South Bay Median Home Price Plummets

With four months left in a very chaotic real estate year, we want to take this opportunity to lay some ground work for understanding why the market has headed into a recession. And, to keep things on a positive note, we end with a couple of suggestions on how you might profit from this turn of events.

Some of the nation’s most respected analysts (including Ivy Zelman of Zelman & Associates and Mark Zandi of Moody’s Analytics) are predicting recessionary price drops ranging from 10-20% and lasting through the next two years. (Arguing that we’re only looking at a brief correction, pundits at Goldman Sachs and the Mortgage Bankers Association continue to predict single digit growth.) Meanwhile, here on the street, we’re watching prices drop across the board for the second month in a row.

In August we reported that median home prices across the Los Angeles South Bay fell from July, the prior month. Now looking at August sales we find all four areas of the South Bay showed declining median prices again. The month-over-month price drops ranged from 6% at the Beach to 25% in the Inland cities. (See bottom for description of areas.)

Underlining the month-to-month price slippage, three of the four areas also showed declining prices versus the same month last year. Only in the Harbor area are homes still selling for more than they did in 2021. Even there, median price has slid from 9% down to 4% above August of 2021.

2022 Compared to “Normal” Business in 2019

The past two years have seen real estate stumble with the Covid lockdowns in 2020, then skyrocket with the low interest rates in 2021. It’s worth a look back to 2019 to see how the current conditions compare to the most recent “normal” market.

Looking at sales volume in the period January through August of 2019, 1064 homes had sold in the Beach cities. So far this year only 905 homes have sold. That is a 15% drop in sales since the last normal year of business. The trend line for the Beach area has been sliding downward since April.

For the first eight months of 2019 the Harbor area showed sales of 2955 compared to 2945 for this year. That is a drop of .3% – a statistically insignificant change. However, the trend line has been dropping since March. August sales were up slightly from July, which was an unusually slow month for the Harbor area. We expect sales to continue a downward trajectory into 2023.

Palos Verdes home sales for the same period in 2019 totaled 537 versus 568 in 2022. The Hill is the only part of the South Bay where year to date 2022 sales exceed those of 2019. At 6% it’s a healthy increase, too. Despite being the best performing area in South Bay, Palos Verdes sales volume peaked in March and continues to slide. Sales in July were unusually weak, so August shows an upward step in the trend line.

Sales in the Inland area, very much like the Harbor area are down only .4% from 2019 sales for the same period. The difference is statistically insignificant, and the trend line is headed downward.

Declining sales volume creates a larger inventory of homes to sell. As the inventory grows, sellers have more competition and buyers become more demanding and prices start declining. We anticipate continuing growth of available inventory, followed in late fall or early winter by a spate a price drops.

Median Price Up 54% Since 2019

Palos Verdes homes have seen the greatest impact of the Covid-era buying mania. Comparing median prices from the first eight months of 2019 to the first eight of 2022, we find a 54% escalation on the Hill. Normal growth over a three year period would have created 9-10% in price appreciation. Expect much of that excessive price expansion to be erased over the coming months.

Compared to 2019, Beach area median prices have shot up by 32%. This is easily three times normal growth. As we see in the chart below prices started adjusting downward as early as May in the Beach cities.

Since 2019 median prices for the Inland area have climbed 30%. Here in the August 2022 chart below we see Inland area prices have been dropping steadily since May when the median was $910K. During that four month period values have slipped by over $50K.

In the Harbor area home prices have escalated 34%. From 2019 at $565K to 2020 at $607K the Harbor area median grew $40k. Then in 2021, it added another $90K reaching $700K. So far in 2022 the median has reached as high as $830K – another $130K increase, but has now dropped back to $725K, losing $105K off the June median.

Most home buyers are constrained by their income to a particular price range, and salaries have not increased at a rate even remotely similar to real estate prices. Recent studies have shown about 25% of potential buyers were priced out of the purchase market in California by the soaring Covid-era prices.

Interest Rate Shrinks Annual Sales Dollars

In total sales dollars for January through August of 2019, the South Bay weighed in with $5.3 billion. During the same period in 2020 the aggregate amount shrank back to $4.9 billion, followed in 2021 by an upward explosion to $7.9 billion. So far in 2022 the area has reached $6.9 billion.

