The days of Manteca’s housing prices mimicking Six Flags at Vallejo’s Medusa super roller coaster plunging to earth are over.
Instead the resale housing market is acting more like a sedate kid’s ride.
As a result real estate agents and new home sales directors contacted by the Bulletin all believe the worst is behind the Manteca market. At the same time they don’t expect a return to a high adrenalin market any time soon. That is even with a final big wave of foreclosures expected to flood the market in the coming months.
The health of the housing market - both resale and new - is critical to Manteca’s economic health as it is one of the biggest private sector job generators in terms of constructing and selling as well as pumping up retail sales and demand for other services.
“Prices are inching up,” noted longtime Realtor Carol Bragan.
Bragan and others lamented the lack of inventory as reflected in Multiple Listing Service stats that show the previously owned homes available for sale in the 95336 and 95337 ZIP codes to be down 43.6 percent from January when there were 179 available to 101 in July. At the same time sold homes over the seven-month period are up 32.3 percent, pending sales are up 15.4 percent, and the available inventory has dropped from a 2.8-month supply in January based on the sales pace to 1.2-month supply in July.
Real estate agents estimate the buyers of existing homes are between 80 and 90 percent “local” as defined by being from the Northern San Joaquin Valley. A large chunk are investors motivated by the fact $170,000 invested in a house is producing net cash flow from rent significantly greater than most other investments.
And although prices have started inching up as reflected in sales in June, July and so far this month, real estate experts expect the market to stay relatively flat.
Realtor Tom Wilson notes that “prices and quantity of sales are statistically flat.” That is backed up by the sales pace so far this year that is almost a carbon copy of 2011 when 1,173 homes were sold. And if prices continue ever so slightly going up based largely on more expensive properties selling, the current median price of $176,800 for the first seven months will come close to mirroring the 2011 median of $179,950 by year’s end.
“Manteca real estate remains undervalued compared to neighboring communities such as Ripon, Escalon, and Oakdale,” Wilson observed. “It is only a question of when prices will catch up with reduced inventories.”
That is especially true when replacement cost - the price of building from scratch - is taken into account.
University of Southern California economists have been predicting home prices will at one point experience a couple years of double digit gains that will recoup a large chunk of the pre-2001 pricing levels before the market started overheating
Meanwhile, new home builders in Manteca are ramping up for a an improving housing market with several developers - Atherton Homes and Raymus Homes - getting ready in the coming months to break ground on new neighborhoods.
Atherton Homes sales manager Kathy Hammons noted “sales have doubled since April” at Union Ranch with 23 deals completed and four reservations pending. Foot traffic - a barometer of market interest - has nearly doubled since the start of the year in model homes.
And unlike in 2008 when the new housing market reached its lowest point in the last 15 years, there is no absence of Bay Area buyers.
Those buying homes so far this year at Union Ranch hail from Dublin, Fremont, Mountain View, and San Jose with those coming from west of the Altamont Pass accounting for half of all sales. The rest are “local” sales from Manteca, Stockton, Madera, and Ripon among other locales.
When the market was overheating from 2001 to 2006, Bay Area buyers accounted for 90 percent of all new home sales and almost three out of every four existing home sales in Manteca.
Hammons said that new home buyers today place a big emphasis on lifestyle as they are looking to stay in the homes they are buying for a long time.
New home builders are on track for their fourth consecutive year of selling more than 300 housing units a year in Manteca. If that happens, it will mark four years in a row Manteca has built more homes than any other jurisdiction in San Joaquin, Stanislaus and Merced counties.
Justin Smith who works at Union Ranch credits that to Manteca’s “quality of growth” that sets it apart in the minds of buyers from that of other nearby communities.