Interesting story and wanted to share with you.
Peter Giovannotto is smack in the middle of a major shift in the Bay Area housing market.
The Peninsula real estate agent recently had a modest Palo Alto ranch-style home draw 38 offers and sell in eight days for nearly a half-million dollars more than the asking price, all par for the course in Palo Alto’s overheated real estate market.
“We started at $1.2 million and ended up selling for $1.65 million,” he said.
A flock of eager buyers competing for fewer-than-usual homes for sale is sending prices soaring along the Peninsula, where Googlers and Facebook employees duke it out with foreign investors for a place to live.
In other parts of the Bay Area, pent-up demand has helped create a hot market for lower-cost homes, with buyers having to move fast to grab foreclosures and be prepared for stiff competition on other homes for sale. In Contra Costa County, pending sales of single-family homes are up about 62 percent from last year and inventory is down 32 percent — a seller’s market.
“We are getting lots of multiple offers on lower-end properties,” said Barbara Safran, president of the Contra Costa Association of Realtors. “One person told me they had 12 offers on a property in Concord.”
The winning bidder on the Palo Alto home was a Google (GOOG) employee from China, highlighting two trends: the rise of the wealthy tech buyer and the buyer from Asia. “We’re seeing lot more buyers from that region,” Giovannotto said. “It’s difficult to buy property over there, and the power of their money is greater over here.”
Another Palo Alto home drew 10 offers recently, selling for $325,000 over the asking price.
In the East Bay, a relatively small supply of lower-priced homes and an increase in demand has homebuyers jumping.
Two couples working with Danville real estate agent Kevin Kieffer of Keller Williams used the “strike first” method Kieffer advocates to grab their homes this month. He tells clients that in this market, they have to make a bid almost immediately, not wait until the weekend when the bulk of buyers are looking. If it’s a foreclosure, the bank is likely to welcome a decent offer, he said.
Cameron and Rissa Kossen bought a bank-owned Martinez house that’s near Pleasant Hill schools for $313,000 by making an offer quickly. Had he waited until the weekend, Cameron Kossen said, other buyers would have made offers and “it would have gone up to $330,000 or $340,000.”
Another East Bay couple, Ken and Ashley Wilson, were outbid on three homes before landing the fourth, a three-bedroom, two-bath house in Pleasant Hill.
“The housing market is moving so quick that houses would come on the market and my wife and I were having to make decisions almost at that minute, because there were others willing to purchase the home right then,” said Ken Wilson, who works at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory.
On both sides of San Francisco Bay, real estate agents say fewer homes than usual are for sale.
“Menlo Park and Palo Alto are both desperate for inventory,” said Wendy McPherson of Coldwell Banker in Menlo Park. She said that Palo Alto recently had only about 30 homes for sale.
Ray Chavez of Alain Pinel in Los Gatos sold a home in Santa Clara that received five offers in six days and sold for $17,000 over the asking price of $609,000, a big bump in that market for a small home.
“It’s amazing what’s not out there right now,” he said. “There are only 32 homes in the whole city of Santa Clara. We’re down 74 percent from February 2011.”
The threat of historically low interest rates rising further — the rates rose above 4 percent this week — combined with increased confidence in the economy is bringing out buyers who have been holding back.
“I think it’s a little bit like Christmas,” said Safran of the Contra Costa Association of Realtors. “People finally started buying again this Christmas when they hadn’t bought for three years. I think they’re just ready. It’s time.”
Sales were up across the Bay Area in February, the strongest showing for that month in five years, according to DataQuick, a real estate information service.
Silicon Valley is having its fourth-highest year in sales since 2000, said Richard Calhoun of Creekside Realty in San Jose. Calhoun, who has tracked the inventory of homes for sale in Santa Clara County for more than a decade, said that in some parts of Silicon Valley, including the Palo Alto area, the entire stock of homes for sale would be exhausted in less than a month.
“The housing market has definitely bottomed and is on a recovery path,” said Ken Rosen, chairman at the Fisher Center for Real Estate and Urban Economics at UC Berkeley. “I think it is a real recovery happening, around the whole country.”
Contra Costa County, saturated with foreclosures, is still 18 months away from a full recovery and a normal housing market, Rosen said. “There’s going to be a spillover from San Francisco and the Bay Area, but it hasn’t happened yet.”
Some would-be sellers on the Peninsula seem to be holding out until next year, when Facebook’s newly minted millionaires will begin spending their money, potentially driving up prices even more.
Sellers are “getting greedy” and pulling homes off the market, said Alex H. Wang of Rainmaker Properties in Los Altos. “They get multiple offers on their house and say, ‘I don’t want to sell anymore. I’ll wait until next year.’ That upsets everybody.”