Definite signs of frost on once-sizzling Bay Area housing market

The Mercury News - Richard Scheinin - 29 November 2016

Repeat, repeat, repeat: The Bay Area housing market is showing definite signs of cooling.

That message — heard again and again in recent weeks — is amplified once more by a report from the California Association of Realtors, showing pending sales across the region down 11.6 percent in October on a year-over-year basis.

“Prices have risen to a point where they’re starting to eat into demand,” said Jordan Levine, an economist for C.A.R.

The report shows pending sales for October were down year-over-year in San Francisco by 21.2 percent, in Santa Clara County by 12.5 percent, and in San Mateo County by 5.0 percent. The report does not break out numbers for Alameda and Contra Costa counties.

But given the dramatic size of the regional decline, Levine said, “You can extrapolate that this is something we’re seeing in the East Bay, as well. It’s not just a San Francisco and Santa Clara phenomenon.”

The report also says that multiple offers are down across the state — for the seventh consecutive month. In October, 59 percent of California properties received multiple offers, down from 63 percent in September and from 64 percent in October 2015.

Again, Levine emphasized that buyers are suffering from sticker shock and therefore feeling less competitive.

“It’s a question of finding the funds you need for a down payment,” he said. “When prices get to the levels that we’re seeing, you’re still having to come up with a pretty decent down payment — even if you’re a first-time home buyer getting an FHA loan for 3.5 percent down.”

Levine did some quick math: In Alameda County, where the median price of a single-family home is $780,000, that FHA loan would translate to “more than $27,000 cash you’ve got to put down, not counting other closing costs …” he said.

“I just think that affordability is becoming an issue on the demand side. A lot of folks will be challenged to get into home ownership.”

Real estate tracking firm CoreLogic’s next county-by-county analysis of the Bay Area market is scheduled for release Wednesday.