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Spring Bounce

By Peter P   2006 Feb 11, 3:44am   3 links   7,442 views   69 comments   watch (0)   quote      

What is your observation about the Bay Area housing market? Is there any early sign of a spring bounce? Are there further signs of inventory buildup, stagnation in sales, and/or reduction in price?

We need to be very vigilant about market conditions. At the same time, we must approach data with care and diligence. Otherwise, we risk giving in to self-doubt and fear itself.


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30   SJ_jim     2006 Feb 11, 6:39pm  ↑ like   ↓ dislike   quote    

Ownerocc just to clarify I was referring to your 1:57 AM comment.

31   Randy H     2006 Feb 12, 1:16am  ↑ like   ↓ dislike   quote    

based on your recent sale experiece, how long should the pending phase last? I remember my pending phase was barely 20 days, but that was years ago.

We sold out of Belmont in Spring '05, which is long enough ago that things have probably changed. It was still a "sellers" market then, but starting to go flat, at least in my neighborhood.

We were pending for 15 days, officially 18 days if I remember (due to some signature/paperwork problems). A couple of other anecdotal datapoints: We were on the market for almost 4 weeks, with 2 open houses and we vacated and staged from day 1. We received only 3 offers, all below asking. Those offers dribbled in; no bid war. We took the 2nd because the buyer was going 60% equity in with a regular mortgage, and we wanted the deal to go through and not fail to appraise.

According to Zillow that buyer has lost 11% since buying from us. I'm loving the sidelines myself these days.

32   Michael Holliday     2006 Feb 12, 1:47am  ↑ like   ↓ dislike   quote    

Rat_Patrol Says:

"The places that kill me are those garbage can Mckeons, gott’a love those 900 sf 2-1’s for 400k and 10 people hang’in out the windows with the music cranked up and down Blossomhill Rd."

I know those places well. Those were the welfare housing units only a few years ago. Maybe they still are.

There's some right before Oak Grove High on Blossom Hill...then there's the other one's as you go west, before you hit Oakridge Mall. I guess it's not called Oak Ridge any more.

I've been in Phoenix for the last 7 years but I know what you mean.

Friggen' insane $400k for those pieces of sh-t!

Remember Frotier Village before those apartments went in?

Those were the good old days!

33   Michael Holliday     2006 Feb 12, 1:51am  ↑ like   ↓ dislike   quote    

Rat_Patrol Says:

"I hope the fowl weather starts up again and it rains through April."

Yeah, me too!

Instead of raining cats and dogs, it'll rain chickens and roosters!

Won't that be some really fowl weather?

Ha, ha!

34   DeoVindice     2006 Feb 12, 2:09am  ↑ like   ↓ dislike   quote    


I live in Cambrian, too. I rent a 2000sqft house, 1/4 acre lot, huge swimming pool, hot tub, for 2k/month. Why would I buy? When I can get a similar place for 400K, I'll buy. That would be '99 prices. I think Cambrian is the best bargain in the BA. Or at least, it will be again.

I remember my own thinking in 2000. The rest of the country went into recession first, and we all denied that it would show up here. Then it was the "V" shaped recovery. Remember that? After the recession shows up back east, CFOs delay IT projects. That's the cause of the lag.

Housing prices will come down. Another one I remember from 2000, "Those dot coms are screwed, but we have real software". That's the equivalent of "My place is special". The share prices all came down, so will the houses. Patience is the key. Besides, where's the risk to waiting. Trees don't grow to the sky, and everyone can not all be priced out at the same time.

--Deo Vindice

35   DeoVindice     2006 Feb 12, 2:14am  ↑ like   ↓ dislike   quote    

"But the downfall of the US? I don’t think so. This is an incredibly resilient country, not because government is strong or Bush is smart, but because people are free."

So why aren't we all speaking Latin? Portuguese? Dutch?

The Greeks were free. (And they had great food. I ate at the Greek place at Santana Row last night. Wow! Opa!)

English? (oops, you get the idea. Besides, we speak American).

It's a cycle. It is well understood and widely studied in Universities. All empires get replaced. It isn't different this time. This place is not special. Trees do not grow to the sky.

