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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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December 2016 – Ho Ho Hum

Entering the heart of the holiday season, the number of sales and sales prices were mixed in the single family home and condominium/loft/TIC markets.

Single family home median sales prices dipped in November to $1,372,500 from October’s all time high of $1,407,500, but are still up $110,000, or 8.7%, from November, 2015.

In condominium/loft/TIC sales, median sold prices have been bobbing up and down between $1,000,000 and $1,150,000 for the past two years, and closed November at $1,044,500, just above the $1,023,500 where they started in January. Year-on-year, there is a 6.9%, or $78,000, decrease in the median sold price.

Inventory levels in November took their typical seasonal nosedive, dropping to just 1.7 months of inventory for single family homes and 2.1 months for condo/loft/TICs.

Finally, the median percent of list price received for single family homes was the lowest it’s been since January 2015: 106.8%. This could indicate that prices are peaking in the single family home market.

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The information contained in this report is taken from a variety of sources including SFARMLS, SPUR, the City of San Francisco Planning Department, the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and others. The data may have errors, omissions and be subject to revisions and is not warranted. It is deemed reliable but is not guaranteed. Questions may be directed to Keller Williams San Francisco | 415.483.9285 | CalBRE 01995149 | © Keller Williams San Francisco 2016 read more →

November 2016 – After the Election

The local election brought two significant changes that will affect the San Francisco real estate market. First, Measure W passed, significantly raising the transfer tax on residential and commercial properties of $5,000,000 or more, from an additional 12.5% at the low end to 20% at $25,000,000 and above. Second, measure X now requires developers who convert Production, Design & Repair Use, Institutional Community Use, and Arts Activities Use to not only replace the space on a 1:1 basis but also get a conditional use permit from the Planning Department to do so. What this means is that developers can no longer purchase buildings and convert the use to office or residential, even if those uses are allowed for that area, unless they also build back the use they’ve displaced.

An unanticipated negative result of the presidential election is that interest rates jumped .25%-.375% higher in just two days. This is only the second time that significant a rise has happened in two days. The immediate effect of this on housing sales is that buyers borrowing capacity just dropped.

For example, let’s say someone qualified last week for a $1,000,000 loan at 3.75%.

This week, with the higher interest rate, they only qualify for a $956,000 loan. So, buyers can afford less so offers go down, and then sales prices go down.

In looking backwards at the sales data, October brought its seasonal home sales boomlet, with the second highest number of single family home sales this year. The median price of $1,407,000, 11% higher than last October, and just above May’ 2015’s previous peak of $1,400,000.

The number of Condos/TIC’s sold was down but the median price popped up to $1,164,000, just above June’s peak of $1,162,500. That’s up 6.3% from October 2015.

PowerPoint PresentationPowerPoint PresentationPowerPoint PresentationThe information contained in this report is taken from a variety of sources including SFARMLS, SPUR, the City of San Francisco Planning Department, the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and others. The data may have errors, omissions and be subject to revisions and is not warranted. It is deemed reliable but is not guaranteed. Questions may be directed to Keller Williams San Francisco | 415.483.9285 | CalBRE 01995149 | © Keller Williams San Francisco 2016 read more →

August 2016 – The Shift Has Started

At last week’s Keller Williams Mega Camp in Austin, Texas, Co-Founder and Chairman Gary Keller focused heavily on the Shift that is beginning in the real estate market and how sellers, buyers and agents must be preparing for it.

What’s the Shift? It’s the inevitable cyclicality of the real estate sales market. It is the constant tide flowing from a sellers market to a balanced market to a buyers market to a balanced market and back to a sellers market.

In San Francisco and the Bay Area, we have been in a strong sellers market for the past three years. This year in San Francisco, single family home median prices peaked in February at $1,390,000 and have been trending down since then, currently at $1,335,000 in July. In a normal buying season, median price peaks in June or July (as it did in the past three years).

198 single family homes sold in July, down sharply from June’s 245, and also the lowest number of July sales in four years.

In the Condo/Loft market, median price has been bouncing around $1.1M for the past 16 months. This June’s $1,162,500 was the top so far (a fraction above last June’s $1,150,000), but it dropped sharply ($100,000!) in July to $1,062,500. Count on June being the top of the market for this cycle.

Mimicking the falling number of single family home sales, the 220 condo/lofts sold in July was also the lowest number of July sales for the past four years.

How to prepare? When pricing property, sellers and agents should be looking at three sets of data:

  • Past Sales
  • Current Competition
  • Forecasted Trending

Once the market has started shifting, the critical action is to get out ahead of a falling curve. A great question to ask is “How much of the gain from the last three years do you want to give up? Because in a down-trending market, that’s the cost of incorrect pricing – the longer the property is on the market, the more of that gain is lost.

