All counties experienced year-over-year average sales price gains, including two new county records. Sales volume was generally stable—a welcome sign for buyers and sellers alike in today’s often-unpredictable and frenzied marketplace.
In looking at 2015 as a whole, a strong and persistent trend was the upward valuation of the more affordably priced counties. Contra Costa County posted over $7 billion in sales, up 14 percent year-over-year, while Alameda County recorded more than $8 billion and was up 13 percent year-over-year. Furthermore, the less-densely populated Napa County bested $1 billion for the first time in market history, increasing 15 percent year-over-year.
Napa County’s gains were punctuated by a particularly strong fourth quarter in which the average home sales price rose to a new record of $928,126—a notable 26 percent year-over-year gain. This was not overwhelmingly surprising given the current state of prosperity in the tech and biotech spheres, with such professionals now venturing out of San Francisco, Marin and San Mateo Counties for the type of affordable yet affluent lifestyle found in areas like Napa County.
Marin County saw its highest-ever average sales price of $1.516 million, making it one of three Bay Area counties—alongside San Francisco and San Mateo County—to post a $1.5 million-plus Q4 average. On a more granular level, it’s difficult to overlook the strength of the Mid-Peninsula’s Atherton market and its performance in the closing months of 2015. An Atherton home that sold for $35.3 million was one of five closings of more than $9.8 million this quarter, contributing to a $7.227 million average home sale, for a town that has become one of the nation’s most desirable locations for the wealthy and affluent.
As we look forward to 2016, more of the same upward sales pricing and tight inventory are to be expected. Leslie Appleton-Young, Vice President and Chief Economist of the California Association of REALTORS®, recently stated, “The foundation for California’s housing market remains strong, with moderating home prices, signs of credit easing, and the state continuing to lead the nation in economic and job growth.” Buyers looking for a window should be encouraged by such statements, as it’s difficult to believe we’ll continue at the pace which spelled double-digit cash volume percentage appreciation in areas like the East Bay and Napa County in 2015. However, unless there’s an influx of supply, 10 percent would not be a surprising rate of growth for sellers to expect in 2016.