Along with a shimmering new Bay Bridge, San Francisco is fast developing a brand new skyline. Driving in from the East Bay, one can’t help but be impressed by the new towers reaching skyward, many of them with arresting architecture. The twin towers of 1 Rincon Hill guards the entrance; the North tower, recently completed, offers luxury rental units but no condos. Meanwhile the curvaceous Infinity Towers ( mnemonic: ∞) has sprouted Lumina, two additional towers plus two mid-rises now nearing completion. Continue reading →
Judging by the number of family rooms, bedrooms and bathrooms being shoe-horned into every Victorian-era attic and basement around town, you’d think that Homo Sapiens San Francisco is living much larger than his/her cousins of a hundred years ago.
It’s true that people a hundred years ago were smaller and had a lot less “things” than 21st Century Human. The challenge, for those that can afford it, is to find ways to squeeze extra space out of beautiful but functionally obsolescent homes that the SF Dept. of Building Inspection, in its infinite wisdom, is dead set against anyone demolishing. Ever. Never mind whether it’s a grand Victorian Dame or a sorry mid-century stucco box with no character and rotten innards. Continue reading →
Heat Map of San Francisco Median Home Price Changes
Percentage Changes since 2006-2008 Peak of Market Range from 25% Below to 25% Above Previous Peak Values
August 2013 Market Report
This heat map compares 2013 2nd quarter or 1st half median home sales prices – for houses, condos, co-ops and TICs combined – with those at the peak value time prior to the recent market recovery. Previous peak value times vary by neighborhood: typically, the least affluent neighborhoods hit peak prices in 2006 and also fell the most, percentage-wise, during the crash, falling 25% to 50%. These neighborhoods were most affected by the subprime and distressed-property sales crises. The mid-affluent neighborhoods peaked in 2007, and usually declined in value in the 20% to 25% range. And the most affluent areas reached peak values last, in the first half of 2008 prior to the September 2008 crash: Their fall in value ranged approximately 15% to 20% from 2008 peak to 2010-2011 nadir.
Generally speaking, when the market began to turn around in late 2011/early 2012, the last neighborhoods to fall were the first to recover, followed by the mid-affluent and then the less affluent areas. This link goes to our full report and an explanation of the analysis: Heat Map Report
All-Cash Home Sales All-cash buyers come in three main categories: the first group consists of investors buying foreclosed-upon properties, often during trust-deed auctions on the “courthouse steps.” The Blackrock Group alone has purchased over 20,000 distressed homes across the country, which they usually fix up and rent out. Other investors buy, fix up and re-sell, or just buy, wait and flip (as the market recovers). The second category of all-cash buyers consists of people who always purchase their homes without financing: These often very affluent buyers have always been around to one extent or another. And the last category of all-cash buyers are those who prefer to finance their home purchases but have enough cash available to buy without financing: In the hope of winning in a competitive bidding situation, they make all-cash offers in order to appeal to sellers. This link goes to our full report: All-Cash Buyers
Homes With and Without Parking The vast majority of San Francisco home sales include at least one on-site parking space in the sale, and 80% – 90% of buyers put parking on their must-have list when searching for a new home. That doesn’t mean that a home without parking cannot sell at a good price, but it does mean that on average it will take somewhat longer to sell, as well as selling at a lesser price than a comparable home with parking. It’s difficult to calculate the exact value differential between homes with and without on-site parking for a number of reasons. This link goes to our full report: The Value of Parking
Renting vs. Buying in San Francisco We’ve updated two analyses regarding the financials of renting vs. buying in San Francisco. This is the first part of our calculations regarding 2-bedroom units, comparing the median condo sales price with the average apartment asking rent. (We also did one for 3-bedroom houses.) These calculations depend to a large degree on one’s financial assumptions and projections. For our complete analysis: Rent vs. Buy – 2-Bedroom
Largest SF Home Sales YTD Looking at SF home sales reported to MLS by July 31, this chart shows the largest sales by neighborhood for properties selling for $3,500,000 or more. This link goes to our chart on sales below $3.5m: Largest Home Sales, Chart 2
Victorian & Edwardian Architecture in San Francisco In case you missed our recent article using information and photos by SF architect James Dixon, here is a fascinating timeline and this link goes to the complete, well-illustrated article on the different Victorian and Edwardian architectural home styles prevalent in the city: Victorian-Edwardian Architecture
San Francisco Transportation Report We recently stumbled across the annual report of the city’s Municipal Transportation Agency (MTA) and charted some of its most interesting facts. This chart illustrates the (staggering) number of citations issued by violation, and this link goes to all 5 of our charts: SF MTA Report
5 White-Hot Districts in a Red-Hot San Francisco Market
July 2013 Report
Virtually every area of San Francisco and the Bay Area has been experiencing dramatic home-value appreciation in the past 12 to 18 months. Some that were hard hit by distressed property sales, which experienced the largest price declines, have surged in price but remain 20% – 30% below previous peak values reached in 2006 – 2008. As a state, California is still about 25% below its 2007 pre-crash median home price. And in San Francisco itself, many if not most neighborhoods now appear to have re-attained or moved slightly beyond previous high points.
