Hot Or Not?
Is Monterey County real estate still a good investment?
Thursday, February 26, 1998
It may be hard to believe that real estate could get any more expensive in Monterey County, but it appears that prices will continue to soar into the future. The current upswing in real estate prices that has home buyers grimacing and Realtors laughing all the way to the bank shows no signs of slowing.
"It''s hot," says real estate broker Jon Cope of the current residential real estate market, "and it''s getting hotter."
According to California Association of Realtors data, prices have risen steadily since 1995, with the average selling price of a single-family home in Monterey County increasing by 24 percent in the past three years, and the median price rising by 16 percent. The average is skewed largely by dramatic price increases of homes in high-end neighborhoods. For instance, the average selling price for a single-family home in Pebble Beach has risen from $662,472 to $838,221 over the past three years, a 26 percent increase. Carmel, Carmel Valley and the neighborhoods along the Monterey-Salinas Highway likewise saw dramatic price increases.
"All indications are that we are going to continue with a strong market for some time," says Lawrence Lyonhardt, real estate consultant with Coldwell Banker Del Monte Realty. "All the things that affect the market are still strong. Silicon Valley is going like gangbusters, interest rates are low and the mood is high."
However, he says, "it''s not the same kind of crazy boom we saw in 1987-88. It''s not such a heated market. It''s more steady."
Nevertheless, the biggest problem Realtors are having right now, says Lyonhardt, is inventory: There are not enough houses on the market to satisfy the demand.
Lyonhardt points to an influx of big money, particularly from Silicon Valley, as one factor that has sent prices soaring. More and more people are buying weekend and retirement homes here. Furthermore, he says, thanks to the Internet, the cell phone and the FAX machine, business people can run a computer company while enjoying the sunset from the deck of their Carmel Highlands retreat.
But the Carmel and Pebble Beach crowds are not the only ones turning a profit on their houses. Homeowners in other neighborhoods are seeing their property values go up as well. Although less dramatic, home prices in Seaside, Marina, North Monterey County, Pacific Grove, south Salinas and South County have risen steadily since 1995.
Likewise, commercial real estate is experiencing similar growth in Monterey County. "Values on commercial real estate have, in the past two years, become much stronger," says commercial real estate broker John Mahoney in explanation of the current trend. "Vacancy rates are down. Rental rates are stronger. The changes in capital gains laws are helpful, too. Also, the debt market: There is more availability of funds and we''re seeing more attractive interest rates than we''ve seen in years." All this, says Mahoney, means more demand and higher prices for commercial real estate.
So, what does the future hold? "Seaside is going to go through the roof," predicts Cope. "It''s the only place that can appreciate. It will surpass Monterey within five to six years. It will be the most expensive place to live on the Peninsula. Seaside has the weather, it has the sunshine, it has the views of the Bay. Now, all the yuppies and the investors are buying it up."
"We''re going to see prices going up all the way around," says Lyonhardt. "[Monterey County] has a fairly equal distribution of people in all income brackets. I think prices will go up proportionately for each town."
"We think the changes in the downtown [Monterey] market have been quite positive," says Mahoney. "Seaside has been a very progressive city for some time, and has made a lot of good things happen. The city has meaningful plans for the future." Mahoney points also to north Salinas, South County and Carmel Valley as continued big sellers.
Lyonhardt also believes that Monterey County will continue to see an influx of wealthy buyers. "It''s such a beautiful area, it''s not the helter-skelter of the city," he says. "The character of the Peninsula is just as it has been in the past, but the quality of life is better. When people discover it, and they are discovering it more than ever, they want to come live here." cw