2012 Wrap: More Sales, Tiny Median Bump

By Dave Fratello | January 7th, 2013
We're almost finished looking back at the year that was: 2012.

Before calculating sales data and median prices, we prefer to give agents time to enter late-in-the-year sales on the MLS. With a week's distance, we're now ready to close the books.

And here's the headline: The median price is clearly a lagging indicator.

We all know last year was busy, busy, busy, with demand significantly outstripping the supply of Manhattan Beach real estate for sale. We saw bidding wars. Crazy prices at times.

But the median price doesn't show that. For SFRs in all of MB, the median price went up by $5,000 last year. That's it. $5k.

As our graphic here shows (click to enlarge), the 2012 median price of $1.455M is just a teeny nudge over 2011's $1.450M, and it remains below the figures recorded for 2009 and 2010.

Even though we've actually seen 2005-2007 prices in some sales this year – including one luxury property in the Martyrs neighborhood that sold at a 13% premium over 2007 – the median price citywide is much more like 2004 than even 2005.

Those prime peak years of 2005-2008, with medians in the 1.6s and 1.7s, are mere aspirations in terms of our citywide median price. 

Where you do see very clear evidence of the ongoing recovery – and even the bounce – in our local market is in the total number of sales.

It's an absolutely clear and steady progression from a low number of sales in 2008-2009, to the 355 SFR sales recorded (on the MLS) in 2012. 

Demand is not infinite, but we have no doubt that with more supply, we'd have easily seen another 20-50 sales.

The 2012 total of 355 MLS-reported sales scratches at the 361 recorded in 2006 and exceeds the total for the last year with some bubblicious activity, 2007.

Both of those years (2006-2007) showed evidence of the slow, but sure, turning of the market before its true, depressing dip in 2008-2009.

Now 2012 looks like it will be seen as part of a notable upswing... if conditions remain comparable for a couple more years. (Remember that "if.")

Of course, all of these data are for the whole city. True to our roots, MBC will also look at west-of-Sepulveda only data in an upcoming post.

As we compare MLS data from these various years, you may be wondering: What about off-market sales?

Many, but not all, sales that are arranged off-market do get reported on the MLS. (Such as Dave's flat walkstreet sale in November.)

We can look at tax records to find other sales, but many other property transfers that can be found in those records are actually intra-family sales, properties going into or out of trust, and so forth, not true "off-market sales" of a residence from a willing seller to a willing buyer. In short, such data can be difficult to track. So while the MLS database isn't perfect, it's at least comparable to itself year-over-year, and strongly suggestive of all the data and trends that could be found with 100% complete data.

Sometimes we like to ask: What do you get for the median price in MB?

1500 5th (4br/4ba, 3000 sq. ft.) is the "median house" for the year 2012, with its $1.455M sale in August right at the median – half the year's 355 sales were for less, half were for more.

That's a dated-feeling 90s house on a notably less-than-full-size corner lot (4800 sq. ft.) with a nice yard.

West of the highway, you've got 2517 Vista (3br/3ba, 2125 sq. ft.), a good-size, if quirky, SFR on a half lot (1350 sq. ft.) with nice ocean views, just steps from Grandview school. It sold in January 2012 for $1.450M.

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