Feb 12, 2015

Angwin recovers from its
own real estate recession
In the United States, real estate sales go through cycles, climbing to exotic heights, then dropping like a rock. Up here on Howell Mountain we share that experience.
We had a boom period in Angwin which reached a peak one year of 49 sales. And that was not just an aberration. Sales stayed in the 40's for the six years 1985 to 1990.
Angwin Property Sales Chart For Last 27 Years
Our history over the past 27 years shows three cycles, and the development of another.
1) Sales started descending from a high of 49 in 1988 and fell steadily to 15 in 1993. A dramatic bust from a dramatic boom.
2) Sales started recovering from 21 sales in 1995 to a peak of 36 in 1999. Then collapsed to 16 in 2002. A short but complete cycle.
3) The next boom began with a very healthy recovery to 28 sales in 2003 and upward to a peak of 36 in 2004, followed by another good year of 32 in 2005. Then came the bust. Sales dropped to 20 in 2006, and into a recession that lasted for five years. Sales bottomed out at 11 during this period.
The last three years have seen us climbing out of the basement, with 28 sales in 2012, 35 in 2013, and 39 in 2014. A healthy recovery from five years of few sales.

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What will happen next is unpredictable. We have seen boom cycles recently which soared beyond 35 sales, but could not sustain that level. Angwin cycles are very different. However, one can take some hope in the national and state recoveries from their recent and disastrous boom and bust cycles. The California organization which follows such trends sees 2015 as the year when sales achieve a full recovery statewide.
The nationwide statistics indicate that the U. S. economy is improving gradually on a wide front. The public confidence level is rising. Middle class families are buying new cars, and new car sales usually precede property sales. The value of the dollar is up. Inflation remains low. Investors in stocks have seen the Dow Jones Index break through 18,000, a historic high. (The Dow Jones Index was 300 when I was a boy).
The downside is that millions more American families have dropped into the poverty level. Couples which once enjoyed two full-time paychecks are down to two part-time paychecks. Or one. They will not become buyers.
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Angwin lives in an economic world of its own. There are few jobs here outside of those provided by the college, and several small employers. Some in-depth research would be interesting, if it told us why our 39 newcomers last year migrated to Angwin. Most of them are probably driving down to jobs in St. Helena, Napa and Santa Rosa.
Mortgage rates were low last year. Gas prices had started to fall. Maybe that is what encouraged them up the winding road to Angwin. At any rate, for whatever reason, they rescued 39 of our neighbors who, for some family reason or another, needed to sell their property and move away. We wish our 39 new families all the happiness which we enjoy.
What about property values?
Property values do not recover in lockstep with an increase in sales. Increases in value usually lag for about a year behind increases in sales volume. But after our steady three-year sales recovery period, Angwin has probably seen a return to higher real estate values.
Angwin property values have always been unique, however. They remain far lower than those in St. Helena, for example, only eight miles away. And conversely, they are not comparable with values in Napa or American Canyon either, which have a larger inventory of affordable houses. Our basket of property values range from the affordables on some of our older streets to the upscale mansions with vineyard acreages surrounding the community.