Effect of Government Shutdown/Default Worries On The San Francisco Real Estate Market

This is a very unnerving set of data. Let’s hope it’s too small a timeframe to give an accurate assessment, but we could very well be on the cusp of a drastic shift in the market if the Government doesn’t pull their head’s out of their a$$es and get back to work!

Effect of Government Shutdown on SF Real Estate

Short period data often doesn’t tell the whole story, so we dug a little deeper to see how October 2012 played out, and you’ll see absorption (properties accepting offers) hovers in the 9-11% range. Therefore, a dip down to 6% is a bit concerning.
[Click Image to Enlarge]

Buyers get ready. This might be your time to finally get in the market without any competition. Sellers, don’t panic. There are still plenty of buyers out there that want your property, just get ready to negotiate rather than having your cake and eating it too.

San Francisco real estate weathers market storms much better than the rest of the nation, we have a true supply/demand problem here, we’re surrounded by water, in most neighborhoods building over 40 feet is prohibited, and our city really doesn’t like to approve development, so as long as people still want to be here, companies continue to innovate, we think we’ll do just fine. But who knows. This government shutdown thing certainly isn’t helping anybody out.

Think positive thoughts….

San Francisco Neighborhoods Prone To Liquefaction And Earthquake Induced Landslides (Bedrock vs. Landfill Take Two)

Back on February 15th, 2008 (yes, theFrontSteps has been around that long) we were asked by a reader if we knew of any good maps showing areas in San Francisco that are either bedrock or landfill. You’d be amazed how many people, to this day, read that post, and how many more emails we get asking if we have an even better map that will drill down and show the exact streets and topographic undulations as they pertain to a specific home/condo or listing.

Until now, we’ve come up empty, but we’re pleased to say, we have been informed of two new (to us) maps. One is a State of California Geologic map showing San Francisco areas prone to liquefaction (green) and “earthquake induced landslides” (blue), and you can really drill it down to the street you live on. (Click on the image to download the pdf and get your SF liquefaction/landslide knowledge on…quiz next week):

That’s a cool map. The other map is hidden in our MLS, and it allows us to layer the Liquefaction map over the listing location map. Do they give that access to you? Of course not, but we welcome you to contact us if you’d like us to research a listing for you (expect to work with us on the transaction, or tell your Realtor to do it for you).

Have a look at this property at 260 Green, a gorgeous 4 bed, 4.5 bath trophy San Francisco home in Telegraph Hill, with a recent price reduction from $12,900,000 to $11,000,000. By way of magic mouse clicking we’re able to tell you immediately if that home is in a prone area, and apparently price is not the only thing subject to sliding at 260 Green. (Obviously our one second look at a map does not compare to consulting with an expert soils or seismic engineer, so make sure you do if you have your eye on this property, or any others for that matter…okay.)

So that’s all great and what we can do for you, but what if you don’t want to contact a Realtor? San Franciscans, if you don’t know roughly where your home/neighborhood is on that map…you got issues. For the out of town readers considering a move to San Francisco, you can compare the liquefaction/landslide map to this San Francisco Neighborhood map. That will give you a good starting point. (For details go here.)

And in case you missed our original post and would like to know whether the chances of your house crumbling during “The Big One” are Very High, or Low (not just whether you’re in the zone), here you go:

Needless to say, if you live/plan on living in an area of green (first map) orange or red (bottom map), you better know how to duck for cover, and know that earthquakes don’t discriminate based on property values…if you’re in the zone, you’re in the zone. We hope “The Big One” never hits, but we all know it’s a matter of when, and not if, so choose your property location wisely, inspect, inspect, inspect, and remember to do those seismic upgrades you’ve been putting off for so long.

[Update: As is often the case, our readers are more bad ass than we are, and so provided a link to a soil stability (types) site: Click here to see it.]


-Map of San Francisco locations prone to Liquefaction and Earthquake Induced Landslide [State of California Geologist]
-SF Districts Map (Not the totally new one with new zones, but close enough)[SFAR]
-Map of Bedrock Versus Landfill San Francisco [theFrontSteps]
-Contact Us to Check Your Property Liquefaction/Landslide Location[email thefrontsteps@gmail.com]

Or use this form.

