Market News

Below are 3 charts from our updated 9-chart report that breaks down which neighborhoods one is most likely to find a home within a specific price range, whether house or condo. The report covers homes from under $1 million to over $5 million.

If you want to buy a house under a million dollars, one is now mostly limited to the neighborhoods that run across the southern border of San Francisco.

The full report is here: San Francisco Neighborhood Affordability

What Can I Buy for $1,200,000 or $2,000,000?
Below are illustrations of the wide range of homes (and, to some degree, lifestyles) one might buy at two different price points in the city. The higher a home is located on the vertical axis of the charts, the greater its square footage. (Note that the bathroom specifications can be a little screwy, for example 1.3 or 1.7 baths, because these are averages of homes sold at these approximate price points.)

$1,200,000 is approximately the median home price in San Francisco if one combines both houses and condos. For that price, one could buy a 4-bedroom, 2135 square foot house in Ingleside or Oceanview, or a 3-bedroom, 1566 square foot house in Outer Parkside, or a 2-bedroom, 1070 square foot condo in Pacific Heights.

For $2 million, one could purchase a gracious 4-bedroom, 2650 square foot, detached house on a large lot in Forest Hill, or a classic 2-level, 3-bedroom, 1900 square foot condo with a garden in the Marina, or a 2-bedroom, 1350 square foot, luxury high-rise condo with spectacular views in South Beach.

Quick Market Update
December through February constitute the slowest sales months of the year and are subject to significant seasonal issues, so coming to definitive conclusions about where the market is heading based on their data is difficult. However, for what it is worth, comparing the 3-month period to the same period a year ago, the median house sales price at $1,290,000 is up 4.5% and the median condo sales price at $1,050,000 is down 4.1%. As mentioned in earlier reports, the big dynamic affecting the condo market has been the surge of new-construction inventory hitting the market in the past year, just as demand started to soften. The inventory of new condos for sale is now at its highest level in 7 years, and, not surprisingly, this is impacting the supply and demand dynamic for condos, especially in those districts where new construction is concentrated. On the other hand, the inventory of house listings continues to remain at record lows, keeping that market, especially its more affordable segments, quite competitive.

This chart below reflects the latest Case-Shiller Home Price Index for the 5-county metro area house market, going through the end of 2016. It illustrates how in 2016, more affordably-priced houses continued to appreciate significantly, while the most expensive segment basically plateaued. Generally speaking, this is a common dynamic around the Bay Area.

San Francisco Median Home Price Trends since 1994
For a longer-term perspective

New Listings Begin Pouring onto the Market Again

The period of March through May is usually the most active selling season of the year, and we will soon have more conclusive indications of where the 2017 market is headed. This next chart illustrates the typical, dramatic surge of new inventory that fuels sales during this season.

San Francisco Home Sales with Views
SF is a city known for its wide variety of gorgeous views, which can add substantially to the value of a home so graced. Of all the house sales in 2016, only 88 reported having a Golden Gate Bridge view, and some of those were peek-a-boo views (i.e. if you lean out the bathroom window on the top floor) or roof deck views. A full-on, panoramic view of the GG Bridge from Pacific Heights adds over $1 million to the median house price there. Unsurprisingly, condos have the most, and most spectacular, views due to high-rise condo projects.

San Francisco Home Sales by Bedroom Count

Renting vs. Buying in San Francisco

Comparing the purchase, with 20% down, of a 2-bedroom/2-bath condo with the rental of a comparable apartment in San Francisco.

Every year or so, we like to update this analysis using current median sales prices and average rents for comparable 2-bedroom condos and apartments. 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. There is a versatile calculator published by The New York Times, where one can play with all the financial factors involved: NYT Rent vs. Buy Calculator. Our analysis represents simply one scenario, which is meant to be more of an invitation to perform your own calculations than a definitive conclusion on the subject.

Depending on your circumstances, plans and predictions for the future, renting may well be the best choice for you. However, low interest rates, high rents, loan principal pay-down over time, inflation and appreciation rates, and the large tax benefits that accrue to homeownership typically give a large long-term financial advantage to buying, if you have the funds for the cash down-payment. (Of course, as with any investment, financial results will ultimately depend on your purchase and sale dates.) This next chart compares net monthly housing costs between renting and buying after tax deductions and principal repayment are accounted for. Our full report goes into much greater detail, such as the accumulation of wealth, in the form of home equity, over time. Please contact me if you would like a copy.

