“San Francisco Single-Family Home Prices Surge in March”, “Foreign Buyers” Wielding All Cash To Blame

[Editor's Note: Below is a carbon copy of the San Francisco Association of Realtors Market Focus Report. Remember...read the data, not the headlines. Each block in San Francisco is different.]

SAN FRANCISCO, CA, April 15, 2011 – The median sale price of single-family homes in San Francisco continued to strengthen in March, according to the latest Market Focus report published by the San Francisco Association of REALTORS®.

The report indicates that the median sale price has rebounded by an impressive 25.7 percent to $765,000 since the start of the year, although the year-over-year median price has declined 3 percent. The cause most often cited for the decline is the expiration of federal home purchase tax credits in June of last year and the difficulty experienced by buyers in securing financing for home purchases after the financial crisis of 2008.

Completed sales of single-family homes in March also have declined 3 percent from March of last year, although they have increased by 17.5 percent since the beginning of the year. The recent surge in sales is attributed to seasonal factors.

One area that has consistently seen a high level of sales activity is the Sunset district in the southwestern part of the city. Sales in the district have increased 28.1 percent on a year-over-year basis.

The Sunset district has the highest concentration of single-family homes of any district in the city and is popular with foreign buyers who often pay all cash for properties they purchase.

In March, the months of supply inventory of single-family homes stood at 2.3 months, a decrease from 2.8 months of supply in March 2010. Since August 2010 when the months of supply inventory was at 4.1 months, the months of supply has fallen by 44.3 percent.

Broken down by price segment, the months of supply inventory for single-family homes priced at less than $700,000 fell by a month from 3.4 in March 2010 to 2.4 last month. For homes in the mid-price segment of the market, between $700,000 and $1.2 million, the months of supply remained steady at 2.2 months. Single-family homes priced at more than $1.2 million also saw a decrease in months of supply inventory to 2.5 months from 3 months in March 2010.

Condominium sales (which includes condominiums, lofts, stock cooperatives, and TICs) during March 2011 bolted ahead by 13.1 percent from March 2010. During the same period, the median sale price decreased slightly by 2.7 percent from March 2010 to $632,500.

According to Bruce Lyon, president of the San Francisco Association of REALTORS®, certain districts of the city saw a more dramatic increase in condominium sales than the citywide percentage, specifically, high-end Pacific Heights, the Marina, and Cow Hollow, a popular location with Gen Y-ers. The surge is attributed to incentives offered to buyers of units that have lingered on the market too long.

In March, the condominium market witnessed a surge in buying interest with pending sales rising by a spectacular 69.1 percent, compared to March of 2010. The months of supply inventory of condominiums during the month stood at 2.8 months, down from 4.1 months in March 2010.

Since September 2010, when the months of supply inventory of condominiums priced at less than $500,000 was at its highest at 9.1 months, the months of supply in this price segment has fallen by 6 months to only 3.1 months. The months of supply of condominiums priced between $500,000 and $900,000 shortened to 2.6 months from 3.5 months in March 2010, and for luxury units priced at more than $900,000, the months of supply dropped to 2.7 months from 4 months.

Lyon believes that, given these dramatic improvements in prices and sales since the beginning of the year, the local housing market recovery is underway, although 2011 could be a transition year. He attributes improved market conditions, in part, to the increase in technology jobs in the city and explains that companies like Zynga, a popular social-gaming company, are planning to substantially increase their workforces in 2011. Some analysts, he says, are predicting that tech jobs in the city will soon reach the same levels they hit at the peak of the Internet bubble in 2000.

Also contributing to the strength of the San Francisco housing market, Lyon believes, is the decline in the number of loan delinquencies. The Mortgage Bankers Association backs up his claim. According to the association, “Total delinquencies, which exclude loans in the process of foreclosure, are now at their lowest level since the end of 2008.”

“Americans still regard home ownership as the best long-term investment that a person can make,” Lyon says. In the latest Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor Poll, 73 percent of Americans surveyed believe that owning a home helps to achieve “the American Dream,” and 70 percent would advise a family member or close friend to buy a house to build long-term assets. Home ownership outranked retiring comfortably, graduating from college, and becoming wealthy among the factors that those surveyed believe are definitely part of achieving the American Dream. In a similar survey, conducted nationally by the Pew Research Center in Washington, 81 percent of adults in the U.S. said that buying a home is still the best long-term investment a person can make.

-Focus on Volume on Your Block, Not Median In Your City [theFrontSteps]

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