Another Feverish Spring Market? March 2015 Report

Overbidding & Inventory; Bay Area Home Price Map; Renting vs. Buying;
Different Markets = Different Bubbles, Crashes & Recoveries

Preliminary statistics and, even more so, indications on the ground in the current hurly burly of deal-making are sending strong signals of another very competitive real estate market in San Francisco as we approach spring. If it continues to develop as it’s looking right now, this would make the 4th intense spring season since the market recovery began in early 2012.

Once again, buyer demand has surged early in the new year without a corresponding increase in listing inventory: High demand meets low supply generates competitive bidding – sometimes fiercely so – and upward pressure on home prices. This doesn’t mean every listing is selling over asking price or even selling at all – even in a red hot market, 20% – 30% of homes are price reduced before selling or withdrawn from the market without a sale taking place (usually due to overpricing). There are also hotter and cooler pockets within the market: Right now, more affordable homes – for example, condos under $1 million – appear to be in particularly high demand.

Sales statistics of one month generally reflect offers negotiated 4 – 6 weeks earlier, i.e. they are a month or so behind what’s actually occurring in the market as buyers and sellers make deals. Sales volume in January and February was down 20% year over year, reflecting a market that pretty much shut down in the last two weeks in December, and then started the year with extremely low inventory.

Overbidding List Prices

SP-OP_All-SF-Sales-Combined_by-Month

This chart above illustrates seasonal trends in competitive bidding, which underlies the phenomenon of homes selling for over asking price. For the last few years, the average percentage of sales price to list price has been peaking in spring. But already in February, prices averaged a whopping 8% above asking – very few other markets in the country are seeing anything similar. Drilling down by property type, SF house sales in February averaged 12% over asking, condos averaged 7% over, and 2-4 unit buildings 2%. Houses are becoming a smaller and smaller percentage of city home sales (since virtually no new ones are being built), which has generally made them the most competitive market segment.

In previous years, the percentage over asking has peaked in May, reflecting offers negotiated in late March, April and early May.

Inventory
February-Inventory-Levels_SF

Seasonality_Listings-For-Sale

Seasonality_New-Listings

Seasonality in the Bay Area often has more to do with summer and winter holidays than the actual weather since, unlike back east, January and February often look more like spring here. New listings and overall inventory bottom out in December, and then slowly rise in the new year. What is super-charging the market is that buyers woke up after the holidays and jumped back in the market much earlier than sellers have put homes up for sale in quantity. For the past 3 years, this unbalanced dynamic between the high pressure of buyer demand pushing against an insufficient supply of listings continued through spring, causing dramatic home-price increases, until the market slowed during the summer. We shall soon see if prices can jump higher once again in coming months.

Days on Market before Acceptance of Offer

Months Supply of Inventory

DOM_Blended_SFD-Condo-Coop_Month

MSI-SFD-Condo-Co-op

The greater the demand, the faster listings go into contract (i.e. accept offers), and the lower the average days on market (DOM) and months supply of inventory (MSI).Both these statistics are currently in deep “seller’s market” territory. Of course, this could change dramatically if we get a sudden tsunami of new listings or if a large, negative economic event happens, but right now, we don’t have any reason to expect either to occur in the next few months.

As points of comparison, the national average days-on-market is more than twice that of San Francisco’s (approximately 69 days vs. 30), and the national MSI figure is almost 3 times higher than the city’s (approximately 4.7 months of inventory vs. 1.6). Many new listings in San Francisco are going into contract within 7 to 14 days of coming on market, as eager buyers swarm over them.

Bay Area Median House Prices

This map gives a very general idea of comparative home values around the Bay Area. Remember that median prices will often disguise enormous variety in the underlying individual home sales.

We’ve also updated our SF neighborhood map for house and condo prices, which can be found online here: San Francisco Median Home Price Map

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Renting vs. Buying in San Francisco

2-15_Rent-vs-Buy_Medians-Comp_C

Someone moving to or within San Francisco basically has 2 choices: Renting at market rate or buying at market rate. And rents have gone up so much locally that after accounting for multiple tax benefits, low interest rates, principal loan-balance pay-down (which adds to home equity) and estimated long-term appreciation, buying often looks like the financially attractive course. Above is one chart of a much more detailed analysis comparing the cost of renting a 2-bedroom San Francisco apartment at the current median asking rent, with the monthly cost of buying an SF home at the current median sales price after adjusting for tax deductions and principal pay-down.As seen above, the net monthly cost of buying can be less renting.

