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Median Home Prices Gain Ground Despite Milder Market

Village Properties reports that high-end sales still holding steady, with Montecito leading the way.

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The numbers are in for South Coast real estate and, amid the national reporting of a mild recession and foreclosures, Santa Barbara’s median price continues to climb, Village Properties Realtors reports.

The first quarter of 2008 vs. the first quarter of 2007 shows a respectable 6.9 percent increase in median price for single-family homes from Carpinteria to Goleta. One explanation is that sales in the high end, $5 million-plus, are fairly steady. Fourteen sales occurred in the first quarter of this year compared with 15 last year.

The biggest change in the market has been the decrease in sales for homes listed below $5 million, which represent the majority of sales. The number of total sales dropped 29.5 percent, 158 homes vs. 224 last year. In turn, total revenue for 2008 for January through March was $345.5 million, a 23.8 percent decline from last year’s $453 million.

The total inventory of homes is the same as 2007’s first quarter, posting 439 listings for both quarters.

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“While there is a healthy supply of homes on the market, the available listings have not skyrocketed,” said Reneé Grubb, co-owner of Village Properties. “If the home is priced well, multiple offers are still occurring, and for buyers, this is a good time to shop and make offers in a generally calmer market."

The most expensive home to close escrow during the first quarter was on Ortega Ridge Road, with four bedrooms, four baths, a tennis court, pool and separate office on an 80-acre avocado/lemon ranch with unparalleled ocean views. It sold for $20 million.  The least expensive home sold was a major fixer with two bedrooms and one bath, located on Punta Gorda Street, for $400,000.

Condominium sales performance for 2008’s first quarter took a 40 percent hit, tallying 59 sales compared with 2007’s 98 sales, while median price saw a smaller decline of 3 percent ($620,000 vs. $640,000). New listings also reported a 13 percent reduction, but fewer condos on the market meant fewer choices for buyers (185 vs. 213). The number of condos selling above $1 million was cut in half (eight vs. 17) for this time period. Total revenue for condos was $42.6 million, a 44 percent drop over last year’s $76.3 million.

Montecito, meanwhile, is a world unto its own. While overall sales have slowed from last year, 37 vs. 45, property sales above $5 million have continued to grow, 12 vs. nine — a 33 percent increase.

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Bucking the trend, Montecito is a healthy contrarian to popular real estate news reports. The median price for single-family housing for the first quarter of 2008 increased substantially over last year, $3.85 million vs. $2.8 million — a 37.5 percent jump. Such a boost can be attributed to the strong activity in the high end of the market.

Also in the green was total revenue for the first quarter, topping out at $182.5 million vs. $163.7 million for 2007. Market activity was healthy, with 91 new listings for the first quarter compared with 86 in 2007. With its semi-rural atmosphere, great schools and access to numerous cultural events and universities, Montecito continues to be at the top of the list for many who are looking for a beautiful place to raise a family or retire.

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The largest sales for the first quarter were on the eastern border of ZIP code 93108.  In addition to the $20 million Ortega Ridge Road property, a sale for nearly $13 million occurred on Bella Vista Drive and featured a 32-acre gated estate built in 2003 with four bedrooms, 4½ baths and mountain, ocean and harbor views.  The most affordable home sold was on Jameson Road within walking distance to the beach. The spacious single-level, three-bedroom, two-bath home in a serene, private setting sold for $1.2 million.

The condominium market represents a much smaller pool of overall sales. The first quarter brought good news in the context of median price with an 18.6 percent increase over last year ($1.8 million vs. $1.5 million). However, all other categories showed a decline, starting with 23 percent fewer new listings (10 vs. 13).  Sales were off 70 percent, with only three condominiums closing escrow in the first quarter compared with 10 in 2007.  Total revenue reflects this change in sales with $5.6 million recorded for 2008, a 67 percent drop from 2007.

For more information, contact Village Properties Realtors.

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