Each time the Federal Reserve System (fed) increases the short term interest rate the pool of potential buyers shrinks again. As this is written, the Fed is preparing to increase the rate by at least .75% in mid-September and two more increases are anticipated by the end of 2022.

At the current rate of declining value, we estimate the 2022 annual sales value to be approximately $9.5 billion, a decrease of 27% from 2021. Remember that huge budget surplus California had last year? Do not anticipate another this year, and possibly not for a couple of years as the state works its way through this recession.

The Silver Lining in the Cloud

One theory of success in real estate is “Buy low, sell high.” Flippers subscribe to that concept, buying at the bottom, updating and selling at the top of the immediate market. Another theory, not as well supported, but statistically more profitable, is “Buy and Hold.” Buy a piece of property at the best price you can and use it or lease it but – never sell it.

A deep market adjustment doesn’t come very often, so when it does one should take maximum advantage. At the moment it appears there will be a heavy price contraction starting late this year. We’ll know better in late fall and early winter, but all indications today are that a wise property investor should be preparing to buy at the bottom of the market – soon. We constantly search the Southern California coast for outsstanding investment bargains. Tell us what you want to invest – we’ll tell you where to buy.

Methodology

For purposes of comparing homes in the LA South Bay, we have divided the South Bay into four areas. Each is composed of homes of roughly comparable style, geographically similar location and physical characteristics, as well as approximately similar demographic characteristics.

The areas are:
Beach: comprises the cities of El Segundo, Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach and Redondo Beach;
PV Hill: comprises the cities of Palos Verdes Estates, Rancho Palos Verdes, Rolling Hills and Rolling Hills Estates;
Harbor:. comprises the cities of San Pedro, Long Beach, Wilmington, Harbor City and Carson;
Inland: comprises the cities of Torrance, Gardena and Lomita.

Main Photo by Amelia Noyes on Unsplash

A New Way to Measure Inequality

Traditionally, income inequality has been measured by something called the Gini coefficient. The Gini coefficient is measured on a scale from 0 to 1, with 0 meaning no inequality and 1 meaning a small number of people control the entirety of the wealth. While the Gini coefficient is an excellent indicator of whether or not there is inequality, it does nothing to tell us where it came from except in the case of extreme values. A new measure, the Ortega parameters, seeks to correct that.

It’s commonly thought that the wealth gap is primarily between high-income earners and low-income earners, and that the middle class is effectively nonexistent. That isn’t always the case, and the Ortega parameters can determine where this analysis is accurate and where it is not. There are two separate measures that make up the Ortega parameters: inequality between low-income and middle-to-high-income earners, and inequality between very high income earners and the rest of the population. If a population has low inequality on the first scale and high inequality on the second scale, it simply means that a small number of extremely wealthy individuals live there, but the overall inequality is actually fairly low. The Gini coefficient would not notice this nuance and just rate it as highly unequal. Determining the cause of inequality can also help to devise countermeasures: in areas with high inequality between the lower income earners and middle income earners, the solution is a higher minimum wage; in areas with a few very wealthy individuals, that is better fixed with taxes on high income earners.

Photo by Elena Mozhvilo on Unsplash

More: https://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/income-inequality-is-rising-are-we-even-measuring-it-correctly

Average Home Rentals Require Nearly $40 Per Hour Wages

The typical house in California is two bedrooms. This is traditionally considered a pretty standard starting point for homeownership. However, many individuals in California can’t even afford to rent a home of that size, let alone buy it. Between October 2020 and September 2021, the average Fair Market Rent value for a 2-bedroom home in California was measured at $2030 per month. Ideally, rent should be at most 30% of your income, meaning that in order to afford to rent a 2-bedroom home, a household would need to earn $6766 per month, or $39.03 per hour. With the average renter income being $25 per hour, a dual-income household is mandatory to be able to afford to rent a 2-bedroom house. Minimum wage workers have it even worse — at a minimum wage of $14 in California during that time period, even dual income is not enough. Minimum wage is barely higher now at $15 per hour.

So what about smaller homes? Well, unfortunately, it’s still not good enough. The average FMR for a studio — which would only be able to comfortably house one person — is $1394. But at $25 per hour, the most one person can comfortably afford is $1294 per month. At $14 per hour, minimum wage workers could only afford to pay $728 per month, which is a little over half of the rent for a studio. This is assuming full time employment, as well, and not all households have full time workers. Taking the average household income, and making sure to use only 30% of it for rent, the average household could only afford a rent of $706 per month, even less than a full time minimum wage individual.

