Orange County Housing Report: A Mid-Year Checkup
Buyers and sellers often rely on the price per square foot as a way to determine the value of a home, but it is just not accurate.
Orange County Housing Report August 4th, 2017
Price Per Square Foot: Do not rely on the price per square foot as a reliable method to determine a home’s value.
Everybody is looking for a shortcut in establishing the value of a home. Online home valuation tools are now everywhere, Zillow being the most popular. They simply are not accurate. If you can find the fine print and have a math degree to determine what in the world they are saying, these tools are merely approximations of value and frequently have significant errors. If going online and plugging in an address does not work, what about utilizing the price per square foot to secure the value of a home? Unfortunately, it too is just another unreliable shortcut.
The average price per square foot varies from city to city, neighborhood to neighborhood, street to street, and even home to home. For all of Orange County, the price per square foot in June was $440. In May, it was $459. No, there was not a 4% drop in value from May to June. Instead, it illustrates that this data point cannot be relied upon to determine the value of a home. Just as the median sales price is a poor indicator of the precise increase or decrease in value, the price per square foot is unquestionably as unreliable.
Applying the average price per square foot to different sized homes to determine the value results in a major error in comparing it to the true average sales price. In Orange County, a 3,000 square foot home comes close but is still $29,000 off, a 2% error. In breaking it down by the city, the severity of the errors is similar. In Mission Viejo, for example, there is quite a discrepancy in both the low end and the higher end. In Newport Beach, prices vary considerably for smaller sized homes.
Overall, the price per square foot should not be used to isolate the true value of a home. It can be used, over time, as a gauge to determine which direction home values are moving. Some months it is up, and other months it is down. Yet, over the course of a year, the values will start to paint a picture that illustrates the direction of the market.
So, why can’t the price per square foot be used to zero in on the value of a home? There are way too many nuances that go into the Fair Market Value of a home. The number of bedrooms and bathrooms, lot size, usable lot, square footage, location, pool, spa, upgrades, amenities, condition, main floor bedroom, number of stories, school zone, privacy, architecture, floor plan design, view, garages, street parking, proximity to the beach, and so on, all determine a home’s value. Does the home back to a busy street? Is it located on a cul-de-sac that has homes on only one side of the street? Is there street noise? The list of questions goes on and on.
Square footage alone cannot determine if a home has been updated, upgraded, or is in turnkey condition. For example, four of the exact same Madrid Del Lago single level plans sold in Mission Viejo over the past 90-days, all 2,133 square feet. The sold prices varied from $838,000 ($392 per square foot) to $997,500 ($468 per square foot), a $159,500 difference. Quite obviously, square footage alone does not provide enough information to arrive at the price of a home.
Professional REALTORS® and appraisers take a home and compare it to similar pending and recently sold homes, adjusting the value up and down based upon all of the differences. The price per square foot is not really a factor. There are no shortcuts. The market analysis that professionals prepare is by far the most accurate method for determining the value of a home.
Active Inventory: The active inventory may have already peaked after declining by 16 homes in the past couple of weeks.
The active listing inventory shed 16 homes and now sits at 5,967, the first drop since the end of January. Sixteen homes may not be a lot, but it illustrates how the active inventory is having a real hard time pushing past the 6,000 home mark. And, it looks as if that is not going to occur at all this year. Typically, the inventory peaks around mid-August, but not this year. The theme for 2017 has been fewer homeowners listing their homes for sale. There have been 10% fewer homes to come on the market over the past month, and 7% fewer overall this year. As a result, it looks as if the Orange County active inventory may have already peaked, a bit early.
Last year at this time, there were 7,317 homes on the market, 1,350 additional homes or 23% more than today.
Demand: Demand increased by 5 pending sales in the past couple of weeks.
Demand, the number of homes placed into escrow within the prior month, increased by 5 pending sales in the past two-weeks and now totals 2,835, nearly the same. Demand is up year over year in every price range except the entry-level market, homes priced below $500,000. With 39% fewer homes available below $500,000 compared to this time last year, predictably, demand is off by 19% year over year.
Last year at this time, there were 31 additional pending sales, totaling 2,866. The current expected market time remained the same over the past couple of weeks at 63 days, a much hotter market than last year’s 77 days. At 63 days, the market is no longer a HOT seller’s market, but a tepid seller’s market with muted appreciation.
Luxury End: Luxury demand increased by 13% in the past couple of weeks and the inventory fell by 1%.
In the past two weeks, demand for homes above $1.25 million increased from 329 to 373 pending sales, a 13% rise, the highest level since mid-May. The luxury home inventory decreased from 2,089 homes to 2,065, down 1%. This surge has been isolated to homes between $1.25 million and $2 million.
For homes priced between $1.25 million and $1.5 million, the expected market time decreased from 123 to 101 days. For homes priced between $1.5 million to $2 million, the expected market time dropped from 176 to 135 days. In addition, for homes priced above $2 million, the expected market time increased from 269 days to 280 days. At 269 days, a seller would be looking at placing their home into escrow around the beginning of May of next year.
Orange County Housing Market Summary:
- The active listing inventory decreased by 16 homes in the past couple of weeks and now totals 5,967, nearly the same. The inventory is having a real issue reaching 6,000 homes this year and may have already peaked a couple of weeks ago. Last year, there were 7,317 homes on the market, 1,350 more than today.
- There are 39% fewer homes on the market below $500,000 today compared to last year at this time and demand is down by 19%. Fewer and fewer homes and condominiums are now priced below $500,000. This price range is slowly disappearing.
- Demand, the number of pending sales over the prior month, increased by five homes in the past couple of weeks, and now totals 2,835. The average pending price is $842,718.
- The average list price for all of Orange County remained at $1.6 million. 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 40 days. This range represents 39% of the active inventory and 62% of demand.
- For homes priced between $750,000 and $1 million, the expected market time is 59 days, a hot seller’s market (less than 60 days). This range represents 18% of the active inventory and 19% of demand.
- For homes priced between $1 million to $1.25 million, the expected market time is at 94 days, a balanced market that does not favor a buyer or seller.
- For luxury homes priced between $1.25 million and $1.5 million, the expected market time decreased from 123 to 101 days. For homes priced between $1.5 million to $2 million, the expected market time decreased from 176 to 135 days. For luxury homes priced above $2 million, the expected market time increased from 269 to 280 days.
- The luxury end, all homes above $1.25 million, accounts for 35% of the inventory and only 13% of demand.
- The expected market time for all homes in Orange County remained the same over the past couple of weeks at 63 days, a tepid seller’s market (60 to 90 days). From here, we can expect the market time to slowly rise throughout the Summer Market.
- Distressed homes, both short sales and foreclosures combined, make up only 1.5% of all listings and 2% of demand. There are only 32 foreclosures and 58 short sales available to purchase today in all of Orange County, that’s 88 total distressed homes on the active market, one more than two weeks ago. Last year there were 136 total distressed sales, 54% more than today.
- There were 3,229 closed sales in June, a 3% increase over May 2017 and a 3% increase over June 2016. The sales to list price ratio was 97.9% for all of Orange County. Foreclosures accounted for just 0.99% of all closed sales and short sales accounted for 0.87%. That means that 98% of all sales were good ol’ fashioned equity sellers.