Yesterday’s solar eclipse brought some really great light to Cascade Canyon in Fairfax. Check out these pictures of the side of our house. Usually this is just a wall of filtered sun, but yesterday we got all these crescents from where the moon was taking out the sun.
Fairfax, Marin County, California 2012 Spring Real Estate Market Report, 2011 Recap
75 homes sold in Fairfax in 2011, a 2.7% increase over 2010 and over 30% more than in 2008, which was the bottom of the sales volume market in Fairfax
There were 7 townhomes that sold in 2011, the same number as 2010.
The average price of a single family home in Fairfax in 2011 was $594,754, and the median price was $560,000. These numbers unfortunately represent an 11.9% and 8.9% decrease, respectively, from the 2010 numbers. To arrive at these numbers, I stripped out two uninhabitable homes: a home with major fire damage, and an unlivable tear-down that was sold for lot value only.
What to make of these numbers? I’ve got some good news to report and some neutral news to report. I don’t have much bad news to report.
As has been the case the past few years, the “like for like” sales prices haven’t really gone down much…it’s been more of a disproportionate number of cheap and distressed sales…the three D’s as we realtors say: Death, Divorce and Dire Straights
Distressed sales activity was a little up, 13 in 2011 vs 10 in 2010 and 2009. These sales represented just over 17% of all sales. Foreclosures were down from 6 to 5, but short sales doubled from 4 to 8. As we look at the overall numbers, 7 of the 11 cheapest homes to sell in Fairfax last year were in this “distressed” category. These distressed sales certainly affected the overall numbers.
More on the distressed market: out of the 13 distressed sales, 10 out of the 13 happened in the first half of 2011, with only a single foreclosure and two short sales in Fairfax in the second half of the year. Of the short sales and foreclosures that occurred in the first half, most of these were sales processes and transactions that were initiated in 2010. I think this means that these distressed properties were working their way through the system from prior years.
The hillside market is back in a big way, sales-volume wise. 32 of the 75 homes that sold last year in Fairfax were hillside homes. That was 42.6% of the market. This is a normal figure, actually a little high. Generally about 35-40% of the market in Fairfax is hillside. A couple of years ago you couldn’t give away a hillside home…there was almost no market. As I reported last year at this time, in the first half of 2010, only 10% of the homes that sold in Fairfax were hillside, and as recently as the second half of 2010, 26% of sales were hillside homes. Then it’s over 42% in 2011.
Why? One major factor is “life change” vs. “lifestyle choice”. For the past 4 or so years, “life changes” have been driving the buyers’ motivation in the Fairfax real estate market and in Marin in general: people getting married, people having babies, babies getting bigger, and people downsizing to a smaller home or moving off the hill. All of these buyers were generally looking for family-friendly properties, with a yard, in the Fairfax “flats”…that is, not in the hills. “Life changes” have been driving these decisions. Houses in the hills are not driven by “life changes”, the market for these homes is driven by “lifestyle choices”: views, privacy, close to trails, etc. And for the past 4 years, people haven’t been making “lifestyle choices,” they’ve been staying put, holding things together so to speak. Thus it has been hard to sell these homes.
In the second half of 2010, to a small degree, certainly in 2011, and today in 2012, people are again making the “lifestyle choice” to live in the hills and have a private view home.
Another factor: Of the 13 distressed sales mentioned above, 10 were hillside homes…so it’s safe to say that the “distressed” market was driving the “hillside” market to a certain extent in 2011. More on the good news, though: People are making those “lifestyle choices”, and they’re open to hillside homes. A micro-neighborhood example: The Manor Hill neighborhood is almost all hillside homes. In that neighborhood, there were 12 sales last year (vs 5 in 2010). That’s a 140% increase in unit volume on Manor Hill. Why? Partly because the hillside market is back, partly because Manor Hill had 4 distressed sales last year, 33% of the market, vs 1 distressed sale the year before…a 400% increase. The Manor Hill neighborhood represented 31% of all distressed sales in Fairfax last year.
The Fairfax flats are “white hot”. If you’ve got a home in the flat areas of town, you can definitely sell it as there is substantial pent-up demand. If it’s in great condition and/or in a great spot, you’ll get top dollar.
