Stanislaus County is hoping to bring its communities together to address the current housing market and shortage of homes, which has plagued prospective homebuyers not only locally but state and nationwide.

Representatives from the Central Valley Association of Realtors Board presented the current state of the real estate market to the Board of Supervisors on Oct. 26, highlighting just how high prices are for the few homes currently listed in the county. CVAR President Pete Diryawush and past President Margeley Bernal told Supervisors that the current market is a seller’s market, where those looking to buy a home are typically competing with 20 other people hoping to do the same. 

According to Bernal, data up to Oct. 25 shows that there are currently 447 houses on the market in Stanislaus County. In September, Realtors closed deals on 490 homes. 

“That’s not a lot of inventory for a county our size,” Bernal said. 

Stanislaus homes are selling at an average of $272 per square foot, she added, compared to about $100 per square foot 10 years ago. The rising cost of housing and the lack of inventory has made it incredibly difficult for first time home buyers to even have a chance at purchasing a house — something CVAR takes pride in helping them achieve. 

“We really pay attention to what’s going on. Our state has a problem. It’s a nationwide problem,” Bernal said. “We wanted to bring it to you so you actually have some data on what’s going on here.”

Housing in Stanislaus County is extremely competitive at the moment, with the average home spending just 15 days on the market. In 2010, the average time on the market was 140 days according to Zillow. Another useful statistic provided by the CVAR presentation was the amount of inventory and how long it would take agents to sell the homes currently on the market. 

As of last week, there were 0.09 months of inventory on the market, a number which is usually between four and six months in a “normal” market, Bernal said. Homes with lower prices are at 0.06 months of inventory.

“Our point for being here is we need more inventory,” Bernal said, noting there aren’t nearly enough options for seniors looking to move into one-story homes. “First time buyers and seniors are where we need to focus our attention.”

Diryawush said the County needs to make it easier for investors and builders to construct homes here by looking at reducing the cost of building permits. Supervisor Vito Chiesa said the lack of housing is something on the mind of the entire Board, but reducing fees is only one small piece of the puzzle. 

“It’s very hard in the scheme of things because it’s market-driven right now, so their builders have to want to build,” Chiesa said. “…We need builders and things are expensive, so even if there were no fees, housing is still very expensive on a per-square-foot basis on the inputs, labor costs, lumber and other things.”

Stanislaus County CEO Jody Hayes said the organization is reaching out to local jurisdictions to involve all stakeholders in a 10-to-12-month process which will develop a comprehensive strategy meant to address the housing shortage on a long-term basis. The County has gone to eight of its nine cities so far for this effort, known as Housing Stanislaus, and will also invite realtors to participate in creating the plan. 

“So much of our efforts tend to get steered towards short term and loser on the housing continuum as it relates to homelessness and so forth,” Hayes said. “We want to steer our focus strategically to the upper half of the housing continuum to workforce housing, even rental housing, and home ownership.”