Photo by Gio Bartlett on Unsplash

More: https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/94729ab1648d43b1811c1698a748c136

Mortgage Rates Stabilizing After Sharp Rise

As a result of the Federal Reserve’s decision to increase benchmark rates, both fixed and adjustable rate mortgages have been increasing. Rates are now beginning to reach a stable point. Of course, the rates are in constant flux, but the fluctuations are starting to level out. This doesn’t mean a reversal of the recent increases; the 30-year FRM rate is levelling at somewhere around 5.5%, which is still relatively high in comparison to recent years.

What it does mean is that the uncertainty regarding rates is decreasing. With this, the popularity of ARMs will drop, as uncertainty is their primary drawback. They had experienced a surge of popularity while FRM rates were similarly unstable, since FRM rates tend to be higher than ARM rates during the same time period. This is despite the fact that ARM rates also drastically increased between July 2021 and July 2022, from 2.48% to 4.30%.

Photo by MOHD AZRIN on Unsplash

More: https://journal.firsttuesday.us/current-market-rates/3832/

Many Sellers Renting Instead of Repurchasing

When a homeowner sells the home they live in, their most common move is to use the proceeds to buy a replacement property, if they haven’t already done so. While it seems like homeowners would always remain homeowners, it does happen that people transition from homeownership to renting. But in most cases, the seller has decided to sell high and then rent for a short time while waiting for prices to bottom out. This is called timing the market.

This is not what’s happening now. Home prices and mortgage rates are both high, which is pricing homeowners out of their current home — and pricing 80% of them out of the market entirely. They aren’t waiting for a better time to buy; they’re simply no longer able to afford ownership. They become renters by necessity. Fortunately for people in such a predicament, it may not last too horribly long, though certainly longer than they would have wanted. It’s expected that prices will reach bottom around 2025.

Photo by Georgi Srebrev on Unsplash

More: https://journal.firsttuesday.us/home-sellers-unable-to-buy-in-2022/85079/

California Mortgage Payments Now Significantly Above Rent Costs

Conventional wisdom is that it’s more financially sound to buy a house than rent, if you can afford to do so. However, this may not be entirely true anymore. While house prices and rent prices are both increasing, house prices are increasing at a much higher rate. The gap between mortgage payments and rental payments increased from $25 in April 2021 to over $800 a year later. This difference is the highest in over 20 years. Unless you’re planning to live there for over thirty years, you’re probably better off renting. Importantly, this is based on a down payment of 5%, which is significantly lower than the commonly recommended 20%, but many buyers may not be able to afford a 20% down payment.

This won’t be permanent, but it could last several years. Home price growth has already started to lessen, but interest rates are high right now. Prices aren’t expected to be at a low until around 2025. Increased construction could aid in further reducing home prices. Given that we’re seeing the the beginnings of another recession, though, that probably won’t happen until a couple years after prices bottom out. Even after a return to normality, California is still going to have a lot of renters. With many lower-income workers permanently priced out of buying, the state has consistently had the first or second lowest homeownership rate of any state, frequently swapping places with New York.

Photo by Esperanza Doronila on Unsplash

More: https://journal.firsttuesday.us/california-homeownership-priced-out-in-the-buy-vs-rent-question/84763/

Commercial Mortgages Skyrocketed in Q1 2022

Commercial real estate has been struggling in recent years, just as many other sectors of the economy have been struggling. However, one advantage that most commercial buyers have over residential buyers is that they’re more willing to take on debt because their living expenses are likely a lower percentage of their income. As a result, loan originations for commercial properties increased dramatically in the first quarter of 2022.

As can be expected, the effect is greatest in the areas either least affected or most in demand as a result of the 2020 recession. These include hotels, industrial, retail, and healthcare. Loan originations for hotels increased a whopping 359% from 2021. Mortgages for the industrial sector also increased over 100%, by 145%. Increases in retail and healthcare were also significant at 88% and 81% respectively. Lesser increases were noted for multi-family dwellings at 57% and offices at 30%, but these still increased, not decreased. However, one should note that the available data isn’t entirely up to date. Mortgage rates have increased significantly since Q1, so despite the fact that they’re starting to slip back down just now, there may have already been a downward trend in commercial loan originations that we haven’t noticed yet.

