May Housing Market Stats for Marin: A Little More Inventory

The housing market has remained pretty crazy around Marin County through May and into June. The number of homes for sale has ticked up slightly as you would expect in Spring, but with continued demand there has continued to be lots of competition for good properties, especially in the under $1 million segment of the market. The increase in new listings has at least reversed the downward trend in months of supply a bit, so things have stabilized somewhat after bottoming out in March. We’re hoping Summer will be a time for supply and demand to even out a little so we can get back to a healthier, more balanced market.

If you’d like market stats tailored to your town or price segment feel free to drop me an email here.

Marin Homes For Sale, Pended, Sold through May 2012


Marin County Months Supply of Homes


Where Have All the Short Sales Gone?

Everyone is speculating about why the inventory in Marin County has been so incredibly low all of a sudden this year, and I think I can offer at least a partial explanation: buyers are snapping up short sales and less are coming on the market. The chart below shows all residential short sales in Marin over the last five years, so basically since the time we started seeing them come on the market back in 2007. The number of active short sale listings has come back down to about where we started, with a dramatic drop in new ones coming on in April (the blue line that dives down at the bottom right). There were only 13 new short sale listings in Marin in April, compared to 38 in March, and 44 in April of last year.  And so far in May only 13 have come on. This certainly is affecting inventory overall, and it’ll be really interesting to see if this is a trend or an anomaly.

And then the real question is why are so few new short sales coming on the market ? Are sellers who were thinking about short selling now having second thoughts because the market has been so hot, thinking maybe they can wait it out and their homes will come back in value? Are they more successful at getting loan modifications lately? Is it some combination of these things, or something else altogether?

If you have thoughts or insights please share them in the comments, and as always feel free to email me at with questions or to get more detailed markets stats.


Marin County Short Sale Listings


Marin Market Madness Continues

I was just looking at market stats and came across an amazing one that paints a clear picture of what’s happening around here lately–the absorption rate for Marin homes under a million dollars. It was over 90% for March (April numbers will be out in the next week or so).  You get that number by dividing the number of pending sales for the month by the number of active listings. It’s a little lower for all price ranges, but still pretty crazy, especially compared to the way things were just months ago.


Marin absorption rate for residential properties under $1 million.


Marin absorption rate for residential properties in all price ranges.

If you’d like market stats tailored for your town or price segment just drop me a line at

Marin County Activity Reports for February

Here are the slightly delayed pending rate reports for last month.  We should have the ones for March before long but in the meantime it’s interesting to look at what happened in February. Other than a few areas with a large proportion of luxury listings, like Kentfield, Belvedere, Tiburon, and Ross, most towns in Marin were humming along, and that activity level has continued so we should see similar numbers for this month.

The pending rate is the percentage of the total listings going into escrow. Fairfax had a rate over 100% due to a couple of off market sales–homes that were not listed but were entered into the MLS for comp purposes.

If you’d like stats for your neighborhood or have questions about what’s happening in the Marin housing market feel free to drop me a line at


Marin Real Estate Market Most Competetive in Years

The numbers are in for February, and the anecdotal craziness that agents are reporting in the Marin housing market is supported clearly by the stats. The imbalance between supply and demand has continued, with the months supply of inventory still trending down. If you’ve been actively looking for a home in Marin lately you probably know exactly what I’m talking about, as many listings are selling right away, often with multiple offers. It’s frustrating for buyers but the best time in quite a few years to be a seller.

Marin County months supply of housing inventory

Here’s a look at the overall trend in homes for sale vs. those pending and closing. You’ll notice how the light green bars representing homes for sale are lower lately than they are in the rest of the chart, and the red line that represents houses going into escrow has shot up. There’s an important conclusion to draw from this: if this trend continues it will drive prices up. While it’s nice to see some strengthening in the Marin housing market after the wild ride of the last several years, we like to see things a bit more balanced because it’s healthier all around, so here’s to seeing more properties coming on the market to satisfy the demand.

As always, if you have questions about what’s going on in Marin or would like market stats specific to your town or price range please drop me a line at

Ross Valley Sewer Lateral Replacement Grant Program on Hold

We’ve talked before about the cool program the Ross Valley Sanitary District has had in place for the last few years, where they’ll pay for half the cost (up to $4000) of a new sewer lateral for homes in the district that qualify. Unfortunately the money has dried up for now. I talked with someone at the office who said to keep checking back as they think they’ll have funds again sometime before July, so it sounds like this might be a temporary situation.

You can get more info at their website,, or by calling (415) 259-2949.

Act Quickly to Get a Nice Deal on Moving Services

Johnson and Daly is a moving company in San Rafael that we often recommend to clients. Today we found a LivingSocial deal on their services so couldn’t resist sharing with you. If you’re moving this spring consider nabbing one of these offers and saving yourself $128. Heck, that’s dinner out! You have just two days to purchase so if your interested, don’t wait!  And you have to use it by June 1st to get the discount.

