Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 12.44.47 PM

Underbids All Over The Map | San Francisco

Did you miss the Top 10 Overbids last week? Don’t worry, SFGate has em posted, but since it’s Monday (well it was yesterday), we like to bring you the weekly top 10 Underbids. Sounds like SFGate might recap them there too, so keep your eyes peeled.

The top dogs are a variety this time around. Locations are spread out – Western Addition, Bayview, Nob hill, Telegraph Hill, Marina, Pacific Heights, Inner Mission, Cow Hollow, and Noe Valley. Sizes range from a 232 square foot micro studio condo, which sold for $390,000 (don’t get too excited, that’s nearly $1700/sqft), to a 5590 square foot 5 bedroom mansion, which sold for only $1500/sqft (don’t get too excited here either, that’s $8.4M). There’s even a commercial unit in the mix, that fetched “only” $430/sqft (we ain’t talking apples to apples to the above.)

Just goes to show, in real estate, particularly in San Francisco it’s all about location, location, location…and pricing, marketing, presentation, and timing.

Regardless, have a great work week. Enjoy the top 10, stay dry, and pray for more rain/snow.

Address BR/BA/Units List Price Sold Price Underbid
1406 Golden Gate Avenue 3/2/0 $1,399,000 $1,200,000 -14.22 %
1311-1313 Palou 2-4 Units $995,000 $875,000 -12.06 %
1300 Pacific Avenue 0/2/0 $468,000 $425,000 -9.19 %
412 Green Street #A 0/1/0 $425,000 $390,000 -8.24 %
3315 Pierce Street 3/3.5/3 $2,699,000 $2,500,000 -7.37 %
2470 Broadway 5/4.5/2 $6,995,000 $6,500,000 -7.08 %
1326 Utah Street 2-4 Units $1,289,000 $1,200,000 -6.90 %
33 Perine Place 2/2/1 $1,500,000 $1,400,000 -6.67 %
2828 Divisadero Street 5/5.5/2 $8,995,000 $8,400,000 -6.61 %
425 28th Street 3/2/1 $1,695,000 $1,588,888 -6.26 %

theFrontSteps Overbids on SFGate [SF Gate, San Francisco Chronicle Online]

171 Bright

Maximum Overbid: Severely Damaged, No Electricity, Not Habitable, But Still Top Dog

You gotta love a market (as a seller) where an agent can use the most eloquent of beautifully descriptive words to sell such a wonderful property, in such immaculate condition and still easily (likely with stacks of offers) get a property sold.

From the marketing:

A complete TEAR-DOWN! Beyond the external frame, this home is severely damaged/charred/burned from a fire last May 2014. No electricity so access is limited to morning hours only. All potential buyers to sign a Hold Harmless Agreement prior to access. Probate sale, no court, no death in prop w/in last 3 years. NOT in habitable condition, this is more than a fixer, it’s a complete tear-down!

171 Bright
171 Bright

Listed for $299,000 (that had to be a record in and of itself), this wonderful Ingleside Heights Home just closed for $485,000.

Hey! Look on the bright side…nobody died in the property…at least “within the last 3 years”, and maybe, just maybe, the city will actually let you tear the whole thing down and start fresh.

As for the rest of the top 10 Overbids, here you go.

Address BR/BA/Units DOM List Price Sold Price Overbid
171 Bright Street 0/1.00/N/A 16 $299,000 $485,000 62.21%
1139 Green Street 1139 2-4 Units 12 $1,299,800 $1,710,000 31.56%
1161 York Street 1163 2-4 Units 27 $1,200,000 $1,560,000 30.00%
1819 26th Avenue 2/1.00/N/A 42 $775,000 $1,000,000 29.03%
39 Bradford Street 2/1.00/N/A 29 $998,000 $1,250,000 25.25%
1455 Oakdale 5/3.00/N/A 47 $759,000 $935,000 23.19%
721 Delano Avenue 1/1.00/N/A 28 $569,000 $700,000 23.02%
111 Harold Avenue 2/1.00/N/A 80 $599,000 $720,000 20.20%
526 34th Avenue 528 2-4 Units 41 $1,920,000 $2,240,000 16.67%
427 Parker Avenue 429 2-4 Units 58 $2,200,000 $2,550,000 15.91%

Happy Friday, and welcome to the new look of my new site. Still a bit of dust and debris laying around, but for the most part, we’re open for business.

marina2

Last Underbid of the year: Marina Home Wins

It’s the last Monday of 2015, everyone is out celebrating and the market is slow and quiet, but there are still properties closing every day, and some going significantly under asking.

