Real estate cycles from another angle

Over the past 30+ years, the period between a recovery beginning and a major “market adjustment” (or bubble popping) has run 5 to 7 years. We are currently about 2.5 years into the current recovery. 

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 and simple pent-up demand.

Case-Shiller_Simpl-Percentages

Our complete article on market cycles can be found online here.

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New Housing Construction Report

San Francisco New-Housing Construction Trends
Within its 47 square mile envelope, San Francisco is already the 2nd most densely populated 
city in the United States, and it’s growing denser, more affluent and more expensive.
May 2014 Report with 13 Custom Charts

The charts included are mostly based on the San Francisco Planning Department’s excellent Housing Inventory and Pipeline reports, which can be accessed using the links at the bottom of this article. Quotes below are excerpted from these reports.

Packed with information, the data in one report section will not always agree perfectly with that in another – due to the multiple sources of data used by the Planning Department – and this is reflected in our charts as well. In the complex, lengthy process of new-housing application and review, public hearings (and, lately, ballot proposals), revisions, entitlement, permitting, construction and completion, how and when a project is counted may vary. Housing units are being built and being removed, and there are so many types: rental or sale, market rate or affordable, social-project housing or luxury condominiums.

Last but not least, this landscape is in constant flux – new projects, plan changes, and shifts in economic and political realities. Everything below is simply a good faith estimate. The basic reality is that San Francisco, after its recent 2008-2012 new-construction slump, is now experiencing a building boom. So far, however, it has not been able to keep up with population growth and rising buyer/renter demand.

Adjusting your screenview to zoom 150% will make the charts that much easier to read.

New-Construction_Authorized-Completed

 

New construction authorized typically will not show up as housing units completed until later years. And, of course, a developer can decide not to build after authorization if market circumstances change. The post-2008 drop in authorizations is clearly illustrated here.

“Some of the larger projects completed in 2013 include: 1190 Mission Street (355 market-rate units and 63 affordable units), Rincon Green (277 market rate units and 49 affordable units), Nema (279 market rate units and 38 afford­able units).”

“Very large projects (200 units or more) filed in 2013 and are under Planning Department review include: Mission Rock (1,500 units); 150 Van Ness Avenue (429 units); 41 Tehama Street (398 units); 1066 Market (330 units); 950 Market Street (316 units); and 1301 16th Street (276 units).”

Besides the above projects, rarely a week goes by in which new commercial property sales aren’t being announced – such as the Honda dealership lot and the KRON Building, both on Van Ness – with plans for large-scale residential development projects.

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New-Homes-Pipeline

A glance at the recent past, the present and the possible future of new housing construction in the city. New projects are continually entering and moving through the pipeline, and existing plans may be changed or even abandoned.

“There are currently 857 projects in the pipeline. Of these, 74 percent are exclusively residential and 17 percent are mixed-use projects with both residential and commercial components. Only 8 percent of projects are non-residential developments. A net total of 50,400 new housing units would be added to the city’s housing stock according to current data. Around 18 percent of all projects, representing 6,000 net added housing units and 2,750,000 sq. ft. of commercial space, are under construction. Around 20 percent of projects (with another 4,200 net units and 3,8 million sq. ft. of commercial space) have received building permit approvals. As of the time of writing, some may have moved to the construction phase.”

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New-Construction_by-Bedrooms

We haven’t found an easy place for construction data by unit size, so this chart is extrapolated from the last 7 years of SF MLS sales of condos built 2001 -2014. It may not apply perfectly to units built as apartment rentals or affordable housing.

Typically, the smaller the unit, the higher the dollar per square foot value on sale or rental, however in San Francisco, 3+ bedroom condos are often high-floor units with spectacular views that sell for extraordinary sums – but these would be outliers to the general rule. The city plan appears to have a bias for 2-bedroom units, which it designates as “family units” – this may be an anachronism considering that 38% of city residents live alone and that SF has the lowest percentage of children of any major U.S. city. Of course, many singles and couples like to have a guest bedroom or home office.

However, in 2012, the city agreed to allow the construction of 375 “micro-units,” apartments of 220 to 300 square feet, including kitchen and bath. A few dozen have been built – one article mentioned a rental rate of $1850/month – and another 160 are under construction in the mid-Market area. It will be interesting to see how this trend develops (or doesn’t) in both the rental and for-sale markets. It might be a good match for the relatively young (but well paid), non-driving, high-tech workers pouring into the city.

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New-Construction_by-SF-District

New construction has been concentrated in a few specific districts of the city, mostly where higher density housing projects are most viable. “The ‘hot spot’ for much of this development is Market Street at various sections of it.”

