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Ted Strodder


415.377.5222
Golden Gate
Sotheby's International Realty
189 Sir Francis Drake Blvd
Greenbrae CA 94904

Marin Real Estate Blog

Lots of Fresh Water Brings a Fresh Beginning for a Great New Year in 2022

Wow. What a difference a month makes. Just thirty days ago I wrote a blog about the importance of rain and water for our county. It’s like somebody above was reading that as the skies opened up and boom! Rain for days, with over 40″ falling in December. That’s 220% of normal for that month and a start to filling our dry reservoirs here and throughout the state. We aren’t out of trouble just yet, but with more storms forecast even this week, we’re at least well on our way to a good, healthy winter of rain and Sierra snowpack. 

That’s looking ahead. Looking back and water woes aside, what a year it was for Marin real estate, along with much of the nation for that matter. For the year in 2021:

  •      2075 single family homes were sold, down from 2312 in 2020
  •      The average sale price was $2,151,000, up 15% from $1,814,000
  •      Sale prices averaged 99% of asking price, though whopping over asking sales were frequent
  •      The average price per sq ft was $912 adjusted heavily for level land and condition, among others
  •      Average Days on Market was 28, but the median was only 14

That’s where we’ve been. Now let’s see where we’re going. The answer is two simple words: Who knows. It used to be much easier to predict, looking at historical charts and economic headlines. That’s all different now, thanks to Covid. Home sales skyrocketed when we all were certain they would fall. Buyers moved when we all thought they would stay. Sellers relocated to new climates, whatever that looked like to them, but often out of their city, their neighborhood, or even out of California. Our population likely will remain flat at just under 40 million people, but the figures aren’t officially in yet. Still, considering how many residents we lost due to illness or old age, it’s a wonder we aren’t down significantly. 

If it matters, I for one see a continued “up” market for 2022, though perhaps not as robust as 2021 or the last half of 2020 even. The desire to live here is still astronomical and likely still exceeds what you think it is, but you aren’t able to see what we agents are. That would be the MLS field under “Sold” that indicates if there were Multiple Offers (Y/N) and if so how Many Offers there were. We saw some big numbers here throughout the year, as mentioned above, but we also saw it right through December, which is normally one of our two slowest months. The other being January. So go figure. We’ll see, but for now, who really knows. 

For now, that pretty much does it. Enjoy January and this entire new year, wherever you are and please stay safe. As always, thanks for reading.

Ted

415.377.5222

ted@gomarin.com

Water and Homes For Sale Both in Short Supply

December is here in Marin and pretty much just one word on everyone’s mind these days. No, not Santa, not presents, but “water”. I agree we don’t have enough Santa and you can never have enough presents, but the common concern throughout Marin and the rest of the state is whether we’ll have enough water for our taps to flow well into 2022. Read any Bay Area or California newspaper and you’ll soon see an article about the lack of reservoir, lake or river water, no matter where you are. 

California is in our third year of drought, following years of light rain prior to that. So concerns about lack of water are everywhere and despite one whopper of a storm in late October, it’s been dry since, warm even. Marin has a reservoir system for our drinking water that’s 100% dependent on rainfall. So far those reservoirs are down 67% for this time last year and unless we get a lot of rain this winter, they’ll stay down well below capacity, resulting in even more water restrictions than we have now. But there are options.

The current plan is to invest $80m in a pipeline that runs under the Richmond/San Rafael bridge, bringing water from the Central Valley. That could work and in fact did work back in the early 80’s during the last major drought, only that time, the pipeline ran in the emergency lane of the bridge, next to the guardrail. Problem is, the Central Valley has its own drought problems to contend with and it’s unclear if there will be enough water to go around. 

A desalination plant was proposed, next to that same bridge on the Marin side with the cost of being only $35m, or less than half. A plant could also be leased, apparently, but of course the whole thing is stuck in political red tape. Meanwhile we hope and wait for more rain, much as homebuyers hope and wait for more inventory. 

Yes this is still a real estate blog, but the mantra remains the same here and in most parts of the state, much like the drought: not enough water or homes for sale and too many water users or homebuyers. Will that change this winter? We’ll see. Meanwhile I’ll stay in touch on my end with the drought and with housing. 

For now, that pretty much does it. Enjoy December and the rest of this year wherever you are and please stay safe. As always, thanks for reading.

Ted

415.377.5222

ted@gomarin.com

Home Sales and Weather Both Cool, Is This an Early Start to the Winter Market?

