The autumn selling season started with a large surge of new listings right after Labor Day, but it will be another month or so before preliminary statistical data is available on home sales negotiated since then. However, it is clear that the recent volatility in national and international financial markets has not so far caused a severe adjustment to local home prices. While we wait for early autumn sales to close in quantity, we’ll review the market from a variety of angles.
Short-Term & Long-Term
San Francisco Home Price Appreciation
It’s not unusual for median prices to drop in the 3rd quarter, which happened this year as well. This has less to do with fair market value, than with the fact that the market for higher priced homes slows down much more than that of the general market in summer.
Return on Cash Investment
Comparing Buying a Home in San Francisco
to Inflation, Gold, the S&P 500 & Apple Stock
For the purposes of this analysis, we’ve broken home ownership into 2 aspects, the first being ongoing housingcosts – mortgage interest, home insurance, property taxes, maintenance – which after tax deductions could be compared to the cost of renting a similar home. The second aspect, illustrated in the chart above, is the cash investment side of buying a home and the compound annual return on that investment, after closing costs and loan principal repayment are deducted, if one had purchased a median SF house in 1994.
For the San Francisco Median House calculation, we used the 1994 median price ($265,000), with a 20% downpayment ($53,000) and paying 1.5% in buy-side closing costs ($3975) for a total cash investment of $56,975. Net proceeds were calculated using the 2015 YTD median sales price ($1,250,000), deducting 6% in sell-side closing costs ($75,000) and the original 80% mortgage balance ($212,000), which equals $963,000. This equals an annual compound return on investment of 14.4% over the 21-year period.
All of us should have put every penny we had into Apple stock in 1994, but barring that, purchasing a home in San Francisco would have been a decent alternative – particularly if you’d bought in Noe Valley or the Mission. Three factors not included in the above analysis further increase the financial benefits of home purchase over the other investments graphed: 1) the $250,000/$500,000 capital gains tax exclusion on the sale of a primary residence (potentially saving up to $75,000 in taxes), 2) the “forced savings” effect of gradually paying off one’s mortgage (if one resists refinancing out growing home equity), which has a substantial wealth-building effect, and 3) over time, the ongoing cost of housing with a fixed rate loan, strategically refinanced when rates go significantly lower, will usually fall well below rental costs that continue to rise with inflation.
With financial assets subject to market cycles, changing the buy or sell dates in this analysis can dramatically affect the return. We picked 1994, because of the availability of MLS median price data going back to then.
Median Sales Prices by Neighborhood
2-Bedroom Condos in San Francisco
3-Bedroom Houses in San Francisco
Sales Price to List Price Percentages
& Average Days on Market
These two charts above illustrate both how competitive the market has been – the average SF home selling without a price reduction sold very quickly for 13.5% over asking price in the 3rd quarter – and the significant difference between homes that get an immediate market response and thosethat have to go through one or more price reductions before selling.
Months Supply of Inventory
Seasonality, Luxury and Non-Luxury Homes
The lower the Months Supply of Inventory, the stronger the buyer demand as compared to the supply of homes available to purchase. This chart illustrates the seasonality of the real estate market – typically strongest in spring (especially) and autumn, and slowing down during the summer and especially the winter holidays. It also shows that the lower-priced home segment is generally hotter than the higher priced – as shown by the lower MSI readings – and finally, how much more the luxury home segment is affected by seasonality. The dramatic slowdown in the highest-priced segment during summer and winter is one of the big reasons why median home prices usually drop during those seasons.
Condo Average-Dollar-per-Square-Foot Values
by Era of Construction
This doesn’t include brand new luxury condo developments – some of which are selling at very high prices – nor many very expensive and very prestigious condo and co-op buildings which simply have too few sales for meaningful statistical analysis.
These analyses were made in good faith with data from sources deemed reliable, but they may contain errors and are subject to revision. Statistics are generalities and all numbers should be considered approximate. How any median or average statistic applies to a particular home is unknown without a specific comparative market analysis. We are not qualified to render legal or tax advice of any kind. Sales statistics of one month generally reflect offers negotiated 4 – 6 weeks earlier.
