Special Report: 30 Years of SF Real Estate Cycles (Updated)

30 Years of Housing Market Cycles in San Francisco

Updated Report, September 21, 2013

Below is a look at the past 30 years of San Francisco Bay Area real estate boom and bust cycles. Financial-market cycles have been around for hundreds of years, all the way back to the Dutch tulip mania of the 1600′s. While future cycles will vary in their details, the causes, effects and trend lines are often quite similar. Looking at cycles gives us more context to how the market works over time and where it may be going — much more than dwelling in the immediacy of the present with excitable pronouncements of “The market’s crashing and won’t recover in our lifetimes!” or “The market’s crazy hot and the only place it can go is up!”

1982 – 2013: A Simplified Overview

Up, Down, Flat, Up, Down, Flat…(Repeat)

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Smoothing out the bumps delivers this overview for the past 30 years. Whatever the phase of the cycle, up or down, while it’s going on people think it will last forever: Every time the market crashes, the consensus becomes that real estate won’t recover for decades. But the economy mends, the population grows, people start families, inflation builds up over the years, and repressed demand of those who want to own their own homes builds up. In the early eighties, mid-nineties and in 2012, after about 4 years of a recessionary housing market, this repressed demand jumps back in (or “explodes” might be a good description) and prices start to rise again. It’s not unusual for a big surge in values to occur in the first couple years after a recovery begins.

Surprisingly consistent: Over the past 30+ years, the period between a recovery beginning and a bubble popping has run approximately 6 years. We are currently something less than 2 years into the current recovery. Periods of market recession/doldrums following the popping of a bubble have typically lasted about 4 to 5 years. Generally speaking, within about 2 years of a new recovery commencing, previous peak values (i.e. those at the height of the previous bubble) are re-attained — among other reasons, there is the recapture of inflation during the doldrums years. In this current recovery, those homes hit hardest by the subprime loan crisis — typically housing at the lowest end of the price scale in the less affluent neighborhoods, which experienced by far the biggest bubble and biggest crash — may take significantly longer to re-attain peak values, but higher priced homes are already doing so.

This does not mean that these recently recurring time periods necessarily reflect some natural law in housing market cycles, or that they can be relied upon to predict the future.

Mortgage Interest Rates since 1981

It’s much harder to decipher any cycles in 30-year mortgage rates over the same period. Despite the rate spike over the summer, rates remain very low by any historical measure, and this, of course, plays a huge role in the ongoing cost of homeownership.

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In the 2 charts below tracking the S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index for the 5-County San Francisco Metro Area, the data points refer to home values as a percentage of those in January 2000. January 2000 equals 100 on the trend line: 66 means prices were 66% of those in January 2000; 175 signifies prices 75% higher.

1983 through 1995

(After Recession) Boom, Decline, Doldrums

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In the above chart, the country is just coming out of the late seventies, early eighties recession – huge inflation, stagnant economy (“stagflation”) and incredibly high interest rates (hitting 18%). As the economy recovered, the housing market started to appreciate and this surge in values began to accelerate deeper into the decade. Over 6 years, the market appreciated almost 100%. Finally, the eighties version of irrational exuberance — junk bonds, stock market swindles, the Savings & Loan implosion, as well as the late 1989 earthquake here in the Bay Area — ended the party.

Recession arrived, home prices sank, sales activity plunged and the market stayed basically flat for 4 to 5 years. Still, even after the decline, home values were 70% higher than when the boom began in 1984.

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1996 to Present

(After Recession) Boom, Bubble, Crash, Doldrums, Recovery

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This next cycle looks similar but elongated. In 1996, after years of recession, the market suddenly took off and became frenzied — actually quite similar to what we’re experiencing today. The dotcom bubble pop and September 2001 attacks created a market hiccup, but then the subprime and refinance insanity, degraded loan underwriting standards, mortgage securitization, and claims that real estate never declines, super-charged a housing bubble. Overall, from 1996 to 2006/2008, the market went through an astounding period of appreciation. (Different areas hit peak values at times from 2006 to early 2008.) The air started to go out of some markets in 2007, but in September 2008 came the market crash.

