30+ Years of Housing Market Cycles in the San Francisco Bay Area

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, from the Dutch tulip mania of the 1600’s through today’s speculative frenzy in digital-currencies. While future cycles will vary in their details, the causes, effects and trend lines are often quite similar. Looking at cycles gives us more context to how the market works over time and where it may be going — much more than dwelling in the immediacy of the present with excitable pronouncements of “The market’s crashing and won’t recover in our lifetimes!” or “The market’s crazy hot and the only place it can go is up!”

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

Regardless of how recent cycles have played out, it is vital to understand how extremely difficult it is to predict when different parts of a cycle will begin or end. Case in point: In late 2015, when financial markets entered into a period of volatility, IPO activity stopped in its tracks, and high-tech hiring slowed, a well-respected Berkeley economist prophesied there would soon be “blood in the streets” of San Francisco: Median SF house prices have gone up over 20% since then. Boom times can go on much longer than expected, or get second winds. Even when the financial markets enter a period of “irrational exuberance,” that period can go on longer than seems possible, with huge jumps in home and/or stock values.

On the other hand, negative shocks can appear with startling suddenness, triggered by unexpected economic, political or even ecological events that hammer confidence. This leads to other market dominoes falling, the reversal of positive trends in growth, investment and employment, which then balloons into a period of decline, recession, stagnation. These negative adjustments can be of varying scale, in the nature of a crash or bubble popping, the slow deflation of an over-pumped football, or a combination of the two.

Going back thousands or even tens of thousands of years, human beings have tried to predict the future, and whether using priests, oracles, astrologers, pundits, economists, analysts or “experts” of every stripe – and currently having their “authoritative” forecasts headlined every day in the media – we show no aptitude as a species for having the ability to do so with any accuracy. We can’t even remember the mistakes of the recent past – which is one reason why we don’t seem to be able to escape cycles – much less foretell what’s going to happen tomorrow.

Confidence plays an enormous role in financial and real estate markets, and in every period of irrational exuberance, there are many who vociferously argue that the exuberance is NOT irrational. Unfortunately, it can be very challenging to determine the point at which rational confidence shifts into irrational exuberance, but when irrational exuberance abruptly shifts into fear, a stampede for the exits can follow – as an old English saying puts it: “They run all away, and cry, ‘the devil take the hindmost’.” In retrospect, the duration of periods of irrational exuberance, when market gains often accelerate into the stratosphere, seems utterly incomprehensible. Such are the pleasures of hindsight.

All the major recessions in the Bay Area in recent decades have been tied to national or international economic crises, which can take a wide variety of forms. Absent a natural disaster, it is unlikely that a sudden, major, negative, market adjustment (or “crash”) would occur due simply to local issues. However, local issues could certainly lead to less dramatic market adjustments, or exacerbate a downturn caused by a macro-economic event. The SF earthquake of 1989 intensified the national recession that began at that time; our greater exposure to dotcom start-ups did the same with the national dotcom-bubble/Nasdaq crash.

Market Cycles: Simplified Overviews
Up, Down, Flat, Up, Down, Flat…(Repeat)

The chart below graphs ups and downs by percentage changes in home prices at each turning point.

Smoothing out the bumps delivers the simplified overview above for the past 30 years.

Whatever the phase of the cycle, up or down, while it is going on people think it will last forever. Going up, “The world is different now, the rules have changed, and there’s no reason why the up-cycle can’t continue indefinitely.” And then when the market turns and goes down: “Homeownership has always been a terrible investment and the market probably won’t recover for decades” (or even “in our lifetimes” as one Nobel-Prize-winning economist said in 2012). 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 jumped back in (or “explodes” might be a good description) and prices started to rise again. (The dotcom bubble adjustment caused no lasting recession in home values.)

The nature of cycles is to keep turning.

All bubbles are ultimately based on irrational exuberance, runaway greed, criminal behavior or, not uncommonly, all three mashed together. Whether exemplified by junk bonds, stock market hysteria, gorging on untenable levels of debt, a corporate ponzi-scheme mentality, an abandonment of reasonable risk assessment, and/or incomprehensible or dishonest financial engineering, the bubble is relentlessly pumped bigger and tighter. And since human beings appear utterly unable or unwilling to learn the lessons of past cycles, it is kind of like the movie “Groundhog Day,” except that in the movie at least, Bill Murray actually grew wiser over time.

The 2008 crash was truly abnormal in its scale, and much greater than other downturns going back to the Great Depression. The 2005-2007 bubble was fueled by home buying and refinancing with unaffordable amounts of debt on a staggering level, promoted by predatory lending practices, promises of endless appreciation, and an abysmal decline in underwriting standards – and then eagerly facilitated by smug, rapacious, Wall Street flimflammery and self-abasing credit ratings agencies. Millions came to own homes they could never afford to pay for and the rot was distributed throughout the financial system. The market adjustments of the early 1990’s and early-2000’s saw declines in Bay Area home values in the range of 10% to 11%, which were bad enough, but nothing compared to the terrible 2008 – 2011 declines of 20% to 60%.

This is important context when contemplating the next adjustment: It doesn’t have to be a devastating crash. It can be more like some air being let out of an over-pressurized tire instead of a blowout on the highway at high speed. It depends on many different factors.

This Recovery vs. Previous Recoveries

The gold columns above chart the appreciation of past recoveries from the beginning of the recovery to peak value for each cycle (except for the latest cycle, for which the peak has not yet been defined), and the red bars delineate the percentage declines from those peaks, pursuant to the market adjustments that occurred. As always, note that market appreciation and depreciation rates can vary widely by county, community and neighborhood.

Over the past 30+ years, the period between a recovery beginning and a bubble popping (or a lesser adjustment occurring) has run 5 to 7 years. We are currently about 5 years into the current recovery, which started in early 2012 (in San Francisco; later in outlying Bay Area counties). Periods of market recession/doldrums following the popping of a bubble have typically lasted about 3-4 years. (The 2001 dotcom bubble/ 9-11 crisis drop being the exception.) Generally speaking, within about 2-3 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 appreciating quickly now, and just beginning to re-attain previous peak values. However, communities with higher priced homes — such as in San Francisco, Marin, San Mateo and Central Contra Costa Counties (Diablo Valley & Lamorinda) — have surged well past their previous peaks.

