Architecture, views, probates, penthouses, lofts, TICs, luxury homes, mortgage rates, sales prices, market cycles, and everything else we could think of in a look back on 2015.
Despite anxiety about interest rates, financial markets, housing affordability, unending international crises, and possibly over-valued, high-tech unicorns, the Q4 2015 San Francisco median house sales price, at $1,250,000, is up about 11% from Q4 2014. That dovetails nicely with the S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index for the Bay Area, which measures appreciation in a different way, but also calculated 11% annual appreciation (through October, its last report). The Q4 condo median sales price, at $1,125,000, is up 13% year over year, but that is influenced by the greater percentage of more recently built, and more expensive, units in the sales mix.
We’ve also updated our popular price maps of San Francisco neighborhoods and the greater Bay Area: Home Price Maps
San Francisco has seen 3 extended periods of home construction: The first ran from the Gold Rush to the 1906 earthquake, when 28,000 buildings were destroyed. The second went from the post-quake rebuilding, with the construction of thousands of Edwardian houses and multi-unit buildings, through the big WWII population surge. Many districts such as the Marina and Sunset/Parkside were built out in the period from 1920 to 1950, with Spanish Mediterranean (in many variations), Marina-style and Art Deco being common architectural styles.
The city’s population then went into major decline during the subsequent 3 decades and construction plunged. The third era of homebuilding is all about new condo construction, which began around 1980, ebbed and flowed dramatically with the economy, and is currently booming once again.
A look at a few of the distinctive niches of the market.
San Francisco is famously a city of gorgeous views. For the simple reason of verticality, more condos have views and, generally speaking, more panoramic and spectacular views, than houses. Many other lovely views add to SF home value as well: sweeping city views; park views; marina views; views of Alcatraz, Marin and Mt. Tamalpais; and of the East Bay and Mt. Diablo. A few lucky (typically, very affluent) condo owners have staggering vistas from the windows on all 4 sides of their high altitude units.
After being bludgeoned in 2015 by thousands of articles, predictions and warnings regarding interest rates, here is a look at how much they actually changed over the course of the year: approximately one seventh of one percent. Per recent signals from the Fed, presumably mortgage rates will rise in 2016, but expectations over the last 6 years have been confounded far too often to be sure. Significant increases would certainly worsen the affordability equation for homebuyers financing their purchases.
Seasonality: Waiting for Spring
The 2 charts above illustrate the extreme seasonality of the market, both in the numbers of new listings coming on market, and the percentage of listings that accept offers (a measurement of supply vs. demand). The second chart also shows that the market for homes under $2 million has been hotter than the luxury home market: There are fewer buyers at the ultra-high end, and luxury homes are also most prone to significant overpricing.
The spring selling season – which actually started in February last year – is typically the most feverish, and this is especially true for luxury homes: Notice, in the 2nd chart, the huge spike in demand for luxury homes last spring.
More statistical, supply and demand graphs: San Francisco Market Overview Analytics
Average Dollar per Square Foot Values
High-end home sales hit new peaks in spring 2015, but with the stock market volatility in late August and September, the market softened, inventory increased (to its highest level ever) and sales dropped about 17% in October on a year-over-year basis. (Affluent buyers and sellers are most influenced by financial market volatility.) However, the stock market then recovered and stabilized in October and buyer confidence improved, which is reflected in the year over year increase in sales that occurred in November and December. Remember that closed sales in one month generally reflect the heat of the market in the previous month, when the transaction was actually negotiated. Q4 2015 sales ultimately ended slightly up from Q4 2014.
Details, Amenities & Size
The above details are as described in MLS by listing agents, so the numbers are very approximate. Also note that what most people might see as a unit above a laundromat, an enthusiastic listing agent might see as a “rarely available luxury penthouse.”
One of the reasons the Pacific Heights district has by far the highest house prices in the city is that its average house size is so much larger. However, its mansions also command a very high dollar per square foot value, as seen in one of the earlier charts.
The sales of condo shall continue to make up a larger and larger share of overall home sales in San Francisco, as new condo construction continues apace.(Condos also turn over more often than houses.) Very few new houses are built in the city – they are usually big, high-tech, beautiful and costly.
Where the Most Home Sales Occur
San Francisco is very much a boutique market for multi-unit buildings: Our apartment buildings are generally much smaller, older and, for that matter, more gracious than those found in the suburbs. These properties are often at the heart of fierce controversies pertaining to rent control, tenants’ rights, tenant evictions, and condo conversion rules. There has been an immense increase in market-rate rents over recent years – SF is the most expensive rental market in the country– though rules restrict increases for existing tenants of buildings built before 1979 (i.e. almost all of our multi-unit properties).
