Mapping the Spread of the Million Dollar Home in the Bay Area

Thanks to my well-read friend at The Economist for sending me this fascinating infographic.

You can find the full article here at The Atlantic. Their choice of Westwood Park as their poster-neighborhood is an interesting one. On the one hand, it’s a tiny area tucked in to the west of City College between Monterey and Ocean Avenue and it’s not exactly a household name, even to longtime SF denizens. On the other hand, the statistics are impressive: four years ago, according to the article, just 2.9% of its homes cost $1 million or more. Today, 96% of them do.

Only in San Francisco would a $1 million home be considered “a bargain.” But I think that it’s precisely in the lesser-known neighborhoods loosely clustered around Mount Davidson like Westwood Park, Miraloma Park, and Monterey Heights, where a buyer can still find “value.”

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The 2015 San Francisco Real Estate Wrap-Up

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Happy New Year everyone!  San Francisco residential real estate recorded another year of double-digit appreciation last year.  Our Chief Market Analyst has been busy slicing and dicing the data every which-way, and has created over 20 charts that serve up the market from soup to nuts (which, is exactly how some people view it!).  You can experience the full meal at Paragon Real Estate Group’s main website.  I’m doing the prix fixe menu here for those with less time and/or appetite.

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“Bubble” or “Breather”: Whither San Francisco’s Home Market?

image001Just a few days ago, The San Francisco Business Times reported that a third of the national housing experts surveyed by Zillow described the Bay Area’s housing market as being currently in a bubble. Here’s the table that shows how the experts came out on the “bubble” question, courtesy of Pulsenomics, who conducted the survey for Zillow.

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It’s Now a Buyers’ Market for Higher End Homes and Condos

“Months’ Supply of Inventory,” or MSI, shows the theoretical number of months needed to “absorb” available homes for sale in a given month based on the number of homes going into contract in a given month. The shorter the time period, the stronger the market for sellers, leading to upward pricing pressure.  Longer time periods indicate slower absorption and a buyers’ market.

The chart below illustrates the dramatic difference in MSI 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.)
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Real Data SF August: A Change in the Weather

Real Data SF August Newsletter: Summer Doldrums or A Change in the Weather?
It’s not unusual for home sales to slow during the summer months. The same thing happens to an even greater degree in mid-Winter during the holiday season. In San Francisco, the result is a temporary moderation in sales prices. Continue reading
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A changing market? Have SF home prices reached a plateau?

The market usually does slow down at least a little in mid-summer – a question has come up: is this possible slowdown caused by listing agents continually pushing the envelope on pricing for new listings or pricing to the last, highest, frenzied sale, a move that buyers are now finally starting to resist? It may be, that without buyer demand really slackening for homes deemed “reasonably” priced, we have come to a point, at least for the time being, that buyers are no longer willing to pay new tippet-top peak prices.

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Have prices reached a plateau? Monthly median price stats are subject to fluctuation without great meaningfulness (which is why I prefer quarterly or longer periods), but after the big jump early in the year, the median sales price has been within a 4-5% spread (not a huge spread for monthly home prices) for 5 months, Including a drop from April-May. The idea of a plateau contradicts the recent Case-Shiller Index report, but the Index is about 3-5 months behind current realities, San Francisco is only a tiny part of the Index and the city has outperformed C-S since the turnaround began – having appreciated so much faster than other places, we may be due a flattening of appreciation before other areas. And that also may be true for different SF neighborhoods – since they have rebounded at different speeds, some may be plateauing and others are still appreciating.

At this point, this is speculation and it won’t be clear for a while – these things only become clear in retrospect – because spring median prices sometimes spike and summer prices drop a little as some of the higher end market checks out for the holidays. And median sales prices are not perfect correlations of changes in market value, being affected by a number of other factors, including seasonality. Anecdotally, we are hearing stories of the market not responding to homes priced at the top (even if “justified” by another recent sale), and also stories in which the winning bidder offered a huge amount, sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars, more than what the second highest buyer was willing to pay – i.e. the winning buyer ultimately paid much more than necessary to win the deal.

The number of expired/withdrawn listings is also increasing, though not to some crazy level yet.

So it’s worth considering, that we “may” have reached a plateau or bumped into a ceiling, transitioning into a somewhat different market. If we are in a transition, the market will be schizophrenic for a while: some buyers acting one way and another growing group of buyers acting another.

Summarizing the charts above and below:

  • The San Francisco Median Home Sales Price has leveled off, dropping somewhat from an April-May peak. (Chart above)
  • Buyer demand is still extremely high as measured by Percentage of Listings Accepting Offers.
  • Inventory is still extremely low as measured by Months Supply of Inventory and Units for Sale.
  • The number of Expired & Withdrawn listings climbed in July and was about 19% higher than July of 2012 (though less than half the number of July 2011). The main reason why listings expire or are withdrawn from the market is that buyers have concluded they are priced too high.
  • The July snapshot makes it clear that the market is still very strong by any reasonable measure, even if it might be on the cusp of a transition to a somewhat less fevered state.
  • Demand, as measured by percentage of listings accepting offers, is still very high:

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    Months Supply of Inventory is still very low:

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    The number of homes for sale is still very low:

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    The number of expired and withdrawn listings has been increasing:

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    Looking at July’s sales, mostly ratified in June, the market is still very hot:

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Real Data SF – July 2013 Newsletter: Of Bubbles and Froth

The other day I was talking to a business-savvy fellow who has been looking to get into the real estate market since 2009. Back then, he recounted, everyone thought he was crazy to want to buy something. Ultimately he didn’t. Recently I introduced him to some clients of mine who were looking to partner up with someone on a “fixer” project. Surveying the $1 million prices “fixers” seem to be going for, he used the words “bubble” and “frothy” to describe what’s going on in SF right now.

