From our NorCal network : The Artisan Group


5555 Eastlake Blvd.
Carson City, NV
Offered at $4,495,000

For more information about this property or a referral to other areas of Northern California, please contact me.

Taking the Temperatures of Bay Area Real Estate Markets

Across the Bay Area, how many listings sell without price reductions, how quickly do they sell, and at what percentage of asking price? What role does employment play in the real estate market? Which are the biggest and smallest county markets, and how do prices and rents compare?

The white-hot – some would say overheated – core of the Bay Area homes market is San Francisco and Silicon Valley, and the heat radiates out from there, diminishing as one gets further away. This core is defined by the incredible strength of the economy, much of it supercharged by the high-tech boom. However, there are also cultural and lifestyle factors, as well as what might be called the creativity/innovation-cluster effect, all of which have almost gravitational attractions. Indeed, San Francisco is almost a perfect example of the “super city” concept, drawing in people from all over the country and the world like a giant magnet.

Because it’s close and a (relatively) easy commute to these areas, and so affordable by comparison, Alameda County (which includes Oakland) is also crazy hot. Marin has a strong market but is less feverish, firstly because getting to Silicon Valley isn’t as easy – one has to fight one’s way across the whole city to get to Highways 101 and 280 south – secondly, because it’s a very wealthy and expensive county, so it doesn’t offer quite the attraction of big home price discounts, and perhaps thirdly, because Marin has the highest median age in the Bay Area (45 years), and much of the high-tech employment boom is characterized by (pre-family forming) youth who prefer a more urban environment.

As one gets further north, east and south of the inner core, the markets become less overheated: It’s not that these markets are weak – in fact, some are quite hot and they’ve all been strengthening for the last 3 years. It’s simply that they’re not characterized by a feeding frenzy of almost overwhelming demand meeting limited inventory. Except for sellers eager to maximize their homes’ sales prices, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

It should be noted that many of the charts below reflect February sales data. Generally speaking, Bay Area markets have become significantly hotter as the calendar gets deeper into prime spring selling season.

Most of these charts speak for themselves, so we’ve kept commentary to a minimum.




As an illustration of perhaps the Bay Area’s most important market dynamic, this chart below delineates new job creation over the past 6 years. In San Francisco, for example, there are over 95,000 more employed residents than in 2009, and according to the San Francisco Business Times (3/6/15), there are currently 8600 unfilled software engineer positions in the city. During the same 6-year period, approximately 10,000 new housing units were built in the city. That ratio of new employment to new housing equals a desperately competitive housing market.






Other factors play important roles in the Bay Area markets – such as affluence and education levels – and many of these are assessed on a county by county basis in our 2014 report on San Francisco Bay Area Demographics.

And updated maps of comparative home values around the Bay Area can be found here:Bay Area Home Price Maps

San Francisco Farmers’ Markets

From our NorCal network : The Artisan Group


1131 Fallen Leaf Rd
South Lake Tahoe, 96150
Offered at $7,995,000

For more information about this property or a referral to other areas of Northern California, please contact me.

10 Factors Behind the San Francisco Real Estate Market [INFOGRAPHIC]

From our NorCal network : The Artisan Group


2648 Comistas Drive
Walnut Creek
Offered at $1,550,000

For more information about this property or a referral to other areas of Northern California, please contact me.

Another Feverish Spring Market? March 2015 Report

Overbidding & Inventory; Bay Area Home Price Map; Renting vs. Buying;
Different Markets = Different Bubbles, Crashes & Recoveries

Preliminary statistics and, even more so, indications on the ground in the current hurly burly of deal-making are sending strong signals of another very competitive real estate market in San Francisco as we approach spring. If it continues to develop as it’s looking right now, this would make the 4th intense spring season since the market recovery began in early 2012.

Once again, buyer demand has surged early in the new year without a corresponding increase in listing inventory: High demand meets low supply generates competitive bidding – sometimes fiercely so – and upward pressure on home prices. This doesn’t mean every listing is selling over asking price or even selling at all – even in a red hot market, 20% – 30% of homes are price reduced before selling or withdrawn from the market without a sale taking place (usually due to overpricing). There are also hotter and cooler pockets within the market: Right now, more affordable homes – for example, condos under $1 million – appear to be in particularly high demand.

Sales statistics of one month generally reflect offers negotiated 4 – 6 weeks earlier, i.e. they are a month or so behind what’s actually occurring in the market as buyers and sellers make deals. Sales volume in January and February was down 20% year over year, reflecting a market that pretty much shut down in the last two weeks in December, and then started the year with extremely low inventory.

Overbidding List Prices


This chart above illustrates seasonal trends in competitive bidding, which underlies the phenomenon of homes selling for over asking price. For the last few years, the average percentage of sales price to list price has been peaking in spring. But already in February, prices averaged a whopping 8% above asking – very few other markets in the country are seeing anything similar. Drilling down by property type, SF house sales in February averaged 12% over asking, condos averaged 7% over, and 2-4 unit buildings 2%. Houses are becoming a smaller and smaller percentage of city home sales (since virtually no new ones are being built), which has generally made them the most competitive market segment.

