Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Los Altos Market Update for December 2010

In Los Altos we've had 29 closed sales in the month of December as od December 28th.  That up from 25 in December 2009.  The average selling price was $1,589,705 which is a 4.5% decrease from December 2009.  There are still pending sales so this is an excellent indication of the strength of the Los Altos real estate market which continues to lead the local recovery.

The high-end, defined as homes priced over $2 million, saw four sales between $2 and $2.425 million.  One sale that started as a high-end listing with a list price of just under $2.5 million sold at $1.95 million which had an impact on the overall average for the entire market.  While the high-end market continues to do well, a few homes seem to get priced too high.  That property started at nearly $2.8 million.

Another weight on the overages was a low-end sale under $1 million (an extremely rare event in Los Altos) which sold at $820,000.  Another sale right at $1 million also helped pull the averages down.  It's not uncommon to see a lot of bargains get sold at this time of year but they tend to skew the numbers.  Los Altos rarely sees sales under $1.3 million in a single family home.

Over bidding is coming back strong with 9 homes selling for 100% or more of their asking price.  That's a really good sign that the market is strong going into the end of the year.  Those homes were across the board from the low-end to the high-end so there isn't any one market segment showing signs of strength.

The average days on market was reasonable at 55.  Current inventory is low and there have been several expired or cancelled listings in the last 3 weeks.  I know for certain that many of those will come back on the market but not untill well into 2011.  Open house activity has been good going into the holiday season and offers are being written so we can expect this strength to continue in January.  I'll provide a final December update next week.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Los Altos Spotlight: Rick's Cafe

Rick's Cafe
205 State Street
HOURS:  7:30AM - 3:00PM  Mon-Sun

Bryan's Opinion:  I can't begin to say enough great things about this place.  It is everything a breakfast place should be and then some.  First, a little history.  Rick's Cafe came to Los Altos in 2008.  It started as a breakfast and lunch place before trying a dinner menu.  The dinner menu didn't take off so it's back to breakfast and lunch.

Breakfast is incredible and there are few places in the entire area that will even come close to the quality.  A perfect example is their Denver Omelette which comes filled with tender ham, bell pepper, and onion all folded over in a half-pan shape that looks like it was carved out of egg.  Covered with your choice of cheese, the flavors are balanced and hearty.  You also get a side of hash browns that are cooked to just the right side of tender and seasoned well plus a bagel that gives the best in New York a run for their money.  All that for about $11.

Lunch has the usual fare but the best is their burger.  I'm not sure how they season it but it'll beat anything you've had at Red Robin and it's one of the best burgers in town.  Los Altos has many fine restaurants offering great burgers.  These are juicy, tasty, and cooked to perfection.  You get all the usual condiments plus a small salad and the same tasty potatoes they serve with breakfast.  Keep in mind that these are no ordinary has browns, in fact they're not even browned but really sauteed.  Tasty!

One special feature they have that is truly unique is that they roast their own coffee on-site.  No other breakfast place offers that and you can taste it in their brew.

The service is always warm and friendly with the owner usually there helping people get seated or taking care of the register.  This relatively young addition to the Los Altos restaurant collection has proven to be wildly popular and will be busy at peak hours on the weekends and at lunch.

Los Altos Spotlight: 5K Fun Run on January 1, 2011

The Los Altos 5K Fun Run has been taking place on New Year's Day for many years.  It's the finale in a string of holiday events in downtown Los Altos.  After the carriage rides, Festival of Lights parade, holiday shopping, and more this event is a welcome break.  It's also a great way to kick off the new year with some exercise to work off all the food and drink from the last few weeks.

Registration isn't required and it's completely free. 
You can stop by the Los Altos Recreation Department website for more details.  Basically, you just show up on Saturday morning at 9AM and you'll get to run with thousands of other people.  Anyone can run, walk, or stroll the course (they usually do with kids in strollers, pets, etc) and you can stay in town for brunch afterwards.  The race starts at State and Main Streets where the clock tower is in front of Citibank.

You'll also find updates on the Los Altos Online website with an article there along with comments.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

REALTORS Give $2500 To Los Altos / Mountain View Charity

As the district chairman of the Los Altos  / Mountain View area I've had the pleasure of presenting many checks to local charities that support community.  At the final meeting of the year, a special breakfast presentation to the Los Altos Hills Country Club, I made my last check presentation to JustREAD.

