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Although year-over-year home sales have fallen for the second consecutive month, appraiser Roger Miller with Taketa Miller & Associates recently told members of the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® that they shouldn’t be too concerned about recent changes in the housing market.

The housing market is “doing just fine overall,” said Miller.

In fact, Miller said this is the longest period of appreciation he has witnessed in his 40 years in business and he believes it will continue for a while.

Homes have appreciated an average of 20 percent in Silicon Valley. Miller indicated the year-over-year median home price is up 23 percent in Los Gatos and up 23 percent in Saratoga. In Mountain View, the median is up a whopping 25 percent, in Cupertino 19 percent, and in Sunnyvale and Los Altos 17 percent.

Miller said inventory has increased, but sales are down in some places and days on the market have lengthened from an average of seven to 10 days to one month in some areas. It’s not a bad thing, said Miller. It just means the market is settling down.

Watch the specific micro market you are in, said Miller. In places closer to Apple and Google, homes are still selling at a quick pace. In Cupertino, a 2,700 square foot home sold for $2.36 million in just nine days. In Sunnyvale, a $1.9 million home sold in nine days. In Mountain View, a 1,400 square foot home priced at $2.3 million sold in eight days.

The Silicon Valley appraiser said the market usually slows down from the second week of May because of graduations and summer vacation. With the school year starting earlier this year, he expects it to heat up again around the second week of August.

“Take a vacation and be ready to come back in mid-August,” Miller told the REALTORS®.

Miller said the local economy is especially good, with Google’s plans of expanding to San Jose. Unless the giant companies like Facebook, Apple, Google, LinkedIn and eBay are transported somewhere else, he believes the housing market will stay hot for some time.

“I don’t see the market coming down in a while. It’s a little down, but even as it settles down, it will settle down at a higher price,” said Miller.

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A recent survey by Houselogic.com, the consumer website from the National Association of REALTORS®, finds that jobs and the housing market will be two of the most important issues for voters in the 2012 election. Nearly one-third of respondents said housing will be the top issue on their mind when they head to the polls next November.

Respondents were asked “What issue area will have the greatest impact on your vote in 2012?” National security, health care, and energy/environment trailed housing and unemployment by wide margins. Here are the results:

Jobs/Unemployment – 54 percent
Housing – 27 percent
National Security – 8 percent
Health Care – 4 percent
Energy/Environment – 2 percent
Other – 4 percent

With unemployment still high, it is easy to see why so many Americans are concerned about the job market. However, employment and the housing market are inextricably linked because economic growth and job creation cannot occur without a housing recovery.

Housing accounts for more than 15 percent of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product, a key driver of the national economy. Home sales generate jobs. NAR estimates that for every two homes sold, one job is created. New spending on homebuilding products, furniture, and other residential investments also have a significant economic impact.

Some recent indicators show that the economy might be starting to rebound, with pending home sales rising strongly in October, according to NAR’s Pending Home Sales Index. However, any changes to current programs or incentives must not jeopardize a housing and economic recovery. Unemployment, consumer confidence and consumer spending will not rebound until a number of issues are addressed.

This HouseLogic survey shows Americans understand that a housing recovery is essential to the nation’s economic recovery, and many of those housing-related issues will be on the minds of voters in 2012.

Over 100 members attended Wednesday’s Los Gatos/Saratoga District meeting and listened to longtime appraiser Roger Miller from Taketa, Miller & Associates. Miller’s message was one of “guarded optimism” regarding 2011, but he is especially positive about this spring.

Appraiser Roger Miller

“Things are starting to turn around,” Miller remarked, and proceeded to share his data.

* At this time last year, there were 95 listings in Los Gatos; as of Tuesday evening, Miller indicated there were 111. A year ago, Saratoga had 73 listings; as of Tuesday night, it had 71.

* Pending sales in Los Gatos at this time last year were 39; they are 43 this year. Saratoga had 20 last year; it has 36 this year.

* 2010 home sales were up in Los Gatos 22 percent from 2009; Monte Sereno, up 42 percent; and Saratoga, up 25 percent.

* Homes priced at two million dollars and under are in a very strong market – 92 percent of last year’s home sales in Los Gatos were under $2 million; Monte Sereno, 65 percent; and Saratoga, 81 percent.

If a listing is under $2 million, if it’s priced right and in the Los Gatos school district, it will sell in one to two months or less. “If your listing is under a million (dollars) in Los Gatos and it hasn’t sold, there’s something wrong,” Miller told REALTORS®.

There is no question prices have dropped, some by as much as 20 percent, and others more, depending on the area. Miller said a home bought at the end of 2007 or at the beginning of 2008 would sell roughly for the same price today.

If there are many foreclosures and REOs in a neighborhood, the market will certainly be affected. This is not much of an issue in the Los Gatos area, according to Miller. There continue to be multiple offers in Silicon Valley – one home just received six offers recently. There are also a number of high-end homes that have sold in the $4 million and above range in Woodside, Atherton and Los Altos Hills.

Miller advised REALTORS® to always do a true history on comps and always check the absorption rate. In Los Gatos, for homes priced between $1 and 2 million, the absorption rate is three months; between $2 to 3 million, seven months; between $3 to 4 million, seven to10 months. In Saratoga, the absorption rate for homes priced under $1 million is one month; between $1 and 2 million, two months; between $2 and 3 million, eight months. Between $3 and 4 million, 5.5 months.

Miller said REALTORS® should NOT have to deal with out-of-town appraisers, unless the report is co-signed by an appraiser who knows the area. Speak with the bank manager; it is important to know the bank you are dealing with, he stressed.

There’s more optimism in the air, according to Miller. Here are some signs:
*Stocks have improved.
* The unemployment rate has gone down a bit – the unemployment rate in the San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara MSA was 10.7 percent in December 2010, down from a revised 10.9 percent in November 2010, and below the year-ago estimate of 11.5 percent, according to the Employment Development Department.
* Google is hiring 6,000 new employees nationwide and 2,000 locally.
* Heavier traffic these days points to more activity and more people being employed.

“Everything is starting to turn,” Miller repeated.

Miller, who is well-known for his expertise in the business, said he is very confident that the housing market in the region will do well this spring. But time is of essence. He told REALTORS® if they have sellers who are sitting on the fence, “tell them to get their house on the market now, within the next two weeks.”

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