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

As long as one doesn’t have to sell during a down cycle, Bay Area homeownership has almost always been a good or even spectacular investment (though admittedly if one does have to sell at the bottom of the market, the results can be very painful). This is due to the ability to finance one’s purchase (and refinance when rates drop), tax benefits, the gradual pay-off of the mortgage (the “forced savings” effect), inflation and long-term appreciation trends. The best way to overcome cycles is to buy a home for the longer term, one whose monthly cost is readily affordable for you, ideally using a long-term, fixed-rate loan.

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 34% below those in January 2000; 250 signifies prices 150% higher.

1983 through 1995
(After Recession) Boom, Decline, Doldrums

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

Recession arrived, home prices sank about 11%, 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.

1996 to Present
(After Recession) Boom, Bubble, Crash, Doldrums, Recovery

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 (a short-term 10% decline, but only for high-price tier houses, and for condos), but then the subprime and refinance insanity, degraded loan underwriting standards, mortgage securitization, and claims that real estate values never decline, 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 2006-2007, and in September 2008 came the financial markets crash.

Across the country, home values typically fell 20% to 60%, peak to bottom, depending on the area and how badly it was affected by foreclosures — most of San Francisco, with relatively few foreclosures, 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 usually least affected. Then the market stayed flat for about 4 years, albeit with a few short-term fluctuations. Tied to a rapidly recovering economy, supply and demand dynamics began to significantly change in San Francisco in mid-2011, leading to the market recovery of 2012.

The Recovery since 2012 (per Case-Shiller)

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

Short-Term Changes – last 13 to 14 months

Short-Term Trends by Price Segment (Tier)

In late 2015 and 2016, the greatest pressure of buyer demand started moving to more affordable home segments, as seen in this following chart. In summer 2018, trends started to change, trending down. Then in early 2019, they started to spike up again.

The Panorama: From the late 1980’s to Present
S&P Case-Shiller Index, 5-County SF Metro Area

In the chart below showing percentage year-over-year changes, each January percentage change mostly reflects the market in the previous year, i.e. the January 2002 percentage decline reflects the change in 2001 after the dotcom bubble popped.

Comparing San Francisco vs. United States
Home Price Appreciation Trends since 1987

Really quite similar except for the 1989 earthquake, the dotcom phenomenon, and the recent Bay Area high-tech boom. Of course, the huge difference is in the median house sales prices: The city’s is now over 5 times higher than the national median price.

San Francisco Median Sales Price Appreciation

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

The Current Recovery: 2012 – Present

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

San Francisco median home sales prices increased dramatically in 2012, 2013, 2014, and then again in the first half of 2015. In 2016, the SF market clearly cooled compared to the competitive frenzies of previous spring selling seasons, but in 2017 and so far, in early 2018, the market came roaring back again for perhaps its hottest market since 2000. In summer 2018, things cooled down significantly through the end of the year – this coincided with extremely volatile stock markets and sharply rising interest rates. The spring 2019 has been strong, but not as hot as spring 2018. So far, as of April 2019, median prices have not surpassed the highs hit in 2018.

Median Sales Price Changes – Longer-Term: 1993 – Present

Comparing San Francisco, California & National
Median Price Appreciation

Since 2012, San Francisco has been out-performing the overall state and national markets.

San Francisco Rents

Besides, home prices, home rental rates are major indicators of what is occurring with housing costs and the local economy. If anything, rents have appreciated even more extremely than home prices in San Francisco (and other areas of the Bay Area) – and, of course, renters get no advantages from low interest rates, multiple tax deductions and advantages, or home-price appreciation over time. One classic indicator of an overpriced home market is when prices outpace rents. Recent changes to federal income tax laws limiting the deductibility of state and local taxes (such as property taxes) has played a part in changing the balance between the two.

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

After peaking in 2015, the SF rental market definitely cooled in 2016, with supply increasing significantly with new construction, demand softening (as the high-tech boom temporarily cooled), and rents beginning to decline, especially at the high end. SF asking rents dropped around 8 – 10% from their peaks in 2015. In 2018, some signs of recovery showed up.

Consumer Confidence

The monthly fluctuations in consumer confidence reported on in the media are relatively meaningless and without context, but longer-term movements are much more meaningful to overall economic trends. Psychology – confidence, optimism, fear, pessimism – often plays a huge role in financial and real estate markets. And events can sometimes turn consumer confidence one way or another very rapidly, whether such movements are rational or not. Generally speaking, pessimism is bad for the economy, confidence and optimism are good, and over-confidence – sometimes called irrational exuberance – is dangerous. It can be hard to draw the line between where confidence moves into irrational exuberance.

Mortgage Interest Rates since 1981

It’s much harder to decipher any cycles in 30-year mortgage rates. Rates remain very low by any historical measure, but have risen since the 2016 election. Interest rates play a huge role in the ongoing cost of homeownership (affordability) and the real estate market. The substantial decline in interest rates since 2007 has in effect subsidized much of the price increases that have occurred since 2011.

Employment Trends

Real estate market cycles have a symbiotic relationship to other economic cycles, such as illustrated in the employment chart above.

Housing Affordability Index (HAI) Cycles, 1991 – Present
for San Francisco & Bay Area, per CA Association of Realtors

Unsurprisingly, there is a reverse correlation between the trend lines for housing affordability rates and those of real estate price cycles (above). HAI rates jump higher in market recessions, peaking at the bottom of the market, and then decline as the market recovers, bottoming out when peak prices are hit. The lowest Bay Area housing affordability housing index rates (probably in history) were hit in 2007 right before the 2008 market crash (subsidized by buyers taking out loans they could not afford). The Bay Area overall is still above those lows in its current recovery.

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

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

Significant increases in mortgage interest rates – as happened in the second half of 2018 (before then subsiding again in 2019) – affect affordability quickly and dramatically, as interest rates along with, of course, housing prices and household incomes, play the dominant roles in this calculation.

