Is the real-estate market in a recovery?
by Charles Schevker & Natasha Alexander
Published - 03/15/13 - 10:02 AM | 2868 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print

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Is it time to buy? Is it time to sell? Is it time to do both? Or is it time to sit and do nothing?

The real-estate market in La Jolla has already begun to show signs that might signal a recovery — the question is whether or not such progress will be sustainable for the months and perhaps years ahead.

So much of that answer lies well beyond our control, with concerns like interest rates on mortgages, fiscal policy of the government, income tax regulations and, of course, the economy and job growth as a whole. If you are a buyer, you may be in denial of any such recovery, and if you are a seller you are so hoping this is real.

It is both interesting and confusing to look at data on real-estate sales. Some sources like to publish median home sale prices from same month sales, though between two different years. For example — and this is not real data — if a source reported median home sales for February 2012 as $450,000 compared to median home sales in February 2013 of $528,000, this might lead one to conclude an increase in home sale prices of 17.3 percent. Is this believable? Not sure how credible that would be. Rather, we would like to suggest that a one-month data point does not make a trend.

In La Jolla, the average number of homes sold each month for recent years is as follows:

2009 — 45

2010 — 45

2011 — 46

2012 — 60

Now, this is a trend worth contemplating. This might suggest that from 2009 to 2011, the market flattened out from its previous decline, and last year saw a real increase in sales. 2005 was the peak of the most recent real-estate cycle, and during that year an average number of 77 homes sold per month. While the market is not as robust as it was in 2005, there is optimism that a recovery is upon us.

Another positive trend to consider is annual selling cycles. In those years since 2005, selling cycles were clearly defined by highs and lows throughout the year, while in 2012 we witnessed increasing sales month over month, from beginning to end of year.

Now, at the same time let’s take a look at what has been trending for housing inventory (the number of houses available for sale). In 2009, the available inventory peaked at around 883 units for La Jolla, compared to nearly 232 now. To put this into some perspective, imagine if this was Black Friday and there was a frenzy of Christmas shoppers waiting at the front door of Wal-Mart, yet the store’s shelves were only stocked to a level of 30 percent. When the doors open, what do you think would occur? Well, we would suggest not standing in front of those doors.

Here are just a few things to keep in mind that may help you to recognize whether the market is shifting from a buyer’s market to a seller’s market (meaning that pricing and trending is to the favor of the seller). (1) Inventory levels drop mostly because they cannot keep pace with the demand; (2) home sale prices begin to increase; (3) sellers begin to receive multiple offers and in some cases there are sightings of bidding wars; (4) seller subsidies like seller financing and seller contributions toward buyer closing costs begin to fade away; and (5) buyers obtain lender pre-approval and place higher down payments to persuade lender financing, all to win over seller confidence.

In fact, if you want more inside knowledge about the real-estate market, adopt a real-estate agent and take them out for a cup of coffee — with the value of their advice, it might just be the cheapest cup of coffee you ever buy.

Do you have a question about real estate in San Diego? Send your inquiries to We will respond directly to you, and those questions that have a broader public appeal will be published along with our next column in La Jolla TODAY.
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