Real estate markets are essentially determined by the balance – or imbalance, as is often the case – between buyer demand and seller supply of homes to purchase. Underlying that dynamic are economic, political and demographic factors – some local, some not – such as population growth, employment, new home construction, high-tech booms, consumer confidence, interest rates, affordability, IPOs, stock market movements, shenanigans in Congress, and SF ballot proposals, to name a few. Even environmental factors, such as droughts and earthquakes, can jump in and affect the market. These factors are all jostling for effect, ebbing and flowing, sometimes appearing out of nowhere to shake things up, or suddenly shrinking and quickly forgotten.
We are neither blithe optimists, for whom boom times will never end, nor inveterate pessimists, who see bubbles and crashes behind every shrub. For what it’s worth, based on our survey of current economic fundamentals, we don’t expect an imminent crash in the U.S. stock market or in Bay Area real estate values. (This short New Yorker article is excellent on recent market volatility: Drop in the Bucket) However, economies and markets naturally experience fluctuations – short-term ups and downs, times of slowing and flattening – and it’s certainly possible that the balance between buyers and sellers might shift, that the frenzy in our market may subside, and that home prices may plateau or even tick down to some degree. On the other hand, due to the scale of our high-tech boom (another area of exuberantly conflicting predictions) and our deeply inadequate supply of housing, demand may continue to exceed supply, and the pressures of recent years may continue until new-home construction makes a more significant contribution to inventory.
New Listings Coming on Market
September is usually the single month with the greatest number of new listings, and those that hit the market in the 4 to 5 weeks after Labor Day feed the vast majority of autumn sales activity until the market goes into hibernation mode in mid-late November. Preliminary indications are that this may be a very big new-listing month, even for a September. If this is true, and especially if it marks the beginning of a trend of more listings coming on market, that could cool the ferociously competitive, low-inventory, “seller’s market” of recent years. If buyers are more hesitant due to recent financial-market volatility, that would also cool the market. But, in our opinion, neither factor is likely to flip us into a crashing or recessionary market.
Percentage of Listings Accepting Offers
This chart illustrates the surge in buyer demand from the end of the last recession through the 2012 – 2015 recovery. Having the percentage of listings accepting offers over 50% and sometimes well over 60% in a given quarter – extremely high percentages historically – has applied consistent upward pressure on home prices. Demand usually peaks during the spring and autumn selling seasons, i.e. in the 2nd and 4th quarters.
Additional market indicator analyses can be found here: SF Market Overview Analytics
S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index
An updated Case-Shiller Index chart for the 5-county San Francisco Metro Area, outlining the real estate market cycles going back to the 1980’s. (The June Index was released on August 25th.) It is noteworthy that over the past several decades, we’ve never seen a crash or significant “correction” in our real estate market that was not in conjunction with a major, sustained, national economic event. This chart also suggests that SF buyers who purchase homes 1) they can afford in the first place, 2) using fixed-rate mortgages, and 3) for longer-term ownership, usually come out all right, and often fabulously well, despite periodic market declines.
“Renting can make sense as a lifestyle choice or because of income constraints. As a means to building wealth, however, there is no practical substitute for homeownership.”
Homeownership & Wealth Creation, 11/30/14, NYT op-ed article
The Case-Shiller chart above reflects sales in the upper third of Bay Area home sales (i.e. “high-price-tier”) – which applies best to SF homes. Even in the high tier, the city has generally outperformed the Bay Area in home price appreciation. The numbers on the graph refer to a January 2000 price of 100; thus, the number 217 signifies a price 117% above then. It is interesting to note, that as of the June Index report, all three Bay Area home-price tiers – low, mid and high – have readings of 117% appreciation since 2000, which may be a sign of an equilibrium being reached in the market. Our full report: Case-Shiller for SF Bay Area
Bay Area Housing Affordability
The California Association of Realtors recently released its Housing Affordability Index (HAI) for the 2nd quarter of 2015. All Bay Area counties saw declines in their affordability index reading – which measures the percentage of households that can afford to buy the median priced single family dwelling (house) – and San Francisco is now only 2 percentage points above its all-time low of 8%, last reached in Q3 2007.