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As in June, year-on-year Median Days on Market are up considerably for Resale Condos-Lofts clocking in this month at a 50% increase over July 2015. Likewise, Single Family Homes also continued the upwards trend , at 37% ahead of last July’s number. We still have a strong sellers market, but buyers are shopping more and standing on the sidelines more.

Months Supply of Inventory dropped slightly from June to July for Resale Condos-Lofts and was level for Single Family Homes. It is up, however, year-on-year (see next page for details)

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Single Family Homes New Listings dropped by 18 from June to July, 2016 and is also down 124 year-to-date from 2015.

Resale Condos/Lofts is also down year-to-date, with 76, or 4.4%, fewer new listings in 2016 than 2015.

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Why Months of Inventory is Rising:

Single Family homes have had 115 fewer sales in 2016 than 2015, while the number of new homes on the market has also fallen, but only by 124. Likewise, Resale Condo/Lofts have had 92 fewer sales year-to-date than 2015, while the number of new listings has also fallen, but only by 76.

So, we have a less active sales market, coupled with a slight inventory build up, which leads to a larger months-of-inventory calculation. read more →

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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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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San Francisco House & Condo Markets Diverge

In the first quarter of 2016, various market segments in the city began to trend in significantly different directions. Houses, especially those below $2 million, are still often selling in a frenzy of bidding: Recent reports of houses selling with 5, 10 or more competing offers are not uncommon, especially in neighborhoods considered more affordable (by San Francisco standards). Demand remains very high, supply remains extremely low, and new house construction is virtually nil.

However, thousands of new-construction condos have hit the market in recent years or are arriving shortly, with many thousands more in the 5-year pipeline. In recent years, the new supply added to the usual resale-condo inventory still did not keep up with demand, but that seems to be shifting, especially at the more expensive end of the condo market. As of early April, the number of condo listings actively for sale in MLS is up over 40% year over year, and that does not include most of the new-construction condo units hitting the market (not listed in MLS).

This does not mean that condos are not selling, because many are at top prices. But the demand-per-listing ratio is declining, multiple offers are less common, and more listings are expiring without being sold. This particularly appears to be the case in those neighborhoods where most of the new construction projects are concentrated, and, again, the luxury-condo segment appears to be most affected. Apparently, the developer rush to build large projects of very expensive condos, possibly outpacing long-term demand for such units, is also playing out in Manhattan (where admittedly luxury condos are much more expensive).

It is unclear at this point whether new condo projects themselves are being affected in their rate of sales or sales prices. These condos often go into contract during the construction phase, long before sales actually close, and access to information during that period is very limited. There can be no doubt that they comprise serious competition to resale condos in the areas they’re being built.

Please note: The data of one quarter is not definitive and Q1 was a very volatile period for the financial markets, which may have had a short-term effect that might now shift. SF is also a city of micro-markets, so what applies in one district may not apply in another. Q2, just beginning, is typically the busiest of the year, and market trends will become much clearer in coming months. Last but not least, in real estate, what we see today generally reflects the market 4 to 8 weeks ago due to the gap between listings coming on market, offers being negotiated, and sales finally closing escrow.

Market Supply & Demand Trends
by Property Type and Price Segment

It should be noted that some of the Q1 2016 MLS statistics shown below, which appear to illustrate a cooling of certain market segments in San Francisco, would in most other areas of the country often be considered signs of crazy-hot markets.

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An astonishing 84% of Q1 2016 SF house sales under $2 million sold for over asking price, a very small decline from the most active quarters of last year. The percentage for more expensive houses is 16 percentage points lower than less expensive houses, but still above Q1 2015. Condos, also shown in two price segments, have lower percentages than any time in the past 4 quarters. We shall see if those percentages rebound in Q2, as usually occurs once the spring season warms up, or whether increased inventory dampens overbidding going forward.

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The same trends seen in the first chart above apply to this illustration of the median percentage of sales price over list price over the past 5 quarters. For houses under $2 million, the median percentage over asking price remains incredibly high at 12%, a clear sign of feverish competition between buyers. In contrast, luxury condos overall sold just a tiny bit above list price (less than one half of one percent), and in those districts seeing the most high-rise, luxury condo construction, the median sales price to list price percentage fell well below list price (not shown on chart). More supply means less competition and less sense of urgency in buyers; overbidding becomes rarer and buyers negotiate more aggressively.

