Market News

San Francisco Real Estate Market Update – September 2017

Single Family Homes:
August’s median sales price continued its predictable seasonal backing off from its Spring peak, dropping 6.4% to $1,380,000 from May’s $1,475,000. However, in the same time frame last year prices dipped 7.4%. Prices are still up 10.4% above August, 2016.

Since August, 2012, the median sold price in San Francisco is up 81%.

Inventory continues to be at its lowest level, 1.6 months, since last December. This is the ongoing result of fewer homes coming on the market while sales stay fairly constant. The number of new listings on the market year-to-date is down 7% from 2016 while the number of sales is up 3.3%.

The incredibly tight supply coupled with strong demand kept the level of overbids high as well, down a bit from July but still at 114%, and 79% of single family homes sold above the list price, up from 75.9% last August.

Condo/Loft/TIC’s:
Median sold prices are up 10.8%, to $1,175,000, compared to August 2016. And, while not as great a rise as with single family homes, the median sold price is up 62.5% compared to August 2012’s $723,000.

In August, 63.4% sold above list price and the median bid was 3.2% above list price.

The number of Condo/Loft/TIC listings are also down year-to-date compared to 2016, by 10.7%. And, like single family homes, sales are up, by 2.6%. Current inventory stands at a 2 months supply.

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San Francisco Real Estate Market Update – August 2017

July’s median sales price for single family in San Francisco followed its seasonal backing off of its May peak, dropping to $1,431,000 from May’s $1,500,838.

Single family home inventory continues to be at its lowest level, 1.6 months, since last December, and its lowest July level in a decade. This continues to be caused by fewer homes coming on the market, while sales stay fairly constant. The number of new listings on the market in 2017 is down 10% from 2016 while the number of sales is up 1.4%.

The incredibly tight supply coupled with strong demand pushed overbids up as well, to 117%, the highest since September, 2015.

Condo listings are also down year-to-date compared to 2016, by 12.7%. And, like homes, sales are up, by 4.3%, leading to a 2 months supply. And, like single family homes, condos were bid up above list price to a median overbid of 107%.

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San Francisco Real Estate Market Update – July 2017

June’s median sales price for single family in San Francisco backed off a bit from its all-time high in May, dropping from $1,502,675 to $1,465,989. At the same time, single family home inventory was at the lowest level, 1.6 months, for June in 10 years. This is largely due to the fact that the number of new listings on the market in 2017 is down 8.8% from 2016 while the number of sales is up 1.3%.

The incredibly tight supply coupled with strong demand pushed overbids up as well, to 115%, the highest since October, 2015.

Condo listings are also down from 2016, by 13.3%. And, like homes, sales are up, by 6.6%, leading to a 2.2 months supply. So, like single family homes, condos sold at a median overbid of 102.5%, off just slightly from May’s 102.7%.

The exceptionally strong San Francisco economy continues to be behind these numbers. Unemployment stands at just 3.0%, down from 2016’s 3.4%. There are more jobs filled in every category tracked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in June, 2017 than there were in June, 2016. And while the increase in the number of new jobs is slowing, jobs are still being added.

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San Francisco Real Estate Market Update – June 2017

The median sales price hit an all-time high for both single family houses and condo/loft/TIC’s in May. The incredibly tight supply coupled with strong demand pushed the prices up and the overbids as well. Single family homes sold at a median overbid of 114.7%, the highest since October, 2015. Condos sold at a median of 103% of list price, the highest overbid percentage since May 2016.

As we discussed last month, the number of new single family home listings coming on the market was down sharply in April, 25.5%, and we saw that repeated again in May with a 12% year-on-year drop.

Likewise, the precipitous decline, 33.5%, in new condo/loft/TIC listings coming on the market in April, was followed by a 23% drop year-on-year for May. This is the third double-digit monthly year-on-year decline for new condo/loft/TIC listings this year.

The total number of single family homes sold was up 5.5% in May while condo/loft/TIC sales were unchanged.
Inventory stands at 1.8 months for single family homes, down 25% year-on-year, and 2.3 months for condo/loft/TICs, also down 25%.

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Uncertainty Rises as Do Homes Prices

With the January inauguration of the new administration came a number of changes that have injected uncertainty into some important aspects of business which may have a ripple effect into the San Francisco real estate market.

The first change is the executive order to ban non-U.S. citizens entering the U.S. from certain countries. This caused an immediate employee travel ban by a several prominent San Francisco and Bay Area employers for employees potentially affected by the ban. Second came the announcement that the administration plans to double the qualifying salary threshold from $65,000 to $130,000 for an H-1B visa, making it much harder for employers to fill positions with foreign talent, a not insignificant source of employees in the high tech sector. Both of these injected uncertainty and potential business disruption into the Bay Area business community and both have received broad coverage in the business and general news, with some high-profile CEO’s speaking out against them because of fears of damage to their businesses.