The tenancy-in-common unit with an exclusive right to occupy, aka the TIC, is a property type rarely found outside of San Francisco. It was originally created as both a way to get sellers of multi-unit properties significantly more money – the individual unit sales adding up to more than the purchase of the entire building by one buyer – as well as providing a lower-cost alternative for homebuyers, since TICs typically cost 10% to 15% less than comparable condos. (The TIC phenomenon also generated significant legal fees for the lawyers who came up with the idea.) Because of changes in tenant-eviction law and condo-conversion rules, financing and other issues, the number of TIC sales has plunged since its peak in 2007. On the other hand, some TIC units are now selling for jaw-dropping prices: In 2015, 4 sold for over $5 million. The median TIC sales price last year was $947,000.
Map of San Francisco Neighborhoods
Median sales prices in October and November jumped back up to levels similar to the spring peak selling season. It’s important to remember that median prices are not a perfect reflection of changes in fair market value: They often fluctuate due to seasonal inventory and buyer-profile trends, as well as issues such as an influx of new-construction listings. It is the longer-term trend that is most meaningful – however we can say with confidence that there was clearly no significant “crash” in prices this past autumn.
One indication of the heat of the market is the extent to which sales prices are bid up over asking prices.As is not untypical, the market becomes less competitive in November as it heads into the winter holidays. Still, an average sales price 6% over asking price would be considered crazy-hot in any other market in the country (though one also has to adjust for the fact that serious underpricing has become a not uncommon listing strategy in the SF market).
This chart based on S&P Case Shiller Home Price Index data illustrates the seasonality of home price appreciation in the past 4 years: surging in our feverish spring selling seasons, and then generally plateauing through the rest of the year. Note that Case-Shiller looks at home prices in a totally different way than median sales price trends, and probably reflects changes in fair market value more accurately. Case-Shiller Index numbers refer back to a January 2000 value of 100, thus the current Index reading for higher-priced Bay Area homes of 217 signifies home prices 117% above January 2000.
As we enter the winter holiday market slowdown, the next real indication of the direction of the market will come in the first quarter of 2016. Will spring 2016 repeat the overheated, high demand/ low supply frenzies of previous springs or has the market finally reached a longer term plateau or an inflection point? We shall soon know more.
Our full report is here: S&P Case-Shiller Index for SF Metro Area
n 2015 YTD, the dominant price segment for home sales in San Francisco was $1,000,000 to $1,499,000. As seen in the first chart above, the median sales prices for both condos and houses fall within this range. Note the change from just two years ago.
San Francisco Luxury Home Market
The high-end home market is the most seasonal segment in the city (as well as the most sensitive to sudden, large, negative movements in the financial markets). Market activity starts to plunge in November, hits its nadir in December, begins to pick up in the first quarter and then usually hits its peak in spring. Much of the center of gravity in the luxury market has been shifting in recent years from the city’s prestige northern neighborhoods to other districts of the city, such as the greater Noe Valley area and the South Beach/Yerba Buena district. This is not to say that the northern districts are not still both very expensive and considered highly desirable, and the greater Pacific Heights area still dominates the market for the most expensive houses in the city, i.e. those selling for $5m and more.
After the semi-hysteria – already half forgotten – that erupted in late August and September regarding the Chinese stock market and its impact on the U.S. stock market and economy, and possibly the Bay Area housing market, we thought it interesting to take a look back at how it has played out so far.
It is widely expected that the Fed will raise interest rates in December, probably by some minimal increment, but for the time being, as of the first week of December, rates have remained below 4%.
In November, we issued two mini-reports, one on Bay Area housing affordability and another on San Francisco new housing construction. Below are the featured charts and links to the full articles.
Information regarding San Francisco neighborhood prices and trends can be found here: San Francisco Neighborhood Values
Additional market analyses are here: San Francisco Market Reports
San Francisco led the Bay Area and the nation when its real estate recovery began in early 2012. Within the city itself, the more affluent neighborhoods led the rebound from the 2008 – 2011 recession and saw the highest rates of home price appreciation. That dynamic began to shift in 2014, when the more affordable neighborhoods began to take the lead in demand and in appreciation. All price segments in San Francisco have cooled off from the overheated frenzy of the spring 2015 selling season – this cooling is a common seasonal phenomenon – but while lower and mid-priced homes in the city have continued to remain solidly in “seller’s market” territory, in the luxury home segment, the dynamic between buyers and sellers has fundamentally shifted, at least for the time being.
