We’re only one month into 2011 and already things are interesting.

Belmont home sales in January 2011 remained brisk. There were twelve homes which closed escrow in January, one more than last year but eight more than in 2009.

It appears a small trend has developed indicating January 2009, as suspected, was the low point for real estate.

Glass But we aren’t out of the woods yet. Depending on who’s talking to you—a glass half full or half empty person—we’re either headed into a slow recovery or its lull in the action before a double dip. Never mind the glass is completely empty person—they’ll always be waiting for the “right time” to buy a home yet never do.

The definition of a double dip is when things get worse than they were at the trough of a business cycle. Considering how bad things were at one point in this last cycle, we find that implausible—that the state of affairs could get worse but hey, we don’t read tea leaves either. Of course that’s not to say things can't remain in a state of unsteadiness for years to come.

Within this recovery there will undoubtedly be micro swings in prices and sales which are highly dependent on consumer confidence, and of course interest rates. The media will predictably pounce on these blips on the radar screen—stay tuned.

January bel 2011

Click on the chart to see a full-sized version. And yes, those are Green Bay colors…


The number of new listings for Belmont in January 2011 stood at 24—six more than in 2010. The inventory levels for these same periods were 38 for 2011 and 35 for 2010.  The more interesting stat is the months of inventory—how long it would take to sell all of the homes at the current pace and inventory levels—a ratio if you will.

In January of 2009 it stood at over 10 months, and the last two January’s have seen that fall to just around 3 months. On a national level the country would be thrilled to see those numbers—the nation is hovering around the 11 month levels—six months defines a stable market.

Why then did prices still fall? Simple. Consumer confidence remains weak.

Sales are on the rise because sellers have become realistic about their home’s value, not because demand has increased. The months of inventory has remained low because many sellers aren't selling their homes. In Belmont, when inventory levels reach more than 50 homes for sale we experience a buyers’ market. Yet with inventory levels currently at 38 homes for sale, why then is it not a seller’s market?

Well the short answer is it is and it isn’t. Seller’s are managing to create a faux seller’s market by listing homes low and creating a bidding war, and keeping inventory levels low (no it’s not a conspiracy it’s just that a lot of sellers either can’t sell or won’t until prices go back up). The truth is buyers can be pickier in some instances; but with inventory levels this low it means it may take a long time to find the home they want.

Did Sellers get their Asking Price?

In January 2011 five of the 12 sellers lowered their asking price by on average $43,000 in order to attract a buyer. In 2010 that number was four sellers for an average of $65,000. Here’s the kicker—in 2010 all 11 homes sold for under the seller’s asking price; for on average $50,000 less, while in 2011 only seven homes sold for less than asking and only $30K (we threw out the one that was ridiculously off base).

So prices are up right? Nope. Sellers are just more sensible.

The median price for a Belmont home in 2011 was $745,000—down from $850,000 in 2010 and the size homes selling in 2011 were a smaller which compounds the difference.

The median size home sold in 2011 was 106 square feet larger than in 2010. This means that even if the median price was unchanged, the size home you could buy for the same money increased 6%. Now let’s factor in the $50,000 median price decline which adds another 5.8% drop in value and you’re looking at almost 12% price decline year over year.

If you are a buyer you need to know that any potential savings you might reap by waiting to see if values decline further could easily be wiped out by an increase in interest rates. Now’s not a bad time to consider getting off the fence…


* Data extracted from the San Mateo County MLS

Disclaimer: This information is for entertainment purposes only and includes no legal, accounting or real estate advice nor is this response in tended to be specific to your situation-consult a specialist for your specific situation.


Care to rate this post?