Home Front

A blog about the economy and the Sacramento-area real estate market.

May 12, 2008
Daydreaming along Highway 99

...A long drive north on Highway 99 today after an overnight stay in Fresno and coffee with Sanford Nax, my real estate reporter colleague at The Fresno Bee. Quite a few of this month's blog items have tracked reports of April sales surges here and elsewhere - and Fresno, too, has seen one, according to this May 9 blog item from Nax. He says: "In preparing a story for next week, I talked to Scott Leonard, president of Guarantee Real Estate in Fresno. He sounded upbeat, considering the state of the real estate market, and this is why: his agents put 65% more houses into escrow in April than the same month in 2007.

"We had more pending sales in April than in any single month in all 2007," Leonard said.

He said would-be buyers are getting off the sidelines because they think prices have bottomed out. It remains to be seen if this is the beginning of a rebound or a dead cat bounce...."

Meanwhile, boosters of downtown and Midtown Sacramento will be pleased to hear how much some influential Fresnans wish their downtown was like that of the capital's. I happened onto a radio interview with Fresno mayoral candidate Henry T. Perea who was talking about the long slow haul of revitalizing Fresno's downtown. He was saying they still need to bring more housing down there.

Then the morning radio hosts of KJWL really started in about how much they like downtown and Midtown Sacramento. One had gone here to Sacramento State and she went on and on about how nice it was to take light rail to Midtown's bars and restaurants. The other host, too, went on and on, too, about how cool it is in Midtown, with night life on every corner.
They kept saying it's hard to get people to move downtown if there's not much to do. And you can't open things to do if there's not enough people living near them.
Sacramento can't seem to get K Street moving and too much of J Street is still tired. But it's pleasant to hear that some cities still wish they were more like us.


Highway 99 was a scene, as always, of road construction, new suburban rooftops and a giant new freeway interchange in Madera County. I've been traveling these Central Valley counties for 20 years, and every Highway 99 drive reveals the urban planning theory that the Valley is becoming one of the longest, continuous linear cities in the U.S.

Along some of this drive - especially from Turlock to Elk Grove - it's getting harder and harder to tell where one city ends and another starts. The new car lots, the orange mission-tile suburban house roofs, the Home Depots and Home Town Buffets all just run together whether you're in Ceres, Modesto or Galt.

All these places are feeling a lot of pain now and are some of the hardest-hit real estate markets in the nation. But there's no land to build on like flat land and these inland California counties are friendly to growth. Even for today's turbulent housing troubles along Highway 99 there's no doubt of all the humanity yet to arrive and call this place home.

Image courtesy of motherlodeproducts.com

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