Having trouble finding a house to buy in Bakersfield? You may not be the only one.
Bakersfield has the eighth lowest house vacancy rate among the nation’s biggest cities, according to a study from Buffalo Business First. The business news site analyzed data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2016 American Community Survey and ranked Bakersfield in eighth place with a vacancy rate of 3.4 percent, based on a total inventory of 121,920 housing units.
Five other California cities made the top 10, most in the Los Angeles area: Riverside, Long Beach, Anaheim, San Jose and Santa Ana, which ranked at the top of the list at 1.6 percent.
Among Valley cities, Stockton was ranked the lowest after Bakersfield with a vacancy rate of 4.5 percent. Fresno was in 25th place with a 4.8 percent rate.
The analysis, which came out early this month, looked only at cities with populations of at least 250,000.
“Right now, housing in Bakersfield is in high demand,” said Ulices Melendez, a broker with Alliance Investment Group, Inc. “We’ve been dealing with a lot more buyers from out of town, such as Salinas and [Los Angeles]. Housing here is just so much cheaper than anything that’s out there.”
Melendez isn’t the only one who thinks Bakersfield has the most affordable housing in the state. Financial advice company SmartAsset feels the same way, in a recent study ranking Bakersfield at the top among the state’s biggest cities for home affordability.
The study looked at closing costs, property taxes, insurance, mortgage payments and median income over a period of five years in cities across the nation with more than 200,000 people. Cities with the lowest housing costs compared to the median income made the list.
“The state has a shortage problem and an affordability problem,” said Phil Redmond, broker and co-owner of Watson Realty. “Traditionally speaking, in a regular market, the vacancy rate would be around 10 percent. At one point, it was at around 8 percent in Bakersfield before the housing market crash in 2008.”
Melendez said that while at first a lot of homes were available due to foreclosures, fewer are out there now as the economy has recovered.
“People are not losing their houses right now compared to what it used to be,” he said. “More people are keeping their houses now.”
Melendez said that for much of 2017, the median home price stayed steady at around $230,000, less than half of the $499,990 state average. However, over the last few months, he said, the average price has been edging up to about $250,000 due to higher demand and low supply.
“It’s getting harder for people to find houses for less than $250,000, and I don’t like it because I can’t sell as many houses as I used to,” he said. “It’s getting more competitive for everyone. A lot of houses get multiple offers.”
However, Melendez said, having fewer houses to sell is a better alternative to having too many to sell.
“We cannot keep a house for more than five days in the market,” he said.
While a low house vacancy might not be great news for potential homebuyers, it could be a boon for property owners. Melendez said that along with an increase in home prices, property values are also going up.
“A lot of homes have a nice equity now,” he said. “That’s good for the town. It’s a seller’s market right now.”
Redmond said that anyone thinking about selling their home can safely bet they will get a good deal out of it.
“It gives them a good feeling that if they want to sell, they can get top dollar for their property,” he said.
Melendez said that even if Bakersfield were to see a rise in the number of property owners selling their homes, it isn’t likely to cause substantial change in the vacancy rate due to the high demand.
“I think this is going to continue for a long time,” he said.