SANTA CRUZ -- All of a sudden, high-end homes are in demand, and many of the buyers are coming from Silicon Valley.
"The upper end is going crazy," said Stephen Pereira of Bailey Properties, an agent since 1982. "More tech people are coming over ... they know what they're looking for."
In July, 42 of the 197 sales were for more than $1 million, 21 percent, after 28 in June and 33 in May, according to Gary Gangnes of Real Options Realty who tracks the numbers.
The spike pushed the median price, the midpoint of what sold, to $725,000, the highest since December 2007, according to Gangnes.
During the second quarter, 77 Santa Cruz County homes sold for $1 million or more, up from 60 a year ago. That's the highest since 115 homes fetched $1 million or more in the third quarter of 2007, according to DataQuick, a real estate information company. Sixteen sales at $2 million or more tied the record set in the second quarter of 2006.
Pleasure Point and Opal Cliff Drive are hot spots, with seven or eight homes on Opal Cliff being gutted for a makeover, retrofitted with new technology or becoming the site of a newly built home, according to Pereira.
"The southern end of 41st is a mecca of coffee shops like you'd find in San Francisco," he said. "Or like on the Westside, that area off Swift you can walk or bike to, it's got the beach vibe that people enjoy."
July's priciest sale: 1307 W. Cliff Drive, a 2,300-square-foot home that fetched $3.995 million from a buyer working in the tech industry.
"On West Cliff, this was the highest sale since 2009," said Pereira, who represented the seller.
Asking prices of oceanfront homes are eye-popping: $7 million for 4600 Opal Cliff, a 2600-square-foot home coming on the market for the first time in more than 30 years, and $5.35 million for 4100 Opal Cliff, a newer 4200-square-foot home designed by local architect Frank Phanton.
Pereira said he's closing a sale for a Pleasure Point home that had not changed hands since the 1930s.
"Properties are coming on the market trying to capture these prices we haven't seen before," he said.
A four-bedroom home on Las Olas Drive in Seacliff fetched $2.71 million with the buyer, who owns a house at the Summit, paying cash after selling a company over the hill.
"This is a second home for him," said agent David Mann of Coldwell Banker. "He wanted the sand, his kids play volleyball."
Another home on the same street is being torn down and rebuilt, Mann noted.
Craig Robinson of Keller Williams, who grew up in Santa Cruz and has been in real estate for 20 years, said 40 percent of his business is in Lake Tahoe and 70 percent to 80 percent of his sales attributable to Silicon Valley.
An executive with Barracuda Networks bought 185 Chalk Mountain Road in Scotts Valley for $2 million.
Robinson, who represented the seller, said tech people who are younger and getting married are thinking about quality schools.
"I live on Mountain Charlie Road, and my kids go to schools in Los Gatos," he said. "We could send to Scotts Valley or Los Gatos, they're very comparable."
The sellers, the Broughtons, moved a few miles away, downsizing with their children off at college.
However, many baby boomers are not putting their homes on the market, a significant factor in the availability of homes for sale.
As of the first week of August, there were 656 listings in Santa Cruz County, the fewest for this time of year in 18 years, according to Gangnes, who noted listings have declined for 41 of the past 42 months.
Of the 443 active listings, 160 are priced over $1 million and 283 priced under $1 million, he said.
Short sales and bank-owned homes, which tend to be more affordable, made up only 7 percent of the transactions in July, according to Gangnes.
As values rise, sales are slowing.
Gangnes said year-to-date sales are down from 1,151 to 1,039, a 9.7 percent drop.
Mann attributes seller reluctance to the crash that took home values down 20 percent in 2008, then another 20 percent in 2009.
"That took their breath away," he said.
Those who refinanced at historically low interest rates may be unwilling to pay rates that have moved up.
Seb Frey of Realty World Virtuoso noted "short sales," where lenders accept less than what's owed on a mortgage, are down 80 percent from a year ago, but some loan modifications have terms that make a sale prohibitive or costly, keeping homes off the market.
With pending sales down 57 percent in July from a year ago, Frey predicts the market will flatten for the next six months.
Older homeowners are "staying in their homes with no intention of moving" and "plan to leave their home to their children," he said. "What's better than here?"
July 2014 statistics
Median price: $725,000 ($601,000 a year ago, $562,500 in 2012; $460,000 in 2011, $510,000 in 2010; $520,000 in 2009; $607,500 in 2008)
Listings: 656 (694 a year ago; 865 in 2012; 1,019 in 2011; 1,097 in 2010; 1,044 in 2009).
Number of sales: 197 (210 a year ago; 158 in 2012; 125 in 2011; 145 in 2010; 175 in 2009).
Distressed: Bank-owned, 5, short sales, 9
Unsold Inventory Index: 3.3 months (3.3 months a year ago)
Average price: $816,197 ($657,951 a year ago).
Median price: $424,500 ($347,500 a year ago; $284,000 in 2012; $252,000 in 2011; $308,500 in 2010; $404,500 in 2009; $406,000 in 2008)
Listings: 153 (176 a year ago; 247 in 2012; 302 in 2011; 287 in 2010; 235 in 2009).
Number of sales: 54 (45 a year ago; 40 in 2012; 29 in 2011; 38 in 2010; 34 in 2009).
Distressed: Bank-owned, 0; short sales, 1
Unsold Inventory Index: 2.8 months (3.9 months a year ago)
Average price: $472,281 ($425,179 a year ago).
SOURCE: Real Options Realty, www.ror.com.
CLOSE TO THE MEDIAN
City of Santa Cruz
519 Bellevue St., $680,000
220 Swift St., $680,000
116 Dellview Ave., $685,000
349 Park Way, $689,000
152 Myrtle St., $723,450
Santa Cruz County
300 Piper Club Court, Scotts Valley, $715,000
230 Scarlet Court, Watsonville, $719,000
510 Baltusrol Drive, Rio Del Mar, $725,000
22120 Oak Flat Road, Los Gatos, $726,000
215 Bobs Lane, Scotts Valley, $732,500
110 Verona Court, Rio del Mar, $1.95M
185 Chalk Mountain Road, Scotts Valley, $2 M
100 Central Ave., Capitola, $2.15M
763 Las Olas Drive, Seacliff, $2.71M
1307 West Cliff Drive, $3.995M
15915 Kings Creek Road, Boulder Creek, $188,000
629 Pippin Lane, Watsonville, $213,000
199 Juanita Road, Boulder Creek, $225,000
625 Sequoia Ave., Lompico, $267,000
615 Delta Way, Watsonville, $289,000 ------ (c)2014 the Santa Cruz Sentinel (Scotts Valley, Calif.) Visit the Santa Cruz Sentinel (Scotts Valley, Calif.) at www.santacruzsentinel.com Distributed by MCT Information Services