Happy Fettuccini Alfredo Day (and prices really are down)

Sauteed Spinach and Tomato Fettuccini Close-up
Creative Commons License photo credit: Cascadian Farm

Happy National Fettuccini Alfredo Day everyone! Sure, you have been so busy with preparations for National Bagels and Lox Day (that would be Wednesday) that this one almost slipped past you. No worries! It’s early, yet.

And on this day when we all pause to reflect on noodles and cream sauce, as I anxiously awaiting the onslaught of cards and floral deliveries from friends and loved ones, I know what you are thinking. Why does Fettuccini Alfredo get the crappy time slot? The day after Superbowl? Sandwiched between stuffed mushrooms and Peppermint Patties? Come on. Grapefruit gets the whole month of February, and no one even likes grapefruit.

This is the kind of news that no one will notice – kind of like what has really happened to housing prices this past year.

First there was this San Diego Union-Tribune story on January 17th telling us that San Diego County home prices were flat for 2010.

San Diego County’s housing prices ended 2010 about where they began a year ago after peaking in the spring, DataQuick Information Systems reported Monday.

Dang.

Then on January 29th, the Union-Tribune reported that prices were actually up, this information again coming from DataQuick.

San Diego County housing in 2010 paused on the way to recovery, as sales dipped and prices rose by almost exactly the same percentage for the second year in a row. The overall median for the year stood at $330,750, 6.7 percent higher than in 2009…

Woot!

Confused? Yeah, me too. Which is it? Pasta or grapefruit?

First, you might want to check out their nifty little map of the county to see how your community stacks up. Generally speaking, the most depressed, lowest-priced communities were that one’s that saw the gains.

And there is a story within the story, of course.

When assessing home values – whether you are a buyer, appraiser, or real estate agent, six months is still the magic number. Any data older than six months tends to get thrown down the disposal, considered beyond the “best by” date. And we all know what happened last April/May.

We had a homebuyer tax credit in play. If you live in California and your timing was just right, you were able to take advantage of two separate credits – one from Uncle Sam and one from then-Uncle Arnie.

It’s widely accepted that the only thing these incentives stimulated was a mass rearrangement of the buyers’ Daytimers. Rather than incentivize buyers to buy who wouldn’t have done so without this manufactured celebration, the tax credits served only to have buyers accelerating their buying plans. In other words, we pigged out in late Spring, which left the demand side quite satisfied. We robbed Peter to pay Paul. We ate too many stuffed mushrooms, and now we have no interest in the fettuccini.

This chart shows the pace of “under contract” properties for the past year (homes opening escrow) for detached homes in the I-15 corridor Zips of 92127, 92128, 92129, and 92131.

And here is what asking versus selling prices were doing over that period for the same areas.

The moral to this story is that, whether you chose to believe the news that prices were down, flat or even slightly up in 2010, what’s been happening over the past six to eight months is really the only thing that matters when valuing a property today.  For my swath in the I-15 corridor, that means we’ve gone on an approximate 3% price diet.

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