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

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

Again, all numbers in the Case-Shiller chart relate to a January 2000 value of 100: A reading of 220 signifies a home value 120% above that of January 2000. The chart above illustrate how different market segments in the 5-county SF metro area had bubbles, crashes and now recoveries of enormously different magnitudes, mostly depending on the impact of subprime lending. The lower the price range, the bigger the bubble and crash. In the city itself, where many of our home sales would constitute an ultra-high price segment, if Case-Shiller broke it out, many of our neighborhoods have risen to new peak values. Updated C-S charts for each price segment are below.

Since mid-2016, the low-price tier has begun taking the lead in home price appreciation.

Updated Case-Shiller Price-Tier Charts
Low-Price Tier Homes

Huge subprime bubble (170% appreciation, 2000 – 2006) & huge crash
(60% decline, 2008 – 2011). Strong recovery, now slightly above previous peak.

Mid-Price Tier Homes

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

It is interesting to note that the low and mid-price house tiers basically shrugged off the dotcom bubble popping in 2001, while the high-price house tier and condos (and apartment rents) saw significant declines. This is another example of how difficult it can be to make big, general pronouncements regarding the entire Bay Area market.

High-Price Tier Homes

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

Bay Area Condo Values

Other Compass San Francisco Bay Area real estate reports with market conditions, trends, home prices and appreciation rates: 


Santa Clara County Real Estate June 2019 Market Report

Buyer Demand Strengthens, Median Home Prices Rise, but Conditions Still Cooler & Prices Lower Than in  White-Hot Market of Spring 2018.

Median House Sales Prices
Long-Term Trends

Year-over-Year, March-May Comparisons

Santa Clara Luxury Home Sales

The luxury home market is fiercely seasonal with sales volume typically peaking in May or June – remember that one month’s sales typically reflect accepted offers in the previous month. By any standard except a comparison with spring 2018’s market, luxury home sales in spring 2019 have been strong – however, as referenced in the table above and the chart below, they are well down year over year.

Median Home Price Changes
in Selected County Markets

Comparing annual median home prices to partial year prices is not really an apples-to-apples comparison because of the effect of market seasonality on sales prices, but the below analysis is still an interesting indicator: In almost all of the markets below, year-to-date prices have ticked down. However, full-year 2019 median home prices may be significantly different than the year-to-date figures.

Median House Sales Prices by City
& Bedroom Count

Click here to go to our updated map of Bay Area median house prices.

Selected Market Indicators

Selected Economic & Demographic Snapshots

This next chart graphs unemployment rates from 1990 through January 2019. By April 2019, they had typically fallen another half percentage point.

Bay Area housing affordability – the percentage of county households that could afford to buy a median priced house with a 20% down-payment – ticked up in Q1 2019 due to the significant drop in interest rates, and in Santa Clara County, a year-over-year decline in median house sales price. But affordability is still very, very low compared to state and national standards.

In the Bay Area, the counties most affected by the high-tech hiring boom – San Francisco, Alameda, Santa Clara & San Mateo – have the highest percentages of population in the 25-34 age group, i.e. of millennials.

Of Bay Area counties, Santa Clara has the lowest percentage of 1-person households, and the highest percentage of households with 4 or more residents.

 


June 2019 San Francisco Market Report

High-demand/low-inventory spring market brings median home sales prices bouncing back to 2018 peaks. San Francisco luxury home sales hit new monthly high.

Median Home Sales Prices

We consider 3-month rolling median sales prices to be more reliable than single month figures, which are much more prone to less meaningful fluctuations. Both houses and condos are basically back up to the peak prices they hit last year at this time. June sales will mostly reflect accepted-offer activity in May, so it will be interesting to see that final bit of spring data. Market activity typically begins to significantly slow for the summer, hitting its mid-year low in August.

Median House Sales Prices since 1990 – The Long-Term Perspective

Luxury Home Sales Hit New Monthly High

For the purposes of this chart, we looked at all home sales of $2,500,000 and above: May 2019 sales were approximately 13% higher than the previous peak in May 2018. More data on the spring luxury home market can be found in the table further down in this report: High-price house sales saw the big jump this spring.

Comparing Year-over-Year Spring Markets

Last year’s spring 2018 was a very, very hot market – around the Bay Area – which created a large burst in home-price appreciation. Spring 2019 in SF has also been very strong, with many of the supply and demand statistics only slightly cooler – a few more days on market, a bit less overbidding, etc. – plus an increase in high-end home sales. Median home sales prices are much the same as last year, re-attaining, but so far, not exceeding previous peaks to any significant degree.

Median Price Changes in Selected Districts

Comparing annual median home prices to partial year prices is not really an apples-to-apples comparison because of the effect of market seasonality on sales prices, but the below analysis is still an interesting look at home-price trends.

We chose these districts to illustrate a range of price points in areas with a good number of sales. Some are up, some are down, some have relatively unchanged median sales prices: It fits in with the overall, city price stability mentioned earlier. Full-year 2019 median home prices may be significantly different than the year-to-date figures.

Further down is a link to an updated San Francisco home price map, featuring the last 12 months of sales.

Neighborhood Home Prices – by Bedroom Count

Following are 2 sample tables breaking out median house and condo sales prices over the past year in 3 city districts by bedroom count. Some neighborhoods had relatively few sales of a particular home size.

Below the tables are links to our complete analyses for all 10 Realtor districts with their 70-odd neighborhoods.

Click on the links below for our complete review of San Francisco neighborhood home prices.

SF Neighborhood HOUSE Prices
SF Neighborhood CONDO Prices
SF Neighborhood Home Price Map

Selected Market Indicators

Besides giving more perspective to longer-term trends, these two charts are also excellent illustrations of how seasonality affects supply and demand statistics.

Selected Demographic & Economic Snapshots

Within the Bay Area, SF has by far the highest percentage of residents aged 25 to 34, and by far the highest percentage of single-person households. It also has the lowest percentage of residents under 5 years of age of any major metro area in the country. So, not too many children, but a big population bulge of millennials.

This next chart graphs Bay Area unemployment rates from 1990 through January 2019. By April 2019, they had typically fallen another half percentage point.


CoreLogic S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index Update

The CoreLogic S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index does not evaluate median sales price changes, but employs its own proprietary algorithm to measure home price appreciation over time. Since its indices cover large areas – for example, the San Francisco Metro Area is comprised of 5 counties – which themselves contain communities of widely varying home values, the C-S chart numbers do not refer to specific prices, but instead reflect prices as compared to those prevailing in January 2000, which are all designated as having a consistent value of 100. A reading of 250 signifies that home prices have appreciated 150% above the price prevailing in January 2000.