American standards of living will erode over the next 30 years.
It is inevitable. Figure that in to your investment plans. Or at least hedge the possibility.

--Deo Vindice

36   Peter P   78/78 = 100% civil   2006 Feb 12, 3:17am  ↑ like   ↓ dislike   quote    

I can easily see this trick replicated here, this is more typical for new developments.

But how can we get a celeb to buy an overpriced $hitbox townhouse in the Sillicone Valley? Who can give such a sacrifice?

37   Peter P   78/78 = 100% civil   2006 Feb 12, 3:18am  ↑ like   ↓ dislike   quote    

I agree with you about the interest only loans, everyone seems to have them.

Every builder, loan officer, RE agent talk as if 30YR FRM does not exist. Interest only is the "official" new paradigm. Option ARM is for people who are even "smarter".

38   Peter P   78/78 = 100% civil   2006 Feb 12, 3:20am  ↑ like   ↓ dislike   quote    

Asians save because our countries are relatively unstable, there is nothing other than money that can bring us a sense of security. If you have ever lived in Asia other than Japan, you will know what I mean.

I thought Singapore is also quite stable. For a long time, it had a "better" Nikkei futures exchange than the one in Osaka.

39   Peter P   78/78 = 100% civil   2006 Feb 12, 3:37am  ↑ like   ↓ dislike   quote    

Now, I am not bragging, but I work in Healthcare and make a reasonable 6 figure income ( I’ve been paying AMT for the last 3 years– tax cuts, yeah right!!) and I look around out in the BA and say no way can these people afford this lifestyle, sooner or later all this crap is coming home to roost!

Very true indeed.

Possibly by the time my dauhgter finishes undergrad the prices will be ”reasonable”.

Prices will be down but it will become difficult for people to get loans. If you plan to put in a large downpayment you will have a real advantage.

40   Peter P   78/78 = 100% civil   2006 Feb 12, 3:38am  ↑ like   ↓ dislike   quote    

Then it was the “V” shaped recovery. Remember that?

Prepare for an "L" shaped "recovery" this time.

41   Michael Holliday     2006 Feb 12, 3:53am  ↑ like   ↓ dislike   quote    


Great post!

I went back to San Jose for two days this past summer.
Hadn't been back in four years.

It's changed a lot. Some of the old haunts fit like an old glove, though.

Oakridge Mall is totally unrecognizable. Same with Town and Country Village--now Santana Row--kinda upscale cheesy stucco remake of Mediterranian-style.

I grew up in San Jose, went to Santa Teresa & San Jose State.

That place never stops morphing.

Driving down Monterey Highway to Morgan Hill and nothing's really changed down there. I felt good about that. Look the same & very country rural, etc.

It's kinda third-world looking in some areas of San Jose, though. Some ramshackle parts & people from different countries.

All in all a mixed bag.

42   DeoVindice     2006 Feb 12, 3:55am  ↑ like   ↓ dislike   quote    

Sunnyvale Renter:

Like frat boys, empires always behave badly. We're no worse, maybe a little better, but in the end, not any different. Empires always bloat, and a new challenger always rises. There is always a fight on the play ground, and the bully's "Friends" always desert him when it becomes clear that the challenger is a viable alternative to impose order on the playground.

When the bully is clearly on his way out, no one wants to be caught on the losing side. They pay tribute to the new challenger, who inevitably becomes corrupt, fat, lazy, and resented. Thus, the cycle repeats.

It's never different. No need for anyone to get emotional about it. We have the same thing in our domestic politics. Remember this, at the same time that the US is a dominant player in the international system, the US is dependent on and shaped by the forces in the international system. The housing bubble is proof. Just follow the flow of funds.

Houses are going to deflate for a long time, particularly in the least competitive economies relative to global standards. That means CA will go through some pain and be forced to cut costs, services, and taxes. I'm confident that we will come through it well, just not soon.

We will see a dramatic upheaval in long standing power structures in the coming years, within CA, within the country, and within the global system.

The end objective of George Bush's foreign policy in the middle east is to limit China's access to hydrocarbons while securing them for the US and allied Europe. This policy, if executed effectively, will draw out our decline while slowing China's rise.

