Is Bay Area Real Estate A Buyers Or Sellers Market?

by : Matthew Larsen

It has really been a rollercoaster year in the Bay Area Real Estate Market across the nine Bay Area counties. We have seen huge fluctuations in market prices, property values and sales with much confusion emerging especially in the fourth quarter. According to the latest numbers released by Data Quick Services, the market is apparently flat with the average at a mere 0.8% growth over this time last year. The ironic thing is that in certain areas, properties are getting multiple offers and in some cases going for over the asking price. There have been reports of multiple offers in San Francisco and Marin County especially. On the other hand, there have been reports of properties going for a hundred thousand dollars and under market value in Napa and Solano Counties. Properties in certain areas in the East Bay have been selling quite well like Lafayette, Orinda, and the Montclair District in Oakland, Piedmont and the Berkeley Hills. While in other places like Antioch, Brentwood, Richmond, San Pablo and Bay Point sellers would have a hard time giving properties away. It is quite a strange phenomenon.

It was not long ago that listings anywhere in the Bay Area were obtaining multiple offers and in many cases buyers were engaged in bidding wars. Part of the reason for this happening was that multiple investors from the stock market were playing in the real estate game instead. Interest rates hit all time lows and many programs were invented to help buyers get into the market with no money down and negative amortization loans. There were even loan products available that would go up to one hundred and twenty five percent of the value of the property. We watched before our eyes property values tripling, and even more in some areas, over a five year span. It was a feeding frenzy for mortgage brokers and real estate agents who needed their own vaults to hold all the money they were making. The only problem was the default rate of these so called "creative" loans was conservatively thought about at best and greed was prevalent and abundant. With the bulk of these loans set to adjust within the next three years, one could make a solid guess that it will remain a buyer's market for quite some time. Yet there are many areas in the Bay Area that don't seem to be affected by this at all.

The Bay Area is incredibly rich in diversity not only when it comes to cultures and values but also real estate. We live and work in an extremely unique area with industry, biotech, renowned universities, hi-tech giants, global shipping and a very large economy. It can be easily forgotten that there is an incredible amount of wealth and fortune in the Bay Area. On the other hand, the housing market during the past six years was largely fueled by the first time buyers with creative financing. We are now starting to see why we are seeing such a large fluctuation in the housing market. Areas that are the most desirable and prominent are being affected much less than areas that have been driven by first time buyers. There are other factors to take into consideration such as location, weather, public schools and amenities. The more desire there is for an area the more demand there is to own property there. This creates a pretty stable environment for property owners in the more affluent areas and less demand for the less affluent areas. One thing remains a fundamental, money talks and the rest walks.

We still have not come up with an answer to our main question. Is it a buyers or a seller's market? I guess a simple answer would be it's both depending on location and strategy. Eventually, the market will bottom out and the investors will come in and cherry pick the great buys. The demand for housing in the Bay Area will continue to exist and the population will continue to grow. There will always be a great demand for housing because there will never be enough of it to keep up with the demand creating market appreciation value over time. With very little land left to build on, and building permits becoming harder to get approved, this will only contribute to the increase in Bay Area property. If your investment strategy is long term, it is a pretty safe bet that property in a good location will pay dividends.

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