On a stabilizing note, mortgage rates eased off just slightly (about 1/8 percent) in January. However, most lenders expect them to rise somewhat throughout the year, to around 5%.

The charts on the following pages graphically depict the same message we’ve seen for the past few years: San Francisco remains a strong single family home sellers market, with incredibly low inventory at 1.3 months, down 10% from January 2016. Median sales prices are up 7.1% year-on-year for single family homes. The median sales price of single family homes also continues to be bid up above list price, coming in at 105.9% for January.

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San Francisco New Housing Construction & Inventory Trends

Many of the charts included below are based on the San Francisco Planning Department’s excellent 75-page 2015 Housing Inventory report, released on May 27, 2016, which can be accessed using the link at the bottom of this article. We are very grateful for the enormous effort put into creating that report by Audrey Harris and other Planning Department personnel.

Numbers in different charts below will not always agree: This is due to the vagaries of how and when condos and other housing units are counted as filed, authorized, permitted or completed by the different agencies who compile this data. As far as the real estate market is concerned, the situation is complicated by the fact that new construction condos are often marketed and “sold” (offers accepted) well before they finish construction, i.e. market dynamics of supply and demand may be significantly affected by units that do not yet exist.

The politics of new home development in San Francisco are not for the weak of heart. There are vociferous disagreements between neighborhood and homeowner associations, developers, affordable housing advocates, tenant’s rights groups, business groups, and pro-, slow- or no-growth advocates regarding how it should best proceed (or not proceed). The battles are non-stop in every political or legal venue available.

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Comparing total inventory (illustrated above) to annual sales reveals that condos and TICs turnover about twice as often as houses in San Francisco. About 2% to 2.5% of all SF houses are now sold each year, an extremely low turnover rate, which has exacerbated the city’s inadequate, house-listing inventory situation. For condos, turnover runs in the 4.5% to 5% range, which is roughly in line with national averages for home sales, and for TICs, turnover is in the 5% to 6% range. These are all very general approximations. Since condos and TICs are typically smaller than houses, and often purchased by younger buyers and/or smaller households – singles, couples, beginning families – it’s not surprising they sell more often than houses, whose owners are often older, more settled in life, and have larger households.

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The process of application and review, public hearings (and sometimes ballot proposals), revisions, entitlement, permitting, construction, inspection and completion is complex and lengthy. Housing units are being planned and built, and existing units are being altered and removed. And there are many housing types: rental or sale units, market rate or affordable, social-project housing or luxury condominiums.

The new-housing landscape in San Francisco is in constant flux: new projects, developer plan changes, city plan changes, and shifts in economic and political realities. The basic fact is that the city, after its recent 2008-2012 new-construction slump, is now experiencing a huge building boom. However, it should be noted that booms can slow dramatically or even come to a screeching halt if economic circumstances significantly change.

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Residential Development by City District

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SF Development Pipeline Map

New construction has been concentrated in a few specific districts of the city, mostly where there are commercial lots able to be converted to residential use and where higher density housing projects are most viable. The ability to take under-utilized commercial property sites and turn them into multi-unit or even high-rise residential projects is particularly prized. Generally speaking this describes the quadrant of San Francisco around and to the southeast of the Market Street corridor.

New Housing Construction by Bay Area County

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Affordable Housing Construction

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Very generally speaking, the city requires that new home developers either dedicate 15% of their units to affordable housing, which could be built on-site or on another city site, or contribute to the city’s affordable housing fund “in lieu” of building the units themselves. (The rules are more complicated than that, and there’s something on the June ballot that will change them further.) There are few subjects more difficult and politically charged in San Francisco than affordable housing: how much should be built where and who should be responsible for the costs.

Affordable housing units are allocated, rented and sold under rules and formulas pertaining to social and economic circumstances and housing cost. Large projects are also built on an ongoing basis by private-public social organizations for dedicated purposes such as senior housing. Looking at the number of units actually being built, there is a general consensus that current construction is deeply inadequate to needs.

In 2015, a total of about $73 million was collected from developers as partial payments of in-lieu fees for projects.

Bay Area Housing Affordability Trends

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Bay Area Housing Affordability Report

San Francisco Housing Units Demolished,
Merged and Removed

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Housing units are gained by additions to existing housing structures, conversions to residential use, and legalization of illegal units. Dwelling units are lost by merging separate units into larger units, by conversion to commercial use, or by the removal of illegal units.

New Development Pipeline

We also have an overview of the quarterly San Francisco Planning Department’s Pipeline Report, which complements the annual Housing Inventory reports with a longer term perspective: The San Francisco Residential Pipeline Report.