Can California Keep Her Bling?


I used to look at houses in Portland, OR like this 2/2 SFH in one of the most gorgeous neighborhoods, Sellwood, listed at $440K.

And then I would look for somthing similar in SF. And then I would need a very large martini. We all know, even after the martini, that a comparable home is SF (in a comparable lovely neighborhood) would go for twice or three times that price.

Experts in the field offer myriad explanations: SF has limited homes, limited land, high demand, good jobs, California property is worth more… etc., etc.

I am curious though how many of those factors still exist, or can continue to exist as the economic climate changes.

The Chron estimates that Bay Area homes lost $202 billion in value in 2008. Agreed, the Bay Area includes areas much harder hit by the slump than SF, but SF is not impervious to these problems. Maybe they aren’t horrible yet, but conditions aren’t as crazy-good as they used to be (right? We can agree on that at least?); could they get worse?

It seems that California itself is losing value. The S & P has already lowered her credit rating , tying her with Louisiana,  and may lower this rating again if the budget crisis can’t be solved– a phenomenon we have no real optimism to witness, unless we relish our tax refunds being issued as IOUs as part of the solution. From the LA Times:

“Should the state not enact timely midyear budget gap closing measures by February 2009, or should the state’s cash position weaken significantly compared with recently revised state cash flow projections,” the rating firm warns, the ratings on California’s long-term debt could be lowered, S&P said.

That could drive more investors away from California bonds, forcing the state to pay higher interest rates to borrow. Municipal bond yields in California and elsewhere have been surging in recent weeks as state budget troubles have deepened.

As for the prospect of borrowing to plug budget gaps, S&P warned that without “meaningful budget adjustments on the revenue or expenditure side,” California may face “constrained investor appetite” for its short-term notes.

In the meantime, Prop 13, once meant to protect the housing consumer, is now a very big part of the problem.

So my question is, can Californians expect to see deals like those in Portland, OR anytime in the near future in San Francisco? (And I pick Portland for its many similarities, physically and politically, to SF.) Ironically, though this would be a nightmare to some people, it would be a dream come true to the vast majority of renters who are currently priced out.  And if this untapped pool of buyers could actually buy, well…  we’d see that scary-good rush to buy again, like before the dot.com and current economy bust when people offered children and unneeded organs along with 50% over asking— but with distinctly post-bust differences.

Recession: 3, Realtor: 1

A real email exchange from moments ago (edited for privacy, of course):

Dear [buyer],

Thank you for your emails regarding [some of the condos] we had seen with you and wanting to see them again. We set up some times for Friday from 1-3 pm. Are you available during that time to tour?


Dear [Realtor]

Thank you so much for your time and patience with us these past couple of months. Regrettably, the worst has happened. My husband just lost his job and we are forced to put our home search on hold indefinitely. Should our circumstances change, we’ll be in touch.


Number one was the fear of the pink slip. Number two were clients we had written offers on property for, one of which was almost 1342 Shrader (cash buyers up to $2.5M, but works for a bank, and fears a layoff). The above email makes three. We did close on a condo on 17th not too long ago, so it’s not all dark clouds, but it certainly is not all sunshine and roses either.

East Bay: Berkeley Named Top Spot For Selling Your Home

By Home Girl, aka real-estate blogger Tracey Taylor

If you are selling your home, Berkeley is the place to be doing it, according to a piece in Forbes which ranks the ten best suburbs to sell a home. (Suburb? Ouch that hurts.) This is how they put it:

Berkeley known sometimes as a hippie haven, is becoming a hotbed for home sales. Prices in the Bay Area suburb are up 9% this year, with homes selling for a median price of $790,986. Properties are sitting on the market for 73 days on average, the lowest of any area with positive price trends within the confines of the country’s 75 largest Census-defined metro areas. Only 37% of sellers have been forced to reduce their prices, one of the lowest rates in the country.

“Only 37%” of sellers reducing their prices? Shows just how bad it is. Other California spots to make it into the Top 10 include Encinitas and Venice.