An article in the Los Altos Town Crier talks about the event.  This organization focuses on getting kids who have reading difficulties a completely fresh start.  They literally start the kids from the basics of sight words (pre-K level) up to proficient reading.  It's hard work but the program has proven to be successful and our donation was designed to expand the program significantly at three schools.  This is another clear signal that REALTORS provide significant benefits to our Los Altos and Mountain View communities.

Our district has made many other donations and done other community service efforts throughout the year.  The largest of these was Relay for Life.  I know that in 2011 and future years, we'll continue this tradition of providing support for the Los Altos and Mountain View charities that build a better community.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Los Altos had a 3.1 earthquake on December 19, 2010

The SJ Mercury News reported this morning that good old Los Altos had a 3.1 earthquake this morning.  While not major, it's very rare that a quake is ever centered in Los Altos or even Los Altos Hills, even with all the fault lines nearby.

The quake was 2.1 miles deep and there were no reports of damage.
The article is posted here if you'd like to read more. 

I've felt many quakes in Los Altos and was around for the major quakes in recent memory.  None ever felt significant and the town always seems to get little or any impact from them.  I'm not sure if the town is just lucky or is well placed but it seems that earthquakes have little impact on Los Altos.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Has the Los Altos housing market hit bottom?

A recent article written by local financial advisor Artie Green and published in the Los Altos Town Crier asks the question "Have housing prices hit bottom yet?".  Based on my experience and the current pricing trend in Los Altos, we have indeed hit bottom and are moving back up.
The article was primarily aimed at the general market around the country.  Most economists, even the pessimists, will argue that the market has turned and will rise anywhere from 3-20% in the coming year.  The few dim spots in the economy can't overshadow the fact that home prices in many areas are rising, Los Altos being one of them.
The biggest challenge in Los Altos has been the high-end.  This is also true in Los Altos Hills.  While the overall market in Los Altos has done very well, rising several points this year alone, the market segment over $2 million is still weak.  It's not dropping but it also isn't moving up.  That may indicate a bottom but since so few transactions occur in that price range, it's hard to say.  It's even harder to define the market over $3 million.
So the general answer for Los Altos is that, yes, we've hit the bottom.  However, we need to see strength in the high-end of the market in order to say that the entire market has hit bottom.  This same conclusion applies to Los Altos Hills.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Los Altos Hills Home Inventory Coming Off The Market

Just in case you've been tracking inventory in Los Altos Hills, there have been 6 homes taken off the market in the last 2 weeks that will specifically be brought back in 2011.  This is a common practice because the high-end market has been slow for many years now and Los Altos Hills isn't immune to bargain hunters looking for deals.

There are currently 42 homes on the market in Los Altos Hills, the 6 homes taken off the market account for about 15% of the total inventory.  While this doesn't mean a record low, it's unusual to see so much inventory disappear in such a short time as a percentage of available inventory.  What's even more interesting is that ALL of the listings have notes indicating that they'll be back on in the following year or are still available.

What does this mean for buyers?  Basically it means what was stated with similar homes last year, sellers are hoping to get more for their homes in the Spring.  The trend on newer homes has been to see prices drop.  However, the price per square foot on older homes has been increasing.  So, about half the homes just taken off will increase their chance of getting an offer at asking price but the other half (larger, newer homes) will probably see more bargain hunters.

Los Altos Spotlight: Kiwanis Christmas Tree Lot

There are a lot of traditions in Los Altos around Christmas time; carriage rides, Breakfast with Santa, and tree lots.  One lot that was around for ages but disappeared a few years ago was the lot at Grant and Covington (technically in Mountain View) but many Los Altos residents went there.

The Kiwanis Tree Lot is one of those things you just look forward to because they've been around so long.  Operating since 1987 (24 years) they've been one of the few consistent lots actually selling trees in Los Altos.  Many of the "local" providers are in Montain View and not truly a Los Altos business.

As with many of the civic services that have been around a long time in Los Altos, this one benefits another institution, the Los Altos Pet Parade. That has been around for a long time as well and become an even bigger Los Altos institution.  Stop by, get a great Christmas tree, and help support our fine community.

Los Altos Spotlight: De Martini Orchard

DeMartini Orchard of Los Altos
Prices: $-$$
Hours:  8-7 OPEN DAILY
Credit/Debit: Yes

There are two great grocery stores in town offering produce, but neither offers the quality and pricing that De Martini offers.  Having been at their current location for years, it's become a bit of an institution for those wanting fresh, high-quality produce at very reasonable prices.  They're also one of the few places you can still get locally dried apricots which used be to one of the major crops in Los Altos.