The top 3 homes of the top 10 Underbid that closed in the last 2 weeks were sold more than 10% under asking (does that make any sense?) And the winner of our last underbid of the year goes to this wonderful 3 bedroom Marina District single-family home 59 Rico Way. Listed for $2,900,000 and sold for 2,550,000, 12% under asking.
marina1

marina2

marina3

And here’s the rest. Happy holidays everyone!

Address BR/BA/Units List Price Sold Price Underbid
59 Rico Way 3/1.5/3 $2,900,000 $2,550,000 -12.07 %
233 Franconia Street 3/3.5/3 $1,795,000 $1,590,000 -11.42 %
1945 Washington Street #411 1/1/1 $739,000 $665,000 -10.01 %
2953 Broderick Street 2/2.5/2 $3,295,000 $3,000,000 -8.95 %
1200 California 1/1/1 $2,188,000 $2,000,000 -8.59 %
338 Spear Street 2/2/1 $2,998,000 $2,750,000 -8.27 %
1177 California Street 1/1/1 $965,000 $900,000 -6.74 %
1598 McAllister Street 5+ Units $3,000,000 $2,800,000 -6.67 %
646 Los Palmos Drive 5/3/3 $1,450,000 $1,360,000 -6.21 %
1 Hawthorne Street #22E 2/2/1 $1,650,000 $1,550,000 -6.06 %
Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 4.42.38 PM

42.5% of SF Renters Are Cost – Burdened

Forty-two and one half percent of SF renters are cost-burdened, compared to 51.8% national average, study shows.

Apartment List recently analyzed Census data from 2007-2014, to see which cities and states have the most cost-burdened renters (those spending more than 30% of their income on rent). Nationwide, 52% of renters are cost-burdened, up from 24% in 1960 and 38% in 2000, but the numbers vary depending on city and state.

Here are some of the highlights from their report:

    1. The share of cost-burdened renters in San Francisco decreased from 42.7% in 2007 to 42.5% in 2014
    2. The share of cost-burdened renters in the US rose from 49.3% to a high of 53.4% in 2011 – an increase of 1.7 million renter households. It has fallen a bit since then, to 51.8% in 2014.
    3. Surprisingly, San Francisco, Seattle, Denver, and Austin performed relatively well – incomes have largely increased in line with rent growth.
    4. Miami, Detroit, and Los Angeles were among the worst performers in our study, with more than 60% of cost-burdened renters.

image001

They have data for 50 states, 454 cities, and 922 counties across the United States, so feel free to reach out if there is specific data that you are interested in seeing.

The way I see it, if you plan on staying in San Francisco for a long time, figure out a way to buy, not rent.

mansion1

$2,000,000 Under Asking In Pacific Heights…Actually $1,925,000 But Who’s Counting

If that $200,000 underbid from a few weeks ago seems like a good deal to you, have a look at this seven bedroom Pacific Heights Single Family home at 2660 Scott (you must click that link…the pictures are amazing), which was listed in September at $15,000,000 and closed last week at $13,075,000. Almost $2,000,000 under asking.
mansion2
Considering the home only last sold in 2004 for just shy of $6,000,000 I’d say the sellers are pretty thrilled (keeping in mind we don’t know how much they sunk into it, of course). IMHO the home was worth every penny of $15,000,000, so the buyers should be thrilled too. It’s a trophy home, and I’m totally jealous, as should be all of you.
2660scott
As for the rest of our weekly underbids. Here you go…the top 10 Underbids of the week.

