Santa Cruz and San Lorenzo Valley real estate prices & trends 2017-2018
This might offend a few people, but, honestly, most of the 27 affordable Santa Cruz County homes for sale (priced under $600,000) right now aren’t suitable for you, your sister, your aunt or your uncle…although a couple might work for grandparents (retirement community). You’re going to need an experienced, boots-on-the-ground REALTOR® like me helping you save time sifting through this chaff. That said, there are a hand full of good affordable homes…
Anything decent, priced appropriately, is quickly circled by a teeth gnashing pack of hungry buyers, only one of which will win the bone – I mean home. Okay, teeth gnashing is an exaggeration, and I really do like working with buyers. Still, it’s really competitive right now, so if you’re thinking of buying, call or text me: I can help you prepare a successful purchase strategy.
2 BUYER TIPS: Get pre-approved for a loan before you shop for homes – this way you can clean up any issues on your credit report that may cost you a higher interest rate. Plus then you can focus on the house purchase, having finished all the lender paperwork. Don’t wait until the weekend to shop…many homes sell on weekdays!
And if you’re reading this because you’re thinking of selling – call me now! Don’t wait until spring (or worse).
2 SELLER TIPs: I’ll help you prioritize how to get the property ready at the least cost. It nearly always takes sellers longer to get their property ready than they think it will.
THE INVENTORY BLUES This housing shortage is the worst I’ve seen in years. It’s not just seasonal – here are graphs going back for years.
For a frame of reference, a market evenly balanced between buyers and sellers has about 4-6 months’ worth of inventory for sale. Buyers are frustrated because there simply are not enough homes for sale, especially in the under $1 million price range. Why buy now? Besides the inherent benefits to owning your own home (stability, control, wealth building, etc.), consider that prices and interest rates are both forecast to continue to rise, and rents are just plain exorbitant.
San Lorenzo Valley has only 31 homes for sale right now – that’s about half of the inventory level when I last reported in October. 9 of the 31 are priced at over $1 million. Buyers in that price range may be able to negotiate, since some of those homes have been on the market a month or longer…
Scotts Valley has only 11 homes for sale (normally 30+), while Santa Cruz – a far larger city – has only 22. It’s crazy. Right now, Santa Cruz County has only 175 single family homes for sale (down about 50% compared to late summer). If you’re considering selling your house – market conditions are incredible. Call me soon so I can help you strategize your next move.
Here are three affordable Santa Cruz Mountains homes I just helped sell:
Oh, the stories I could tell about just these three transactions: The Buyers! The Sellers! The agents! The inspectors! The lenders! But, I never share confidential information. Two of these houses need new decks, one needs a new septic leach field, and one needs a new roof. Still, three would-be buyers left the negotiating tables empty handed. The point is, sellers need help disclosing and buyers need assistance understanding the condition of these kinds of affordable, Santa Cruz mountains properties.
BAY AREA’S HOUSING PROBLEM It’s not news that there are very few homes for sale in the region, and that’s driving prices up. Rental rates are high because vacancies are low. For 2018, buying an affordable home in the Santa Cruz Mountains is likely to get even harder. The reasons are complex:
• New jobs & people moving in to the region exceed people moving into larger homes, downsizing or leaving –home owners feel like there’s nowhere to go.
• Not enough new homes are being built (especially in Santa Cruz County).
• People are staying in their homes longer
o Retirees were already worried about keeping their tax basis
o Potential move-up buyers now worry about tax deductions
o This keeps the supply of homes for first time buyers low.
• A lot of entry level homes were foreclosed and then purchased for “all cash” over the past 6 years
o Those investors are getting a great return on their investment by renting the houses out … they’ve no reason to sell.
SANTA CRUZ COUNTY REAL ESTATE
SUMMARY The number of homes sold across most of Santa Cruz County was steady in the 4th quarter, but prices diverged: Scotts Valley and Los Gatos mountains home prices rose under continued pressure from Silicon Valley home prices. Santa Cruz County homes were on the market for about 40 days –twice as long as Santa Clara County at just 19 days on average. Home prices were flat in the San Lorenzo Valley at the end of 2017, although the micro markets of each town moved up and down.
