San Francisco’s Mayor Lee is hoping his housing bond measure will make it to this November’s election. It is the largest bond measure for low-income and for the first time, middle-income subsidies to create more rental housing for these groups. The middle income level is 40% of San Francisco so this could help some of our labor force to remain rather than move to more affordable communities.
Source : BizJournals.com
Median Sales Prices; Luxury Home Sales; Housing Affordability Index;
Home Values by Neighborhood; Investment Real Estate; New Development
Median House & Condo Sales Prices
As the 2015 market has accelerated, median home sales prices have been hitting new highs in neighborhoods across San Francisco. Link to San Francisco Neighborhood Map
Home Price Appreciation
The chart above graphs monthly house and condo median price appreciation in the city since the market recovery began in early 2012. The 2 charts below are snapshots of changes in median sales prices in a sampling of 6 different SF neighborhoods from early 2013 to early 2015, one for houses and one for 2-bedroom condos. (The 2015 prices in these charts below may vary from those earlier in this report, because slightly different parameters were used.)
Median Price Changes, 2013 – 2015
Bayview, Bernal Heights & Glen Park Houses
Hayes Valley, Inner Mission, South Beach 2-Bedroom Condos
Luxury Home Sales
High-end home sales continue to hit new highs in San Francisco: Last spring was the hottest on record; spring 2015 is blowing through last year’s numbers. The chart above is from our updated luxury report, which can be found here:
SF Luxury Home Market Report
Housing Affordability Index
This CAR Housing Affordability Index (HAI) is calculated using median price, household income, interest rates and other financial criteria to determine the percentage of local households which can afford to buy. At 14% to 15%, San Francisco, Marin and San Mateo have very low affordability readings in comparison to other parts of the country – the Index reading is now 31% for the state and 59% for the country.
Affordability calculations are a complex and nuanced issue, especially in San Francisco*. However, one can’t argue with the general trend lines. When the market heats up and prices rise, affordability goes down; when the market goes into a recession, affordability rises. If affordability declines beyond a certain point, it may become an indicator of an overvalued real estate market. SF’s Index reading is still above the historic lows it hit in 2001 and 2007. Changes in interest rates can quickly and significantly affect affordability.
New Listings & Buyer Demand
The above chart illustrates the seasonal ebb and flow of the market as new listings come on the market and buyers react by putting properties under contract. Spring is typically the biggest selling season of the year, followed by a large spike in autumn. Market activity usually slows in summer and plunges during the winter holiday season.
Multi-Unit & Investment Real Estate
The two charts below are from our recently issued reports on the multi-unit building market, the first on properties of 2 to 4 units, and the second on larger apartment buildings of 5+ units. The second chart illustrates the parallels between rents and home prices in counties around the Bay Area. Regarding affordability: If someone’s choice is between paying a very high rent or buying an expensive home at today’s low interest rates and with all the tax advantages of homeownership, buying is typically the much better option financially over the longer term. But the devil is always in the details.
The full reports can be found here:
Housing Inventory & New Home Construction
The first chart below and the map following it depict the current boom in new-home construction and the districts where new development is clustered. The second chart illustrates the growth of the condominium segment of the city’s housing inventory via both construction and conversion.(A lot more is coming.) The new-home development situation in San Francisco is fascinating – and a fierce political issue.
Our full report on the topic is here: Paragon Housing & Construction Report
New home development often goes through gigantic boom and bust cycles. What complicates the issue for SF developers is that from start to finish, from creating plans for city review to completing construction, the process can easily take 4 to 6 years. Right now, both residential and commercial developers are making enormous bets on a long, sustained, up cycle in the SF economy and real estate market.
New residential construction is heavily concentrated around the Market Street corridor, the Van Ness corridor just north of Market, and in the large quadrant of the city that lies to the southeast of Market. This is due to the availability of large, previously commercial/industrial-use lots that can be changed to residential use, and the zoning that allows for large – sometimes very large – projects to be constructed in these areas.