But in this past quarter, a handful of neighborhoods and districts in the city have leapt well beyond the highest average home values achieved in the past. Interestingly, comparing these white-hot areas with one another, there are often huge differences in property type, era and style of construction, and neighborhood culture or ambiance. But all of them have been very affected by affluent – often newly affluent – high-tech professionals of one age group and level of affluence or another. Naturally, these neighborhoods are highly desired by other buyers too – often professionals in finance, bio-tech, medicine and law – but the high-tech-buyer dynamic has generally super-charged these markets in particular.
However, please note that the difference we’re talking about between these neighborhoods and the rest of the city is between white hot and red hot: Honestly, they’re all very hot markets right now.
The Inner Mission Super hot, super hip, generally young: this neighborhood has seen very dramatic changes since the early nineties as a classic process of gentrification occurred — changes which have recently accelerated. Houses here are often large, classic Victorians, while the condos are mostly modern, built within the last decade or so. This area has a large, vibrant and diverse commercial district centered around Mission and Valencia Streets, but is still close to Noe Valley and the Castro. This chart focuses on the condo market, in which values are approximately 15% above the previous peak.
Noe Valley – Eureka Valley (Castro) – Dolores Heights These neighborhoods are part of a district that includes Cole Valley, Ashbury Heights, Clarendon & Corona Heights, Duboce Triangle, Mission Dolores and Glen Park, all of which have seen enormous recent appreciation. Housing here is typically older, built in the first 4 decades of the last century; there are many parks for kids and pets; the streets are tree-lined and the ambiance of the neighborhoods is relaxed and family friendly. This district surged in popularity and price in the mid-late nineties, was one of the last to peak in value in 2008, and has been at the forefront of the market rebound which started early here, in 2011. Among other advantages, it has relatively easy access to highways south to Silicon Valley. The district also has a large condo market, but this chart focuses on house values. Numbers Table
South Beach & Yerba Buena After the Embarcadero freeway came down in 1991 and then AT&T Park built in 2000, this area changed from a place for B and C-class offices and car stereo installations to the home of some of the most dramatic and expensive condo and loft buildings in the country. More condos are now sold here than anyplace else in the city and high-floor units with staggering views often sell for millions of dollars – one sold for $28 million. It’s popular with a number of demographics – high-tech and bio-tech workers working in offices nearby in SoMa and Mission Bay, financial district professionals, and empty-nesters who want to enjoy city life and have all the amenities, but without the responsibility of maintaining a house. Affluent foreign buyers are also a significant segment. Its neighborhood ambiance is very urban. This chart is for condos below the price of $1,800,000, but the dynamic for ultra-luxury condos is also white hot, with an average dollar per square foot value of over $1200. Numbers Table
Bernal Heights Like Noe Valley and Glen Park, this was originally a blue-collar neighborhood filled with Victorian houses. Noe Valley soared in value first, becoming wildly popular, and now people who want a similar family-friendly neighborhood ambiance, but at a more affordable cost, have increasingly turned to Bernal Heights. It also has easy access to highways south to the peninsula. Numbers Table
Hayes Valley-North of Panhandle (NoPa)-Alamo Square This condo market is made up of two totally different types of property: Edwardian flats that have been turned into condos and brand new, ultra-modern condo developments. The Hayes Valley commercial district is very hot and hip, similar to, but still different from the Mission’s Valencia Street. Buyers who are priced out of the nearby Cole Valley-Haight Ashbury condo market often look here for a similar neighborhood ambiance at lower cost. Hayes Valley is also close to the Civic Center cultural cluster of museum, opera, symphony, ballet and other performing arts, which attracts another buyer demographic as well.