Why didn’t we sell more homes in Fairfax last year? Well, again, sales were flat. But if you asked anyone looking for property, the answer would be “there is nothing for sale.” Very few family homes in the middle part of the market, from $600-900k. The houses that are going on the market, and thus the ones that are selling, are the small homes, the distressed homes, the hillside homes. Very few flat sunny properties with a yard. Believe me, the demand is there. There’s just nothing to buy. Think about it…if you’ve got a beautiful home, great yard, great kitchen, and you can afford it, you’re probably staying put…because you won’t be able to find a house to replace that home…because nothing is for sale. It’s a vicious loop. And even if you could find a great, original house on a nice lot, to fix it up you’d need all the money to do so in cash, as the lending market for this type of activity is almost non-existent. So you stay.
Another factor was that darn debt limit debate/fiasco that played out in Washington last summer. It dropped consumer confidence by a substantial margin, and consumer confidence is a leading indicator of real estate activity. People just thought the country was going in the wrong direction last summer, and it had an effect on the real estate market. We generally have a “second season” during the September/October “Indian Summer” period in Marin. Last year, during the hangover of the debt debate, there was a notable pessimism among the real estate market. Luckily, that conversation has waned.
Another factor is something I’ll call the “Zillow Factor”. Now, I love Zillow, in fact I have a partnership with them and have made an investment in their technology to market my business. But the Zillow numbers are COMPLETELY OUT OF WHACK for Fairfax. Just about every house I look at has a Zillow estimate that’s $100k, sometimes $200k low. Why? No comparable sales of nice properties. So your house, with its nice kitchen and great yard is being unfairly compared to that foreclosure on the hill that has no bearing in the real world on the value of your home. But people look at Zillow, see the extremely low number, and think “well, I’ll wait and check again next year.” If you’re discouraged about how much Zillow says your house is worth, give me or give your Realtor a call. Either of us can tell you the real value, and more often than not in Fairfax it’s higher than what Zillow says.
The market is prime for 2012! Buyers are out there. Even the national media is saying good things about real estate…and that hasn’t happened in about 5 years. So have faith, things are looking up in the Marin Real Estate Market! Throughout the recession, Fairfax has had among the lowest unsold inventory in Marin…things have been selling even in the most difficult of times. People want to be in Fairfax! And also note that the beautiful new Good Earth Market is having an extraordinarily positive effect on our little town’s pride and image. I predict that we will have a steady wind at our back in the 2012 Fairfax Real Estate Market. I wish you a safe and prosperous 2012!
First time on the market in 32 years! Relax on your big front porch at this rarely-available premium location across from Kenneth “Doc” Edgar Park in the lower Cascades on quiet lower Cypress Drive.
Sweet vintage bungalow offers 2BR/1BA PLUS a bonus office/nursery (tax records call it a 3BR). Sunny level spot with many period details. Detached 1-car garage, wood floors, solid construction.
2 flat blocks to town, yet also close to Cascade and Deer Park Open Space Preserves. Really a special location, excellent for hikers, bikers, neighborhood lovers-the perfect home base for your active Marin lifestyle!
This 3 bedroom, 1 bath charming house will be coming on the market the week of September 19th for $525,000. More information and pictures to come, visit our websites www.20Cypress.com or www.yourmarinhome.com.
Spectacular views of Mt. Tamalpais and Cascade Canyon await at this sunny, south-facing bungalow in the desirable Upper Cascades. The 2BR/1BA home sits on one of the more usable large lots in the neighborhood, with gently sloping grounds and lots of possibilities. Sit by the crackling fire in the extra-large living room while taking in the outdoors through the many large windows. With refinished vintage floors, the house enjoys numerous period details. There is a 1-car detached garage, laundry room and 300 +/- sq ft workshop/bonus room under the house. With a large entertaining deck, this home allows for easy indoor/outdoor living. Close to trails and the Cascade Canyon open space preserve, this property will appeal to hikers, bikers and outdoor lovers!
Watch a video version of the Fairfax Market Report for a detailed discussion, or read Blaine’s analysis below. You can also view detailed reports for Fairfax neighborhoods on our Fairfax Real Estate page.
Fairfax continues to be one of the more resilient communities in the Marin Real Estate Market. Fairfax enjoyed another bounce-back year in 2010, with 73 single family homes sold, which represents a 12% increase in number of homes sold over 2009, and a whopping 28% increase over the 57 single family homes that sold in the most difficult year of 2008.
For our townhome market, 7 townhomes sold in 2010, which is a 250% increase over the 2 townhomes that sold in all of 2009.
As I have said in the past, my prediction has been that the bottom of the Fairfax market occurred in the March/April timeframe of 2009, and prices have been largely flat since then. Some months up, some months down, but largely flat.