In the same way, the Dems missed their chance to draw out the blue state decline in 2004 since the winner got to pick two supreme court seats. The court has served as the last refuge of the declining power in the past. It was for the South in the 1850's. Alito, Roberts, and the republican appointed justices to come spell the end of liberal/progressive influence in the coming years and a swing towards conservatism. That will also factor into the cleanup of this mess--particularly the fate of the GSEs.

And that's the chess board. It's neither good nor bad, it just is. It does make me happy to see it, though.

--Deo Vindice

43   Randy H     2006 Feb 12, 4:42am  ↑ like   ↓ dislike   quote    

You guys check out Zillow yet? It has weekly house appreciation dollare values. Ridiculous.

Funny, I'm seeing Marin down by 1%, some neighborhoods down by over 6%. Zillow is a lagging indicator anyways, so using it to prove anything about current indications is folly.

44   Randy H     2006 Feb 12, 4:50am  ↑ like   ↓ dislike   quote    

Just a counterpoint to all the "I hear your Empire down" chatter.

Dominant civilizations have a pretty long half-life; they don't collapse overnight. Even if we assume that modern-era civilizations *might* diminish faster (there is no evidence for this, however), it will be many generations before the certain doom sets in that some are promoting.

Spain is nowhere near a 3rd-world country. It is a member of the EU, is in the top tier of standards of living worldwide, and has enjoyed an exceptionally long half-life. The UK is still among the top by all comparative measures. Even the "failed Empire" of Soviet Russia has its citizens living better off then over 2/3 of the remainder of the population of this planet, and improving comparatively.

45   jeffolie     2006 Feb 12, 5:40am  ↑ like   ↓ dislike   quote    

The US remains the only superpower standing. Empires to not disappear overnight, but Rome and China were sacked by invading hordes. While there are no invading hordes to cross our oceans (aside from our gradual invasion accross our south border), I suggest reading Paul Kennedy's (1987), The Rise and Fall of Great Powers....

46   DeoVindice     2006 Feb 12, 5:40am  ↑ like   ↓ dislike   quote    

RH: I don't disagree. We have seen America's peak, and we will see a change in American psychology.

The best quote I heard from Ben's blog:

"What makes you think that it can't get worse than the great depression".

It's a more esoteric view of the housing bubble, yet it is important to how this will play out. In particular, watch out for the value of the dollar.

--Deo V

47   San Francisco RENTER     2006 Feb 12, 6:14am  ↑ like   ↓ dislike   quote    

Regarding was just discovered at work by one of my co-workers this past week. "Ooooh, check it out you guys, this is the coolest website ever!" she exclaimed. Before long the office was abuz with people logging on to Zillow, plugging in their address, and hooting and hollering about "how much their house has appreciated in value," and blah blah blah. A co-worker says to me "Isn't Zillow great? Oh wait, you probably don't care too much about it because you're a RENTER! Ha ha ha!" I said "actually I think Zillow IS great, now we can watch the RE market crash in real time!" Shocked silence. It was like in a movie when someone walks into a seedy bar and turns off the jukebox, and then all the regulars turn and glare at the newcomer and you can hear a pin drop. Then the room erupted with cries of indignation. "Real Estate never goes down!" "You have no idea what you're talking about!" "The market started crashing when?!" "You're crazy!" The message was clear. How dare you question the American Dream!? Put on your rose-colored sunglasses and shut up! Everything is FINE and will continue to be FINE dammit!

File that one under "Tales From the Housing Bubble," or is it "The Bubble Zone"?

48   San Francisco RENTER     2006 Feb 12, 6:18am  ↑ like   ↓ dislike   quote    

"In particular, watch out for the value of the dollar."
–Deo V

Deo's back! Funny you should mention this, just this past Wednesday I put 5% of my portfolio in the Merck Hard Currency Fund (MERKX) that we discussed in the past to hedge against a falling dollar. I also took your recommendation and shifted 8% of my portfolio into Petrofund (PTF) last week, will take the dividends in cash on that one. I had been waiting for a good entry point and the commodities sell-off last week seemed as good a time as any to get in on that Petrofund!

