A recap of the Sacramento real estate market in 2016

High demand. Modest value increases. Price sensitive. Those are ways to describe the real estate market in 2016. Today let’s take a deep look into where the market went last year. This post is long on purpose. You can scan it quickly or pour a cup of coffee and spend some time here. If you aren’t in Sacramento, I hope you can still find some value. Do you see any parallels to your market? Any thoughts? 

P.S. I have some really cool year-in-review images. Please share.

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DOWNLOAD 76 graphs HERE: Please download all graphs in this post (and more) here as a zip file (including a one-page quick stat sheet). See my sharing policy for 5 ways to share (please don’t copy verbatim). Thanks.

A Market Rush: Overall prices saw a dip these past few months as the regional median price declined 4-5% from summer. This isn’t anything unexpected because it happens virtually every year. Just as there is a season for fishing, fashion, or television, there is also a season for real estate values. Granted, 2016 did have a more aggressive feel in that multiple offers were commonplace, it took an average of 7 less days to sell a home compared to last year, and inventory was sparse at best. In fact, the year closed with the strongest months of sales volume in the past 5 years for November / December. It’s as if there was a rush on the market from September through November that ended up beefing up these year-end stats. Why did sales volume increase? Some say it’s the power of Trump or the anticipation of a new political era. Or it could be buyers were expecting an increase in interest rates and wanted to get in before a rate hike. Or maybe it’s the byproduct of a fall that wasn’t all that dull and a market with strong demand. Or maybe it’s a combination of all or none of the above.  🙂

When looking at the entire year, most price metrics increased 7-9% and sales volume was up a modest 2% overall for the year. Remember, just because price metrics increased by 7-9% does not mean actual values increased by that much (we can talk about that more below if you wish). My sense is prices at lower levels saw larger increases than the middle and upper end of the market, which means a more aggressive bottom tends to create larger increases on paper. I say this because it’s easy to see the median price at 10.5% higher and say, “Values went up by 10.5% last year,” but that just isn’t true for the bulk of the market. On a related note, last week I mentioned trends to watch in 2017, and if I had to add one more thing I would say there could easily be a problem this year with overpricing homes because of so much focus on the market being “hot” without looking at actual data.

A few year-in-review images:

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Sacramento County:

  1. The median price was $315,000 in December (6.5% above last December).
  2. Housing inventory is about 10% lower than it was last December.
  3. Sales volume was 7% lower this December compared to last December, but this year and last were higher than 2012, 2013, and 2014.
  4. It took 3 days longer to sell a house last month compared to November. 
  5. One year ago in December it was taking 4 days longer to sell.
  6. FHA sales volume is down 6% this year compared to 2015 (but 25% of all sales this year were FHA).
  7. Cash sales are down 11% this year (they were 13% of all sales last month).
  8. The average price per sq ft was $202 last month (about the same as November, but 7.5% higher than last year).
  9. The average sales price at $343,670 is down about 4% from the height of summer (but is 6% higher than last year).
  10. When looking at the entire year in Sacramento County it took 33 days on average to sell a home this year.

A few images to show the bottom and top of the market:

all-residential-sales-in-sacramento-county-by-sacramento-appraisal-blog

all-residential-sales-under-100k-in-sacramento-county-by-sacramento-appraisal-blog

all-residential-sales-under-100k-in-2016-in-sacramento-county-by-sacramento-appraisal-blog

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Some of my favorite images this month:

cdom-in-sacramento-county-by-sacramento-regional-appraisal-blog interest-rates-since-2008 inventory-december-2016-by-home-appraiser-blog median-price-context-in-sacramento-county price-metrics-since-2015-in-sacramento-county-look-at-all

SACRAMENTO REGIONAL MARKET:

  1. The median price was $350,000 in December (7% above last December).
  2. It took 3 days longer to sell compared to the previous month (but 4 less days compared to December 2015).
  3. Sales volume was about 1% lower this December compared to last year.
  4. FHA sales volume is down 6% this year compared to last year. 
  5. Cash sales are down 8% this year compared to last year.
  6. Cash sales were 14.4% of all sales last month.
  7. The average price per sq ft was $208 last month. That’s down about 1% from the height of summer and 8% higher than last year.
  8. FHA sales were 22% of all sales in the region last month.
  9. The average sales price was $387,915 in December. It’s down about 5% from the height of summer but 8% higher than last year.
  10. When looking at the entire year in the region it took 37 days on average to sell a home this year.

