East Bay Real Estate Market Report: Feeling Like Alice, But in a Good Way

East Bay Real Estate Market Report: Feeling Like Alice, But in a Good Way

Are we still falling down the rabbit hole? Life has been a strange swirl of orange skies and ash, record-shattering heat, back-to-school Zooms, street dining at tables six feet apart, drive-in movies in parking lots, and a flurry of election campaign mailers.

Pardon us for digressing from our regularly scheduled East Bay real estate market update. Sometimes you need to acknowledge when your world seems, well, otherworldly.

Even our real estate realm feels sort of surreal as the residential market runs red hot during a pandemic-induced recession. We’re seeing that even condo sales, which historically take it on the chin during economic downturns, are holding steady-ish.

Abio Properties Associate Broker Diana Smith, who tracked the August numbers for us, sums it up like this:

“Oh mamma, things are cooking!”

Here’s the East Bay real estate rundown for August (with detailed charts below):


Median home sales prices

Of the 14 cities we track in Alameda and Contra Costa counties, nearly all saw median home sales prices rise in August 2020 compared to August 2019.

Particularly in Lamorinda, median sales prices continued the remarkable climb we told you about in our last market report. The median price in Lafayette, for example, jumped nearly 19% year-over-year to reach $1.74 million this August.

Only Berkeley and Albany missed out on this upward trend.

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Eyes on Martinez

Martinez stood out in August as a rising real estate star. Median home sales prices in this relatively affordable small town rose about 17% year-over-year, from $660,000 in August 2019 to $770,000 this August.

Moreover, the number of pending home sales (properties in escrow) grew by nearly 80% year-over-year.

"I've been telling people for years that Martinez is the best place to buy in the East Bay,” says Abio Properties Realtor Mariah Bradford, citing the Martinez Unified School District, the increasingly hipster downtown, and the epic Waterfront Park, which “makes your head explode with awesome.” Martinez also was named among the safest cities in California.

“People erroneously think Martinez is just the Tosco Refinery that they see crossing the Benicia Bridge, and they have no idea how many varied and cool areas there are, including Briones and the Alhambra Valley," Mariah says.


Condo sales

Condo sales are not tanking. We repeat: East Bay condo sales are recovering after a short COVID-19 dip.

While we’ve been telling you about all the urban dwellers fleeing dense housing in search of bigger and greener pastures during the pandemic, Realtor magazine reports that home buyers haven’t given up on condominiums.

Here’s what we saw in August:

  • Median sales prices for condos in the East Bay - Martinez and Walnut Creek stood out with higher median prices of 22% and 15% respectively year-over-year. Albany and Berkeley saw significant drops of 26% and 28%, respectively.
  • Number of units sold - Unlike detached homes, the number of condos sold in most East Bay cities was down year-over-year.  Significant exceptions were Oakland with 23% more sales and Richmond with a whopping 91% more sales.
  • Sales in the pipeline – Thanks to millennials and first-time buyers, the number of pending condo sales in August were up throughout the East Bay.


More single-family homes sold Y-O-Y

Although the pandemic and shelter-in-place orders initially put off home sellers from listing their properties, East Bay inventory is climbing back up.

Smart sellers are taking advantage of pent up buyer demand, and buyers are harnessing historically low interest rates. Many East Bay cities saw more homes sell or go into escrow in August 2020 than August 2019, including Berkeley, Oakland, Alamo, Concord, Lafayette, Martinez, Orinda, Pleasant Hill, and Walnut Creek.

Especially striking: Lafayette saw nearly 90% more homes sold year-over-year!


Buyers better act fast

Like July, August was another speedy month for East Bay home sales. Market data shows some homes sold as quickly as two weeks.

Hayward homes, for example, sold twice as fast this August than last summer: 15 days on the market in August 2020, compared to 29 days in 2019.

Berkeley, however, went against the tide (you gotta do you, quirky Berkeley) with slower than usual home sales. Properties sat on the market more days ­­– 80% longer ­– and median sales prices fell slightly by 4%.


Latest on evictions

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill extending the state’s eviction moratorium for five months. Tenants who can show they lost income because of COVID-19 have until March 1 to pay in full.

The relief comes with a caveat: Tenants must pay 25% of the rent due from September to January. Payments don’t have to be monthly.

Small landlords who own between one to four units will receive some additional foreclosure protections.

Read the full announcement from the Governor’s Office here.


And now for the numbers

For detached single-family homes. Sources: Bay East Assoc. of Realtors, Contra Costa Assoc. of Realtors


Alameda County

Alameda real estate market August 2020


Contra Costa County