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The number of expired/withdrawn listings is also increasing, though not to some crazy level yet.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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Case-Shiller: Different Bubbles, Different Accelerating Recoveries

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.

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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:

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This chart below illustrates the short-term changes in the C-S high tier index: the recovery in 2012 accelerating in 2013:

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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.

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The Economist on Bubbles — Neat Interactive Chart Feature

The Economist has a good article (about the US real estate market not being in a bubble) and created a terrific interactive graph that allows you, by metro area (you have to click on San Francisco to add it to the graph), to compare home price changes in real terms over time, versus average incomes, and versus rents, from 1987 to 2013. San Francisco is at the top of the chart in percentage increase and increases in prices in real terms, but still rates right at the long-term average in home prices versus income and versus rents. The Economist was one of the very first to identify the housing bubble inflating – running strongly against the then current opinion of other pundits – so I think their opinion on whether another bubble is about to burst in the U.S. is worth hearing. (FYI: The do believe there are serious housing bubbles in certain other countries.)

”The verdict: in most markets houses are near or above their long-run values, but none looks bubbly. Price rises in Phoenix, Tampa and Miami have restored values only to their long-run averages. In Las Vegas they are still below that long-run average. Many things could trip up the housing recovery, from stalling job growth to higher mortgage rates; at the moment, a bursting bubble is not one of them.”

You can play around with the interactive chart, and you should read the article below the chart widget:

http://www.economist.com/node/21578927

Here are 3 of their charts with San Francisco added:

Home Price Appreciation in Real Terms (Adjusting for Inflation):

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Home Prices Against Average Income:

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Home Prices versus Rents:

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How Hot is My Valley

Real Data SF: May 2013 Newsletter

How Hot is My Valley

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

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May – San Francisco Market Snapshot

More signs of an extraordinary market: 90% of listings sold in April sold without any price reductions, at an average sales price 7.5% over list price. Huge demand is chasing a too-small supply of homes for sale.

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San Francisco & Bay Area Home Values – in Maps

May 2013 Update

Below are 3 maps delineating recent median home sales prices and/or average dollar per square foot values for San Francisco neighborhoods and communities around the Bay Area. These statistics are generalities which may fluctuate for a variety of reasons, but still give an idea of comparative home values in and around the city.

Generally speaking, home price appreciation is continuing and indeed accelerating in 2013, extending the upward swing that began in 2012. This is being supercharged by increasing demand meeting inadequate supply. For more information about current market conditions and trends, please click on the “Market Dynamics Charts” link above.

In the maps below, “k” signifies thousands of dollars; “m” signifies millions; “$/sf” means average dollar per square foot; and “N/A” means there wasn’t enough data to generate a reliable number.

Home Values around the San Francisco

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San Francisco Neighborhood HOUSE Values

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San Francisco Neighborhood CONDO Values

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Real estate statistics in the Bay Area are based upon that relatively unique basket of homes that happen to sell within any given period, so instead of being exact measurements applicable to specific properties, they should be considered indications of the direction and approximate scale of market trends.

Median price is that price at which half the sales occurred above and half below – a single additional sale can sometimes make a 3-5% difference in overall median price, especially when the number of sales is low. Dollar per square foot is based on “livable space”, which should not include decks, patios, yards, garages, unfinished basements and attics, or rooms built without permit (“bonus rooms” and “in-law apartments”). Square footage figures are often unreported, measured in different ways or simply unreliable. Both these statistics can be affected by other factors besides changes in value, such as seasonality, available inventory, variations in buyer profile, changes in the distressed and luxury home markets, and variations in average home size (all things being equal, a smaller home will have a lower sales price but a higher dollar per square foot value than a larger home).
These analyses were performed in good faith with data derived from sources deemed reliable, but they may contain errors and are subject to revision. If you have any questions, please contact us.

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April Newsletter: A Hot Market Getting Hotter

San Francisco: A Hot Market Getting Hotter

1st Quarter 2013 Market Report

In 2012, the market turned with a vengeance and grew very hot very quickly. Now in 2013 it has grown even hotter. Recent deal-making stories almost make the seemingly crazy, multiple-offer tales of last year appear sedate. The supply of listings is drastically low against buyer demand, and the pace of price appreciation looks to be accelerating. Some city neighborhoods appear to be surpassing the previous peak values reached in 2007-2008. As seen below, the first quarter’s numbers reveal big increases in home values year over year. And the month of March alone saw a particularly big jump of almost 9% above February’s median price.

March sales prices reflect the heat of the market 4-8 weeks earlier, when the offers were actually negotiated. Much of the first quarter’s sales data reflects offers negotiated in late 2012. In a rapidly changing market, we’re always looking in the rearview mirror.

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N2How Does Supply & Demand Affect Prices?
The past 18 months give a text book example of how the supply and demand dynamic affects home values. Months supply of inventory (MSI) measures the strength of buyer demand against the available inventory of homes to purchase: the lower the MSI, the hotter the market. The hotter the market, the greater the upward pressure on prices.

