Fairfax is a friendly town, large enough to provide shopping convenience in town, but small enough to foster a true sense of community, where neighbors know each other and meet in the pleasant downtown areas. San Geronimo Valley offers forested hills and open spaces.
Read Fairfax Community News in our Marin Real Estate blog.
Moderately sized town
Population (as of 2010 Census): 7,411
Median age approximately: 45.9
Median household income: $101,631
Long-term residents (5+years): 45%
Annual turnover: 12%
Fairfax CA Schools
The Ross Valley School District is an elementary/middle school district serving the central Marin communities of San Anselmo and Fairfax. Most Ross Valley graduates attend Sir Francis Drake High School in the Tamalpais Union High School District. The district includes four schools: Brookside Elementary School, Manor Elementary School, Wade Thomas School (K-5) and White Hill School (6-8.) The Lagunitas School District is a K-8 district on two adjoining campuses: Lagunitas Elementary School and San Geronimo Valley Elementary School. Both sites are located in the center of the San Geronimo Valley which includes the towns of Forest Knolls, Lagunitas, San Geronimo and Woodacre. Lagunitas School District students reside in the Tamalpais High School District.
Parks & Recreation
This community is ideal for outdoor lovers. There is one main park and nearby hiking and biking trails around Bon Tempe, Lagunitas and Alpine lakes.
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!
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.
So I ran a bunch of numbers on July 28th, as I had noticed and uptick of sales in hillside homes in Fairfax, and I thought it would be a good time to take stock of the market with a mid-summer report. I didn’t do anything with the data for a couple of weeks, so I had to run it again today on August 14th.
It’s interesting how little has changed in the last 17 days…shall we call a little bit of consistency comforting?
The good news for you hillside homeowners is that, from my last report on June 11 until now, a bunch of hillside homes have sold. So far this year, 10 homes that can be classified as “hillside” (as opposed to “hilltop”) homes have sold. This represents appx 21% of the total homes sold. When I did my last report on June 11 that number was only 3 homes representing 10% of the market. The total number hillside homes on the market currently for sale as a percentage of total homes on the market has remained the same: 33%.
So going from a 10% to a 21% share of homes sold is definitely a step in the right direction for the hillside homes. In addition, there have been some more expensive hillside homes sell, including 907 Bolinas Road for $1.065M and 55 Hillside for $799k. So that’s great news!
The bad news is the continued softness in the prices for hillside homes. In 2010, the avg cost/sq ft of a Fairfax hillside home is $350/sq ft. This compares to $437/sq ft in the flats. So you pay a 25% premium to live in the flats in Fairfax. Another way to look at it is that you get a 20% discount to move up the hill.
Let’s hope this activity trend continues, as the hillside market represents a third of our market here in Fairfax That market needs to improve for the overall market to improve. Selling through some of these homes will reduce the inventory and have a positive effect on prices across the community.
Speaking of the overall market, we are at the end of a seasonally slow time. The real estate market in Marin is very quiet over the summer, and it picks up again for our “second season” in the fall.
So far this year, and as I shared in my Spring 2010 report in June, the sales numbers are up and the prices are flat. Up until today, August 14, we’ve seen 47 single family homes sell in Fairfax. This compares favorably with the same period last year, where we had seen only 35 homes sell. So total sales continue to be up, and the number is up 34% over last year. This number is continuing to improve, as on June 11 the year-over-year sales increase was 30%.
YTD the value numbers are interesting. For the 47 single family homes sold, the average price is down 4% to $650,000 and the median price is down 9% to $599k. This does not tell the whole story though. YTD the average cost per square foot of living space, a very useful metric, is $417/sq ft. This compares to $442/sq YTD on this date last year, down 6%.
So what gives?
I still say the numbers are flat.
At this point last year, just 2 “big time fixer” (big work needed just to move in) sold. This compares to 9 houses that I would describe as “big time fixer” this year. That’s a 350% increase in ‘big time fixers”. Why all the super fixers? I don’t know, but it’s important to know that these nine dumpy places have affected the overall numbers. Keep this in mind. I still say the market is flat, and more expensive homes are selling much better this year. Net-net, just not as many nice houses, and this has played out throughout Marin. These dumpy places really hit the cost of the market. People with nice houses are keeping them.
One last thing, and that’s distressed properties. So far in 2010, there have been 6 distressed sales, 13% of the market. This compares to 3 distressed out of 35 sales total sales, 9%, during the same period in 2009, so those numbers have increased.