Very low affordability at a time of very low interest rates is certainly a concern, but housing affordability is a complex subject and there are other factors at play in San Francisco. Our full report, which also charts median home prices, rents, interest rates, inflation-adjusted housing costs and household income by county is here: Bay Area Housing Affordability
Where to Buy at What Price Point
We’ve recently updated our report on where one is most likely to find a house or condo in one’s price range. The chart above is 1 of 7 delineating San Francisco neighborhoods with homes from under $1 million to over $5 million: San Francisco Neighborhood Affordability
Median Home Prices and Economic Indicators
A glance at recent movements in San Francisco’s median home sales price, as well as at a few longer-term local and national economic indicators.
Monthly fluctuations – often seasonally related – have been common since
2012, but home prices have consistently climbed higher over the longer term.
National and San Francisco unemployment trends: Very positive.
Over 100,000 new SF jobs – many of them very well paid – have been created since 2009. (The housing supply has increased by less than 15,000 units.)
Household debt to GDP and mortgage debt service ratios – huge issues
in the 2007-2008 crash – have significantly declined since then.
Sustained movements in the S&P 500 Index largely correlate to SF home-
price trends. Short-term financial-market fluctuations typically have no effect.
Price to Earnings (PE) Ratios of the S&P 500 Index climbed a bit high
in mid-2015, but not egregiously so compared to historical averages.
Our goal is not to convince you of a certain position, but to provide you with what we believe to be reliable data, so that you can make your own informed decisions.
These analyses were made in good faith with data from sources deemed reliable, but they may contain errors and are subject to revision. Statistics are generalities and all numbers should be considered approximate. Sales statistics of one month generally reflect offers negotiated 4 – 6 weeks earlier.
Combined House & Condo Median Sales Prices
Besides the general economic recovery, there are other factors in different counties affecting home price increases over the past 4 years: 1) the huge decline in distressed property sales in those counties severely affected during the downturn (such as Solano, Contra Costa & Alameda), 2) the dramatic surge in luxury home sales (such as in SF, San Mateo & Marin), 3) increasing luxury condo construction (SF), and 4) the effect of the high-tech boom in employment and wealth, which radiates out from San Francisco and Silicon Valley.
The higher priced counties, led by San Francisco and San Mateo, saw the largest dollar increases in median prices since 2011 – $400,000 to $500,000 – but counties rebounding from the distressed property crisis often experienced the biggest percentage jumps. The city of Oakland, benefiting from both the decline in distressed sales and being the closest, most affordable option to high San Francisco housing prices saw by far the largest percentage increase: 133%.
Note that median prices within the city are also affected by a variety of factors beyond simple increases in fair market value.
We’re almost positive that we recommended that everyone buy at least one median-priced Pacific Heights mansion in 2011 at the bargain-basement price of $3,225,000. If you had followed this (imaginary) advice, your home would have appreciated by $2.77 million. However, on a pure return on investment basis, you would have done better to snap up a few median-priced houses in the Mission, which appreciated by an incredible 143%. It should be noted that both of these neighborhoods have comparatively few house sales as compared to, say, the Sunset or Bernal Heights. Low supply is often one factor in high appreciation rates.
For condos, Russian Hill led the way in dollar median price appreciation and Yerba Buena was tops in percentage price increase since the bottom of the market in 2011.
Over the past 4 years, houses have appreciated a bit more than condos in the city, 81% to 73%, and that is probably due to the fact that houses are becoming the scarcer commodity: While thousands of new condos are now being built each year, new house construction can usually be counted on 2 or 3 hands.
For prevailing SF median house and condo prices, our interactive map of neighborhood values can be found here:SF Neighborhood Home-Price Map
Increasing average dollar per square foot values have been breaking records in neighborhoods throughout San Francisco for the last 2 years. Some of the surge in condo values is explained by the many recently built luxury condo projects – which have been selling at premium dollar per square foot prices – that have been sprouting up around the city.
Sales of higher-end houses and condos have been soaring in the city and hit by far their highest number ever in the second quarter. Big jumps in expensive home sales are an important factor behind increases in the overall median sales price.
Short-Term Median Price Appreciation (since 2012)
The short-term and long-term appreciation charts above are self-explanatory. The Home Cost Trends chart reflects a very approximate calculation of monthly home payment costs (principal, interest, property tax and insurance) adjusted for inflation – i.e. in 1993 dollars – using annual median house sales prices, average annual 30-year interest rates, and assuming a 20% downpayment. The average annual compounding CPI inflation rate fluctuated, but averaged approximately 2.4% over the period, and average annual mortgage rates fluctuated from 8.4% to 3.7% (see chart further below), which had a huge impact on financing costs.
