Report: North Bay home market slows as buyers ‘weary'
The residential real estate market in Marin, Napa and Sonoma counties is decelerating and showing signs of fatigue after five consecutive years of growth, according to a new survey of market data.
Using the most common metrics to measure the markets, single-family home and condominium sales in the three North Bay counties seem to have plateaued, and the forecast for 2017 is for home and condo sales to remain flat with a chance to actually decline in some micromarkets, according to Terra Firma Global Partners, a residential real estate services firm with nine North Bay offices. During the first nine months of this year, 15 percent fewer homes and condos traded ownership in Marin County, 5.3 percent fewer in Sonoma and 9.6 percent fewer sales occurred in Napa, compared with the first nine months of last year.
Sales velocity is clearly down in all three counties and for a variety of reasons, some of which are true for all the counties in the survey. The common theme relates to supply and demand. Limited supply in high-demand markets is driving up pricing in all three counties, but particularly in Marin and Sonoma County. There, the median price of sold homes increased 9 percent during the first nine months of 2016 from the same months in 2015. In Napa County, the median home and condo sale price increased 1.75 percent during the first nine months this year.
The median sale price means that half the homes sold above the median figure and half below the median figure.
Lack of inventory is an issue for these North Bay counties. Marin had only 2.5 months of supply- homes and condos listed for sale - as of Sept. 30 this year; Sonoma, 1.8 months; and Napa, 2.85 months, according to data compiled from BAREIS (Bay Area Real Estate Information Services) and NorCal MLS. The data was compiled and analyzed by Terra Firma Global Partners senior associates Jaime Pera in Marin, Trish McLean, CRS, for Sonoma and Ellen Politz for Napa.
The average price per square foot increased nominally in Marin and Sonoma counties for the reporting periods. That’s largely because home prices have been rising since 2011 with the biggest spikes coming in 2014 and 2015. There has been little room left for big price increases for much of this year, at least in Marin and Sonoma, which is another sign of a decelerating market. In Marin, the price per square foot increased 3 percent this year through Sept. 30 to $662, compared with $642 a year before. Sonoma’s price per foot was $381, up 4.9 percent from $364. Napa County’s price shot up 19 percent to $483 from $391.
Days on the market, or DOM, is an imperfect measurement, because it is reported differently by all sales agents in the industry. Yet it is still a good indicator as to which direction the markets are heading. DOM in Marin declined 9 percent in the first three quarters of this year and 1.5 percent in Sonoma yet increased 4 percent in Napa County.
The 9 percent median-price increase in Marin combined with the shortened DOM has taken the county’s housing market to unprecedented heights. That suggests the question: How much higher can it go, if at all? The relatively flat DOM in Sonoma County and modest increase in Napa County could mean the markets have stabilized there.
As markets go, Marin home sales trends typically lag those in San Francisco, while Sonoma’s follows Marin’s, as Napa’s does Sonoma’s.
In Sonoma County, there are more price adjustments and negotiations for repairs, according to McLean.
“Repairs and repair credits are hard to quantify, but it is an indicator of a softening market, or at least movement toward a more level market,” she said. “While this is one indicator of a stabilizing market, we are still seeing strong competition among buyers for available homes.”
She noted interesting increase in agents reporting “multiple offers” in the MLS. That’s isn’t a required field in the database, so there may be more sales getting multiple offers than are being reported, but at least that many are getting more than one purchase offer, McLean said. For example, 1,438 Sonoma County homes sold with multiple offers this year through Sept. 30, up 7 percent from 1,335 during the same period of 2015.
Yet asking rates for homes have not lowered widely in Marin County, according to Pera. The lower end and middle part of the market are shrinking, while the high end is growing, he said. Based on homes and condos listed for sale, there were 163 homes on the market priced below $1 million on Sept. 30, down 16 percent from a year before. There were 252 homes for sale priced below $1.5 million, 11 percent fewer. Yet 32 percent of Marin homes for sale were priced at $2 million or more at the close of the third quarter this year, up 7 percent from a year before.