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Housing Affordability in the San Francisco Bay Area

Home Prices, Appreciation & Ownership Costs; Affordability Percentages, Household Incomes, Interest Rates, Rents & Homelessness. August 2019 Report – including 30 illustrative charts.

Housing affordability may be the largest social and political issue in the Bay Area, and the effects of low affordability also greatly impact the general economic picture in a wide variety of important ways – from hiring and business relocation, to the ability of “normal working people” (not enriched by the high-tech boom) to live here. Significant demographic shifts are also taking place as some groups move out and others move in.

Generally speaking, affordability percentages – the percentage of county households who could afford to purchase a median-priced house – ticked up in Q2 2019 as compared to Q2 2018: Median home sales prices were relatively stable year-over-year – some counties up a bit, some down a bit, some the same – but interest rates dropped very significantly over the 12 month period. However, affordability percentages remain low by historical standards – and the Bay Area typically has among the lowest in the nation.

Note: Counties contain cities, and cities contain neighborhoods of varying values, market conditions and trends.

Calculations on affordability percentages, home payments and household incomes are based upon the California Association of Realtors Housing Affordability Index, measuring the percentage of county households able to afford to buy a median priced house with a 20% down-payment at prevailing mortgage interest rates.

The next 2 charts are excerpted from the very in-depth report, “Bay Area Homelessness: A Regional View of a Regional Crisis” put out by Bay Area Council Economic Institute, published April 2019.

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

Weekend: Aug 10 – Aug 11, 2019

This weekend provides plenty of fun things to do for free and on the cheap. From the 8th Annual Citywide Garage Sale to free admission at the de Young Museum to the Alcatraz Duathalon. The events below will help you fill your calendar with fun!

View even more events here.

San Francisco Real Estate August 2019 Report

Sales & Values by District and Price Segment, Special Circumstance Sales, Market Seasonality, the Luxury Home Market & Foreign Buyers. The May Case-Shiller Home Price Index was released in late July for the 5-county SF metro area. This chart illustrates the difference in appreciation rates between the Bay Area (higher price markets) and the entire country. Case-Shiller does not use median sales prices but its own algorithm to calculate appreciation. January 2000 home price = 100; 250 = a home price 150% above that of Jan. 2000.

Needless to say, there are many factors behind home sales and values in different communities. Home size is one of them, and median sales prices are not apples to apples comparisons: For example, in Pacific Heights, the average house size is over 4000 square feet, while in Sunnyside, it runs about 1500 square feet.

Note that it is not uncommon for median sales prices to peak for the year in Q2.

Market Dynamics by Realtor District

Q2 is commonly the hottest market of the calendar year, and the statistics below generally reflect a very strong spring 2019 market.

Home Sales by Price Range

Of homes selling for under $1,000,000, over 80% were condos, co-ops and TICs, and most of those were smaller units.

Tenants, Fixer-Uppers, Homes without Parking, Homes with Golden Gate Bridge Views

Market Seasonality: The Autumn Spike,
Then the Winter Doldrums

Though spring is the biggest overall selling season in San Francisco, the single month with the highest number of new listings is typically September. This big surge fuels the relatively short autumn selling season – highlighted by the dramatic spike in sales in October. In November, activity begins to plunge for the mid-winter holidays – though homes continue to sell in every season.

Seasonality: New Listings by Month

New Listings – Long-Term Trends,
12-Month Rolling Figures

Seasonality: Listings Going into Contract
by Month

Higher-Price Home Sales

The central greater Noe-Eureka-Cole Valleys district now has the highest number of home sales over $2 million, but the northern Pacific Heights-Cow Hollow district dominates sales of $5 million and above.

The SF luxury home market is even more dramatically driven by seasonality than the general market. September often sees a tremendous burst of new listings. October is sometimes the single month with the most luxury house sales.

Long-Term Appreciation Trends by District

Though prices vary, appreciation trend lines since the recovery began in 2012 are often relatively similar.

In the next chart, we combine house sales across the swathe of older, prestige neighborhoods that run across the north of the city – generally speaking, a region of larger houses and higher prices. (Putting them on the chart above would flatten the other trend lines due to issues of scale.) None of these neighborhoods have that many sales – and some have very, very few – so we combine them to increase statistical reliability. Though they are all high-price, prices do vary considerably between them.

Median Two-Bedroom Condo Prices
by Realtor District

There is significantly less variation in condo prices in most of the neighborhoods of SF than there is with houses. Much of this has to do with all the new construction that has occurred in the last 20 years. Probably the greatest differences in condo values are between those on lower floors and those on higher floors of new luxury high-rises.