There are over 60,000 housing units of all kinds currently in the pipeline – and the pipeline is growing and changing quickly now – but some of the bigger projects (such as Treasure Island, Hunter’s Point/Shipyard, Candlestick Point) may take decades to complete. Also, just because a project is in the pipeline does not mean it will be built as planned, or even built at all.

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Pipeline Analysis, Based on SF Business Times June 2015 Project Breakdown
(A little outdated but still providing useful insight)

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San Francisco Housing Stock Breakdown
A Fascinating 2014 Analysis by the San Francisco Controller’s Office

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The Context behind San Francisco New Housing Development

What ultimately underpins new housing construction is demand. San Francisco has been experiencing surging population, employment and new wealth creation, that has so far been outpacing new housing supply. However, as of spring 2016, it appears that new hiring has slowed, at least in the short term.

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Insufficient Housing = Increasing Prices & Rents

Below are two of our charts illustrating the rental and sale markets in San Francisco. As of spring 2016, it appears that appreciation rates may have begun to finally slow or plateau.

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Condo Values by Era of Construction

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The first golden age of SF apartment buildings, many of which were later turned into condos, was in the period of 1920 – 1940: The units in these buildings are large, light, gracious and filled with elegant detail. Pacific Heights and Marina are filled with these buildings. Though there are beautiful condos built in other eras (Edwardian flats, Art Deco apartments), the second golden age really arrived with the latest burst of new-condo construction, built for an increasingly affluent population: These units are ultra-modern, high-tech and feature highest quality finishes and amenities. They are exemplified by the new, luxury high-rises of the greater South Beach-Yerba Buena area, though variations on this theme, in non-high-rise form, have been springing up all over the city.

The units in these newer buildings command a premium both when rented or, as seen in the chart above, when sold – now surpassing an average dollar per square foot value of $1000, and sometimes far above that. This is the major motivator for developers today, many of whom are now concentrating on luxury or what might be called ultra-luxury condo construction. There is a question as to whether the luxury segment is being overbuilt considering the size of the buyer pool for such expensive units.

Housing Unit Construction by Bedroom Count

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We haven’t found an easy place for construction data by unit size, so this first chart above is extrapolated from SF MLS sales of condos built 2001 -2015. It may not apply perfectly to units built as apartment rentals or affordable housing.

Typically, the smaller the unit, the higher the dollar per square foot value on sale or rental, however in San Francisco, 3+ bedroom condos are often high-floor units with spectacular views that sell for extraordinary sums – but these would be outliers to the general rule.

Below are links to the SF Planning Department Pipeline and Housing Inventory report webpages. They contain a huge amount of data, which we have attempted to represent accurately. As noted by their authors, who did an incredible job, the original reports themselves are “compiled and consolidated from different data sources and subject to errors due to varying accuracy and currency of original sources.”

2015 SF Planning Department Housing Inventory Report, Issued May 2016

San Francisco Planning Department Pipeline Report

SF Development Pipeline Map

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Midway through the Spring 2016 Selling Season

San Francisco Median Home Price Appreciation
Short-Term & Long-Term Trends

As seen in the first chart below, the combined house-condo median sales price hit a new high in April. However, as the second chart illustrates, so far this year, while median house prices continued to appreciate, condo and TIC prices appear to have generally plateaued. 2012-2015, spring was the most dynamic, high-demand/low-supply selling season of the year.

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Market Dynamics by Property Type & Price Segment

As mentioned in our April report, different segments of the market appear to be diverging. The below charts separate the San Francisco homes market into house and condo/co-op/TIC segments, then further subdivide each into 4 price segments. The lowest, most affordable, price segments are defined by the median sales prices for the first 4 months of the year. The highest price segments (or luxury home sectors) are defined, approximately, by the top 10% of sales.

Very generally speaking, the house market has remained hotter than the condo market, which appears to have cooled to some degree (but nothing remotely approximating a crash), and more affordable homes are seeing significantly more demand than luxury homes, where the pool of potential buyers is much smaller. The luxury condo market, in particular, may be being impacted by an increase in large, new, luxury-condo projects arriving on market, especially in those districts where they are mostly being built. The number of resale luxury condo listings in San Francisco hit an all-time high in April.

These analyses do not include new-project condo activity unreported to MLS, which is now a significant portion of the market: Unfortunately, our access to definitive data regarding current activity in new condo sales is limited.

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More on the luxury market: SF Luxury Home Market Analytics

Percentage Changes in Median Sales Prices
& Average Asking Rents, 1994 to Q1 2016

The first chart tracks year-over-year changes in annual median sales prices for San Francisco houses. The year of greatest percentage appreciation was 2000 at the height of the dotcom bubble (though on a dollar appreciation basis, recent years far exceeded earlier periods). This is a generalized overview: Homes in different neighborhoods and in different price segments often saw wide variations in annual appreciation rates.