Though only about 40 years old, the condo sales market in the city is now larger than the house market. And 99% of all new construction being built for sale consists of new and usually high-end condos.
* A few “peculiarities” that may skew the housing affordability calculation in San Francisco are: 1) the city has an abnormally high percentage of single-resident households, 38%, which affects median household income figures, 2) unlike most counties, the majority of SF residents are tenants not owners, and the greater part of those are under rent control, and 3) the SF market is currently being fueled in no small part by large numbers of people moving into the city for very well-paid jobs.
Short-term median prices may fluctuate due to a number of different factors, including seasonality, inventory available to purchase, interest rates and significant changes in the luxury and new-home segments of the market.Longer-term trends are always more meaningful than short-term ups and downs.
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. 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. All numbers should be considered approximate.Please contact us with any questions or concerns.
© 2015 Paragon Real Estate Group
I missed this walking tour but the description of what is going to happen in this part of town is fascinating. Dogpatch has been a very diverse neighborhood and soon, even more vitality is coming in the form of retail, open space and walking districts. Here’s the link from the San Francisco Housing Authority Coalition: http://www.sfhac.org/dogpatch-walking-tour/
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 February 2015 was released on the last Tuesday of April.
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 surges in prices that occurred in the springs of 2013 and 2014 were 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 employment and new wealth. As we the Case-Shiller Index begins to reflect the beginning of the spring 2015 market, significant price increases appear to be kicking in again, which mirrors what we are currently seeing on the ground in the hurly burly of deal-making.
Right now, we expect for the Case-Shiller Index reports for the next 2 to 3 months – reflecting March, April and May sales activity – to show further increases.
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 202 signifies home prices 102% above those of January 2000.
Short-Term Trends: 12 Months & Since Market Recovery Began in 2012
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.
Different Bubbles, Crashes & Recoveries
This next 3 charts compare the 3 different price tiers since 1988. 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/distressed property 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 now 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 February 2015, this range has narrowed to 99% to 102% over year 2000 prices. 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 though, generally speaking, you will find all 3 tiers represented in different degrees in each county. 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, again, 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 numbers in the charts refer to January Case-Shiller Index readings, except for the last, which reflects December 2014.
Low-Price Tier Homes: Under $529,000 as of 2/15
Huge subprime bubble (170% appreciation, 2000 – 2006) & huge crash (60% decline, 2008 – 2011). Strong recovery but still well below 2006-07 peak values.
Mid-Price Tier Homes: $529,000 to $859,000 as of 2/15
Smaller bubble (119% appreciation, 2000 – 2006) and crash (42% decline) than low-price tier. Strong recovery but still somewhat below 2006 peak.
High-Price Tier Homes: Over $859,000 as of 2/15
84% appreciation, 2000 – 2007, and 25% decline, peak to bottom.
Now climbing well above previous 2007 peak values.
In San Francisco, where many neighborhoods vastly exceed the initial price threshold for the high-price tier, declines from peak values in 2007 in those more expensive neighborhoods typically ran 15% – 20%, and appreciation over previous peak value has also exceeded the high-price tier norm.
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.
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.
Many of the charts included in this report are based on or excerpted from the San Francisco Planning Department’s 82-page 2014 Housing Inventory report, released in April 2015, which can be accessed using the link at the bottom of this article. Much of the text below detailing housing-inventory statistics is excerpted from this report as well.
The process of application and review, public hearings (and sometimes ballot proposals), revisions, entitlement, permitting, construction, inspection and completion is complex and lengthy. Housing units are being planned and built, and existing units are being altered and removed. And there are many housing types: rental or sale units, market rate or affordable, social-project housing or luxury condominiums.
The new-housing landscape in San Francisco is in constant flux: new projects, developer plan changes, city plan changes, and shifts in economic and political realities. The basic reality is that the city, after its recent 2008-2012 new-construction slump, is now experiencing a huge building boom. So far, however, it has not been able to keep up with accelerating population growth, soaring employment and concomitant surging buyer/renter demand.