If you have questions or would like information regarding a neighborhood not listed above, please call or email.
Statistics are generalities which usually mask large disparities in the underlying individual sales: they are best used as indicators of longer term trends. Average and median statistics are often affected by factors besides changes in value – buyer profile, inventory available to purchase, significant changes in the distressed or luxury home segments – and how they apply to any specific property is unknown. Only a certain percentage of sales report square footage: average dollar per square foot values and average size are based on those that do. However average sales price is based upon all sales, thus there may be inconsistencies between the three statistics. All data from sources deemed reliable, but may contain errors and is subject to revision. Numbers should be considered approximate.
Inner Sunset House Median Sales Price. FYI: Inner Sunset general dollar per square foot values actually track overall District 2 dollar per square foot values. For example in the 1st half, District 2 was $579/sq.ft. and Inner Sunset was $580/sq.ft. – of course, it all varies by the specific property.
New highs in home prices have not yet been reached in every San Francisco neighborhood, but the majority has either regained the value lost since the 2008 market meltdown, or now exceeded the previous high points of 2006-early 2008. (Different neighborhoods peaked at different times, just as they are now recovering at different speeds). This does not mean that every property bought at the height of the bubble in feverish multiple-offer bidding wars has now regained peak value. Nor does it mean that values might not fluctuate or drop in future months due to seasonal and/or other economic factors.
Though virtually every market in the country is now on a similar upward trajectory, San Francisco’s has recovered more quickly than most in the Bay Area, state and country. The city’s neighborhoods, with a few exceptions, were never hit as hard as most other areas by the tsunami of distressed property sales: our home values generally fell in the 15-25% range compared to huge declines of 40-60% elsewhere and so we have had less ground to recover. That said, the city has always been an exceptional real estate market and the confluence of economic factors both general (such as the lowest interest rates in history) and unique (such as the local, high-tech boom) jumpstarted and supercharged our recovery beyond most others.
It should be noted that, looking at past recoveries in the early eighties and mid-nineties, it is not unusual once a recovery gets underway after years of recession and repressed demand, for the market to regain previous peak values within a couple years of the turnaround beginning. Recoveries often start with a dramatic surge and that is what has happened with this one. —————————————————————
City, State & National Long-Term Overview
In this chart, one can see the recovery occurring everywhere, but most dramatically in San Francisco. For this analysis, we’ve calculated the 2013 SF median house sales price for the 5 months since the year began; if we looked at just the last 3 months (reflecting offers accepted in 2013, when the market accelerated further), the SF median house price jumps to about $1,000,000. (Note: State and national data sources are behind those we can access for the city, and the last median prices reflect that disparity.)
SF Houses: Previous Peak Values to Present In this chart, since we’re also calculating average statistics, we’ve capped the sales price at $3,000,000 because ultra-high-end sales usually distort averages. We see the previous peak value in 2007 (for SF houses in general), the drop to the bottom of the market in 2011, and the rebound starting in 2012 and accelerating in 2013. By all 3 main statistical measures of value, San Francisco houses have met or exceeded previous peak values. To adjust for seasonality, the comparisons are for the spring months of each year.
Short-Term Appreciation Trends This chart breaks down the rise in SF home values occurring over the past 2.5 years. Though it appears that 2013 prices surged after the first quarter, the surge actually started in March, which is when the market really started to reflect offers negotiated in 2013. January and February sales mostly reflect the holiday season market, when the higher-end home market typically checks out. We prefer quarterly or longer time periods because they make for more reliable statistics: monthly statistics often fluctuate without great meaning. The high overall median prices achieved in March-May may drop somewhat during the summer due to seasonal and other factors.
