Fall Market Begins Strong

The Fall market has begun with prices continuing to rise in what can only be defined as a strong market. Despite the unusual high median prices of the Summer, Fall has seen no slow down. For all properties, September's median price was $1,250,000, 11.3% higher than last September. Single family homes continued to outpace condos/TICs/coops but only slightly; the former surged 10% year over year and the latter were up "only" 8%. Although these numbers are a dip from July's record highs, September reported numbers usually are down as August sales play out. Attractive properties are usually held for marketing after Labor Day pushing prices up in September (which usually close in October). We will have to wait to see October's sales figures to see if this is another record-breaking Fall market, but we are off to a good start.

Appreciation does seem likely, since inventory (the number of properties for sale) is still way down. Compared to last September we had 20% fewer available properties, and the trend line continues to be down as it has been since 2011, when prices started to go up. As a result of this low supply, sales are generally quick; median days on market was just 19, 32% lower than last September. And 70% of properties sell for over list. However, the "frenzy" of the market is not as it was in 2015, reflecting an acceptance of the new, higher prices and incorporation into agents' analysis. The average overbid is less than 8%, down from 13% just a few years ago. For sellers, now is a great time to put a property on the market as there is less competition, but buyers can also have some surety about what they should have to pay.

2-4 unit building sales statistics were more mixed. The median price is way up from $1,280,000 to $1,664,000, year over year; that is a rise of 30%. But buildings are taking longer to sell, a median of 42 days as opposed to 30 last year. Inventory is still low although trending up a bit (48 properties available in September this year as opposed to 42 last year).  (As always, small numbers of 2-4 unit sales skew these figures, as well as the fact that many sales of apartment buildings (and other commercial properties) are not reported through the MLS.)

Every part of the city increased in value except one. The most expensive area, District 7 (Marina, Pac Hts) fell slightly to a median price of $2,660,934 (down 2% from last September). Neighboring District 8 (Nob/Russian/Telegraph Hills, North Beach, Civic Center) edged up the least of all, rising 2.9% to $1,364,813. The next highest tier after District 7 (and almost $1 million less) is District 1 (The Richmond) and District 5 (Castro, Noe, Haight). They came in at $1,779,249 (up 7.8%) and $1,788,623 (up 8.3%).

Double digit percentage increases were spread across the southern tier of the city as areas once considered undesirable gain value disproportionately. District 3 in the southwest corner of the city around Lake Merced jumped significantly, up 20.7% to $1,156,143. District 10 in the southeast, always the least expensive area, is slowly closing the gap and this month was up 12.6% to a median price of $917,197. And District 9, stretching from South Beach and SOMA to Bernal Hts, has now fully recovered from the slowdown in condo prices at the end of last year. It surged this month 10.8% to a  median of $1,258,385. In the same vein, District 6 (Lower Pac Hts, Hayes Valley, NOPA) surged 15.1% to $1,374,831.

The rest of the city saw reasonable gains. District 4 (west of Twin Peaks) was up 5.8% to $1,557,179. The Sunset, which once seemed to be closing in on The Richmond is now clearly less valuable again, although it was up 9.5% to $1,381,449.  (All district statistics are three month rolling averages, to mitigate for low numbers of sales.)

Although we await October's and November's numbers to have a clear idea of the direction of the Fall market, it looks like the low inventory and strong demand resulting from the strength of the Bay Area economy are pushing housing ever higher. Absent some dramatic increase in supply or an economic shock, it is hard to imagine any slow down. If you are interested in the value of your property or the one you want, give me a call so I can analyze your specific situation and use my experience and skills for you. More statistics, updated constantly, are at www.danslaughtersf.com.

New Train Lines, Old Train Lines

As San Francisco's population grows how can our transportation system keep up? New dedicated bus lines are in place or in the works on Geary, Van Ness, Masonic, Mission, Potrero and elsewhere. The Chinatown extension of the T line is (hopefully) nearing completion. The city and others are also studying new train lines - a new BART tube from Oakland airport through Mission Bay, downtown and out Geary through the Richmond, for example. 

