Despite the pandemic, Bay Area home prices are soaring

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and a recovering economy, California real estate remains a hot commodity.

South Bay realtor Joe Velasco put four large Fremont townhomes on the market starting March 22. By April 5, all had sold for over $1 million, after would-be buyers engaged in bidding wars.

"I haven’t seen anything as crazy as the surge we have right now, ever. You know I’ve been in the real estate business 21 years," said Velasco, who works for Compass Realty.

The Bay Area has experienced sharp increases in the cost of housing before. But this time, that assent results in real estate wealth is spreading beyond the region. This as many people choose to leave the Bay.

"We have one-third the inventory that we had last year at this time," said Peter Diryawush, president of the Central Valley Association of Realtors.

Some experts said the Central Valley is becoming a new "Bay Area" in the making.

Diryawush, who has an office in Modesto, said home prices in the Central Valley have skyrocketed nearly 20% year-to-date, as homebuyers from the Bay flock east.

"They’ve come here and make offers non-contingent," said Diryawush. "With huge deposits. That’s something the Central Valley’s not used to."

Added San Jose State University Prof. Kelly Snider, "This is housing for rich people."

Snider, who was recently awarded an endowment, heads the university’s Real Estate Development Program. She said the upward surge is shuffling the landscape, but there isn’t a population decline state-wide.

The multiple migrations are turning homeowners along the San Francisco Peninsula into East Bay home buyers. And people in the East Bay are moving to the Central Valley.

"So much of this is people wanting space. We’ve seen what I think are permanent changings to how people approach work and life and balance and home and health," said Heather Hopkins, a Compass Real Estate agent based in the East Bay.

Added Prof. Snider, "It’s just a resorting of people based on where they want to be. And where there’s availability based on consumer choices."

For many real estate agents, including Joe Velasco, the beat goes on. He has six more townhomes poised to hit the market, and apparently no shortage of buyers.