In an October same month comparison, Big Bear home sales were up and prices showed continued appreciation across all measures.
Sales this October were 12% higher than last October with 137 closings. The average sale price this October was up 7% to $376,682 and the median was up 12% to $335,500. The average price per square foot rose 2% to $244 while the median price per square foot rose 3% to $242.
The average days on market was up slightly from 92 days to 107. The median sales price to list price ratio stayed steady at about 97.5%
Looking at the longer term year-to-date numbers (Jan. 1 through Oct. 31), we also see appreciation across the board.
Sales are up 7% this calendar year to 1013 closings. The average home price is up 4% to $354,700 while the median sales price rose 4% to $300,000. The average price per square foot gained 2% to $248 and the median price per square foot is up 3% to $243.
The average days on market is up slightly from 90 days to 98 days. The median sales price to list price ratio is about half a percent lower to 97.5%.
Heading into our winter months, it appears that we will end the year with across the board positive numbers. Sales are up, prices are up, and Big Bear's popularity seems to be increasing. The local resorts, purchased by Aspen/KSL Investors just a couple years ago, have continued to improve the local ski areas and have brought several high-profile events to the valley. With increased visitorship, we have seen several new shops and restaurants open recently and significant city improvements made to The Village area. With Big Bear's increased popularity and with mortgage rates still near historic lows, the future is looking bright for Big Bear real estate.
Hard to believe that we're already in the 4th quarter of 2019! Let's take a look at the first three quarters and see how the Big Bear real estate market compares to last year.
On a year-to-date comparison, through the first three quarters of 2019 we have seen a 6% increase in Big Bear home sales with 825 closings last year as compared to 875 this year.
All four major price measures showed appreciation as well.
The average and median sales prices were up 4% and 2% to $350,099 and $295,000 respectively. Meanwhile, the average and median price per square foot measures rose 3% and 3.5% to $249 and $245 respectively.
The average days on market rose slightly from 89 to 97 days while the median days on market rose from 62 to 64 days. The average sales price to list price ratio stayed basically the same around 98%.
3RD QUARTER COMPARISON
When we compare just the 3rd quarter of 2019 to the third quarter of this year, we see even greater gains.
Sales were up 8% in the 3rd quarter comparison, while the average and median sales prices rose 8% and 3% to $348,254 and $292,000 respectively. The average and median prices per square foot rose 3% and 4% to $252 and $245.
Days on Market rose slightly from 84 days to 88 days while the median rose from 56 to 64 days. The average sales price to list price ratio stayed constant at 98%.
Overall, sales are up and prices have continued to appreciate in 2019. Mortgage rates are fantastic, still well below the 4% mark for most borrowers. Locally, the ski resorts continue to make on-site improvements while the Big Bear Valley continues to see several municipal improvement projects moving forward. Heading into the final stretch of 2019, I am optimistic we will end our year with our 8th consecutive year of home price appreciation.
With summer in full swing and the first big heatwave of the year expected to hit the Southland this weekend, I figured now is as good as a time as any to check in on the Big Bear lakefront real estate market.
After 2018 ended up as the worst year for lakefront sales since the Big Bear MLS began keeping electronic records in 2002, with the lake filling up over 9 feet due to a wet and snowy winter, expectations were that the lakefront market would bounce back significantly.
So let's take a look...
Let's start with sales.
Note that so far in 2019, we have almost matched the number of lakefront sales from all of last year. Looking at the figure below, with what are typically our busiest months for lakefront sales still ahead, I would expect to see sales at least double before year's end.
So sales have bounced back to a more normal level, but not a remarkable level (as of yet) like we saw in 2005 when the lake filled up over 15 feet and 2012 when the lake was full to the point that water was spilling over the top of the dam.
Now let's take a look at Big Bear lakefront home values.
While 2018 was a year when mostly smaller, shallow-water homes sold at a huge discount as sellers feared another dry winter would negatively affect their home values further, we've seen prices bump back up to a more typical range this year. 2019 has seen a couple 2M dollar plus sales already whereas the highest price sale in 2018 was only $1,125,000. So we're back to seeing a more normal distribution of sales among price ranges resulting in more accurate average and median price numbers.
Price per square foot measures of lakefront homes has remained constant in the mid-$400 level, typical of the last few years. Not much change here which suggests that although the average and median sales prices fell in 2018, lakefront home values have actually stayed relatively stable.
Next, let's look at how long it is taking lakefront homes to sell.
Another bright spot this year is that lakefronts are spending less time on market before selling. Interestingly, the average number of days on market of currently listed properties is 255. This supports the belief that lakefront homes that are priced right are selling quickly while others are spending much longer on market, with many others never selling at all..