But some would be amazed to learn that San Francisco once had many more train lines than it has now. Besides the J, K, L, M, and N lines we have had for decades (and the relatively new T line down 3rd St., plus F and E historic street cars), Muni used to have A, B, C, D, E, F, H, and R lines. There was an elaborate system serving the northern part of the city with the A, B, C, and D lines running from the Ferry Building out Geary first to 10th Ave. and Fulton, and later with lines extending all the way out Geary to Playland amusement park on Ocean Beach, veering off on California all the way to 33rd Ave, turning on Van Ness and running to the Marina and the Presidio. All of these lines were discontinued in the 1950s, replaced by bus lines.

Another train ran from the Ferry Building all the way around the Embarcadero to the Presidio. Some of this line has now been restored as the E-line historic street car. But it only goes to Jones and Beach, whereas the old line went all the way to the Presidio (through a tunnel at Fort Mason). The other historic line (F) has the same name as an older line that went from Market and Stockton through the Stockton tunnel (built for the train) all the way to Chestnut and Scott in the Marina. In the 40s it was extended to 4th and Townsend to intersect with the Southern Pacific long-distance terminal. The Chinatown extension currently under construction largely duplicates the southern part of this route; although there is talk of extending it to North Beach, so far any connection to the Marina is nothing more than a dream. 

Two southern trains also existed, one traveling from Cesar Chavez (Army) down Potrero Ave, 11th St., Division and Van Ness all the way to Fort Mason. It was later extended down Bayshore and San Bruno to Arleta in Visitacion Valley. The other ran from Howard and South Van Ness (near the city's new "Hub" neighborhood with plans for 4 very tall residential towers) to Cesar Chavez. Bus lines replaced both in the late 40s and early 50s.

What would our city be like if these lines had been preserved? Certainly some streets would be noisier, and streetcars contribute to surface traffic. But perhaps if the lines had been preserved, fewer people would see the need for a car. Or maybe the city would have found a way to make them into subways like the one we have. As we rebuild some of the lines, we should think about why the others were there and, of course, where new ones are needed for today's city and for the future.  Details here, here and here.

More Housing Soon?

This month saw the passage of a set of bills aimed at encouraging the production of more housing at all levels and all across California. Nowhere is the need for it more apparent than in the Bay Area. But will the new policy proposals have an effect?

The package of 15 bills includes a permanent source of funding - about $250 million per year - through a fee on real estate transaction documents. There is $4 billion affordable housing bond slated for the November ballot. Several bills aim to streamline local construction approvals, give the state more enforcement powers to require localities to provide their share of housing and authorizes a study of local construction fees in an effort to lower the costs of new housing. Many of these measures have direct applicability in the Bay Area where many cities have authorized office construction but not housing for the workers. This contributes to the high cost of housing in the area AND creates transportation problems as employees must commute from where they live to where they work - which are far apart. This package of bills is a good "first step." But more needs to be done - in zoning changes, tax incentives, affordable housing funding, and enforcement of long term plans where every locality helps to address the issue. Creating more and more affordable housing will involve hard choices; we cannot house more people and retain exactly the same neighborhoods we have now; we cannot expect traffic to ease unless some of us give up our cars. San Francisco can be a place for everyone if we have the will to make it so, count on the region around us to do their part, and make the rational, planned choices that will be necessary. More details here and here

San Francisco Is Brutal

 When people think architecture in San Francisco, they usually veer between Victorians and the super-modern towers built recently. But what of our brutalist past? Brutalism, as an architectural style, emphasizes raw concrete and massive structure that makes the function of the building obvious from the outside. It is said to be "honest" architecture because it is not concerned with decoration. The name comes from the French béton brut (raw concrete) and it is associated with public architecture from the 1950-70s. We have some superb examples in San Francisco, including the Glenn Park BART station, St. Mary's Cathedral and the Sava pool in the Sunset. LIke it or not, brutalism is part of San Francisco's cityscape. Check it out, here and here.