The San Carlos Real Estate 2015 Year in Review: Part I

January 5, 2016


Another year has drawn to a close in the San Carlos residential real estate market, and like every year in the past decade, there are lots of numbers to look at and lots of stories to tell. In this multi-part series on the White Oaks Blog, we'll take an in-depth look at some of those numbers and stories that drove our local market in 2015.

In part I below, we'll take a look at the record sales prices that were set for single-family residences, townhouses, and condos in San Carlos in 2015.

Record Home Prices.

After several years of seemingly unabated growth in home sales prices, 2015 actually started out with some skepticism that this growth could continue. Many agents and home buyers wondered how the market could sustain the double-digit growth and not price itself completely out of the reach of the very buyers who were trying to get in. Well, that skepticism was dashed pretty early on in 2015 as prices continued to climb at an alarming rate, fueled by historically low interest rates, a booming stock market, and historically low levels of home inventory. The stage was set early on for yet another record breaking year.

The first chart below shows a side-by-side view of the average sales price for all units (single family residences and condos/townhomes) sold in San Carlos in 2015:


San Carlos Average Sales Prices

San Carlos Average Sales Prices


This graph is simply astonishing on all fronts. The average sales price of a single-family residence in San Carlos hit an all time high of $1,665,036 — which represents a jump of 14% from 2014, and a whopping 79% from the low point in 2009. For condos and townhouses, the results were very similar. In 2015, the average cost of a townhouse or condo in San Carlos was a record $921,674. Prices grew by almost 13% since last year, and an equally stunning 76% since that market bottomed out in 2011.

Suffice it to say, if you had the guts to become a San Carlos homeowner just after the recession cratered the market, your moxie and your investment have both paid off quite handsomely.

These numbers are astonishing now matter how you look at them. But how did they compare to the same metrics in adjacent communities? The table below compares the growth in average sales price for single-family residences in some of the adjacent communities that are comparable to San Carlos:

City 2015 Avg Price
2014 Avg Price Difference # of Homes Sold (2015)
San Carlos $1,665,036 $1,460,961 +14.0%
Belmont $1,521,008 $1,317,961 +15.4%
San Mateo $1,413,311 $1,196,069 +18.2%
Redwood City $1,413,449 $1,179,913 +19.8%
Burlingame $2,083,066 $1,761,735 +18.2%

This may (or may not) be surprising to the diligent observer of the local real estate market, but pricing grew at a faster rate in surrounding communities in 2015 than it did in San Carlos. These results make sense when you consider that there was simply more upside in home pricing in Belmont, San Mateo, and Redwood City (based on the average prices in 2014) than there was in San Carlos. Buyers simply shrugged off the the historical roadblocks they may have had to buying in these cities (quality of schools, neighborhoods) and aggressively opened up their home search to these areas.

The sales growth in Burlingame is a testament to the overall financial strength of buyers in the market in 2015. It's simply amazing that so many buyers could afford to shell out $2M (or more) for a home — and that's not even touching the high-end markets of Menlo Park, Atherton, Palo Alto and Woodside.

Price Per Square Foot.

Although it's becoming a less accurate and less relevant statistic, the price-per-square foot ratio is still very much of interest to both home buyers and home sellers alike. It also shot to an all time high in San Carlos last year. Here is a look at the average price per square foot along with the average home size for single-family residences in San Carlos over the past few years.

Average Home Size and Price per Square Foot

Average Home Size and Price per Square Foot

This is an interesting comparison because it shows not only are homes getting more expensive in San Carlos, but they're also getting larger. The average size of a home that sold in San Carlos grew to over 2,000 square feet for the first time in recorded history. The rate of increase in home size was actually slightly greater than the growth in price/per square foot. Conventional wisdom and data usually point to a downward trend in $/square foot when homes get larger. But there's nothing conventional about this market.

Any way you look at it, a figure of $864/square foot was just recently considered an inconceivable milestone for a home in San Carlos. Now, it's just the average.

What's Next.

Tomorrow in Part II of this series, we will take a look at one of the major forces that helped drive home prices to all-time highs in 2015: Inventory — or better yet, lack of inventory. If you thought there were fewer homes to choose from in 2015, your feelings were very justified.

Tune in tomorrow for some very enlightening data on this topic.

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