Taking into account these current market conditions, Big Bear lakefronts have seen the bounce back we expected. Up to this point, it's been a good recovery, but not a spectacular one. With summer hitting its stride and with what are typically our busiest months ahead of us for lakefront sales, I remain optimistic that the lakefront market will go from good to great before year's end.
Because the Big Bear Real Estate market is a relatively small one, I often look to the quarterly sales figures for more accurate guidance as to market conditions. Monthly sales figures can be deceptive as there are sometimes too few sales to get a true picture of the market conditions. Just a few very high end or low end sales can sway the data significantly. Looking at quarterly numbers give us a larger sample size and more relevant numbers to work with.
On that note, here's an historical look at the number of Big Bear homes that have sold each quarter.
You can see from this figure how sales trend up each summer and drop into the slower winter months. Comparing the second quarter sales of this year to the last 5 years, you will see that although 2017 was higher and 2018 was lower, over time, we are right about average over the past 5 years. So sales remain stable.
Here's a look at the average and median sales price and price per square foot of Big Bear homes.
Although the price measures of Big Bear homes trend up and down regularly over time, the overall trend of both sales prices and the price per square foot measures are still moving in the positive direction. Prices are continuing to appreciate well into their 8th year of consistent gains.
Here's a look at the number of listings and months of inventory.
Not unlike sales, Big Bear home listings trend upward in the summer and hit their bottom in the winter months. Currently, we have slightly fewer listings than we had last year and far fewer than the at the market's bottom in 2011.
This figure shows Months of Inventory which is derived by dividing the number of listings for a specific month by the number of sales for that month. It results in a theoretical number of months it would take for every listing to sell if sales remained constant and if no new listings came on the market.
A typical market has about 5 to 6 months of inventory, so the Big Bear real estate market is at a healthy balance between a buyer's market and seller's market currently.
Lastly, let's look at mortgage interest rates.
This figure shows the significant rise in interest rates we saw from late 2017 to the end of 2018. 2019 has seen a welcomed drop in rates from almost 5% to solidly under 4%. This 1%+ drop in rates actually translates into an almost 10% gain in a buyer's purchase power. Near it's historical low, buyers are in a unique position to take advantage of these amazing interest rates.
With Big Bear home sales steady, home values continuing to appreciate, and near record low mortgage rates, the Big Bear real estate market continues to be bullish. Although there has been a lot of talk about uncertainty in all financial markets, there are no indicators that Big Bear's real estate market is anything but solid through the foreseeable future.
Big Bear home sales are up 18% so far in 2019 with 364 closing through the end of April. This uptick in sales may be attributed to lower interest rates and a busy winter season due to above average snowfall and the subsequent 9 foot rise in Big Bear Lake's water level.
The average sale price of Big Bear homes has also risen 1% to $353,645 while the median sale price is up 2% to $295,000.
The average price per square foot of sold Big Bear homes this year is up 3% to $247 and the median price per square foot is up 5% to $240.
As well, Big Bear homes are selling faster this year with the average Days On Market dropping from 104 days to 99 days and the median days on market dropping from 99 days to 67 days.
Heading into our busiest time of year for home sales, the inventory of homes for sale remains about 10% lower than last year with there currently being 400 home listings in Big Bear.
With increased sales and fewer listings, the law of supply and demand suggests that prices will continue to rise. Additionally, Big Bear Lake's water levels are at their highest point in the past 5 years, so I would expect buyer demand to become even stronger as visitors escape to Big Bear for their summer vacations. As a result, I expect the Big Bear real estate market to remain strong through the foreseeable future fueled by Big Bear's increasing popularity, good economic conditions, and historically low interest rates.
March sales numbers show mixed signs while the year-to-date numbers suggest a stable market with continued price appreciation.
After two months of increased sales, March 2019 saw a 15% dip in sales as compared to sales from last March. Although sales slowed, the average sales price was up 6.5% and the median rose 3.2% this March to $379,115 and $310,000 respectively. Meanwhile, the average and median prices per square foot dropped slightly sliding 3% and 2% to $239 and $236 respectively.
The average Days On Market rose slightly from 96 days to 114 days while the median rose from 54 days to 94 days. The sales price to list price ratio dropped over 1% from 98.36% to 97.22%.
On a year-to-date comparison, we have seen Big Bear home sales stay stable so far this year, dropping only 1%. Meanwhile, the average and median sales prices are up 5% and 1% to $367,536 and $299,000 respectively. The average and median prices per square foot are up 1.5% and 2.5% to $243 and $235 respectively.