Adjusting for inflation and interest rate changes means that though the median sales price is now far above that of 2007, the monthly housing cost is still a little bit below then. This isn’t a perfect apples-to-apples comparison because it doesn’t take into account that the amount of the 20% downpayment increased significantly over the time period. Still, since ongoing cost is typically an important factor for homebuyers (at least those getting financing), this affords another angle on our market.
Over the last 4 years, the big decline in interest rates has largely subsidized the increase in home prices.
In the 2nd quarter, the vast majority of SF home sales sold without prior price reductions; these sold very quickly, at an astounding average of 14.5% over the original list price – clear indications of a white-hot market. For the past 4 years, spring has been by far the most frenzied selling season of the year, and the market usually cools in summer.
Median sales prices are often affected by other factors besides changes in fair market value. Seasonality; big changes in the distressed, luxury and new-construction market segments or simply the inventory available to purchase;interest rate fluctuations; changes in buyer profile; and other economic variables can all impact median prices. Short term fluctuations are less meaningful than longer term trends.
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. All numbers should be considered approximate.
Escalating Home Prices; Fierce Overbidding; Luxury Home Sales;
Interest Rates; Employment Trends; Biggest Home Sales of 2015 YTD
June 2015 San Francisco Real Estate Report
by Paragon Real Estate Group
4 Angles on San Francisco Home Price Appreciation
Short-Term Trend Line: Since the Recovery Began in 2012
Longer-Term Trends: 1993 – 2015
Neighborhood Appreciation Snapshots
May 2011 – May 2015
Central Sunset, Central Richmond & Noe Valley:
Median House Sales Prices
SoMa, Eureka Valley & Marina:
2-Bedroom Condo Median Sales Prices
Luxury Home Sales by District
High-end home sales and prices in the city have been increasing rapidly, with interesting shifts occurring between older high-prestige neighborhoods like Pacific Heights and Russian Hill, and areas such as Noe Valley and South Beach, where surging sales of very expensive homes are a more recent phenomenon.Part of this shift is being fueled by the explosion of younger, high-tech wealth; another part is the recent construction boom of high-rise, ultra-luxury condo buildings south of Market Street.
There is an enormous variety in high-end real estate in San Francisco, from mansions to penthouses, Victorians to new, ultra-high-tech construction, as can be glimpsed in the list of sales at the end of this report. One of the more common amenities is spectacular views.
Home Sales by Price Segment, 2015 YTD
Four years ago, one found the most homes for sale in the $600,000 to $750,000 price segment. Now $1 million to $1.5 million is the “sweet spot” for San Francisco home prices.
Overbidding List Prices
When the average SF home sale is selling for 10% over the original asking price, the market is characterized by fiercely competitive buyer bidding wars. Another indicator: Almost 93% of home sales in May sold without going through any price reductions, an astonishingly high percentage.
These charts above and below, along with the one at the top of this newsletter delineating quarterly median price movements, also illustrate the seasonal nature of real estate sales. For 4 years running, the hottest, most competitive markets have been during the spring selling season. The market often cools down during the summer.
Two of the biggest factors affecting the San Francisco real estate market are extremely low interest rates, which have a large impact on the ongoing cost of homeownership, and surging, well-paid employment. According to Ted Egan, San Francisco’s Chief Economist, high-tech jobs alone jumped by 18% in the 12 months through March 2015, and as of April, the city’s unemployment rate, at 3.4%, was the lowest since the height of the dotcom boom.
Interest rates are almost 40% below those in 2006 – 2007. With home prices having increased so much recently, future interest rate changes will be something to watch carefully for their impact on affordability. Rates have been inching up recently and just hit 4% for the first time in 2015, but they are still very low by any historical measure.
Highest Home Sales by Neighborhood, 2015 YTD
This is a sampling of highest sales prices achieved in selected San Francisco neighborhoods in 2015 YTD, as reported to MLS. Note that this is not a comprehensive list of the city’s highest priced home sales.