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Perhaps nothing is more indicative of a cooling market than increasing numbers of listings expiring and being withdrawn from the market without selling. Q1 2016 saw big jumps in expired/withdrawn condo listings over the first quarters of the previous 3 years. Many such listings end up coming back on the market at lower prices.

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Again, houses under $2 million have maintained a very high level of listings going into contract on a monthly basis. High percentages of this statistic keep inventory low even when increased inventory starts coming on market, analogous to putting food in front of a very fast, hungry eater. However, if a low percentage of listings accepting offers is coupled with increasing numbers of new listings, inventory starts mounting quickly, because more unsold listings from previous months get added on top of the additional new listings streaming onto the market. The slow-eating diner is outpaced by the delivery of new courses, and the table fills up with uneaten food.

San Francisco Median Home Sales Prices
House & Condo, by Quarter

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Chart: Median Price Trends since 1993

So far, any market cooling that has occurred is not showing up in Q1 median sales prices: Median prices for both houses and condos remain close to the high points hit in spring 2015. However, for the first time in 4 years, condo median prices did notjump in the first quarter of the year, though neither was there any significant decline.2012 to 2015, overheated spring selling seasons of very high demand and deeply inadequate supplies of homes for sale have fueled most of the home-price appreciation occurring each year in San Francisco. We shall soon know whether this trend will continue this spring, or whether the median prices of some market segments will finally plateau, or even adjust downward with changing supply and demand dynamics.

Employment Statistics

Perhaps nothing underpins an appreciating real estate market more than increasing numbers of people moving into an area to take new jobs, especially well paid ones. These charts illustrate the recent explosion of employment in San Francisco and the Bay Area. Of course, employment trends can slow or even reverse directions as occurred after the dotcom bubble burst. It is interesting to note that SF employment (and rents) fell much more after the dotcom adjustment than after the 2008 financial markets crash. On the other hand, SF home prices only temporarily dipped in 2002, while dropping rapidly in late 2008/early 2009 and then remaining depressed until the recovery began in 2012.

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Chart: SF High-Tech Employment Trends

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Stock Markets & Interest Rates

After all the travail regarding the stock market volatility since last summer, it is now, as of early April, pretty much back to where it began. And interest rates have actually fallen since the Fed raised the benchmark rate in mid-December. These conditions are typically considered very positive for real estate markets, though both can be subject to sudden and significant change.

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Chart: Short-term Interest Rate Trends


Other recent reports you might find interesting:

San Francisco New-Housing Pipeline
San Francisco Neighborhood Affordability
Seasonality & Real Estate Markets
Bay Area Housing Affordability
S&P Case-Shiller Index for SF Metro Area

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, thus a fair number of YTD 2016 sales reflect market activity in late 2015.

© 2016 Paragon Real Estate Group read more →

San Francisco Real Estate Market Report (including 13 custom charts)

Monthly and seasonal fluctuations in median sales prices are quite normal and do not necessarily say much about changes in fair market values. For that one must look at longer-term trends. However, for what it is worth, the median price in February was the highest since it peaked in May of 2015. If this spring is like the past 4 springs in which a very-high-demand/ very-low-supply dynamic prevailed, then sustained home-price appreciation may start showing up in the statistics during the next few months.

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Chart: Median Price Trends since 1993

Chart: Case-Shiller Metro Area Home Price Index

We say this very preliminarily since the 2016 market has just gotten started after the holiday doldrums, but it appears that San Francisco homebuyers are generally shrugging off the recent volatility in the stock market. That doesn’t necessarily mean there will be a repeat of the overheated markets of the past few years. Much more will be known once the spring selling season really gets into full swing.

San Francisco Construction Boom Continues

Q4-2015_Pipeline_Under-Construction-Permitted-SubmittedDevelopers continue to add projects with thousands of new units to the San Francisco new-housing pipeline. If they are built as currently planned (as of Q4 2015), the city should add over 60,000 new housing units (market-rate condos and apartments, and affordable and social-project housing) over the next 5 to 6 years, with another 25,000 in 3 huge projects that may take decades to complete. However, new developments are being constantly added to the pipeline, and existing plans are regularly altered. They may even be abandoned if economic or political conditions dramatically change.

So far, increased supply due to completed new construction has not created significant downward pressure on prices. This may change as construction completion accelerates in coming years, however almost all of the market-rate development is directed toward the more (or most) expensive end of the condo and apartment market. House sales will continue to become a smaller and smaller percentage of the SF market, which may play a role in enhancing their values.

