Who is San Francisco?

Every year we publish an in-depth look at San Francisco and the Bay Area told almost exclusively in charts.  The focus is not on real estate but rather on who we are, what we do, what we believe in.  While some of the charts simply confirm widely-known data– for example, that Asians as a group represent the largest minority in San Francisco (33.5%) — others reveal the most obscure and amazing things.  For example, did you know that there are almost as many dogs in San Francisco as there are trees?  Coincidence you say?  You can find all 32 charts, with links to dozens more, here.  I’ve cherry-picked some of my favorites below (Click the charts to expand them).

Education and Economy  

Surrounded by some of the top educational institutions in the country, it’s no surprise that San Francisco is also one of its most well-educated and affluent cities.  In fact, as of 2016 the Bay Area has the highest median income of the most populous metro areas in the country (second chart).  However, the discrepancy between rich and poor is also stunningly high (third chart).  If the Bay Area were a country we would rank 23rd in the world – between Mexico and Paraguay – for inequality of income based on an index measured by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development.

The average salary for a Bay Area bus driver is $53,390.  They make slightly more than clergy and slightly less than reporters.  Elementary school teachers make $74,490.  Computer programmers average $106,710 while real estate brokers average $115,490. Registered nurses make about $125,000.  Doctors, dentists and other medical professionals top the rankings at $200,000 or above, along with airline pilots and chief executives.

Of the 555,000 employed residents in San Francisco, nearly 20% of them are employed in local, state and federal government.  Wow!  That’s almost double the number employed in the retail trade.

Children, Crime, Commutes

Here’s a stunner: 81.7% of San Francisco households do not include children. No wonder then that we have the smallest percentage of residents under the age of 18 of any major US City (second chart).  37.8% of SF’s residents live alone – far higher than the national rate of 22.6%.  The LGBT population is 15.4%, vs. a national estimate of 4%.

There were over 30,000 car break-ins in 2017, significantly above the number in 2016 reflected in the bar chart below.  However violent crime dropped around 8% from 2015:  there were 58 homicides in the city in 2016.

About a third of San Francisco residents take public transport to work, the same number as drive alone.  330,000 non-residents commute into the city for work each day.  That’s on top of the city’s own 550,000 employed residents, of whom a quarter commute out of SF.  In 2015, the average one-way commute time was 32 minutes.  According to a recent article, that puts us second only to Washington DC as the worst in the nation.  New York and Los Angeles have shorter commutes than we do.

Real Estate

Here are a couple of charts on real estate.  The first chart’s breakdown of owner-occupied housing by zip code is not surprising – St Francis Woods tops the list; Hayes Valley/Tenderloin is at the bottom.  But take a look at some of the other statistics:  about two-thirds of households nationwide own their own homes; in San Francisco only 36% do.  About 64% of San Francisco’s housing units are rentals, with over 80% of them subject to rent control. 

It takes a minimum qualifying income of $303,000 to purchase a median-priced house of $1.5 million  in San Francisco.  No Bay Area county is more expensive.  Yet for the moment, housing affordability is still slightly better that it was at the peak of the dot-com boom in early 2001 and significantly better than immediately prior to the start of the Great Recession in 2008 (second chart).

A Sense of Wonder

What’s the takeaway from all this data?  We live in an ethnically-diverse, well-educated, affluent, dog-loving, crazy-expensive town where a little over a third of us pray at least daily and about the same number meditate at least once a week.  44% of us feel a weekly “sense of Wonder” about the Universe. 

Count me in that group.

As always, your questions, comments and referrals are much appreciated.


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The 2017 San Francisco Real Estate Wrap-Up: Data Sliced and Diced

2017 is a wrap, and it’s been another solid one for residential real estate in the City by the Bay.  For anyone so inclined you can read our full report —  complete with over 41 charts— here.  For those with less than a couple of hours to kill, I’ve sliced and diced the juiciest parts below.

Going Up

2017 was the seventh year in a row that the median price for a single family home in San Francisco increased.  It’s now over $1.4 million.  After taking a breather for the last couple of years, condominium prices also resumed their climb: their median price is $1.150 million.  Our data indicates that fourth quarter prices for both homes and condos are already above these figures.

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Homeless in the Bay Area

The weather is turning chilly.  While most of us were enjoying a surfeit of food with friends and family indoors last week, the Bay Area’s homeless were struggling to stay warm.  I’ve lived in this city for over 30 years, and the only other time I can think of when homelessness was this visible occurred during the mid-1990’s, before the dot com bust. Then, like now, the city was doing well.

It’s easy to avert our gaze from the tent encampments that gather under the freeways and along certain streets. Meanwhile, home prices are at record levels. Surely we can do better. Continue reading

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Winter: The Best Time of Year — for Buyers

I wanted to entitle this newsletter “Winter is Coming,” but decided that comparing buyers to the Dead Walkers might not go down well.  Besides, it’s buyers that have been getting the short end of the, um, spear for years now.  Prices really took off in 2012; with inventory relentlessly low (see my previous newsletter, it’s been a seller’s market ever since.

But everything slows down in winter.  There’s (even) less inventory, and buyers — being human — batten down the hatches from approximately Thanksgiving through early February.  Who wants to be out house-hunting when the weather’s turned cold and dreary? Besides, everyone is either preparing for or recovering from the Holidays.

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Here’s What’s Really Sustaining the San Francisco Real Estate Market

As I was getting ready to send out yet another newsletter showing further year over year gains in home prices(see first two charts below for single family homes and condos, respectively), I took a closer look at a chart that focuses on the supply side of the supply/demand equation.

August Median Sales Price

August Median Sales Price

“New Listings Coming On the Market”  is the simplest indicator of how many homes are being put up for sale in any given time period.  Take a look at the chart below, which tracks new listings (homes, condos, etc.) on a rolling 12 month basis. 

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Online Resources for Just About Anything You Want to Know about San Francisco Real Estate

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Let’s Talk about Taxes

First, a big thank you to everyone who responded to my RealDataSF Poll about how to make this newsletter better.  This month’s topic is a direct result of your input, as information about tax-related topics was among the top 3 subjects my readers wanted me to cover in addition to market news (the other two were investing in and renovating property).

Some other quick results: Continue reading

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The Cost of a Hot Economy in California: A Severe Housing Crisis

Today’s NY Times talks about the California housing affordability crisis and how the state is considering legislation to make it harder for opponents of developments to create roadblocks to projects that otherwise fit within a locality’s zoning laws. There’s finally a movement of “YMBY’s” That are saying “yes” to greater density – which is really the main issue – because they understand that sprawl is the enemy of the environment in so many ways. In San Francisco, that’s resulting in projects that, for example, don’t require parking for each unit – a recognition that younger buyers are abandoning cars in favor of car-sharing and public transport. Continue reading

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It’s Official: San Francisco Housing Market Reignites

In last month’s newsletter, I said that initial signs pointed to a newly robust Spring housing market after evidence that prices had flattened somewhat — especially for condominiums — in 2016. The data gathered through May confirms that conclusion.

The median house sales price jumped to $1,500,000, its highest point ever, about $100,000 (7%) above its previous monthly peak. The SF median condo sales price also hit a new peak at $1,200,000, $20,000 (1.7%) above its previous high. Continue reading

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Meet The Expert – ‘Everything You Wanted to Know About Buying a Home in San Francisco’

JUNE 08, 2017

(*But were afraid to ask!)


Join Misha Weidman, J.D., Broker Associate and Attorney at Paragon Real Estate Group, for a lively and informative discussion about the essentials of buying a home in San Francisco. Here are just some of the questions he will address: Continue reading

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