$31,000,000. Pacific Heights: 7-bedroom, 16,400 sq.ft. mansion on Broadway, $1890/sq.ft.
$11,000,000. Sea Cliff: 5-bedroom, 3600 sq.ft., ocean-front house on Sea Cliff Ave., $3068/sq.ft.
$9,250,000. Pacific Heights: 2-bedroom, 3500 sq.ft., 1927 co-op on Alta Plaza Park, $2643/sq.ft.
$9,100,000. Russian Hill: 2-bedroom, 3300 sq.ft. co-op at Royal Towers, $2742/sq.ft.
$7,000,000. Noe Valley: 5-bedroom, 1907, 4450 sq.ft. house on Elizabeth Street, $1571/sq.ft.
$6,500,000. Alamo Square: 6-bedroom, 1902, 7800 sq.ft. mansion on Fulton, $833/sq.ft.
$6,285,000. St. Francis Wood: 5-bedroom, 6700 sq.ft. mansion on half-acre lot on San Anselmo Ave., $938/sq.ft.
$5,600,000. Dolores Heights: 4-bedroom, new construction house on Noe Street
$5,500,000. Nob Hill: 3-bedroom, 2721 sq.ft. TIC at Park Lane, $2021/sq.ft.
$5,475,000. SoMa: 3-bedroom condo at Four Seasons
$4,995,000. South Beach: 3-bedroom penthouse condo on South Park
$4,200,000. Glen Park: 4-bedroom, new construction, 3400 sq.ft. house on Laidley, $1235/sq.ft.
$4,000,000. Yerba Buena: 2-bedroom, 1952 sq.ft. condo at Millennium, $2049/sq.ft.
$3,900,000. Lake Street: 3-bedroom, 2952 sq.ft., 1914 Edwardian, $1321/sq.ft.
$3,850,000. Golden Gate Heights: 5-bedroom, 4062 sq.ft. 1974 house on Pacheco, $948/sq.ft.
$3,150,000. Bernal Heights: 4-bedroom, 2293 sq.ft., 2011 house on Folsom, $1374/sq.ft.
$3,100,000. Inner Mission: 3-bedroom, 2800 sq.ft. house on Shotwell, $1107/sq.ft.
$3,000,000. Inner Richmond: 3-bedroom, 4225 sq.ft. 1912 Edwardian on 10th Ave., $710/sq.ft.
$2,885,000. Inner Sunset: 3-bedrrom, 2640 sq.ft. 1904 Edwardian on 6th Ave., $1081/sq.ft.
$2,715,000. Hayes Valley: 4-bedroom, 3808 sq.ft. TIC on Waller, $713/sq.ft.
$2,510,000. Forest Hill: 5-bedroom, 3300 sq.ft., 1926 house on Taraval, $761/sq.ft.
$2,400,000. Potrero Hill: 3-bedroom, 2434 sq.ft., 1908 Edwardian on Kansas, $986/sq.ft.
$1,900,000. Sunnyside: 4-bedroom, 2715 sq.ft., 2003 house on Mangels, $700/sq.ft.
$1,280,000. Portola: 5-bedroom, 3128 sq.ft. new construction house on Madison, $409/sq.ft.
$900,500. Bayview: 4-bedroom, 1626 sq.ft., 1996 house on Armstrong, $554/sq.ft.
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
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.
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
Overbidding & Inventory; Bay Area Home Price Map; Renting vs. Buying;
Different Markets = Different Bubbles, Crashes & Recoveries
Preliminary statistics and, even more so, indications on the ground in the current hurly burly of deal-making are sending strong signals of another very competitive real estate market in San Francisco as we approach spring. If it continues to develop as it’s looking right now, this would make the 4th intense spring season since the market recovery began in early 2012.
Once again, buyer demand has surged early in the new year without a corresponding increase in listing inventory: High demand meets low supply generates competitive bidding – sometimes fiercely so – and upward pressure on home prices. This doesn’t mean every listing is selling over asking price or even selling at all – even in a red hot market, 20% – 30% of homes are price reduced before selling or withdrawn from the market without a sale taking place (usually due to overpricing). There are also hotter and cooler pockets within the market: Right now, more affordable homes – for example, condos under $1 million – appear to be in particularly high demand.