Photo by Francesca Saraco on Unsplash

More: https://journal.firsttuesday.us/californias-commercial-property-shortage-is-making-investors-desperate/

Mortgage Rates Dipping After Recent Upward Trend

Primarily as a result of actions by the Federal Reserve, mortgage rates have been trending upward since January. The rates peaked in June, and have now begun their decline in July. ARM rates are currently more volatile than FRM rates, and may continue to flip-flop, but they are still lower than FRM rates.

The 30-year FRM rate peaked at around 5.7% in late June. It’s since dropped slightly to 5.3% as of the first week of July. The 15-year fixed rate followed a very similar trend line, albeit at a lower peak rate of just under 5%. This is normal; the 15-year rate has always trended lower than the 30-year rate. The ARM rate was 4.34% at its highest in June, and has now dipped below 4%.

Photo by Adam Nowakowski on Unsplash

More: https://journal.firsttuesday.us/current-market-rates/

Over Half of Renters Renewing Leases

When renters are faced with rental price increases, as they are now, it’s typical for them to look for a cheaper place to rent. They don’t always find one, of course. But with the current inventory, it’s riskier to even look for one than to simply accept renewing their lease at a higher rent value.

Between April 2021 and April 2022, the share of renters renting at market value who chose to renew their lease increased from 53% to 57%. This is despite an 11% increase in rent prices during the same period. The problem is that there simply isn’t anywhere more suitable to go, partly because of low construction rates. Without renter movement, the number and type of vacant units doesn’t change very much, which further stagnates the market because what few vacancies exist are already deemed to be undesirable.

Photo by Dimitri Karastelev on Unsplash

More: https://journal.firsttuesday.us/lease-renewals-rise-as-housing-options-dwindle-for-california-tenants/83900/

LA South Bay Real Estate: May 2022

Number of Homes Sold

The number of homes sold in the South Bay has declined from last month, and has declined from last year. The quantities are actually rather dramatic given that May is typically a time of increasing sales. The drops range from -7% to -17% lower than April sales of this year, and from -17% to -25% below May of last year.

With over half the year remaining, mortgage interest rates have doubled, currently sitting around 6%. The hike in interest rates has so far reduced the average buying power by about -25%. Coupled with home price increases estimated to have risen 38% since the start of the pandemic, the immediate future of real estate looks dismal.

202205_sales_vol_chart

Inflated consumer prices are also blocking potential home buyers as the Consumer Price Index (CPI) climbs toward a 10% annual hike. There’s little chance of saving for a down payment when the price of everything on the shopping list is going up..

Retirement accounts are often a source of down payment funds. As of this writing the major stock market indices are all down: Dow Jones Industrial Average, -16%; S&P 500, -22%; Nasdaq Composite, -31%. Forecasts are growing for a Fed-induced recession that may begin as soon as this fall. Some potential buyers may see borrowing from their retirement fund to purchase a property as a means to preserve the capital during a recession. Others may not be in a position to do that.

Median Price Sold

May prices delivered a mixed message. The Palos Verdes Peninsula, which had seen two months of decline from a temporarily high median price, headed back up again. The Beach cities continued a steady climb, and the Inland area showed a modest price increase after having dropped 1% in April.

However, the Harbor area, which is as large as the other three areas combined, took a -6% hit to prices. We anticipate the Harbor and Inland areas, which comprise the bulk of the traditional middle class family homes in South Bay, to be the first to react to the economic stress.

Typically, the recession cycle starts with a slowing of sales. As properties languish on the market, sellers begin to reduce prices. One after another, median sales prices will drop until the price reduction offsets the impact to buyers. At that point, buyers will begin to support the reduced purchase prices and we can see growth in the market.

Experts differ in their estimates of how long this cycle will take, and when we can expect the market bottom. There are some predicting a rapid fall based on the speed with which the Federal Reserve Bank (Fed) is reacting. The June meeting of the Fed ended with a .75% hike in the prime rate, and a promise to raise it at least another .75% before the end of the year. While that could slow the economy as early as the beginning of 2023, more conservative minds suggest the end of 2023 for a turn-around.

