The Bay Area’s already stratospheric home prices continued their steady upward march in May, but the latest data shows a possible glimmer of hope for wannabe buyers — an uptick in the number of sales.
The median price for a single-family resale home in the Bay Area hit a record $935,000 last month, according to a report released Friday by real estate data firm CoreLogic. Santa Clara County’s median price tag saw the biggest year-over-year increase, jumping a staggering 23 percent to $1.4 million. In Alameda County, the median price shot up 19 percent to $950,000 — a record for the county.
“No surprise,” said CoreLogic analyst Andrew LePage. “With inventory as tight as it is in most markets, we continue to see significant price gains across the Bay Area.”
Nearly 8,500 homes, including new and resale houses and condos, changed hands last month in the nine-county Bay Area — up 12 percent from April, according to CoreLogic. More homes were sold in the Bay Area last month than in any prior May since 2013, according to CoreLogic. The upward trend in sales, which began earlier this year, suggests inventory is increasing — good news for families struggling to buy in the region’s cut-throat market, where a shortage of homes has driven prices to dizzying heights.
Some real estate agents say they’ve noticed the market recently becoming slightly less competitive.
“Things have changed here,” said Renee Levy, a Realtor with Sereno Group who, with her husband Skip Levy, represents buyers and sellers in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties. “People are just not getting the prices that they were getting six weeks ago.”
Renee Levy said she’s noticed an increase in the number of homes for sale in Sunnyvale, especially over the past week. That may be because more home owners, after watching prices soar for months, are deciding they want to cash in. At the same time, Levy suspects some prospective buyers, weary of constantly being beaten on bids in the hyper-competitive market, have pulled out.
“Maybe we’re getting back into a more normal market,” she said.
Despite the recent uptick in sales, the total number of homes sold last month still lags behind the region’s 30-year average. Year-over-year, home sales last month were up by not quite 1 percent.
“The big picture is: in a historical perspective, inventory remains tight,” LePage said.
Prices continue to reflect that.
May marks the 74th consecutive month of prices increases in the Bay Area. The median price of a resale, single family home began rising in April 2012, and hasn’t stopped since, according to CoreLogic.
In San Francisco, the median price for a resale, single-family home was $1.6 million last month — up 17 percent from the same time last year. In Contra Costa County, the median price was $650,000 — up 10 percent from the year before. In San Mateo County it was $1.5 million — up 4 percent.
Fewer than one in five of all Bay Area homes sold for less than $500,000 last month — and the number of homes selling below $500,000 dropped 25 percent compared to May of last year.
Mike Martinez, a 37-year-old project manager at Sony, has seen first-hand how daunting the Bay Area’s housing market can be. He spent five years off and on looking for a home, living in a series of apartments in San Francisco and San Mateo County in the meantime, hoping the market would cool.
In January, Martinez decided the housing market wouldn’t turn and ramped up his efforts, attending open houses every weekend. He figures he’s looked at about 70 homes over the years, enough to have a five-minute routine down to inspect a property for major flaws.
Martinez and his agent Tony Ngai put in about 15 offers. Martinez slowly rose through the bid rankings, from an also-ran to a third and second-place finisher on a few homes.
Finally, he won a $900,000 bid on a four-bedroom home in Visitacion Valley in San Francisco. He wrote a letter to the owners, convincing them he wanted to be a long-term owner and raise a family in the house.
Martinez closed on the property Thursday. He had an unusual celebration planned.
“I’m just going to lay on the floor and roll around,” he said. “Then just get to work.”