Some of my favorite images this month:

median-price-sacramento-placer-yolo-el-dorado-county

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PLACER COUNTY:

  1. The median price was $423,925 in December (7% above last December).
  2. It took 2 less days to sell compared to the previous month (but 9 less days compared to December 2015).
  3. Sales volume was about 1% lower this December compared to last year.
  4. FHA sales volume is down 11% this year compared to last year (FHA sales were 18% of all sales in Placer County last month).
  5. Cash sales are down a mere 1% this year compared to last year.
  6. Cash sales were 16% of all sales last month.
  7. The average price per sq ft was $216 last month, which is about as high as it’s been all year (about 8% higher than last year).
  8. REOs were 1.5% and short sales were 1.8% of all sales in Placer County.
  9. The average sales price was $472,130 in December. It’s down about 2% from the height of summer but about 9.5% higher than last year.
  10. When looking at the entire year in Placer County it took 42 days on average to sell a home this year.

Some of my favorite images this month:

regional-market-median-price-by-home-appraiser-blog

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placer-county-price-and-inventory-by-sacramento-appraisal-blog

placer-county-sales-volume-by-sacramento-appraisal-blog

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DOWNLOAD 76 graphs HERE: Please download all graphs in this post (and more) here as a zip file (including a one-page quick stat sheet). See my sharing policy for 5 ways to share (please don’t copy verbatim). Thanks.

Questions: Did I miss anything? What are you seeing out there? How would you describe the market? I’d love to hear your take.

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What does the market expect? (a critical question to ask in real estate)

What does the market expect? That’s one of the best questions we can ask ourselves in real estate. Why? Because it helps us keep the focus on what buyers actually demand in certain neighborhoods and price ranges. In other words, what are buyers really willing to pay more or less for in a neighborhood? Being in tune with that is definitely one of the key aspects of coming up with a credible value.

Market expectations - Sacramento Appraisal Blog

Pool Example: Take a look at the table below to see how some areas and price ranges in Sacramento have far more built-in pools than others.

Market expectations pool example by Sacramento Appraisal Blog

Key Point: When built-in pools are more common in some neighborhoods and price ranges we can probably say the market expects a pool, right? This is especially true at the higher end of the price spectrum where over 70% of homes have a pool. In contrast, some areas of town have less than 1% of homes with a built-in pool, and it’s safe to say the market doesn’t expect a built-in pool in those areas. This doesn’t mean the pool is worth nothing in those places, but if anything it’s a reminder to really consider that a pool might be worth far less or more in some areas than others. While it’s tempting to always give a token $10,000 adjustment for a pool, based on the data above alone, that adjustment probably doesn’t make sense for every neighborhood because of differing expectations.

Not Just About Pools: This conversation isn’t just about built-in pools because we have to ask what the market expects for things like upgrades, square footage, condition, lot size, architectural design, bedroom count, garage spaces, landscaping, etc… As much as we’d like instant answers, there really isn’t a quick guide to understand what the market expects without immersing ourselves in comparing sales, talking with buyers and other real estate professionals, and crunching numbers.

Two Mentions: I’m honored to share a couple of recent media mentions. I was quoted in Inman SF Bay Area in “Sacramento housing boosted by Bay Area refugees” and in RealtyTrac’s June Housing News Report (PDF – pg 17-21).

Blackstone: One more thing. A recent article talked about the private equity fund Blackstone (Invitation Homes) selling off some of its homes directly to tenants. As you probably know, Blackstone purchased thousands of homes in the Sacramento market several years ago. They continue to buy today, but their purchase volume is minimal and nowhere near what it used to be. Anyway, the article states they would likely sell about 5% of their inventory this year directly to tenants. Whether that’s true for the Sacramento market or not is to be seen, but it’s worth watching closely. Keep in mind many landlords are selling straight to their tenants right now instead of listing on MLS. In short, this isn’t just a Blackstone thing.

Questions: How do you get a sense of what the market expects in a neighborhood? Any advice you’d give on how to better understand market expectations? Did I miss anything? I’d love to hear your take.

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How school boundaries impact real estate values

The quality of a neighborhood school can make a huge difference with real estate values. Yeah, I know that’s a Captain Obvious statement, but let’s talk about that. Last week I was reminded yet again how powerful school boundaries can be, so I wanted to share an example of this concept and then kick around some ideas. I’d love to hear your take in the comments below.

school boundaries and real estate values - sacramento appraisal blog

Do you look at school ratings? While appraising something in the Didion school boundaries in the Pocket area of Sacramento, I looked up greatschools.org to find Didion had a rating of 8 while neighboring schools in the neighborhood had a rating of 3 and 4. Could there be a difference in value depending on which school your home feeds into? Maybe so.