The stock rotates on a regular basis offering staples and seasonable produce alike.  One huge plus is that they offer local produce all year round from a variety of producers.  By local, I mean, within a 30 mile radius or closer.  I like this because it means we're supporting our community as well as getting "a taste of the area" instead of getting bulk poduced goods from some distant land.  There's something about farm fresh fruits and veggies that make a meal special.  Even if the local goods aren't always from Los Altos, they're still representative of our area.

During the holidays you can get fruit baskets with a wide array of fruits, nuts, and gourmet foods in a range of sizes.  While they may not be like Harry & David, I think you get a better product from De Martini because it's all fresh.  Giving such a gift will mean more than the usual store bought stuff.

In addition to all the produce, there are several gourmet products, spices, and such that can help make your meals that much better.  Again, prices are very reasonable and far better than the grocers in town.  This is one of the unique services available in Los Altos and I recommend stopping by.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Breakfast With Santa in Los Altos - December 18th, 9AM

The "Breakfast with Santa" is a long-time tradition in Los Altos put on by the Los Altos Village Association.  Families and children are invited to gather at a local restaurant for a nice breakfast before being joined by Santa who stops by to sit with kids, take gift requests, stand for photos, and more.

This local tradition is what makes Los Altos such a nice place to live, offering a bit of fun along with strong community involvement.  This year, the event takes place at Maltby's Restaurant.  This place has been catering to families for a long time and is a great selection to host this year's Breakfast with Santa.

Participation costs $20 per person and seating is limited.  It usually sells out fast so I highly recommend getting to one of the many stores selling tickets as soon as possible.  This is another event coordinated by the Los Altos Village Association who helps downtown Los Altos merchants connect with residents and hosts several events downtown throughout the year.

For more information click here for the Los Altos Village Association.

Friday, December 10, 2010

ar-old stuck and killed in crosswalk in Los Altos. Could it have been prevented?

A 76-year old Los Altos resident was struck and killed at the intersection of Los Altos Avenue and Hacienda Way.  The driver has not been charged and the investigation is still on-going.  As many locals know, there have been issues with pedestrians being killed in crosswalks on San Antonio Road in recent years.  Those incidents resulted in almost all the crosswalks on that road getting special crosswalk lights that illuminate to indicate to drivers that someone is walking across the road.

More Lights?  The question now is "Do we need more crosswalk lights on long streets where people are likely to speed?  Speeding is a common issue on San Antonio.  While I don't know if it's a factor is the latest accident, the question remains the same.  By that virtue, which streets should have the markers.

Expensive But Worth It.  While I'm not a fan of overprotecting people, this seems like a good idea on the many streets at risk for this sort of thing.  Some major streets that might benefit from crosswalk lights include Almond Avenue, Los Altos Avenue, El Monte, Covington Road, Grant Road, Springer Road, Magdalena, and Foothill Expressway.  The cost may be more than we can afford but I think they should be added over time.
A lot of these roads have kids crossing for schools and many have walkers or joggers trying to cross.  In my opinion, we should add these lights to improve the safety of our community.

Here's a link to the article in the Los Altos Town Crier.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Los Altos Real Estate Market Update - November 2010

November was a slow month for sales in Los Altos.  There were 22 sales with an average listing price of $1,593,485 and an average selling price of $1,547,586 which is 97% listing/sold ratio.  This is down from 28 sales in November 2009 when the average listing price was $1,678,518.  No matter how you slice it, the market is down from October 2010 or November 2009.  Does this mean we're heading down in general?  No.  In my opinion based on watching this market for years, this is just a one time slowdown.  The trend in Los Altos has been up for the year.   Inventory is low and listings are getting a lot of buyer interest.  Uncertainty tied to the economy is probably having an affect on buyers making offers.

Sales Over $2 and $3 Million
There were 3 sales over $2 million but they were well off their asking prices with one exception which was n overbid.  In November 2009 there were 5 sales and three of those were well over the $2 million mark.  Those big sales are exactly why the market isn't as high right now.  So, as discussed before, this critical segment of the market is where improvements in median and average sales prices are being made or lost.  This month the high-end sales didn't happen so the median and averages took a hit.  Los Altos usually does well in this price range and we've seen better activity recently so we may have gotten such a good run in October that November was that much less active.

Inventory Trend
Inventory is trending lower which is normal.  There were virtually no new listings in the last 2 weeks of November which is a trend that has continued into December.  With the limited inventory, buyers will have to decide if they want to wait until next year in the hopes of seeing more of just snap up what is available.  We'll see.