California home sellers have big gains in the first quarter, bucking the national trend

California home sellers enjoyed hefty gains during the first quarter, while others nationwide endured the smallest profits of the past two years.

The state’s booming housing market – highlighted by a critical shortage of available homes that lifted the median home price to a record $904,000 in April – has created huge paydays for sellers.

The aggregate gain of the eight regions in the state was $325,500 and a profit margin of 75%, according to ATTOM Data (see table, below). The current profit is slightly more than the $324,500 in 2023.

BUY-AND-HOLD FORMULA IS REAL ESTATE GOLD

San Jose-area home sellers had a nation-leading $700,000 money-in-pocket profit, doubling their investment with the purchase. San Jose sellers’ annual profit jumped 18.4% from a year ago, followed by 16.5% in San Diego and 14.8% in Bakersfield.



The money and percentage gains are based on when homeowners purchase and sell their homes. The figures do not include expenses, such as home-improvement projects over the years or real estate-related costs. For example, San Jose sellers remained in their homes for 11.6 years – the second-longest tenure behind San Francisco at 12.2 years.

Californians buy and hold homes for about 10.7 years, longer than sellers in other states. The longer-term homeownership helps generate better profits because of increased home values and more equity.

GOLDEN STATE SHINES WHILE NATIONAL MARKET STRUGGLES

Nationwide, the average home seller had a 55.3% profit margin, significantly lower than California – and the worst in two years. Falling home prices, down about 4%, were the primary reason for the slide.

“The latest price and profit numbers show notably downward trends, which raises new questions about whether the housing-market boom is indeed ebbing, or even ending, after so many years of improvement,” says ATTOM CEO Rob Barber. “But due caution is needed in looking at the first-quarter data and what the patterns mean. We saw a similar downward pattern from late 2022 into early 2023, and then the market surged.”



California slowed but never really slumped during that period, despite higher mortgage rates because of a severe shortage of homes available for sale. Affordability, which dropped to a modern-day record low in 2023, is a concern but there are enough buyers to power the resilient market.

The current dip nationwide is far from a sky-is-falling situation, Barber says. Home sellers are still walking away with a $120,500 profit. 

“Profits and profit margins still are very high by historical measures,” Barber says. “Amid all that, the spring buying season will be a huge barometer for whether the market still has steam in its engine.”

Home seller profits and percentage gains in Q1 2024

Metro Q1 profit from sale% profit vs. Q1 ’23% profit on investment
Bakersfield$147,500+14.8%+79.0%
Fresno$165,400+8.5%+75.1%
Los Angeles$344,000+12.3%+61.4%
Riverside$230,000+6.5%+70.8%
Sacramento$207,000+6.2%+62.2%
San Diego$361,000+16.5%+73.8%
San Francisco$449,250+8.3%+75.4%
San Jose$700,000+18.4%+100%

Source: ATTOM Data