Another Look at Sales Rates in MB

By Dave Fratello | January 31st, 2008
It's not big news to regular readers of MBC that 2007 saw the lowest number of MLS-reported sales of SFRs in Manhattan Beach this decade. We covered that ground pretty well 2 weeks ago in "Slower, Slower, Slower."

Here is a new look at the data which we're sure you'll find interesting, nonetheless.

Please note, the data presented here cover all of Manhattan Beach, not just our usual west-of-Sepulveda territory. Also, the monthly figures reflect sales that closed in a given month – a slightly lagging indicator because escrows run 30+ days from the time a deal is made. Source for this data is the MLS by way of Kaye Thomas' blog; if we can get data going back further in time, we'll re-do the graph, as it's unfortunate to be looking only at boom years and the immediate post-boom period (i.e., now).

Our main graph (click to enlarge) presents the number of sales monthly from 2001-2007, using a 12-month moving average. That means each month's figure is the average of that month plus the 11 months preceding. Presenting the data in this way dampens or removes seasonal effects, which are prominent in RE sales, to show clearer trend lines.

As we began 2001, the local RE market was busy, with a 12-month average of 49 SFR sales monthly. Impressive. But this trend drooped steadily until bottoming in November 2001, at an average of 40 sales/mo. The sales rate climbed sharply for the next 10 months, peaking in September 2002 at 52 sales/mo.

What were the external conditions in 2001? The Fed, sensing recession, undertook a dramatic easing of rates early in the year (click graph to enlarge). They were right about the recession (grey bar), and the 9/11 attacks only added urgency to the rate-cutting. Those actions, plus a DC-initiated taxpayer rebate, fed a burst of economic activity, including home-buying. (We recognize that the Fed rates are just part of the picture.)

By mid-year 2004, the SFR sales rate in MB was back to the low 40s. Our most recent peak was August 2004, at a 12-month average of 42 sales/month.

The trend has been downward since then toward 30 sales/month. That means our monthly sales rate (12-month moving average) is down 25% or more from two recent points of apparent stabilization, and down 44% from the peak.

When we focus on more recent times, what looks like a "springtime rally" in 2007 is actually a result of 2 months' worth of activity that was notably above trend. In March and April 2007, we saw actual (not average) monthly SFR sales of 50 and 44, respectively. Before and after, sales were: January (30), February (29), May (33), June (30) and July (23). Those were 2 great months, but they were surrounded by months in the 30-ish region.

Of course, once the credit earthquake hit in August 2007, sales were affected. MB's 4th-quarter sales were below trend: October (18), November (13) and December (18). (See "Slower, Slower, Slower" for comparative 4th-quarter data from 2000-2007.)

Looking at 2008, as we've noted already, we'll need a monthly sales rate of 28 to reach the same number of annual sales (344) that we saw in 2007.

By MBC's tracking, we saw 10 new escrows open in December 2007 on SFRs west of Sepulveda. That number's just a portion (perhaps 2/3rds) of the total that we might see close in January '08, but it was low for our subject region. Our January SFR sales to date total 6, west of Hwy. 1.

Now, it says here that the Fed, sensing recession, undertook a dramatic easing of rates over the last few weeks and months. And there's a stimulus package, taxpayer rebates, raising of the GSE maximums...

Could it soon be 2001 again? Or not?

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