Address BR/BA/Units List Price Sold Price Underbid
2660 Scott Street 7/7/6 $15,000,000 $13,075,000 -12.83 %
814-816 Cole 2-4 Units $1,990,000 $1,775,000 -10.80 %
1374 Union Street 3/3.5/2 $3,350,000 $3,000,000 -10.45 %
184 London Street 3/1/0 $574,000 $520,000 -9.41 %
365 Magellan Avenue 5/3.5/2 $2,520,000 $2,350,000 -6.75 %
601 Van Ness Avenue 2/2/1 $879,000 $825,000 -6.14 %
595 Waller Street 3/2/0 $1,300,000 $1,225,000 -5.77 %
2445 Polk Street 2/2/1 $1,450,000 $1,371,150 -5.44 %
3515 Washington Street 2/2/2 $3,995,000 $3,800,000 -4.88 %
580 Prentiss Street 2/1/1 $998,000 $950,000 -4.81 %

As always, I share all of this wonderful data with you in real time on several sources:
1. The Goods
2. sfnewsletter (sign up at sfnewsletter.com)
3. theFrontSteps.com

Get this stuff bookmarked, sign up to receive via email, follow me on Facebook, Twitter @theFrontSteps, LinkedIn. Do what you gotta do to get yourself educated on our market.

And have a great day.

2660 Scott, Property Detail Page

IMG_1172

San Francisco | December 2015 Real Estate Market Update

San Francisco Real Estate Report, December 2015 Market Update.
– Heading into the Holiday Slowdown after an Interesting Autumn Market
– Median home prices, over-bidding, housing affordability, luxury home sales, the new-home construction pipeline, and comparing the Shanghai and S&P 500 stock indices

————————————————————

120801

Median sales prices in October and November jumped back up to levels similar to the spring peak selling season. It’s important to remember that median prices are not a perfect reflection of changes in fair market value: They often fluctuate due to seasonal inventory and buyer-profile trends, as well as issues such as an influx of new-construction listings. It is the longer-term trend that is most meaningful – however we can say with confidence that there was clearly no significant “crash” in prices this past autumn.

120802

One indication of the heat of the market is the extent to which sales prices are bid up over asking prices. As is not untypical, the market becomes less competitive in November as it heads into the winter holidays. Still, an average sales price 6% over asking price would be considered crazy-hot in any other market in the country (though one also has to adjust for the fact that serious underpricing has become a not uncommon listing strategy in the SF market).

120803

This chart based on S&P Case Shiller Home Price Index data illustrates the seasonality of home price appreciation in the past 4 years: surging in our feverish spring selling seasons, and then generally plateauing through the rest of the year. Note that Case-Shiller looks at home prices in a totally different way than median sales price trends, and probably reflects changes in fair market value more accurately. Case-Shiller Index numbers refer back to a January 2000 value of 100, thus the current Index reading for higher-priced Bay Area homes of 217 signifies home prices 117% above January 2000.

As we enter the winter holiday market slowdown, the next real indication of the direction of the market will come in the first quarter of 2016. Will spring 2016 repeat the overheated, high demand/ low supply frenzies of previous springs or has the market finally reached a longer term plateau or even an affordability inflection point? We shall soon know more.

120804

In 2015 YTD, the dominant price segment for home sales in San Francisco was $1,000,000 to $1,499,000. As seen in the first chart above, the median sales prices for both condos and houses fall within this range. Note the change from just two years ago.

————————————————————

San Francisco Luxury Home Market

120805

120806

120807

The high-end home market is the most seasonal segment in the city (as well as the most sensitive to sudden, large, negative movements in the financial markets). Market activity starts to plunge in November, hits its nadir in December, begins to pick up in the first quarter and then usually hits its peak in spring. Much of the center of gravity in the luxury market has been shifting in recent years from the city’s prestige northern neighborhoods to other districts of the city, such as the greater Noe Valley area and the South Beach/Yerba Buena district. This is not to say that the northern districts are not still both very expensive and considered highly desirable, and the greater Pacific Heights area still dominates the market for the most expensive houses in the city, i.e. those selling for $5m and more.