In previous years, the percentage over asking has peaked in May, reflecting offers negotiated in late March, April and early May.




Seasonality in the Bay Area often has more to do with summer and winter holidays than the actual weather since, unlike back east, January and February often look more like spring here. New listings and overall inventory bottom out in December, and then slowly rise in the new year. What is super-charging the market is that buyers woke up after the holidays and jumped back in the market much earlier than sellers have put homes up for sale in quantity. For the past 3 years, this unbalanced dynamic between the high pressure of buyer demand pushing against an insufficient supply of listings continued through spring, causing dramatic home-price increases, until the market slowed during the summer. We shall soon see if prices can jump higher once again in coming months.

Days on Market before Acceptance of Offer

Months Supply of Inventory



The greater the demand, the faster listings go into contract (i.e. accept offers), and the lower the average days on market (DOM) and months supply of inventory (MSI).Both these statistics are currently in deep “seller’s market” territory. Of course, this could change dramatically if we get a sudden tsunami of new listings or if a large, negative economic event happens, but right now, we don’t have any reason to expect either to occur in the next few months.

As points of comparison, the national average days-on-market is more than twice that of San Francisco’s (approximately 69 days vs. 30), and the national MSI figure is almost 3 times higher than the city’s (approximately 4.7 months of inventory vs. 1.6). Many new listings in San Francisco are going into contract within 7 to 14 days of coming on market, as eager buyers swarm over them.

Bay Area Median House Prices

This map gives a very general idea of comparative home values around the Bay Area. Remember that median prices will often disguise enormous variety in the underlying individual home sales.

We’ve also updated our SF neighborhood map for house and condo prices, which can be found online here: San Francisco Median Home Price Map


Renting vs. Buying in San Francisco


Someone moving to or within San Francisco basically has 2 choices: Renting at market rate or buying at market rate. And rents have gone up so much locally that after accounting for multiple tax benefits, low interest rates, principal loan-balance pay-down (which adds to home equity) and estimated long-term appreciation, buying often looks like the financially attractive course. Above is one chart of a much more detailed analysis comparing the cost of renting a 2-bedroom San Francisco apartment at the current median asking rent, with the monthly cost of buying an SF home at the current median sales price after adjusting for tax deductions and principal pay-down.As seen above, the net monthly cost of buying can be less renting.

There are many personal and monetary issues that pertain to this decision and our analysis is based on a number of financial assumptions – interest, inflation, appreciation and tax rates; downpayment amount; maintenance and insurance costs – that you may not agree with or might not apply to you. You can review our full analysis and also perform your own calculations here: Renting vs. Buying in San Francisco

Different Markets, Bubbles, Crashes & Recoveries*

The real estate market is often spoken about as if it was a single monolithic entity performing in a consistent way – but nothing could be further from the truth. Markets vary enormously between states, cities, neighborhoods, property types and price segments. The S&P Case-Shiller Index looks at the Bay Area market* by breaking all house sales into 3 price segments – low, mid and high price tiers – each containing one third of the total number of sales.The exact price range of each tier changes as the market appreciates or depreciates, or more sales occur in one price range than another: Right now, the “high-price tier” starts at $872,000. In February of 2012, the high tier started at a threshold of $537,000.

Breaking down the market by price segment is a vast over-simplification – there are many other factors at play – but generally speaking, the lower the price range, the more the housing segment was impacted by subprime/ predatory lending in 2003 – 2006. In turn, that caused the larger price bubble, and then the bigger crash as the foreclosure/ distressed-property crisis took hold.

Most Bay Area counties are dominated by homes in 2 price tiers, low and mid, or mid and high, but there are pockets of homes in all tiers within most counties. The numbers in the 3 charts below all relate to a January 2000 value designated as 100. Thus a reading of 199 indicates a home price 99% above that of January 2000.

Bay Area Low-Price-Tier Houses – Currently under $542,000

The low-price third of sales was massively impacted by subprime lending – people buying homes they couldn’t actually afford. It experienced an insane appreciation rate of 170% from 2000 to 2006, creating an enormous bubble. It then crashed by a catastrophic 60% due to the distressed-home phenomenon. As distressed sales dwindled, the recovery since 2012 has been spectacular, up 81%, but prices are still well below peak values and may not re-attain them for years. (If prices go down 60%, they must go back up 148% to get back to where they started.) Many homes in Alameda, Contra Costa, Napa, Sonoma and Solano* counties fall into this market segment.

Interestingly, this price segment was not impacted by the popping of the dot-com bubble, perhaps because these homeowners were less likely to be speculating in the technology stock market.