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More on real estate cycles: 30+ Years of Bay Area Real Estate Cycles

This second chart illustrates appreciation in average asking rents. Note how much rents declined after the dotcom bubble ended, while the effect of the 2008 financial markets crash was much milder. We have heard from multiple city sources that available rental inventory has significantly increased and renter demand significantly decreased in recent months, which may reflect a possible softening in new, high-tech hiring. We shall see if this begins to show up more definitively in upcoming rent and employment statistics. Or it may simply be a temporary lull in the market.

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More on SF & Bay Area Rents: Rent Trends Report

Our Q1 report on the apartment building market: Bay Area Apartment Market

These analyses were made in good faith with data from sources deemed reliable, but they may contain errors and are subject to revision. Statistics are generalities and all numbers should be considered approximate. New construction condos not listed or sold on MLS are not counted in these statistics, though they often affect market dynamics. Sales statistics of one month generally reflect offers negotiated 4 to 6 weeks earlier. Last but not least, different analytical systems sometime calculate standard real estate statistics differently, which can deliver variable results.

© 2016 Paragon Real Estate Group

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The San Francisco Luxury Home Market | Homes of $2 Million & Above

The bar charts compare year-over-year data, going back 2 years, for the latest month. The line charts track monthly data over a period of 3 to 5 years. Note that it can take 7 to 15 days after a month’s end for agents to enter in transaction data pertinent to the month in question, so statistics for the latest month can sometimes change significantly as this data is added to calculations.

Seasonality can play a significant role in many real estate statistics as the market ebbs and flows during active and less active sales seasons. Typically, the market is most active in the spring and fall, and slower in the summer and, especially, the mid-winter holidays. The luxury home market is even more deeply affected by seasonality than the general market.

To keep things simple, we have, rather arbitrarily, designated homes of $2 million and above as luxury homes. The threshold should be higher for houses (probably in the $2.5m to $3m range), and somewhat lower than $2m for condos, but then we couldn’t get both property types on the same charts. Needless to say, what one gets for one’s money in different neighborhoods varies enormously. Statistics are generalities, most useful for illustrating general market trends.

Moving your cursor across any line chart will pull up month by month data. It may take these auto-updating charts a few moments to load onto the webpage.

New Listings Coming on Market, by Month

September is usually the single biggest month for new high-end home listings. Spring is typically the most active season for new listings. New listing activity plunges during the mid-summer and mid-winter holidays.

Total Number of Active Listings for Sale during Month

Number of Listings Accepting Offers, by Month

Number of Sales, by Month

Percentage of Listings Selling for over Asking Price, by Month

Median Percentage of List Price Achieved on Sale

Over 100% usually signifies competitive overbidding; under 100% signifies more aggressive buyer negotiation.

Median Dollar per Square Foot (upon Sale)
3-Month Rolling Average

Months Supply of Inventory (MSI), by Month

The lower the MSI, the greater the buyer demand as compared
to the inventory of listings available to buy.

Median Days on Market before Acceptance of Offer
3-Month Rolling Average

Expensive Home Sales by San Francisco District & Neighborhood

Note that these charts using differing price points for the “luxury home” designation.

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Other reports you might find interesting:

Market Analytics for General SF Market

30+ Years of San Francisco Real Estate Cycles

San Francisco Neighborhood Affordability

10 Big Factors behind the San Francisco Real Estate Market

Bay Area Apartment Building Market

Link to San Francisco Neighborhood Map

It is the relationship between supply and demand that defines the state of the market. Looking at one statistic such as the number of sales, without comparing it to how many listings were available to purchase, may give a distorted view of market conditions. Some statistics, such as months supply of inventory take both supply and demand into account. Last but not least, short-term statistics sometimes fluctuate without great meaningfulness – longer-term trends are always most meaningful.

Sales data usually reflects market activity, i.e. when a new listing comes on market and offers are negotiated, occurring 4 to 8 weeks before the sale date. Thus, for example, sales in June mostly reflect new listings and offers negotiated in late April and May.

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Recessions, Recoveries & Bubbles

Below is a look at the past 30+ years of San Francisco Bay Area real estate boom and bust cycles. Financial-market cycles have been around for hundreds of years, all the way back to the Dutch tulip mania of the 1600’s. While future cycles will vary in their details, the causes, effects and trend lines are often quite similar. Looking at cycles gives us more context to how the market works over time and where it may be going — much more than dwelling in the immediacy of the present with excitable pronouncements of “The market’s crashing and won’t recover in our lifetimes!” or “The market’s crazy hot and the only place it can go is up!” 

Note: Most of these charts generally apply to higher-priced Bay Area housing markets, such as those found in much of San Francisco, Marin, Central Contra Costa and San Mateo Counties. (Different market price segments had bubbles, crashes and recoveries of differing magnitudes in the last cycle, which is addressed at the end of this report.)