Overall, I remain optimistic about the prospects for Fairfax real estate. There are definitely people out there looking for homes, but they either want a great deal on hopefully a great house. If the house has some issues, or if it’s on the hillside, the buyers look for huge value. I see the market remaining flat for prices, and up for total homes sold for the rest of 2010. I think we might start to see some appreciation in the second half of 2011.
Rates are killer right now, I’ve seen rates for 15-year loans under 4% recently. If you have not refinanced, don’t miss out on this.
In 2009 in Fairfax, we had 65 Single family homes sell and 2 townhomes. For the SFH market, 65 homes represents a 14% increase from the number of homes sold in 2008. This was in spite of a very slow start to 2009…in fact in January 2009 only one home sold in Fairfax.
In 2009 the average price of a single family home in Fairfax was $677,484, which was down 12.1% from $771k in 2008, and down 22.1% from the peak of the market in 2005
A better number, however, is the median price. In 2009 in Fairfax, the median priced home was $660,000, which was down 7.7% from 2008, and was down 17% from the peak of the market in 2005.
The loan market at the beginning of 2009 and the jumbo-conforming limit moving down from $729k to $629k was a huge factor in Fairfax, and it was almost impossible to sell a home over $650k during the first four months of 2009. After the jumbo conforming limit was raised back to $729k as part of the stimulus plan, sales up to $750k picked up, but things were still difficult above that price for the remainder of the year. $800—900k homes were tough, and over $1M very difficult. In fact, only 4 homes over $1M sold in 2009, compared with 12 homes above $1M back in the go-go days of 2005.
First-time buyers were the buying public last year in Fairfax. As such, the median and average price of homes were affected, simply because there were no ‘move-up’ buyers to counter the lower priced homes. It’s also creating a baby boom in Fairfax. In Novato they are sadly talking about closing some schools due to budget constraints. In Fairfax, the big town discussion right now is about where we are going to build a new school. Fairfax is super-popular for young families, kids everywhere, it’s a great vibe! Come check out the Fairfax Festival parade, it’s 2/3 kids!
Another segmentation of the market was the difference of selling homes in the flat areas of town vs homes in the hills. Net-net, homes in the flats sold briskly, and homes in the hills were much more difficult to sell. This was largely due to the market being constrained to first-time buyers and their needs for family and kid-friendly properties. Homes in the flat areas of downtown Fairfax, Deer Park, the Cascades, Bothin Canyon and Oak Manor had buyers ready to go. Hillside homes were chasing a much smaller population of buyers, and unfortunately required more aggressive pricing. Neighborhoods like Manor Hill, and the hills of Cascade Canyon and Deer Park fit this description
Distressed properties played a role in the Fairfax market last year, but to a lesser extent than elsewhere in the North Bay and certainly elsewhere in California. Of the 65 single family home sales, 10 or about 15% were in some state of distress…7short sales and 3 foreclosed, bank-owned properties traded. Of these ten homes, only four of them could be described as purchased at the ‘top of the market’, others had refinanced and taken money out. People in Fairfax have mostly kept up with their house payments
I think when we look back, history will likely show that the late spring of 2009 will be the low water mark for Fairfax home values. The under $650k market is very strong right now, and my expectation is that we will see some stability in the prices of homes up to about $850-900k later on this year. Above that, the Fairfax market will continue be difficult, perhaps into 2011 for the higher-end homes in our community.
If you read the Marin Independent Journal, you might have seen the article on 02/07/2010 about how Marin home values have fared in the past decade. The good news, county-wide, homes increased in value by 25.2% in that 10-year period. Leading the pack? Fairfax!!!! With an average appreciation of 47.6% in that decade, Fairfax was the # 1 town in Marin for overall return on your investment (from the meeting, I shared the San Anselmo number which was 28.4% increase). Contrast that with the stock market: Over the same period, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down appx 8.7%. So take heart, Fairfax! We are the newly minted “best investment” in Marin Real Estate.
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Kentfield, CA 94904
ABOUT BLAINE MORRIS
As a top-producing licensed REALTOR with Pacific Union in Kentfield, California, Blaine Morris specializes in Central and Southern Marin County. Always just a phone call or email away, Blaine works seven days a week for his clients, providing them with the utmost in fast and efficient service and follow through. Whether you are searching for the home of your dreams, or thinking of selling it, Blaine can turn your dreams into reality! Behind Blaine is the strength and stability of the Central Marin office of Pacific Union, the #1 office of the #1 Brokerage in Marin County.