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Ceres home values up 25% in 2013
Average sales price jumps to $166,000 by years end
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The amount of available houses on the market is keeping prices stable. This home on Helen Perry Road was listed for $279,900 this week. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/Courier photo

The value of existing Ceres homes rebounded about 25 percent during 2013 with the average selling price jumping from $132,000 in January 2013 to $166,000 by year's end.

The median price for a house in Ceres was $162,000 in December. Median price is the point at which half the sales were above and one half were below.

Statistics compiled by Metrolist MLS show that 629 homes closed escrow within Ceres city limits in 2013 with an average value of $157,333. That compares to 607 homes exchanging hands in 2012.

The average sales price peaked in November at $180,000 but dropped back to $166,000 in December, possibly chilled by the holiday season.

The news is good and bad for homeowners. Higher median sales prices means equity is being restored throughout Ceres. At the same time homeowners who are staying put and who had property assessment and consequently tax bills lowered will be in line for higher property taxes in 2014.

"I would say that property taxes are going to be increasing in 2014," said Ceres real estate agent Eric Ingwerson of PMZ Realty.

Under Proposition 13, property values that were lost could theoretically be regained all in one year plus the two percent annual increments that were not assessed.
That means if a home bought in 2006 for $200,000 had its value adjusted downward to $150,000 by 2008 and it stayed there until 2014 when it was valued at $180,000 the assessor can increase the property tax value $30,000 plus 2 percent for the past seven years. That would translate into a $352 jump in the annual property tax bill from $1,500 for the example given although it would still be less than the $2,000 tax bill in 2006. Property tax on most homes in Ceres is one percent of the assessed value.

While Ceres home values have taken their sharpest jump since 2004, the median home price is still below the market peak reached in October 2005.

The silver lining of the foreclosure mess that triggered the housing market collapse is affordability. It is a good thing, said Ingwerson, that home prices have not skyrocketed as in recent years. Many families were priced out of the housing market before it began to sink in 2006.

"At that particular time, the reports that we were reading was that three percent of the median income families could afford a median priced home," said Ingwerson. "I would say we hit bottom probably in 2011 and that number, I was told, went up to 89 percent. We don't want to go back to where we were."

And if you're expecting 2014 home value gains to match last year's levels real estate experts indicate you are probably going to be disappointed. Ingwerson said that some sellers will be disappointed that prices will likely not be increasing at 2013 rates. Also, buyers will be disappointed at the increasing interest rates. He said buyers and sellers who act in 2014 will be joyous on market timing with great price and great interest rates on transactions.

"It's my opinion that we will incur a conservative three to five percent appreciation in 2014 and that more than likely you're going to see an increase in lending rates and that will affect appreciation on property," said Ingwerson.

An important factor in the Ceres real estate - or Stanislaus County for that matter - is the relatively low inventory of available houses.

"There still is a shortage of inventory and that will keep the market positive," said Ingwerson. "The lack of inventory and competition for each house is one of the main points that drove pricing up (in 2013)."

It is still currently a seller's market, said Ingwerson.
During 9 out of 12 months of 2013, sellers got more than they were asking for their homes because of the competition for available houses.

Sellers may currently have the market in their favor but they may be waiting awhile to find a replacement home.

"If you're priced correctly according to market conditions, you will have no problem finding a qualified buyer. Where you're going to have difficult is finding a replacement home."

Houses priced right saw an average market time of 25 days in December.

The direction of prices should become evident when more transactions start occurring in the traditionally strong spring months.

The surging resale market means existing homes and many new homes are near parity in prices making them mutually competitive.