“The production of new housing in 2014 totaled 3,654 units, a 50% increase from 2013. This includes 3,454 units in new construction and 200 new units added through conversion of non-residential uses, alterations to existing units or buildings, or expansion of existing structures. Some 140 units were lost through demolition (95), unit mergers (20) and removal of illegal units (24).
“Some of the larger projects completed in 2014 include: 1411 Market Street/NEMA Phase II (437 market-rate units and 52 affordable inclusionary units), 185 Channel Street (315 market rate units), Rincon Hill Phase II (312 market rate units).The 1190 4th Street (100% affordable 150 units) and St. Anthony Foundation’s 121 Golden Gate Avenue (100% affordable 90 senior housing units) are two major affordable housing projects completed in 2014.”
“The Planning Department approved and fully entitled 57 projects in 2014. These projects propose a total of 3,756 units. In 2014, 3,834 units were authorized for construction. This represents a 21% increase from 2013. New housing authorized for construction over the past five years continues to be overwhelmingly (90%) in buildings with 20 or more units. In 2014 the average project size was 16 units.”
“Some of the major projects authorized for construction during the reporting year include: 2801 Brannan Street (434 units); 3350 8th Street (408 units); 250 4th Street (208 units); and 588 Mission Bay Boulevard (200 units).”
“In 2014, 269 projects with about 8,030 units were filed with the Planning Department. This number is higher than the count in 2013 by 66% and is a little over double that of the five year average of almost 3,690 units.
Residential Development by City District
New construction has been concentrated in a few specific districts of the city, mostly where there are commercial lots able to be converted to residential use and where higher density housing projects are most viable. The ability to take under-utilized commercial property sites and turn them into multi-unit or even high-rise residential projects is particularly prized. Generally speaking this describes the quadrant of San Francisco around and to the southeast of the Market Street corridor.
New Development Pipeline
We also have an overview of the quarterly San Francisco Planning Department’s Pipeline Report, which complements the annual Housing Inventory reports with a longer term perspective: The San Francisco Residential & Commercial Development Pipeline Report. Below is one chart from this report.
There are over 50,000 housing units of all kinds currently in the pipeline – and the pipeline is growing and changing quickly now – but some of the bigger projects (such as Treasure Island and Hunter’s Point/Shipyard) may take decades to complete.
Construction vs. Conversion
“Thirty-three single-family units were added in 2014: Single-family building construction made up a very small proportion of new construction in 2014 (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.
“New condominium construction in 2014 dropped to 1,977 units from 2,586 units in 2013. Condominium conversions were up by 98% in 2014 (730 from 369 conversions in 2013). This number is 20% higher than the 10-year average of 606 units.” The rules governing condo conversion in San Francisco are byzantine, politically-wrought and, seemingly, ever-changing, and the changes affect the ability to convert existing multi-unit properties and TICs into condominiums. .
Affordable Housing Construction
Very generally speaking, the city requires that new home developers either dedicate 15% of their units to affordable housing, which could be built on-site or on another city site, or contribute to the city’s affordable housing fund “in lieu” of building the units themselves.(The rules are more complicated than that, but that’s the general idea.) There are few subjects more politically charged in San Francisco than affordable housing: how much should be built where and who should be responsible for the costs.
“In 2014, 757 new affordable housing units were built. These new affordable units made up 21% of new units added to the City’s housing stock. This count includes 267 inclusionary units and 59 units added to existing structures. About 83% of the new affordable units are rentals affordable to very-low and low-income households.” These units are allocated, rented and sold under rules and formulas pertaining to social and economic circumstances and housing cost. Large projects are also built on an ongoing basis by private-public social organizations for dedicated purposes such as senior housing.
“In 2014, a total of about $30 million was collected from developers as partial payments of in-lieu fees for projects.”