Case-Shiller divides all the house sales into thirds, or tiers: The third of sales with the lowest prices is the low-price tier; the third of sales with the highest sales prices is the high-price tier; and the third in between is the mid-price. The price ranges of these tiers change as the market changes. The 3 price tiers experienced dramatically different bubbles, crashes and recoveries over the past 18+ years, to a large degree determined by how badly the tier was affected by the subprime financing crisis. The low price tier was worst affected – huge bubble, huge crash, most dramatic recovery – and the high-price least affected (but still significantly affected).

Most house sales in expensive counties such as San Francisco, Marin and San Mateo, as well as affluent communities in other Bay Area counties are in the “high price tier”, and many would qualify for an “ultra-high-price tier,” if such existed. All counties, to varying degrees, have sales in all 3 price tiers.

The Index is published 2 months after the month delineated – the March 2019 index was released 5/28/19 – reflects a 3-month rolling calculation, and one month’s sales generally reflect accepted-offer activity in the previous month. The Index is looking into a rear-view mirror at the market 3 to 5 months ago: The March 2019 reading, released in late May, mostly reflect market conditions in December 2018 – February 2019.

The 5 counties in our Case-Shiller Metro Statistical Area are San Francisco, Marin, San Mateo, Alameda and Contra Costa: Alameda and Contra Costa are by far the largest markets; SF itself comprises only about 7% of house sales in the metro area. We believe the Index generally applies to other Bay Area counties, such as Sonoma and Santa Clara,
as well. There are hundreds of unique real estate markets found in such a broad region, with different dynamics, moving at varying speeds, sometimes in different directions. How the C-S Index applies to any particular property is impossible to know without a specific comparative market analysis. More here.


San Mateo County Real Estate Spring Market Heats Up, But It’s Cooler than Spring 2018

With April’s end, we now have 2 months of spring season data unaffected by market activity at the end of 2018, when financial markets plunged. As of early May 2019, stock markets have recovered to hit new highs, interest rates are far lower than last year’s peak, and unicorn IPOs have begun to roll out after a media frenzy of speculation on their potential effects on our real estate markets. However, so far, median home sales prices have not quite returned to the peaks seen during the ferociously hot market of spring 2018. This is a big change from the substantial year-over-year appreciation rates of the past 6-7 years.

This is a relatively common dynamic around the Bay Area – in fact, many counties have seen more cooling and slowing than San Mateo County. And, of course, the spring selling season is not yet over.

Monthly Median House Sales Price – 2 Years

For the time being, home prices in the most expensive housing markets in the country – San Francisco and San Mateo Counties – have stopped getting more expensive. But that is not a prediction for what may come.

Year-over-Year Comparisons

This table compares the March-April market statistics of 2018 and 2019. Some indications of a softer market in spring 2019 across most of the statistics measured, though luxury home sales ticked up year over year.

Two months would still be considered very short-term data.

Home Sales by Price Segment & Bedroom Count

An illustration of the last 12 months of house, townhouse and condo sales broken out by price range and number of bedrooms.

Home Sales, Prices & Sizes by City

The next chart breaks out the number of house sales over the past 12 months by city, with median house sales prices, median square footage, and median bedroom/ bathroom count. (Median means half the sales were for more, or larger, and half for less, or smaller.)

Below is a review of sales, prices and sizes specifically for 2-bedroom, 2-bath condos. (The first bar refers to the city of San Mateo.)

Luxury Home Markets – San Mateo & Santa Clara Counties

The number of home sales of $3 million+ by price segment, average dollar per square foot value, and median square footage. The Silicon Valley luxury home market is by far the largest in the state.

Q1 2019 “Ultra-Luxury” Home Market – San Mateo County

We typically define the “ultra-luxury” market as starting with prices of $5 million. This is a glimpse at dynamics during the 1st quarter of the year. Note the differential between median sales prices and median list prices, especially for those listings that expired without selling. Of course, the higher the price, the smaller the pool of potential buyers.

Q2 is typically the most active quarter of the year for luxury and ultra-luxury home sales.

Home Size & Era of Construction

Many factors influence home construction size during any particular period: Affluence, economic conditions, household size, buyer age, land costs, population growth, highway construction, natural disasters, etc. Generally speaking, the median size of houses built earlier in the 1900’s was somewhat larger than those constructed mid-century during the WWII-and-right-after boom. It then started increasing again, and now, newly built houses are larger than ever.

Note that the figures below are based on recent home sales, and that over the intervening time since original construction, adding a second bathroom and/or a third bedroom behind the garage to older homes were popular renovations.

Over the past few decades, condos have become a major alternative for people purchasing homes of smaller size.

Selected Demographic & Economic Factors
Population Growth

New census figures have just been released: The latest surge in county population began 10 years ago with big increases through 2015/2016, increases which paralleled the tremendous jump in high-tech hiring. However, in the last 2 years through mid-2018, annual growth figures began to markedly slow.

By number increase, San Mateo County ranks 5th (adding almost 50,000 residents), and by percentage increase, 6th (+7.1%) in the Bay Area for population growth since 2010.

As a point of comparison, from 1940 to 1960, the county’s population went from 112,000 to 444,000, equaling almost 300% growth over the 20 years. New homes were being built as fast as they could be framed up.

Commuting

Venture Capital Investment

In recent years, the Bay Area has been the biggest destination of venture capital investment dollars in the country – and probably the world. These tens of billions of dollars have constituted a massive factor in the local economy, supercharging the creation of new companies, hiring, and, eventually, IPOs. Ultimately, venture capital is seed money that in the last decade has exploded into the creation of stupendous amounts of new wealth.

It is impossible to know how median and average value statistics apply to any particular home without a specific comparative market analysis. These analyses were made in good faith with data from sources deemed reliable, but may contain errors and are subject to revision. It is not our intent to convince you of a particular position, but to attempt to provide straightforward data and analysis, so you can make your own informed decisions. Median and average statistics are enormous generalities: There are hundreds of different markets in San Francisco and the Bay Area, each with its own unique dynamics. Median prices and average dollar per square foot values can be and often are affected by other factors besides changes in fair market value. Longer term trends are much more meaningful than short-term.