This link shows the details of the recent increases in median sales price:
SF Median Home Price by Month

N3Sales Prices Over & Under List Price
As the market has strengthened, the percentage of SF homes selling for over — and sometimes far over — list price, has soared to almost unbelievable levels. In the last 2 months, 30% of SF house sales have sold for 15% or more above asking price.

This link shows the huge decline in inventory since the market turnaround began. Typically, we see a surge in early spring. Not this year, at least not so far:
Inventory of Listings for Sale

N4Percentage of Listings Accepting Offers
This is another excellent indicator of demand vs. supply, and it is now at the highest levels in memory for virtually all property types.

This link goes to our chart on average days on market. Generally speaking, the hotter the market, the faster listings go into contract and that is what we are indeed seeing now:
Average Days on Market

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March Newsletter: What Costs How Much Where in San Francisco

San Francisco Home Values by Neighborhood & Bedroom Count

The March 2013 Paragon Market

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We’ve just completed our semiannual review of SF house and condo values by average and median prices, average size and average dollar per square foot for sales occurring September 1, 2012 – February 28, 2013, as reported to MLS.

The maps contain median sales price data only, while the tables include the full range of value statistics. (The tables are easier to read, but they’re not as colorful.) If a price is followed by a “k” it references thousands of dollars; if followed by an “m”, it signifies millions. Remember that medians and averages are very general statistics.

Further down in the newsletter are charts tracking supply and demand dynamics and price appreciation trends for the city’s residential real estate market. Statistical definitions can be found at the very bottom. For the smaller images, you’ll need to click-to-expand them to really make them decipherable.

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4-Bedroom House Values
This is the table for 4-bedroom house sales over the past 6 months. This link goes to the full analysis by property type, neighborhood and bedroom count.
Neighborhood, Property Type, Bedrooms

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2-Bedroom Condo Median Price Map
A map of median sales prices for 2-bedroom condos around the city. The table in the full analysis provides further statistical measures.
Full Analysis

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Trends in Inventory & Sales Volume
Sometimes there’s nothing like a chart to depict trends. Here one can clearly see the drastic decline in inventory. And this link goes to a chart on Months Supply of Inventory, another statistic of supply and demand:
Months Supply of Inventory

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The quantity of new listings ebbs and flows by season, however even accounting for seasonality, the number of new listings coming on market is much lower than usual. And this link shows the increasing demand since the market recovery really got underway in 2012:
Percentage of Listings Accepting Offers

6Median Price Trends by Month
Monthly price data often fluctuates due to a variety factors. For example, median and average prices almost always drop in January since the higher end of the market usually checks out for the holidays: Values haven’t changed; the demographic of buyers and available inventory changed. However, the clear upward trajectory of prices over the past year is clear in both median and average sales prices.
Average Price Trends

The MEDIAN SALES PRICE is that price at which half the properties sold for more and half for less. If there were 3 sales, at $1, $2 and $10, the median price would be $2. If there were 4 sales at $2, $2, $5 and $10, the median would be $3.50. Median sales price may be affected by seasonal trends, and by changes in inventory or buying trends, as well as by changes in value.

AVERAGE DOLLAR PER SQUARE FOOT is based upon the home’s interior living space and does not include garages, storage, unfinished attics and basements; rooms and apartments built without permit; decks, patios or yards. These figures are typically derived from appraisals or tax records, but can be unreliable, measured in different ways, or unreported altogether: thus consider square footage and $/sq.ft. figures to be very general approximations. Generally speaking, about 60-80% of listings report square footage, and dollar per square foot statistics are based solely on those listings. All things being equal, a house will have a higher dollar per square foot than a condo (because of land value), a condo will have a higher $/sq.ft. than a TIC (quality of title), and a TIC’s will be higher than a multi-unit building’s (quality of use). All things being equal, a smaller home will have a higher $/sq.ft. than a larger one. The highest dollar per square foot values in San Francisco are typically found in upper floor condos in prestige buildings with utterly spectacular views.

The AVERAGE SIZE of homes of the same bedroom count may vary widely by neighborhood: for example, the average size of a 4-bedroom house in Pacific Heights is much larger than one in Noe Valley; and the average of a Marina 2-bedroom condo is larger than one in South Beach. Besides the affluence factor, the era and style of construction often play large roles in these disparities.

Some neighborhoods are well known for having additional ROOMS BUILT WITHOUT PERMIT, such as the classic 1940′s Sunset house with “bedrooms” and baths built out behind the garage. These additions often add value, but being unpermitted are not reflected in $/sq.ft. figures.

Many aspects of value cannot be adequately reflected in general statistics: curb appeal, age, condition, views, amenities, outdoor space, “bonus” rooms, parking, quality of location within the neighborhood, and so forth. Thus, how these statistics apply to any particular home is unknown.

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