, known sometimes as a hippie haven, is becoming a hotbed for home sales.
Prices in the Bay Area suburb are up 9% this year, with homes selling for a median price of $790,986. Properties are sitting on the market for 73 days on average, the lowest of any area with positive price trends
within the confines of the country’s 75 largest Census-defined metro areas. Only 37% of sellers have been forced to reduce their prices, one of the lowest rates in the country.
In fact, the only housing-market problem Berkeley seems to have involved four protesters who illegally occupied a tree from the beginning of the year through September. Authorities finally cut off the hippies’ food and water supply, forcing them from their oak home.
“If you have to sell a house, sell in these places,” says Michael Simonsen, chief executive of Altos Research. “But it’s a measure of how rough is it out there for sellers. These are the best markets, and we’re looking at three to four months of time to sell in the country’s best markets.”
Our data comes from Altos Research, a Mountain View, Calif., research firm. We looked at the suburbs in the country’s 75 largest Census-defined metro areas based on the last 90 days of sales activity. Since a metro area can contain hundreds of suburbs, we narrowed it to those cities with an inventory of at least 75 homes on the market.
Since stagnation is the death of prices and sales, we further eliminated suburbs where it currently takes more than 125 days to sell the average home. Price also matters. Nationwide, cities like Sacramento, Calif., and Los Angeles
are among the easiest to sell a home, based on sales data from Radar Logic, a New York real estate research firm, but homes are mainly selling at massive discounts. To eliminate these places from our list, we excised any suburb where year-over-year price declines
were steeper than 10% and where more than 50% of sellers had to reduce their asking price to sell their home.
What was left wasn’t a set of awe-inspiring hidden gems where sellers are awash in bidding wars. Nationwide, low-interest rates and low prices caused existing home sales to rise 5.5% in September, but in many areas of the country, sellers are finding relatively few buyers.
Indeed, areas like Encinitas, Calif.
, and Matthews, N.C.
, where homes are staying on the market 100 and 127 days respectively, make our list even though such long waiting times are traditionally hallmarks of buyers’ market.
Sellers in Waltham, Mass.
, a middle-class suburb west of Boston, don’t have that problem. They’ve seen 1% price appreciation over the last year, and only 53% of them have to reduce their price in order to make a sale. It’s not exactly a bull market, but homes only take 79 days to find buyers, the second-quickest turnaround of any suburb on our list.
Further south, 27% of sellers in Montclair, N.J., have dropped their prices in the last 90 days. The median home price there is $671,954, and properties stay on the market 115 days.
While this is good news for local homeowners, these are hardly sellers markets.
“In some markets you can drop the price to zero and not sell a brand new property,” says Doug Duncan, the chief economist of Fannie Mae.
Why? “There’s no one there to buy it.”