Bargain Hunters Dominate Santa Clara, San Mateo Counties


San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties...the famed "Silicon Valley"

Inquiring minds are watching what appears to be more evidence that the Bay Area real estate market is showing signs of cracking. Real estate information service DataQuick reported Thursday that bargain hunters and all-cash investors descended onto Santa Clara and San Mateo counties to dominate home sales last month:

Cash buyers — typically investors who can snap up homes quickly — made up just more than a quarter of January’s buyers for all types of homes in Santa Clara County, a record in DataQuick statistics going back to 1988. They made up 25.4 percent of buyers in San Mateo County, a tenth of a percentage point below a record set in February 2010.

Absentee owners — also typically investors — made up just more than 17 percent of buyers, a record for Santa Clara County and close to one for San Mateo County. Typically, absentee buyers make up about 10 percent of buyers, the company said. Absentee buyers have mailing addresses different from the property address, and also may be cash buyers.

The numbers for January and February reminescent of Southern California’s numbers as the real estate market began to crack…people explaining away underlying softness, seen in the declining number of sales, with historical seasonal trends because prices are still robust:

With sales predominating in the lower end of the market, San Mateo County saw the median sale price of single-family homes drop to $541,000, down 13.8 percent from a year earlier. That was the biggest yearly decline since June 2009, DataQuick said.

There were large monthly drops in sales between December and January, but that’s normal for this time of year, according to DataQuick. Santa Clara County sales were off just more than 29 percent; San Mateo was down nearly 43 percent; and the Bay Area was down 28.8 percent.

Sales of Santa Clara County condos dropped 2.6 percent from a year earlier and the median sale price was $251,000, down 16.5 percent from January 2010.

They were up 60 percent over the year in San Mateo County, but that was on a small number of sales — only 69 at a median price of $358,000, almost flat from a year ago.

As California’s fiscal problems become more apparent to its citizenry, you will see tremendous downward pressure on Bay Area housing.

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