Major affordable housing projects completed in 2014 include: 1190 4th Street (150 units); 121 Golden Gate Avenue (90 units); 378 5th Street (44 units); 833-871 Jamestown Avenue (96 units); 1600 Market Street (23 units); and 63 West Point Road (15 units).
Housing Units Demolished, Merged and Abated
“Dwelling units are gained by additions to existing housing structures, conversions to residential use, and legalization of illegal units. Dwelling units are lost by merging separate units into larger units, by conversion to commercial use, or by the removal of illegal units. The net gain of 155 units from alterations in 2014 is comprised of 200 units added and 45 units eliminated.”
The Context behind San Francisco New-Housing Development
Population, Employment, New Supply vs. Demand
What ultimately underpins new housing construction is demand. San Francisco is seeing surging population and employment that has been far outpacing new supply. Below are 3 charts we made up plus one from the CA Legislative Analyst’s Office.
Insufficient Housing = Increasing Prices & Rents
Below are two of our 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 try and accelerate the construction of affordable housing units as well.
New Housing Construction by Bay Area County
As can be seen below, Santa Clara has taken the lead in new home construction in the Bay Area. “In 2014, Bay Area counties authorized 21,090 units for construction, 8% more than the 2013 authorizations of 19,551 units. In San Francisco, 98% of new housing is in multi-family buildings.”
SF Housing Stock by Building Size
Condo Values by Era of Construction
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.
Housing Unit Construction by Bedroom Count
We haven’t found an easy place for construction data by unit size, so this first chart above is extrapolated from SF MLS sales of condos built 2001 -2015. It may not apply perfectly to units built as apartment rentals or affordable housing.
Typically, the smaller the unit, the higher the dollar per square foot value on sale or rental, however in San Francisco, 3+ bedroom condos are often high-floor units with spectacular views that sell for extraordinary sums – but these would be outliers to the general rule. 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.Lately there has been a push by developers (and some housing advocates) toward smaller or even “micro” units, but other segments in the decision-making chain in the city, such as supervisors and neighborhood community groups, often push back against allowing this trend to gain traction in the city.
The politics of new home development in San Francisco is not for the weak of heart. There are very, very strong opinions and pressures regarding how it should best proceed.
San Francisco Planning Department
Pipeline & Housing Inventory Reports
Below are links to the SF Planning Department Pipeline and Housing Inventory report webpages. They contain huge amount of data, which we have attempted to represent accurately.As noted by their authors, who did an incredible job, the original reports themselves are “compiled and consolidated from different data sources and subject to errors due to varying accuracy and currency of original sources.”
And this image-link goes to a flowchart of the Planning Department’s
review and approvals process:
This report was created in good faith and is based on data from sources deemed reliable,
but may contain inadvertent errors and misrepresentations, and is subject to revision.
© April 2015 Paragon Real Estate Group
In this report, we will define luxury homes in San Francisco as houses, condos, co-ops and TICs selling for $2,000,000 or more. Homes selling in this price range currently make up a little more than 10% of the SF residential market; those selling for $5,000,000 and above constitute about 1% of the city’s home sales.
In the past 12 months, 671 home sales of $2m+ above (414 houses, 220 condos, 23 co-ops, 14 TICs), and 67 sales of $5m+ (56 houses, 7 condos, 3 co-ops, 1 TIC) were reported to San Francisco MLS.
Not shown on the chart, but if we compared our recent market with the previous peak of the market prior to the 2008 crash, home sales of $2m+ have more than doubled: Part of this speaks to the surge in affluence in the Bay Area, and part of it is due to recent home price appreciation.
for San Francisco Luxury Homes
For buyers of larger houses, the greater St. Francis Wood-Forest Hill area offers comparably large and elegant homes, often on larger lots, at significantly lower dollar-per-square-foot prices. (See the following section below the next chart.) And many of the large, gracious, 3 to 5 bedroom Edwardians found in Inner/Central Richmond and Inner Sunset now sell for over $2m, but usually at lower prices than in the Lake Street and Cole Valley neighborhoods nearby.
for San Francisco Luxury Homes
Some homes are selling far beyond the average values seen here: A 15,000 square foot penthouse in South Beach is now on the market at $3000 per square foot, and a Pacific Heights penthouse of 5400 square feet reportedly just sold off-MLS for over $5000 per square foot, an all-time high in the city.
