Not one, but three Bay Area counties set new jaw-dropping records as home prices continued to climb to vertigo-inducing heights.
In February, median prices for resale, single-family homes in Santa Clara, San Mateo and San Francisco counties were the highest they’ve ever been — no small feat in a housing market where prices already are among the most expensive in the nation.
The records, unveiled Thursday in a report by housing data company CoreLogic, suggest no cooling in the red-hot market that’s padding sellers’ pockets while squeezing wannabe buyers and forcing many to leave in search of better deals.
Kevin Cole, president of the Santa Clara County Association of Realtors, called February’s price increases “amazing.”
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“It just reflects the ratcheting up of what buyers are able to afford,” he said, “with large down payments, with possibly all cash, with low interest rates.”
In Santa Clara County, the median price for a resale, single family home hit $1.29 million last month — up 34 percent from the same time last year, according to the CoreLogic report. In San Mateo County, the median price reached $1.45 million — up 24 percent, — and in San Francisco it was $1.5 million, up 30 percent.
While those three counties stood out, they weren’t the only ones where values continued their upward march. Single-family, resale homes sold for a median price of $750,000 in Alameda County — up nearly 3 percent from the year before, according to the report. In Contra Costa County, the median price hit $568,000 — a nearly 14 percent increase.
Prices were up across the Bay Area, where they have been rising without pause since April 2012, according to CoreLogic. Last month the median price for all homes (including new and resale single-family homes and condos) rose 5.6 percent from January, and 12.5 percent from February 2017 for homes in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, Santa Clara, San Francisco, San Mateo, Solano and Sonoma counties.
“The demand’s there,” said Andrew LePage, a CoreLogic analyst, “but the supply’s not…with so little supply in the affordable price range, what’s left selling is more expensive, and that drives the median up.”
Last month, the Bay Area saw 1,558 homes sell with price tags of $1 million or more — a record for a February, according to the CoreLogic report. Sales of homes priced at $500,000 or more increased nearly 13 percent year-over-year, while sales of homes priced below $500,000 dropped 18 percent.
Buyers with high-paying jobs and loads of stock options are “ruling the day,” Cole said. But that’s not great news for those without deep pockets.
“I think this also reflects a cry for help for more affordable housing,” Cole said.
Tim Ambrose, president of the Bay East Association of Realtors, sees his clients struggling to afford the homes they want.
“I have buyers that are being priced out because they didn’t buy sooner,” he said. “So we are submitting offers and having to continue to go $50,000 to $100,000 over asking price. And we still, so far…have not been successful in getting our offers accepted.”
Despite the rising prices and the ongoing shortage of inventory, the number of Bay Area homes sold ticked up in February — increasing nearly 2 percent from the same time last year. That’s the first time in four months sales have inched up on a year-over-year basis, according to CoreLogic. The report shows 4,929 homes sold in the Bay Area last month, up 9.5 percent from the month before.
The increase is particularly notable because it came in February, which typically isn’t a busy month for home sales. Deals that close in February often were started in December or January, and many people avoid buying or selling homes during the holidays, LePage said.
Ambrose said he’s seen evidence of more market activity lately, though there’s still a major shortage of available homes.
“This past week I did notice a few more homes on the market than I’d seen,” he said.
Still, sales last month remained nearly 19 percent below the 30-year February average, according to CoreLogic.
Cole said the 9.5 increase in home sales between January and February is nothing to get excited about. He compared it to California’s ongoing drought concerns — a few inches of rain isn’t going to fix the problem.
“You’re only talking like 400 units throughout the whole San Francisco Bay Area,” he said. “While that might be exciting to hang your hat on, I think we’d like to see a 30, 40, 50 percent change to satisfy buyer demand.”