PRICES Home prices in Scotts Valley along with Santa Cruz took a bit of a breather in the 4th quarter of 2017 compared to the 3rd quarter, but were still higher than last year. In Boulder Creek, two “homes” sold in the 4th quarter with separate MLS numbers for a total of $23,000 (neighboring shacks on slides), skewing prices temporarily. But Los Gatos Mountains continued it’s ascent as the closest community to the Silicon Valley, where average prices are now over $1.5 million. After years of double digit appreciation, average single family home price increases across the San Lorenzo Valley quieted during the last quarter of 2017. Lompico/ Zayante isn’t really in decline, there were just fewer higher end sales there. In fact, with the water supply situation stabilized, one of my main concerns is gone. Some of these micro markets (Lompico and Brookdale) have so few home sales that percentage changes aren’t statistically significant.
Affordable homes near Santa Cruz (priced $600,000 or less) are nearly non-existent right now. There are only 10 homes in this price range all across the San Lorenzo Valley, and many of them have “issues” and have been on the market for a couple of months. Let’s just say I wouldn’t recommend them for anyone you care about, unless you care about someone who is a contractor. Usually, the San Lorenzo Valley has some of the most affordable homes in Santa Cruz County: SLV real estate prices run about two thirds of the Santa Cruz County average. Last quarter, many of my sales were in this price range. Whether you’re buying or selling, you’ll need someone with my kind of experience to navigate the possible pitfalls in rural properties at this price.
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SILICON VALLEY The housing shortage in the Silicon Valley continues to drive the region’s prices higher. In Santa Clara County, the average price of a single family home in October reached $1.5 million. With an average home price of $630,000, the San Lorenzo Valley and Boulder Creek are a little known secret offering relaxing small town hide-a-ways for high tech workers. Boulder Creek’s affordable housing is less than an hour’s commute from Apple or Alphabet (Google). One of my specialties is helping people relocate here!
SANTA CRUZ COUNTY’S APPEAL People from the Silicon Valley are understandably enchanted by Santa Cruz: we have so many state parks for hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking! There are dozens of beaches – from crowded to serene. We have small cities and towns. The Santa Cruz lifestyle is less formal and we adore the slower overall pace. There’s more room to spread out, and consequently lower stress, crime rates and smog. So many people tell me they enjoy driving through the mountains to work, rather than sitting in traffic and spending a lot more money to live in Santa Clara County.
REAL ESTATE MARKETS ARE LOCAL The advice of a knowledgeable local REALTOR®, who can show you the trends in your neighborhood and your specific kind of property and price range, is invaluable. Select someone you can trust, who knows your area well. Understanding pricing, analyzing location, property appeal and condition, requires local market intelligence. When choosing your REALTOR®, also consider if the agent has enough time to dedicate to you!
DAYS ON THE MARKET Santa Cruz County homes are on the market about 40 days on average before going into escrow with a buyer. Intelligently priced and especially affordable homes are selling quickly, usually receiving multiple offers within the first 2-3 weeks, others even faster.
INTEREST RATES & ECONOMY The big news is tax reform…new limitations on mortgage interest, sales tax and property tax deductions will affect many California homeowners. 30 year fixed rate mortgages rates averaged just over 4% for the past few months, still historically quite low. But, the Federal Reserve intends to increase their benchmark interest rate for lending to banks several times this year. The economy was estimated to grow about 3% over the 3rd quarter, and there’s minimal inflation (under 2%). Jobs and employment are quite strong, with unemployment rate at just 4% nationwide. Housing affordability isn’t getting any better though, since earnings growth is slower than the increase in home prices across most of the nation. Silicon Valley incomes are growing at the 4th fastest rate in the nation., with radical innovations in the way we live continuing to pour out of the brilliant minds working in the Silicon Valley.
Sources: MLSListings.com (Single Family Residences), Reuters, Inman News, REALTOR.org, ActiveRain.com, Mercury News. Month to month home sales prices fluctuate widely in small communities and cities, especially when property sales range between multi million dollar estates and fixer upper / tear down properties. Because of this, percentage and average price changes often aren’t statistically meaningful for short time intervals. *All stats as of 1/09-12/2018: MLSListings.com single family residences only.