The report draws on stats from Altos Research and the really interesting angle — and one Forbes fails to mention — is provided by Altos CEO Mike Simonsen on his blog. He says this was a difficult one to call:

Their editors called and asked, “Where are the best selling suburbs for sellers right now?” It’s a tough question because the answer, really, is nowhere… By our Market Action Index, there are essentially no markets with demand levels high enough to call them “Sellers’ Markets”. We settled on identifying ten suburbs whose demand trends … simply weren’t horrible.

Of course, a Forbes ranking of “10 suburbs to sell that simply aren’t horrible” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

[Photo credit: http://www.cityofberkeley.info

Bay Area Home Prices: a la San Francisco Chronicle

From the Chronicle: Home prices down in 90% of Bay Area Zip codes. A bold statement indeed, and thank God we don’t live in 90% of the Bay Area, but what’s this?

One of the few standouts was the 94114 ZIP in San Francisco, home of Noe Valley, where houses go for well over a million dollars, designer strollers clog the sidewalks, posh shops peddle handmade ethnic tchotchkes, and the Google bus regularly cruises the streets.

But even that ZIP didn’t enjoy the double-digit appreciation that became de rigueur during the real estate boom. Instead Noe Valley prices were up 6.8 percent year over year, from $893 a square foot to $954.

We know full well SF is not entirely immune to the forces of the economy, but the mere fact that we are weathering this storm better than any metropolitan area we can think of, deserves to be noted. The fact that some areas of San Francisco are seeing price appreciation (however small) while other areas of the Bay Area (literally within 50 miles) are seeing price drops upwards of 70% is astonishing.

And apparently, Carolyn hadn’t seen this post, or she’d know a statement like, “Noe Valley, where houses go for well over a million dollars, designer strollers clog the sidewalks, posh shops peddle handmade ethnic tchotchkes, and the Google bus regularly cruises the streets” is sure to cause a stir. We’re prepared to let it slide, are you?

Just noticed something else on that map…does it show most of SF as a “Zip code with fewer than 20 sales”?

-Comment du Jour: The People in Noe Valley Have a Fully Realized Liberal Fantasy [theFrontSteps.com]

New Developments Face a New Reality in SF


I’ve heard from multiple sources that SF real estate is, for the most part, immune to the havoc wreaked on other parts of the US. But sales at our most recent condo complexes show that happy-smile-don’t-worry line of rhetoric is about as reliable as the clown’s was in Poltergeist (Happy Halloween!).


Socketsite reports that Symphony Towers, with only 55% of its units sold, has recently reduced prices 30%. The “Tower One Close Out,” advertised on the building’s webpage, demonstrates:
T-907 Penthouse studio w/built in Murphy bed & views $515,000 $419,000
T-602 1-br, Quiet courtyard location $565,000 $449,000
You have to wonder if those buyers among the 55% sold group are perhaps a wee bit upset. You might also wonder if you can’t, given the hint of desperation (“close out”= we really, really want to sell these goddamn condos!), get one of these units for even less than the advertised price.
Plus, Symphony Towers is not the only recent development cutting prices. The Hayes is also making cuts, despite its central location and uber-hip marketing (including requisite “ambient” track playing over your web tour of the property, a photo from which appears below). #610, for example, is a 1 bed/1 bath down now from $599K to $499K.  
inside "The Hayes," life is fabulously vogue


The Arterra, our newish “green” building at 300 Berry St. is also offering reduced prices, (such as #904, a 1 bed/1bath down from $649K to $599K), as is The Potrero.  
More good news for people who love bad news is that, according to the San Francisco Business Times, construction has been suspended at 535 Mission St: “The $100 million HOK-designed tower was put on hold earlier this month in response to worsening market conditions.”   
Well then. Seems like if one wants to buy right now, one should take these worsening conditions to the negotiating table. Don’t invite the clown.
Photo credits, respectively: Scary ass clown: Brain Handles.com; The Hayes staged unit: The Hayes.com.

“Mortgage market weathers storms” – SFGate

Did we read that headline correctly? Is that quite possibly the first headline in over two years about the housing/mortgage market that doesn’t spell disaster? Or is it the shot of Tequila and can of Tecate (a bit of lime squeezed in and a touch of salt on the rim) talking?

Home loan applications are up, interest rates are down and financing continues to be approved, according to national data and local mortgage brokers.

The interest rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 6.26 percent last week, down from 6.37 percent the previous week, according to Freddie Mac.