Area Sales Dollars

The total sales dollars tell the truest story. While sales are slowing and median prices are beginning to slow, the combination shows up here.

Everywhere except the Beach is showing reductions in total sales on a month to month basis, and on a year over year basis. The declines are small to date, with year over year ranging from -1% to -10% in May. Month to month changes ranged from +2% at the Beach to -19% in the Harbor area.

202205_monthly_sales_$_chart

These early numbers follow the general pattern we’ve seen in recent recessions, whereby entry level homes are the first impacted and the last to recover. We anticipate the Harbor area to lead the charge down, followed by the Inland area. Recent years have shown the Beach to be the strongest growth area, so we expect the recession to hit there last, following declines on the Hill.

The nature of the impending recession is still uncertain. Some pundits are saying that at least initially we should expect “stagflation,” that odd environment we first encountered back in the 1990s when prices of everything continued to climb, along with job layoffs and massive unemployment. Other forecasters suggest that because the international economy is roiling with continuing high tariffs (courtesy of the last administration) and new monetary sanctions daily (courtesy of the current administration), this particular recession may last much longer than normal.

In Summary

As the table below shows, the majority of the negative impact for May happened in the quantity of housing units sold. With one exception, prices continued to escalate. We believe this is temporary and likely to change before the end of the year. The -6% drop in median price at the Harbor presages the direction of home pricing as inventory grows and listings stagnate.

Approximately 3 out of 4 listings coming across our desk recently have been either Price Reduction or Back On Market. That means property is staying on the market longer. The Average Days On Market (DOM) for May ranged from 10 days on the PV Hill to 14 days in the Harbor area. As recently as this winter we were still seeing multiple offers on the first day the property was available.

Another measure of the market condition is how far the average sales price declines in the first 30 days on market. We did a quick look for May and came up with these statistics. Thirty days after the original listing, the price had dropped from the original: at the Beach, -9%; the Harbor -6%; PV Hill -18%; Inland -5%. As of May, we’re also seeing property that has been on the market for several months, with several price reductions.

Notable Properties

The high and low sales for May were not terribly dramatic. A Manhattan Hill section home and a downtown Long Beach condominium. Thay are simply very big, and very small.

High Sale

Located at 812 5th St, this Manhattan Beach hill section home was originally listed at $10.5M and sold for $8,980,000 after 34 days active on the market. The home offers six bedrooms and seven full bathrooms in 5576 sq ft. Amenities included ocean view, pool, spa, custom waterfall & fire features, a full basement with recreation/media room, home theater, storage, a temperature-controlled wine cellar, and private guest quarters.

Low Sale

Measuring barely 381 sq ft, the studio condo at 819 E 4th St #25 sold for $215,000 in one day. Located in the vibrant East Village of Downtown Long Beach this tiny home offers a remodelled kitchen and bathroom. The unit sits on the second floor, overlooking the intersection of 4th and Alimitos and within walking distance of many downtown shops, clubs and eateries.

Main photo by Kostiantyn Li on Unsplash

Commuter Trends Show Worrying Affordable Housing Deficit

Commute times in California, and indeed across the country, have increased in recent years, as people have moved away from job centers. The theory was that this was mainly due to work-from-home options. For some, that may be true, but many of these people aren’t working from home, they’re just commuting longer to work. Surely long commutes aren’t desirable, so what are they getting in return?

The missing factor is lower housing costs. Job centers tend to be larger urban areas with higher prices. By moving to more out-of-the-way areas, workers have reduced their mortgage and property tax at the cost of longer commutes. With gas prices on the rise, it’s not entirely clear whether this is a good financial choice. But more importantly, the people who are making this choice are the ones who have the financial means for it to be a choice. Over three quarters of higher wage workers work somewhere they can afford to live, whether they live where they work or not. Lower-wage workers don’t have an option. Only 4% can afford to live where they work, so they’re forced into longer commutes to find affordable housing.

Photo by John Arano on Unsplash

More: https://journal.firsttuesday.us/california-housing-and-the-super-commuter-problem/83814/

More New Construction Aimed at Immediate Rental

New constructions are always built to certain specifications, whether that’s tract uniformity or client’s wishes. In the latter case, the client is usually also going to be resident. That’s starting to change, as investors are noticing that renting is becoming a lot more common as prices rise. Investors are now getting new constructions built for the express purpose of renting them out.

