It's a sign of just how strong Bakersfield's single-family home market is that the 1985 house Realtor Leslie Walters is in escrow to sell July 8 was listed $30,000 above the city's $300,000 sweet spot — and still two solid offers came in within a week.
At 1,882 square feet on a corner lot in southwest Bakersfield, the home on Cork Oak Court has a pool and a lot measuring 10,514 square feet. It ended up fetching, and being appraised at, $340,000, which is $10,000 more than the highest "comp," or price of a comparable house sold recently in the same area.
"Everything in it was nice," she said.
It's been like that in Bakersfield's home market lately: multiple offers, an emphasis on attractive amenities and prices anyone shopping for a house on the coast would kill for.
Bakersfield real estate people say it's a seller's market these days, even though calling it that is an oversimplification of a more nuanced situation balancing local income levels, interest rates, generational trends and a surge in new home construction.
Something to keep in mind is that Bakersfield is a bargain as California home markets go. Affordability continues to hover at about 50 percent, meaning about half the people earning the average wage can afford to buy a home. That's about twice the state average.
One outgrowth of that statistic is that homeowners from outside the area are seeing they can sell their houses at a relatively high price and then buy a Bakersfield home that leaves them with money in the bank.
"I just feel we've got a good thing happening with people moving in here," said Realtor Sheeza Gordon, who told of her three pending sales to buyers from Las Vegas, Northern California and Ventura. "They're sick of the rat race."
Home upgrades such as new flooring help, she added. They can win over people who might otherwise go with less expensive homes, those listed at $300,000 and below, that continue to dominate the local market.
"I think the lower-end homes, or the homes that are even high-end but not overpriced, are selling if they've been updated and made modern," Gordon said.
Not all of this is evident in recent home-sales data. They tell the stories of two different markets, of a limited inventory of existing homes selling at stable prices and a growing number of new homes whose sale prices are increasing.
Figures compiled by Bakersfield home appraiser Gary Crabtree show the number of existing homes listed for sale in May dropped almost 16 percent year over year at 990. New home listings, meanwhile, went the other way, climbing almost 16 percent to 447.
Sales volumes also trended the opposite direction. While the number of sales of existing homes was down almost 15 percent from May 2018's total at 572, new home sales were up 19 percent at 94.
Also starkly different that month were the two categories' respective median sales prices. For existing homes, the median was $250,000 — essentially unchanged from a year before. But May's median sale price for a new home in Bakersfield was up 8.3 percent at $328,263.
It should also be noted that city home building permits were up almost 20 percent, year over year, in May at 121.
BUY NEW OR RESALE?
Local real estate professionals see all of this as reflecting a trend: Existing homes sell fastest when priced at or below $300,000. But people are able to pay more if it's a new home and the builder is willing to kick in closing costs, lowering the required down payment to a manageable $11,000 or so.
Either option, new or used, can work for today's young couples with strong earnings but little savings. As baby-boomers look to stay where they are or even downsize, local Realtors say, members of the millennial generation are finally deciding it may be time to buy.
"They've got good income," Bakersfield Realtor Greg Holland said. "They just don't have a lot of cash."
Crabtree has noticed this, too.
"New construction is affordable enough that they would rather buy new than existing," said the owner of Affiliated Appraisers. At the same time, he added, homes priced between $150,000 and $230,000 "are flying off the shelf like hotcakes."
With mortgage interest rates still at historical lows, Walters said business has picked up quite a bit in the last few months as buyers compete for new listings.
Sure, she'd like to see more homes on the market. But she said the ones for sale now are looking good.
"I kind of think that — you know what? — now's a good time to sell your house," she said.