Part of the reason is proximity to where high-tech workers work in San Francisco and on the peninsula; another part is that many of the newly wealthy are relatively young and prefer a different neighborhood ambiance; and last but not least, the vast majority of new luxury condo construction is occurring in the quadrant of the city near to and southeast from Market Street. There is very little new housing construction occurring on the north side of the city.
Not included in the chart above, but over the 7-year period, home sales of $2m+ also increased in the Richmond/Lone Mountain neighborhoods from 1.5% to 3% of total luxury home sales, and from 0% to 2% of sales in Inner Sunset.
Last but not least, it should also be remembered that the more expensive the home, the smaller the pool of qualified, prospective buyers: Sometimes, it simply takes longer to find the right one for a particular property, especially if it’s a little outside of the norm in some way.
Of San Francisco’s home sales of $2m+ in Q1 2015, 43% were condos, co-ops and TICs. SF is the only Bay Area county where luxury condos and co-ops play a significant (and increasing) role in the market. Less than a handful sold in all the other counties combined.
For your convenience, below is a map of San Francisco neighborhoods and a breakdown of neighborhoods in each Realtor district.
All data from sources deemed reliable, but may contain errors and is subject to revision. Statistics are generalities and how they apply to any specific property is unknown without a tailored comparative market analysis. Outlier sales that would distort the statistics were deleted from the analysis when identified. All numbers should be considered approximate.
© 2015 Paragon Real Estate Group
San Francisco Home Value Appreciation
The chart above illustrates the continued march upward of median home sales prices in San Francisco. However, if we separate out house from condo sales, an interesting trend appears: The median house sales price basically stayed flat from Q4 2014 to Q1 2015, but the median condo sales price jumped from $995,000 to $1,080,000. Drilling down further, the median sales price for SF 3-bedroom houses in Q1 was $1,200,000; for 2-bedroom condos, it was $1,199,000, i.e. effectively the same. Much of this is due to the fact that the greatest number of houses in the city exists in the less expensive western and southern neighborhoods, while 1) condos are mostly found in more expensive areas, and 2) new home construction in San Francisco for the last 10 years has been dominated by very high-end condo projects. That trend is only accelerating in the current building boom.
This is illustrated below in a comparison of house and condo average dollar-per-square-foot values in the first quarters of 2008 – 2015. For the first time, overall SF condo sales just hit an astounding average of $1000 per square foot. Much of this increase is being fueled by recently built condos selling for far higher figures.
More Affordable Neighborhoods Take Off
When the SF market recovery began in 2012, the more affluent neighborhoods led the way in rapid home-price appreciation, but in 2014, the more affordable neighborhoods took the lead. Of course, there are few places outside San Francisco where houses of $1.2 million would constitute the “affordable” segment of the market, but as median house prices in the greater Noe, Eureka & Cole Valleys area accelerated over $2 million (and over $4 million in the Pacific Heights-Marina district), buyers started to fan out, desperately looking for less expensive options. That sparked increased competition and the chart below illustrates the resulting year-over-year appreciation rates in some of those neighborhoods.
This is not to suggest that the higher-end house markets in the city are languishing. That is not the case – the markets are crazy there too – but generally speaking, recent appreciation rates have not been as robust as in less costly neighborhoods. Information on home prices around the city can be found here: SF Neighborhood Values.
Statistics are generalities that can be affected by various factors, and different baskets of unique homes sell in different quarters. And different statistics can disagree: For example, as seen above, Bernal Heights, which has been white hot, saw year over year median price appreciation of 10%, but its average dollar-per-square-foot value jumped 19%. Consider these statistics to be general indicators instead of precise measurements of changes in home values.