There are many personal and monetary issues that pertain to this decision and our analysis is based on a number of financial assumptions – interest, inflation, appreciation and tax rates; downpayment amount; maintenance and insurance costs – that you may not agree with or might not apply to you. You can review our full analysis and also perform your own calculations here: Renting vs. Buying in San Francisco

Different Markets, Bubbles, Crashes & Recoveries*

The real estate market is often spoken about as if it was a single monolithic entity performing in a consistent way – but nothing could be further from the truth. Markets vary enormously between states, cities, neighborhoods, property types and price segments. The S&P Case-Shiller Index looks at the Bay Area market* by breaking all house sales into 3 price segments – low, mid and high price tiers – each containing one third of the total number of sales.The exact price range of each tier changes as the market appreciates or depreciates, or more sales occur in one price range than another: Right now, the “high-price tier” starts at $872,000. In February of 2012, the high tier started at a threshold of $537,000.

Breaking down the market by price segment is a vast over-simplification – there are many other factors at play – but generally speaking, the lower the price range, the more the housing segment was impacted by subprime/ predatory lending in 2003 – 2006. In turn, that caused the larger price bubble, and then the bigger crash as the foreclosure/ distressed-property crisis took hold.

Most Bay Area counties are dominated by homes in 2 price tiers, low and mid, or mid and high, but there are pockets of homes in all tiers within most counties. The numbers in the 3 charts below all relate to a January 2000 value designated as 100. Thus a reading of 199 indicates a home price 99% above that of January 2000.

Bay Area Low-Price-Tier Houses – Currently under $542,000

The low-price third of sales was massively impacted by subprime lending – people buying homes they couldn’t actually afford. It experienced an insane appreciation rate of 170% from 2000 to 2006, creating an enormous bubble. It then crashed by a catastrophic 60% due to the distressed-home phenomenon. As distressed sales dwindled, the recovery since 2012 has been spectacular, up 81%, but prices are still well below peak values and may not re-attain them for years. (If prices go down 60%, they must go back up 148% to get back to where they started.) Many homes in Alameda, Contra Costa, Napa, Sonoma and Solano* counties fall into this market segment.

Interestingly, this price segment was not impacted by the popping of the dot-com bubble, perhaps because these homeowners were less likely to be speculating in the technology stock market.

Case-Shiller_LowTier_Longterm

Bay Area Mid-Price Tier Houses – Currently $542,000 to $872,000

The mid-price segment was less hammered by subprime, but still significantly impacted. Its appreciation rate was 119% from 2000 to 2006 and its market then crashed about 42% before starting its recovery in 2012. This segment is now up 55% from the bottom and close to its 2006 peak value. Many homes in northern Marin, the southern border neighborhoods of San Francisco, northern San Mateo and various areas of the other counties fall into this price segment.

Case-Shiller_Mid-Price-Tier_since-1988

Bay Area High-Price Tier Houses – Currently over $872,000

Most of the houses in San Francisco, San Mateo and southern Marin, as well as affluent areas in other counties, fall into the high-price third of Bay Area sales, which was not deeply affected by subprime lending and foreclosure sales. Though its bubble and crash seemed dramatic enough to those experiencing them, they were much smaller: It appreciated 84% from 2000 to 2006, including a hiccup drop in 2001 after the popping of the dot-com bubble, and then fell about 25% (compared to 60% for the low-price tier). Its strong recovery since 2012, up about 44%, has now put this segment approximately 8% above its previous peak value in 2006.

Case-Shiller_from_1990

Many neighborhoods in San Francisco, Marin and San Mateo would easily qualify for an “ultra-high” price segment, and it remains generally true that the higher the price, the smaller the crash. For example, most of the more affluent neighborhoods in the city peaked in value in 2007 or early 2008, then dropped 15% to 20% after the 2008 financial-markets crash.Due to the high-tech boom, many areas of San Francisco and San Mateo have significantly outperformed their price-tier in recent years.

Though the price tiers had radically different bubbles, crashes and recoveries, all 3 are now almost exactly the same in relation to the year 2000, showing appreciation of 97% to 99% over the past 15 years. This suggests equilibrium is once again being achieved between them.

* Technically the Case-Shiller San Francisco Metropolitan Statistical Area is comprised of San Francisco, Marin, San Mateo, Alameda and Contra Costa counties, but we believe its general trends apply to other Bay Area counties as well.

San Francisco Combined House & Condo Median Sales Price

Median-Prices_Short-Term

Selected U.S. City Median Rents
Chart courtesy of California Association of Realtors

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Updated S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index for San Francisco Metro Area

The Case-Shiller Index for the San Francisco Metro Area covers the house markets of 5 Bay Area counties, divided into 3 price tiers, each constituting one third of unit sales. Most of the San Francisco’s and Marin’s house sales are in the “high price tier”, so that is where we focus most of our attention.” The Index is published 2 months after the month in question and reflects a 3-month rolling average, so it will always reflect the market of some months ago. The Index for December was released on the last Tuesday of February.

The 5 counties in our Case-Shiller Metro Statistical Area are San Francisco, Marin, San Mateo, Alameda and Contra Costa. Needless to say, there are many different real estate markets found in such a broad region, and it’s probably fair to say that the city of San Francisco’s market has generally out-performed the general metro-area market.

