By Bruce Cathcart

Happy New Year everyone!  It is hard to believe that 2018 is over.  I guess it’s true that the older we get the faster time seems to go by.   It seems that each New Year’s article I write always recommends that owning your own home should be a goal to work towards and that new year’s resolutions should help make that goal a reality.  Resolutions like paying off debt and saving up a down payment are hard to keep but ultimately they are the key to creating the opportunity to own your home.  I strongly believe that owning a home is the key to financial success and stability in today’s difficult and challenging times.

In this week’s article I will offer up some reflections on real estate then and now but before I get to that, let’s take a look at the housing sales data for the month of December and my end of the year wrap up to see how our real estate sales market here in the Coachella Valley is doing.   As of last month we were still ahead of last year’s total number of homes sold for the same time period… but would we be able to maintain that lead by the end 2018?  And how will this year’s totals compare to last year’s totals?  Let’s take a look at December’s and our year-end total sales numbers and find out.

According to the Desert Area MLS as of 01/1/18 there were only 625 pending transactions (homes that went into escrow) of residential properties here in the Coachella Valley in the month of December.  That’s considerably less than last month when we had 751 pendings in the November.  In November there were 664 solds (closed escrows) and we were down in December only slightly with 658 solds, which is considerably lower than the same as last year when we had 795 homes sold in December 2017!  This poor performance in December finally surrendered our lead over last year’s sales with our year to date (total) solds for 2018 at 10,333 compared to 2017’s total sales of 10,460.  That’s actually only 1% fewer sales than last year… but wait, there’s more!  2017’s total sales volume (the dollar amount that all homes sold equaled) was $4,528,133,215.00 which was dwarfed by 2018’s total sales volume of $4,887,820,219.00!   This increased the average sales price for residential homes sold in the Coachella Valley from $432,900.00 in 2017 to $473,030.00 in 2018 (approximately 9.5% increase)!  That is the second highest sales volume in the history of the Coachella Valley, second only to 2005.

This month our inventory of homes for sale actually went down a little with 3,392 homes available on January 1, 2019 compared to 3,502 homes available on December 1, 2018.  Last year at this time we had 3,874 homes available for sale.  This slight decrease in inventory should take away any fears that we starting off 2019 as a “Buyer’s” market, but also should not raise concerns that we have a lack of inventory and are becoming a “Seller’s” market either.  If anything it appears that our market remains stable and in proper balance… at least for the time being.  It should be noted here that the last two month’s total number of sales was trending lower and that most residential prices seemed to have plateaued (stabilized) toward the end of the year, but whether this is a pause in the market or a new downward trend we’ll just have to wait and see.  One thing is for sure though, 2018 was a GREAT year for residential real estate in the Coachella Valley!

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The internet has forever changed how houses are bought in sold.  There was a time when shopping to buy a home meant driving around a neighborhood looking for “For Sale” signs or reading the classifieds in newspapers and print ads in magazines.  Eventually buyers would find a real estate agent who had access to the “exclusive and confidential” Multiple Listings who would then perform the search for them from a book that was published once a month!  The internet has changed all that giving today’s buyers the ability to virtually shop anywhere from their phone or computing devices with almost unlimited access to information about houses available for sale.  Does this make the real estate agent less necessary for buying (or selling) a home?  Absolutely not!  While finding a home may be easier today the actual process and paperwork to complete a purchase/sale has become increasingly more complicated and difficult for buyers and sellers.  When I started my career in real estate 37+ years ago I used a one page contract for most of my transactions.  There were no disclosures, advisories, home inspectors, home warranties, mold issues etc.  By the time a buyer or seller adds their final closing statement to their paperwork today the file is usually 2 to 3 inches thick!  This is just one reason why finding the right agent to professionally guide buyers and sellers through the complex process of buying or selling a home in today’s market is so very important.

Finding the right agent starts with talking to family, friends and reliable associates that have personally worked with a real estate agent who they would recommend to you.  Check out these agent’s websites and listings and then meet with them to make sure it “feels right”.  Buying or selling a home may be one of the most important decisions that you make in your life and if this is your goal to accomplish in 2019 make sure you find a trusted real estate professional Realtor to work with… you will be glad that you did.

This is my 100th article for CV Weekly where for the last 6 years I have shared the market data and my insights for residential sales here in the Coachella Valley.  It has been my pleasure to offer my advice on all things real estate but this will be my last article.  I want to thank my publisher and editor Tracy Dietlin for allowing me this opportunity and for all of her help and support over the years.  Also, thank you to my readers for all of your feedback and questions.  I enjoyed it all!

If you have a real estate question or concerns please email me at the address below.

Bruce Cathcart is the Broker/Co-Owner of La Quinta Palms Realty, “Your Friendly Professionals” and can be reached by email at bycathcart@laquintapalmsrealty.com or visit his website at www.laquintapalmsrealty.com.

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