Mainstream media is getting soft! We kind of like it. But then you had to go ruin our party:

None of this is to say that the mortgage market has returned to normal. It is still far more difficult to qualify for a loan than it was before default rates shot up last summer, underwriting guidelines are in a continual state of flux and the housing market remains in a deep slump.

The number of homes sold in the Bay Area during June was the lowest for the month since 1993, down 9.9 percent from a year ago, according to DataQuick Information Systems. Across the nine [Bay Area] counties, the median price paid for all home types plummeted 27.1 percent to $485,000, slipping under the half-million-dollar mark for the first time in four years.


-Mortgage market weathers storms [SFGate]

Plunging Home Sales in the San Francisco Bay Area

More doom and gloom data for you to ponder. We won’t even point out the silver lining to the always dark cloud of real estate reporting, but it’s in there…rest assured.

From sfgate:

The price of a typical single-family home in the San Francisco area plunged 22.1 percent compared with a year earlier, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price index. The study, published by New York credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s, defines the region as Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco and San Mateo counties.

The 10-City Composite index, tracking major U.S. markets, decreased 16.3 percent, also the largest decline in more than 20 years of data. Among the 20 regions tracked by S&P/Case-Shiller, 13 posted record annual lows and, for the first time at least in this market cycle, all stood in negative territory. Las Vegas and Miami were the worst off, down 26.8 percent and 26.7 percent, respectively.

Bay Area home prices declined 20.2 percent year-over-year in March, 17.2 percent in February and 13.2 percent in January. April prices were off 2.2 percent from the prior month.

The indexes show the overall price trend in specific metropolitan areas. Many of the cities or neighborhoods within these regions performed better or worse. Areas like San Francisco and much of the Peninsula have held up relatively well, for instance, but the net figure has been dragged down by steep drops in outlying areas like eastern Contra Costa County.

Many real estate experts consider the S&P/Case-Shiller indexes and others like them more accurate gauges of real estate trends than the median price approach used by other groups. Because they track the value only of homes that have traded hands at least twice, the indexes chart the actual increase or decrease in specific homes.

Median surveys compare prices for homes sold in one month to an entirely different set sold in the next, meaning they can be artificially distorted when a higher proportion of homes sell in the lower- or higher-priced tier in a given period.

-Bay Area home prices continue steep fall [sfgate]

Weekly Fluj: Inventory, is there a lot of it?

Lots of people yapping on and on about how San Francisco listing inventory is through the roof, sales volume is in the toilet, and both median and average home prices have plummeted, but the Fluj says:

Seemingly the perception is that there is a lot of inventory, but is there, really? And as for prices, come on now!

Discuss, debate, have fun.

…and kicking it off, we’ll go ahead and show you Fluj’s first comment in the thread to get you going:

Right, so, “Inventory.”

Seemingly the conventional wisdom is that there is a lot of it. Why the disparity between what buyers in the field are actually excperiencing and the media/blogs then?

I did a search for available properties. I used a metric that I believe to be extremely common for San Franciscans. This is a search for a couple or a small family who hope to buy something with room to grow into.

The parameters are: 750K to $1.205M, 3 brs, 2 bas, 1 car parking. I limited the search zones to only generally safe(r) areas. Essentially I included everthing except Ingleside, Ingleside Heights, and Oceanview, all of 9 save Bernal and Potrero Hill, and all of 10.

I turned up 82 properties.

1. Of the 8 Richmond properties, only one was east of Funston, and it is a cosmetic fixer on 7th Ave for 899K. (On the market for 7 days, offers Tuesday, you best to hurry if interested IMO)

2. Twenty-seven are in the central or outer Sunset.

3. For areas 3, the Arch st. listing appears to be a nice little Merced Heights home for 559 a foot. Many searchers will not entertain areas 3.

4. For areas 4, if they are not on a very busy street or a fixer, only Forest Knoll, and Miraloma Park areas 4-D and 4-H have properties for 550-600 a foot. Like 3, many buyers will not entertain areas 4 as it is not particularly central.

