Marin Luxury Real Estate (February 2009)

February 14, 2009

Over the past few months, notable slowing of the luxury real estate market was apparent nationwide, in the San Francisco Bay Area, and in Marin County. This past month a slight up-tick has emerged in the Marin market as the number of homes in escrow has increased and buyer enthusiasm is improved. Open houses have been busy. Offers are being written. And agents who work the luxury market are noting a more focused approach by buyers. Meanwhile, the national numbers are generally flat or declining. For a detailed accounting of national trends, click here for the February 2009 Market Report from Institute for Luxury Home Marketing. Note, if you would like a similar report relating to any town or zip code in Marin or San Francisco, e-mail me and I will send you a pdf of the report(s)–it is my pleasure to be of service.


The graph below reflects a 90-day rolling average of asking prices for homes in the topmost quartile (e.g. prices of the most expensive homes) in 3 touchstone Marin County cities: Tiburon, Mill Valley, and Kentfield. As you can see, over the past year, prices have declined in each. 

Real Estate Market Chart by Altos Research

Note however, that a few homes in Kentfield marketed early last year were priced at the extreme high end, resulting in an exaggerated shift.

$2 Million to $4 Million Luxury Homes

There are 102 homes on the market between $2 million and $4 million (as predicted this is way up from last month’s 69). Sellers are anxious to get their homes on the market early this year in hopes of getting jump on the market. We’ll see if this pays off. Certainly the number of sales fell off the cliff following the Septemer meltdown — there were 18 sales in October 2008 (these buyers were well into their escrow periods at the time of the meltdown) and just 5 in January 2009 (up one from December 2008).

[Click here for the rest of the report, courtesy of]

Marin Real Estate (February 2009)

February 13, 2009

As of this writing, the Stimulus Bill and its apparently watered down home buyer tax credit is being finalized. Yet economists and consumers are grim. Ergo, the Marin County, California real estate market continues its slow and steady march into the teeth of a tireless media storm of negativity. Yes, the market overall is fairly slow, but not as slow as it may appear. Sales in Northern Marin’s Novato were up 30% January 2009 over January 2008–as I like to say, “Give Yourself a Raise–Move to Novato!” 

The chart below shows a 90-day rolling average of Mill Valley’s new listings and absorbed listings (e.g., sales), comparing current numbers with those of last year. Note that the while the numbers for new listings are about the same, the number of absorbed listings is up in 2009 over 2008. Again, while the wheels of the real estate market are sticking and squeaking, they have not fallen off (although sellers are advised to wear seat belts). If you would like a similar chart for any other town or city in Marin or San Francisco, please let me know

Real Estate Market Chart by Altos Research

Obviously, the more stringent underwriting policies of lenders are stifling demand. In addition, I am quite aware that some home buyers are continuing to wait for the perceived bottom, despite the FACT that interest rates are as low as could be realistically expected and prices in many Marin communities and neighborhoods have receded to 2003 or 2004 price levels. As evidenced by frenzied investor activity, particularly in Novato, there is definite traction at the low end. And once prices stabilize at the low end, the rippling effect upwards will follow.

[click here for the rest of this article, courtesy of].

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

February 10, 2009

Novatans are rejoicing in the completion of the southbound portion of the HWY 101 widening project. I have had occasion to drive during rush hour several times over the past ten days and it is fabulous. NO traffic! This will be a boon to Novato as more people recognize the complete transformation of the commute from horrible to good. Moreover, the tentative approval of the new and improved tax credit will also jolt some buyers into action [click here for my recent article on the proposed package]. As I tell my clients, “Give Yourself a Raise. Move to Novato.”

Novato inventory is down to a mere 147 active single family homes for sale. There were 172 homes for sale in December 2008 and 150 homes for sale in January 2009. As discussed last month, Novato, California is experiencing far lower inventory levels than we have become accustomed to over the past several years. While the number of sales in January was lower than December 2008’s sales total, January 2009 sales were up about 30% from January 2008. Paradoxically, the absorption rate (e.g., the number of months of inventory currently available in Novato) rose to 7.3 months (it was 4.5 months just a month ago due to the large number of sales in December). If this seems schizophrenic, it is. What I take from this is that sales  are way up at the low end and while the absorption rate jumped this past month, the year over year increase in the sheer number of sales over 2008 is significant.

Foreclosures and short sales have become the de rigueur focus of buyers (especially investors–who are back in the game). Despite the inherent dangers and uncertainty related to these sales they constituted 35% of single family home sales in Novato last year. Many neighborhoods are suffering dramatic erosion of home values. Prices are back down to what they were in 2003. Novato currently offers up about 16 homes priced under $400,000 (as anyone who reads my columns knows, I call Novato Marin’s “Valhalla of Value”). 

The number of homes listed under $500,000 is up to 65–and an impressive 48% of these are in escrow. There are a total of 79 homes under $600,000 (with 43% in escrow). Significantly, and this unique to Novato right now, the percentages of homes in escrow for $1 million-plus realm are about 25%–we are not seeing such stats in Southern Marin. I think many phantom buyers (those who sold in Central and Southern Marin over the past couple of years and who have waiting for prices to dip are jumping in, resulting in very good sales stats at the higher end). 

Twenty Novato homes sold in January 2009 (up from 14 in January 2008). These homes averaged about 126 days on market, were about 2,066 sq. ft., and sold for an average sales price of $631,000 (roughly $314 per sq. ft.). Homes in Pointe Marin, Country Club, 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 call regarding lease-options.  

Price Range

Total Homes

Pending Listings

Up to $500K



$500K – $600K



$600K – $750K



$750K – $1 mil.



$1 mil. & Up




For a brief explanation of the importance of the statistic addressing the percentage of “Pending” listings, click HERE. If you would like me to run the exact numbers for your neck of the woods or have any questions about Novato’s many delightful neighborhoods, just give me a call at (415) 350-9440. It is always my pleasure to be of service.