The first two charts illustrate the price recovery of the Bay Area high-price-tier home market over the past year and since 2012 began, when the market recovery really started in earnest. In 2012, 2013 and 2014, home prices surged in the spring and then plateaued in the summer-autumn. The surge in prices that occurred in spring of 2013 was particularly dramatic, reflecting a frenzied market of huge buyer demand, historically low interest rates, increasing consumer confidence and extremely low inventory. In San Francisco itself, it was further exacerbated by an expanding population and the high-tech-fueled explosion of new wealth. The market then calmed down somewhat in the second half of 2013, but then heated up yet again in early 2014. In fact, the spring 2014 market was, if anything, even more ferocious than the previous year (at least in San Francisco).

After the feverish spring market of 2014, home prices in the high-price tier flattened and then ticked down a little, while more affordable home segments   continued to tick up. It’s not unusual for the market to cool off and plateau during the summer months. The Case-Shiller Index reports released at the end of December, January and February reflect the autumn selling season, which starts after Labor Day. (Note that transactions negotiatedin September generally start closing in October.) According to the Index, Bay Area home prices ticked up in the 3 months at the end of 2014 by about 1%, plus or minus depending on price tier — i.e. prices remained basically flat. Note that small monthly fluctuations are not particularly meaningful until substantiated over a longer term.

We are currently waiting to see what the spring market of 2015 will be like, but initial indications point to another feverish market of extremely low supply against highly competitive buyer demand.

For more regarding how seasonality affects real estate: Seasonality & the Real Estate Market

Case-Shiller Index numbers all reflect home prices as compared to the home price of January 2000, which has been designated with a value of 100. Thus, a reading of 199 signifies home prices 99% above those of January 2000.

Short-Term Trends: 12 Months & Since Market Recovery Began in 2012

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Longer-Term Trends & Cycles

The third and fourths charts below reflect what has occurred in the longer term (for the high-price tier that applies best to San Francisco and Marin counties), showing the cycle of recession, recovery, bubble, decline/recession since 1996, and since 1988. Note that, past cycle changes will always look smaller than more recent cycles because the prices are so much higher now; if the chart reflected only percentage changes between points, the difference in the scale of cycles would not look so dramatic.

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Different Bubbles, Crashes & Recoveries

This next chart compares the 3 different price tiers since 2000. The low-price-tier’s bubble was much more inflated, fantastically inflated, by the subprime lending fiasco – an absurd 170% appreciation over 6 years – which led to a much greater crash (foreclosure crisis) than the other two price tiers. All 3 tiers have been undergoing dramatic recoveries, but because the bubbles of the low and middle tiers were greater, their recoveries leave them well below their artificially inflated peak values of 2006. It may be a long time before the low-price-tier of houses regains its previous peak values. The high-price-tier, with a much smaller bubble, and little affected by distressed property sales, has now exceeded its previous peak values of 2007. Most neighborhoods in the city of San Francisco itself have surpassed previous peak values by substantial margins.

It’s interesting to note that despite the different scales of their bubbles, crashes and recoveries, all three price tiers now have similar overall appreciation rates when compared to year 2000. As of October 2014 (not shown below), this range has narrowed to 98% to 99%. This suggests an equilibrium is being achieved across the general real estate market.

Different counties, cities and neighborhoods in the Bay Area are dominated by different price tiers. Bay Area counties such as Alameda, Contra Costa, Napa, Sonoma and Solano have large percentages of their markets dominated by low-price tier homes (though all tiers are represented to greater or lesser degrees). San Francisco, Marin, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties are generally mid and high-price tier markets, and sometimes very high priced indeed. Generally speaking, the higher the price, the smaller the bubble and crash, and the greater the recovery as compared to previous peak values.

Remember that if a price drops by 50%, then it must go up by 100% to make up the loss: loss percentages and gain percentages are not created equal.

The two “2014” readings for each tier in the chart below, refer to January 2014 and May 2014. We will update this chart in late March 2015 when the January 2015 Index is released.

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And this chart compares home price appreciation since the recovery began in 2012 for the low-price and high-price tiers. As one can see the two tiers have come together in 2014.

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San Francisco County

And then looking just at the city of San Francisco itself, which has, generally speaking, among the highest home prices in the 5-county metro area (and the country): many of its neighborhoods are now blowing past previous peak values. Note that this chart has more recent price appreciation data than available in the Case-Shiller Indices. This chart shows both house and condo values, while the C-S charts used above are for house sales only. Median prices are affected by other factors besides changes in values, including seasonality, new constructions, inventory available to purchase, and significant changes in the distressed and luxury home segments. Short-term fluctuations are less meaningful than longer term trends.

