Marin Real Estate (June 2009)

July 10, 2009 by  

This year has been peculiar in real estate. Obviously, prices are down in all categories. Obviously, short sales and foreclosures are featured on many buyers’ dance cards. And obviously, the market is suffering from a negative feedback loop fed by the media. I spend all day, every day, talking with prospective buyers, prospective sellers, and contemplative owners of real estate. Early in the year, buyers were ALL talking about how they anticipated interest rates would go down to 3% (and some buyers were insisting that rates would go even lower). I would just nod my head and concede that was a possibility. After all, what do I know about the unknowable? But, I always pointed out that whatever rates fell to, you could never know the bottom until it was gone. And that rates would surely go back up again — I was not going out on a limb; every economist on Earth is saying the same thing. Sure enough, since my last report, interest rates have jumped up almost a full point and the forecast does not look as though rates will fall back to the levels buyers were talking about just a short 2 months ago (let alone where they were three weeks ago). Meanwhile, it seems buyers are picking up on the FACT that rates are likely to climb and they are out in droves. 

Predictably, the low end is getting the most attention. In Novato, 72% of homes priced under $500,000 are in escrow (that’s 44 out of 60 homes!). In San Rafael, 64% of homes priced at or below $600,000 are in escrow (that’s 29 out of 45!). Incredibly, 11 homes in Novato sold last month under $400K, 9 more sold under $500K, and another 11 sold under $600K. That’s 31 Novato homes selling under $600K. Three years ago, under $600K, you would see perhaps 3 or 4 for homes on the market at any given time. These sales are propelled by value, the $8,000 tax credit, and the increased FHA loan limits which went into effect in April 2009.

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