On the 112th Anniversary of The 1906 Earthquake, Is San Francisco Ready for the Next Big One?

We all know about Millennium Tower’s 14″ lean, but did you know that California’s building code standards for a five story building are the same as those for a fifty story sky-scraper? That’s according to today’s front page New York Times article about the city’s downtown sky-scraper boom, the most visible emblem of which is the 1070′ tall Salesforce Tower, now the tallest building in the Western states. With many of the buildings constructed on sandy soils South of Market, the US Geological Survey says there’s a high likelihood that that the ground will liquefy in an earthquake. That’s not the kind of sand I want to have my head buried in when the next Big One strikes. I can only hope that local building code standards are stronger than the state’s and that Smart People are thinking about these things. ...  Additional Details

Rent Control Taking Control?

A piece in last Thursday’s New York Times investigates growing calls for rent control in cities across California, along with repealing the Costa-Hawkins Act, which limits the ability of cities to enact rent control ordinances. But as the article points out, “Economists across the ideological spectrum have found that rent control protects entrenched tenants but raises prices for future renters.”

It’s easy to blame “greedy landlords” but in my opinion housing affordability will only improve when the supply side of the equation is also addressed. And that means making it easier and for developers to build denser housing. Not surprisingly, most people are NIMBY’s when it comes to that prospect. ...  Additional Details

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). ...  Additional Details

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. ...  Additional Details

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. ...  Additional Details

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. ...  Additional Details

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.  ...  Additional Details