There's no question that when the real estate bubble burst in 2007 and home prices throughout much of the nation crashed, millions of family homes lost billions of dollars in value.

The Great Recession soon followed.

Not only have home prices in Bakersfield not fully recovered from the declines suffered during that national crisis, Bakersfield is the second-least recovered metro area on a list of 100 major metro areas across the nation, according to HSH.com's home price recovery index.

It's not an ideal place to be, said HSH.com Vice President Keith Gumbinger. But it's also not as dire as it sounds.

Even in metro areas like Bakersfield that remain well below their boom-year price peaks, homeowners have seen significant price recoveries since hitting their bottom values, Gumbinger said.

And single-family home prices in some areas were inflated to such a degree that even when they return to a "normal" value they may still be below their previous price peak.

According to the index, during the second quarter of 2017, home prices in the greater Bakersfield area were still 33.4 percent below their peak value.

Local appraiser Gary Crabtree, who for years has produced a monthly, subscriber-only report designed for real estate professionals, agreed that Bakersfield's home price recovery is lagging behind many other areas that have not only recovered 100 percent of their pre-crash value, but have added on even more value.

But when Crabtree crunches the numbers, he finds that the median home price in Bakersfield — as of August — was 21.3 percent below the market peak during the bubble.

"In Bakersfield, our peak was in June 2006," Crabtree said. "The median home price was $299,925 — about $300,000," he said.

The bottom came in April 2009, when the median price for a single-family home in metro Bakersfield fell to $115,000.

Outlying areas in the county suffered even more, he said.

But why haven't Bakersfield's home prices recovered as they have in places like Denver, Austin, the San Francisco Bay area and other locations?

The reality is related to the state of the local economy and job market, Crabtree said.

"In a nutshell, the Bakersfield market is 'flat' in terms of pricing and we are not benefiting from lack of affordable housing in other markets because we have no job creation, thus there is no incentive for anyone to move to Bakersfield," the local appraiser said in an email.

In addition, the price differential is too small to provide an incentive for anyone to commute.

"With farming stable but not producing decent paying jobs," he said, "there is no market from this sector. Petroleum has gone from 13,500 to 9,100 jobs and holding, thus there is no job creation in this sector."

And with State Farm leaving, hundreds of good-paying jobs are leaving as well.

To top it off, Crabtree said, statistics compiled by the California State Department of Finance, Kern County’s net domestic migration last year was a negative 4,718 persons, an indication that local population growth is coming from births, not from job seekers streaming into the city.

Kern County Assessor-Recorder Jon Lifquist said the slow recovery of housing prices in Kern has had a impact on property tax revenues. He was not able to provide a dollar figure Friday, but said the impact is "significant."

"We have about 33,000 residential properties" that are still struggling to recover their former market value, Lifquist said.

"At one time, there were upwards of 100,000 properties with that status," he said.

Of course, individual homeowners will have different experiences, depending on where their house is located, which area schools are nearby, amenities and other factors, said Gumbinger.

The most important factor is when the house was purchased. If it was bought at the height of the bubble, the recovery period could be long. Those who bought their home before the bubble were likely in great shape.

Said Gumbinger, "Timing is everything."

Reporter Steven Mayer can be reached at 661-395-7353. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter: @semayerTBC.

(1) comment

Inconvenient Truth

With regard to determining whether Home prices are inflated or not, the most important number is the ratio of median home price to median household income.
Between the late 1960's and 2000, this ratio hovered between 3.0 and 4.0

Beginning around 2001, financialization took this ratio to its national 'bubble' peak of 5.12 in 2007.
The ratio then dropped back to 4.18 at the bottom of the stock market rout in the spring of 2009.

Since that time, the ratio has overtaken its former bubble high, and as of Q4 2016 sits at 5.39

Bottom line: on a national basis, home prices are currently even more "bubbly" than at the prior peak.

For those who would like to run the numbers themselves, here is the data:

https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/MSPUS

https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/MEHOINUSA646N

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