Sales Prices, Price Reductions and Days on Market
Further indications of the heat of our market: The vast majority of sales in March sold very quickly, without going through a price reduction, and averaging a whopping 10% over asking price. That relatively small percentage of listings that went through price reductions prior to sale took 3 times longer to sell at a significant discount to original list price. And, of course, not every home sells: If a property is deemed significantly overpriced, buyers typically ignore it and, unless price reduced, the listing will ultimately be withdrawn from the market. A hot market doesn’t imply buyers will pay any price that pops into a seller’s head (though sometimes it may seem so).
Factors behind the Low Supply of Homes for Sale
Lately, there have been many articles about the reasons why sellers aren’t selling, which is supposedly the main cause of the market’s drastically low inventory situation. What is rarely mentioned is that by far the biggest factor behind declining inventory is not that sellers aren’t selling, but simply the greatly increased demand over the past 3 years. The number of sales in 2014 was actually about average for the last 15 years. Mostly, it was the competition among greater numbers of buyers that shrunk the supply of homes for sale at any given time.
Below is Slide 3 of three charts from our full report (The Real Story behind Low Inventory). It shows how inventory declines as buyer demand increases, even if the number of new listings coming on market doesn’t fall. Please see the full analysis for our complete reasoning, as well as a list of other subsidiary factors.
The simplified, sample illustration below uses actual data pertaining to buyer demand in the city over recent years, but assumes that the number of new listings stays steady at 600 per month.
Comparing Bay Area County Markets
These 3 analyses are excerpted from our recent article, Taking the Temperatures of Bay Area Real Estate Markets. The full report includes 5 other charts, all of them fascinating.
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. 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. All numbers should be considered approximate.
First some context: For the last 15 years, the number of MLS home sales in San Francisco has ranged from 4663 in 2009 to 7887 in 2004, with an average of 6115 per year. In 2014, MLS sales numbered 6120. Sales outside of MLS have increased as the market has become hotter (for both legitimate and not-so-good reasons), and non-MLS new-condo sales have also increased. These 2 categories of sales would swell the 2014 total.
From another angle, studies have estimated that on average about 5% of U.S. owner-occupier homeowners sell annually. According to the census, there are approximately 125,000 owner-occupied housing units in SF: 5% would equal 6250 home re-sales per year. Sales of tenant-occupied homes and new construction condos would be additional.
The numbers of new listings and home sales in San Francisco are certainly lower than expected in such a hot market and some of the subsidiary reasons are discussed at the end of this analysis. However, as seen above, annual sales numbers are not wildly out of whack from historical trends.
The principal factor behind the perception of drastically low inventory is simply hugely increased demand: Over the past 5 years, the city’s population and employment rolls have soared, while new housing construction has not remotely kept pace. Higher demand means homes sell more quickly, which then shrinks the number of listings on the market at any given time (which is really how we perceive supply). An analogy: The water hole (of listings for sale), fed by a relatively constant stream (of new listings coming on market), still gets significantly diminished as more people drink from it.
Below are 3 charts illustrating the issue. The first two, regarding days-on-market and percentage of listings accepting offers, are based on actual SF market statistics. The third chart is a sample illustration of the effect of increasing demand on the supply of homes for sale, even if the number of new listings coming on market doesn’t decline.
Chart 1: New listings are selling much faster.
Chart 2: The percentage of listings selling each quarter has significantly increased.
Chart 3 (sample illustration): Higher demand – even with a constant number of new listings coming on market – dramatically decreases the inventory of homes for sale at any given time.
There certainly are other, distinctive factors exacerbating our low inventory market:
1) As noted earlier, with the frenzied market, more sales have been occurring off-MLS, and these homes don’t show up as new listings in the public inventory for sale. (The Pros & Cons of Off-MLS Listings)
2) Annual sales of TIC units and 2-4 unit buildings have plunged in the last 7 years by over 500 sales, a substantial drop in an overall market of San Francisco’s size. This is probably due mostly to changes in SF tenant eviction and condo conversion laws. (Note: TIC units are a property type found virtually no place else but the city.)
