Home prices displayed mixed signals in Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego in the single month of November 2014. Low-tier property prices were still on average 9% higher than one year earlier. Mid- and high-tier prices were 6% higher.
Price growth recently peaked across much of the state, following sporadic increases in 2013 which yielded year-over-year price growth of 53% in the low-tier due to the speculative bidding frenzy. That has since ended due to pressure from insufficient personal incomes, rising fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) rates and new construction.
Prices are expected to fall in the coming months, likely bottoming in mid-2016 and retreating toward the mean price trendline. The cooling of speculative fever and continually rising mortgage rates will prolong the falling trend in sales volume, pulling prices down in turn. Remember, real estate prices track and run with bond prices due to interest rate movement. A lag time of up to 12 months exists due to expectations of continued recent price movement — the sticky price phenomenon.
To understand the “big picture” of the disparity between low-, middle-, and high-tier sales fluctuations, look to the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller home price index as the authority. The index is an invaluable source of information and price comparisons for California’s three major cities and the state as a whole.
The above charts track changes in specific tiers according to the Case-Shiller home price index, displaying how different ranges of house prices in the market perform in comparison to one another. Portrayals of pricing in California take many forms. The index figure is particularly useful as it displays relative price movement rather than a misleading dollar amount which actually fits no single property.
Unlike many media sources, first tuesday shuns the simplistic median price approach. That approach tracks all home prices as a single tier by assigning them one average price. This one-price-fits-all dollar amount looks good on paper, but means nothing in the real world since it is a mathematical abstraction. Neither the actual nor adjusted median price represents the price of any single property. For the vast majority of properties sold or for sale, the median is a mathematical distortion.
Brokers seeking the actual value of a specific property would do well to remember that there is no such thing as a “median priced home” — you simply cannot find it. Median price is a statistical point which fails to work in the analysis of any price-tier analysis of properties, much less an individual property.
To determine how real estate will actually behave in the future, you cannot compare the price of a low-tier property with that of a high-tier property. Properties in different tiers move in price for very different reasons. Although the market tends to move in the same direction over time, the percentage of movement can vary greatly from tier to tier.
The best way to initially evaluate a property and set its price is to study comparable property values in the same demographic location (same house, same tract). Other ways to set the ceiling price include:
- cost per square foot (replacement cost); and
- income analysis methods.
Senior Director, Coldwell Banker New Homes Division
With over 200 condominium, townhome and loft projects successfully marketed
“Fewer properties for sale with such remarkably low interest rates make it a great time to sell but a more difficult time to buy”