It’s November already here in Marin and wow, where did the year go? One of my favorite Old Dominion songs has a line that goes, “Days will be long, but the years fly right on by.” Ain’t that the truth. One day your kids are celebrating their first birthday, the next they’re off to college. I heard about this “don’t blink” phenomenon many times, but didn’t really understand it, let alone believe it with my own eyes. Believe it, Ted, they really do grow up so quickly. Brooke is now a freshman at Cal Poly, Carson just 18 months to go at Redwood High. Luckily I had some foresight that all my friends and clients were telling the truth, so I was able to spend as much quality time with those two as I could. Thankfully. It’s a great life with kids and I am a better person today because of them. Proud parent doesn’t begin to touch how I feel most days. But I digress. This is a Marin real estate newsletter, yes, but people is what makes the world go ’round, as well as the housing market. Now to that.     

This month’s watchword: Change. Or make that Change? with a question mark as there’s some uncertainty if change is in the air. We’re seeing (or reading about) it nationwide as home sales slow and inventory finally starts to swell in middle America. Not so here in the Bay Area yet, or Marin specifically, but what happens in Iowa sometimes is a harbinger of what’s to come. The reasons are many and very familiar to those of us doing this for over three decades (I started when I was two): Rising interest rates, buyer fatigue, changing of the seasons, unrealistic sellers, you name it. All appear to be true today, with one new exception and perhaps our second watchword of the month: Zillow.  

Zillow is the largest online real estate company in the world and as you may know, they went offline and got into the home buying business back in April of 2018 with their Zillow Offers program. The plan was for Zillow to pay cash for the house, do any fix up needed, then spin off the house using a local agent. It didn’t go well, according to all published reports with the company losing an average of approx $100,000 on every house. Add this to a posted net loss of $162 million for 2020 and you wonder how this online enterprise can’t turn a profit on $3.339 billion in advertising revenue. Maybe it will be different for 2021 but if you didn’t make money on a real estate transaction in the last fifteen months–arguably the busiest in the history of most home resale markets–I doubt you’re going to make money at all.  

Where we go from here is unknown, though I do get asked all the time about the market in 2022. These are still unchartered waters for us as a county, a state and a nation, so much remains to be seen with the current or future pandemic(s) and how it impacts our work force which drives the economy, the stock market, interest rates and housing. I’ll stay in touch on my end with the housing. We’ll see how it goes with everything else. 

For now, that pretty much does it. Enjoy November and the rest of this year wherever you are and please stay safe. As always, thanks for reading.

Ted

415.377.5222

ted@gomarin.com

Sales Drop But Prices Still Rise as Buyers Wait for More Inventory, or Are They Taking a Break?

October is here in Marin, one of our nicest weather months, no question. The last gasp of summer warmth fills each day as the season changes towards the end of the month, bringing cooler temps and–hopefully–normal seasonal rain. We need it as a county and not just to fill the reservoirs, but to quench the parched forests and undergrowth to avoid a repeat of a high risk fire season next year. We seem to be out of the woods (sorry) for now, but this is also the last month of awareness of that all too common natural threat.

Speaking of change, there’s a lot of news out there now on the housing market starting to slow, at least on the sales end. Price appreciation has slowed and stabilized, providing a good opportunity for patient buyers, but as of yet we haven’t seen any decline per se, only a drop in month over month price increases. I called this “normalizing” in the last newsletter and more normal it went, if you call our limited choice of housing options “normal” in any language. Buyers today have maybe one or two homes to look at in any area and any price range these days. While that sounds scant, at least it’s up from zero. In some cases they may have 2-3 homes to look at, though smart buyers aren’t picky and they don’t wait as multiple offers still abound, at least if the property tends to check a few major boxes on the common Wish List. That would be a one story home with at least 3 bedrooms, needing no updates on a flat lot in a good neighborhood with good weather, excellent schools, close to town, close to shops and not too far from the commute. At the right asking price, that house now sees 3-5 offers, which is also way down from the 10-12 they would have seen in our hot buying season of the spring. Not to say there isn’t plenty of demand for the privacy of view homes up in the hills, but given we are a county with only 25% flat ground, you can see how the supply issue works on those lots with most or all of the boxes checked for many buyers. 