————————————————————

120808

After the semi-hysteria – already half forgotten – that erupted in late August and September regarding the Chinese stock market and its impact on the U.S. stock market and economy, and possibly the Bay Area housing market, we thought it interesting to take a look back at how it has played out so far.

————————————————————

120809

It is widely expected that the Fed will raise interest rates in December, probably by some minimal increment, but for the time being, as of the first week of December, rates have remained below 4%.

————————————————————

In November, we issued two mini-reports, one on Bay Area housing affordability and another on San Francisco new housing construction. Below are the featured charts:

120810

120811

I’ll continue to keep an eye on things for you, if you continue to read it.

Expect much lighter than usual blogging for the rest of the year, and don’t be surprised if theFrontSteps goes under construction.

Contact me today for a free property valuation, or to get you set up on my buyer system.

September Case-Shiller – San Francisco Clearly On A Plateau

The S&P Case-Shiller Index for the San Francisco Metro Area covers the house markets of 5 Bay Area counties, divided into 3 price tiers, each constituting one third of unit sales. Most of San Francisco’s, Marin’s and Central Contra Costa’s house sales are in the “high price tier”, so that is where we focus most of our attention.” The Index is published 2 months after the month in question and reflects a 3-month rolling average, so it will always reflect the market of some months ago.

The Index for September 2015 was released yesterday. In 2014, after a torrid spring selling season, the market plateaued during the summer and autumn, and a similar trend has been developing in 2015 as well, after its own white hot spring.

The 5 counties in our Case-Shiller Metro Statistical Area are San Francisco, Marin, San Mateo, Alameda and Contra Costa. (And we believe the Index generally applies to the other Bay Area counties as well.) Needless to say, there are many different real estate markets found in such a broad region, and it’s fair to say that the city of San Francisco’s market has generally out-performed the general metro-area market.

The first three charts illustrate the price recovery of the Bay Area high-price-tier home market over the past year and since 2012 began, when the market recovery really started in earnest. In 2012, 2013, 2014 and now 2015, home prices have dramatically surged in the spring (often then plateauing or even ticking down a little in the following seasons). The surges in prices that have occurred in the spring selling seasons reflect frenzied markets of huge buyer demand, historically low interest rates and extremely low inventory. In San Francisco itself, it was further exacerbated by a rapidly expanding population and the high-tech-fueled explosion of new, highly-paid employment and new wealth creation.

For more regarding how seasonality affects real estate: Seasonality & the Real Estate Market . Short-term and especially monthly fluctuations are common and much less meaningful than longer term trends.

Case-Shiller Index numbers all reflect home prices as compared to the home price of January 2000, which has been designated with a value of 100. Thus, a reading of 217 signifies home prices 117% above the price of January 2000.

Short-Term Trends: 12 Months & Since Market Recovery Began in 2012

This chart below highlights the seasonal nature of home price appreciation over the past 4 years.

High Price Tier vs. Low Price Tier Appreciation, 2012 to Present

The more affluent neighborhoods led the city and the Bay Area out of recession in 2012, surging quickly, while the lower priced tier, still trying to recover from the huge distressed property/foreclosure crisis, lagged well behind. That dynamic shifted: the low-price tier caught up in 2013-2014, and now in 2015 the lower priced segment of the Bay Area homes market has started outperforming more expensive homes in overall appreciation rates (as measured by appreciation occurring over the 2000 to 2015 time frame). This is a recent phenomenon and we’ll have to wait to see if this dynamic continues.

Longer-Term Trends & Cycles

The two charts below reflect what has occurred in the longer term (for the high-price tier that applies best to San Francisco and Marin counties), showing the cycle of recession, recovery, bubble, decline/recession since 1996, and since 1988. Note that, past cycle changes will always look smaller than more recent cycles because the prices are so much higher now; if the chart reflected only percentage changes between points, the difference in the scale of cycles would not look so dramatic.