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And this chart for the Noe and Eureka Valleys neighborhoods of San Francisco shows the explosive recovery seen in many of the city’s neighborhoods, pushing home values far above those of 2007. San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties are most effected by the high-tech wealth effect on home prices. Noe and Eureka Valleys are particularly prized by this buyer segment and the effect on prices has been astonishing.

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SoMa-South Beach-Yerba Buena-Mission Bay

Many more condos are sold in the South Beach/ Yerba Buena/ South of Market (SoMa)/ Mission Bay neighborhoods of San Francisco than any other area of the city, and since new construction is surging here, that trajectory will only continue. The market here is quite hot pursuant to the same trends as the city as a whole: high demand, low inventory, rapidly appreciating prices. The great majority of condos that are sold have been selling without any price reductions and averaging a sales price over asking price.

Since opening our doors in 2004, Paragon has transacted over $800 million in business in these neighborhoods, acting as agent in over 950 sales and leases.

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South of Market (SoMa District) Condo Values

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Luxury Condo Sales in Greater SoMa-South Beach Area

Sales of luxury condos in this area have been soaring and often sell for among the highest dollar per square values in the city, especially upper units with spectacular views in buildings such as the Millennium and Four Seasons.

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San Francisco Luxury Condo Sales, $1,500,000 & Above

As one can see in this chart, the greater South Beach-SoMa area has a large and growing footprint in the luxury condo market segment in San Francisco.

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Sales reported to MLS 6/1/14 – 2/15/15. When identified, outlier sales that distort the average $/sq.ft. value were deleted. Below Market Rate (BMR) units were excluded from this analysis. Median and average statistics often conceal wide varieties of values in the underlying individual sales – and how they apply to any particular property is unknown without a specific comparative market analysis. Data from sources deemed reliable, but may contain errors and subject to revision.

* When only a small number of sales report square footage, the average dollar per square foot value is less reliable.

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Home Sales by San Francisco District and Price

These charts show the breakdown of San Francisco home sales as reported to the city’s Multiple Listing Service for periods of 6 to 8 months ending January 31, 2015. We picked this period because, generally speaking prices stabilized after the frenzy and rapid price appreciation of the spring 2014 market. These analyses are sorted by city districts and neighborhoods by the number of transactions in different sales-price segments. Note that median sales prices will change every time the time period or neighborhoods included in an analysis change.

The first chart below the San Francisco neighborhood map is an overview for the entire city.

San_Francisco_Neighborhood_Map

Unit-Sales_Price-Range_Prop-Type

District_7_Sales-by-Price-Range

Russ-Nob-Tel_Condos_by-Price-Range

District_5-Price-Range

SOMA-SB-YB-MB_Sales-by-Price

Potrero-Bernal-Mission-Price-Range

SeaCliff-Lake-Jordan-Laurel_Sales-by-Price-Range

Richmond-Lone-Mtn_Sales-by-Price-Range

District_6-Price-Range

District-4_A_Sales_by_Price-Range

District_4-B_Price-Range

District_2_Sales-by-Price-Range

District_10_Sales-by-Price-Range

District-3_Sales-by-Price-Range

These 2 charts below track San Francisco luxury home sales by price range and neighborhood for the full year of 2014. Rather arbitrarily, we designate the luxury segment as those condos, co-ops and TICs selling for $1,500,00 or more, and those houses selling for $2,000,000 and above. Considering the appreciation of the market in recent years, we may have to adjust those thresholds soon.

2014_SF-Condo-Sales_1500k-plus 2014_SF-House-Sales_2m-plus

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The San Francisco Real Estate Market

Median Sales Prices, Neighborhood Values, Seasonality & Demand,
Condo Construction, New SF “Airbnb” Law, Appreciation vs. Inflation

February 2015, Paragon Real Estate Group

The market just begins to wake up in January, so its statistics are not particularly illuminating. The last 3 springs in San Francisco saw frenzied markets, which took its home values to new heights. While waiting to see what develops in 2015, this report will drill down on other angles of our distinctive real estate market.

Note: On February 1st, San Francisco’s new short-term residential rental ordinance, the so-called “Airbnb law,” went into effect. In order to legally rent out your home for less than 30 days, there are a number of requirements pertaining to registration, insurance, advertising and taxes, as well as limitations on such rentals. Information and forms can be found here: SF Planning Department.

San Francisco Median Sales Prices, 1993 – 2014

1993-2010_SF_Median_Sales_Prices

Unit Sales Trends by Property Type

1994-Present_Unit-Sales-SFD-Condo-TIC

The first chart above graphs median sales prices by year. Looking only at the 4th quarter of 2014, house and condo median prices climbed to all-time highs of $1,125,000 and $999,250 respectively, and the TIC median price increased to $829,500.