For 2010, the average price of a single family home in Fairfax was a little over $675,000 (and I took out two sales to arrive at this number, two “teardowns” that are not habitable…one of these wasn’t even a home but rather a foundation with several parts of a burned down house above it). This number was little changed from the $677k number in 2009, down just 3/10ths of 1 percent…flat.
The median number was actually down 7%, down to $615,000 from $660,000. I discount the median price a bit this year, as there were a disproportionate number of lower-priced homes that sold, and all of the distressed properties were at the lower end of the market. Further, a number of investors in need of money dumped their very old and deteriorated rental homes on the market at very low prices in an effort to raise cash at the beginning of last year.
The segment of the market known as distressed properties remained flat in 2010, with 10 distressed sales, representing a little under 14% of the sales. This is the same number of distressed sales as 2009. If you want to read the tea leaves on this segment, foreclosures were up from 3 to 6, and short sales were down from 7 to 4. While foreclosures are bad, they represent the last stage of the foreclosure process, while short sales occur at the beginning. Fairfax has seen much less short sale and foreclosure activity than some of our neighboring communities.
Several encouraging developments occurred last year in Fairfax, including a notable uptick in activity in the higher end of the Fairfax market. In 2009, it was very difficult to sell a home over $700-800k in Fairfax, mainly due to an inability to secure jumbo loans as the banking system unwound from the financial crisis of 2008. As 2010 unfolded, the loan market in this end of the price spectrum loosened up considerably, and thus the higher end of the market did as well.
Also staging a recovery of sorts was the hillside market, which was really in the doldrums in Fairfax last spring. In fact, at the end of the spring of 2010, only about 10% of the homes that had sold YTD could be classified as “hillside”. The hillside market generally represents about 35-40% of the market. The hillside market rebounded in the 2nd half, and over 26% of the homes sold were hillside homes.
The hottest neighborhoods were Marinda Oaks, Oak Manor, and the Cascades. Downtown and Deer Park remained steady…both would have sold more if there were more inventory in those neighborhoods. Manor Hill experienced an unusually tough year with only 5 sales…which highlights the recent difficulties in the hillside market.
Looking forward into 2011, I see continued strengthening of the Fairfax market. There is much more energy in the market this spring than last…last year all anyone could talk about at this time was a ‘Double Dip’ recession. That chatter has ended. Tthere is a bit of pent-up demand in the middle segment of the Fairfax market ranging from $600-800k. While the first-time buyers at the entry level homes fueled the market in late 2009 and much of 2010, the buyers in the next rung up the price ladder have been more cautious. They began to come back last year, and I see that trend continuing. I see another incremental year of sales increases, perhaps in the single digits on a percentage basis. But as the mid-range buyers take over the activity from the entry-level buyers, we could finally see a bit of appreciation across the board, and I hope to see a low-single-digit uptick in the average and median prices of homes in Fairfax.
It’s also going to be a more balanced market, as sellers finally have come to grips with the actual value of their homes and homes are being priced at their fair market value. Interest rates are still terrific, still under 5%. With the economy continuing to improve, we may see the threat of future rate increases which in the short term may push some buyers to finally make the decision to buy.
And remember, during the first decade of the new millennium, Fairfax had the highest appreciation on a percentage basis, by far, in all of Marin County. It is popular with the traditional ‘Fairfax crowd’, but it’s also among the most popular communities in Marin for young people and young families. This is a trend that will continue.
As reported in the IJ, “Overall, Marin schools continued to perform well on the API, a number from 200 to 1,000 that reflects a school’s results on several statewide tests. At least 46 Marin schools reported API scores of 800 or more – the state standard for academic achievement – including every school in the Bolinas-Stinson, Dixie and Tamalpais districts. As many as 25 schools reported scores of 900 or higher, including every school in the Kentfield, Larkspur, Mill Valley, Reed, Ross and Ross Valley districts.”
Situated on a premium half-acre lot on the edge of popular Deer Park, this Fairfax
6 Hillside Avenue, Fairfax CA
gem is waiting to become your dream home! On the market for the first time in 41 years, this spacious southwest-facing property is bathed in sun and offers many options for indoor/outdoor living.
The main living area has 3 bedrooms and 1 bathroom, and the lower level has a big rec room, tons of storage and an additional bathroom. Expansive level areas and ready for your landscaping ideas and gardens. Lots of possibilities!
Minutes to town, even closer to hiking and biking trails. Great for nature lovers and neighborhood lovers. Enjoy your Indian summer in Deer Park!