Percentage of Sales Selling for Over List Price
by Property Type

Median Percentage of Sales Price to List Price
by Property Type

Foreign National Home Buying Tumbles

According to a new report by the National Association of Realtors – based on a survey of its member agents – the purchase of U.S. homes by foreign nationals plunged in the 12 months through March 2019. The drop was particularly steep for Chinese nationals, for whom California (and the Bay Area, in particular) has been the top destination.

Stock Market Hits New High

The last 12 months have been an extremely dramatic time for financial markets as illustrated below. The alternating confidence and fear generated by its swings have been considerable factors in Bay Area real estate markets. A parallel dynamic has occurred with the swings in interest rates.

The spring burst in high-tech IPOs in San Francisco also played a role in the heat of the Q2 market.

Weekend: Aug 3 – Aug 4, 2019

This weekend provides plenty of fun things to do for free and on the cheap. From the World Dog Surfing Championships in Pacifica, to the Fremont Festival of the Arts to the San Francisco Gem Show & Sale. The events below will help you fill your calendar with fun!

View even more events here.

CoreLogic S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index Update

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

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

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

The Index is published 2 months after the month delineated – the May 2019 index was released 7/30/19 – reflects a 3- month rolling calculation, and one month’s sales generally reflect accepted-offer activity in the previous month. The Index is looking into a rear-view mirror at the market 3 to 5 months ago: The May 2019 reading, released in late July, mostly reflects market conditions in February – April 2019.

The 5 counties in our Case-Shiller Metro Statistical Area are San Francisco, Marin, San Mateo, Alameda and Contra Costa: Alameda and Contra Costa are by far the largest markets; SF itself comprises only about 7% of house sales in the metro area. We believe the Index generally applies to other Bay Area counties, such as Sonoma and Santa Clara, though those 2 have had somewhat softer markets over the past year. There are hundreds of unique real estate markets in such a broad region, with different dynamics, moving at varying speeds, sometimes in different directions. How the C-S Index applies to any particular property is impossible to know without a specific comparative market analysis.

Weekend: Jul 27 – Jul 28, 2019

This weekend has lots of great things to do for free and on the cheap. From the Berkeley Kite Festival & Championships, to the San Francisco Marathon Fitness Expo. The events below will help you fill your calendar with fun!

View even more events here.

Weekend: Jul 20 – Jul 21, 2019

This weekend has many wonderful things to do for free and on the cheap. From Fair Trade Bazaar at the de Young to the Menlo Park Summerfest. The events below will help you fill your calendar with fun!

View even more events here.

SF Multi-Family Residential Market – Compass Commercial

An interesting 2019 so far: Stock markets have hit new peaks; interest rates have hit multi-year lows; the SF unemployment rate dropped to a historic low; Bay Area unicorn IPOs have rolled out one after the other; SF residential and office rents have ticked up; consumer, corporate and governmental debt levels – nationally and internationally, across virtually every sector – have hit all-time highs; and SF median home prices hit new peaks in Q2.

The below report reflects sales across an enormous range of buildings of different size, quality, location, type and era of construction, unit mix, tenant profile, rent control effects, expense ratios and other characteristics. It is impossible to know how any of these sales or statistics apply to any particular property without a specific, tailored comparative market analysis.

Review of Sales – Last 12 Months

Legislative Update – New Limitations on Sale

SF has enacted a new law called the Community Opportunity to Purchase Act (COPA) impacting Sellers listing or selling buildings with 3+ residential units and lots zoned for 3+ units. It is designed to provide certain Qualified Nonprofit Organizations (QNOs) preemptive opportunities to purchase such properties. As of 9/3/19, Sellers of such properties will have to provide formal notice to these organizations of their decision to sell before they solicit offers or place such properties on the market.

COPA applies to SF multi-family residential buildings on which (1) 3+ residential units exist, including mixed use properties; (2) lots on which 3+ residential units are under construction; and (3) vacant lots on which 3+ residential units could be built. By September 3, 2019, the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development plans to publish the list of QNOs and to issued rules pertinent to implementing COPA. Buyers – especially those affected by 1031 exchange deadlines – and sellers having any questions should engage a qualified San Francisco real estate attorney. Your agent can provide you with a more detailed outline and list of FAQs which the SF Association of Realtors has created.

General Financial Indicators – Updated through Mid-Year 2019

Supply & Demand Statistics

If you would like to receive the list we have compiled of year-to-date San Francisco 5+ unit apartment building sales, with their specific parameters of sale, please let us know.

Rent Rate Trends – Average & Median Statistics

New Housing Construction Pipeline

Sales by Broker

Weekend: Jul 13 – Jul 14, 2019

This weekend has lots of great things to do for free and on the cheap. From the Palo Alto Clay & Glass Festival, to the Los Altos Arts & Wine Festival to the Bastille Day Outdoor Festival: Waiters Race, French Food & Music. The events below will help you fill your calendar with fun!

View even more events here.