Sales statistics of one month generally reflect offers negotiated 4 – 6 weeks earlier, i.e. they are a month or so behind what’s actually occurring in the market as buyers and sellers make deals. Sales volume in January and February was down 20% year over year, reflecting a market that pretty much shut down in the last two weeks in December, and then started the year with extremely low inventory.
Overbidding List Prices
This chart above illustrates seasonal trends in competitive bidding, which underlies the phenomenon of homes selling for over asking price. For the last few years, the average percentage of sales price to list price has been peaking in spring. But already in February, prices averaged a whopping 8% above asking – very few other markets in the country are seeing anything similar. Drilling down by property type, SF house sales in February averaged 12% over asking, condos averaged 7% over, and 2-4 unit buildings 2%. Houses are becoming a smaller and smaller percentage of city home sales (since virtually no new ones are being built), which has generally made them the most competitive market segment.
In previous years, the percentage over asking has peaked in May, reflecting offers negotiated in late March, April and early May.
Seasonality in the Bay Area often has more to do with summer and winter holidays than the actual weather since, unlike back east, January and February often look more like spring here. New listings and overall inventory bottom out in December, and then slowly rise in the new year. What is super-charging the market is that buyers woke up after the holidays and jumped back in the market much earlier than sellers have put homes up for sale in quantity. For the past 3 years, this unbalanced dynamic between the high pressure of buyer demand pushing against an insufficient supply of listings continued through spring, causing dramatic home-price increases, until the market slowed during the summer. We shall soon see if prices can jump higher once again in coming months.
Days on Market before Acceptance of Offer
Months Supply of Inventory
The greater the demand, the faster listings go into contract (i.e. accept offers), and the lower the average days on market (DOM) and months supply of inventory (MSI).Both these statistics are currently in deep “seller’s market” territory. Of course, this could change dramatically if we get a sudden tsunami of new listings or if a large, negative economic event happens, but right now, we don’t have any reason to expect either to occur in the next few months.
As points of comparison, the national average days-on-market is more than twice that of San Francisco’s (approximately 69 days vs. 30), and the national MSI figure is almost 3 times higher than the city’s (approximately 4.7 months of inventory vs. 1.6). Many new listings in San Francisco are going into contract within 7 to 14 days of coming on market, as eager buyers swarm over them.
Bay Area Median House Prices
This map gives a very general idea of comparative home values around the Bay Area. Remember that median prices will often disguise enormous variety in the underlying individual home sales.
We’ve also updated our SF neighborhood map for house and condo prices, which can be found online here: San Francisco Median Home Price Map
Renting vs. Buying in San Francisco
Someone moving to or within San Francisco basically has 2 choices: Renting at market rate or buying at market rate. And rents have gone up so much locally that after accounting for multiple tax benefits, low interest rates, principal loan-balance pay-down (which adds to home equity) and estimated long-term appreciation, buying often looks like the financially attractive course. Above is one chart of a much more detailed analysis comparing the cost of renting a 2-bedroom San Francisco apartment at the current median asking rent, with the monthly cost of buying an SF home at the current median sales price after adjusting for tax deductions and principal pay-down.As seen above, the net monthly cost of buying can be less renting.
There are many personal and monetary issues that pertain to this decision and our analysis is based on a number of financial assumptions – interest, inflation, appreciation and tax rates; downpayment amount; maintenance and insurance costs – that you may not agree with or might not apply to you. You can review our full analysis and also perform your own calculations here: Renting vs. Buying in San Francisco
Different Markets, Bubbles, Crashes & Recoveries*
The real estate market is often spoken about as if it was a single monolithic entity performing in a consistent way – but nothing could be further from the truth. Markets vary enormously between states, cities, neighborhoods, property types and price segments. The S&P Case-Shiller Index looks at the Bay Area market* by breaking all house sales into 3 price segments – low, mid and high price tiers – each containing one third of the total number of sales.The exact price range of each tier changes as the market appreciates or depreciates, or more sales occur in one price range than another: Right now, the “high-price tier” starts at $872,000. In February of 2012, the high tier started at a threshold of $537,000.
Breaking down the market by price segment is a vast over-simplification – there are many other factors at play – but generally speaking, the lower the price range, the more the housing segment was impacted by subprime/ predatory lending in 2003 – 2006. In turn, that caused the larger price bubble, and then the bigger crash as the foreclosure/ distressed-property crisis took hold.
