Tuesday, December 4, 2007

East Bay 2008 Market Forecast

The Berkeley Area is one of the most stable markets in California.
--Leslie Appleton-Young, Chief Economist, California Association of Realtors 10/31/07
As is true for the national real estate market, many areas in California have experienced great problems from the sub prime loan crisis. Berkeley, however, has one of the best and most stable real estate markets in the state. Although our sale's volume is down, median home prices are up.
"(The East Bay) median price climbed almost 9 percent from a year ago, to $810,490. The median home price gained 3.3 percent in October over September's." --Mark Calvey, San Francisco Business Times.
We are predicting a continuation of this trend and modest gains for our stable neighborhoods in 2008. Our confidence for the New Year comes from embracing the three "L"s of real estate, (and we don't mean location, location, location.) Our revised list includes; Local expertise, Leveling of the playing field, and Lifestyle choices.

1.) We believe local expertise is mandatory in navigating the emerging marketplace. In this case, we mean local to the nth degree. Even in the East Bay, neighborhoods within an individual city can perform differently. Homes in the flats of Oakland are performing much differently than in the Hills. North Berkeley responds differently than West Berkeley.

In addition to physical location, the health of our local economies will influence the real estate market. California's unemployment rate continues to be lower than the national average and our diverse businesses and industries add further stability to our marketplace.
"If the economy's okay, your market will be too... You needn't worry about house prices collapsing if local industries are doing well. By merely reading the business section of the local paper, you get a sense of the economic climate." Joe Light, Money Magazine.

Local expertise is crucial. The current loan climate is unprecedented and has rendered some national economists mute on future predictions. In reference to the down market experienced in much of the state, Leslie Appleton-Young cautioned that it was tough to predict how long the current decline would continue because it differed from previous real estate downturns. The 1990s slump, she said, was exacerbated by the national economic downturn. "In the past, the market dipped because of a recession," she said. "Now we're independent of a recession, there's still moderate growth." Absent an historical model, she declined to predict an outcome. History can't tell us what to expect in the New Year. We believe that the best information will come instead from the real estate professionals who are present to monitor the events as they unfold, and astute enough to perceive emerging patterns.
2.) We see the leveling of the playing field as another benefit to the new market place. It was unhealthy for homes to sell for substantial gains month over month. Many buyers paid a premium (beyond justifiable property values) in order to buy themselves out of the market. Now buyers can enjoy more reasonable negotiations. "Buyer friendly" contingencies are back, which allow for more time to conduct inspections and a more thoughtful process. In addition, it is now possible to buy the home of your dreams without necessarily being out-bid by a competitor.

3.) Finally, we see individual Lifestyle choices as playing a big role in the New Year. 2007 was the year for sitting on the fence as reflected in the reduction in the volume of sales. We believe more sellers and buyers will see 2008 as the year to move on with their lives. Area sellers may have to get more realistic about how long it may take to sell their home. Prices are not plummeting, but time on the market has increased. Hoping and waiting for the return of the frenzy circa 2003 will just add more days to your time line. Life involves change and if those changes include the sale of your home, we are here to tell you that sales are still strong in much of Berkeley, Oakland, Albany, Kensington and El Cerrito.
"If you've owned a house for a while, you don't have to worry. The gains you've enjoyed in recent years are huge compared with recent price downturns." --Joe Light, Money Magazine.
As for Bay Area buyers: Our area continues to be a desirable landing spot. We predict that buyers in 2008 will be interested in putting down roots in their new personal residence. 2008 buyers will value all of the wonderful intangibles that come with the bundle of rights associated with home ownership. For those buyers the market is ripe. View our post titled, It's a Great Time to Buy Your Dream House.

Monday, December 3, 2007

It's Not Easy Being Green

The mayors of Oakland, Berkeley, Richmond, and Emeryville have joined forces to form the East Bay Green Corridor Partnership, a cooperative effort to lead in environmental innovation, emerging green business and industry, green jobs and renewable energy.
Anxious to jump on the band wagon, we are busy greening our piece of Solano Avenue in Berkeley. We clambered on board the city's food waste and organics recycling by placing a green compost can in the kitchen. We weatherstripped and added florescent lights where appropriate. This summer, we even opted to install additional ventilation and fans in order to forgo air conditioning all together. We recycle our paper products and we're moving toward paperless transactions. I do my part by riding a scooter (100+ miles/gallon) around town when solo, and by carpooling whenever possible.

In the midst of these efforts, we contacted the city to find out about a green business designation. Apparently we are not alone in our efforts, as the city auditors (vital to the process) are booked out more than a year in advance. The official designation for our office is on hold, but we are tickled by the knowledge that this social movement is bursting the administrative seams (or at least challenging their calendars.)

Stay tuned.