49   Michael Holliday     2006 Feb 12, 6:32am  ↑ like   ↓ dislike   quote    

ExNorCalBoomer Says:

"When I go back to the BA, esp SJ, I get screwed up when I try to use my old landmarks ( like the old Mansion on the corner of Hamilton and Bascom Ave in Campbell– it’s gone!!, thank god the Delta Queen ( I think that’s the name) Car Wash and the Pruneyard Towers are still there."

Yeah, my friend Gary worked at that Delta Queen in the mid-late 80's.
The Pruneyard is still there. Tower Records across the street is there but with some competition from Rasputin Records (big used CD store). Hey, remember Streetlight Records (used records then CD's when they came in)?

The old Sears on Stevens Creek ( gone). Anyway time marches on.

Yeah, that old Sears is loooong gone. Remember those big Valley Fair shopping center balls? All 1960's looking? Gone!

There are a lot of places on El Camino--old hotels, etc., that are still there. An old slice of Cali Americana.

Remember the Saddle Rack country bar? Pretty cool place to hang out-- nice chicks, etc.--and I'm not even into country. Well that was torn down for apartments or condos. My friend played guitar in a band there and lost his gig when they buried that place.

Yeah, stuff is changing. Makes me sad.

50   Randy H     2006 Feb 12, 7:41am  ↑ like   ↓ dislike   quote    


We just finished combing open houses in Mill Valley/Tam Valley, Corte Madera and Larkspur. Three things struck me:

1) There appears to be a lot more inventory than this time last year, when we first moved up to Marin.

2) Almost all of these houses were empty/staged. Many were new construction or major rehabs.

3) We were the only people there in all but 1 house we looked at. The agents appeared *very* hungry.

This is a marked difference from a year ago when you couldn't get 90 seconds of an agents time to ask a question about some overpriced cliffdweller with no garage or parking. This time the agents were hovering, offerring to watch our toddler while we "enjoyed the feel".

51   Peter P   78/78 = 100% civil   2006 Feb 12, 9:59am  ↑ like   ↓ dislike   quote    

We were the only people there in all but 1 house we looked at. The agents appeared *very* hungry.

Just to be mean... I would eat a hamburger in front of them. Or perhaps even sushi. :)

52   Peter P   78/78 = 100% civil   2006 Feb 12, 10:01am  ↑ like   ↓ dislike   quote    

Peter P

By sizable downpayment do you mean 20%, or more?

Hmm... usually it means more than that. 20% was the standard and it will become the new standard again after reflexivity works its way through the credit system.

53   Peter P   78/78 = 100% civil   2006 Feb 12, 10:04am  ↑ like   ↓ dislike   quote    

It’s kinda third-world looking in some areas of San Jose, though. Some ramshackle parts & people from different countries.

Stranger than that... people do not build 700K shitboxes in the third world without tall fences.

54   Peter P   78/78 = 100% civil   2006 Feb 12, 10:39am  ↑ like   ↓ dislike   quote    

DinOR and SFRenter, what do you guys think about DBC? It has rather high exposure in energy.

55   OO     2006 Feb 12, 11:41am  ↑ like   ↓ dislike   quote    


that's what I have been saying. Zillow should concentrate on fact reporting, digging up all facts, undisputable facts, about a piece of property instead of trying to price it. Because if it is wrong on the zestimate for a certain neighborhood one looks up, it will immediately lose credibility.

I am perfect happy if they can pull ALL transaction records of a piece of property, plus the remodel permits filed with the county, and tax record, etc. I don't need them to zestimate the property for me, because there are lots of things that cannot be reflected and applying a neighborhood "general algorithm" may be entirely off. Even in the hottest market, some dogs never get sold unless severely "under" market price because they are extremely undesirable homes to begin with.

56   OO     2006 Feb 12, 11:54am  ↑ like   ↓ dislike   quote    

Randy H,

just curious, is the buyer with 60% equity (my intepretation 60% down) an Asian or new immigrant? It sounds pretty absurd that in this environment you will pay 60% down, obviously he has no problem borrowing normal 30-year rate at around 5.25%, which is still very low. Why tie up so much cash? Either he cannot borrow a traditional 30-year mortgage due to lack of credit record, or he is not quite financial literate.

When I bought, a new immigrant like myself needed at least 2 years of fulltime working experience and 3 years of credit record to qualify for a 30-year loan. So naturally, many of us HAD TO come up with 25-30% down to qualify because we were seen as high-risk borrowers.