Market Cycles: Simplified Overviews

Up, Down, Flat, Up, Down, Flat…(Repeat)

The first chart below charts changes in dollar values, according to the Case-Shiller Index method (January 2000 = a home value of 100). The second chart graphs ups and downs by percentage changes at each turning point.

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Smoothing out the bumps delivers the simplified overviews above for the past 30 years. Whatever the phase of the cycle, up or down, while it’s going on people think it will last forever: Every time the market crashes, the consensus becomes that real estate won’t recover for decades. But the economy mends, the population grows, people start families, inflation builds up over the years, and repressed demand of those who want to own their own homes builds up. In the early eighties, mid-nineties and in 2012, after about 4 years of a recessionary housing market, this repressed demand jumps back in (or “explodes” might be a good description) and prices start to rise again. It’s not unusual for a big surge in values to occur in the first couple of years after a recovery begins.

All bubbles are ultimately based on irrational and/or criminal behavior, whether exemplified by junk bonds, Savings & Loan frauds, dotcom stock hysteria, “Dow 30,000” exuberance, “the end of the business cycle” nonsense, gorging on unsustainable debt, runaway greed (without any corresponding desire to produce anything of value) or dishonest financial engineering, but the most recent subprime-financing/ loan-fraud bubble was even more abnormal than usual, because it was fueled by large numbers of buyers purchasing homes that they clearly couldn’t afford (liar loans, deceptive teaser rates and the abysmal decline in underwriting standards) with no actual investment in the properties being bought (no down payment, 100%+ loans).

This Recovery vs. Previous Recoveries

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The light blue columns in the above chart graph the home-value appreciation that occurred in the first three years of each recovery – our latest rebound has been somewhat quicker than other recoveries, probably due to 1) the depth of the previous market decline, and 2) the huge, high-tech employment, population and wealth boom that has played out in San Francisco and nearby counties. The gray columns chart the appreciation of past recoveries from the beginning to peak value for each cycle (except for the latest cycle, for which the peak has not yet been defined), and the red bars delineate the percentage declines from those peaks, pursuant to the market adjustments that occurred. As always, note that market appreciation and depreciation rates can vary widely by county, community and neighborhood.

Surprisingly consistent: Over the past 30+ years, the period between a recovery beginning and a bubble popping has run 5 to 7 years. We are currently about 4 years into the current recovery, which started in early 2012. Periods of market recession/doldrums following the popping of a bubble have typically lasted about 4 years. (The 2001 dotcom bubble and 9-11 crisis drop being the exception.) Generally speaking, within about 2 years of a new recovery commencing, previous peak values (i.e. those at the height of the previous bubble) are re-attained — among other reasons, there is the recapture of inflation during the doldrums years. In this current recovery, those homes hit hardest by the subprime loan crisis — typically housing at the lowest end of the price scale in the less affluent neighborhoods, which experienced by far the biggest bubble and biggest crash — are taking longer to re-attain peak values. However, higher priced homes — which predominate in San Francisco, Marin and San Mateo Counties — have already surged well past their previous peaks.

This does not mean that these recently recurring time periods necessarily reflect some natural law in housing market cycles, or that they can be relied upon to predict the future. Real estate markets can be affected by a bewildering number of economic, political and even natural-event factors that are exceedingly difficult to predict.

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In the 2 charts below tracking the S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index for the 5-County San Francisco Metro Area, the data points refer to home values as a percentage of those in January 2000. January 2000 equals 100 on the trend line: 66 means prices were 66% of those in January 2000; 175 signifies prices 75% higher.

1983 through 1995

(After Recession) Boom, Decline, Doldrums

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In the above chart, the country is just coming out of the late seventies, early eighties recession – huge inflation, stagnant economy (“stagflation”) and incredibly high interest rates (hitting 18%). As the economy recovered, the housing market started to appreciate and this surge in values began to accelerate deeper into the decade. Over 6 years, the market appreciated about 100%. Finally, the late eighties “Greed is good!” version of irrational exuberance — junk bonds, stock market swindles, the Savings & Loan implosion, as well as the late 1989 earthquake here in the Bay Area — ended the party.

Recession arrived, home prices sank, sales activity plunged and the market stayed basically flat for 4 to 5 years. Still, even after the decline, home values were 70% higher than when the boom began in 1984.

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1996 to Present

(After Recession) Boom, Bubble, Crash, Doldrums, Recovery

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This next cycle looks similar but elongated. In 1996, after years of recession, the market suddenly took off and continued to accelerate til 2001. The dotcom bubble pop and September 2001 attacks created a market hiccup, but then the subprime and refinance insanity, degraded loan underwriting standards, mortgage securitization, and claims that real estate never declines, super-charged a housing bubble. Overall, from 1996 to 2006/2008, the market went through an astounding period of appreciation. (Different areas hit peak values at times from 2006 to early 2008.) The air started to go out of some markets in 2007, and in September 2008 came the financial market crash.