Most Bay Area counties are dominated by homes in 2 price tiers, low and mid, or mid and high, but there are pockets of homes in all tiers within most counties. The numbers in the 3 charts below all relate to a January 2000 value designated as 100. Thus a reading of 199 indicates a home price 99% above that of January 2000.
Bay Area Low-Price-Tier Houses – Currently under $542,000
The low-price third of sales was massively impacted by subprime lending – people buying homes they couldn’t actually afford. It experienced an insane appreciation rate of 170% from 2000 to 2006, creating an enormous bubble. It then crashed by a catastrophic 60% due to the distressed-home phenomenon. As distressed sales dwindled, the recovery since 2012 has been spectacular, up 81%, but prices are still well below peak values and may not re-attain them for years. (If prices go down 60%, they must go back up 148% to get back to where they started.) Many homes in Alameda, Contra Costa, Napa, Sonoma and Solano* counties fall into this market segment.
Interestingly, this price segment was not impacted by the popping of the dot-com bubble, perhaps because these homeowners were less likely to be speculating in the technology stock market.
Bay Area Mid-Price Tier Houses – Currently $542,000 to $872,000
The mid-price segment was less hammered by subprime, but still significantly impacted. Its appreciation rate was 119% from 2000 to 2006 and its market then crashed about 42% before starting its recovery in 2012. This segment is now up 55% from the bottom and close to its 2006 peak value. Many homes in northern Marin, the southern border neighborhoods of San Francisco, northern San Mateo and various areas of the other counties fall into this price segment.
Bay Area High-Price Tier Houses – Currently over $872,000
Most of the houses in San Francisco, San Mateo and southern Marin, as well as affluent areas in other counties, fall into the high-price third of Bay Area sales, which was not deeply affected by subprime lending and foreclosure sales. Though its bubble and crash seemed dramatic enough to those experiencing them, they were much smaller: It appreciated 84% from 2000 to 2006, including a hiccup drop in 2001 after the popping of the dot-com bubble, and then fell about 25% (compared to 60% for the low-price tier). Its strong recovery since 2012, up about 44%, has now put this segment approximately 8% above its previous peak value in 2006.
Many neighborhoods in San Francisco, Marin and San Mateo would easily qualify for an “ultra-high” price segment, and it remains generally true that the higher the price, the smaller the crash. For example, most of the more affluent neighborhoods in the city peaked in value in 2007 or early 2008, then dropped 15% to 20% after the 2008 financial-markets crash.Due to the high-tech boom, many areas of San Francisco and San Mateo have significantly outperformed their price-tier in recent years.
Though the price tiers had radically different bubbles, crashes and recoveries, all 3 are now almost exactly the same in relation to the year 2000, showing appreciation of 97% to 99% over the past 15 years. This suggests equilibrium is once again being achieved between them.
* Technically the Case-Shiller San Francisco Metropolitan Statistical Area is comprised of San Francisco, Marin, San Mateo, Alameda and Contra Costa counties, but we believe its general trends apply to other Bay Area counties as well.
San Francisco Combined House & Condo Median Sales Price
Selected U.S. City Median Rents
Chart courtesy of California Association of Realtors
Median Sales Prices, Neighborhood Values, Seasonality & Demand,
Condo Construction, New SF “Airbnb” Law, Appreciation vs. Inflation
February 2015, Paragon Real Estate Group
The market just begins to wake up in January, so its statistics are not particularly illuminating. The last 3 springs in San Francisco saw frenzied markets, which took its home values to new heights. While waiting to see what develops in 2015, this report will drill down on other angles of our distinctive real estate market.
Note: On February 1st, San Francisco’s new short-term residential rental ordinance, the so-called “Airbnb law,” went into effect. In order to legally rent out your home for less than 30 days, there are a number of requirements pertaining to registration, insurance, advertising and taxes, as well as limitations on such rentals. Information and forms can be found here: SF Planning Department.
San Francisco Median Sales Prices, 1993 – 2014
Unit Sales Trends by Property Type
The first chart above graphs median sales prices by year. Looking only at the 4th quarter of 2014, house and condo median prices climbed to all-time highs of $1,125,000 and $999,250 respectively, and the TIC median price increased to $829,500.
