South Orange County Blog from Bob Phillips

Orange County Real Estate Market Report – Mid Year Edition

Here is the latest real estate market report from my favorite local economist, Steven Thomas:

Calendar pagesOrange County Housing Report:  OC Housing – Mid Year Update 

July 6, 2014

The first two quarters of 2014 are in the rearview mirror and this year is

unquestionably different from prior years. 

Mid-Year Update: This year’s market is marching to the beat of its own drum.

From 2007 through 2011, the Great Recession brought housing to its knees. The market was dictated by lenders and their new strict guidelines; plus, they controlled the market with the unbelievable numbers of foreclosures and short sales. Distressed properties were the norm. However, by mid-2011, housing began to mend. It was undetectable to anybody participating in the market, at first, but slowly but surely, the active listing inventory began to drop as fewer homes were placed on the market, including foreclosures and shorts sales.

In 2012 the green light was switched and, initially, investors flooded the market. They were quickly followed by a relentless stream of normal buyers. The inventory continued to drop as demand grew. Multiple offers were generated and cash was king. Homes flew off the market at prices that beat the socks off of the most recent comparable sales. Appreciation was rampant.

The first half of 2013 was nothing short of crazy. The inventory dropped to a ridiculous, anemic level. There were not enough homes coming on the market as most homeowners sat back and watched their homes appreciate, restoring just about all of the losses from the Great Recession. Buyers and investors wanted to take advantage of the incredible values and historically low interest rates; they were willing to pay any price for a home, even if that meant paying thousands more than the most recent closed sales. The uncontrollable appreciation slowed by the midpoint of 2013. Suddenly, homeowners no longer got away with overpricing their homes and they began to sit. By August, buyers were unwilling to pay extra for a home; instead, they wanted to pay as close to the Fair Market Value as possible. The inventory climbed from mid-March through October on the backs of overpriced sellers.

The second half of 2013 paved the way for 2014, a year that has been marked thus far with a relentless increase in the active inventory. Let’s take a closer look at the major changes in 2014 that have differentiated itself as a unique year:

  • Active Inventory – after starting the year at 4,733, the active listing inventory has increased by 60% and now sits at 7,550 and is still climbing. The long term average for Orange County is about 8,500 homes and within site. Even if that level is not reached this year, the added inventory has created quite a bit of breathing room for buyers. So many homes are overpriced, that buyers’ sense of urgency has just about vanished, unless a home is properly priced. The vast majority of sellers learn the hard way that overpricing is a front row ticket to sitting on the market without success.
  • Demand – there is demand for housing, but there just are not enough realistically priced homes on the market thus far this year. As a result, demand, the number of new pending sales over the prior month, has been noticeably lower than the past couple of years. Currently, demand is running about 15% less than last year at this time.
  • Expected Market Time – with an increasing inventory and less demand, the expected market time has been much higher than the last couple of years. Currently it is at 90 days. Compare that to last year’s 49 days and the overall feel in the streets is palpably different. At three months, it is still a seller’s market, but not like 2012 and 2013. Double digit year over year appreciation has been replaced with 3-5% annual appreciation, meaning that any appreciation from month to month is almost undetectable. In other words, sellers can no longer get away with arbitrarily and overzealously pricing their homes. It’s a seller’s market where they get to call all of the shots and may get a few thousand dollars more than the last comparable sale IF AND ONLY IF they price their homes realistically.
  • Distressed Properties – for the first two quarters of 2014, there have been 69% fewer foreclosures and short sales. There were only 242 closed foreclosures in the first six months of the year compared to 698 last year and 2,249 in 2012. There were only 624 closed short sales thus far in 2014 compared to 2,091 last year and 3,810 in 2012. With the dramatic rise in values, fewer homeowners are underwater, negating the need for a short sale. Slowly but surely, the distressed market’s grip on Orange County housing has loosened and no longer has an influence on the overall market.
  • Equity Sellers – last year was marked by the return of the equity seller. It was up 42% from 2012 to 2013. In comparing 2014 to 2013, the number of equity sellers is pretty similar, just 2% more so far this year. There are a lot more equity sellers that are actively listed right now, but many are unsuccessful because they just are not approaching the market realistically. The difference from year to year would be much greater if sellers would just price their homes closer to their Fair Market Value. Unfortunately, by the time most sellers will realize the error in their approach, both the Spring and Summer markets will be in the past, the best time of the year to sell.

From here, we can expect more of the same, an increasing inventory through the end of summer, an increase in the expected market time, and a slow move away from a seller’s market to a balanced market.


Active Inventory: The active inventory increased by 3% in the past two weeks.

The active listing inventory added an additional 187 homes in the past two weeks and now totals 7,550. Keep in mind, in order for the active inventory to grow, more home need to be placed on the market than are coming off as pending sales. Last year at this time there were 4,727 homes on the market, 2,823 fewer than today.


DemandDemand dropped by 10% in the past two weeks.

Demand, the number of new pending sales over the past month, decreased by 276 and now totals 2,477. It typically drops considerable at the start of July, which includes the slowing due to the end of the school year, graduations, and the beginning of summer vacations, all of which distract buyers from pulling the trigger and looking at homes. Demand will improve in August prior to dropping for the Autumn and Holiday Markets.

Last year at this time there were 2,909 pending sales, 432 more than today. 

Distressed Breakdown: The distressed inventory increased by 7% in the past two weeks.

The distressed inventory, foreclosures and short sales combined, increased by 18 homes in the past two weeks and now totals 264. In 2014, the distressed inventory started the year at 271 and really has not changed much at all. The long term trend is for it to remain at a very low level. Last month, they represented less than 6% of all closed sales.

In the past two weeks, the number of active foreclosures increased by 6 homes and now totals 69. Less than 1% of the active inventory is a foreclosure. The expected market time for foreclosures is 58 days. The short sale inventory increased by 12 homes in the past two weeks and now totals 195. The expected market time is 40 days. Short sales represent less than 3% of the total active inventory. ( End of Steven’s report.)

Steven Thomas,  Quantitative Economics and Decision Sciences

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