How Home Values Look These Days

For all you armchair realtors, here are the latest home values.  Since we reported at year end, both median and average prices declined but they haven’t literally crashed.  The big adjustment was last summer, so it’s about steady malaise for now.

Within our 94611 zip code, AOL Real Estate reported the average price dropped from $939,185 in mid-December to $874,040 in mid-February, or 6.9% over two months.  Cyberhomes separately reported a $786,852 median in mid-December, down 3.2% from prior month.

Since the zip code doesn’t tell a complete story, I reached out for advice from realtor Deidre Joyner.  We ended up discussing Montclair real estate over a cuppa coffee, and she recently blogged about the district.  Suffice to say, there are special challenges when selling in the hills.

Brubeck In Montclair

Our topography creates hurdles:

Montclair conjures images of a hillside forest, with houses tucked into nooks and crannies.  Often you see homes perched on the hills, which take engineering ingenuity to remain upright.  At the far end of the scale are tree houses, like the cool place where jazz great Dave Brubeck raised his family.

We love living here, but it turns out these picture-perfect perches aren’t terribly practical for buyers.  Since we’re in the downturn, these preferences become more obvious.  One perfect home won’t sell because there are too many stairs, while another one gets picked up far more quickly.

While several comps had been listed for 80+ days, Deidre Joyner recalled a listing which “stood out from the rest and every buyer knew it.”  Sure enough this home offered easy access, a flatter layout, backyard and patio – and there were multiple offers last summer.  It’s not easy to find horizontal gems among the verticals here!

We have five distinct market zones:

When trying to figure out Montclair values, everything hinges on the topography.  There are differences based on homes situated in the forests or more open spots.  Of course, the homes vary around the district, including originals, sweet renovations, newer homes or palatial estates.

Joyner took a look at Montclair statistics including recent sale prices, prices/sq ft, days on market and overall home condition.  Although there’s no “true formula,” she was able to define five distinct zones with different home values:

  • Piedmont side of Montclair – west of Rt 13 and next to the City of Piedmont
  • Piedmont Pines – between Ascot and Shepherd Canyon roads
  • Fernwood – just off Thornhill and within walking distance to the Village
  • Broadway Terrace – between Thornhill and Broadway Terr, east of Rt 13
  • Montclair – other neighborhoods known simply as Montclair

So it’s worth tuning into this hyper-local view of the real estate market.  We’ll continue to look at the 94611 trends, along with other smoke signals from these locations – realtors, please help us.  The numbers continue to soften, and who knows how long this recession will last.

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