FAIRFIELD — It was a record March.
Solano County home prices made a historic jump last month, recording the largest single-month median-price increase in history.
The median price – the point at which an equal number of homes sold for more and less – for the 416 homes sold last month was $300,000, according to San Diego-based real estate information service DataQuick.
It was the first month with a median price of $300,000 or more since June 2008 and was a $70,000 increase from a year ago. More stunning was that it was a jump of $36,000 from February’s median price – the largest month-to-month increase since DataQuick began keeping records and likely the largest ever.
Don McDonald, the Fairfield-based director of marketing for ReMax Gold – which covers central and Northern California – said the traditional selling season kicked into high gear.
“We look forward to January and the start of the selling season, but there wasn’t a lot of movement in January,” McDonald said Wednesday. “Then it rained so much in February and early March that it stifled selling. It picked up significantly after that.”
Veteran Fairfield Realtor Jim Stever said the big increase didn’t surprise him.
“Yeah, the prices jumped that much,” he said Wednesday. “It’s supply and demand. There’s still a lot more demand than supply. Every house had multiple offers, so the prices went up.”
The previous biggest single-month jump in DataQuick’s 20-year history of recording the information was a $24,000 boost from July to August 2005 – when prices were racing to the peak of $490,000 in November 2005. The relatively low home prices before the mid-1990s, when DataQuick began tracking the numbers – means that a $36,000 monthly increase was extremely unlikely before that.
Prices had been stalled around the $270,000 level for several months before March’s sudden jump, so McDonald cautioned against putting too much stock in one month’s numbers.
“You don’t know what happened,” he said. “There could have been a bunch of high-priced homes. If you look over 90 days or six months, you get a better idea. It might go from $300,000 to $270,000 next month.”
But both Stever and McDonald said they weren’t surprised by the jump. Solano has been suffering from a monthslong inventory crunch – while there used to be 700 to 800 homes for sale at any given time in Fairfield and Vacaville, there are now less than 300, said Stever.
That’s an improvement from last summer, he said.
“It’s still way behind what it should be, from what’s normal,” he said. “I forget what even seems normal.”
McDonald said more homes are coming on the market as homeowners realize they have equity. Combined with low interest rates, the market is heating up and moving back to homeowners selling their domicile – a far cry from recent years, where nearly all home sales were short sales or foreclosures. He said the ability to sell a home and move up is back for the first time in at least five years and that first-time homeowners are back in the market.
But they have to move fast, said Stever.
“Warm, fuzzy houses are on the market for 10 or 15 days,” Stever said. “A nice house at a decent price will be gone in 14 or 15 days.”
The numbers from the Bay Area Real Estate Information Services Inc., which uses slightly different standards than DataQuick, are similar to DataQuick’s. Its March numbers for Northern Solano County – which excludes Benicia and Vallejo – showed the median price at $340,000, up $17,000 over February. The number of homes sold in both February and March were down dramatically from 2013 numbers.
Across the Bay Area, it was the same story: The median price was $579,000, a 23 percent increase over a year ago, but the number of homes sold dropped nearly 13 percent.
Statewide, the median sales price for new and existing houses and condominiums reached $376,000, up 5.9 percent from the previous month and up 20.1 percent from March 2013. There were 32,923 homes sold, up 28.2 percent from February but down 12.8 percent from March 2013. Sales typically increase from February to March.
Reach Brad Stanhope at 427-6958 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bradstanhope.
Note: Corrects quote from Jim Stever in ninth paragraph in earlier version.