Different Bubbles, Crashes & Recoveries

This next 3 charts compare the 3 different price tiers since 1988. The low-price-tier’s bubble was much more inflated, fantastically inflated, by the subprime lending fiasco – an absurd 170% appreciation over 6 years – which led to a much greater crash (foreclosure/distressed property crisis) than the other two price tiers. All 3 tiers have been undergoing dramatic recoveries, but because the bubbles of the low and middle tiers were greater, their recoveries leave them at different places as compared to higher priced homes. The mid-price-tier is just now back to its previous peak values, but the low-price-tier is still well below its artificially inflated peak value of 2006. It may be a long time before the low-price-tier of houses regains its previous peak. The high-price-tier, with a much smaller bubble, and little affected by distressed property sales, has now significantly exceeded its previous peak values of 2007. Most neighborhoods in the city of San Francisco itself have now surpassed previous peak values by very substantial margins.

It’s interesting to note that despite the different scales of their bubbles, crashes and recoveries, all three price tiers now basically show the same overall appreciation rate when compared to year 2000. As of September 2015, Case-Shiller puts all 3 price tiers at 117% – 122% over year 2000 prices. Relatively recently, the low-price tier has overtaken the high-price tier in this measurement of overall appreciation in the past 15 years.

Different counties, cities and neighborhoods in the Bay Area are dominated by different price tiers though, generally speaking, you will find all 3 tiers represented in different degrees in each county. Bay Area counties such as Alameda, Contra Costa, Napa, Sonoma and Solano have large percentages of their markets dominated by low-price tier homes (though, again, all tiers are represented to greater or lesser degrees). San Francisco, Marin, Central Contra Costa, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties are generally mid and high-price tier markets, and sometimes very high priced indeed. Generally speaking, the higher the price, the smaller the bubble and crash, and the greater the recovery as compared to previous peak values.

Remember that if a price drops by 50%, then it must go up by 100% to make up the loss: loss percentages and gain percentages are not created equal.

The numbers in the charts refer to January Case-Shiller Index readings, except for the last as labeled..

Low-Price Tier Homes: Under $587,000 as of 9/15

Huge subprime bubble (170% appreciation, 2000 – 2006) & huge crash (60% decline, 2008 – 2011). Strong recovery but still well below 2006-07 peak values.

Mid-Price Tier Homes: $587,000 to $950,000 as of 9/15

Smaller bubble (119% appreciation, 2000 – 2006) and crash (42% decline) than low-price tier. As of July 2015, a strong recovery has put it back up to its previous 2006 peak.

High-Price Tier Homes: Over $950,000 as of 9/15

84% appreciation, 2000 – 2007, and 25% decline, peak to bottom.
Now climbing well above previous 2007 peak values.

In San Francisco, where many neighborhoods vastly exceed the initial price threshold for the high-price tier, declines from peak values in 2007 in those more expensive neighborhoods typically ran 15% – 20%, and appreciation over previous peak value has also exceeded the high-price tier norm.

San Francisco, Marin and Central Contra Costa

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 (and the country): 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. This chart shows both house and condo values, while the C-S charts used above are for house sales only. Median prices are affected by other factors besides changes in values, including seasonality, new construction projects hitting the market, inventory available to purchase, and significant changes in the distressed and luxury home segments.

Marin County

Central Contra Costa County

And this chart for the Noe and Eureka Valleys neighborhoods of San Francisco shows the explosive recovery seen in many of the city’s neighborhoods, pushing home values far above those of 2007. Noe and Eureka Valleys have become particularly prized by the high-tech buyer segment and the effect on prices has been astonishing.

2955pacific

Pacific Heights Condo Goes 11% Under | Elevator Ensures Minimal Neighbor Contact

Last week it was this Bernal Heights home that went 20% under asking, thus claiming the podium position. The winner this week is an ultra-deluxe condo in one of the most sought-after neighborhoods on the “North End” of town, Pacific Heights. This home at 2955 Pacific has views, a deck, a formal dining room perfect for Thanksgiving (maybe a 9 lb. Turkey and 6 guests, instead of the 16 lb. Turkey you’re envisioning), and even an elevator that takes you from garage to your unit, so you never have to see your politically incorrect neighbors that love to corner you into a discussion (or lecture) about why their candidate is best suited to occupy the White House.