The second chart above illustrates sales volume by property type. Houses turn over much less often than condos or TICs – i.e. house owners generally live in their homes longer before selling – and with virtually no new houses being built in the city, house sales as a percentage of total sales are declining, but this has also made them the market’s highest-demand, most competitive segment. Condos now dominate SF home sales and will continue to do so with the many new-condo projects being built. TIC sales are down almost 60% from 2007, probably due to financing conditions and changes in condo conversion and tenant eviction laws. The number of listings fell last year putting additional pressure on the market.

San Francisco New Construction & Population Trends since 1940

After reading our recent reports on new development and factors behind the market, one of our clients suggested graphing out the quantity of new housing built in the city over time. Based on census figures, the resulting (very approximate) chart illustrates the decline in new-home construction in the 1980’s and 1990’s, which helped exacerbate our current housing crunch.

Another note: the housing “units” built in 1940-1950 were not only much more numerous, but were typically 2-3 bedroom houses, while since 1980, the units built have generally been 1-2 bedroom condos and apartments (which makes sense with our changing demographics – more singles and couples, fewer families – but obviously hold fewer people per unit). And now a big topic in development is building urban “micro-units” of 250 to 350 square feet.

Our chart on SF population growth follows as a counterpoint.

New-Home-Construction_SF_by-Decade

Population-Growth_SF

Condo Values & Sizes by Era of Construction

A previous condo construction boom ran from the end of the 1990’s until 2008, when it crashed for 4 years – and now we’re in the midst of a new boom.Condos built in the last 15 years are selling at higher dollar per square foot values, but average unit sizes have also been getting smaller – and all things being equal (they rarely are), the smaller the unit the higher the per square foot value. Of course, there are other considerations besides size that affect value: quality and graciousness of construction (i.e. Marina-style and Edwardian flats), views (most likely in high-rises), amenities (security, gyms, outdoor space, etc.) and neighborhood ambiance (Russian Hill vs. Noe Valley vs. SoMa). The average $/sq.ft. for new condos now exceeds $1000 in the city, and, according to estimates, at the new, luxury, South Beach development, Lumina, it is now running $1400 to $1500/sq.ft. on units going into contract.

As increasing quantities of “luxury” condos come on market in coming years, it will be interesting to see how the market reacts and absorbs the new inventory.

AvgDolSqFt_Condo-by-Era-V2

Home Appreciation vs. Inflation

Since 1988, home price appreciation has hugely outpaced CPI inflation, though as seen below, the difference can swing dramatically depending on the exact point within a financial cycle.On a cash investment basis, if you had put $100,000 down on a $500,000 home purchase with a 30-year loan in 1988, by the end of 2014, per the Case-Shiller Index, your home would be worth approximately $1,900,000. After deducting 7% closing costs and paying off the remaining loan balance, your $100,000 down-payment turned into approximately $1.65 million in proceeds (if you didn’t continually refinance out your growing equity to buy new toys).

This is a very simplified calculation of a complex financial scenario that includes leverage, financing terms and interest rates, inflation, appreciation, multiple tax benefits and housing costs – you should talk to your accountant – but it still illustrates why a recent New York Times op-ed piece (11/30/14, “Homeownership & Wealth Creation”) said, “Renting can make sense as a lifestyle choice or because of income constraints. As a means to building wealth, however, there is no practical substitute for homeownership.”

Home-Prices_vs_Inflation

San Francisco Neighborhood Values

We just updated our semi-annual breakdown of SF home values by property type, bedroom count and neighborhood. Below are the tables for 3-bedroom houses and 2-bedroom condos while the full report can be found here. If you want data on a neighborhood not included, please call or email.

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Seasonality & Demand

This graph from our updated report on market seasonality measures the ebb and flow of buyer demand as compared to the supply of homes available to purchase. For the last 3 years, spring has been the highest demand season of the market, leading to significant home price appreciation.

Seasonality_Percentage-Under-Contract

Bay Area Rent Appreciation

This chart is from our January Commercial Brokerage report on Bay Area investment real estate. The full report has further detail on average rent rates and trends, and other apartment building financials.

Invest_YOY_Rent-Appreciation_by_County

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 how they apply to any specific property is unknown without a tailored comparative market analysis. All numbers should be considered approximate. Please contact us with any questions or concerns.

© 2015 Paragon Real Estate Group

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Seasonality in the San Francisco Homes Market

Seasonality typically affects inventory levels, buyer demand and median home prices, often in significant ways – as is illustrated in the following charts. However, it is not theonly factor affecting market conditions and trends – general economic conditions and financial market movements, new construction projects coming on market, significant changes in interest rates, local stock market IPOs, natural and political events, and other factors can and do impact the market as well, sometimes quite suddenly. It should also be noted that new listings and new sales occur every month of the year – and sometimes, depending on prevailing market conditions and the specific property, buying or selling during the slower periods can be the smart strategy.

