Medians, Peaks and Not-Bubbles

By Dave Fratello | March 12th, 2014

The LA Times on Wednesday was all raves about LA-area real estate markets where prices have now surpassed their previous bubble-era heights. (See the Times story here.) Money quote:

Across the region, home prices remain far below their peaks despite an explosive run-up in the first half of 2013. But nominal prices in some affluent neighborhoods have entered uncharted waters.... Sales have tumbled overall, but they continue to climb in wealthy communities.

That sounded familiar, until we got deeper into the story – and Manhattan Beach got no mention at all.

Which cities made the cut?

Arcadia. Mar Vista. Temple City. Irvine. (Pictured.) And 8 more.

Only Venice popped off the page as a coastal market widely known to be hot. The buzz around "Silicon Beach" and its impact on local real estate resonates there, at least.

Experts quoted in the story pooh-pooh the idea of a new bubble forming now, arguing that fundamentals are driving the uptick in some communities.

The data used for the LA Times piece come from a new report by DataQuick, whose numbers we've cited here at MBC over the years.

An impressive chart appears in the Times' print edition. (Yes, here at MBC HQ, we're fuddy-duddies taking a paper each morning.) It contrasts median prices for several ZIP codes at the "Bubble peak," "Bottom" and Q4 2013. One Arcadia ZIP code is now 30% up over its "Bubble peak," so it gets top billing. Venice, for all the Googly money and other app-fueled dollars, was up just 3% over its peak.

We decided to try something like the Times/DataQuick analysis for MB.

Here are the Q4 median prices for SFRs – that is, sales closing in the 3-month periods at the end of each year, only – for select recent years:

  • 2005: $1,762,500
  • 2006: $1,482,500
  • 2007: $1,851,250
  • 2012: $1,345,000
  • 2013: $1,720,000

As you'll quickly see, as impressive as 2013 may have been, Q4 2013 did not hit the heights of 2005 or 2007's final quarters here in Manhattan Beach.

But in truth, that's often been the case when we've run MB median price data.

Here's our year-end wrapup chart from a post in January this year. (See: "2013 Wrap: Fewer Sales, Big Median Bump.")

The chart shows that (full-year) local median prices took a dump in 2009 and hung around near the bottom for 4 straight years. Only in 2013 did a rising market really start to show up in the data.

By year-end last year, with the median for SFRs at $1.725M, MB was challenging the price peaks hit in 2006 and 2007, but not yet over those levels.

Little did we know, Arcadia was blowing us away the whole time.

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