5. Surprisingly, for areas 5, there are only two Glen Park listings. In Noe, there is only 4120 22nd, a permitted fixer in need of at least 600K in capital. In Ashbury Terrace, only one cosmetic fixer I know to have received two offers already. And there is one large fixer property up on Grand View — and it doesn’t have any views.

6. There was nothing in 6. This was surprising.

7-8. Nothing here. Not surprising.

9. Eleven are in Bernal Heights and will not appear in the search perameters of many groups. Two in Potrero Hill. The Wisconsin listing is a total fixer on a corner with very little southern exposure and an entrenched tenant. The Rhode Island property at $1.195M and 663 a foot appears to be a decent deal for North Slope.

So is that a lot of inventory? I really don’t think it is.

Isolated Panic amongst some San Francisco Realtors, or something larger?

Recently, we’ve been contacted by more than a dozen Realtors asking if we could “plug” their listings. Typically, this is not something we do as it defeats the purpose, honesty, and transparency of this blog, but we got to thinking…why not? We could make a little $$ from it, and help get the word out about some pretty cool properties that happen to still be available. Truth be told, a lot of “tips” from “tipsters” are essentially “plugs” anyway. Right?

Well, don’t worry, we’re not going to start whoring ourselves out…yet. But what has us thinking is the increase in requests to do so for properties that have only been on the market 2-6 weeks. In any other part of the country having a listing for 4 months is normal, and panic usually sets in around the 6th month that it is not sold, so why such alarm after 2-6 weeks? San Francisco Realtors are so accustomed to homes flying off the shelf, and when they don’t…they PANIC! Remember, a listing isn’t a “Stalefish” until 100 days have passed, so why all the panic?

We still say it all comes down to pricing, pricing, pricing, and location, location, location, and there is no need for panic across the board. We’re still hearing many more reports of multiple offers and properties flying off the shelf than we are of properties sitting, but is the national trend finally starting to hit San Francisco on a broader level, not just the southern districts? We’ve heard reports of homes in the Inner Richmond, Cole Valley, Westwood Park, Bernal Heights, Inner Sunset, Noe Valley (Gasp!), Parkside, Potrero Hill, and a few other nabes getting a bit stale. Properties that previously would have sold in the blink of an eye. So what gives?

We want your thoughts, especially you Realtors. Go ahead and comment anonymously, we won’t tell. And we certainly hope to hear from the Fluj, who, in case you missed it, we caught.

[If you'd like to check out what we've written about other neighborhoods in San Francisco, look to the right hand column and "Browse Site by Category".]

Shining examples of more stellar “local” real estate reporting

This from a reader:

Here is another shining example of disservice to the SF real estate market courtesy of the SF Gate.

The SF Gate and KGO (ABC) reported ([yesterday and the day before yesterday], respectively) on the same story, but KGO was decent enough to report the foreclosure numbers IN CONTEXT, i.e. referencing that the 130 foreclosed-on properties were in the Bay View. The SF Gate cunningly lumps all of the foreclosures into “San Francisco” and adds in that the rate of foreclosure in the city is “up 200% from last year”, easily giving the impression that the real estate market is tanking city wide. I don’t think the Gate even mentioned the word “Bay View” once in the entire article. In a word? LAME.

Here are the links if you want to check it out yourself.


SF Gate

And we thank you for your report and taking the time to bring it to our attention.

Mercury rising? San Francisco foreclosures on the increase?

Browsing TechCrunch today, we came across a site we had visited before, HotPads.com, that provides a fair bit of mashing goodness, and were reminded that we had never posted on the matter. Given all the continued hoopla in the media over the perpetual demise of real estate and the end of the world as we know it, we thought we would point out a few things about this little bubble we call San Francisco. Actually, we’ll leave that to the maps:


Notice that around 1 in 2500 homes in San Francisco are in foreclosure (according to the map). Some areas are more, some less, but you’d have to agree, the sky has not fallen. Also important to note, and TechCrunch missed this, the little home/building icons you see do not represent the actual homes in foreclosure, rather homes for sale or rent. Slightly misleading? Yes. Food for the bubblistas? Definitely. Cause for panic? No.

All in all, the mercury on that map doesn’t appear to be rising to the to the extent you might be reading.

For another data point on foreclosures, check out the list of San Francisco foreclosures provided to sfnewsletter via PropertyShark.com. Yes, the list has grown, but it’s hardly cause for headline reporting.