2006-Present: House Values by Neighborhood These 4 SF Realtor districts generate a lot of house sales, so they’re good for statistical analysis. For 2013, this chart looks at the last 5 months of sales-if assessing just the last 3 months, 2013 numbers would typically be higher. The central Noe-Eureka-Cole Valleys district, a hot bed of high-tech buyer demand, has soared well beyond its previous peak value in 2008. The very affluent northern district of Pacific Heights-Marina has also exceeded its previous peak. Sunset-Parkside in the southwest has regained its 2007 peak, and the southeast Bayview-Portola-Excelsior district, which was hit hardest by distressed sales, while recovering rapidly, has not yet made up the value lost since its 2006 peak. This district, with more house sales than any other, lost more percentage value in the downturn (25-45% depending on neighborhood) and so has more ground to make up. But it’s well on its way.
2006-Present: SF Condo Values by Neighborhood These 6 areas of the city generate high numbers of condo sales, which is why we chose them for this analysis. Condos in all these areas have increased in value beyond their previous peaks in 2006-2008; some of them, such as South Beach, dramatically so.
This link illustrates how, over the past 5 years, the SF market has switched from being dominated by house sales to condo sales; with the continuing construction of large condo projects, we expect this trend to continue. TIC sales have dropped significantly, both as a percentage of sales and in actual unit sales: This is due to a number of complex issues such as changes in city condo conversion and tenant protection regulations. Sales by Property Type
Price Range Dynamics There are 3 main underlying currents occurring in San Francisco. First is the rapid dwindling of distressed property sales: Thus, sales under $500,000, the price range of most distressed sales, have dropped by 62% since last year. This segment is on the verge of disappearing completely in SF. Second is the dramatic resurgence in luxury home sales: the affluent have profited most from the economic recovery and the city also has large numbers of the newly affluent (often high-tech) who wish to buy homes. So, sales of homes costing $1,500,000 plus have surged by 76%. The third dynamic is simply the general appreciation of home values. All 3 factors add up to a large migration from lower-priced to higher-priced sales. Note: The medians quoted on this chart are for many different property types combined.
May Listings/Sales Snapshot A clear indication of the red-hot heat of our market: 90% of SF home sales closing in May sold without going through any price reductions, at an average sales price 7% higher than the asking price and a very low average days-on-market of 29 days. These are very dramatic statistics illustrating the high demand/low supply situation here in the city.
Note: Case-Shiller Home Price Indices for “San Francisco” are for a 5-county area, of which the city’s housing market is a very small part. Since they are published 2 months after the month of the Index, are 3-month rolling averages, and the time between offer acceptance and closed sale typically runs 4-8 weeks, Case-Shiller is generally 3-6 months behind the market itself, i.e. when offers are being negotiated in the present. Case-Shiller publishes 4 main indices for SF Metro Area houses: an aggregate index for all price ranges, and then one index for each third of unit sales – low price, middle price and high price tiers.
When the market fell from its peak in 2006-early 2008 (different areas and different market segments peaked at different times), the scale of the decline varied widely, mostly by price point. With the recovery that began in 2012 and accelerated in 2013, the magnitude of the price recovery, as compared to previous peak values, has also varied by price point and area.
The lowest price range (terribly affected by foreclosures and distressed sales) fell most dramatically – approximate 60% decline – and though recovering dramatically on a percentage basis, is still way below its peak. It simply has much more loss to make up.
The upper price range (the top third of unit sales) in the 5-county metro area fell much less during the bubble pop and with the recovery is getting close again to peak values:
This chart below illustrates the short-term changes in the C-S high tier index: the recovery in 2012 accelerating in 2013:
And then looking just atthe city of San Francisco itself, which has, generally speaking, among the highest home prices in the 5-county metro area: many of its neighborhoods are now blowing past previous peak values. Note that this chart has more recent price appreciation data than available in the Case-Shiller Indices and that the rate of appreciation accelerated in the March-May timeframe. This is also for both houses and condos combined, when the C-S charts used above are for house sales only.
Noe Valley that is. The place I’ve called home since May 1991 when I bought a vacant two unit building with a monumentally dreary exterior, deeply embedded cat-pee stains in the hardwood floors, and rooms with great volume and light.
This month’s newsletter is dedicated to the Noe Valley market, and the nearby areas of Eureka Valley (aka the Castro) and Cole Valley, which have a similar feel and housing stock. Continue reading →