Salinas Real Estate Heats Up

For the Monterey County real-estate industry, it’s game on. Key indicators across the board are showing a vibrancy not seen since the financial market crash of 2008.

More homeowners are seeing equity return as fewer mortgages are underwater. Home sale prices are back to within a whisker’s width of where they were in 2008 at the start of the real-estate crash. And homes going on the market are attracting multiple offers and are staying on the market only half as long as they were five years ago.

“Right now a listing can almost mean an assured sale,” said Sandy Haney, chief executive officer of the Monterey County Association of Realtors.

Indeed, MCAR data from a three-month rolling average of March, April and May show a strength in the market not seen in years. The median countywide home price stood at $375,000, up nearly 23 percent from the same three months a year ago and within 0.5 percent of matching the same three months in 2008 — a mere $1,700 difference.

The median is the price where half the homes sold for more and half for less. Economists consider it a more accurate yardstick because using averages can be dramatically affected by an extremely expensive sale or anomalously cheap sale.

Another key indicator is the number of days a home stays on the market after it is listed. For the current March-May timeframe, the median number of days stood at 65, far fewer than the 91 days homes were on the market last year at this time, and nearly half the 118 days homes languished in 2008.

The drivers behind this growth are a relatively low inventory of homes — supply is limited and demand is strong — and the increasing number of homeowners seeing their equity move into the positive side for the first time in several years.

“In the fourth quarter we again saw an improvement in the equity position of households,” said Mark Fleming, chief economist for CoreLogic, an Irvine-based analytics company. “Housing market improvements, particularly in the hardest hit states, are the catalyst for households to regain equity and become participants in 2013’s housing market.”