Listed for $4.1M and sold for $3.65, what a bargain…and those red chairs are so great…ornot.
redchair

As for the top 10 Underbid list, here you go:

Address BR/BA/Units List Price Sold Price Underbid
2955 Pacific Avenue 3/2/1 $4,100,000 $3,650,000 -10.98 %
622-626 Buchanan Street 2-4 Units $1,399,000 $1,250,000 -10.65 %
3283 25th Street 2-4 Units $1,788,000 $1,615,000 -9.68 %
765 Market Street 1/1.5/0 $1,550,000 $1,415,000 -8.71 %
2340 29th Avenue 4/2/3 $1,299,000 $1,190,000 -8.39 %
265 Minerva Street 2/1/1 $699,999 $659,000 -5.86 %
570-572 6th Avenue 2-4 Units $1,800,000 $1,700,000 -5.56 %
1052 Rhode Island Street 3/1/1 $899,000 $850,000 -5.45 %
313 2nd Avenue 2/1/1 $789,000 $749,000 -5.07 %
886 30th Avenue 2/2.5/1 $1,450,000 $1,380,000 -4.83 %

This data is pulled from properties sold within the past two weeks. To get this type of stuff sent to your inbox, sign up for sfnewsletter at sfnewsletter.com. I send it roughly every other week.

(Keep in mind the properties we feature go into contract, usually have an escrow period, then close…When we post that a property “goes” we’re referring to the day it actually is SOLD, not the day it goes into contract.)

04-alex-clark-portrait-citybg-2x3I wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving Holiday filled with good food, good cheer, friends, family, football, skiing, surfing, no drama, no accidents, no injuries, tasty cocktails, cold beer, and old expensive delicious red wine. Happy Thanksgiving! Thank you all for your continued readership, loyalty, referrals, and business. It has been a great year, and it’s still not over (I have a great off market single family home in Cole Valley should you be interested.)

112102

San Francisco New-Home Construction Report

The SF Planning Department just released updated Q3 information regarding the new-housing development pipeline. San Francisco is in the midst of one of its biggest new-housing construction booms in history. (The same is occurring on the commercial development side, but this report won’t deal with that.) Indeed, it often seems that new projects of one kind or another are being announced on an almost daily basis, and a detailed map delineating all projects in some stage of the pipeline makes many city districts appear to have measles.

112101

112102

New housing construction has lagged population pressures for decades – pressures which have soared during the current economic and employment boom – and now there is a scramble to address the inadequacy of housing supply, and, for developers/investors, to reap the rewards of a high demand/low supply dynamic in one of the most affluent and expensive housing markets in the world.

Currently, there are approximately 59,000 housing units of all kinds – luxury condos, rental apartments, market rate and affordable units, and social project housing – in the relatively near-term pipeline (next 5 to 6 years). Most are in the Market Street corridor area, the Van Ness corridor just above Market Street, and in the higher-density housing districts to the southeast of Market Street (see map). If we add the mega-projects planned for Candlestick-Hunter’s Point, Treasure Island and Park Merced, which may take decades to become a reality, the number jumps to over 80,000. As a point of context, there are approximately 382,000 residential units in San Francisco currently. About 3500 new units were added in 2014.

Housing supply and affordability issues, strong feelings regarding neighborhood gentrification and tenants’ rights, and even simple NIMBYism (or in SF, NBMVism, “not blocking my view!”) make development the most contentious political issue in San Francisco. Furious battles are ongoing in the Board of Supervisors, the Mayor’s office and the Planning Department; with neighborhood associations and special interest groups; and at the ballot box. Development is not for the faint of heart or shallow of pocket: One cannot contemplate building virtually anything in the city without vehement opposition and sometimes a well-funded coalition in opposition. For developers, the equation to be penciled out includes high costs, enormous hassle-factor and extended project timelines on one side, and the potential for large financial returns on the other. In new San Francisco developments, condos often sell for $1250 per square foot and above, and 500 square foot studio apartments can rent for up to $3500 per month.

