04 July, 2014

2014 Semi- Annual Market Report For Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Atherton

The strength of our local housing market for the first half of this year continued to be unprecedented, with new record sale prices.
 The median sales price for a single family home in Palo Alto increased to a new record high of $2,320,000 (compared to $2,100,000 for the first half of 2013), an increase of 10.5% and 75% since 2009. The sale to list price ratio was 114.7% and average days on the market was 13 days.
For Menlo Park the median sales price increased 22% (from $1,510,000 to $1,845,000) and 69% since 2009. The sale to list price ratio was 107.7% and average days on the market was 20 days.
For Atherton the median sales price increased 15% (from $3,575,000 to $4,100,000) and 47% since 2009. The sale to list price ratio was 102.7% and average days on the market was 56 days. It is important to note that Atherton is having more private sales than any other town in the area.
As of July 1, 2014 the listing inventory was low with only 32 active listings of single family homes in Palo Alto, 29 in Menlo Park and 25 in Atherton.
During the first half of 2014 we sold 177 houses in Palo Alto (compared to 181 in 2013), 188 houses in Menlo Park (compared to 151 houses in 2013) and 59 houses in Atherton in 2014 (compared to 54 houses in 2013). The number of houses sold in Palo Alto and Menlo Park continue to decline because of the low inventory and that in part explains the number of multiple offers on almost every property and the significant increases in home prices.

 Looking Forward
The question on everybody’s mind is: are we going to hit another bubble soon?
According to Ken Rosen, UC Berkeley’s Chair of the Fisher Center for Real Estate and Urban Economics department, we are not having a bubble anytime soon. He mentioned that he might be concerned with asset evaluation more than 3 years down the road.   The U.S. budget deficit is coming down dramatically, energy production in U.S. is soaring and year over year employment growth is strong.
 The US is experiencing the biggest boom in the economy since the late 90’s.  The federal reserve bank likely will have to start raising interest rates sometimes in the near future.
If you plan to stay in your house more than 5 years, the best time to buy is now, using at least a 7 year loan or longer.
If you are planning to sell your home in 5  to 7 years you may want to think about selling it soon so you are not selling in a down cycle.
Sellers are ecstatic. They know that as long as they do not overprice their homes, the homes will sell with multiple offers as soon as the sellers are willing to listen to offers.

 Asian investing trends

 Chinese interest in our local real estate market has grown exponentially in recent years and represent 35% of the total transactions.
This interest is due to multiple factors: the proximity of the region to China, the local Chinese community, pristine environment, the sought-after schools and colleges, the political stability and the immigration laws.
The US had an estimated international real estate sales of $68.2 billion for the period from April  2012 to March 2013. The Asian share of this market was 54%.  Canada notably Vancouver along with New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Detroit and Houston by far attract the most Chinese buyers.

 What is the reason for the recent surge in Chinese investments?

 The recent Chinese surge in investing in real estate is the product of political and economic policy changes in China. In 1980 Chairman Deng Xiaoping opened China to foreign investment in the global market and limited private competition, which spurred China's economic transformation and modernization and raised the standard of living for millions of Chinese.
In 1998 the Chinese government changed allowed the purchase of homes for cash. Previously the government allowed like kind exchanges. This fundamental changes allowed market forces to drive the price of homes. China real estate market became one of the fastest growing market in the world.
Then, in 2011, concerned about a housing bubble, the Chinese government began tightening home buying rules. In certain cities, locals could only buy one home. Unmarried nonresidents could not buy property in some cities, like Shanghai.
 In March 14, 2013 President Xi Jinping coined the "China Dream" as a renewal of the Chinese nation, with greater emphasis on collectivism and refraining from showing excess of consumption. His campaign against corruption and petty officialdom has resulted in 40,000 officials being disciplined and 10,000 officials fired. This sudden shift is one of the main reasons more Chinese are buying property abroad. They want to retain their lifestyles and keep their money safe.
 A final note: on May 8, 2014 the Chinese government passed the Outbound Direct Investment Rule that allows projects abroad below $1 billion in non-restricted areas (the Bay Area is one of them) without the approval of the National Development and Reform Commission and up to $2 billion would only need the approval of the state council. This new rule will encourage capital investment abroad and consequently will impact the demand in our residential area.

The Asian American Market represents a huge growth opportunity and is expected to reach $1 trillion in just five years.

Palo Alto Median Home Price For the Last Five Years (Increase of 75%)

Price Per Square Foot By Areas in Palo Alto

Palo Alto Sales By Price Range

The strongest sales activity In Palo Alto was in the $2 to $3 million price range (93 Units) followed by the $3 to $5 million range (31 units) as illustrated in the following chart:

Menlo Park  Median Home Price For the Last Five Years 
(Increase of 69%)

Price Per Square Foot in Different Areas in Menlo Park

Menlo Park Sales By Price Range 

The strongest sales activity in Menlo Park was in the $2 to $3 million price range (35 units) followed by the $3 to $5 million range (29 units) as illustrated in the following chart:

Atherton  Median Home Price For the Last Five Years
(Increase of 47%)

Price Per Square Foot in Different Areas in Atherton

Home prices are not going down any time soon unless the economy or other fundamentals change the direction of the market. Multiple offers will continue to be the norm for the foreseeable future although we are seeing now a decrease in the total number of offers received on a listing and prices seems to be stabilizing. This could be only seasonal and buyers should try to take advantage of that window.
It is important to keep in mind long-term fundamentals. For buyers it is an opportune time to buy before interest rates head higher and for sellers it is a great time to sell your home.
 Please share my semi-annual report with your friends who might be looking to buy or sell their home. I will be happy to answer any questions or discuss in further detail the state of the real estate market.
 Happy Summer!

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