Only 3% of new construction SFRs were build-to-rent in 2019. By the end of 2021, this number jumped to 26%. It’s not entirely clear if this will continue to increase or not. While increased inventory of rental properties does benefit renters, renting is rarely a desired state. Almost everyone would prefer to buy if they can afford it. But it’s not renters pushing the trend. It’s the investors, and they stand to benefit as long as renters must continue to rent, whether they want to or not.

More: https://journal.firsttuesday.us/why-california-investors-are-turning-to-build-to-rent/83701/

Photo by Fer Troulik on Unsplash

Most Common Compromises of Buyers

Buyers rarely find exactly the perfect home for them. There’s always something that isn’t quite what they wanted. But how do they decide what they’re willing to give up? Well, it’s different for everyone, because different buyers have different needs, and their decision may not actually be the best they could make. What can be tracked is statistical likelihood of certain decisions.

The most frequent concessions are age or condition, size, and style. Location is typically extremely important and not something most buyers want to budge on. While many buyers don’t want complete fixers, they may settle for homes with natural wear and tear due to age. Larger homes are becoming more popular, but the main attraction is more rooms. For many buyers, the rooms don’t actually have to be very big, as long as they’re big enough to serve their purpose. Style of a home does have some importance, since some styles may be more popular and fetch a higher price when you eventually go to sell it. Since you won’t know what will be trending far into the future, though, style is ultimately cosmetic. Many buyers are perfectly content ditching their preferred style for something that better suits their practical needs.

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

Local Govt Continues to Obstruct ADUs Despite Widespread Support

Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) have been contentious for a while, but SB 9 has passed recently, ostensibly making them easier to construct in California. Unfortunately, this hasn’t panned out as well as expected, as local governments aren’t entirely on board. They’re trying to sidestep the requirements by introducing zoning ordinances that effectively, but not explicitly, ban ADUs. Zoning restrictions have always been the largest obstacle to ADUs.

What clearly isn’t much of an obstacle is popular support. Particularly in California, major cities are seeing support of over 70%, even up to 80% in San Jose. But California isn’t the only state. Nationwide support is at 69%, with the remaining 31% split between opposing and indifferent. It’s no surprise that more renters than homeowners support it, since they’re more likely to be searching for housing. But both groups show strong support — 76% of renters and 66% of homeowners.

Photo by Kristina Tamašauskaitė on Unsplash

More: https://journal.firsttuesday.us/californias-low-housing-inventory-boosts-homeowner-support-for-adus/83401/

LA South Bay Real Estate: The Recession Has Arrived

In a normal year one would expect April to be the turning point for the LA real estate market. March is still cold and the children are still in school for another 10 weeks. April’s the month when the weather turns warm, the flower buds poke up, and the buyers come out to start the spring buying season. It hasn’t happened that way this year.

Prices had gone through the ceiling by the end of 2021, much of the activity stimulated by fear of escalating mortgage interest rates. Usher in 2022–January and February were typically slow and in March home sales bounced up like an indicator of business as usual. But, interest rates continued to climb and April ended with the total number of home sales down instead of up. Likewise, total sales dollars were down across the South Bay.

Number of Homes Sold

Judging from the charts, entry level homes in the Harbor area were clearly the center of activity for South Bay real estate. As interest rates pushed against the 5% mark, panic set in among first time buyers who had been outbid multiple times. Prices went up as high as buyers could afford, a number that shrinks amazingly fast with each tenth of a percent increase in the interest rate.

Across the South Bay, the number of homes sold in April dropped by -4% from March, which had been an increase of 59% over the prior month. As we see from the chart below, sales were uneven between the various areas.

On the entry level front, at the same time Harbor area home sales were dropping off, Inland homes gained sales. On the high end, sales on the Palos Verdes peninsula were also facing declining numbers, while Beach area sales increased.

So far declining sales counts have been modest, but a decline overall, coupled with a decline in half of the individual areas covered indicates that buyers are pulling back. Part of the resistance is a matter of simply being priced out of the market. Another important piece is the anticipation of price corrections in the near future. We have heard multiple buyers say they are watching and waiting for lower prices later this year.

