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San Carlos Real Estate October 1, 2013

Is Belmont Hotter than San Carlos?

by Chuck Gillooley

We’re Not Talking About the Weather.

The answer to that title question is “yes“, Belmont is definitely hotter than San Carlos — according to a study that was commissioned by the real estate brokerage Coldwell Banker and published in CBS Market Watch recently.   But that’s not all.  Belmont is not just hotter than San Carlos — it has been designated the hottest suburb in the entire state of California in this study.   Holy Twin Pines!

I can almost hear the cheers echoing from canyons of Belmont, and the guffawing that is emanating from the streets of White Oaks and the grand vistas of Beverly Terrace.  Belmont is hotter than San Carlos?    Absolutely, contends Belmont.  One Belmont resident once told me that Belmont is “San Carlos without the sidewalks and the attitudes.”   To which another San Carlos resident countered “Belmont is where you go to live when you can’t afford San Carlos.”    Ouch!   Everyone just calm down….

But rather than turn this into a modern-day version of the Hatfield’s vs the McCoy’s,  let’s try to figure out how Coldwell Banker came to this conclusion?  Unfortunately, I don’t have access to their “exhaustive” study, but we can take a few minutes and compare some of the relevant home sales metrics that may have been used in this analysis.

Price Appreciation.

There’s no doubt about it — whether you’re looking for a home in either San Carlos or Belmont, you’re keenly aware of how much prices have skyrocketed in the past 5 years.  This is especially true in just the past 12 months.  But how do they both compare in this arena?   Let’s take a look:

Belmont:  Average Home Sales Price
BELMONT: Average Home Sales Price
San Carlos Average Home Sales Price
SAN CARLOS:  Average Home Sales Price

From the graphs above, the average sales price of a single family residence in Belmont increased by 17.6% since just last year, and a whopping 32% since the bottom of the housing market in 2009.  That is indeed significant growth.   But over that same span, the San Carlos housing market increased by 18.2% and 36.6%, respectively.    Hmmm…

Other Metrics?

Let’s take a look below at some other common sales metrics that may have been used in this study.  Note that all of these pertain to single-family residences only, unless otherwise noted.

Key Housing Metric
Belmont San Carlos
Median Price: 2012->2013
+17.3% +21.0%
Median Price: 2009->2013
+28.5% +37.5%
Average Days to Sell:  2013
19 17
Closed Sales YTD 2013
176 201
Sales Price/List Price Ratio: 2013
109.5% 108.7%
Total Sales Volume (SFR + Condo) 2013
$207.6M $298.2M

(source: Multiple Listing Service)

What Does It All Mean?

There are several conclusions that you can draw from this immensely informative post.   First, I am pleased to inform you that after comparing the data above with scientific study conducted by Coldwell Banker, that I am thoroughly more confused than I was when I started.    But that’s OK, because it points out that “hotter” is very much a subjective measurement — it can’t be deduced from the third derivative of home sales in the 4th quartile during a full moon.

Belmont has two Safeways — San Carlos has none.  San Carlos has two CVS Pharmacies — Belmont has none.   San Carlos has 3 Starbucks to Belmont’s two.   Belmont has its own police and fire department.  San Carlos has….. well, you get the idea.   The point is, people like Belmont for their own reasons, while others like San Carlos for theirs.  Why does there have to be a #1 with everything?    Can’t we all just get along?

The other thing this study tells me is that any discussion about a “hottest suburb” in the Bay Area that does not include Palo Alto (the land where cash is king, and sanity has long left the building) is highly suspect from the start.  Seriously….


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