Across the country, home values fell 15% to 60%, peak to bottom, depending on the area and how badly it was affected by foreclosures — most of San Francisco got off comparatively lightly with declines in the 15% to 25% range. The least affluent areas got hammered hardest by distressed sales and price declines; the most affluent were typically least affected. Then the market stayed flat for about 4 years, albeit with a few short-term fluctuations. Supply and demand dynamics began to change in mid-2011, leading to the market recovery of 2012.

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The Recovery since 2012 (Case-Shiller)

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This chart above looks specifically at home price appreciation since 2012 when the current market recovery began. Generally speaking, the spring selling seasons have seen the most dramatic surges in appreciation. It’s not unusual for appreciation to slow or flatten in the second half of the year. This chart below illustrates the connection between seasonality and appreciation over the past 4 years.

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The Panorama: From the late 1980’s to Present

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San Francisco Median Sales Price Appreciation

The charts below look at median sales price movements in San Francisco County itself over the shorter and longer terms. These do not correlate exactly with Case-Shiller – firstly because C-S tracks a “metro area” of 5 Bay Area counties, and secondly, because median sales prices are often affected by other factors besides changes in fair market value (such as significant changes in the distressed, luxury and new-construction market segments; in interest rates; seasonality; buyer profile; and so on).

The Current Recovery: 2012 – Present

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In 2011, San Francisco began to show signs of perking up. An improving economy, soaring rents, low interest rates and growing buyer demand coupled with a low inventory of listings began to put upward pressure on prices. In 2012, as in 1996, the market abruptly grew frenzied with competitive bidding. The city’s affluent neighborhoods led the recovery, and those considered particularly desirable by newly wealthy, high-tech workers showed the largest gains. However, virtually the entire city soon followed to experience similar rapid price appreciation.

San Francisco median home sales prices increased dramatically in 2012, 2013, 2014, and then again in the first half of 2015. In the second half of 2014, after the spring frenzy had cooled off, home prices flattened out, which is what occurred in 2015 as well. At this point in early 2016, we are waiting to see what the new spring market brings.

Longer-Term: 1993 – Present

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Comparing San Francisco, California & National
Median Price Appreciation

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San Francisco has been out-performing the overall state and national markets.

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San Francisco Rents

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Besides, home prices, home rental rates are major indicators of what is occurring with housing costs and the local economy. If anything, rents have appreciated even more extremely than home prices in San Francisco (and other areas of the Bay Area) – and, of course, renters get no advantages from low interest rates, multiple tax deductions and advantages, or home-price appreciation over time. One classic indicator of an overpriced home market is when prices outpace rents. So far, this has not happened in San Francisco: Both types of housing costs have soared in recent years.

It’s interesting to note that SF rents actually dropped much further after the dotcom bubble burst than after the 2008 financial markets crash, though the latter was a much more destructive economic event. It suggests that local rents may be more affected by the simple ebb and flow of high-tech hiring and employment than by other macro-economic issues, such as stock market changes. If one loses one’s job and the likelihood of finding another in the area plunges, it may be an immediate imperative to move to a less expensive rental area (pressuring rents lower); if one’s net worth plunges with a stock market crash, one may no longer afford to buy a home (pressuring home prices lower). This is an oversimplification, but may still go some ways to explaining the different scale of reaction by purchase and rental markets to different macro-economic events.

Rent Trends Report

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Mortgage Interest Rates since 1981

It’s much harder to decipher any cycles in 30-year mortgage rates, but rates remain astonishingly low by any historical measure, and this, of course, plays a huge role in the ongoing cost of homeownership and the real estate market.

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More information regarding underlying demographic and economic conditions of the current real estate market can be found here: 10 Factors behind the SF Market

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Housing Affordability Index (HAI) Cycles, 1991 – Present

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Unsurprisingly, there is a reverse correlation between the trend lines for housing affordability rates and those of real estate price cycles (above). HAI rates jump higher in market recessions, peaking at the bottom of the market, and then decline as the market recovers, bottoming out when peak prices are hit. The lowest Bay Area housing affordability housing index rates (probably in history) were hit in 2007 right before the 2008 market crash. The Bay Area overall is still above those lows in its current recovery.

The 2008 San Francisco Bay Area real estate crash was not caused just by a local affordability crisis: It was triggered by macro-economic events in financial markets which affected real estate markets across the country. It’s important to note that in the past (certainly going back at least 50 years), major corrections to Bay Area home prices did not occur in isolation, but parallel to national economic events (though the 1989 earthquake, which occurred just before the national recession began, certainly exacerbated the local downturn). Ongoing speculation on local “bubbles” often neglect to remember this.

