Orange County Housing Report: A Buyer’s Market?
The overall Orange County housing market is a seller’s market,
but not at a certain price point.
A Cool Market: The housing market feels a bit frigid in the higher end compared to the rest of the market.
Recent headlines exclaim that the median sales price has reached a record level in Orange County, Los Angeles County, and all of Southern California. Article after article details the continued lack of supply, hot demand, and years of nonstop appreciation. How in the world can any local market be a buyer’s market? Technically, luxury housing favors buyers and it is anything but hot.
Real estate articles discuss the overall housing market. For Orange County, the median reached a record in May of $738,500. For perspective, the national median for May was $264,800. Yes, it is absolutely, unequivocally true that real estate is hot and has been hot since 2012; however, local news articles are referring to the heart of the Orange County housing market, homes priced below $1 million. They account for 78% of all closed sales so far this year, and it is still a hot seller’s market, red-hot below $750,000. A “Seller’s Market” occurs when the expected market time is below 90-days.
While it may be true that the lower the price range, the hotter the market; the reverse is true as well, the higher the price range, the cooler the market. For homes priced above $1.25 million in Orange County, housing is extremely cool. Luxury housing (defined by many as the top 10% of recent closed sales) starts at $1.45 million locally. The luxury end is technically, a “Buyer’s Market.” When the expected market time, the amount of time it would take to place a home into escrow if it were listed FOR SALE today, exceeds 120 days, it is considered a buyer’s market.
It is good ol’ supply and demand. While there is plenty of supply, demand just is not hot like the lower ranges. For homes priced between $1.5 million and $2 million, the expected market time is at 150 days. That would be opening escrow at the end of November. For homes priced between $2 million and $4 million, the expected market time climbs to 225 days. That would be opening escrow in mid-February of next year. For homes priced above $4 million, the expected market time balloons to 427 days, which translates to opening escrow in September of next year, 14-months from now.
The number of potential buyers that can afford to purchase a home diminishes as prices rise. In the lower ranges, that is where there are plenty of buyers and not enough choices. They attract a steady stream of buyers and many sellers entertain multiple offers. Yet, at the luxury end of the market, most sellers sit on the market for months and do not find success. There is tremendous seller competition for a limited number of buyers able to afford these homes.
In order to find success within the luxury price range, sellers must pack their patience and keep their fishing pole in the water for a lot longer than the lower ranges. Some homes may fly off the market at the higher price points, but they are the exception and not the rule. Luxury sellers also must be priced right. Like any home, buyers are unwilling to pay more than a home’s Fair Market Value. Yet, many luxury sellers arrive at their asking price arbitrarily, a lot higher than their Fair Market Value. They lack true motivation, as many state that they “don’t have to sell” to help rationalize their price. This is the Achilles’ heel of the luxury market and prevents so many sellers from achieving success. Instead, sellers need to approach pricing with extreme care by looking cautiously at all of the most recent comparable pending and closed sales and local data and statistics.
The best advice for a luxury seller: do not pay attention to all of the real estate headlines. Instead, they should rely on the professional analysis and advice of a seasoned REALTOR®.
Active Inventory: The active inventory grew by 4% in the past two-weeks.
The active listing inventory continued its climb in the past two-weeks, adding 257 homes, or 4%, and now totals 6,362, its highest level since October 2016. Expect the active inventory to continue to grow until peaking most likely in mid-August.
Last year at this time, there were 5,936 homes on the market, 7% fewer than today. In May of this year, the inventory was higher than the prior year for the first time in 20-months. The difference is growing week by week. The trend of more homes on the market year over year is here to stay.
Demand: Demand decreased by 4% in the past two-weeks.
In the past two weeks, demand, the number of pending sales over the prior 30-days, decreased by 95 pending sales, or 4%, and now totals 2,604, the lowest demand reading for this time of the year since 2007. Demand reached a peak for 2018 in mid-May at 2,726 pending sales. That was the lowest peak since 2007.
Last year at this time, demand was at 2,885 pending sales, 11% more than today, or 281 pending sales. This is why REALTORS® in the trenches have articulated how the market is a bit more sluggish this year compared to 2017.