Jobs Report: California sees largest monthly gain in two years

 

economic-straight-talk
  • According to the latest report from the state Employment Development Department, California added 46,000 jobs in April – the largest monthly gain since March 2017.
  • While monthly job additions have varied a lot since the beginning of the year, California led all states in the monthly increase. The state has added 271,600 jobs over the last year, which is a 1.6 percent year-over-year increase – slightly behind the 1.8 percent overall national growth rate.
  • The state’s unemployment rate remained steady at 4.3 percent in April. Labor force declined, however, by 52,200 in April, after some solid increases in first three months of the year. Compared to a year ago, the labor force has increased by 203,900 people.
  • With 46,000 jobs added over the month, 9 out of 11 industries added jobs in January, with largest gains in educational and health services, up 17,300 jobs, followed by leisure and hospitality, up 12,100 jobs. Information and minting and logging posted monthly losses.
  • In annual comparison, 10 out of 11 industries added jobs with health services showing the largest gains, up 78,800 jobs, followed by professional and business services, up 66,900 jobs. Only financial activity posted an annual loss of 2,700.
  • Regionally, Los Angeles finally showed a rebound after a rocky start to 2019. Los Angeles County added 19,300 jobs over the month and 56,100 over the year. The region’s labor force, however, declined by 20,000 which is not encouraging for hiring trends going forward. Nevertheless, monthly gains were largely focused in leisure and hospitality, with a larger than usual seasonal addition. Construction also saw above-average April gains bringing the sector’s employment to the highest level in more than a decade. On the annual basis, the health and well being of an aging population continues to influence large gains. Job additions in healthcare and social assistance, up 18,800, accounted for ninety-two percent of the overall sector job growth to reach a new all-time high. On the other hand, losses were focused in financial
    services, particularly, finance and insurance, though apparel manufacturing was down as well.
  • In the Bay Area, gains were broad based across the regions and most regions saw unemployment rate decline again falling below the year-ago bottom. In San Francisco-San Mateo region, up 5,000 jobs, monthly gains were led by healthcare job additions, followed by leisure and hospitality, and solid gains in information.
  • In the Santa Clara-San Benito region, up 6,400 jobs, gains were also led by leisure and hospitality, but also specialty trade contractors, and information. Computer and electronic product manufacturing posted 1,100 losses.
  • In Alameda and Contra Costa, up 6,800 jobs, similar trends followed with healthcare and social assistance leading the gains followed by leisure and hospitality.


Compass NorCal April 2019 Real Estate Update

While pace of sales in
April still trends below last year’s levels in most Bay Area regions in which
Compass (reflecting the company formerly known as Pacific Union) operates, there
are signs that buyers are returning, and sales activity is picking up. Click on
each of our regions below for an expanded look at local real estate activity in
April.

CONTRA
COSTA COUNTY

April median sales price in Contra Costa County picked up from the previous three months and leveled out with last year at $1,325,000. After slower winter months and longer days on market, homes are selling relatively faster, though still slightly slower than last year. See Contra Costa County market statistics for April.

Defining Contra Costa County: Our
real estate markets in Contra Costa County include the cities of Alamo,
Blackhawk, Danville, Diablo, Lafayette, Moraga, Orinda, Pleasant Hill, San
Ramon, and Walnut Creek.


EAST BAY

Median home price in the East Bay in April picked up pace again reaching another peak at $1,246,500, up 10.8 percent above last year’s April price. Pace of sales activity also picked up with homes selling an average of 19 days, slightly above last year’s 17-day average. See East Bay market statistics for April.

Defining the East Bay: Our real estate markets in the East Bay region include
Oakland ZIP codes 94602, 94609, 94610, 94611, 94618, 94619, and 94705; Alameda;
Albany; Berkeley; El Cerrito; Kensington; and Piedmont.


MARIN
COUNTY

Marin County home prices remained relatively flat in April compared to last year, ending at $1,388,000. The pace of home sales accelerated again with homes generally selling in about 32 days, slightly faster than last year. See Marin County market statistics for April.

Defining Marin County: Our real estate markets in Marin County include the cities
of Belvedere, Corte Madera, Fairfax, Greenbrae, Kentfield, Larkspur, Mill
Valley, Novato, Ross, San Anselmo, San Rafael, Sausalito, and Tiburon.


NAPA
COUNTY

After a slow winter season, Napa County April median sales price picked up pace again and increased 6.1 percent above last year, to a median of $700,000. Also, homes continued to sell at a faster pace than in the previous year, with an average of 49 days on the market before entering into a contract. See Napa County market statistics for April.

Defining Napa County: Our real estate markets in Napa County include the cities of
American Canyon, Angwin, Calistoga, Napa, Oakville, Rutherford, St. Helena, and
Yountville.


SAN
FRANCISCO — SINGLE-FAMILY HOMES

Median home prices for single-family homes jumped in April  following a seasonal decline, bringing San Francisco April’s median prices to $1,632,000. The number of homes under contract, however, accelerated notably reflecting anticipations over IPO impacts. See San Francisco single-family-home market statistics for April.


SAN
FRANCISCO — CONDOMINIUMS

At $1,222,000 median sales price, San Francisco condominiums trended slightly below last year’s median price which is mostly a function of an increase in sales of smaller units. However, buyer activity is picking up notably with an 11 percent point increase in number of units under contract compared to last year. See San Francisco condominium market statistics for April.


SILICON
VALLEY

Silicon Valley median prices continued to show some weakness in April compared to last year, however the area saw a large jump in home prices last spring. Overall, buyers are continuing to see more homes to choose from and less buyer competition. See Silicon Valley market statistics for April.

Defining Silicon Valley: Our real estate markets in Silicon Valley include the cities
and towns of Atherton, Los Altos (excluding county area), Los Altos Hills,
Menlo Park (excluding east of U.S. 101), Palo Alto, Portola Valley, and Woodside.

MID-PENINSULA SUBREGION

The median sales price in the Mid-Peninsula continued to trend lower in April compared to last year, however year-over-year declines are diminishing following very slow winter months. Buyers are returning, however, causing a 4 percent point increase in homes under contract compared to last April. See Mid-Peninsula market statistics for April.

