Novato Real Estate Market Update (August 2009 Home Sales Report)

August 12, 2009

Last month, for the first time since I began writing Novato monthly updates back in 2006, I stated that it appears that the Novato, CA. market (for single family homes) seems to be improving in two meaningful ways. Certainly, sales have risen from last year and we have several months of increasing sales (as the inventory of short sales and foreclosures is quickly snapped up by motivated buyers).

But, perhaps even more importantly from the perspective of home owners, it also appears that prices at the entry level (e.g., properties priced below $500,000) have bottomed out. As evidenced by the chart below, the 90-day rolling average of Novato home prices has been rising since May 2009. Obviously, higher asking prices do not, ipso facto, result in higher sales prices (some local real estate companies train their agents to give sellers high estimated sales prices in an effort to get any all listings — a major breach of our ethical and fiduciary obligations, in my opinion). But, experts consider this development a leading indicator that market forces are pushing prices higher. I have written in past months about the high level of competition in Novato’s entry level real estate market. This phenomenon also supports the notion that we have hit bottom.

In July 2009, Novato experienced 47 sales (up from 38 in June 2009). Of course, many of these are bargain priced homes such as REO’s or short sales. But, the inventory is rapidly being absorbed. We feel there is extraordinary pent up demand. Perhaps more significantly, the average sales price of Novato homes was $632,078 in July 2009 (up from $622,000 last month, excluding one off the market sale of a $2 million+ home). While a bump of just over 1% may not seem like much, its psychological impact on buyers waiting for bottom may prove significant.

As a result of the above, we believe that the move-up market will continue to improve in Novato — there are clear signs of improvement in this very important market segment. As of today, here are the percentages of homes in escrow in each price band:

  • 82% of homes priced under $500,000 (up from 78%);
  • 61% of homes between $501,000 and $600,000 (up from 57%);
  • 40% of homes between $601,000 and $750,000 (down from 43%);
  • 27% of homes between $751,000 and $1 million (up from 25%);
  • 30% of homes between $1 million and $1.5 million (up from 25%);
  • 6% of homes between $1.5 million and up (down from 15%).

Interestingly, and in line with recent months, the move-up price bands are selling nearly as well as the entry level properties:

  • 27 homes priced under $600,000 sold in July 2009
  • 16 homes priced from $601,00 to $1 million sold in July 2009

There are 138 single family homes currently for sale in Novato, CA (there were 131 in July 2009). Novato’s absorption rate (e.g., the number of months of inventory currently available in Novato) remains extremely low. In March 2009, we had 7.9 months worth of inventory. This month, our absorption rate has fallen to an unbelievable 2.99 months! Absorption rates, along with days on market averages, provide a telling insight into the overall state of the market. Generally speaking, 6 months of inventory reflects a balanced market and anything under 4 months, a seller’s market. And today’s shrinking inventory and exploding sales evidence a pent up demand and reflect the increased affordability of Novato real estate. It is rumored that more bank owned inventory will be generated in the Fall as banks continue hiring processors and moratoriums are lifted. We will see if this comes to pass and how it affects our market.

Real Estate Market Chart by Altos Research

As noted above, 47 Novato homes sold in July 2009. These Novato homes averaged about 110 days on market, were about 2,107 sq. ft., and sold for an average sales price of $632,078 (roughly $304 per sq. ft.). Homes in Pointe Marin, Country Club, Hamilton Field, Rush Creek, and Bel Marin Keys generated the most calls and showings this past month. If you are thinking of buying, please call my office at (415) 350-9440 as I have a long list of people who would like to sell their homes, but because of market conditions are not quite ready to list their home officially. I am also receiving many calls regarding lease-options.

Below is a breakdown of the Novato real estate market by price band:

Price Range

Total Homes

Pending Listings

Up to $500K



$500K – $600K 36 61%

$600K – $750K



$750K – $1 mil.



$1 mil. – $1.5 mil.



$1.5 mil. & Up



If you would like me to run the exact numbers for your Novato neighborhood or if you have any questions about Novato’s many delightful neighborhoods, just give me a call at (415) 350-9440. My name is Kyle Frazier. I am a Broker, Certified Residential Specialist (CRS), and Member of The Institute of Luxury Home Marketing, with Morgan Lane Marin Real Estate. It is always my pleasure to be of service.

Now that the the HWY 101 widening project has been completed on both north and southbound lanes, the commute through San Rafael is very much improved. Southbound commute traffic is reduced by about 25 minutes. The improved commute will certainly make Novato a preferable choice for those who want more house for the money, yet were scared off the traffic we experienced during the highway construction period. Moreover, the first-time home buyer credit of $8,000 (this is a flat out gift from the government) certainly helps those who qualify. As I tell my clients, “Give Yourself a Raise. Move to Novato.”