[Update: "Tyler" points us to what should have been obvious: "If you click the 'foreclosure' tab at the top, the houses change to foreclosures."]

Housing Outlook: Bleak

How’s that for a headline? Get your attention? Good. We’re just doing it like all the others. Now check out this video from IntoTheBox.tv (for real estate obsessed people like us):

If comparing San Francisco to New York City is any indication of things to come for us, then this report is scary, especially the fewer number of bonuses, and first time buyers getting scared by all the headlines, which we already knew. The bit on “Subprime” beating out “Facebook” for the “word of the year” is just plain nutty!

-IntoTheBox.tv [website for the NYC real estate obsessed]

The Wall Street Journal Front Page Story

US Mortgage Crisis Rivals S&L Meltdown


Make sure you get to the very end of that scare the sh*t out of us article to read this:

In spite of the gloom, the economy may avoid recession. Housing comprises a much smaller share of the economy than business investment, which dragged the U.S. into recession in 2001. Also, the rest of the world is stronger than in 2001, boosting U.S. exports. For the entire U.S. economy to contract would probably require a broad decline in consumer spending, which hasn’t happened since 1991.

And, while financial problems are serious, they aren’t — at least yet — on a par with those of the 1980s, when many major banks would have been insolvent had they valued their Third World loans accurately. There is, indeed, a possibility that the opacity of today’s mortgage securities means markets may be factoring in far larger losses than will actually occur. Though the Fed is still worried about inflation, it has plenty of room to cushion the economy with additional interest-rate cuts.

-US Mortgage Crisis Rivals S&L Meltdown [The Wall Street Journal]

Headlines versus Reality, Volume Down, Median Up…again.

Headlines: “Bay Area median prices rise, but overall home sales news grim.

Reality: “As Homeowners, Volume is not Very Relevant.

For what it’s worth, we’re happy to see our little report was right on the money as far as the decline in volume at around 41%. Guess we’re not so mathematically challenged after all.

And since you might not click through to the Chronicle’s daily dish of doom, we’ll pull some quotes for you:

Amid continuing fallout from the subprime lending crisis and credit crunch, home sales for California and the nation plummeted in October, while the median price slumped, according to two reports released on Wednesday.

In California, sales volume fell 40.2 percent in October compared with a year ago, while the median price slumped 9.9 percent…

Sales in the Bay Area, which the group defines as Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, Santa Clara, San Mateo and Solano counties, fell 41.5 percent. The median price in the region was up 8.9 percent to $810,490, compared with $744,300 a year ago. Median price is strongly affected by the composition of homes sold; in the Bay Area the median has been buoyed because a greater number of more-expensive homes have been sold. [We've been through the median/average thing already.]

The inventory of unsold homes rose by 1.9 percent to 4.45 million units. Analysts said the backlog was about double what it is during normal times and will probably rise further as increased mortgage defaults in coming months dump more homes on the already glutted market.

Patrick Newport, an economist at Global Insight, predicted that home sales could decline another 10 percent from the current depressed levels by mid-2008. He said that by that time, home prices will have fallen enough for sales to rebound.

-Bay Area median prices rise, but overall home sales news grim [SF Gate]

More mortgage fiasco reporting

From today’s San Francisco Chronicle:

The subprime mortgage fiasco stands to cost the Bay Area economy more than $5.4 billion next year, according to the latest report intending to put a dollar figure on the rising wave of real estate foreclosures.

The lending crisis will cost the national economy $166 billion and 524,000 potential jobs, said the report [...] In addition, homeowners across the country will lose $1.2 trillion in property values in 2008.

[...]“Today the foreclosure crisis has the potential to break the back of our economy, as well as the back of millions of American families.”

[...]The mayors’ report did not forecast a recession, but it said 128 metropolitan areas – including the San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont metropolitan statistical area – would see GMP growth fall into the “sluggish” category of below 2 percent.

[...] with estimated losses of $3.6 billion in the San Francisco area, the Bay Area stands to lose at least $5.4 billion[...]

By most estimates, the number of foreclosures could peak in 2008, when the next batch of mortgage interest rate resets is scheduled to occur[...]