At this point we’re well into the second quarter of the year and it looks as though those folks may be on track for some savings. even some of our most gung-ho pundits are beginning to see a market downturn on the horizon.

Median Price Sold

Interestingly, Harbor area prices went up at the same time the number of sales went down.The March to April price increase was a modest +6% compared to a +21% increase over April of last year. Similarly, the Beach cities had a month over month increase of +4%, while showing +19% year over year. While sales prices are still rising in those areas, the increase is a fraction of what it was last year.

Sold prices on the Hill continued to slide downwards. Because the February increase in the median price was created by the sale of new construction, and that building phase is now sold out, a downward turn in median price is expected. We anticipate that leveling off soon.

In the Inland area the median price for homes sold during April of 2022, was +12% greater than sales in April of 2021. By comparison, the median price of those sold in March of 2022 versus April of 2022 decreased by -1%. It’s a modest decrease that points to the direction of the South Bay real estate market for the balance of the year.

Area Sales Dollars

The total dollar value of home sales in the South Bay usually tracks right along with the number of units sold. The few times it differs are important times like these when the number of homes sold is dropping, and/or the sales prices are dropping. Today, of the four areas we track, PV Hill has a declining number of sales, both in comparison to last year and in comparison to last month. As we noted above, the area also is declining in total dollars compared to last year and last month.

As we discussed in last month’s issue, some of the reason for the drop is found in new construction homes that sold at a much higher price than the typical Palos Verdes resale home. The rest of it can be found in longer days on market waiting for a buyer, and in price reductions.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, the Beach cities showed gains last month for both number of units sold and for the total sales value of those homes. The only decline this month for the Beach was in number sold compared to April of last year. Sales this April were off by -21%.

The Harbor area still trended upward in dollar value, both month over month and year over year. But, the number of units sold was down for both time measurements. The price competition was very stiff in what is generally an entry level market. During the past couple years, bidding wars and over-asking sales prices have kept the dollars high. The April numbers show that changing rapidly.

Total dollar sales for the Inland community increased 15% month over month. That was the highest growth of all four areas. Scanning those individual transactions showed an odd pattern. Sales in the price range from about $325K up to about $750K were a familiar mix of some under asking price, some at asking and some above asking. The degree of variance was about what one would expect. Unexpectedly, for sales over $750K, nearly every property sold above asking price, and in many cases well above asking.

We found no clear explanation for why this phenomena occurred. There is a suspicion that buyers who were priced out of Beach properties may have shifted their bidding wars into the increasingly popular parts of west Torrance. This theory is supported by the distribution of sales among the various neighborhoods.

In Summary

In the table below are the core statistics comparing April to March of this year, and comparing April of this year to April of 2021. The prevalence of negative numbers is convincing evidence that high prices and high interest rates are pushing the South Bay real estate market into a recession.

Notable Properties

One of the more interesting properties sold in April is a four bedroom, five bathroom home located in west Torrance. The home was purchased by the seller as their family home in 1990 for just above $360K. The children grew up and the parents remodeled in 2022 and sold the house.

As would be expected in a good neighborhood with a contemporary remodel, the home sold for over the asking price of $2.7M. The final selling price was slightly over $3M. and just happened to be almost exactly $360K over the asking price.

In the 32 years that family owned the home it appreciated at an average rate in excess of $84K per year. It’s the classic “American Dream.”

Main photo by Amy Vosters on Unsplash

The Hardest Part of Buying a Home, According to Buyers

You can find advice for prospective home buyers all over the internet — including, of course, in our articles. But who knows better than the buyers themselves what they’re having trouble with? For over half of survey respondents, 56% to be exact, the biggest problem is finding the right property. This is probably partially the current market, with very low inventory, and partially buyers not knowing what or where they can afford to buy.

This isn’t one of the categories buyers mention, though. For nearly a third of respondents, the most difficult part is understanding the process and paperwork involved. 20% cite primarily monetary issues, either with saving for a down payment or getting a loan. Comparatively few, only 7%, believe that COVID-19 was a significant complication. Meanwhile, 18% of respondents don’t think the process of buying a home is difficult at all.