Where we go from here is unknown, though I do get asked all the time about the market in 2022. These are still unchartered waters for us as a county, a state and a nation, so much remains to be seen with the current or future pandemic(s) and how it impacts our work force which drives the economy, the stock market, interest rates and housing. I’ll stay in touch on my end with the housing. We’ll see how it goes with everything else. 

For now, that pretty much does it. Enjoy October and the rest of this year wherever you are and please stay safe. As always, thanks for reading.

Ted

415.377.5222

ted@gomarin.com

Twenty Months Later, a Tale of Two Economies Emerges

Fall is here in Marin, though as I write this the focus is on our friends in South Lake Tahoe and surrounding areas. Years of drought has left all forests and parks vulnerable to high fire danger, though few of us imagined it would be to the scope of what’s going on there right now. Let’s all hope that our hard working fire crews prevail and things can start returning to normal over time, though who knows what that will look like, literally. Kathryn and I have been on Highway 50 many times and we watch in dismay as our familiar road into Tahoe is engulfed in flames, wondering what will be left by the time we make our next trip back. All of us send our thoughts to everyone involved up there as we hope for the best. But let’s move forward here. 

Speaking of normal, there’s a lot of press out now about both the economy and the real estate market starting to “normalize”. As job loss numbers shrink and more people get back to work, so may also go home sales. After record home sales in areas and neighborhoods outside our major cities over the last twenty months, there may be a slow down coming. Not a significant drop in prices or sales, but a more normal market with increased inventory and more time for buyers to decide on their purchase. More than the current average of six days, anyway, and without having to go over the asking price for an average of 106%. That’s where we’ve been, but hopefully where we’re going is less frenetic, yet still fruitful for both buyer and seller. It takes both groups to make a real estate market and what a market they’ve made since March of 2020. That too has been unimaginable. 

What started out back then as a “certain drop off (if not a plummet)” in home buying, actually went in the exact opposite direction. That would be up. Dramatically. What’s more remarkable is that it went pretty much in the exact opposite direction of the economy, which started to go down. I just attended a webinar by Jordan Levine, a noted California Real Estate Economist and it was fascinating. He had clear charts and graphs, showing the economy going down, while home sales and prices rose over the last year +. But as more people went back to work and the economy improved, the upward trajectory of home sales and prices started to soften with more inventory, fewer bidding wars and less of the over-asking price spikes. Read those words carefully, mind you. There’s nothing dramatic going on here right now with the economy or housing, only a slight shift in trends for both. Where we go from here is anybody’s guess, but I for one would like to see a more balanced (read: normal) housing market going forward, one that is neutral, favoring neither buyer nor seller. We’ll see.   

Meanwhile, you’ve all likely seen the published numbers or stayed in touch with an agent in your neighborhood, but virtually all home types and price ranges are up nationwide. They certainly are countywide here though not nearly the 20%-25% we’ve read about in some areas. Closer to 15%. Marin tends to have some of the higher prices in the nation with a median home price now at $1.8 mil and an average close to $2 mil, far from the approx $350k we see on average in most of the country, so that limits those who can afford the quality of life that many tend to strive for. Who knows where we go from there though. The times they may be a changing, yes, but people gotta live somewhere as they say and with interest rates these cheap, why not trade up, down or sideways.   

For now, that pretty much does it. Enjoy September and the rest of this year wherever you are and please stay safe. As always, thanks for reading.

Ted

415.377.5222

ted@gomarin.com

After a Brief Slow Down in June, Summer Home Sales Continue at Same Brisk Pace

It’s August in Marin and summer is in full swing. What’s left of it anyway. The K-12 kids all go back to school early here, as they do in much of the country. Colleges are a different story with most of them starting in September. Our Brooke starts Cal Poly in mid-September, as hard to believe as that is. Seems only yesterday that–oops, I better stop reminiscing as there’s enough happening today to keep my eye on. As we all know, things today often shape tomorrow and that tends to be very true in things like the real estate market.

After a slow down that started in mid June and continued through much of July, it appears the buyers are back, at least for now. Multiple offers here and there, yes, but maybe just a handful as opposed to the 15-20 we tend to see in the hot sale season of March-May. Will it continue in August? Who knows as it traditionally was one of our light times for home sales, but no more. All that was turned on its head last year thanks to the influx of buyers from SF or other areas who flocked to brighter, safer pastures of fresh air and security. While it seems clear that prices could continue to go up here or in other areas with zero growth and with a high desirability to live there, we do have some unknowns ahead. Inflation, for one, and the resurgence of a new Covid variant that looks like it’s mask-up time. Again. Oof.  