Defining the Mid-Peninsula: Our real estate markets in the Mid-Peninsula subregion
include the cities of Burlingame (excluding Ingold Millsdale Industrial
Center), Hillsborough, and San Mateo (excluding the North Shoreview/Dore
Cavanaugh area).


SONOMA
COUNTY

At $645,000, median home prices in Sonoma County remain below last year’s post-fire peaks but are still ahead of prices seen before the fires. Pace of sales has also picked up to an average of 42 days which is back to rates seen before the fires. See Sonoma County market statistics for April.

Defining Sonoma County: Sales data in the adjoining chart includes all single-family
homes and farms and ranches in Sonoma County.


SONOMA
VALLEY

Median home prices in Sonoma Valley stood at $718,000 in April, holding relatively steady over the last few months but down last year’s April peak led by post-fire activity. However, homes are selling faster than last year, averaging 35 days on the market, down 13 days from 48-day average last April. See Sonoma Valley market statistics for April.

Defining Sonoma Valley: Our real estate markets in Sonoma Valley include the cities
of Glen Ellen, Kenwood, and Sonoma.


LAKE
TAHOE/TRUCKEE — SINGLE-FAMILY HOMES

At $755,000, median prices of single-family homes in Lake Tahoe/Truckee maintained below last year’s peak which was driven by a number of luxury new construction sales. However, solid buyer demand is evident in shorter days on market which averaged 70 days in April, down from 86 days last year. See Lake Tahoe/Truckee single-family-home market statistics for April.

Defining Tahoe/Truckee: Our real estate markets in the Lake Tahoe/Truckee region
include the communities of Alpine Meadows, Donner Lake, Donner Summit,
Lahontan, Martis Valley, North Shore Lake Tahoe, Northstar, Squaw Valley, Tahoe
City, Tahoe Donner, Truckee, and the West Shore of Lake Tahoe.


LAKE
TAHOE/TRUCKEE — CONDOMINIUMS

At $450,100, condominium prices in the Lake Tahoe/Truckee region picked up from winter lows, but still trend 6.2 percent below last year. Pace of sales has also picked up in April following the winter lull to an average of 109 days on the market, which is still about 30 days below last year pace. See Lake Tahoe/Truckee condominium market statistics for April.

Defining Tahoe/Truckee: Our real estate markets in the Lake Tahoe/Truckee region
include the communities of Alpine Meadows, Donner Lake, Donner Summit,
Lahontan, Martis Valley, North Shore Lake Tahoe, Northstar, Squaw Valley, Tahoe
City, Tahoe Donner, Truckee, and the West Shore of Lake Tahoe.

 


Bay Area housing market shifting in anticipation of IPO demand

 

economic-straight-talk

Executive Summary:

  • IPO expectations are already showing up in home
    sales activity, particularly in San Francisco and San Mateo
  • Sales of homes in San Francisco, San Mateo and
    Alameda have solidly exceeded last year – up 7 percent, 4 percent and 2 percent
    respectively year-over-year in April
  • Santa Clara, Wine Country and Contra Costa remain
    slower compared to last year
  • Homes priced between $1 million and $2 million
    continue to struggle, except in San Francisco and San Mateo, likely a result of
    tax reform changes and reduced state and local tax (SALT) and mortgage interest
    deductions
  • Nevertheless, sales of homes priced above $3
    million have surged again, posting a 5 percent year-over-year increase, matching
    last year’s peaks
  • While growth in inventory of homes for sales is
    broad based, availability of homes priced above $3 million accelerated again to
    a 26 percent annual growth in April
  • While price growth remains flat in most regions,
    San Francisco median prices up 2 percent year-over-year in April
  • A 9 percent annual increase in homes under
    contract suggests buyers are back in droves, especially for homes priced over
    $3 million, up 44 percent year-over-year

While overall Bay Area housing market activity continued to
post a year-over-year decline in April, the 4 percent decline was the smallest
since July of last year. The decline was driven by fewer sales in Santa Clara
County and Contra Costa, with a smaller contribution from the wine country. San
Francisco, San Mateo and Alameda, in contrast, posted solid year-over-year
increases, putting their April sales at the highest levels in three years. Table
1 shows year-over-year April changes in the number of homes sold by price
range, further highlighting some interesting trends.

First, while sales of homes priced below $1 million trend
slightly below last year, most regions are seeing an increased activity
compared to last year, particularly South Bay, Marin and Alameda. Contra Costa
is actually the driver behind the decline of 1 percent, given the relative size
of the county and the number of homes sold compared to the entire Bay
Area.

Second, the segment of the market that continues to struggle
are homes priced between $1 million and $2 million, except in San Francisco and
San Mateo, which is not surprising in lieu of IPO expectations. Weakness in
this price segment is likely a result of tax reform changes and reduced SALT
and mortgage interest deductions, which are potentially a big concern for
would-be buyers in this price range.

Third, the higher priced market, above $3 million, bounced
back to a 5 percent annual increase after significant declines in the previous six
months. The jump is mostly due to the tri-region of San Francisco, San Mateo
and Marin, where sales accelerated compared to last year. As noted in previous
analyses, sales of homes priced above $2 million were growing at a rate of 50
percent in early 2018, thus April’s flat change for homes in the $2 to $3
million range, and a 5 percent increase for homes $3M+ put higher-end sales
back on track with 2018 highs.

Table 1

Source: Source: Terradatum, Inc. from data provided by local MLSes, May 7, 2019

For-sale inventory continues to offer more options for
potential buyers across the Bay Area and at different price ranges, except in
San Francisco where inventory continues to decline at double digit rates. Table
2 summarizes changes in inventory by price range and region. Overall, there are
about 2,500 more homes on the market compared to last April, an 18 percent
increase. While all price ranges are posting a relatively similar percent
increase, growth in inventory of homes priced above $3 million has accelerated
in recent months, from low single digits over the last year, to a 26 percent
annual growth in April. As Table 2 depicts, most of the increase comes from
Santa Clara and San Mateo, but is also impacted by Sonoma which continues to
see more inventory after the initial post-wildfire shortage. While recent
increases in Santa Clara seem large and draw attention, the area suffered the lowest
inventories in a decade in 2018, so recent jumps put inventories only slightly
above 2017 levels.