Bay Area Mid-Price Tier Houses – Currently $542,000 to $872,000

The mid-price segment was less hammered by subprime, but still significantly impacted. Its appreciation rate was 119% from 2000 to 2006 and its market then crashed about 42% before starting its recovery in 2012. This segment is now up 55% from the bottom and close to its 2006 peak value. Many homes in northern Marin, the southern border neighborhoods of San Francisco, northern San Mateo and various areas of the other counties fall into this price segment.


Bay Area High-Price Tier Houses – Currently over $872,000

Most of the houses in San Francisco, San Mateo and southern Marin, as well as affluent areas in other counties, fall into the high-price third of Bay Area sales, which was not deeply affected by subprime lending and foreclosure sales. Though its bubble and crash seemed dramatic enough to those experiencing them, they were much smaller: It appreciated 84% from 2000 to 2006, including a hiccup drop in 2001 after the popping of the dot-com bubble, and then fell about 25% (compared to 60% for the low-price tier). Its strong recovery since 2012, up about 44%, has now put this segment approximately 8% above its previous peak value in 2006.


Many neighborhoods in San Francisco, Marin and San Mateo would easily qualify for an “ultra-high” price segment, and it remains generally true that the higher the price, the smaller the crash. For example, most of the more affluent neighborhoods in the city peaked in value in 2007 or early 2008, then dropped 15% to 20% after the 2008 financial-markets crash.Due to the high-tech boom, many areas of San Francisco and San Mateo have significantly outperformed their price-tier in recent years.

Though the price tiers had radically different bubbles, crashes and recoveries, all 3 are now almost exactly the same in relation to the year 2000, showing appreciation of 97% to 99% over the past 15 years. This suggests equilibrium is once again being achieved between them.

* Technically the Case-Shiller San Francisco Metropolitan Statistical Area is comprised of San Francisco, Marin, San Mateo, Alameda and Contra Costa counties, but we believe its general trends apply to other Bay Area counties as well.

San Francisco Combined House & Condo Median Sales Price


Selected U.S. City Median Rents
Chart courtesy of California Association of Realtors


From our NorCal network : The Artisan Group


11769 Tundra Drive
Truckee, NV 96161
Offered at $1,080,000

For more information about this property or a referral to other areas of Northern California, please contact me.

From our NorCal network : The Artisan Group


6601 Elverton Drive
Oakland, CA 94611
Offered at $1,875,000

For more information about this property or a referral to other areas of Northern California, please contact me.

Renting vs Buying a Home in San Francisco

“Renting can make sense as a lifestyle choice or because of income constraints.
As a means to building wealth, however, there is no practical substitute for homeownership.”

New York Times, “Homeownership & Affluence,” 11/30/14 op-ed article

Please Note: Rent vs. buy calculations can be performed a wide variety of ways, and results will depend on your own financial circumstances and economic projections, which you should review with your accountant. The below calculations represent simply one scenario.

This rent vs. buy analysis compares the monthly housing cost of buying a San Francisco home at the Q4 2014 median sales price of $1,050,000 – adjusting for tax deductions and principal pay-down of the mortgage – with the cost of renting a San Francisco 2-bedroom apartment at the Q4 2014 median asking rent of approximately $4500/month (per It also attempts to compare, while adjusting for inflation and other factors, projected asset appreciation between investing the downpayment monies (instead of buying a home) and using them in one’s home purchase.

Assumptions: 20% down-payment ($210,000); 30-year fixed-rate loan at an APR of 4%; and closing costs; property taxes; ongoing insurance and maintenance costs; annual inflation (2%), outside investment returns (3% after taxes) and home appreciation rates (5%) – all at what seem to us to be reasonable projections. We’ve used a combined income tax rate of 25% for the mortgage interest and property tax deduction. But especially when projecting variable economic factors over long periods of time, many of these figures will simply be best guesstimates. You may perform calculations based upon your own specific financial situation and future projections, and also see the definitions for all the terms used in this analysis here:

Rent vs. Buy Calculator

The New York Times also has a rent vs. buy calculator:

NYT Rent vs. Buy Calculator

2-15_Rent-vs-Buy_Medians-Comp_A 2-15_Rent-vs-Buy_Medians-Comp_A2

2-15_Rent-vs-Buy_Medians-Comp_B 2-15_Rent-vs-Buy_Medians-Comp_C

2-15_Rent-vs-Buy_Medians-Comp_C2 2-15_Rent-vs-Buy_Medians-Comp_D

If you wished to perform this analysis comparing a 1-bedroom apartment rental with a 1-bedroom condo purchase, the median San Francisco asking rent would be approximately $3300 to $3400 per month, and the median purchase price in Q4 2014 was about $740,000. Interestingly, the ratio of median asking rent to median purchase price is almost exactly the same as in the scenario used above. If you currently have an SF apartment under rent control, you can still use the calculator, plugging in your current rent – annual increases in rents allowed under SF rent control are typically about 60% of the CPI inflation rate.

Other articles you might find interesting:

When Is the Time to Buy?

Home Buying as an Investment

10 Factors behind the San Francisco Market