The ability to take under-utilized commercial property sites and turn them into multi-unit or even high-rise residential projects is particularly prized: “There are 50 projects in the current pipeline data­base proposing demolition or conversion of existing [commercial] build­ings to residential use.” “Nearly all units replacing office uses are in mid- to high-rise residential structures of 20 to 500 housing units in high density zoning districts. These projects are mostly concentrated in the eastern half of the city: Rincon Hill, East SoMa, Showplace Square & Potrero Hill, Transbay, Mission and Downtown.”

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New-Housing_Construction-Conversion

Three issues regarding new condo construction: the year in which a project is designated as “completed” in city reports can vary, depending on the department and the dating of events within the process (so this chart won’t perfectly tally with others). Secondly, some developers build and record the units as condos but then rent the units instead of selling them. Finally, new housing projects are now typically required to sell or rent about 15% of units under affordable-housing rules. All these factors affect how new condo construction impacts rental and sale markets.

“Single-family building construction made up a very small proportion of new con­struction in 2013 (1%).” Very few new houses are built in San Francisco, as developers prefer to build higher density housing projects on our limited supply of land. The houses that are built are typically big and expensive.

“Seventy-six percent of the condominium conver­sions in 2013 (279) were in buildings with two or three units.” The rules governing condo conversion in San Francisco are byzantine, politically-wrought and ever-changing, and the changes affect the ability to convert existing multi-unit properties and TICs into condominiums. Two-unit properties are much the easiest to convert into condos and accordingly enjoy a sale price premium.

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AvgDolSqFt_Condo-by-Era-Built

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

The units in these newer buildings command a premium both when rented or, as seen in the chart above, when sold – now surpassing an average dollar per square foot value of $1000. This is the major motivator for developers today.

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Affordable-Housing_Construction

New housing typically conjures images of new condo developments, but it’s more complicated. Within new market-rate condo and apartment projects – rental housing construction has also been jumping with the recent large spikes in rents – typically 15% of units are required to be affordable housing: 220 of these “on-site” units were built in 2013. Add in social-project housing of one kind or another, and 36% of all new units built in 2013 were affordable housing. These units are allocated, rented and sold under rules and formulas pertaining to social and economic circumstances and housing cost.

“About 93% of the new affordable units are rentals affordable to very-low and low-income households.”

“Major affordable housing projects completed in 2013 include: 25 Essex Street (120 units); 701 Golden Gate Avenue (100 units); 474 Natoma Street (60 units); 1075 Le Conte Avenue (73 units); 60 West Point Road (54 units); and 61 West Point Road (13 units).”

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Housing-Units_Lost

There are not only new housing units being built, there are existing housing units being removed from the city’s inventory of housing stock – demolished, merged (2 or more legal units into 1) and abated (illegal units): one less the other equals the net housing unit increase.

There is currently proposed legislation to encourage the legalization of illegal housing units in San Francisco, estimated to exist in the tens of thousands. This is problematical because the reason most of these units are illegal to begin with is that they don’t conform to housing codes – ceiling height, light and ventilation, and fire safety issues are most common – and cannot easily, without substantial expense, be altered to comply.

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New-Home_Construction

This is another approximate snapshot of how general economic conditions affect new housing construction. When the financial markets crashed in 2008, new construction went into a tailspin due to demand and financing issues. As the economy has recovered, it has sprung back to life – as is clear by all the cranes stalking the city’s lots. Like most financial markets, real estate development has economic cycles – cycles that often include dramatic booms and crashes. This is exacerbated by the length of time between a developer’s initial plan and land purchase, and the completion of the project, which often runs to years. It can be difficult enough to predict what market conditions will be next month, much less in two, three or more years.

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Housing-Inventory_by_Property-Type

We created this chart in 2013 with data compiled from a variety to sources we deem reliable. All the numbers should be considered very approximate – and they are constantly changing – but the chart is generally representative of the existing housing breakdown in San Francisco.

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New-Construction_by-County

New home construction in the Bay Area is currently concentrated in 3 of the 4 hottest rental and/or purchase markets in the country: the greater Silicon Valley area, San Francisco and the East Bay. Of course, much of this is directly related to surging high-tech employment and wealth.

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What ultimately underpins new housing construction is demand. Below are two charts illustrating the white hot rental and sale markets in San Francisco, which are motivating investors and developers to build new homes, and motivating the city and non-profits to accelerate the construction of affordable housing units as well (a very big political issue right now).