57   DeoVindice     2006 Feb 12, 12:03pm  ↑ like   ↓ dislike   quote    

San Francisco RENTER:

You are definitely smarter than me. I bought energy just before the pullback. Actually, a little bit into it, but I should have been more patient. I bought FDG, PWI for superior yields in my IRA. I bought CCJ in my brokerage account at 73, a litte early there too. What I did well was come into the market in small chunks. I'm going to buy AAV in my IRA when a CD comes due Feb 22, if nothing changes. Nothing huge, just averaging down. I will look again at the energy situation in the spring and fall. I won't be all in until the end of 2006-mid 2007.

I love MERKX. Good move.

Mr. shmend: The combo of the loose money and the FNM and FRE balance sheets is what scares me into gold, energy, and hard currency. The fiscal defecit doesn't make me happy, either. What else can a guy do to hedge his dollars? I'm taking the risk with energy that a depression could reduce demand and hence price for energy. I think Ben would reflate, because what else can he do? Also, I think that the future geopolitical conflict will be all about hydrocarbons.

I think that Hydrocarbons will be used as a weapon to both attack the dollar (Iranian oil bourse) and to disrupt our economy (embargo?). China is very clearly in a strong position to tie up the Caspian basin with their dollar reserves. That pipeline they're buiding proves their intent to compete with us. Russia sure is in a good position to play China and the US against each other, as the swing producer and 800 pound gorilla standing between Europe, Asia, and the Stans. None of that bodes well for energy price stability long term. Nor national security.

FWIW, I don't find DBC to be for me. I much prefer high yields. CCJ is the obvious exception, but I like the direct Uranium play, and it can't hurt that their into gold as well. I also like the Canadian companies becuase the strong resource base should support the $CDN and Canada is very stable politically. They also have a lot of hydrocarbons.

My buddy up there in the business is big on Coal Bed Methane (CBM). He's scratching his head trying to figure out the investment play. I'll keep you posted on what he finds.

--Deo Vindice

58   DeoVindice     2006 Feb 12, 12:07pm  ↑ like   ↓ dislike   quote    

Regarding For Sales signs in Santa Cruz:

I was at the beach 1 week ago and today. The sunshine really made those 4 sale signs blossom! I was shocked at the difference. The superbowl was definitely the catalyst that many thought it would be. At least over the hill it was. I even saw "Reduced" a few times.

wow. I was actually on topic, for once.

--Deo Vindice

59   Randy H     2006 Feb 12, 12:21pm  ↑ like   ↓ dislike   quote    


He was an Asian, and most probably an immigrant. He was financially a neophyte, in my opinion. However, he was a [somewhat] prominant cancer research doctor, and had quite a lot of cash; much more than the whopping amount he put down. He could have come close to buying the home outright from my read of things. He was hyper frugal, though, and only agreed to buy the place after massive lobbying by his fiance (who needed one deal to be closed before closing the other deal, if you get my drift).

We got lucky, timing wise. This guy was smart enough to intuitively know that the house was overpriced and that the market was going to come down. In fact, he had cycled through at least 3 sets of agents, and had backed out of at least 4 other offers. In the end, we got to his fiance and helped her to "fall in love" with the place. It was a damned nice place...I kind of miss it, as a renter in a McMansion now. It just wasn't worth what he paid anymore than I was deserved 18% appreciation for sleeping there for 3 years.

60   DeoVindice     2006 Feb 12, 1:23pm  ↑ like   ↓ dislike   quote    

Mr. Shmend:

I had never thought of that. Don't large MNCs have the ability to hedge? I guess mom and pop running windows are screwed.

Would offshoring of IT services(dev, maintenance) be less attractive?

--D V

61   SJ_jim     2006 Feb 12, 2:16pm  ↑ like   ↓ dislike   quote    

All right, drove yesterday to drop off deposit at my new rental place. On just a small stretch of a single street in this neighborhood there were 6-8 for sale signs. These are CONSIDERED TO BE $0.8-1.2 million homes,

62   SJ_jim     2006 Feb 12, 2:17pm  ↑ like   ↓ dislike   quote    


All right, drove yesterday to drop off deposit at my new rental place. On just a small stretch of a single street in this neighborhood there were 6-8 for sale signs. These are CONSIDERED TO BE $0.8-1.2 million homes, less than 2-yrs-old. However, these homes for sale do not show up on ZipRealty or Not sure what to say about this.