Of the units in the greater pipeline of 80,000 units, over 9000 units are designated as “affordable housing” – but about 5000 of those are in the long-term Candlestick-Hunter’s Point and Treasure Island projects. Because of the nature of the political environment, much to do with how much affordable housing will be built is in flux. Many developers are in intense negotiations with government agencies and neighborhood associations to find a workable compromise between return on investment on one hand, and unit mix and affordable housing requirements on the other. Said requirements may consist of a percentage of units in the project, building affordable units elsewhere in the city, or contributing substantial amounts to the city’s affordable housing fund in lieu of building.

New housing construction is very sensitive to major economic, political and even environmental changes (i.e. natural disasters), so simply because something is in the pipeline doesn’t mean it will be completed as planned within the timeframe contemplated. First of all, plans are constantly being changed in the normal course of things. And if a big financial or real estate market correction (or crash) occurs, as happened in late 2008, projects in process can come to a grinding halt, and new projects substantially altered, delayed or abandoned. Because the timeline in San Francisco can run 3 to 6+ years, from initial filing with Planning to construction completion, developers and their financiers make enormous financial bets on what the future will look like. Timing is everything in real estate development, and can make the difference between exceedingly large profits and bankruptcy. When the music stops – which it always does sooner or later, though the time range of opportunity can vary greatly – not everyone will find a chair to sit down in. That especially applies to those who over-leveraged their projects.

As a side note, big Chinese developers have been investing in both large residential and commercial real estate development projects in the Bay Area, and, according to reports, continue to aggressively seek additional opportunities. Though significant – constituting billions of dollars in investment – these projects do not constitute the greater part of Bay Area development.

The Planning Department’s pipeline-report webpage is here: http://sf-planning.org/index.aspx?page=1691

And if it keeps snowing, you will find me here.

Housing Affordability and Market Corrections

A look at San Francisco Bay Area housing affordability trends over time and how they intersect with real estate market corrections:

image001

The 2008 San Francisco Bay Area real estate crash was not caused just by a local affordability crisis: It was triggered by macro-economic events in financial markets which affected real estate markets across the country. It’s important to note that in the past, major corrections to Bay Area home prices did not occur in isolation, but parallel to national economic events. Ongoing speculation on local “bubbles” often neglect to remember this.

Still, dwindling affordability is certainly a symptom of overheating, of a market being pushed perhaps too high. Looking at the chart above, it’s interesting to note that the markets of all Bay Area counties hit similar and historic lows at previous market peaks in 2006-2007, i.e. the pressure that began in the San Francisco market spread out to pressurize surrounding markets until all the areas bottomed out in affordability. This suggests that one factor or symptom of a correction, is not just a feverish San Francisco market, but that buyers can’t find affordable options anywhere in the area. We are certainly seeing that radiating pressure on home prices occurring now, starting in San Francisco and San Mateo (Silicon Valley) and surging out to all points of the compass.

San Francisco, with a Housing Affordability Index (HAI) reading of 10% is about 2% above its all-time historic low in Q3 2007, but affordability in most other Bay Area counties, while generally declining, still remain significantly above their previous lows. By this measure, the situation we saw in 2007-2008 has not yet been replicated.

Significant increases in mortgage interest rates would affect affordability quickly and dramatically, as interest rates along with, of course, housing prices and household incomes, play the dominant roles in this calculation.

Note that Affordability ratios are just one relatively blunt measuring tool, and there are certainly other factors at play affecting our real estate market: local (high-tech boom; surging population, employment and wealth; inadequate housing supply, rental rates, etc.), national (financial markets, unemployment rates, consumer confidence, etc.) and, nowadays, even international economic factors (such as recent events in the Chinese stock markets and the EU).

Information on the methodology behind the California Association of Realtors’ HAI can be found here.

Speaking of financial markets, we decided to take a look at how the recent volatility played out in the S&P 500 and the Shanghai stock indices. These indices are constantly fluctuating, but the general picture has not altered significantly since we graphed this in early November:

image002