Q4 Woodside Market Update

The market run of 2013 continued through Q4 in Woodside, with the median price of homes for sale up 11%. Woodside consistently has 21 homes for sale, and 10 or 50% of those are in the Skyline area, which tend to be below the median price and take far longer to sell than homes in Central Woodside near town. If you drill down to look at what comparable homes at different price points are selling for, they have been increasing at 5% – 10% per year under $10M. Over the $10M point, comparables are tough to come by and pricing becomes more an art than a science. What a buyer values varies greatly by buyer, so we see a lot of variability in relative values. Looking at Woodside overall, the number of days to sell followed area trends and continued to fall during 2013, plummeting from 114 a year ago to 77 this past quarter. Considering the longer market times for the Skyline corridor are part of that 77, it’s a wonder we have time to get For Sale signs up in front of the houses in Central Woodside before they sell! The number of homes for sale on the MLS were down 21.4% compared to last year at 64 in Q4 2013, but pending sales and sold homes were up relative to Q2 2012 by 5.6% and 6.2% respectively. This means that a greater number of the few homes for sale are selling making inventory even tighter.

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What happened in Woodside:
Because of the variety and where most people are interested, I’ll focus my comments on the flats of Woodside, so The Glens, Central Woodside and Emerald Hills. If you are interested in information on other areas, send me an email or call. We saw a number of larger sales in Woodside during 2013 in the $4M – $8M range, including several homes that were on the market in 2012 that didn’t sell, which sold this year as the rising market came to them, even houses with freeway noise issues and other challenges. With the run on real estate values over the last two years across all of Silicon Valley, even perennial laggards Portola Valley and Woodside are seeing rising prices as an increasingly limited inventory of homes is met with increasing demand. More buyers who traditionally would have focused on Menlo Park or Palo Alto have been expanding their searches to Portola Valley and Woodside as prices have soared in those closer in markets. The larger homes and more land available for similar prices in Portola Valley and Woodside have become relative deals and word has gotten out that the schools are excellent as well. The numbers are a bit skewed as the price range of Woodside is huge. The least expensive home in Woodside sold for $888,000 and the most expensive $117M so with a median price of around $2.5M, and only 104 homes sold in Woodside in 2013, a couple of outliers really bounce around the average and median numbers. As is often the case the commentary of what is happening to create the numbers has more value than the actual statistics.

The Woodside Crystal Ball: What’s Next for 2014:
Expect that the number of homes for sale will remain low keeping steady upward pressure on prices especially in the entry level neighborhoods of The Glens and Emerald Hills. With the median price of a home in Woodside being over $2.5M, rising interest rates won’t have much of an impact on seller motivation or prices. Half (49.5%) of the sales in Woodside in 2012 and 2013 were cash deals. Wow…… Woodside is a small town and what I call a “destination city”. Generally you move there and don’t leave. The last three owners of our house (over a span of 30 years) still live in Woodside. With only about 1200 homes, and a turnover rate of less than 3%, that’s about 40 homes a year (on the flats near town). Sort by location and price range and you don’t have a lot of options. If you are looking under $2.5M, you pretty much only have The Glens or Emerald Hills as options, especially if you want to be in the Woodside Elementary School District. That’s about 300 homes. It took us two years to find a home in Woodside as detailed in my series A Realtor Buys a House, and like most of our neighbors, we are planning to stay until we are carried out.

The Woodside Sub-Markets:
I view Woodside as six markets (my nomenclature and descriptions):

The Glens is a neighborhood off of Canada Road about ½ mile north of downtown that was originally vacation cottages and housing for the workers at the surrounding estates. A neighborhood of 185 homes, The Glens has its own MLS area (which makes market tracking easy) and homes are on 6000sf – .75 acre parcels, and usually sell for $1.2M – $2.5M ( we have a couple of outliers up to $3.5M). As the entry neighborhood for Woodside, and being in the Woodside Elementary School District, The Glens has had a huge run up in prices over 2012 and 2013, some 20% over the last two years with multiple offers common. Those are Palo Alto numbers!

Central Woodside is the rest of the flat area surrounding downtown from Portola Road in the south up to Olive Hill and Albion Roads on the north side. While the south part of this area goes to Portola Valley schools, the properties are generally 2 – 10 acres, relatively flat and mostly zoned for horses. Supply and demand is pretty consistent across this broad area, with great variations for individual properties. Woodside has more than its share of “weird houses” with odd floor plans, expansions or very unusual designs (like “the Tiki House” that sold last year, designed like a giant Tiki hut).

Emerald Hills is an unincorporated area of Woodside north of The Glens overlooking Canada Road and with views of the Santa Cruz Mountains. This neighborhood is in the Woodside Elementary district and is characterized by narrow winding roads and a very rural feel. Prices range between $1.5M and $3.5M

Woodside Heights is east of 280 and south of Woodside Road. The homes here go to Las Lomitas schools in Menlo Park and are generally on acre parcels. Prices range from $2M for an original condition ranch home to $10M (asking) for the Buck Estate.

Woodside Hills is on the east side of 280 and north of Woodside Road. It is very similar to Woodside Heights, feeling cut off from town by the freeway and in the Redwood City School District. There are a number of large homes in this neighborhood and it does offer views of the Bay. Noise from 280 and Woodside Road are persistent challenges in many parts of the neighborhood like Crest Drive and off of High Road.

The Mountains is the area west of Woodside Road west of town going up to and including the Skywood Acres and Skylonda neighborhoods near Woodside Road and Skyline. These neighborhoods are great for people who don’t mind an extra 15 min commute to live away from the hustle and bustle of city life and have larger properties, with the potential for towering redwoods and panoramic views. You get a lot for your money up there as most suburbanites often consider it too remote, but you can get to go to your vacation cabin in the mountains every day. Properties are on 6000sf to 20 acre parcels and can go from a neighborhood to a “off the grid” cabin on a private road in the woods. Wells, septic tanks, water reservoirs for fire fighting and backup generators are par for the course up there. The occasional wild boar or other wildlife sighting should be expected too. Compared to the flats of Woodside, market times are longer, often 6 months, and prices range from $800,000 for a cottage in the woods on a small plot to $10M+ for larger retreats surrounded by open space. Views of The Bay and Pacific Coast abound and are the big draws for mountain homes.

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