[...]Economic growth will be cut by one-third in 65 metropolitan areas and by more than one-quarter in 143 regions.

[...]One expert on the Bay Area economy, however, said the study overstates the size of the impact. First, economist Ken Rosen said, the GMP is inherently an imprecise measure that involves cobbling together varying economic indicators on a local level.

Second, Rosen said he believes investors in subprime mortgages – who may be far afield – will likely bear the economic brunt of the subprime meltdown, not local economies.

“Most of the loss is not to the homeowner, but to the owner of the mortgage, and they’re not regionally concentrated in the Bay Area,” Rosen said. “We’ve exported maybe a quarter of this loss to the rest of the world.”

[...]Several recent studies have attempted to quantify the ripple effect of the subprime debacle.

Last month, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now found that nearly 4,800 subprime loans made to Bay Area borrowers in 2006 probably will fall into foreclosure in the next couple of years, costing homeowners, cities and lenders as much as $1.5 billion.

A report by another advocacy group found that foreclosures in the Bay Area could depress neighboring home values by as much as $11.6 billion.

And finally, research by the U.S. Senate Joint Economic Committee found that California homeowners are at risk of losing $23.6 billion in housing wealth if real estate prices continue to decline and foreclosures soar[...]

There you have it. Sounds like a hung jury. We can all agree things have changed. We can all agree they might continue to change. And we can all hopefully agree that nobody knows exactly to what extent they will change.

We’re going to go write a couple an offers on some a homes today and see just how skittish this market is, because the scale of what they’re reporting, we’re not seeing. Little bits here and there, but not all out disaster.

-Mortgage crisis expected to cost Bay Area $5.4 billion next year [San Francisco Chronicle, Kelly Zito]

Is Help on the Way?

“Countrywide, GMAC, Litton and HomeEq – which collectively service more than one quarter of subprime loans to people with poor credit – agreed to maintain the initial, lower interest rate for some subprime borrowers whose rates are scheduled to jump significantly higher. To qualify, borrowers must occupy their homes, have made their payments on time and prove they cannot afford payments with the higher interest rate.”

Hope they have a lot of operators manning their phones today.

“Governor, 4 big lenders agree on plan to stall high mortgage rates” [SF Gate]

Not such a pretty picture for Bay Area housing

kenrosen.jpgIs that why this guy is so smiley? His predictions are coming true?

For those wondering, that is “[e]conomist Ken Rosen, a notorious bear on housing who has called for a correction for several years, [who] said home prices in the urban core of the Bay Area could drop 5 to 10 percent – but outlying areas could see tumbles of more than 20 percent.”

He also says, “You had all these massage therapists who bought speculative homes that are now losing money.” You got something against massage therapists?

We’re calling Bull Sh*t on the Bear and his predictions for San Francisco, because he’s hardly a genius for that prediction. As for the “outlying areas”, we think he’s right on the money. Actually, we’re not calling B.S., because he did say “could”, not “will”. Big difference. And we’re already seeing price corrections, so where’s the story here? He should go into Politics. As for us, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

-Bay Area real estate symposium forecasts more gloom [SF Gate]

An Interesting Twist to an Already Twisted Tale

From a reader:

This happened to a unit in my building, #108 over here at 88 King.

They auctioned it off during the all star game and it went for $840,000.”

From the article:

“Mortgage scams involve a cartel of inside players — colluding property appraisers, real-estate brokers and accountants willing to draw up fake income statements and tax returns — who recruit people with good credit histories to serve as a decoy or “straw buyer” in a real-estate deal.

The conspirators inflate the price of the property, to get the biggest loan possible, pay the sellers the original price and then pocket the excess loan money as “cash back” at the closing of the deal.

The decoy buyer is paid off — often with just $5,000 — and the property is quickly abandoned to foreclosure…”

From theFrontSteps:

Our market and city are immune to all things national. If it doesn’t have to do with San Francisco, disregard it! (Insert sarcasm, or one of these ;-) or a “j.k.” {as in just kidding} or something, so you know we’re not saying, “it can’t happen here”. It can, and it does, as our reader apparently witnessed.)