Ratings from Great Schools and Real Estate - by Sacramento Appraiser Blog

Do school boundaries matter? Okay, so Didion clearly has a higher rating, but do we actually see properties sell for more? Agents regularly say there is a value premium, but is there really? I decided to create a quick visual by comparing similar-sized sales from the surrounding neighborhood with ones in Didion territory. What do you see?

Pocket and Didion Market Trends - by Sacramento Appraisal Blog 2

The black dots that represent Didion show us these homes tend to sell toward the top of the neighborhood market. This tells us buyers are clearly in tune with the school system in the neighborhood and they are clearly paying higher prices to be in this niche.

5 Things to Remember about Schools & Real Estate Value:

  1. Know the school boundaries: One of the fastest ways I’ve been able to obtain school boundaries is through GreatSchools.org. I type in the name of the school, click on the map, and then observe boundaries and even ratings of surrounding schools (just like the image above). Obviously the website could be wrong, but it’s a good start.
  2. Don’t trust MLS comments: Properties are sometimes identified incorrectly in MLS, which is why we have to double-check by looking up various websites or even calling the school district.
  3. Choose comps attending the same school: Since value can be different depending on the school, it’s important to choose comps that have the same school influence (if possible). Many times a tract subdivision only has one school, so that makes it easy when choosing comps. But in the case above there are several school options, which means if we aren’t in tune with the neighborhood market and the school system, we just might pick the wrong comps.
  4. Don’t adjust based on GreatSchools ratings: As much as I like GreatSchools.org, at the end of the day I wouldn’t make a value adjustment because Didion has an 8 rating and other nearby schools have a 3 or 4. After all, I don’t want to impose the idea that one area sells for more or less because of a rating. If there really is a value difference, I’ll likely be able to see that in the sales. Or better yet, I can just choose comps that go to the same school so I don’t even have to worry about figuring out a value difference.
  5. Communicate about the school: If you are an agent, spend an extra minute studying school boundaries so you know for sure what school(s) your home feeds into. Your knowledge can come in particularly handy too when talking with appraisers. If the school boundaries are a big deal for value, I recommend highlighting this when talking with appraisers (or using my Appraiser Info Sheet to do so). Appraisers, it’s easy to miss details like school boundaries, so it might be a good idea to bookmark a few sites to help quickly see boundaries and/or ratings.

I hope this was helpful.

Questions: What is point #6? Did I miss anything? Do you have any other tips for finding out about school boundaries? Any stories about buying a house and paying more or less because of the school? I’d love to hear.

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Starbucks cups and price per sq ft

I was in line at Starbucks and then it hit me. The perfect analogy for price per sq ft in real estate. While ordering my Grande drip with no room, I began to wonder how much I was paying for each ounce. Maybe that means I’m a geek, but was I really getting the most bang for my buck to buy a Grande (medium)? Or should I go with a Venti (large)? Take a look at the image below to see how price per ounce works at Starbucks, and then let’s consider a real example of this principle in real estate.

Starbucks cups and real estate - by sacramento appraisal blog

Big Point: The larger the cup, the less you pay for each ounce of coffee. Or we could say it a different way. Smaller cups of coffee tend to cost more per ounce. This is interesting, but it’s not really surprising because it’s merely an example of economies of scale, right? We see this principle all the time when buying bigger or smaller items, yet it’s easy to ignore when it comes to housing. So let’s take a look at all residential home sales from last month in Sacramento County. Do you see a similarity with the coffee?

image purchased from 123rf by sacramento appraisal blog - price per sq ft example

Big Point: The larger the house, the less you tend to pay for each square foot. Or we could say it a different way. Smaller homes tend to have a higher price per sq ft compared to larger homes. This is a principle we see when looking at county-wide data, but it’s also something we tend to see by neighborhood (assuming we have enough data). Just like coffee costs less per ounce the more you buy, it tends to cost less per sq ft for the more house you buy. That’s the big idea.

Be a Great Explainer: I love this analogy. Maybe it’s partly because I’m a coffee fanboy, but in truth talking through price per sq ft is hands-down one of the most relevant conversations to master in real estate. I hope the next time the topic comes up with a client, maybe you’ll think about using Starbucks cups to explain how price per sq ft tends to work in a neighborhood. For a refresher post you can read 5 things to remember about using price per sq ft in real estate.

Question: What drink do you order at Starbucks?

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