Because there are typically summer and winter slowdowns, it’s difficult to come to definitive conclusions about the condition and direction of the market during July/August, and December/January. One really has to wait for the autumn market to begin in mid-September with the typical surge of new listings, or the spring market to begin in late February/March to get a sense of the ongoing dynamics of supply and demand, and how it will affect home price movements.

The devil’s always in the details, and the details of the market change constantly. Still, there is a typical ebb and flow to the level of activity in the market that correlate with seasonality, and that is what this report explores from a variety of angles.

Without inventory and buyers wanting to purchase, there is no market. These first 4 charts show the classic effects of seasonality on supply and demand.

Inventory

Seasonality_New-Listings

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Buyer Demand

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Seasonality_Percentage-Under-Contract

As seen in this next chart, the higher-price end of the market is usually more affected by seasonality that the general market. Among other effects, this will usually raise the median sales price during the peak spring and autumn selling periods, and lower them in the slower periods of summer and mid-winter (as delineated in the final chart).

Note: In the chart, the changes up and down in sales are plotted based upon the sales of January 2013 equaling a base line of 100. This is a very approximate illustration, because of other factors that affect the analysis, though we do believe it reflects the market reality.

Seasonality_Lux-vs-General-Market

These final 2 charts illustrate both the rapidly appreciating real estate market since 2012 and the shorter term ups and downs that seasonality can play in median home prices. For the last few years, spring has been the season of the greatest market frenzy, which shows up in Sales Price to List Price ratios and median price jumps. Of course, in an appreciating or depreciating market, there are usually other factors impacting median sales prices beside seasonality – as always, what is most meaningful is the longer term trend in home prices, not short-term fluctuations.

SP-OP_All-SF-Sales_by-Month

Seasonality_Median-SFD-Price

Fluctuations in median sales prices are not unusual and these fluctuations can occur for other reasons besides changes in value, such as seasonality; inventory available to purchase; availability of financing; changes in buyer profile; and changes in the distressed and luxury segments. How these statistics apply to any particular property is unknown without a specific comparative market analysis. All data from sources deemed reliable, but may contain errors and is subject to revision.

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New Case-Shiller: Bay Area Home Prices Tick Up a Little

After the feverish spring 2014 market, home prices in the high-price tier – which applies best to San Francisco and Marin counties – flattened and then ticked down a little, while more affordable home segments continued to tick up: It’s not unusual for the market to cool off and plateau during the summer months. The October 2014 Case-Shiller Index just released (on December 30), begins to reflect the autumn selling season, which starts after Labor Day: The market typically begins to heat up again in autumn. (Note that transactions negotiated in September generally start closing in October.)

According to the newest Index, all Bay Area home price segments ticked up in October by about 1%, plus or minus depending on segment. Note that small monthly fluctuations are not particularly meaningful until substantiated over a longer term.

This chart tracks the high-tier-price market since the recovery began in 2012 using Case-Shiller data. The C-S numbers refer to a January 2000 value of “100”, thus 198 signifies a value 98% higher than that of January 2000.

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This chart below looks at the last 3 market cycles:

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And this chart show median San Francisco house and condo sales prices by quarter (reflecting sales reported by 12/26/14, so it contains newer data than Case-Shiller):

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Affordability by San Francisco Neighborhood

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

To a large degree, if you’re buying a house in San Francisco, your price range effectively determines the possible neighborhoods to consider. That does not apply quite as much to condos and TICs: Generally speaking, in neighborhoods with high numbers of condo and TIC sales, there are buying options at a wide range of price points – though, obviously, size, quality, view and amenity considerations will come into play.

The charts below are based upon transactions reported to MLS for 2014. We’ve generally broken out the neighborhoods with the most sales within given price points. Of course, the era, style, amenities and average size of homes will vary widely between and within neighborhoods.

These charts will be easier to read if you adjust your screenview to zoom 125% or 150%. A San Francisco neighborhood map can be found at the bottom of this report.

Where to Buy a HOUSE for Less than $1 million in San Francisco

The overall median HOUSE price in the city at the end of 2014 was about $1,150,000. The vast majority of house sales under $1,000,000 occur in a large swath of neighborhoods forming a giant L shape, down the west side of the city, from Outer Richmond south through Sunset and Parkside to Ingleside and Oceanview, and then sweeping  east across the southern border of San Francisco through Excelsior and Portola to Bayview and Hunter’s Point. The southern border neighborhoods are by far the most affordable house markets in the city. (They don’t contain many condos at this point, though some big developments are planned.)

The horizontal columns reflect the number of sales under $1m in 2014 for each area, while the median sales prices noted – to be as current as possible – are for all house sales in each area in the second half of the year.