3) With extremely high rental rates and extremely low mortgage interest rates, a small but growing percentage of homeowners, who typically would have sold their homes, are renting them out instead – and the Airbnb vacation-rental phenomenon (with even higher rent rates) can only be adding to this. (Renting vs. Selling One’s Home)
4) Unless they’re moving out of the area, some potential sellers are daunted by the challenge of finding new homes under existing market conditions and are simply staying put until things calm down.
5) A sizeable percentage of our new (mostly very high-end) condos are being purchased as second homes by the locally affluent or as investments by foreign buyers. These non-resident buyers add to demand and help soak up supply, and for a number of reasons, may not sell as often as typical homeowners.
In many counties other than San Francisco, the big decline in distressed property sales has affected inventory and sales.
The factors above are all probably diminishing listing inventory to greater or lesser degrees, but ultimately, it’s not that the annual number of new listings – i.e. the number of homeowners selling – is so drastically low by historical measures. It’s the relationship between supply and demand that fundamentally determines market conditions, and for the last 3 years, a relatively stable supply has become terribly inadequate to a dramatically escalating demand.
This, of course, is the classic dynamic which puts upward pressure on home prices.
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 should be considered approximate. Please contact us with any questions or concerns.
Across the Bay Area, how many listings sell without price reductions, how quickly do they sell, and at what percentage of asking price? What role does employment play in the real estate market? Which are the biggest and smallest county markets, and how do prices and rents compare?
The white-hot – some would say overheated – core of the Bay Area homes market is San Francisco and Silicon Valley, and the heat radiates out from there, diminishing as one gets further away. This core is defined by the incredible strength of the economy, much of it supercharged by the high-tech boom. However, there are also cultural and lifestyle factors, as well as what might be called the creativity/innovation-cluster effect, all of which have almost gravitational attractions. Indeed, San Francisco is almost a perfect example of the “super city” concept, drawing in people from all over the country and the world like a giant magnet.
Because it’s close and a (relatively) easy commute to these areas, and so affordable by comparison, Alameda County (which includes Oakland) is also crazy hot. Marin has a strong market but is less feverish, firstly because getting to Silicon Valley isn’t as easy – one has to fight one’s way across the whole city to get to Highways 101 and 280 south – secondly, because it’s a very wealthy and expensive county, so it doesn’t offer quite the attraction of big home price discounts, and perhaps thirdly, because Marin has the highest median age in the Bay Area (45 years), and much of the high-tech employment boom is characterized by (pre-family forming) youth who prefer a more urban environment.
As one gets further north, east and south of the inner core, the markets become less overheated: It’s not that these markets are weak – in fact, some are quite hot and they’ve all been strengthening for the last 3 years. It’s simply that they’re not characterized by a feeding frenzy of almost overwhelming demand meeting limited inventory. Except for sellers eager to maximize their homes’ sales prices, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
It should be noted that many of the charts below reflect February sales data. Generally speaking, Bay Area markets have become significantly hotter as the calendar gets deeper into prime spring selling season.
Most of these charts speak for themselves, so we’ve kept commentary to a minimum.
As an illustration of perhaps the Bay Area’s most important market dynamic, this chart below delineates new job creation over the past 6 years. In San Francisco, for example, there are over 95,000 more employed residents than in 2009, and according to the San Francisco Business Times (3/6/15), there are currently 8600 unfilled software engineer positions in the city. During the same 6-year period, approximately 10,000 new housing units were built in the city. That ratio of new employment to new housing equals a desperately competitive housing market.
Other factors play important roles in the Bay Area markets – such as affluence and education levels – and many of these are assessed on a county by county basis in our 2014 report on San Francisco Bay Area Demographics.
And updated maps of comparative home values around the Bay Area can be found here:Bay Area Home Price Maps