Photo by Elisa Ventur on Unsplash

More: https://www.marketwatch.com/picks/more-than-half-of-homebuyers-find-this-to-be-the-no-1-most-difficult-aspect-of-buying-a-home-01651507815

ARMs Gaining Popularity As Interest Rates Rise

The majority of homebuyers choose fixed-rate mortgages (FRMs) over adjustable-rate-mortgages (ARMs) in order to not have to deal with the uncertainty of changing interest rates. However, there’s very little uncertainty right now — interest rates are going up. This does include both FRMs and ARMs, but ARMs tend to have lower starting rates — a 5-year ARM was at 4.28% in mid-April. Buyers are predicting that even with an adjustable rate, their rate is not likely to surpass the 30-year fixed rate of 5.37% as of the end of April.

ARMs aren’t exactly popular, though. Even with their share doubling in the past three months, that’s still only 9% of mortgages. About as large a share of potential buyers are instead choosing to simply wait for a better time, with mortgage applications dropping by 8% and refinance applications dropping by 9%. Refinance applications are also drastically lower than the same time last year, having dropped a whopping 71%. New mortgage applications also dropped since last year, by a much more modest but still significant 17%.

Photo by Josh Appel on Unsplash

More: https://www.cnbc.com/2022/04/27/adjustable-rate-mortgage-demand-doubles-as-interest-rates-hit-the-highest-since-2009.html

Bay Area Prices Remain High Despite Rising Interest Rates

The usual effect of rising interest rates is a decrease in demand, as buyers would rather wait to lock in a lower rate. Decreased demand should then translate to lower prices, since sellers want to encourage buyers. Not so in the San Francisco Bay Area right now. Prices are still going up, and demand didn’t really go down all that much.

The culprit? A couple of factors. Most significantly, inventory is extremely low in the Bay Area. Buyers are encouraged to take opportunities where they can, since they don’t come up often. That often means paying less-than-ideal prices. Secondly, the Bay Area is generally a high-income area and already has high prices. Even with rising prices, most people able to purchase there aren’t going to be suddenly priced out. Those looking for a median-income or lower household aren’t looking in that area to begin with.

Photo by Sid Saxena on Unsplash

More: https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/mortgage-rates-home-prices-17120800.php

For Those Unable to Buy, Renovation is the Next Best Thing

We know that the wildly high post-lockdown demand was in large part driven by fear of missing out, or FOMO. People definitely took notice of the low interest rates and decided to take advantage of them. Interest rates are no longer low, and home purchasing demand has slowed. However, home renovations are still in high demand for just a bit longer. Renovating is not as expensive as buying, so homeowners with FOMO who could not afford to buy instead sought to remodel their current homes to better suit their needs.

In turn, though, home renovation costs have also increased rapidly in response to demand. By the last quarter of 2021, the year-over-year change in home remodeling costs had risen to 9.4%, about 2.5 times the expected 3.8% increase. Current projections have the Q3 2022 increase at an incredible 19.7%. But just like with rising home prices, increasing home remodeling costs will begin to price out even those affected by FOMO. Q3 is predicted to be the peak, with the prices starting to slow again by Q4 2022.

Photo by Milivoj Kuhar on Unsplash

More: https://journal.firsttuesday.us/californias-home-remodeling-boom-set-to-peak-in-2022/83020/

Has Homeowner Tenure Reached Its Peak?

Over approximately the past decade, the average length of time homeowners have stayed in their home has steadily increased, from 10.1 years in 2012 to the peak of 13.5 years in 2020. Until last year. The figure actually dipped in 2021, decreasing to 13.2 years, even slightly below the 2019 average of 13.3 years.

Much of this can be attributed to the economic aftermath of the pandemic, as relocations increased dramatically in 2021 as a result of work-from-home opportunities and low mortgage rates. It’s unclear whether this is a temporary decline, or 2020 was the peak of homeowner tenure and it’s going to continue to decrease. Analyzing the reasons for the decrease and why it’s been increasing in the first place suggests it’s probably going to go back up. Work-from-home is still happening; however, mortgage rates are no longer low and are still going up. Meanwhile, the initial reasons for the increase over the past decade include increased propensity for aging in place and a desire to keep one’s property tax base low. Neither of these are changing much, even with the ability to transfer your property tax base in some cases.

Photo by Joaquin Paz y Miño on Unsplash

More: https://www.redfin.com/news/2021-homeowner-tenure/