Of course you expect to read the median price has dropped and in fact it has, just not as much as you may have been anticipating. While the Bay Area nine counties reported a median price drop of over 40%* from 2007, Belmont had only a 5.4% decline and thatâ€™s after we factored into our calculations slightly larger homes sold in 2008. The raw numbers, which tend to be the only ones reported, suggest a decline in median price of only 2.6% for the year.
SALES ARE KEY
Sales are key to the survival of RealtorsÂ®, but unless you are selling your home you could probably care less how many homes sell in a given year. However, it gives us a good indication of overall market activityâ€”with the caveat that sometimes sales are down simply because there are fewer homes to sell.
Sales of single family homes (our benchmark for all comparisons) were down from last yearsâ€™ 219 to a paltry 170 for the entire year in 2008â€”a decrease of over 22%! Contrasted to a year of more normal market activity, (as recent as 2003 when 343 homes sold), sales are down up to 50%. Clearly we are in a period of slower than normal home sales.
HOMES LISTED FOR SALE
But were there fewer homes to sell in 2008? Itâ€™s hard to believe but for the entire year, at 309, there were only two fewer listings than in 2007.
Whatâ€™s in store for 2009?
With the perfunctory disclaimer that past performance does not predict future results, we fear in 2009 it may however be quite true. We wouldnâ€™t be surprised at all to see a continuation of the stagnant real estate market which has had a choke-hold on home sales in 2008. Interestingly, the last major downturn in real estate which began in 1989 was caused by an overall weak economy and most importantly the loss of jobs. In contrast, the current housing downturn has in effect created the recessionâ€”a reversal of past cycles.
Thatâ€™s a long way of saying that housing cannot recover until the economy does and the economy wonâ€™t recover until housing stabilizes. Sound like a Catch-22? Well it is. And while it appeared in the second quarter of 2008 that the real estate recovery might begin in 2009, we now believe that will be pushed out at least another year. That said, any sign of a recovery will manifest with a leveling off of inventory and declining home values. A period of stagnant home values will invariably last for another year or two following a price plateau as buyers still wary of a volatile market will only reluctantly reenter the market. Most will wait too long and catch prices on the way back up but thereâ€™s no telling when that will happen. Weâ€™re not telling you to run out and buy a home as part of a fear based campaign, â€œHurry or you may miss the bottomâ€, but in every market there are opportunities which should be examined. We learned long ago to resist trying to explain to people why they should buy a home and rather help those who are already motivated. Like the old saying, â€œYou can lead a horse to waterâ€¦â€ but he has to be thirsty. This yearâ€™s wild cards? Interest rates, consumer confidence the recessions and jobs, jobs, jobs!.