Spring Rebound!

The preliminary Spring 2019 numbers are in, and it appears that San Francisco's never-ending seller's market is just that. Last Fall median prices were down slightly and with inventory increasing it appeared that perhaps the price appreciation that has been going on for a decade might have ended. January was also way down. But since then prices rebounded to a median of $1,400,000 essentially meeting the highest median ever and 1.1% above last May. Price per square foot hit a record median of $1105 in April and even though it dipped slightly from that in May, it was still up about 2% from last year. Single family houses, at a median price of $1,700,000 were up 5% from last May and tied for the record highest with February 2018. Condos/TICs/Coops were down from last May just slightly (0.6% to a median of $1,249,500). April's numbers were similar, which indicates that the market has settled at these prices, at least for now. This year, the final Spring numbers available at the end of June will be more important because of the slow, rainy start we had.


How about inventory? As noted above, last Fall saw a big uptick in inventory. But that began to collapse as the year ended and the downturn continued into the Spring. Normally, active listings tick up in April, but they fell this year and May inventory was nearly 20% below last year. Why is this? Some speculate that news of impending tech IPOs convinced Sellers that they should wait to access the "flood" of money. But longer term trends may also be at work, including the difficulty of moving up when prices have escalated so fast making the next best housing situation substantially more expensive than what people bought just a few years ago. Interest rates were also up but have been trending down lately which may have sent a message to Sellers that buyers might have more buying power in a few months.

Are there buyers at these high values? My experience from my listings and other agents' reports are that open houses are very busy and demand is high, especially in desirable districts and for superior properties. For example, larger units in the Castro are trading way over expectations. Houses below $2 million are in very high demand. That said, luxury houses are also selling fast - the number of home sales over $2.5 million was up 20% from last year. The tentativeness of the buyer pool that was evident last Fall is still a factor but well presented "done" properties are very very desirable and buyers are more confident than just 3 months ago.

San Francisco's market can only be described as remarkable - for the longevity of the upward price pressure, the speed of sales and the 

Want to know more about the market as it develops or about your particular house or neighborhood? Give me a call and we can talk about it. I'm never too busy.

Market Statistics

District by District

For district statistics, I use rolling 3-month averages to account for low numbers of sales and smooth out wild swings based on a few high or low sales in any particular month. So the numbers reported now include the huge drop in January and slow February. As a result, many districts are actually down from last year but a few performed very well.

The northside illustrates this contrast. Driven by the luxury home sales noted above, District 7 (Pac Hts, Marina) saw appreciation of 18.7% with a median price or $2,181,000. Quite a bit of this was in May, when prices were up 34%. But District 8 (Russian/Nob/Telegraph Hill, Downtown) with its large number of condos/TICs/coops fell 11% to a median of $1,075,000. 

On the westside, District 1 (Richmond, Jordan Park, Lake District) was down to $1,677,500 (-2.8%). Again, this masks massive appreciation in May when District 1 was up almost 10%. District 2 (Sunset) showed strength all Spring and again pulled almost even with its northern neighbor across the park. It stood at $1,600,000 median price, up 8.5% for the rolling average. District 3 (in the southwest corner of the city) was the biggest loser this Spring down 10.8% to $1,160,000. This may reflect one of the biggest objections to this area - distance and commute time from downtown - which loom larger as congestion increases.

The central city was also a mixed bag. District 4 (St. Francis Wood, Miraloma Park, West Portal) was down 6.59% to $1,600,500. But District 5 (Haight, Castro, Noe Valley), was up 2.1% to $1,722,500. Again, perhaps centrality and easy commute plus access to core commercial neighborhoods are defining values. But District 6 (Lower Pac Hts, NOPA, Hayes Valley) which is, if anything, even more central fell 7.4% to $1,250,000. Looking at the entire year may clear this up, but these central districts, especially 4 and 5 trade places on a regular basis.

Finally, the eastside is looking very stable as it continues to climb ever up, while remaining relatively affordable. District 9 (South Beach, SOMA, Mission, Bernal) held steady at $1,266,500 median price. District 10 (Bayview, Portola, Excelsior), as the last bastion of the under $1.5 million single family home advanced $5.6% to $1,032,000. The upward trends in these areas are almost certainly driven by proximity to Silicon Valley and the desire to be as close into the city as possible but still with a yard.

Of course, the June numbers may alter the analysis, especially if there are big surges like that in District 7 in May. But overall, the picture in the city is of an acceptance of the record prices reached last Spring. We will see if the market stops at that balance point or continues up after all the IPO madness works its way through.

More neighborhood statistics on my website here.

Light & Space

In real estate, we sometimes get caught up in statistics - number of bedrooms, price per square foot, average price appreciation in the last month or year. But homes are uniquely personal and subjective factors drive value and desirability sometimes far more than those that can be reduced to numbers. Chief among these are light and space.

Generally, apartments on higher floors are more expensive. Houses with views sell at a premium. But light is an independent factor. Garden apartments can be spectacular with light streaming in the back windows. A light-filled property seems bigger because the outdoor space seems like part of the unit. And the light streaming in also makes the inside more attractive. That's why people love an uninterrupted expansive view, even if not of downtown or a bridge. 

Square feet is space but what about cubic space (ceiling height)? Plus how is the space used? Why do two apartments in the same building that are the same size sell for different prices? Sometimes it is because of the view or light, but often the layout is determinative. Entry halls are desirable because they give a lux, private feeling. Separated bedrooms are perfect for roommates, but maybe not for a new family with a young baby.

These subjective factors, along with many others like architectural style, finishes, and proximity to transit and entertainment, are a big factor in determining the value of a property. But that value is always subjective to the buyer - not everyone likes the same thing! That's why home-shopping and selling is a subtle and complex business, with a wonderful reward at the end.

50 Years of LGBT Pride

At the end of this month we will mark the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising. Seen as the beginning of the modern Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender rights movement, the event in 1969 was sparked by a police raid at the Stonewall Inn and the reaction of the patrons who fought back for several days, demanding that they be treated like other citizens. Among those brave people were two prominent transgender heroes, Marsha P Johnson and Sylvia Rivera; a monument to these pioneers will be erected in Greenwich Village, New York and the event is commemorated in media and all over the world with Pride events including San Francisco's 1 million person parade at the end of June. "Stonewall" has come to mean not just that specific uprising but all the uprisings before and after. Here in San Francisco the Compton's Cafeteria Riot occurred in 1966 in the Tenderloin. And, of course, many others had to keep the flame burning, successfully suing to remove sodomy laws and legalize same-sex marriage, outlawing discrimination in many (but not all) places in the United States and around the world, placing diverse LGBT characters and their stories on television and in movies, raising and teaching children to love instead of hate, organizing corporate and community support, running for local and national offices (go Mayor Pete!) and living their lives authentically as an example to all. 

Happy 50th LGBT Pride Month! 

We will never stop working for equality.

We will never forget. 

More details herehere and here.