Is he right? Let’s leave aside the question of whether we should consider homes “investments,” as we do stocks. (In general, I don’t think we should: click here for U.S. long-term home appreciation stats prior to the housing recovery.) Instead, let’s simply focus on whether, after 18 months of breath-taking price increases here in SF, we are already in a new housing market bubble.

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Overheated? Yes. Bubble? No. Stabilizing? Maybe.

July 2013 San Francisco Market Report

If you prefer, you can skip the following analysis to go straight to the charts and maps following.

Many adjectives are used to describe San Francisco, but normal isn’t a common one – and the same can be said about our real estate market. Even taking into account its tendency to be unusual in one way or another, this past spring’s market was overheated by virtually any definition. Surging consumer confidence and huge buyer demand chased a deeply inadequate supply of homes for sale, abetted by interest rates so low that loans – factoring in inflation and mortgage interest deduction – were almost like free money. All this led to an extreme seller’s market, a feeding frenzy and dramatic price appreciation.

But not, in our opinion, a bubble. The Economist, one of the first to sound the alarm for the last bubble, sees no sign of a U.S. housing bubble, basing its conclusion upon historical comparisons of home prices with rents and incomes. Also, it is not unusual for the market to go somewhat crazy following a 4-5 year down cycle after all the repressed demand bursts forth – this happened in 1996-1997 too. Besides which, we are only about 18 months into the current recovery. Though real estate is susceptible to sudden economic and political shocks, in past cycles, recoveries have typically lasted at least 6-8 years before peaking. That doesn’t mean there won’t be any short-term market adjustments, up or down, for one reason or another, along the way.

There are some signs of a normalizing market. After a year of declines, the number of new listings in the 2nd quarter was a little higher than the 2nd quarter of 2012. Though this inventory was quickly gobbled up and overall supply remains very low, it’s a good sign more sellers are entering the market. Median prices may be leveling off after spring’s big pop – it’s still too soon to be sure, but summer often sees a cooling down. It’s not welcome news to buyers, but interest rates have increased from extreme lows – though remaining very low by any historical scale. (See below: The Sky is Not Falling.) The distressed home segment, which always distorts markets, is disappearing in the city and declining everywhere. And new-home construction continues to increase: even though we won’t see much of this new inventory until 2014 and later, it’s a very positive sign.

We have updated our home value maps to reflect spring’s recent sales:
San Francisco Neighborhood Values

1San Francisco Median Home Prices
For both houses and condos, the second quarter saw jumps well above previous peak values. Median sales prices are affected by other factors besides changes in value – seasonality, inventory, buyer profile, big changes in the distressed and luxury home segments – but the dramatic increases do reflect rapidly climbing home values in the city. Though all SF neighborhoods have been experiencing striking appreciation, this does not mean that all have now exceeded previous peak values.

2Sales Over & Under Asking Price
This chart illustrates the enormous percentage of listings selling for over – and sometimes far over – asking price. 25% of house sales in June sold for 20% or more above list price: At San Francisco prices, 20% above asking often equals hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Price reductions: 89% of second quarter sales sold quickly without price reductions at an overall average of 8% over list price – a clear indication of overheating. Still, not every listing sold without a price reduction and some didn’t sell at all, but ended up withdrawn from the market:
Price Reduction Chart

3San Francisco Luxury Home Sales
No market segment has been affected more dramatically by the recovery than luxury homes. In an inventory constrained environment, it has far out-performed the general market in unit sales.

This link goes to our luxury market report that also delineates the neighborhoods which dominate high-end house and condo sales in San Francisco:
Paragon Luxury Report

4Interest Rates: The Sky Is Not Falling
Not to diminish legitimate concerns regarding rising mortgage rates and their effects on housing costs, but this graph puts recent increases in context. At any time before 2011, the current interest rates, even after their recent big percentage jump, would be reason for conga lines of celebration in the streets. Rates had to rise from their historic and artificial lows – how far and fast this may continue is unknown to us, but we don’t presently expect big shocks to the real estate market in the near future.

Distressed Home Sales: this link goes to a chart illustrating the rapidly dwindling distressed home market in San Francisco. In most neighborhoods, the effect of these sales has disappeared altogether.
Distressed Home Sales

5Months Supply of Inventory (MSI)
Even with the increase in new listings in the second quarter, inventory as compared to demand remains drastically low.

Average Days on Market (DOM) have also hit historic lows for virtually every property type in the city:
Average Days on Market

7-13_Map-Unit_SalesWhat Sells Where
What district of San Francisco has more house sales than any other? Which area has far more condo sales? You may be surprised at the answers.

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San Francisco Neighborhoods Hit New Peak Values

Paragon Market Report, June 2013

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.
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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.)

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SFD_Median-Averages_ChangeSF 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.

This link goes to the same analysis for SF condos except it starts in 2008 when condo values peaked and sales are capped at $2m:
Condos: Previous Peak Values to Present

Median_SFD-Condo_by-Qtr_Short-termShort-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.

This link goes to an overview of the past 30 years: it helps give context to what we’re experiencing today:
30 Years of SF Real Estate Cycles

Median-SFD_Multi_Areas2006-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.

2BR_Condos_Medians_Multiple_Areas-V22006-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

Unit-Sales_by_Price-Range_Year-Year_CompPrice 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-Snapshot_Sales-UC-ExpiredMay 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.

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