-Miami Condo at Ground Zero in Mortgage Fraud [Reuters.com]

A call to comment (our market, overbids, mortgage mania)

Calling all Realtors, bloggers, and readers in San Francisco! Share your experiences on the market in this thread. I, Alex Clark (the editor), am actually feeling chatty and have been chiming in, and would love some insight from my colleagues as well as all you readers and bloggers. Go ahead…comment. It’s actually kind of fun. We want to know what you think of our market, where it’s going, stories of overbids, triumphs, tragedies, who’s to blame for the mortgage mess, and whatever. Just let it all out. Your secrets are safe with us. (Just keep in mind our national audience. ;-) )

Click Here to comment

-Point, Counter Point: More Sub Prime Mortgage Blaming [theFrontSteps]

Point, counter point, more Sub Prime mortgage blaming

We’re not ones to only tell one side of the story (although continually blamed for it, and admitadly a bit bullish). We’re certainly not ones to always point to roses, and we’re definitely not afraid of helpful comments and good articles to keep us thinking, so keep sending them, and please discuss.

At the heart of the matter is the way agents are paid — traditionally through a commission, paid by the seller, of 5% or 6% of the home’s sales price. Nudging buyers toward subprime loans, or keeping mum about the risks, means more sales go through. Also, the low teaser rate on a subprime loan allows the buyer to borrow more, helping to boost sales prices and commissions. “You can’t lie,” Phillips said of the agents. “You cannot intentionally mislead somebody. But you work for the seller.”

“You work for whoever pays you,” Phillips said, adding: “Should a broker tell a buyer, ‘You realize that you’re in completely over your head here?’ — when the mortgage company has already said to the buyer, ‘Sure, you can have the money.’ Why would the broker ever do that?”

“Realtors care about only one thing — making the sale,” added Kenneth Thomas, a lecturer on finance at Wharton, adding that if the buyer needs a subprime loan for the deal to go through, the agent is likely to keep silent about the hazards.

With that said, who is to blame for this mortgage mess?

-The Sub Prime Blame Game: Where were the Realtors? [Wharton]

DQ news: triple soft serve data?

From a reader:

I think a great topic is to discuss the latest DQ News SF numbers. September was supposed to be the month where all hell broke loose for home buyers. NO JUMBO LOANS everybody screamed since the credit meltdown occurred in Aug. And yet, SF prices STILL went up 1.9%!

There goes the argument that higher end homes were dragging up the median. The fact of the matter is, District 7, 94123 where I look is having a record year in terms of prices. Pacific Heights (94115/94109) is also up as well.

The crazier thing is, people are going to get paid RECORD BONUSES this year come Jan/Feb 2008, and good locations are going to get that much more demand as pent up demand has been building for two years now.

Well, as sfnewsletter points out, we’re still doing pretty good year over five and 10 year:

Okay, so the market has cooled, can we all agree on that? According to DataQuick, sales volume for the Bay Area has decreased 17.3% on a year-over-year basis (469 sales last month versus 567 in September 2006). That’s real, but it’s not the end of the world. Yes, San Francisco sales volume was down 17.3%, and median sales price only up 1.9% ($759,000 to $773,500) year over year. But how do we stack up over five years, or ten?

Using DataQuick’s own numbers, we can conclude San Francisco’s sales volume of today is down 3.7% from 487 units sold in September 2002 (a pretty banner year, we might add), but median sales price is up 44.8% from $534,000.

Go back to 1997, and we see our volume is up 33.6% from 351 units, and median is also up 152% from a 1997 median of $307,000.

Nothing but blue skies, fresh roses, and smiling faces in the San Francisco market (not entirely true, but it sounded good).

Nobody likes a bully

So here’s a story.  In case you haven’t noticed, the weather has been pretty nice.  That usually translates into good surf.  (You out of towners {SoCal} don’t get any ideas, the surf is only marginal here.)  So I’m in the water picking up clients (my board will soon be emblazoned with Zephyr stickers so I can write it off), and I run into a colleague.

He tells me a story about two highly qualified buyers that literally wrote offers two months ago, then decided, “the newspapers are telling us it’s a bad time to buy, so we’re going to hold off…”  WTF!  Who gets real estate advice from the newspaper?  That’s like asking me to advise you on which stocks to pick, or what’s the best way to perform a root canal.   Not good medicine.