Our full article: San Francisco Housing Pipeline

Where to Buy a Home in San Francisco for the Money You Want to Spend

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The charts above are 3 of 8 in our updated report: San Francisco Neighborhood Affordability

Seasonality & the Spring Market

Overbidding by Month

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Luxury Home Listings Accepting Offers by Month

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The San Francisco real estate market is deeply affected by seasonality, which shows up in the rise and fall of inventory, buyer demand, overbidding and median prices. For the past 4 years, spring has experienced the most feverish buyer competition for new listings, which led to the highest overbidding percentages, as seen in the first chart above. (111% signifies an average sales price 11% over the asking price.) In February 2016, the percentage over list price started climbing again after the usual slowdown of the winter holidays.

The luxury home segment is even more dramatically affected by seasonality than the general market. As seen in the second chart above tracking accepted offers, expensive home sales typically soar to their high point in spring, drop during the summer holidays, rebound for the relatively short autumn season, and then plunge deeply in mid-winter. This ebb and flow of high-end sales is one of the factors behind short-term, seasonal ups and downs in median sales price. So far in 2016, luxury home closings have been comparable to early 2015, but we are just entering the main selling season now.

Our full overview: Seasonality & the SF Real Estate Market

Mortgage Interest Rate Trends

Short-Term Changes since the Fed Raised Rates

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Chart: Long-Term Interest Rate Trends

Since the Federal Reserve Bank raised the benchmark interest rate in mid-December, interest rates have actually dropped by about 8% (as of March 3), which makes a significant difference in monthly mortgage costs and loan underwriting qualification. This downward pressure on rates is generally ascribed to the dramatic volatility in the stock market since the year began. (Investors often pour money into bonds in times of stock market volatility, which then lowers the interest rate.) It is famously difficult to predict interest rate movements, which can be sudden and dramatic, but for the time being, they are getting closer to the all-time low in 2013. That is good news for the real estate market, while it lasts.

Bay Area Housing Affordability by County

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Chart: Long-Term Trends in Housing Affordability

Housing affordability is one of the biggest political issues in the city and the Bay Area. The California Association of Realtors recently released its Housing Affordability Index (HAI) for the 4th quarter of 2015, and above are 3 of 10 charts in our updated analysis. San Francisco is now 3 percentage points above its all-time low of 8%, last reached in Q3 2007, however there has not yet occurred the convergence in extreme low affordability across Bay Area counties seen in 2007. Interest rates play a big role in affordability calculations and, as noted earlier, they have been falling in 2016.

Our full report: Bay Area Housing Affordability

San Francisco & U.S. Rents

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Chart: Long-Term SF Rent Trends

Despite ticking down a tiny bit at the end of 2015, San Francisco rents remain the highest in the nation. Since rents are not ameliorated by low interest rates and the numerous tax advantages pertaining to homeownership, new renters in the city bear the worst brunt of the housing affordability crisis, even more so than new homebuyers. A number of large, new rental apartment buildings have recently been coming on the market and many more are planned. This new inventory may eventually help provide significant rental-rate relief, however almost all the market-rate projects being built feature luxury apartments priced at the very high end: New studio units can rent for $3500 per month and more. read more →

San Francisco Median Condo Price Appreciation 2011 to 2015, by Neighborhood

Median sales price is a very general statistic, often concealing an enormous variety of values in the underlying individual sales. It can be and often is affected by other factors besides changes in fair market value, such as changes in the inventory available to purchase, and major changes in the distressed property, luxury home, or new condo construction segments. Sometimes median prices fluctuate without any great significance: substantially different groups of homes (larger, smaller, older, newer, etc.) simply sold in different periods. Assessing appreciation by changes in dollar per square foot values, instead of by median sales prices, can sometimes deliver significantly different appreciation rates.

Below the charts is a table with a more comprehensive list of San Francisco neighborhoods, and at the bottom of the page is a neighborhood map.

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The neighborhoods on the table below are grouped by San Francisco Realtor District, some of which contain neighborhoods of relatively similar values and some with highly variable home values.

Generally speaking, the higher the number of sales, the more reliable the statistics: We’ve usually calculated appreciation rates for neighborhoods with at least 24 sales in 2015, but these should still be considered very approximate.

An asterisk signifies a very low a number of annual sales and/or our suspicion that the appreciation calculation would not reflect market reality due to the variety of issues pertaining in the area. New, high-price condo projects can make sudden, dramatic impacts on neighborhood median sales prices in the year they go on market. In 2011, median sales prices in some areas were badly distorted by distressed property sales (bank and short sales) that didn’t represent fair market values. If either of these situations applies, the 4-year appreciation rate will jump higher in that neighborhood.

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We have also performed this analysis for San Francisco house values: San Francisco House Price Appreciation, 2011 to 2015

Our survey of the 2015 San Francisco real estate market: San Francisco Homes Market in 2015 read more →