Still, dwindling affordability is certainly a symptom of overheating, of a market being pushed perhaps too high. Looking at the chart above, it’s interesting to note that the markets of all Bay Area counties hit similar and historic lows at previous market peaks in 2006-2007, i.e. the pressure that began in the San Francisco market spread out to pressurize surrounding markets until all the areas bottomed out in affordability. This suggests that one factor or symptom of a correction, is not just a feverish San Francisco market, but that buyers can’t find affordable options anywhere in the area. We are certainly seeing that radiating pressure on home prices occurring now, starting in San Francisco and San Mateo (Silicon Valley) and surging out to all points of the compass.

San Francisco, with a Housing Affordability Index (HAI) reading of 11% is about 3% above its all-time historic low in Q3 2007, but affordability in most other Bay Area counties, while generally declining, still remain significantly above their previous lows. By this measure, the situation we saw in 2007-2008 has not yet been replicated.

Significant increases in mortgage interest rates would affect affordability quickly and dramatically, as interest rates along with, of course, housing prices and household incomes, play the dominant roles in this calculation.

Bay Area Housing Affordability Report

Housing Affordability Rate Calculation Methodology

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Inflation & Interested Rate-Adjusted Housing Cost (since 1993)

The Home Cost Trends chart below reflects a very approximate calculation of monthly home payment costs (principal, interest, property tax and insurance) adjusted for inflation– i.e. in 1993 dollars – using annual median house sales prices, average annual 30-year interest rates, and assuming a 20% downpayment. The average annual compounding CPI inflation rate fluctuated, but averaged approximately 2.4% over the period, and average annual mortgage rates fluctuated from 8.4% to 3.7% (see mortgage interest rate charts earlier in this report), which, as mentioned before, had a huge impact on financing costs.

Adjusting for inflation and interest rate changes means that though the median sales price is now far above that of 2007, the monthly housing cost is still a little bit below then. This isn’t a perfect apples-to-apples comparison because it doesn’t take into account that the amount of the 20% downpayment increased significantly over the time period. Still, since ongoing cost is typically an important factor for homebuyers (at least those getting financing), this affords another angle on our market.

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Different Bay Area Market Segments:
Different Bubbles, Crashes & Recoveries

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The comparison composite chart dramatically illustrates the radically different market movements of different Bay Area housing price segments since 2000. Farther below areupdated individual price charts for each price segment.

Again, all numbers in the Case-Shiller chart relate to a January 2000 value of 100: A reading of 220 signifies a home value 120% above that of January 2000. The chart above illustrate how different market segments in the 5-county SF metro area had bubbles, crashes and now recoveries of enormously different magnitudes, mostly depending on the impact of subprime lending. The lower the price range, the bigger the bubble and crash. In the city itself, where many of our home sales would constitute an ultra-high price segment, if Case-Shiller broke it out, many of our neighborhoods have risen to new peak values. The lowest price segment, more prevalent in other counties, may not recover peak values for years. Updated C-S charts for each price segment are below.

If one disregarded the different bubbles and crashes, home price appreciation for all three segments since January 2000 is now in the 120% – 124% range. Just recently the low-price tier has begun taking the lead in home price appreciation (though, again, it remains far below its previous peak value).

Updated Case-Shiller Price-Tier Charts

Low-Price Tier Homes: Under $560,000 as of 2/16

Huge subprime bubble (170% appreciation, 2000 – 2006) & huge crash
(60% decline, 2008 – 2011). Strong recovery but well below 2006-07 peak values.

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Mid-Price Tier Homes: $560,00 to $900,000 as of 2/16

Smaller bubble (119% appreciation, 2000 – 2006) and crash (42% decline)
than low-price tier. Strong recovery has put it back to its 2006 peak.

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High-Price Tier Homes: Over $900,000 as of 2/16

84% appreciation, 2000 – 2007, and 25% decline, peak to bottom.
Now climbing well above previous 2007 peak values.

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San Francisco Market Reports

San Francisco Neighborhood Values

San Francisco New-Housing Pipeline Update

These analyses were made in good faith with data from sources deemed reliable, but they may contain errors and are subject to revision. All numbers are approximate and percentage changes will vary slightly depending on the exact begin and end dates used for recoveries, peak prices and bottom-of-market values.

Copyright 2016 Paragon Real Estate Group.

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New Housing Construction in San Francisco

The SF Planning Department just released updated Q4 2015 information regarding the new-housing development pipeline. San Francisco is in the midst of one of its biggest new-housing construction booms in history. (The same is occurring on the commercial development side, but this report won’t deal with that.) Indeed, it often seems that new projects of one kind or another are being announced on an almost daily basis, and a detailed map delineating all projects in some stage of the pipeline makes many city districts appear to have measles.

