaly in 2015, where a few very high-end homes took a notable length of time to sell. However, even with those transactions excluded, 2015 was relatively slower in terms of the number of days it took to sell a luxury home in Marin. For example, 12 homes took longer than 200 days to sell in 2015 while none took that longer than 112 days in 2016. Similarly, the luxury markets in the East Bay and Napa and Sonoma counties saw luxury homes selling much faster this spring. The East Bay in particular benefited from relatively more affordable stock and general movement of buyer activity toward the region.
While time on market was more consistent across price points, all regions in the North Bay — including Sonoma, Napa, and Marin counties — generally saw more price reductions from the original sales price to final selling price. On average, North Bay price reductions ranged from 2 percent in Marin to 6 percent in Napa. San Francisco, the East Bay, and Silicon Valley continued seeing final sales price closing higher than the original listing price. In San Francisco, more homes sold at a premium this spring than last. Silicon Valley, in fact, saw a notable drop in homes selling at a premium, from 60 percent of sales last spring to 47 percent now.
But the premium paid on homes selling over asking price is smaller than it was last spring, falling from 12 percent to 10 percent. In San Francisco, the 14 percent premium paid last spring dropped to 11 percent this spring.
Where Do We Go From Here?
Moving forward, supply indicators suggest we may continue to see some softness in the luxury market. Figure 4 shows the months’ supply of luxury inventory for May of this year, 2015, and 2014. Except in Napa, which has the fewest luxury sales in the Bay Area and where inventory tends to be higher, most other regions have seen a surge in supply. In San Francisco, the months’ supply jumped twofold from about two months to almost five months. Marin and Silicon Valley also saw higher supply when compared with last May. Similar conditions are evident in Sonoma County and the East Bay, where the months’ supply this year is higher than in the previous two years. In the East Bay, Alameda County had the lowest levels luxury home supply.
Lastly, Figure 5 illustrates the absorption of luxury listings that were under contract at the end of May. In relatively more affordable regions, the absorption rate is highest in the East Bay — an average of 42 percent. On the higher spectrum of luxury homes, San Francisco had the largest absorption rate at 36 percent. Again it appears that Sonoma, Napa, and Marin counties are generally experiencing slower absorption of luxury homes than more urban regions like San Francisco and the East Bay. Silicon Valley absorbed listings at about a 30 percent rate.
All in all, current supply trends highlight the unique segmentations of the respective markets. In San Francisco and neighboring communities with accessibility to jobs and urban amenities, demand for luxury homes remains solid. Even in Silicon Valley, where rampant fears of a slowdown caused some buyers to pause, luxury housing market activity shows vitality and a continuation of last year’s strong sales. Sonoma and Napa counties are seeing higher buyer awareness and diminished frenzy from last spring as they are primarily second-homebuyer and retiree markets. Marin County has also seen a cooling in demand and more cautious buyers.
All the trends highlighted above are in fact consistent with the previously anticipated normalization of Bay Area housing markets, which have been surprisingly heated for almost two years now. Still, we are only in the middle of the 2016 homebuying season, and conditions may change depending on the strength of the job market and domestic and international economic conditions. We will closely monitor the Bay Area’s luxury housing markets and provide an update in 90 days.
Selma Hepp is Pacific Union’s Vice President of Business Intelligence. Her previous positions include Chief Economist at Trulia, senior economist for the California Association of Realtors and economist, and manager of public policy and homeownership at the National Association of Realtors. She holds a Master of Arts in Economics from the State University of New York (SUNY), Buffalo and a Ph.D. in Urban and Regional Planning and Design from the University of Maryland.
Nothing says summer like a big bowl of ice cream. These sweet spots are perfect for getting a scoop on a hot day.
BY BROCK KEELING MAY 27, 2016
Today marks the 79th anniversary of the city’s most iconic structure, the Golden Gate Bridge, the world’s most photographed bridge. On May 27, 1937, approximately 200,000 people crossed the bridge in honor of its opening, paying a sum of $0.25 to cross.
Structural engineer Joseph Strauss was the mind behind the design, coming up with plans for the span connecting San Francisco with Marin. He is honored with a statue at the start of the southern portion of the bridge. Charles Alton Ellis, however, is widely credited for coming up with the Golden Gate Bridge’s structural design.
Some other fun facts about the bridge:
Ready to perfect your swing? These scenic public golf courses are great local spots for a round of golf.
Is your refrigerator spying on you? Probably not. But online-security experts caution that homes with “smart” technology—thermostats, security cameras, lights and appliances that connect to the Internet—are vulnerable to being hacked.
In a recent survey of 4,065 adults in the U.S., real-estate brokerage Coldwell Banker Real Estate found that 45% of respondents own smart-home technology or plan to invest in it this year. Yet only recently has security become a priority. While there have been few reported incidents, online-security experts expect smart-home hacking to increase. Luxury homeowners—often early adopters of technology, executives with access to corporate data or simply wealthy individuals—can be appealing targets.
The risks range from relatively harmless (pranksters cranking up the heat) to outright criminal (disabling security cameras to orchestrate a break-in). One of the biggest dangers is that poorly secured smart-home devices could be used as a “backdoor” to gain access to more sensitive information.
Chubb Personal Risk Services, a division of the insurance firm, asks homeowners about protections on their home-automation systems as part of its initial client interview, and recommends ways to beef up security, said Don Culpepper, a premier risk specialist with Chubb based in Atlanta.
For the last couple of years, Seattle and San Francisco-based Concentric Advisors has provided corporate-level security services for homeowners. Services start at $500 a month and include setting up and monitoring home networks.
Basic steps that security experts recommend include: changing the password on your device from the default, protecting your WiFi network with a password and ensuring that your wireless router uses some form of encryption. If you have given a password to someone who should no longer have it (like a former dog-walker), it is important to change it immediately.
Architect Scott Jaffa, 53, installed a Crestron home-automation system in combination with a Lutron lighting system in his Park City, Utah, home to test the technology for potential clients. The system cost $135,000 in 2012. He chose the provider partly because of its reputation for tight security, and liked that the installation company could monitor the system remotely and shut it down in the event of fraudulent activity. “I’ve been very happy with the system,” he said
As summer approaches, it’s time to tackle some of those long awaited home improvement projects. Find your materials and supplies at one of these local hardware stores!