From 2010 to 2013, the city added approximately 32,000 residents and increased the number of employed residents by roughly 56,000, many of them in new, well-paying high-tech jobs. In that same period, about 4,200 new housing units were added, not remotely adequate to meeting demand. And it is currently projected that the city’s population will continue to grow in coming years. When demand soars and supply is inadequate, prices and rents go up (in the city’s recent case, feverishly), and builders start building again as quickly as they can, hoping to catch the wave at exactly the right time.

Invest_SF-Rents_by-Neighborhood
Median_SFD-Condo_by-Qtr_Short-term
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Below are image- links to the actual SF Planning Department Pipeline and Housing Inventory reports issued in February and April 2014, upon which many of the above charts were based. They contain huge amount of data, which we have attempted to represent accurately. As noted by their authors, who did an incredible job compiling the data, the original reports themselves are “compiled and consolidated from different data sources and subject to errors due to varying accuracy and currency of original sources.”
SF-Pipeline_Report_February-2014
SF-Housing-Inventory-Report_April-2014
And this image-link goes to a flowchart of the Planning Department’s
review and approvals process:
SF-Planning-Flowchart

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Of San Francisco Real Estate Gold & Apple Stock

May 2014 Report

On January 1, 2012, you woke up to find $200,000 on your bedside table, which you decided to invest. Then, on May 2, 2014, you sold your investment. Below are approximate returns depending on where you placed your cash.

Investment-Return_RE-vs-Stock

Assumptions:

Gold: you bought at $1566 per ounce and sold at $1300 per ounce: Bad timing.

Certificate of Deposit: 1% annual interest rate; interest taxed as ordinary income: It seemed like the safe thing to do in an uncertain world.

Stock purchases: Apple stock jumped 46% and the S&P 500 50%; plus an estimated dividend yield of 5%; profit taxed as long-term capital gains. (No transaction costs included in calculation.)

Home purchase: $200,000 down-payment on $1 million home; 35% home-price appreciation per Case-Shiller; 2% closing costs on purchase and 7% on sale deducted from gain. No capital gains tax due to the $250,000/$500,000 exclusion for sale of primary residence. The estimated $28,000 reduction in loan principal was not included in gain, as it pertains to monthly home payments made after initial investment.

It is assumed that the net monthly home cost – principal, interest, property taxes and insurance, after tax deductions and reduction in loan principal – at an estimated $3250/month, was comparable to cost of renting. This has generally been true in San Francisco due to high rents and low interest rates.

There are 3 big reasons why real estate dramatically outperformed the stock market, though both markets boomed: 1) leverage – 35% home-price appreciation equals 175% appreciation of your 20% cash down-payment (before closing costs); 2) big tax deductions subsidize home ownership costs, and 3) the capital gains exclusion on the sale of a primary residence.

Important: Timing is everything in investing. In this analysis, the chosen buy date was January 2, 2012 when the financial and housing markets were poised for big rebounds. Picking a different purchase date, such as January 2, 2008, would completely alter the results. *

SP-OP_DOM_by-MonthWhite Hot Spring Market
The hotter the competition between buyers, the higher home prices are bid up. The great majority of SF home listings are selling quickly and for over – sometimes far over – asking price.

This link charts the trend over the past 2+ years.
Sales Price over List Price Trend

 

Paragon-Survey_Home-BuyersCurrent Buyer & Seller Dynamics
Since Paragon does so much business in San Francisco – our Van Ness branch represents more successful SF home-buyers than any other office – we surveyed our agents on what they were seeing in the market. This chart looks at buyers, and this link goes to our full survey report:
Paragon Agent Survey

 

 

New-Home_ConstructionNew Housing Construction
A look at the ebb and flow of new housing development in the city – which is generally very inadequate to growing demand.

And this link looks at the “pipeline” of projects under construction or planned for future years:
New Homes Pipeline

 

 

Ranking_San-Francisco_4-14Ranking San Francisco
On a lighter note, we recently collected rankings by dozens of “authorities” – some more reliable than others – regarding San Francisco. This link goes to the full list:
The Full Ranking Report

 

 

Invest_SF-Rents_by-NeighborhoodApartment Building Market Report
We just issued our quarterly update on Bay Area residential investment real estate. This chart looks at current asking rents by neighborhood, and this link goes to the full report:
Paragon Apartment Update

 

 

Since opening our doors in 2004, the Paragon Community Fund has donated over $500,000 to local charities and social services. The San Francisco Bay Area isn’t just where we do business; it’s our home and our community.

* The investment analysis above is simply one scenario based on specific circumstances. It was performed in good faith, but may contain errors or assumptions you may disagree with, or may not apply to your specific tax situation. Investment and tax issues should be investigated with a qualified accountant or financial planner.

