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The number of expired/withdrawn listings is also increasing, though not to some crazy level yet.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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New Case-Shiller Index Report

The Case-Shiller Index for March just came out and showed a big jump, just beginning to reflect the surge in appreciation we’ve been experiencing in 2013. (January and February Index readings mostly reflect sales in late 2012.) The March reading was 3.5% higher than February (last month) and 15% higher than March 2012.

The Index is for the 5-County SF Metro Area, not just for the city of San Francisco, and since it reflects a 3-month rolling average, is published 2 months later and sales close 4-8 weeks after the offers are negotiated, it is typically 3-5 months behind the actual market on the street. I would expect another significant jump in April’s Index.

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The complete Paragon report on the Case-Shiller Index is here: http://www.paragon-re.com/Case_Shiller_Index_Deciphered_for_SF

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February Case-Shiller Report Released

The small decline in the Index reading from December 2012 to January/February 2013 is due to seasonal market factors, not a decline in values, and occurs every year. Generally speaking, January and February sales reflect offers accepted in the holiday season period from Thanksgiving to early January, and since the higher end of the market tends to check out for this period, sales prices in the first 2 months of the year are typically lower. Based on the heat of the market since the year began, we expect to see a similar pop in C-S values in March and April that we have already seen in median sales prices.

Note: The numbers on the 2 charts below are based upon the January 2000 value of homes being calculated at 100. Thus the number 144 signifies a value 44% above that of January 2000; the number 184 signifies 84% above January 2000. However, a decline from 184 to 144 equals a 22% decline in value from one point to the other.

Before trying to apply Case-Shiller Index trends to specific cities, neighborhoods and homes — which can be deeply misleading — please read the explanation of how the Index works: http://www.paragon-re.com/Case_Shiller_Index_Deciphered_for_SF

San Francisco home values have significantly out-performed the overall Case-Shiller Index metro area over the past 12 to 18 months.

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January Case-Shiller Index Released

The just released Case-Shiller Index reading for January for the high-tier price segment of the 5-county San Francisco Metro Statistical Area declined slightly from December. This reflects seasonal market issues, not a decline in values, and it occurs every year – indeed, the decline was smaller than what is typical.

From January 2012 to January 2013, the Index indicates an 11% increase in house values for this segment of the metro area market. However, the real estate market of the city of San Francisco itself has outperformed the general market of the 5-county metro area. And due to its methodology, the Index is 4 to 7 months behind what is currently occurring in the market. In a quickly appreciating market, that can be a long period of time.

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Our full report on the Case-Shiller Index is here: http://www.paragon-re.com/Case_Shiller_Index_Deciphered_for_SF

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Case-Shiller’s December Report: 10th consecutive increase

The December report of the Case-Shiller Index for the 5-County SF Metro Area was released today, showing its 10th consecutive increase. In the high-tier-price index, which applies to the city better than their other indexes, but still understates the increases we’ve seen here, C-S shows a 9% increase in prices in the past 12 months, December 2011 to December 2012. Again, the real estate market of the city of San Francisco itself has outperformed the general market of the 5-county metro area.

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Our full report on the Case-Shiller Index is here: http://www.paragon-re.com/Case_Shiller_Index_Deciphered_for_SF

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November Case-Shiller Index Released

The Case-Shiller Index just released their November report, which is reflected in the two charts below. Remember that this is for the top third of sales price-wise in the 5-county San Francisco “metro statistical area.” The city of San Francisco has recovered more quickly and dramatically than the 5-county area as a whole.

Each month, Case-Shiller recalculates the price ranges of the low, middle and top tiers (thirds) of sales by the number of units sold. One indication of what has happened over the past year is that in December of 2011, the top third (“High-Tier”) of sales started at a sales price of $573,000; in November 2012, the top third of sales started at $685,000.

http://my.paragon-re.com/Docs/General/SixtyFortyImages/Case-Shiller_High-Tier_2011.jpg

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Our in-depth analysis of the Case-Shiller Index can be found online here: http://www.paragon-re.com/Case_Shiller_Index_Deciphered_for_SF

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October Case-Shiller Index Released

This is for the high-price-tier index for the 5 county San Francisco Metro Statistical Area (MSA). The home values of the city of San Francisco itself (not reflected on the two charts below) went up more in run up to the financial markets crash of 2008, then declined less with the crash and now is recovering more quickly in 2012, than the entire 5 county MSA market.

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September Case-Shiller Index Released

For the high-tier price index, there was virtually no change from August to September, though the lower price tiers continued to increase (these tiers are especially affected by the decline in distressed home sales). Here are 2 updated charts if you’d like to use one or more of them, one long-term, one short-term.

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August Case-Shiller Index

The Case-Shiller Index for August for the 5-county San Francisco Metro Statistical Area was released today. It showed a small improvement from July’s reading and is now at its highest point since December 2008.

http://my.paragon-re.com/Docs/General/SixtyFortyImages/Case-Shiller_High-Tier_2011.jpg

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Case-Shiller June Index Released Today

The June S&P Case-Shiller Index report released today continued to reflect the surge in Bay Area home values. Remember that Case-Shiller measures house values in a 5-county area and generally reflects the heat of the market 4-6 months ago. So far in 2012, the city of San Francisco itself is outperforming the 5-county area.

Our full report on Case-Shiller is online here: http://www.paragon-re.com/Case_Shiller_Index_Deciphered_for_SF

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