2014_House-Sales_Up-to-1m

Where to Buy a CONDO, CO-OP OR TIC for Under $1 million in San Francisco

The overall SF median condo price at the end of 2014 was about $950,000, so the majority of condo and TIC sales are under $1m. These sales take place in virtually every area of the city that features these property types, but a studio unit in Nob Hill will cost the same as a 1 or 2 bedroom unit in Downtown. Some areas with large volumes of sales, such as South Beach/South of Market or Pacific Heights/Marina, offer units for sale at virtually every price point. In such districts, what will vary will be the prestige and amenities of the building, the size and graciousness of the unit, the floor the unit is located on, whether parking is included, and the existence of views and deeded outside space (decks, patios, or, less often, yards).

In the general category of condo, co-op and TIC sales in San Francisco, condos make up almost 90% of sales, TICs almost 10% and stock co-ops 1 to 2%. TICs typically sell at a significant discount (15% – 25%) to similar condos, but there are a number of factors that affect the exact price differential.

The horizontal columns reflect the number of sales under $1m in 2014 for each area, while the median sales prices noted are for all condo, co-op and TIC sales in each area in the second half of the year.

2014_Condo-TIC-Sales_Up-to-1m

Spending $1 Million to $1.5 Million

In this price point for houses, one starts moving into the big circle of neighborhoods in the middle of the city plus the Richmond District in the northwest. Within this collection of neighborhoods, one will typically get more house for one’s money in the Sunset, Parkside or Outer Richmond than in Miraloma Park, Bernal Heights or Glen Park – and much more than in neighborhoods such as Noe and Eureka Valleys.

In the charts below, the horizontal columns reflect the number of sales in each area, while the dollar amounts reflect average dollar per square foot values for the homes in this price range in the specified areas.

2014_SF-House-Sales_1m-1499k

Condo, co-op and TIC sales in this price range are mostly concentrated in those areas where newer (and expensive) condo developments have come on market – and continue to arrive in increasing numbers – over the last 10 years, as well as, of course, in high-end neighborhoods such as Pacific Heights & Russian Hill, and Noe, Cole & Eureka Valleys.

Dollar per square foot values can be affected by a wide variety of factors, including size: All things being equal, larger condos sell at lower dollar per square prices than smaller units. The greater Cole Valley area condos in this price range average over 1460 square feet (think: large, gracious, Edwardian flats), while South Beach condos in this price segment average about 1225 square feet (newer, modern, high-tech, often high-rise). That is part of the reason for the discrepancy in dollar per square foot values between these two areas.

2014_SF-Condo-Sales_1m-1499k

Buying a HOUSE for $1.5 million to $2 million

As the price range goes up, the number of sales begin to narrow. House sales in this price segment predominate in the central Realtor District 5, the greater Noe-Eureka-Cole Valleys area; District 4, the St. Francis Wood-Forest Hill-West Portal area; and District 1, Richmond-Lone Mountain-Lake Street. District 5 is the most expensive district for home sales in this price range, as can be seen in the average dollar per square foot values.

2014_SF-House-Sales_1500-1999k

Buying a LUXURY HOME in San Francisco

For the sake of this report, houses selling for $2 million and above, and condos, co-ops and TICs selling for $1.5 million and above are designated as luxury home sales. What you get in different neighborhoods for $2 million can vary widely – a large, gorgeous, immaculate house in one place, a fixer-upper in another.

Luxury home sales in San Francisco are dominated by the swath of established, prestige northern neighborhoods running from Sea Cliff through Pacific Heights and Russian Hill to Telegraph Hill, by the greater Noe-Eureka-Cole Valleys district, and, to a lesser extent, the smaller neighborhoods around St. Francis Wood. For luxury condos, the greater South Beach-Yerba Buena-Mission Bay area has a large and growing presence as big, dramatic, expensive condo projects have sprouted there over the past 15 years.

Luxury CONDO, CO-OP & TIC Sales

As one can see below, no area has more luxury condo, co-op and TIC sales overall than the Pacific Heights-Marina district, but the South Beach-Yerba Buena area is the fastest growing luxury condo market and will probably take first position in the not too distant future due to continuing new construction. The average dollar per square foot values for luxury condos in the major neighborhoods run $1001 in the Noe, Eureka and Cole Valleys district, $1049 in the Pacific Heights-Marina district, $1195 in the Russian-Nob-Telegraph Hills district, and $1328 in the greater South Beach-Yerba Buena area (think: new, luxury, high-floor units with spectacular views). For the absolute best units, dollar per square foot values can exceed $2000.

2014_SF-Condo-Sales_1500k-plus

Luxury HOUSE Sales

It wasn’t so long ago that houses selling in Realtor District 5, the greater Noe/Eureka/Cole Valleys area (which includes Clarendon, Corona and Ashbury Heights), for over $2 million were outliers. But that is not the case any longer – now, extremely wealthy people (such as Mark Zuckerberg) are buying homes here. Still for the time being, the very highest end of the luxury house market continues to be dominated by Realtor District 7, the Pacific & Presidio Heights-Marina area (which is generally home to the largest mansions in the city). There are several other significant areas for these large, expensive houses, such as Lake Street/Sea Cliff/Jordan Park, St. Francis Wood/Forest Hill and Lower Pacific Heights.