Table 2

Source: Source: Terradatum, Inc. from data provided by local MLSes, May 7, 2019

Furthermore, anticipation of the impact of recent and
upcoming IPOs is influencing Bay Area housing market, particularly in San
Francisco where absorption rates of available inventory jumped to 40 percent in
April, up 9 percentage points from 31 percent last April –  now at the highest rates since late 2016. The
other regions continued to see lessened absorption rates with inventory priced
between $1 million and $2 million generally seeing the largest declines in
absorptions, though this price range saw large increases in available inventory
in recent months. Again, the impact of tax reform is having an impact on demand
of homes priced between $1 and $2 million. In contrast, absorption of inventory
priced below $1 million has picked up in San Mateo as well as San Francisco,
and San Mateo saw a 10 percentage point jump in absorption to 44 percent — now the
highest absorption rate of the lower price ranges in the region. Note, though,
that absorption rates are relative to increased inventories across the region.

In addition, while overall median price growth continues to
trend sideways in the Bay Area, not showing any growth on a year-over-year
basis in 2019, San Francisco median prices were up 2 percent year-over-year in
April. Santa Clara and Sonoma, which led the region with relatively higher
annual declines in prices so far in 2019, showed some improvement in April with
slowing declines compared to previous months. However, as shown in Figure 1,
even without the price growth, Bay Area median prices are only slightly below
March 2018 when the run-up in prices accelerated, and well above median prices
prior to the run-up.

Figure 1
Median Home Prices in the Bay Area and San Francisco

Source: Source: Terradatum, Inc. from data provided by local MLSes, May 7, 2019

Lastly, while the Bay Area housing market has started picking up in bits and spurs, April’s look into the increase in number of homes under contract suggests strong home-buying months ahead. Table 3 summarizes April year-over-year changes by region and price range. Overall, number of homes under contract in April increased 9 percent compared to last April with most all regions seeing the annual jump. The increase is particularly notable among homes priced above $3 million, which are 44 percent ahead of last year. In other words, there were 239 homes in contract in April, up from 166 last April. Again, it is reassuring that the increase in buyer activity is spreading throughout the whole Bay Area and across price ranges. Not unexpectedly though, buyers have been encouraged by favorable mortgage interest rates, more choices, and an influx of IPO.

Table 3

 Source: Source: Terradatum, Inc. from data provided by local MLSes, May 7, 2019

 


San Francisco Real Estate High-Demand Spring Market Slightly Below Last Year’s Home Price Peaks

With April’s end, we now have 2 months of spring season data unaffected by the end of 2018, when financial markets plunged. As of early May 2019, stock markets have recovered to hit new highs, interest rates are far lower than last year’s peak, and our local, unicorn IPOs have begun to roll out after a media frenzy of speculation on their potential effects on the market.

The market has heated up considerably from the slowdown in the second half of 2018, with strong buyer demand for a very limited inventory of listings. Median home sales prices have returned to highs close to those in spring 2018, but, so far, last year’s peaks have not been exceeded. This is a big change from the year-over-year appreciation rates of the past 6-7 years.

However, there are still 2 months of spring sales data to come in (before the typical summer slowdown), and word on the street is that some new listings are again generating feverish bidding wars between buyers.

Monthly Median House Sales Prices

Monthly median sales prices are often affected by other factors besides changes in fair market value – for example, the extreme seasonality of luxury home sales – but the above chart helps illustrate trends over the past 2 years: Spring 2018 was one of the hottest markets in history, with dramatic year-over-year price appreciation. The market then cooled, stock markets turned scary, and interest rates climbed. 2019 has heated up again, but, so far, without any y-o-y median price gains.

The most expensive housing market in the country has, for the time being, stopped becoming more expensive.

Year-over-Year Comparisons

The table below compares the March-April market statistics of 2018 and 2019. Prices were stable, overbidding was down, and luxury home sales were up, but most statistics were remarkably similar to last year’s. The SF and Oakland-Berkeley markets are currently the strongest in the Bay Area.

Home Sales by Price Range & Bedroom Count

Below is an illustration of sales of houses, condos, co-ops and TICs over the past 12 months, by price segment and by number of bedrooms.

Condos now constitute the biggest share of sales in San Francisco, which mostly explains the high columns for 1- and 2-bedroom sales in the $500,000 to $1.5 million range.

District Sales & Median Home Prices

The next 2 charts break down the last 12 months of sales by Realtor District (delineated on the map above). Some districts were split into 2 for these analyses, but all these areas contain neighborhoods of differing characteristics and home values.

House Sales, Median Prices & Median Sizes

The two biggest districts by volume of house sales – Bayview/ Excelsior/ Crocker Amazon (D10) and Sunset/ Parkside/ GG Heights (D2) – are also 2 of the 3 most affordable districts for purchasing a house in the city. Many of the older districts with bigger, more expensive houses are relatively small markets.

Condo Sales & Median 2-BR/2-BA Condo Prices

Condo sales in SF run across a wide range of eras and styles, from Victorian and Edwardian units in small buildings, through brand new, ultra-luxury high-rise penthouses. The breakout of median sales prices pertain to 2-bedroom, 2 bath condos only.

San Francisco Luxury Homes Markets by District

We typically define the SF luxury house market as houses selling for $3 million+, and the luxury condo, co-op and TIC market as those selling for $2 million+.

SF Luxury House Sales by District

The central Noe, Eureka and Cole Valleys district (D5) dominates the market for houses selling from $3 to $4.99 million. The northern Pacific Heights-Cow Hollow district (D7) dominates the $5 million+ ultra-luxury segment. But high-end home sales are scattered across the city.

Luxury Condo, Co-op & TIC Sales by District

Luxury condo sales are concentrated in 3 districts: District 9, where most of the newer, high-rise, luxury projects are found in the South Beach/Yerba Buena area (which 30 years ago was filled with parking lots and auto-stereo shops), and in the old-prestige, northern neighborhoods of Districts 7 & 8, which include Pacific Heights and Russian Hill. (This is also where the city’s high-price co-op units are clustered).

Q1 2019 “Ultra-Luxury” Homes Markets

We start the “ultra-luxury” segments at $5 million for houses, and $3 million for condos and co-ops. There has been a large (and continuing) surge in the construction of very expensive condo projects over the last 15 years, which makes for a greatly increased inventory of high-price condos for sale – and softer market dynamics.