A number of reasons may explain this: Firstly, the affluent are much more invested in the stock market than other groups, and the volatility of late August, early September may have encouraged more wealthy homeowners to sell (before things might possibly get worse), and more wealthy homebuyers to postpone buying until things clarified.As of very early November, the S&P 500 has regained its lost ground from August, so this effect may fade. Secondly, it’s certainly possible that sellers and listing agents have finally pushed the envelope on prices a little too far: San Francisco’s high prices have clearly motivated some buyers to look at options outside the city (which has helped pressurize the markets of other counties). Last but not least, more and more luxury condos are being built in San Francisco: Growing supply not only gives buyers more options and more negotiating room, but it decreases the urgency to write strong offers quickly and the motivation to compete with other buyers.
However, the luxury home market hasn’t “crashed”: there are still high-end homes selling very quickly for very high prices amid competitive bidding.But it has markedly cooled and the number of luxury home listings in San Francisco hit a new high in October, so correct pricing has becomes increasingly vital. It remains to see if this change is just a transitory market blip – such blips are not uncommon in financial or real estate markets – or the beginning of a longer term reality.
Median Sales Price by Month
Even with the general cooling in the market since spring and the significant slowdown in higher end home sales, the overall median sales price for houses and condos bounced back up to $1,200,000 in October. Median prices are impacted by seasonal trends: typically peaking in the spring, dropping in the summer, up again in the autumn and then plunging during the winter holidays. This has more to do with inventory than with changes in fair market value. Short-term fluctuations are not particularly meaningful: It is the longer-term trend that gives a sense of what’s going on in the market.
For houses alone, the median sales price in October was $1,300,000 and for condos, it was $1,100,000.
Supply & Demand Statistics
by Price Segment, October 2015
Months Supply of Inventory (MSI) is a classic measurement of supply and demand, calculating the time it would take to sell the existing inventory of homes for sale at the current rate of market activity. The lower the MSI, the greater the demand as compared to the supply, i.e. the hotter the market. The house market in San Francisco has been stronger than the condo market since the recovery began – though the condo market has been crazy hot as well – because the supply of houses is more limited and is dwindling as a percentage of sales because virtually no new houses are being added to inventory. However, new condos are being built in quantity. This chart above illustrates the dramatic difference in the markets for homes up to the median price ($1.3 million for houses, $1.1 million for condos) and in the next price segment higher, versus the luxury home segment, defined here as houses selling for $2,000,000+ and condos for $1,500,000+. (By this definition, luxury sales currently make up about 20% of San Francisco’s home sales.)
Because SF has been so hot for so long, we’ve adjusted the thresholds for what MSI readings define “seller’s market” and “buyer’s market” to better reflect the psychology of the current market.
Luxury Home Listings for Sale
As mentioned earlier, the number of high-end house and condo listings hit all-time highs in October, while sales numbers are well below levels hit in the previous 2 years. Even more so than the general market, the luxury segment is dramatically affected by seasonality and typically goes into deep hibernation from Thanksgiving to mid-January. Having so many active listings on the market just prior to the winter holiday doldrums is one of the reasons why we designate the luxury-home segment as currently having moved into “buyer’s market” territory.
The Luxury Home Market: Months Supply of Inventory
Year over Year over Year Comparisons
This chart above illustrates the change in the luxury home market supply and demand balance over the past three Octobers. As a further point of context to what has happened in the past year, during the feverish market of this past spring, the MSI for luxury houses hit a low of 1.6 months of inventory and the MSI for luxury condos hit a low of 1.7 months. Since 2012, spring has consistently been the hottest, most competitive, selling season of the year and most home price appreciation has occurred during that time.
4 Neighborhood Snapshots
Much more information regarding SF neighborhood prices and trends can be found here: San Francisco Neighborhood Values
Average Asking Rents in San Francisco
The real estate market has been challenging for homebuyers these past few years, but for anyone looking to rent a home in the city, it has been distinctly more difficult financially. Homebuyers have the benefit of historically low interest rates, multiple tax advantages and, hopefully, substantial appreciation gains over time; renters enjoy none of those advantages (though admittedly there can be long-term benefits to rent control for renters that qualify). Even with the big jump in home prices over the past 4 years, factoring in the 35% – 40% decline in interest rates and adjusting for inflation, the ongoing monthly cost of homeownership (for someone putting 20% down) is roughly the same as it was in 2007. But average monthly asking rents in the city have surged over 50% during the same period.
This has made rental property ownership an increasingly lucrative proposition, which we discuss in more detail in our last Commercial Brokerage report: Bay Area Apartment Building Market
Median Household Incomes
In Selected San Francisco Zip Codes
By Bay Area County
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.