Sunday, July 12, 2009

An Early Summer Snapshot of the High-End North Berkeley Market

I recently was on the listing side of two wonderful, "very Berkeley" Arts & Crafts homes in North Berkeley. Neither of them had classic floor plans, but both had tremendous amounts of original wood and wonderful period details, multiple fireplaces, updated kitchens and larger than normal lot sizes. With a bit of planning and prompting, our local paper featured these homes in the Real Estate sections during their marketing period. That special marketing, an individual website for each property with lots of photos, plus marketing to a specialized group of Arts & Crafts and period home buffs, resulted in huge attendance at the open houses.

One was priced well IMHO, based on the comments I received from agents (though numerous buyers thought it was priced too high). The sellers had followed my advice on price, as well as on presentation. The property was vacant and staged in a manner that fit the home. This home also had spectacular views, both of Mt. Tam and Marin and also a direct view of SF. We received four offers, and it closed $150K above list price.

The second home was priced a wee bit high, again IMHO. That price was driven by the financial situation of the sellers. They also continued to live in the home, but did pack away many of their possession. Though I welcomed more than 300 people during two Sunday open homes, that property received two offers, and went just $1K above list. Interestingly, that home closed today at $1.4M, in an ALL CASH sale. Until quite recently it would have been rare indeed to see cash sales at such a high amount. But as jumbo loans become more difficult to acquire, especially in a timely fashion, we’ve seen more cash sales in Berkeley in the high end.

One obviously cannot determine a trend from just these two examples. But from my experience of living and working in North Berkeley for many years, I know that the differences in behavior were somewhat predictable. Now more than ever, buyers are very sensitive to prices that they perceive to be too high, even if by only a small percentage. They also are intolerant now of deferred maintenance or even a lack of updating that they would feel to be required. Two or three years ago buyers were much more forgiving of these aspects. Buyers have read so many stories about it’s being a buyers’ market, and they want it to be so. In North Berkeley right now, the special properties are still very much in demand, and the inventory of such properties is low. As I write this, there is one new listing at just over $2M, and five listings at $1.2M or higher that have been on the market for at least three weeks. What a great opportunity for brave sellers who are willing to trust their agents and the data, rather than listening to the prevaling news of doom and gloom!

No comments: