It seems like forever since the housing market has been in balance. The downturn in 2007-2009 was followed in 2012 by an 11-year run up in Bay Area home values. Are we finally reaching equilibrium?
The first quarter of 2023 is in the books, and the housing numbers are in. If you’ve been listening to local news, one might believe the housing market is on a slippery slope and headed towards a trough.
The numbers sure make it look that way too, but is there more to report? The short answer is, there always is.
Looking at San Mateo County as a whole, here are the YOY (Year over Year) numbers comparing 2022 to 2023:
In every category the numbers appear to indicate that we’re in a declining or buyer’s market, but we’re not. Why?
Half of the homes are still selling for over asking, while the other half are selling for less, which is strongly indicative of a market in balance. Take a look at these graphs we prepare–they show the market is beginning to level out.
This number is down because sellers with 3% interest rates are reticent to sell their current home only to find their new mortgage on a replacement property closer to 6%. This decline was amplified by the historically inclement weather.
This is a measurement of how many homes remained for sale at the end of the measured period. This is showing us there were fewer homes left over at the end of the quarter, which didn’t sell.
The number of sold homes is actually very close to the number of fewer homes that were listed for sale. It’s like a car lot—if they have fewer cars on their lot to sell, they’ll sell fewer cars. In 2023, note that there were ~36% fewer homes available for sale, but only 31% fewer sales, which is consistent with the inventory of remaining homes being lower in 2023.
Homes are taking longer to sell. While there are fewer homes to choose from, there are also fewer buyers that are willing to purchase a home—creating for the first time in a long time, a balance in supply and demand.
A side note on why homes are taking longer to sell is twofold—sellers who are in denial that they missed the peak price point from 2022, and agents who have never worked in a more regular market, and will take any listing at any price also in denial that the market has changed.
The days of an on average six-day period of marketing are gone for the foreseeable future. In fact, six days on the market was also an anomaly. Last year at this time six days was all that was needed to sell a home with the incredible amount of urgency to beat rate hikes. In 2021 for example, the days on market during this period was 25. This year it’s at 32—higher, but again not astoundingly.
MEDIAN SALE PRICE
The median sale price is for the entire county, so what may be happening in your city or even neighborhood is probably different.
The YOY drop of 11.8% from 2022 and the Price per Square Foot drop of 11.4% are fairly close to each other indicting that this can be considered to be a reliable measurement of the drop in home values between these two periods. If these two categories were off by a substantial amount, it would indicate a shift to smaller or larger homes selling in the two periods. We frequently run into this type of shift when measuring small market samples in smaller cities and when looking at only one month of sales for example.
THE INSIDE SCOOP
Here’s where it gets interesting. While the media may be accurately reporting these numbers, they do not put them into perspective, which in some cases such as this, a whole new story emerges.
This is a classic example of a financial group trying to interpret the data and missing the mark on several key points.
In fact, the median homes prices are lower, and they should be, because they are being compared to Q1 in 2022 which saw the fastest run up in home values in the history of the Bay Area (see next paragraph for a deeper dive). We did an article on why this happened last year and predicted that this year would pale in comparison and exacerbate the apparent decline in values—which is exactly what happened.
We also went on to forecast that once we get past the May numbers in 2022—when the April sales of 2022 peaked and were reported—we may see an actual YOY increase in 2023 over 2022 as the summer and fall approaches, as that’s when in 2022 home prices began to decline.
LIST PRICE TO SALE PRICE RATIO—Making Sense of it All
The decrease in multiple offers has clearly has an impact on homes selling for over their asking price, as seen in recent, previous years.
While homes sold on average for 114% of asking in Q1 of 2022—that wasn’t normal—it was an anomaly.
It was due to the sudden demand in housing in 2022 fueled by the fear of looming interest rate hikes. Looking at the same period in 2022—January through April—homes sold for on average 106% of asking in 2021. In 2023 the percentage over asking was 101%—so eliminating the frenzied run up in 2022, the percent over asking is still lower than average, but by only 5 points instead of 11.
MONTHS OF INVENTORY—What does that mean?
The Months of Inventory statistic shows us, at the current rate of homes sales, how long it would take to sell the current inventory of homes.
A normal Months of Inventory, if we average San Mateo County’s inventory levels dating back to 1998, is 2.6 months. Nationwide wide they hover around six months of inventory.
During the financial crises of 2007-2009—from peak to trough the inventory levels of homes for sale in San Mateo County stood at 5.2 months.
In Q1 of 2022 they were only 1.3=2 months of inventory and that has bumped up to 1.7—still far below historical averages.
Locally, the story is much the same in our two of Belmont, but, since the sample size is so much smaller, the swings in statistical categories can appear skewed, and over or underrepresent the overall housing pattern in the Bay Area.
- In San Mateo County, the housing market has slowed from its Q1 2022 peak.
- If the economy stays the way it is now, in Q2 the YOY numbers will be more similar.
- We expect to see demand increase for housing as buyers become accustomed to higher interest rates.
- We imagine that in Q3 the median home value may be similar to 2002.
- The historical inclement weather has kept a lid on new listings—we expect this to increase as weather improves. More homes for sale will keep a ceiling on home appreciation as the market shift deeper into buyer territory.
- The stats show the market shift in the buyer’s favor has created a more balanced housing market.
- There is no metric that compares to the financial crisis housing depreciation in 2007-2009
Drew & Christine Morgan are REALTORS/NOTARY PUBLIC in Belmont, CA. with more than 30 years of experience in helping sellers and buyers in their community. As Diamond recipients, Drew and Christine ranked in the top 50 RE/MAX agents nationwide and the top 3 in Northern California. They may be reached at (650) 508.1441 or emailed at email@example.com.
The information contained in this article is educational and intended for informational purposes only. It does not constitute real estate, tax, insurance or legal advice, nor does it substitute for advice specific to your situation. Always consult an appropriate professional familiar with your scenario.