Home sales weak nationwide, but up in Bay Area


The sale of newly-built houses fell 7.1 percent in March, that's the biggest decline in more than a year and prices hit new lows in February in 16 major cities, down 4 percent in the Bay Area, but we're also hearing that real estate is picking up in some places.

We found Bay Area builders, realtors and buyers scratching their heads at those numbers. We found houses selling with multiple offers in places like Oakland and at this Shea Homes Development, where they had the first-midweek price increase in seven years, due to the strong demand.

Bay Area builders say all you have to do is look to see that their business is starting to pick up, despite a national report that says otherwise.

"These statistics come out quite often and they don't always reflect the reality of what we see in the market place," said Layne Marceau.

Marceau is the Northern California president for Shea homes. He says sales at Shea's Livermore development have picked up dramatically in recent months.

"We came into 2012 with a conservative forecast, expecting to maybe sell 60 or 70 homes in the first four months of the year. We've already sold 150 homes," said Marceau.

The homes are priced from $300,000 to $565,000 -- a range that's especially attractive to young professionals and small families. Besides low interest rates and some job growth, the new home market seems to be benefitting from low inventory in the resale sector.

"It's a classic supply and demand issue now," said Tracy Tilin McKendell from Coldwell Banker.

Tilin McKendell is a realtor in Oakland, where she says for the first time in a long time, homes are selling quickly and often with several offers on one property.

"What we're finding is a market much like it was six or seven years ago, only the prices are different. So we're seeing multiple offers, we're seeing houses going pending very quickly, in a week or two," said McKendell.

That uptick in competition is making it more difficult for those just entering the market.

"It feels like we just missed the rush," said Margaret Lucas.

Tired of paying rising rent, Lucas and her husband thought this would be a good time to buy, but so far, they're not too excited by what they're finding.

"It seems like a lot of the houses that we saw on the market a couple months ago are being snapped up or the houses that are coming available aren't very appealing for a number of reasons," said Lucas.

While prices and inventory remain relatively low, home sales are up in the East Bay. According to DataQuick, they are up 7.5 percent in Contra Costa County and nearly 10 percent in Alameda County, compared with March of last year.

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