The second chart above illustrates sales volume by property type. Houses turn over much less often than condos or TICs – i.e. house owners generally live in their homes longer before selling – and with virtually no new houses being built in the city, house sales as a percentage of total sales are declining, but this has also made them the market’s highest-demand, most competitive segment. Condos now dominate SF home sales and will continue to do so with the many new-condo projects being built. TIC sales are down almost 60% from 2007, probably due to financing conditions and changes in condo conversion and tenant eviction laws. The number of listings fell last year putting additional pressure on the market.
San Francisco New Construction & Population Trends since 1940
After reading our recent reports on new development and factors behind the market, one of our clients suggested graphing out the quantity of new housing built in the city over time. Based on census figures, the resulting (very approximate) chart illustrates the decline in new-home construction in the 1980’s and 1990’s, which helped exacerbate our current housing crunch.
Another note: the housing “units” built in 1940-1950 were not only much more numerous, but were typically 2-3 bedroom houses, while since 1980, the units built have generally been 1-2 bedroom condos and apartments (which makes sense with our changing demographics – more singles and couples, fewer families – but obviously hold fewer people per unit). And now a big topic in development is building urban “micro-units” of 250 to 350 square feet.
Our chart on SF population growth follows as a counterpoint.
Condo Values & Sizes by Era of Construction
A previous condo construction boom ran from the end of the 1990’s until 2008, when it crashed for 4 years – and now we’re in the midst of a new boom.Condos built in the last 15 years are selling at higher dollar per square foot values, but average unit sizes have also been getting smaller – and all things being equal (they rarely are), the smaller the unit the higher the per square foot value. Of course, there are other considerations besides size that affect value: quality and graciousness of construction (i.e. Marina-style and Edwardian flats), views (most likely in high-rises), amenities (security, gyms, outdoor space, etc.) and neighborhood ambiance (Russian Hill vs. Noe Valley vs. SoMa). The average $/sq.ft. for new condos now exceeds $1000 in the city, and, according to estimates, at the new, luxury, South Beach development, Lumina, it is now running $1400 to $1500/sq.ft. on units going into contract.
As increasing quantities of “luxury” condos come on market in coming years, it will be interesting to see how the market reacts and absorbs the new inventory.
Home Appreciation vs. Inflation
Since 1988, home price appreciation has hugely outpaced CPI inflation, though as seen below, the difference can swing dramatically depending on the exact point within a financial cycle.On a cash investment basis, if you had put $100,000 down on a $500,000 home purchase with a 30-year loan in 1988, by the end of 2014, per the Case-Shiller Index, your home would be worth approximately $1,900,000. After deducting 7% closing costs and paying off the remaining loan balance, your $100,000 down-payment turned into approximately $1.65 million in proceeds (if you didn’t continually refinance out your growing equity to buy new toys).
This is a very simplified calculation of a complex financial scenario that includes leverage, financing terms and interest rates, inflation, appreciation, multiple tax benefits and housing costs – you should talk to your accountant – but it still illustrates why a recent New York Times op-ed piece (11/30/14, “Homeownership & Wealth Creation”) said, “Renting can make sense as a lifestyle choice or because of income constraints. As a means to building wealth, however, there is no practical substitute for homeownership.”
San Francisco Neighborhood Values
We just updated our semi-annual breakdown of SF home values by property type, bedroom count and neighborhood. Below are the tables for 3-bedroom houses and 2-bedroom condos while the full report can be found here. If you want data on a neighborhood not included, please call or email.
Seasonality & Demand
This graph from our updated report on market seasonality measures the ebb and flow of buyer demand as compared to the supply of homes available to purchase. For the last 3 years, spring has been the highest demand season of the market, leading to significant home price appreciation.
Bay Area Rent Appreciation
This chart is from our January Commercial Brokerage report on Bay Area investment real estate. The full report has further detail on average rent rates and trends, and other apartment building financials.
These analyses were made in good faith with data from sources deemed reliable, but they may contain errors and are subject to revision. Statistics are generalities and how they apply to any specific property is unknown without a tailored comparative market analysis. All numbers should be considered approximate. Please contact us with any questions or concerns.