Northern San Joaquin Valley home values made remarkable gains in 2013, with home sale prices soaring by more than 20 percent in most cities.
Denair led the pack, skyrocketing 48.3 percent, while median-priced homes in Patterson posted 40 percent gains, according to just-released annual statistics from DataQuick.
Hughson, Manteca, Delhi and Salida homes also experienced incredible gains, jumping 30 percent or more during the year. Home prices in Modesto, Riverbank, Waterford, Gustine, Los Banos and Hilmar increased 25 percent or more.
But dont get too excited by those gains: There is still a mountain to climb before home prices return to their 2006 peak.
Example: Modestos median selling price last year for new and used houses and condos was $160,000 27 percent more than 2012. That was the first sizable gain in six years.
However, Modesto homes sold for more than twice that much a median $340,000 in 2006. Then the housing market crashed, recession gripped the region and the foreclosure crisis began.
The foreclosure mess essentially is over now, as mortgage default levels have fallen back to prerecession levels. Many families who suffered through foreclosures now are returning to the market.
Were getting those buyers back who lost their homes, said Lorrie Mendonsa, an agent for Powerhouse Realty in Turlock. You can qualify for a new mortgage three years after a foreclosure.
Theres a surplus of willing buyers these days throughout the region.
Were getting multiple offers, especially for any house priced under $150,000, Mendonsa said.
Some Valley towns are recovering faster than others, however, at least when it comes to home prices.
Hughson and Manteca, for instance, not only had sales prices jump 35 percent last year, but their home values also increased nearly 10 percent in 2012.
Hughson homes sold for a median $250,000 in 2013, which was by far the highest in Stanislaus County. That was only 36 percent below the prerecession peak. The story is about the same for Manteca.
The news isnt nearly as good in Newman, Waterford, Ceres, Atwater or Los Banos.
Newman homes sold for a median $145,000 last year, which is about one-third what they fetched in 2006. At the market peak, Newman homes sold for more than those in Hughson.
Another community still waiting to recover is Dos Palos, the small farming town in southern Merced County. Homes there sold for a median $90,000 last year, compared with $310,000 at the peak.
But for Modesto and most Valley towns, real estate is trending upward.
Were in an absolutely healthy market, said Jeannie Mazzanti, a PMZ Real Estate agent in Modesto. Were still at great interest rates, too.
Mazzanti said 30-year fixed-rate loans with 4.3 percent interest rates are fairly typical. At those rates, she said, many buyers are finding their monthly mortgages are about the same as what they had been paying in rent.
Unlike during the foreclosure crisis when investors snapped up most of the repossessed homes, Mazzanti said, most of my clients are buying homes to live in themselves.
Mendonsa and Mazzanti predict more normal single-digit gains for 2014.
Modesto Bee staff writer J.N. Sbranti can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2196.