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New Case-Shiller report: SF Metro Area bumps up again

While the nation as a whole saw a tiny decrease in the S&P Case-Shiller Home Price index in the January report released today, the San Francisco Metro Area Index (for 5 northern counties) bumped up again. The C-S Index for higher priced houses has now completely re-attained the previous market peak set in 2006, as measured by January data points. The city of San Francisco itself has exceeded the rise in the 5-county area and has generally surpassed previous peak values – many SF neighborhoods by substantial margins.

Based upon what we are seeing on the ground, we expect to see further increases once the late winter/early spring selling season is reflected in the Index.

This first chart shows market cycles over the past 30 plus years. The second chart shows appreciation since our current market recovery began.

image001

This chart tracks the most recent market recovery which began in earnest in early 2012. In both 2012 and 2013, the spring seasons saw substantial jumps in home values. We recently thought the likelihood of yet another significant jump in 2014 to be relatively low, but the market we’re seeing on the ground – a very high demand/very low supply dynamic – is leading us to suspect otherwise.

image002

Case-Shiller measures a 5-county metro area comprised of San Francisco, San Mateo, Marin, Alameda and Contra Costa counties. The numbers used relate to a January 2000 value of 100; thus 184 signifies 84% home price appreciation over the past 14 years. The Index is published 2 months after the latest monthly reading, i.e. the January Index has just been published today, March 25th.

The full report can be found online here.

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New Case-Shiller Index Released

The November Case-Shiller Index report was released this week. Below are three looks at what has happened in Bay Area “high-tier-priced” houses (currently delineated as those selling for more than $801,000) since 2013 began, over the past 2 years – as the recovery really began in early 2012 – and since 1996, to show market cycles. Right now, ignoring small fluctuations up and down, home prices are basically continuing on the plateau they reached after the huge spring surge in appreciation.

Case-Shiller measures a 5-county metro area, not just the city of San Francisco. The numbers used relate to a January 2000 value of 100; thus 181 = 81% home price appreciation over the past 14 years.

In 2013:

1

 

2012 – 2013:

2

1996 – 2013:

3

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Interest Rates: Is the Sky Falling on the Housing Market?

The pundits are making dramatic, even doom-laden pronouncements about what is going to happen with interest rates (and the housing market), though they’ve been wrong so many times over the past few years, these “expert” predictions might be taken with salt-shaker’s worth of salt, perhaps with lemon and a nice shot of tequila.

Obviously, interest rates are an important component of the real estate market. But this chart gives a little context to what has occurred recently: the blue column is the average 30-year interest rate for the first 5 months of 2013, when everyone was dancing with glee at how low the rates were; the black line at the end represents the interest rate on Friday, June 6th, though it is true that it briefly hit 2 tenths of a percentage point higher earlier in the week (so if you like, add the tiniest smidgeon more to the black line).

I don’t know where interest rates will go, though they will probably rise over time—and perhaps there will be an upcoming interest-rate shock. But terror seems a bit premature.

http://my.paragon-re.com/Docs/General/SixtyFortyImages/Average_30-Year_Mortgage-Rates.jpg

Average_30-Year_Mortgage-Rates

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The Economist on Bubbles — Neat Interactive Chart Feature

The Economist has a good article (about the US real estate market not being in a bubble) and created a terrific interactive graph that allows you, by metro area (you have to click on San Francisco to add it to the graph), to compare home price changes in real terms over time, versus average incomes, and versus rents, from 1987 to 2013. San Francisco is at the top of the chart in percentage increase and increases in prices in real terms, but still rates right at the long-term average in home prices versus income and versus rents. The Economist was one of the very first to identify the housing bubble inflating – running strongly against the then current opinion of other pundits – so I think their opinion on whether another bubble is about to burst in the U.S. is worth hearing. (FYI: The do believe there are serious housing bubbles in certain other countries.)

”The verdict: in most markets houses are near or above their long-run values, but none looks bubbly. Price rises in Phoenix, Tampa and Miami have restored values only to their long-run averages. In Las Vegas they are still below that long-run average. Many things could trip up the housing recovery, from stalling job growth to higher mortgage rates; at the moment, a bursting bubble is not one of them.”

You can play around with the interactive chart, and you should read the article below the chart widget:

http://www.economist.com/node/21578927

Here are 3 of their charts with San Francisco added:

Home Price Appreciation in Real Terms (Adjusting for Inflation):

1

Home Prices Against Average Income:

2

Home Prices versus Rents:

3

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