The year is starting off busy for our market. Yesterday, only four days into our new year, I wrote an offer for a house in Danville that had been on the market for just 48 hours—-sellers were reviewing all offers at 4 PM. My buyers loved the house so we wrote a strong offer: over-asking, as-is sale, no appraisal contingency, and a lender letter from underwriting. We competed with eight other offers and several were all cash.

Unsurprisingly, the sellers accepted an all-cash offer. Quite disappointing for my buyers, but the level of activity in the market place is healthy and encouraging for our market. Especially considering that most of us still have children out of school, many families are traveling, and the holidays are such a busy time for all.

As the year opens, it seems that it is likely to continue to be more of what we saw in the latter half of 2012. Low inventory, great rates, and an abundance of buyers keeping prices strong.

In Alamo, here are some interesting statistics from 2012:
•    254 homes sold in 2012; sales up from 166 homes sold in 2011 (and as compared with 199 in 2010 and 136 in 2009)
•    Median sales price $1,160,000 in 2012; that’s up $100,000 from the median sales price in 2011 $1,060,000.
•    More homes sold in the first half of the year (which isn’t too surprising, since inventory was more abundant as the year opened), 134 homes with a median sales price of $1,145,000; the 2nd half of the year: 120 homes with a higher median price of $1,180,000.
•    A good year for high-end sales: 20 over $2 million including two very significant sales with undisclosed sales prices but list prices were $6+ and $11+ million each.
•    Median days on market for homes in Alamo in 2012: only 21. As inventory shrunk and the market got hotter, that number went down: the 2nd half of the year was 15. Compare that with a median of 37 days on market in 2011, 30 in 2010, and 72 in 2009. (it was not easy to be a home seller in 2009).

And now, as we begin a new year, here are the starting inventory numbers (as compared with last year at this time):

•    Alamo – 25 (was 62 one year ago)
•    Danville – 44 (was 138)
•    Blackhawk – 27 (was 26)
•    San Ramon – 23 (was 126)
•    Dublin – 26 (was 68)
•    Pleasanton – 29 (was 124)
•    Lafayette – 15 (was 38)
•    Orinda – 15 (was 23)
•    Pleasant Hill – 11 (was 43)
•    Walnut Creek – 43 (was 124)
•    Rossmoor – 21 (was 114)
•    Antioch – 56 (was 197)

I started logging inventory numbers in 2007—Alamo has opened the year around 60 each year until this one. It’s been predictable and seasonal, low of 60 or even 50 over the holidays, then high of 100 or 120 in the spring/summer. 2012 opened at 62 and never grew over 70, now down to 25.

In 2007, when people started to worry about the market and I would hear statistics about the “real estate market in Contra Costa county,” I started to compare Alamo with Antioch—two towns that share a county but otherwise don’t have much in common. Antioch, at that time, had over 1300 homes on the market. Their recovery has been dramatic: the inventory shrunk gradually, and then settled and stayed steady around 200 for all of 2011, but now sits at 56.

Looking over the “now and then” numbers above, the one anomaly is Blackhawk: steady at 27 from last year at this time. Blackhawk is really part of Danville, but has a market unique enough that I’ve always preferred to track it separately. I called Dick Barnes, a great agent in my office that specializes in Blackhawk, to discuss. He has his finger on the pulse of the Blackhawk inventory much as I do in Alamo, and stated that 55 was “normal” for years.

Together we examined the sales history in Blackhawk: 100 homes sold last year, and 101 the year before, 91 the year before that. Dick pointed out that the gated golf course community isn’t for everyone, and maybe 100 homes selling in a year is the saturation point for that market.

While the inventory may be steady, the prices are certainly up. Dick said he has buyers that would like to be in Blackhawk for under a million and “today I have very little to show them. Last year and the year before, there were good choices at that price point.” We considered how well the upper end is selling: a listing in our office priced over $7 million recently sold.

It’s all good news for real estate in our corner of the world, unless you’re a frustrated buyer—the competition is tough, but hang in there. 2013 should be another interesting year to watch. Happy New Year!