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New housing construction has lagged population pressures for decades – pressures which have soared during the current economic and employment boom – and now there is a scramble to address the inadequacy of housing supply, and, for developers/investors, to reap the rewards of a high demand/low supply dynamic in one of the most affluent and expensive housing markets in the world. Of course, one of the questions now is at what point might new inventory succeed in fully meeting market-rate buyer and renter demand, and possibly proceed to an over-saturation point, thus significantly changing the supply and demand dynamic. Such a change, if it arrives, would certainly affect rent and price appreciation rates.

As of December 30th, there were approximately 62,000 housing units of all kinds – luxury condos, rental apartments, market rate and affordable units, and social project housing – in the relatively near-term pipeline (next 1 to 6 years). Most are in the Market Street corridor area, the Van Ness corridor above Market Street, and in the districts to the southeast of Market Street (see map). If we add the mega-projects planned for Candlestick-Hunter’s Point, Treasure Island and Park Merced, which may take decades to become a reality, the number jumps to well over 80,000. As a point of context, there are approximately 382,000 residential units in San Francisco currently. About 3500 new units were added in 2014. (We are awaiting the city’s 2015 Housing Inventory Report for the 2015 figure, but it will probably be of similar scale.)

Housing supply and affordability issues, strong feelings about neighborhood gentrification and tenants’ rights, and even simple NIMBYism (or in SF, NBMVism, “not blocking my view!”) make development the most contentious political topic in San Francisco. Furious battles are ongoing in the Board of Supervisors, the Mayor’s office and the Planning Department; with neighborhood associations and special interest groups; and at the ballot box. Development is not for the faint of heart or shallow of pocket: One cannot contemplate building virtually anything in the city without vehement opposition and sometimes a well-funded coalition in opposition. For developers, the equation to be calculated out includes very high land and construction costs, increasing affordable-housing contributions required by the city, enormous hassle-factor and extended project timelines on one side, and the potential for financial returns on the other. In new San Francisco developments, condos often sell for $1250 per square foot and above, but we are hearing from people on the development side that they can no longer pencil out building new housing in the city in a way that makes financial sense. They believe that many of the projects in the pipeline probably will not actually be built, and thus the  numbers quoted above are greatly overstated.

Of the units in the greater pipeline of 80,000 units, over 9000 units are designated as “affordable housing” – but many of those are in the long-term Candlestick-Hunter’s Point and Treasure Island projects. Because of the nature of the political environment, much to do with how much affordable housing will be built is in flux. Many developers are in intense negotiations with government agencies and neighborhood associations to find a workable compromise between return on investment on one hand, and unit mix and affordable housing requirements on the other. Said requirements may consist of a percentage of units in the project, building affordable units elsewhere in the city, or contributing substantial amounts to the city’s affordable housing fund in lieu of building.

In early March 2016, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to put a city charter amendment on the June ballot, which, if passed, would hugely increase the affordable-housing contributions (in money or in affordable units built) required of developers of projects of 25+ units. Obviously, this would affect the financial equation for builders in the city. The question is will it affect their motivation to build so much as to significantly impact new home construction (market rate and affordable) in San Francisco. If you are interested, the city’s chief economist, Ted Egan, wrote a detailed report on the issue: Economic Impact Report

New housing construction is very sensitive to major economic, political and even environmental events (i.e. natural disasters), so simply because something is in the pipeline doesn’t mean it will be completed as planned within the time frame contemplated. First of all, plans are constantly being changed just in the normal course of things. And if a big financial or real estate market correction (or crash) occurs, as happened in late 2008, projects in process can come to a grinding halt, and new projects substantially altered, delayed or abandoned. Because the timeline in San Francisco can run 3 to 6+ years from initial filing with Planning to construction completion, developers and their lenders make enormous financial bets on what the future will look like. Timing is everything in real estate development, and can make the difference between large profits and bankruptcy. When the music stops – which it always does sooner or later, though the time range of opportunity can vary greatly – not everyone will find a chair to sit down in. That especially applies to those who over-leveraged their projects.

As a side note, big Chinese developers have been investing in both large residential and commercial real estate development projects in the Bay Area, and, according to reports, continue to aggressively seek additional opportunities. Though significant – constituting billions of dollars in investment – these projects do not constitute the greater part of Bay Area development.

SF Planning Department Pipeline Report

Other reports you might find interesting can be found here:

San Francisco Market Reports

San Francisco Neighborhood Values

30+ Years of San Francisco Real Estate Cycles

These analyses were made in good faith with data from sources deemed reliable, but they may contain errors and are subject to revision. Statistics are generalities and all numbers should be considered approximate.

© 2016 Paragon Real Estate Group

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