Home prices continue to set new records

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The median home prices in San Benito County are rising as fast
as a progressive slot machine in a Vegas casino, and unfortunately
for local house hunters show no sign of tapering off in the near
future, according to local real estate agents.
Hollister – The median home prices in San Benito County are rising as fast as a progressive slot machine in a Vegas casino, and unfortunately for local house hunters show no sign of tapering off in the near future, according to local real estate agents.

Hollister’s median home price this month tops off at $575,000 – an almost $50,000 rise from a record-breaking $529,000 nearly six months ago, according to local Realtor Ray Pierce.

But Hollister’s median prices have nothing on those in the county, which come in at $962,500, Pierce said. The median price indicates half of the properties currently on the market cost more and half cost less.

And the reason for the consistent hike in prices? Good old supply and demand, with a city sewer moratorium thrown in for good measure, he said.

“It drives the price in the city limit to almost Santa Clara pricing, which is then passed on up and down the chain,” Pierce said. “It’s like the domino effect. When a city home goes up to six, seven, eight-hundred thousand, county houses with acreage have got to go up.”

With Gilroy’s median home price at $695,000 and Morgan Hill’s at $865,000, Pierce said Hollister’s prices have never been as close as they are now to homes in Santa Clara County.

In years past there would be a $150,000 to $250,000 difference between the city’s home prices, but thanks to Hollister’s sewer moratorium that prohibits any new construction within the city limits, home prices keep climbing, he said.

“When the moratorium is released prices will go down,” Pierce said. “It will trigger a reduction across the board.”

But until then prices continue to soar, with the cheapest home in Hollister located in Canal Alley boasting a $380,000 price tag, Pierce said. And on the high end, a home at Hawkins and San Benito streets that has been on the market for 102 days is a whopping $1.35 million, he said.

Pierce said as of Thursday there were 101 homes open in the county and 60 available in Hollister. A house on the market in San Benito County is sold in 19 days on average. And while the number of homes for sale dwindled for a few months, Pierce said “for sale” signs have been increasing in the city because “we’re going into the summer feeding frenzy.”

While the availability of homes may be growing, it doesn’t mean Hollister residents can afford to buy one. Hollister City Council members have said that the moratorium should be lifted in 2007, but with the enormous hike in prices over the past several years, low-income residents were priced well out of the market years ago, said Brian Abbot, executive director of the county’s Community Services Development Corporation. San Benito County Economic Development Director Al Martinez said the median personal income in the county is around $25,000, according to the most recent 2002 numbers, but the forecasted 2010 figures are only slightly higher at $31,702.

Abbot said his department stopped focusing on finding low-income houses a long time ago and instead is concentrating on finding affordable rental property.

He said the Community Services Development Corp. has its sights on a lot on the corner of Westside Boulevard and Fourth Street where it would like to build a 22-unit development of three and four-bedroom apartments.

But until the moratorium is lifted, there isn’t much Abbot can do to help low-income families than keep his eyes open for rentals that come available. There are approximately 55 low-income rental units available throughout the city, with a waiting list of between 300 to 400 people.

“That’s probably the biggest effect, the moratorium,” he said. “And home prices go up, which puts more renters on the market because they can’t afford houses. Then there’s a scarcity of rental housing, so rents go up.”

But Hollister, which is becoming more and more of a bedroom community to San Jose and the Bay Area every year, is still luring new residents into the area with its small-town atmosphere, manageable traffic and relatively low crime, Pierce said.

Salinas resident Bernard Campbell is looking for a home in Hollister to provide a safer environment for his wife and two young sons, and a cheaper mortgage.

He said home prices in Hollister are between $50,000 to $75,000 cheaper than in Salinas, and for your money you get a bigger and better home, along with a higher quality of life.

“Compared to Salinas… they’re nice homes for the prices,” he said. “And there’s sure more action around here, so I want to get in while the getting’s good.”

Erin Musgrave covers public safety for the Free Lance. Reach her at 637-5566, ext. 336 or [email protected]

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