The number of homes sold in Marin County, Calif., in January dipped 5.4% to 141 over the 149 homes sold in January 2018, a real estate data tracking firm said.
Irvine, Calif.-based CoreLogic also noted the median price of homes sold in Marin in January rose only 0.5% to $920,000 over the $915,000 median price a year earlier.
Marin’s numbers are on track with the rest of the Bay Area, said Andrew LePage, a CoreLogic analyst. A total of 3,857 new, resale and condo homes were sold in January across the Bay Area, down 14.9% from the 4,534 sold in January 2018. The median price of all homes sold was $730,000, up only 2.2% from the $714,000 median a year earlier.
“January marked the second consecutive month in which Bay Area home sales were the lowest for that month in 11 years,” LePage said in a written statement. “Many of the deals recorded last month reflect purchasing decisions made during the holidays, from Thanksgiving 2018 through early 2019.”
LePage pointed to affordability constraints, stock market volatility and the 35-day partial government shutdown that began on Dec. 22 as factors that have “dampened buyer enthusiasm” in the Bay Area market.
“Sales have fallen on a year-over-year basis the past eight consecutive months, with declines ranging from 0.2% in July 2018 to 21.6% in December,” LePage said.
Patti Cohn, a broker with Compass Real Estate in Larkspur, said the Marin market has been “schizophrenic” of late, with “some homes going for $500,000 over-asking,” and “some going for 5% or 10% under-asking.”
“It’s very hard to understand what’s going on right now,” she said. Although she thinks there may be a “gentle wave” toward a buyers’ market, Cohn said she doesn’t see the smattering of price reductions as a sign that price tags are dropping.
“It’s not depreciation, it’s deceleration,” Cohn said. Some sellers are pricing their homes based on the prior booming appreciation rate from the most-recent five- to six-year run-up in prices. They need to factor in a slower pace of appreciation, she said.
“If they put their home on the market (with the same higher appreciation rate), they’re going to get stuck,” Cohn said. “Only the market can determine value.”
Mimi Willard, a Marin financial analyst and taxpayer activist, said the minimal appreciation in Marin home prices raises concerns over the potential for declining revenue to area school districts.
“The (CoreLogic) data show a real deceleration in price in Marin,” Willard said in an email Thursday. “Basically flat year-over-year — this will be a real problem for school districts if it persists.”
Willard said school districts “typically budget 5 percent (annual) increases in their property tax revenues,” but slower sales and flat prices could change that projection. Many Marin districts are already scrambling because of such factors as expanding enrollment — as in the Tamalpais Union High School District.
LePage said mortgage interest rates, which have been dropping since December, are another factor to watch in the trends surrounding Bay Area home prices.
“The 2.2% year-over-year gain in the Bay Area’s median sale price last month was the lowest in two years, dropping sharply from the median’s 13.8% annual increase in January 2018,” LePage said. “The median’s smaller annual gains in recent months reflect much slower home sales amid year-over-year inventory gains. Changes in home prices this year will hinge largely on the direction of mortgage rates, inventory, jobs and incomes.”
Cohn said she expected that the significant rainfall in January and February in Marin and the North Bay would skew home sales and prices going forward.
“I checked Marin’s usually average total rainfall for the year and it’s 40 inches,” she said. “So far this year, we’ve already had 40 inches. So the market (in Marin) hasn’t really started yet.”
Tribune Content Agency