Note that dollar per square foot values vary widely between these districts.

2014_SF-House-Sales_2m-plus

Median Prices for 2-Bedroom Condos and 3-4 Bedroom Houses
in Selected San Francisco Neighborhoods

2014_2BR-Condo-Median-Prices

2014_3-4BR-House-Median-Prices

Distribution of House Sales by Sales Price

This chart breaks down 2014 San Francisco houses sales by sales price segment in $250,000 increments: the $750,000 to $1,000,000 segment (dark green column) had the most sales — the median house sales price over the entire period was approximately $1,060,000.

2014_House-Sales-Price-Breakdown

Distribution of Condo & TIC Sales by Sales Price

The largest number of condo, co-op and TIC sales in San Francisco over this 12 month period was also in the $750,000 to $1,000,000 price segment (dark green column) — the median condo sales price over the period was approximately $950,000. Median sales prices of houses and condos in San Francisco have been converging lately as new construction condos – now coming on the market in increasing quantities – raise overall values.

2014_Condo-TIC_Sales-Prices-Breakdown

San Francisco Neighborhood Map

San_Francisco_Neighborhood_Map

SAN FRANCISCO REALTOR DISTRICTS

District 1 (Northwest): Sea Cliff, Lake Street, Richmond (Inner, Central, Outer), Jordan Park/Laurel Heights, Lone Mountain

District 2 (West): Sunset & Parkside (Inner, Central, Outer), Golden Gate Heights

District 3 (Southwest): Lake Shore, Lakeside, Merced Manor, Merced Heights, Ingleside, Ingleside Heights, Oceanview

District 4 (Central SW): St. Francis Wood, Forest Hill, West Portal, Forest Knolls, Diamond Heights, Midtown Terrace, Miraloma Park, Sunnyside, Balboa Terrace, Ingleside Terrace, Mt. Davidson Manor, Sherwood Forest, Monterey Heights, Westwood Highlands

District 5 (Central): Noe Valley, Eureka Valley/Dolores Heights (Castro, Liberty Hill), Cole Valley, Glen Park, Corona Heights, Clarendon Heights, Ashbury Heights, Buena Vista Park, Haight Ashbury, Duboce Triangle, Twin Peaks, Mission Dolores, Parnassus Heights

District 6 (Central North): Hayes Valley, North of Panhandle (NOPA), Alamo Square, Western Addition, Anza Vista, Lower Pacific Heights

District 7 (North): Pacific Heights, Presidio Heights, Cow Hollow, Marina

District 8 (Northeast): Russian Hill, Nob Hill, Telegraph Hill, North Beach, Financial District, North Waterfront, Downtown, Van Ness/ Civic Center, Tenderloin

District 9 (East): SoMa, South Beach, Mission Bay, Potrero Hill, Dogpatch (Central Waterfront), Bernal Heights, Inner Mission, Yerba Buena

District 10 (Southeast): Bayview, Bayview Heights, Excelsior, Portola, Visitacion Valley, Silver Terrace, Mission Terrace, Crocker Amazon, Outer Mission

Some Realtor districts contain neighborhoods that are relatively homogeneous in general home values, such as districts 5 and 7, and others contain neighborhoods of wildly different values, such as district 8 which, for example, includes both Russian Hill and the Tenderloin.

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Thirty Years of San Francisco Real Estate Cycles

Updated Report, December 2014

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!”

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.

1 2

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, 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 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 3 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 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.

Mortgage Interest Rates since 1981

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

 

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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, Doldrums5

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 eighties 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, Recovery6

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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San Francisco’s Recent Recovery7 8

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, accelerated further in the first half of 2013 and then again in the first half of 2014. In the second half of 2014, after the spring frenzy had cooled off, home prices in the more affluent neighborhoods flattened or ticked down a little, while values in the more affordable neighborhoods continued to tick up. However, among numerous other factors, seasonality plays a distinct role in real estate markets, so it’s always wisest to look at longer term trends than to jump to conclusions about where the market is headed based upon a few months or a couple quarters of sales data.

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

1990 to Present9

 

Again, all numbers in the Case-Shiller charts above relate to a January 2000 value of 100: A reading of 182 signifies a home value 82% above that of January 2000. These 3 charts 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. The upper third of sales by price range (far right chart) was affected least by the subprime fiasco and has now basically recovered peak values of 2006-2007. 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 (far left chart), more prevalent in other counties, may not recover peak values for years. If one disregarded the different bubbles and crashes, home price appreciation for all three segments since January 2000 is now (autumn 2014) almost exactly the same, in the range of 96 to 97%.

All data from sources deemed reliable,
but may contain errors and is 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.

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