Across the country, home values fell 15% to 60%, peak to bottom, depending on the area and how badly it was affected by foreclosures — most of San Francisco got off comparatively lightly with declines in the 15% to 25% range. The least affluent areas got hammered hardest by distressed sales and price declines; the most affluent were typically least affected. Then the market stayed flat for about 4 years, albeit with a few short-term fluctuations. Supply and demand dynamics began to change in mid-2011, leading to the market recovery of 2012.

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San Francisco from 2010 to 2013

A Strong Recovery

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In 2011, San Francisco began to show signs of perking up. An improving economy and growing buyer demand coupled with a low inventory of listings began to put upward pressure on prices. In 2012, as in 1996, the market abruptly grew frenzied with competitive bidding. The city’s affluent neighborhoods led the recovery, and those considered particularly desirable by newly wealthy, high-tech workers showed the largest gains. However, virtually the entire city soon followed to experience similar rapid price appreciation.

San Francisco median home sales prices increased dramatically in 2012 and then accelerated further in the first half of 2013. (Note that third quarter figures will probably show a typical seasonal decline from second quarter median prices. There are also seasonal cycles in real estate.) By all appearances, San Francisco and the Bay Area are in the midst of a healthy recovery. Among other positive signs, new home construction is soaring.

All data from sources deemed reliable, but may contain errors and is subject to revision. Copyright 2013 Paragon Real Estate Group.

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Case-Shiller Home Price Index Up Again in May

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.

The aggregate C-S Index for the SF Metro Area is up approximately 30% – 34% from its low point, but is still approximately 20% below its peak in 2006. Please note that for a drop of 30% to be recouped, the increase must be about 43%.

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 has 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 – an approximate 60% decline from its peak. It is now recovering dramatically on a percentage basis – up 38% from its low point – but is still way below its 2006 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 than the 2 lower price tiers (low and middle) during the bubble pop. On a percentage basis, it’s increase from its low point – about 25% — is not as great as for the lowest price tier, but is now getting close again to its previous peak value. In the city of San Francisco itself, many neighborhoods have now reached or surpassed previous peak values reached in 2007-2008.

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This chart below illustrates the short-term monthly changes in the C-S high tier price index: the recovery in 2012 accelerating in 2013. May’s reading jumped 3.7% from April’s.

Case-Shiller_High-Tier_2011

And then looking just at the 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. Note that median sales prices and C-S Index numbers do not correlate exactly.

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Updated Housing Market Charts

Noe & Eureka Valley Houses:

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Cole Valley-Ashbury Heights-Clarendon & Corona Heights Houses:

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Glen Park Houses:

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Condos, Selected District 5 Neighborhoods:

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District 5 Residential 2-4 Unit Buildings:

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District 2 Houses

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Inner Sunset House Median Sales Price. FYI: Inner Sunset general dollar per square foot values actually track overall District 2 dollar per square foot values. For example in the 1st half, District 2 was $579/sq.ft. and Inner Sunset was $580/sq.ft. – of course, it all varies by the specific property.

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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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Interest Rates: Is the Sky Falling on the Housing Market?

The pundits are making dramatic, even doom-laden pronouncements about what is going to happen with interest rates (and the housing market), though they’ve been wrong so many times over the past few years, these “expert” predictions might be taken with salt-shaker’s worth of salt, perhaps with lemon and a nice shot of tequila.

Obviously, interest rates are an important component of the real estate market. But this chart gives a little context to what has occurred recently: the blue column is the average 30-year interest rate for the first 5 months of 2013, when everyone was dancing with glee at how low the rates were; the black line at the end represents the interest rate on Friday, June 6th, though it is true that it briefly hit 2 tenths of a percentage point higher earlier in the week (so if you like, add the tiniest smidgeon more to the black line).

I don’t know where interest rates will go, though they will probably rise over time—and perhaps there will be an upcoming interest-rate shock. But terror seems a bit premature.

http://my.paragon-re.com/Docs/General/SixtyFortyImages/Average_30-Year_Mortgage-Rates.jpg

Average_30-Year_Mortgage-Rates

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The San Francisco Metro Area Apartment Building Market

The San Francisco Metro Area Apartment Building Market

The Reis Reports Update Provided by the Paragon Real Estate Group
for the Metro Area of San Francisco, Marin & San Mateo Counties.