The expected market time, the amount of time it would take for a home that comes onto the market today to be placed into escrow down the road, increased from 68 to 73 days in the past two-weeks. At 73 days, it is a slight seller’s market (between 60 to 90 days) where sellers still get to call the shots, but appreciation is muted. Last year at this time, the expected market time was at 62 days, a lot hotter than today.
Luxury End: Demand for luxury homes dropped by 7% in the past couple of weeks.
In the past two-weeks, demand for homes above $1.25 million decreased by 26 pending sales, down 7%, and now totals 363, its lowest level since the start of April. The luxury home inventory increased by 9 homes and now totals 2,174, nearly the same as two weeks ago. The overall expected market time for homes priced above $1.25 million increased from 167 to 179 days over the past two-weeks.
Year over year, luxury demand is up by 19 pending sales, or 6%, and the active luxury listing inventory is up by an additional 106 homes, or 5%. The expected market time last year was at 180 days, nearly identical to today.
For homes priced between $1.25 million and $1.5 million, the expected market time increased from 111 to 113 days. For homes priced between $1.5 million and $2 million, the expected market time decreased from 162 to 150 days. For homes priced between $2 million and $4 million, the expected market time increased from 183 to 225 days. For homes priced above $4 million, the expected market time increased from 368 to 427 days. At 427 days, a seller would be looking at placing their home into escrow around September 2019.
Orange County Housing Market Summary:
· The active listing inventory increased by 257 homes in the past two weeks, up 4%, and now totals 6,362. Expect the inventory to increase from now through mid-August. Last year, there were 5,936 homes on the market, 426 fewer than today.
· This year, 19% fewer homes have come on the market below $500,000 today compared to last year, and there have been 25% fewer closed sales so far this year. Fewer and fewer homes and condominiums are now priced below $500,000. This price range is slowly vanishing.
· Demand, the number of pending sales over the prior month, decreased in the past two-weeks by 95 pending sales, down 4%, and now totals 2,604. Demand peaked in mid-May at 2,726 pending sales. Last year, there were 2,885 pending sales, 11% more than today.
· The average list price for all of Orange County remained at $1.7 million over the past two-weeks. This number is high due to the mix of homes in the luxury ranges that sit on the market and do not move as quickly as the lower end.
· For homes priced below $750,000, the market is HOT with an expected market time of just 48 days. This range represents 36% of the active inventory and 55% of demand.
· For homes priced between $750,000 and $1 million, the expected market time is 64 days, a slight seller’s market (between 60 and 90 days). This range represents 20% of the active inventory and 22% of demand.
· For homes priced between $1 million to $1.25 million, the expected market time is 85 days, a slight seller’s market.
· For luxury homes priced between $1.25 million and $1.5 million, the expected market time increased from 111 to 113 days. For homes priced between $1.5 million and $2 million, the expected market time decreased from 162 to 150 days. For luxury homes priced between $2 million and $4 million, the expected market time increased from 183 to 225 days. For luxury homes priced above $4 million, the expected market time increased from 368 to 427 days.
· The luxury end, all homes above $1.25 million, accounts for 34% of the inventory and only 14% of demand.
· The expected market time for all homes in Orange County increased from 68 to 73 days in the past two weeks, a slight seller’s market (from 60 to 90 days).
· Distressed homes, both short sales and foreclosures combined, made up only 0.9% of all listings and 1.4% of demand. There are only 25 foreclosures and 33 short sales available to purchase today in all of Orange County, 58 total distressed homes on the active market, up eight in the past two weeks. Last year there were 76 total distressed homes on the market, 31% more than today.
· There were 2,871closed residential resales in May, down by 9% from May 2019’s 3,147 closed sales. May marked a 10% increase from April 2018. The sales to list price ratio was 98.5% for all of Orange County. Foreclosures accounted for just 0.5% of all closed sales, and short sales accounted for 0.7%. That means that 98.8% of all sales were good ol’ fashioned sellers with equity.
Have a great week.