The Days On Market measure has risen slightly from 99 days to 106 days while the median rose from 71 days to 85 days.
As the figure below shows, 30 year mortgage rates have settled down close to 4% after almost hitting 5% last November. With rates dropping to the 4% benchmark, I would expect the market to remain strong through the foreseeable future.
From a local perspective, Big Bear Lake's water level rose almost 9 feet this winter and the new ownership of our local mountain resorts has continued to develop the resort area adding more trails, outdoor activities, and summer programs. These factors are likely to continue the increased visitorship that we've seen over the last few summers. And more visitors to Big Bear means more prospective home buyers to the Big Bear Valley!
Sales of Big Bear homes were up almost 10% this February with 72 closings as compared to 66 closings in February 2018.
We saw conflicting direction on prices with the average sale price increasing 10% to $372,421 while the median sale price went down 10% to $297,500. We saw more concurrence with the price per square foot measures with the average price per square foot rising 2% to $245 and the median price per square foot rising 10% to $246.
The average days on market stayed the same at 104 while the average sale price to list price ratio dropped slightly from 98% to 97%.
Looking at the Big Bear real estate market from a year-to-date perspective, sales are up 7% so far in 2019 with 150 Big Bear home sales in the books for this year. This is a welcomed change from the 20% drop in sales we saw overall last year!
As well, prices are up across the board with the average and median sales prices rising 5.5% and 5% to $363,130 and $293,500 respectively. The average and median prices per square foot rose as well by 5% and 4% to $245 and $234 respectively.
With a strong start to 2019, mortgage rates settling back down to the low 4% range, and with this year's particularly snowy and wet winter not only bringing a record number of visitors to our valley, but also bringing the lake's water levels up over 6 feet so far, I would imagine we will continue to see steady growth in the Big Bear real estate market through the foreseeable future.
With Big Bear Lake's water levels at a 50-year low, lakefront sales were exceptionally slow in 2018 with only 12 closings - a record low since at least 2002 when electronic records started being kept.
For an overall perspective of the 2018 Lakefront market, let's start with an historical perspective of Big Bear Lake's water levels over the past 50 years.
Although Big Bear Lake's water levels seem to have a somewhat predictable pattern of ups and downs over the last 50 years, prospective lakefront buyers were more hesitant than usual to commit to purchasing last year.
The result of this buyer hesitance was a significant slowdown in sales. Below you can see that 2018 was the slowest year for lakefront sales in over a decade.
To access e-flyers to all the lakefront homes that sold in 2018, click here: 2018 SOLD LAKEFRONTS
Not unexpectedly, the slowdown in sales meant the average days on market increased, with it taking 226 days on average for the lakefronts that closed in 2018 to sell.
Lastly, there were several economic reasons for the slowdown in sales. The new tax laws limited the deductions on property tax and mortgage interest. As well, mortgage interest rates on a 30-year fixed loan rose significantly from a 2016 low of about 3.5% to a height of almost 5% in 2018. Fortunately, the Federal Reserve did not raise rates in January and mortgage rates have actually decreased once again to about 4.5%. That being said, higher interest rates usually have a negative effect on sales.
Due to the lack of sales, the average and median sales price numbers plummeted this past year. However, in taking a closer look at the 12 individual lakefront sales, you'll see this drop off can be explained and is not indicative of overall lakefront home values. Take a look below at the historical record of lakefront prices.
On a whole, the precipitous drop in the average and median sales prices might suggest that lakefronts in general lost nearly half their values last year. But when you look at the individual lakefront sales more closely, you see that the majority of sales were smaller, less expensive, and generally shallow water homes that were largely affected by the lake levels.
Many of these lakefronts had docks that were beached and would need to see a substantial rise in the lake's water levels before offering lake access. These sales often represented sellers motivated to get out of the market quickly after spending some time listed at higher prices, but ultimately deciding to sell at a discount. On the other side of these transactions were buyers looking to invest in anticipation of significant price appreciation when the lake's water level eventually comes back up.
To see the extent to which lakefront sellers lowered their list prices in order to get sold, take a look at the figure below showing the sales price to original list price ratio.
In 2018, lakefront home owners came down off their original list price an unprecedented 26% to arrive at their eventual negotiated sales price. As one would expect, these motivated sellers were another factor that contributed to the unusually low average and median sales prices in 2018.
Lastly, 2018 saw a significant slow down in higher-end home sales which further skewed the average and median sales price numbers lower. The most expensive of the 12 homes to sell in 2018 was sold at $1,125,000.