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MARKET OVERVIEW: The economy of the West Bay area of metro San Francisco (aka the San Francisco Metropolitan Division) had one of the most dynamic economies in the country in 2012, and is attracting more people from across the globe than its housing market can accommodate. “Having left the heavy-lifting to technology companies until early this year, San Francisco’s non-tech employers are playing a growing role in the city’s labor recovery,” Bloomberg News reported.

The dollar value of qualifying single-property apartment sales in San Francisco in 2012 was $879.2 million in 176 deals according to Reis Transaction Analytics. For the fourth quarter of 2012 Reis reports 57 deals for $253.3 million at a mean price of $230,512 per unit. A shortage of properties for sale is holding back deal volume, as demand is enormous.

The 136,650-unit market-rate investment grade San Francisco apartment market features low and falling vacancies and high and rapidly rising rents. “The San Francisco apartment market is exceptionally active,” according to Western Real Estate Business. “It features extremely low vacancies, rapidly rising rents, and tremendous demand for a very limited inventory of assets.”

OCCUPANCY: The fourth quarter 2012 vacancy rate is just 3.2% according to Reis. The rate is already lower than the 3.6% in 2008 (the low of the previous cycle), but above the 1.2% rate recorded for 2000 at the height of the dotcom boom.

RENTS

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“San Francisco leads the region with an average rent of $2,741 per month,” according to our source. “This number has increased by 5.8% over the past year and 22.4% over the last 24 months. San Mateo County follows with a current average asking rate of $2,128 (up 11.6% in the past 12 months and 26.2% over the past two years).”

“Asking rents continue to soar, despite rent control laws in San Francisco,” according to Western Real Estate Business. While perhaps suppressing overall rents, of course, rent control increases the rent of the market-rate units tracked by Reis by locking up apartments and narrowing the housing stock available to meet new demand. Reis predicts another year of strong rent gains in 2013, followed by moderating but still solid gains thereafter. Reis predicts rent gains will be in the vicinity of 5% in 2013.

SUPPLY AND DEMAND: The broader Bay Area is on the brink of a new supply boom, according to Cassidy Turley. “There were 5,300 new multifamily units delivered in 2012 and we are currently tracking another 19,000 units in the development pipeline. San Francisco and Santa Clara Counties are the epicenter of this growth, though we are also seeing development levels quickly rising in the East Bay.”

Whatever level of new supply is added, and many of the huge-development units referenced above could be 10 years or more away from completion, Reis predicts it will be quickly snapped up. With modest deviations, net absorption is expected to match up with new availability through 2017, keeping the vacancy rate very low.

SELECTED SUBMARKET SNAPSHOTS

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The 15,771-unit Civic Center/Downtown submarket has a fourth quarter 2012 vacancy rate of 3.7% and an average asking rent of $1,596 per month. The Civic Center/Downtown submarket led the rest in units sold in 2012 at 1,065, and dollar value of sales at $148 million.

In the 8,084-unit Marina/Pacific Heights submarket, the fourth quarter vacancy rate is reported by Reis at 2.1%, the lowest in San Francisco proper, with an average asking rent at $2,348 per month. Among submarkets with substantial sales volumes, Marina/Pacific Heights leads in price per unit at $378,532.

The 15,692-unit South of Market (SoMa) submarket has a vacancy rate of 4.3%, highest among the submarkets (though hardly high), and an average asking rent of $2,485 per month, the second highest market-wide. Out of 544 condominium units completed in the West Bay market in 2012, 473 were in SoMa.

The 8,381-unit North Marin submarket has a vacancy rate of just 1.6%, and an average asking rent of $1,601 per month according to Reis.

For the 10,639-unit South San Mateo submarket, Reis reports a vacancy rate of 1.9%, second lowest among the submarkets, and an average asking rent of $1,740 per month. This submarket is near booming Silicon Valley.