House Size & Era of Construction

Many factors influence home construction size during any particular period: Affluence, economic conditions, household size, buyer age, land costs, population growth, natural disasters, etc. Generally speaking, the median size of houses was larger during the Victorian-Edwardian era, and declined through the 1940’s – when enormous swathes of the city were built out in the south and southwest districts. Home sizes then began increasing again, and are now larger than ever – however, few new houses are currently built in the city.

The sizes of houses built in earlier periods have increased over the years due to renovations: Adding that 2nd bathroom, or a 3rd bedroom behind the garage.

Condos have become the major alternative for people purchasing homes of smaller size.

Selected Demographic & Economic Factors
Population Growth

SF has seen a dramatic population increase over the past 10 years, and by percentage growth, SF had the 2nd highest rate in the Bay Area after Alameda County. But new census data indicates the rate of growth is rapidly dropping.

Our latest burst of growth – an increase of about 78,000 or 10% – with all its social and economic effects, looks paltry compared to the 1940’s, when the city’s population soared by 140,000, a jump of 22% that began with WWII.

Commuting

Venture Capital Investment

In recent years, the Bay Area has been the biggest destination of venture capital investment dollars in the country – and probably the world. These tens of billions of dollars have constituted a massive factor in the local economy, supercharging the creation of new companies, hiring, and, eventually, IPOs. Venture capital is effectively seed money that has exploded into the creation of stupendous amounts of new wealth.


Neighborhood Spotlight: Jack London Square

It’s a historic neighborhood with a fascinating past and unparalleled waterfront access—so why isn’t it more in-demand? The truth is, Jack London Square had gotten little bit stale over the last few decades, but that’s changed in a big way. An influx of new restaurants, bars, and housing in recent years has helped reinvigorate the area into one of Oakland’s most lively destinations.

Combine that with two big
announcements—the Oakland A’s releasing a preliminary proposal to build a new
waterfront ballpark just north at Howard Terminal and the rekindling of plans
for a Ferry Building–style food hall to fill the long-vacant Water Street
Market—and this is a neighborhood that appears poised to take off.

“With its lovely waterfront stroll, incredible restaurants and concert venues, sweet Sunday farmers market, convenient ferry to SF, and fun festivals and events, living in Jack London Square is both convenient and fun,” said Compass agent Farrah Wilder. “Some of my favorite shopping, meeting and dining venues are in Jack London Square but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the legendary concert-venue, Yoshi’s, as one of this great neighborhood’s many attractions.”

But you don’t have to wait for the
new ballpark and marketplace to enjoy Jack London Square.

Eat

Photo Courtesy of Yoshi’s

Three new dining destinations
opened in the last years have rocketed Jack London up the list of culinary
hotspots in Oakland. Belcampo, which
sources über-sustainable meat from animals raised on its own ranches, serves up
melt-in-your-mouth burgers made from ground-daily chuck, duck fat–fried French
fries, and other hearty meat-centric eats in its gorgeous 7,000-square-foot
flagship restaurant with unparalleled waterfront patio. They have a butcher
counter, too. Next door, Farmhouse
Kitchen,
the latest addition to Kasem Saengsawang’s burgeoning restaurant
empire, offers dazzling and innovative Thai fare with a Tiki flair. And in the
ground floor of the Water Street Market building, Dyafa’s celebrated chef Reem Assil crafts elevated versions of the
kind of Palestinian street food she first introduced to Oaklanders at East Bay
farmers markets.

Belcampo: belcampo.com

Farmhouse Kitchen: farmhousethai.com/oakland/

Dyafa: dyafaoakland.com

Photo Courtesy of Belcampo

Drink

Sidle up to the tilted bar at Heinold’s First and Last Chance Saloon,
the 136-year-old ramshackle dive bar where author Jack London himself was said
to have jotted down book notes over a pint as a young aspiring author. Just
make sure to hold on to your beer—the bar has been angled on a downward slant
ever since the pilings were knocked out of alignment during the big 1906
earthquake. Come for the full Irish breakfast (served all day!), stay for the
extensive selection of Irish whiskey at two-year-old Irish pub Sláinte. Feel like something made
on-site? Jack London is home to one of the densest collections of urban wineries and breweries in the Bay Area, to go along with several tasting rooms
and beer-centric bars.

Heinhold’s: 48 Webster St #3721

Slainte: slainteoakland.com

Oakland Urban Wine Trail: visitoakland.com/restaurants/oakland-urban-wine-trail/

Oakland Ale Trail: visitoakland.com/restaurants/oakland-ale-trail/

Shop

Dynamo entrepreneur Ayesha Curry
(wife of Warriors’ star Steph) recently launched her first pop-up retail store,
Homemade, featuring home goods and
products that includes her own signature line of bedding, cookware, and
bakeware, as well as a new jewelry collection. Next door, Oakland Supply Co. specializes in unique, quality goods made in the
U.S. and often right in Oakland. In the shadow of Bed, Bath, & Beyond, Narrative provides a chic boutique
shopping experience for affordable vintage home décor.

Homemade: dyafaoakland.com

Oakland Supply Co:oaksupplyco.tumblr.com

Narrative: narrativeoak.com

Play

Don’t just admire the calm,
sun-dappled waters of the estuary snaking between Oakland and Alameda: Get out
there. California Canoe & Kayaks
rents out canoes and stand-up paddle boards, as well as offering classes, to
allow you to do just that. With a myriad of entertainment options—bowling,
bocce, skee-ball, arcade games—to go along with its hopping bar and food scene,
Plank is like an adult version of Chuck
E. Cheese. America’s one true original art form is alive and well at Yoshi’s, a combination sushi restaurant
and nightclub that hosts live music with an emphasis on world-class jazz nearly
every evening.

California Canoe & Kayaks: calkayak.com

Plank: plankoakland.com

Yoshi’s: yoshis.com

Reference Links:

A’s ballpark: https://www.sfchronicle.com/athletics/article/athletics-new-stadium-designs-proposals-13652521.php

Water Street Market:https://www.sfchronicle.com/food/article/Jack-London-Square-announces-new-market-hall-13714957.php

 



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