A surge of homes coming on the market in Palo Alto have flipped the local real-estate scene upside down, creating a panic among real estate agents about an exodus of millionaires and an impending housing glut.
Typically there are about 40 homes available, Realtor Mary Gosalves told the Weekly, but with fears of a new stock-market crash prompting people to cash out their home equity now, more than twice that number are on the market this week. After years of rising prices and a surging demand, the pressures have completely reversed, Gosalves said, with the number of sellers far exceeding the number of buyers.
She pointed to a recent decision by Facebook founder Mark Zuckenberg to sell his historic Edgewood Drive home for "six Bitcoins, a new foosball machine and an app to be named later" as the new sign of the times.
"The days of selling a starter home in Old Palo Alto for $5 million are sadly long gone," said Gosalves, as she stood next to a vacant Tudor house on Bryant Street, its boarded-up windows covered in graffiti.
Unlike last year, when homes basically "sold themselves," Gosalves said sellers are now forced to gussy up their homes to improve curb appeal, make basic improvements and stage to show their properties to advantage. No longer is the corner home next to the railroad tracks considered a "fine location."
Realtors aren't the only ones feeling the heat. As the stock market hovers on the edge, many homeowners fear that their property values could be next, she said. That fear is driving the race to present their homes quickly, said Realtors Keri Nguyen and Hannah Sciavonni, who specialize in high-end sales. It's not uncommon these days to see Tesla caravans leaving Palo Alto en route to pricier and tonier destinations like Sunnyvale, Bakersfield and South San Francisco.
Some in the industry are more optimistic, however. Realtor Kenny Danger said the only thing stopping buyers from leaping into the fray is the thought that prices could continue to freefall. Once they see that prices have hit rock bottom, they'll start "emptying their change jars and buying their dream Eichlers."