Inventory of Homes in Marin Keeps Trending Down

The trend of low inventory and plenty of demand has continued into the new year, with the months supply of homes (based on pended sales) at its lowest level in Marin County since 2006. Basically, there are not a lot of homes coming on the market but there are a plenty of active buyers out there looking. Here’s a look over the last five years:

And here’s a closer look at the downward trend since the peak in 2009:

This trend combined with the amazing weather has made this a good time to bring a listing on in Marin, as we’ve been seeing well-priced homes in popular areas getting multiple offers in many cases. On the flipside this atmosphere can be frustrating for buyers, but we’ll see more inventory heading into Spring.

If you’d like market stats for your particular town or price range just drop me an email at

Shouldn’t Short Sale Listings be Exposed to the Market?

Our team has been having some really interesting discussions about short sales lately, and how little consistency there seems to be in how they’re being handled. At this point most people are familiar with the term, but for those who aren’t, a short sale can be an option when a homeowner needs to sell but owes more than the property is worth. The owner accepts an offer pending approval by the bank, which must agree to take a short payoff to make it happen, and that approval depends on the seller demonstrating financial hardship and the lender’s acceptance of the sale price as market value. It can be a great alternative to foreclosure for both sides, but by nature there’s a lot of room for ambiguity and no real standard for the process.

What got us talking about this recently was how we sometimes see a short sale listing come on MLS that is either already contingent with an accepted offer, or that goes contingent right away, and then ends up closing a few months later with the listing agent (or another agent in that same office) representing the buyer too. That means the property wasn’t exposed to the market and other buyers weren’t given a chance to make offers, and the offer that’s being sent to the lender for approval may not be the strongest that might have been out there.

Lenders don’t generally scrutinize the marketing of short sale listings like they do with foreclosures. For example, with an REO they often require the agent to expose the house to the market for a minimum number of days before taking offers, in an effort to ensure they’re getting the best offer rather than taking the first one that happens to come in. This isn’t normally the case with short sales. The lender might require the property to be listed on MLS, but it’s not common for them to ask for specifics about when the offer came in or how much actual market exposure the property was given.

Of course, with an REO the bank is actually the seller of the property, whereas with a short sale the owner of the home is the seller and the bank is just approving the sale, since they’re the ones taking less money than they’re owed when the lien is payed off at closing. This is an important distinction since it brings up the question of fiduciary duty and who’s calling the shots.

Agents have this fiduciary duty to their clients, meaning an obligation to represent their clients’ interests above all others, especially including their own. And in a short sale since the client is the homeowner, not the bank, the listing agent’s duty is to help the seller get the short sale approved and avoid foreclosure. In many cases the seller doesn’t really care what price the house sells for as long as the bank approves it and the deal closes (assuming they have no tax consequences or deficiency judgement), so it may seem like a good idea to just take whatever offer the agent has and send it off to the lender for approval to get that process underway, which can take months. But we think it’s fair to question that strategy.

Barring special circumstances, like an imminent auction date, we think it can be in the seller’s best interest to see what might be out there by putting the home on the market, at least exposing it on MLS for a week let’s say before accepting anything, rather than letting the listing agent pre-sell the home to his or her own buyer client. The strongest offer will have the best chance of getting approved by the bank, and that offer from the agent’s in house client might be “good enough” in the agent’s eyes but might not be the strongest. We’re not fans of agents “double ending” their own listings in general, but there seems to be even more potential for conflict of interest where a short sale is concerned. And if the listing agent has a willing buyer all ready to go, then it’s likely that buyer will still be there a week later if it turns out he’s actually bringing the best offer.

Short sale sellers are typically in stressful situations and just want to get the house sold and move on, and we don’t like to see agents taking advantage of the situation, either out of laziness or because they want to get a good deal for a buyer they’re also working with. There is also the neighborhood to think about. If you sell a home for less than it would be going for on the open market then that can affect prices in the area, as that sale will be used as a comp for other homes. Some sellers may not care, but we’ve worked with many who don’t want to hurt their neighbors’ home values if they can help it. Why not expose the property to market for even a minimal number of days if you have nothing to lose by doing so, and potentially much to gain for you, the neighbors, the bank, and the housing market in general?

Some Dramatic Variations in November Pending Rates

2011 is ending with a continuation of the trend we’ve been talking about all year: low inventory and strong demand in many areas and segments of the market. As you can see for the chart below, some Marin towns are fairing much better than others. Fairfax, Corte Madera, and Greenbrae, for example, are very different markets than Belvedere and Ross.

And pending rates go down dramatically as price range increases. Things are going to slow down overall as always as we head into the holidays, but it’ll be interesting to see what happens after the first of the year. Drop me an email at if you’d like market stats for your area or price segment.