In 2017, there were 10 sales over this amount, including three sales over $2M and two sales over $3M. Some of the absence of high-end lakefront sales was due to the lake's water levels, but there was also a lack of competitively priced high-end lakefront homes listed for sale as well. Regardless, fewer high end sales resulted in a much lower average sale price.
Ultimately, I feel the price per square foot measure below offers a better perspective of lakefront home values.
From a price per square foot perspective, you can see a relatively stable trend around $450/sf over the past five years. With the exception of shallow water lakefronts, I think that lakefront home values stayed relatively constant in 2018 in light of slowing sales.
In summary, sales of Big Bear lakefronts lagged in 2018. This can be attributed to Big Bear Lake's water levels hitting a 50-year low, rising interest rates, and limitation on mortgage and property tax deductions.
The average and median sales prices dropped almost 50%, but this can be simply explained by many smaller, shallow water lakefronts selling at a discount price along with a lack of sales in the higher end price ranges. More accurately, the median and average price per square foot of lakefronts stayed relatively constant at about $450 per square foot.
Looking forward, guessing what the market will do in 2019 is difficult to say the least. From a buyer's perspective, the slowdown in sales may be an opportunity to purchase a lakefront with sellers pricing their homes more aggressively in an uncertain market before the market turns upwards again. Conversely, current lakefront owners may have the opportunity to realize the gains of the past 8 years by selling at what might be the market's peak.
Regardless of market forces, we have had one of our busier winter seasons as more and more visitors are discovering what a special place Big Bear is. With the continuing development of our local resorts and village area, Big Bear's appeal continues to grow. This bodes well for Big Bear real estate through the near future and hopefully well beyond!
With 2018 a few weeks behind us now, let's review how last year's Big Bear home sales fared. Here's a look at the numbers followed by a summary of where the Big Bear real estate market has been and where it might be headed.
BIG BEAR HOME SALES
First, let's start with the number of Big Bear homes that sold. Below is a yearly comparison of the number of Big Bear homes sold and a figure showing the percentage change in Big Bear home sales from the previous year.
You'll see from the figures above that Big Bear home sales dropped 22% in 2018, but that's in comparison to an exceptional 2017. From a longer term perspective, 2018 sales were almost on par with 2015 and 2016 sales, representing what we would expect in a more normal market.
BIG BEAR HOME PRICES
Take a look at the history of average and median sales prices followed by the annual percentage of change in prices from the previous year.
Although sales adjusted back to a more normal level, the average and median sales prices of Big Bear homes continued to rise. We saw the average and median sales prices increase 3% and 8% respectively in 2018.
This trend can be seen in the price per square foot measures too.
2018 saw an 8% and 10% rise in the average and median sales prices respectively. So prices continued to rise last year in light of slowing sales.
DAYS ON MARKET
Next, let's look at how quickly Big Bear homes sold in 2018.
The figure above shows that homes sold quicker in 2018 than at any time in the last 5 years, posting the lowest median and average days on market since 2013. In a period of slowing sales, homes spending less time on market suggest more aggressive pricing on behalf of sellers.
The average numbers of homes for sale rose slightly last year, but were still historically quite low.
This slight rise in the average number of listing is likely due to the slow down in home sales. But as previously mentioned, inventory in 2018 remained close to a 10 year low.
Interest rates rose through most of 2018, but had a welcomed drop towards year's end.
You can see that rates bottomed out in 2016 at about 3.5% and then peaked in November close to 5%. Rates have settled back down since to the 4.5% range.
Putting it all together, 2018 saw a drop in the number of Big Bear home sales but all other real estate measures were in positive territory.
The slow down in sales can be attributed to many different factors. After 7 years of price gains, affordability is starting to challenge some buyers. New tax laws limit mortgage and property tax deductions making home ownership somewhat less advantageous from a tax perspective. Mortgage rates have risen from 3.5% to 4.5%, which represents about 12% increase in payments on an average priced Big Bear home.
Although all these factors were likely the reason for slower sales, some industry pundits feel that after the initial negative effects of the increased interest rates and tax implications, these factors will become "the new normal" and have less impact on sales moving forward. (Conversely and anecdotally, I have had a few clients claim they were buying now before interest rates go higher. So in some instances, rising rates are encouraging sales!)
If there's one thing I've learned over decades of working, owning, and investing in real estate, it is that no one can predict with any certainty what the market will do. However, based on the overall strong market numbers from 2018, with a healthy level of buyer demand and relatively low supply of homes for sale, and with rising interest rates seeming to have slowed and remain at historically low levels, I am optimistic that 2019 will be another bullish year for Big Bear real estate.