Meanwhile, you’ve all likely seen the published numbers or stayed in touch with an agent in your neighborhood, but virtually all home types and price ranges are up nationwide. They certainly are countywide here though not nearly the 20%-25% we’ve read about in some areas. Closer to 15%. Marin tends to have some of the higher prices in the nation with a median home price often around $1.5 mil, far from the approx $300k we see on average in most of the country, so that limits those who can afford the quality of life that many tend to strive for. Who knows where we go from there though. The times they may be a changing, yes, but people gotta live somewhere as they say and with interest rates these cheap, why not trade up, down or sideways.   

For now, that pretty much does it. Enjoy August and the rest of this year wherever you are and please stay safe. As always, thanks for reading.

Ted

415.377.5222

ted@gomarin.com

Summer is Here in Marin, Home Sales Continue at Same Brisk Pace

July is here in Marin and the county is “back” as is much of the country. It appears things are getting back to normal for all of us and the horizons are bright for you and your family. They certainly appear to be bright for home sales, which continue to break records around the country, not just here in the Bay Area. The big question is whether or not it will continue, at least at this pace. It seems clear that prices will go up somewhat here or in other areas with zero growth and with a high desirability to live there. That’s simple economics of supply and demand, applying here, parts of SF and the Peninsula, Malibu, Beverly Hills, etc. These are often called Star Markets and you get the visual. More people want to live here (or there) versus those that don’t, even if there’s some attrition to other cheaper areas, which are plentiful compared to Marin and those others mentioned. With the population of the country (and the world) only growing, it would seem a certain percentage of the population will always want to own a home in a nice area, despite how unaffordable it may be. Americans tend to put a high importance on where they live, and there you have it. Prices usually just march up in step with that, but still, people do move out of their primary residences. So that leads to a bigger question.

When I first meet or speak with any prospective seller here, I usually tell them this: “Okay, great. I’ll sell your house likely for a price exceeding all of our expectations. But then what. Where you gonna go?”  Generally, they have a plan involving a local, statewide or national move to a new home they’re buying. But not always. Some of them think they’ll just start seriously looking once they have an accepted offer, but I have to caution them on that. You put up a For Sale sign with me or many other of my colleagues and your house will be sold and closed in 25-30 days, or less. You better be ready to back up that truck and move, even if it’s into a temporary rental and storing your belongings in the short run. The market moves fast and you’re going to have to do likewise, at least if you listen to your agent and the market. Let me know of any questions on that. 

Speaking of onward and upward, this is a real estate blog, so let’s get to that now as onward and upward the housing market still seems to go. You’ve seen all the numbers in your neighborhood, city or state. Nearly all home types and price ranges are up, including on second homes where more people have bought those than they have primary homes for the first time ever. This is easy to explain as many companies are allowing workers to continue to WFH going forward. So folks figure if they can work from home, why not work from the beach, the mountains, the desert, or wherever. Good for them. It’s your one life and work–sadly–makes up more of it than any other activity. 

For now, that pretty much does it. Enjoy July and the rest of this new, banner year wherever you are and please stay safe. As always, thanks for reading.

Ted

415.377.5222

ted@gomarin.com

Summer is Almost Here, Will June Bring a Swoon to the Hot Housing Market?

It’s June already. Summer is finally here and the kids are out of school in just a couple weeks. Thankfully they were able to go back  and able to experience valuable social interaction, much as we are now able to get back to life as we knew it before things went awry. Hard to believe that was just eighteen months ago and even harder to believe what happened. I don’t know if you reflect on it like I do, but our normal, daily life came to a screeching halt here in Marin back on March 16th, 2020 with the first SIP announcement. What we all thought was going to be brief and perhaps even an over reaction turned into a year long battle with nature, both in and out of the home. The rest is history and you have your own version of that, I’m sure, but the important thing is that most of us made it through and we move forward into what feels like a new world and a new chance to move onward and upward. It’s like we all have a new lease on life and I for one intend to make every day count from here on in. I hope you do too. 

Speaking of onward and upward, this is a real estate blog, so let’s get to that now as onward and upward the housing market still seems to go. You’ve seen all the numbers in your neighborhood, city or state. Nearly all home types and price ranges are up, including on second homes where more people have bought those than they have primary homes for the first time ever. This is easy to explain as many companies are allowing workers to continue to WFH going forward. So folks figure if they can work from home, why not work from the beach, the mountains, the desert, or wherever. Good for them. It’s your one life and work–sadly–makes up more of it than any other activity. So get yourself some relief and find your place in the sun as the Marin boys from Pablo Cruise sang about all those years ago. 