Also, there is a realtor who works really hard out here. On my way to work yesterday, I counted 16 of his "Home Open" signs within a ~1 mile vicinity of the ONE property he's trying sell. He should get some sort of an award for this.
This is all in Evergreen area of san jose (east of the east-side ghetto).

Many conflicting signs...I seem to see properties selling quickly, but then I see things like the above. Also, the # of For Sale signs seem incongruent (too high) with the # of MLS Listings I see.

63   Randy H     2006 Feb 12, 2:58pm  ↑ like   ↓ dislike   quote    

I had never thought of that. Don’t large MNCs have the ability to hedge? I guess mom and pop running windows are screwed.

Would offshoring of IT services(dev, maintenance) be less attractive?

No. Not unless the economies we offshore to were to (a) let their currencies float and (b) open up their capital to free flows by removing existing capital controls.

India and China both have huge PPP problems, thus the intense management of their currencies. If they stop, the dollar would strengthen considerably against their currencies (especially the RMB) as their economies suffered staggering inflation.

64   SJ_jim     2006 Feb 12, 4:01pm  ↑ like   ↓ dislike   quote    

"India and China both have huge PPP problems"
PPP = purchasing power parity?

65   Peter P   78/78 = 100% civil   2006 Feb 12, 4:12pm  ↑ like   ↓ dislike   quote    

I have approximate 150K in liquid cash in bank … wondering if I should move to Austin Texas from Bay Area…

Two of my ex-coworkers did just that. You are going to need a maid because your house will be at least 3000sf. With 160K a year, that should be no problem. :)

66   SJ_jim     2006 Feb 12, 4:15pm  ↑ like   ↓ dislike   quote    

Hah! LOL PeterP.

67   Randy H     2006 Feb 13, 1:51am  ↑ like   ↓ dislike   quote    

PPP=Purchasing Power Parity

PPP is especially useful when trying to compare economies/standards between countries in which one or both have capital controls and/or fixed or managed currencies.

68   SJ_jim     2006 Feb 13, 6:26pm  ↑ like   ↓ dislike   quote    

scruzgeek, man, that's a beautiful rant!
There are no "cold equations" because so much depends on collective psychology. With not much savings, it's a tough call. Because if things crash as some think they will, this will likely result in strict lending practices requiring 20% + down payment. Then what are you gonna do? I wouldn't worry so much about rising interest rates, simply because house prices would HAVE to go down to accommodate this scenario...unless you believe that affordability levels will drop to 7,5, even 3%.
That said I don't know anything about Marin market. From what I've read here & elsewhere, it seems to be the mother of all "intangible" markets. So perhaps prices will merely flatten. Then it would take you quite a while to save the requisite 20% down payment.

IMO the key thing to keep in mind is that lending practices would tighten nationally, however only some RE markets would soften such a manner as to INCREASE affordability. So it seems you need to find the right window of interest rates rise and easy credit decreases, and as property values soften (to whatever extent they CAN in Marin)...there will hopefully be the right opportunity for you...i.e. before 20% down payment is required but after a bit of price stagnation/drop. This might mean you having to buy before prices drop nationally to rock bottom levels. Many people think the bottom of this RE cycle will be 4-6 years from now...if so, then between now and then credit lending will become increasingly stringent. So perhaps your "optimal" window will be somewhere in next 1-3 years or so.
I'm in similar predicament as you...except I'm looking in San Jose where the market has been much more speculator-driven compared to Marin.
Good luck & wish you well!

69   Peter P   78/78 = 100% civil   2006 Feb 14, 3:37am  ↑ like   ↓ dislike   quote    

The median price of single-family homes in Marin County also took a nose-dive in January, falling 8.6% from December to $877,500, and, gasp, down 5.7% from January 2005. This is the first year-over-year drop since June 2003. Also, it's the first time the median price has been below $900,000 since December 2004.

Looks like Y/Y decline in Marin has started.

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