POLITICAL: “San Francisco could soon be home to some of the tiniest apartments in the country: studios for up to two people that include a bathroom, kitchen, and a living area measuring 10 feet by 15 feet,” according to the Associated Press. “The Board of Supervisors approved legislation allowing construction of up to 375 micro units measuring a minimum of 220-square feet.

“Back from the graveyard of dead 2010 ballot proposals is a plan that would compel owners of ‘soft-story’ buildings to retrofit them for earthquake safety by 2020,” Curbed SF reported. “San Francisco’s Board of Supes will revisit the issue, which would apparently apply only to wood-frame buildings built before 1978, with at least three stories.

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Real Data: December Newsletter

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San Francisco Smorgasbord: A Neighborhoods Sampler

Some time soon, we’ll be doing our annual wrap-up of the SF housing market statistics. And I expect it will be a doozie. But for our November Newsletter, our Chief Analyst Guru Extraordinaire did a survey of various neighborhood values. You can find all the ones he covered here. I thought I’d cover just a few of the highlights.

Inner and Central Richmond. These neighborhoods have recovered smartly since the market crash in 2008. They are now almost back to their pre-crash peaks.

There are some gracious homes in these areas, and at $575 per square foot they represent good value, in my opinion, compared to some of the tonier neighborhoods. This assumes, of course, that you can live with the fog. Compared to 2011, prices have increased 13 to 14 percent.

(Note, we’re using home values from September through November 2012 rather than year to date values in all these charts. We feel this reflects current conditions more accurately, since values were substantially lower at the beginning of 2012.)

Luxury Northern Neighborhoods. Go pretty much anywhere north of California Street and you will find yourself in the stratosphere. Whether it’s Sea Cliff, the Heights (Presidio and Pacific) or the Hills (Telegraph and Russian), this band of presitige neighborhoods has come back with a vengeance this year, with values now up 18 to 20% over the market bottom in 2010. Absolute prices (as opposed to per square foot) are now at new all-time highs.

South Beach Condos. Head south-east to high-rise condo central and the story is pretty much the same, with prices up 15 to 18 percent off their lows. South Beach and Yerba Buena high-rises boast some of the most spectacular views in the city — and you’ll pay for them.

Noe Valley and Surrounds. Back towards San Francisco’s geographic heart, Noe Valley has seen an exceptional turnaround in prices, with homes now selling for more than they did prior to the crash in 2007/2008. The average sales price of a home may be $1.66 million, but expect to pay well over $2 million for one with bells and whistles.

Bernal Heights. A perennial “up and comer,” this eclectic neighborhood kitty-corner from Noe Valley actually saw prices fall slower than more expensive parts of the city. They didn’t reach bottom until 2011. Now, they’ve come roaring back, with prices up 19% and very close to their previous 2007 peak.

A Winter Cooling Trend? Prices and sales volume typically fall during the winter months, especially at the higher end of the market as those who can afford to take off on vacation do so. It’s actually not a bad time to be out looking to buy for that very reason — less competition. This year, however, available inventory is so low that we are predicting a relatively busy winter season.

For charts and tables on even more neighborhoods, read the complete newsletter here.

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Social Media Boom Fuels San Francisco’s Rental and Home Sales Market

Hard on the heels of my last post that covered sky-rocketing home prices and rents comes yesterday’s front-page New York Times article on how San Francisco is at the epicenter of the new social networking/media boom. Continue reading

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Noe Valley Comes Roaring Back

While single family home prices for San Francisco as a whole can’t seem to recover beyond being around 18% down from their all-time highs, Noe Valley home prices have come roaring back since the start of the year. The three month moving average for April was down just 1% from its all-time high of March 2008.  In May, the moving average slipped back to 6.5% off the all-time high.  Take a look (click to enlarge): Continue reading

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How Deep is Noe’s Valley?

Judging by the number of houses I’ve seen being redone from the studs up, together with the number of homes that seem to be hitting the market at over $2 million these days, you’d think that Noe Valley real estate is doing very well once again, thank you very much.

Exhibit A:  729 Elizabeth StreetContinue reading

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