Unfortunately, there’s not been much relief for Marin home buyers these days. Inventory and interest rates both remain at record lows, with home sales setting new highs every day, though June could be a very interesting month. Typically, it’s one of our busiest, but by month-end we will look at the inventory and be able to figure out if sales will continue through July and August, or slow down in those two typically slower months for sales. Last year was the busiest full summer we’ve ever seen here, but that was at the apex of the Pandemic with the kids slated to be home schooled in the following September. Not so this year. The kids are all going back to the classroom when school starts up in the fall. Will parents still want to move over the summer and unpack before mid August? We’ll see, but for now, inventory remains low as most sellers stay put. Any questions, let me know.  

For now, that pretty much does it. Enjoy this June and the rest of this new, banner year wherever you are and please stay safe. As always, thanks for reading.

Ted

415.377.5222

ted@gomarin.com

Marin Home Sale Market Continues Up as People Move to New Locations and a Fresh Start

May is here in Marin and all signs are bright, pointing upward on onward. As the sun warms the county, people are moving from indoors to out. Given the new relaxed mask mandate, out they will go. We’ve all been cooped up and restricted for much too long and this summer couldn’t come at a better time. Walk the trails, ride the bike paths or just stroll the open air malls of Corte Madera these days. Not only can you see the relief in people’s eyes, you can feel it.

Unfortunately, there’s not much relief for Marin home buyers these days. Inventory and interest rates both remain at record lows, with home sales setting new highs every day, though with higher values, not higher volume. This is good news for sellers, but most of those folks are going to turn right around and become buyers. Very few go back to renting. As I say when I counsel folks when they’re proposing to sell, “Great, your house will sell quickly and likely at a record price for the neighborhood. Now where you gonna go?” The shoe doesn’t always comfortably go on the other foot in this case as new sellers now join the ranks of the 5-15 buyers who offered on their home. Even the “lesser” priced destination cities of the country (Austin, Phoenix, etc) are seeing double digit appreciation upwards of 20% in many areas. And that’s just in the last six months. We’re all in this together and it’s fine to sell, but I don’t suggest waiting for a price drop anytime soon. That shoe doesn’t look like it’s going to drop in the near future whatsoever, so as the stock trading advisors say: buy the same day that you sell, if at all possible. Don’t hedge or gamble in the market. Luckily, Marin real estate is one of the safest investments you’ll ever make, so not much gambling involved, just a little unnerving. 

That’s it for now. Enjoy May and all of 2021 wherever you are and please stay safe. As always, thanks for reading.

Ted

415.377.5222

ted@gomarin.com

Marin Home Sale Market Continues Onward and Upward, a Busy April Lies Ahead

It’s April already here in Marin and summer is definitely on the way. The days have been warm with only a few light storms in the last two months. As most of us long timers know, that can change though with April being unpredictable. What’s not unpredictable these days is the Marin housing market. “Busy” doesn’t begin to describe it as buyers from nearby cities have fueled the buying pool, ditching that apartment or condo, seeking more room to WFH, fresh air and open space to roam. 

Smart buyers started locking in their purchase price, low mortgage rate and property tax base back in January, moving forward right through March. Multiple offers were almost the norm on any well-priced, well-located home. Those buyers who got shut out had to up their game and cash in a few more acorns to win at the next round. And win they did, usually in the first seven days of going on the market.    

Meanwhile, smart sellers continue to do as much pre sale prep work as possible. (Man, that’s a lotta p’s…). With everyone so busy these days, many buyers have no time or inclination to embark on remodeling or even minor fix up projects. So they happily pay up if you do it for them, which we are seeing with more frequency. Sellers that trade up or down within the county usually have to sell first, but not always. And while some have chosen to move out of state, the positive migration into California remains at somewhere around 3% annual growth. Where they choose to live remains to be seen, but with our fixed supply of homes and a growing demand here, they better be ready to compete when they find that dream house. As I tell them, just be ready for anything and remember my watchwords for success: compromise and flexibility.

That’s it for now. Enjoy April and all of 2021 wherever you are and please stay safe. As always, thanks for reading.

Ted

415.377.5222

ted@gomarin.com