Marin Luxury Real Estate (March 2009)

March 17, 2009

While sluggishness has trickled-up into the luxury real estate market in Marin, CA., there is legitimate cause for optimism in coming months. For example, there were 161 new escrows opened in Marin County in February 2009. While the majority of these (68%) were value plays in Novato and San Rafael, it was the highest level seen since August 2008 and was 19% higher than February 2008–encouraging news since we had just 19 “working days” last month. Moreover, the first 2 weeks of March 2009, resulted in 116 opened escrows. In March 2008, we saw just 98 homes go into escrow. That is an increase of 18% over last year. Again, encouraging. For a detailed accounting of national trends, click here for the March 2009 Market Report from Institute for Luxury Home Marketing. Note, if you would like a local report relating to any town or zip code in Marin or San Francisco, e-mail me. 

It is clear to me that with minimal social proof, buyers will return to the market and pent-up demand will create a surge in sales figures. The $8,000 no-strings-attached credit from the government (for first time home buyers, loosely defined as someone who has not owned a home for the past 3 years and meets income limitations), the increased conforming loan limit (set to go back up to $729,750 some time in April 2009), and a pronounced level of increased affordability across the board is a recipe for sales. I should also note that with the increased conforming loan amount, buyers with 25% down (and who otherwise qualify) will be able to obtain top-shelf financing for purchases of a little over $1.6 million.

[Click here for the rest of the article, courtesy of].

Marin Real Estate (March 2009)

March 17, 2009

Although February was a short and rainy month, Marin County, CA., still experienced a good number of sales. So far in March 2009. we are seeing increasing inventory similar to “normal” years (I hesitate to call 2009 a “normal” year in light of the current economic situation). Recent gains in the stock market are a welcome change. Interest rates are down to about 5% on conforming loans right now, which is great (that is more than 1 full point lower than this time last year). So, it seems the pump is primed. We’ll see if the real estate market responds.

Obviously, the more stringent underwriting policies of lenders are stifling demand. Although word on the street is that at least one big lender has taken steps to loosen up underwriting practices. It is obvious to everybody who comes into contact with the Marin real estate market that home buyers are continuing to wait for the perceived bottom. This, despite the FACT that interest rates are as low as could be realistically expected and prices in many Marin communities and neighborhoods have receded to 2003 or 2004 price levels.

[Click here for the rest of the report, courtesy of]

Mill Valley CA. Real Estate Market Report (March 2009 Home Sales Update)

March 11, 2009

For several months my Mill Valley, CA, real estate report has noted that the market “is strangely out of sync,” and that buyers “are taking a few pitches to see what happens,” and I have also aired my suspicians about “undercover buyers” who are ready to buy and want to buy the “right” home. More than ever, I believe this is all true. At Morgan Lane we have about $12 million of closings taking place in the next week or so (and we closed a $4 million Mill Valley deal last month). If we can gather a little wind behind our sails, I believe we will be off to the races. Certainly, sellers seem to grasp the need for aggressive pricing and it appears that attractive new inventory will help drive the market in 2009. 

Real Estate Market Chart by Altos Research

As evidenced by the above graph, The median price per square foot has dipped to about $625 per sq. ft. (which is down from well over $800 in mid-2007). While some buyers believe prices may slip a bit more, most appreciate the fact that interest rates are very appealing. Indeed, mortgage math punishes those who don’t lock in at or near the lowest rate possible. For example, if prices dip another 5% and interest rates go up just 1%, the monthly payment would increase rather significantly for an $800K home with 20% down (call me for exact numbers relating to a given situation). 

Up just a bit from February 2009, the percentage of homes in escrow under $800,000 rose to 43% (it had been as low as 15% in November 2008). Based on last month’s sales total (we had 9 sales in February 2009), we currently have an inventory of homes sufficient to last 10 months in Mill Valley, CA (this is called the absorption rate).  Overall, the number of homes for sale rose to 90 (from 73 in January 2009). The number of “bead and butter” homes (those priced between $1 million to $2 million) currently in escrow is 8 — nearly tripling last month’s number (there were just 3 in escrow last month). Meanwhile, the luxury market in Mill Valley (homes from $2 million and up) continues its sleepy hibernation–just a single luxury home closed last month (the aforementioned $4 million sale) and there none currently in escrow. 

Price Range

Total Active Homes

Pending Listings

Up to $750K

7 (down 5)


$750K – $1 mil.

27 (up 11)


$1 mil. – 1.5 mil.

32 (down 10)


$1.5 mil. – $2 mil.

15 (down 13)


$2 mil. – $4 mil.

19 (up 1)


$4 mil. & Up

3 (up 1) 



Of the 9 sales to close escrow in February 2009, they averaged a low 61 days on the market and sold for an average price of about $1.25 million with about 2,283 sq. ft. (or about $512 per sq. ft, which is down from $518 sq. ft. last month). The numbers from February reflect the fact that 5 of the 9 sales were priced under $1 million (in Mill Valley, these are generally entry level homes). Homes in Homestead Valley, Sycamore Park, Middle Ridge, and Kite Hill continue to be in low supply and high demand. If you would like more information about neighborhoods, sales, schools, or local Mill Valley services references, just give me a call at (415) 350-9440 or e-mail me at It is always my pleasure to be of service.

p.s. I currently have a couple potential sellers waiting in the wings with homes not on the MLS, please contact me to see if any of these opportunities fit your needs.