Uptick in Bakersfield home sales breeds optimism

Uptick in Bakersfield home sales breeds optimism

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Louise Juracek, a broker associate at Coldwell Banker Preferred Realtors, sells 130 to 150 houses a year.

And when a veteran broker like Juracek says she’s optimistic about the Bakersfield, Calif., residential real estate market, it’s probably worth a listen.

“There’s a lot of cash out there,” she said. “A lot of cash.”

But there are caveats.

“I’m very optimistic,” Juracek said. “This is a good market. But there’s a little bit of weirdness, too.”

For example, interest rates are up — to 4.5% on a conventional loan for an owner-occupied home. That makes it tougher for buyers on the edge.

And with State Farm employees leaving in waves and Chevron layoffs still painfully fresh, the market is certainly not perfect, she suggested.

Looking at the numbers, they’re not radically different from last year. But inventory has tightened, from 1,203 homes in February 2017 to 1,154 in February of this year.

Comparing pending sales in those same months, February 2017 showed 505. This year that number dropped to 448.

“A year ago we actually had 50-something more sales,” she said. And unsold inventory numbers seem to be tightening.

“Unsold inventory is down,” agreed Sheri Anthes, also with Coldwell Banker and the Bakersfield Association of Realtors. “So we have fewer homes on the market.”

But the really good news is properties that have actually gone into escrow are up more than 11%.

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Building permits for new homes were down significantly, with 133 pulled in February of last year and just 88 pulled in the same month this year, which could reflect competition from sales of existing homes.

Brandon Hardin buys houses, fixes them up and either rents them or sells them. And he and his fiancee are thinking about buying a home, so they’re intently interested in the current real estate environment.

“On the investment side, I’m seeing a lot of newer investors on the market,” he said.

But it’s not as easy as it looks.

“I buy a lot in the $125,000 to $135,000 range,” he said. “Some first-time buyers are a little bit spooked because of the rising interest rates.”

Homes priced over $425,000 can take a long time to move, but houses in the $250,000 to $350,000 “are still moving pretty quickly.”

Hardin said he can’t say for sure that it’s a cause-and effect, but he’s noticed a reluctance to take the plunge among some prospective buyers who happen to be Hispanic. And he wonders whether the the current political climate might be making some potential homebuyers feel less secure — and therefore less likely to make what may be the biggest investment of their lives.

One thing seems sure, he said. Making bank by simply buying a home is much less likely than it once was.

“The old days of your house being a bank are over.”

Tribune Content Agency

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