Other recent Paragon reports you might find interesting:

A Comprehensive Survey of the 2016 Market in San Francisco
San Francisco Luxury Homes Market Report
A Survey of Real Estate Markets around the Bay Area
Bay Area & San Francisco Home Price Maps

It is impossible to know how median and average value statistics apply to any particular home without a specific comparative market analysis, which we are happy to provide upon request.

These analyses were made in good faith with data from sources deemed reliable, but may contain errors and are subject to revision. It is not our intent to convince you of a particular position, but to attempt to provide straightforward data and analysis, so you can make your own informed decisions. Median and average statistics are enormous generalities: There are hundreds of different markets in San Francisco and the Bay Area, each with its own unique dynamics. Median prices and average dollar per square foot values can be and often are affected by other factors besides changes in fair market value. Longer term trends are much more meaningful than short-term.

© 2017 Paragon Real Estate Group


The charts below are based upon San Francisco home sales reported to MLS during the 12 months from 2/16/16 – 2/15/17, breaking out the neighborhoods with, generally speaking, the most sales within given price points. Other neighborhoods not listed did have smaller numbers of sales within given price segments.

Where to Buy a HOUSE for under $1 million
The overall median HOUSE price in the city in 2016 was $1,325,000, so the under-million-dollar house is becoming increasingly rare. For context, in 2011, 75% of San Francisco’s house sales were below $1,000,000; that percentage has dropped to 24% to 26% (depending on how one is measuring). The vast majority of house sales in this price segment now occur in a large swath of neighborhoods running across the southern border of the city, which are by far its most affordable house markets: from Bayview through Portola, Excelsior, Visitacion Valley and Crocker Amazon, to Oceanview and Ingleside.

The chart’s horizontal columns reflect the number of sales of houses with at least 2 bedrooms, with parking, for under $1 million, while the median sales prices noted are for all 2BR house sales during the period. Median price provides a good idea of overall neighborhood house prices.

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Where to Buy a CONDO, CO-OP OR TIC for under $1 million

The overall SF median condo price in 2016 was $1,095,000, and sales under $1m still occur in almost every area of the city that features these property types – but a studio unit in Russian Hill may cost as much as a 2-bedroom condo in Diamond Heights. Note that these charts only reflect sales reported to MLS, and many new-project condo sales do not.

Of these property types, condos make up about 90% of sales, stock co-op apartments 1 to 2%, with TICs making up the balance. TICs typically sell at a significant discount (10% – 20%) to similar condos.

The horizontal columns reflect the number of sales under $1m broken out by 1-bedroom and 2-bedroom units. You can see that if you want to buy a condo in the South Beach/Mission Bay district, you are pretty much limited to 1BR units (or studio units). The box of median sales prices is just for 1BR units, again simply to give an idea of relative values between neighborhoods. Median price is that price at which half the sales occurred for more and half for less.

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Spending $1 Million to $1.5 Million in San Francisco

In this price point for houses, one starts moving into another layer of neighborhoods in the west and the central-south areas of the city: The Sunset and Parkside neighborhoods, Golden Gate Heights, Miraloma Park, Sunnyside, Mission Terrace, Bernal Heights and others as shown. There has been a lot of upward pressure on these areas in the past 2 years in particular.

The horizontal columns reflect the number of sales, with the average dollar per square foot values for the homes in this price range noted alongside.

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Condo and co-op sales in this price range are mostly concentrated in those areas where newer condo developments have surged onto market over the past 10 – 15 years, and continue to arrive in increasing numbers – South Beach, Mission Bay, Inner Mission, Hayes Valley, Dogpatch, SoMa – as well as in high-end neighborhoods such as Pacific Heights, Russian Hill and the greater Noe-Eureka Valleys area.

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Condos & Co-ops for $1.5 million to $1.85 million

Houses for $1.5 million to $2 million

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Buying a HOUSE for $2 million to $2.999 million

When you get to the $2 million to $2.999 million range, the house market becomes dominated by the greater Noe-Eureka-Cole Valleys district, the St. Francis Wood-Forest Hill district, the Potrero Hill-Inner Mission area, the Inner-Central Richmond and Lake Street area, and Inner Sunset/ Golden Gate Heights. One no longer can find much in this price range in the Pacific Heights-Marina district.

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Buying a LUXURY HOME in San Francisco

San Francisco houses selling for $3 million and above, and condos, co-ops and TICs selling for $1.85 million and above constitute about 10% of sales and, for the purposes of this report, are designated as luxury home sales. What you get in different neighborhoods for your millions of dollars will vary widely. Views often play a significant role in SF home values, but particularly in the luxury condo market, where the most expensive units often offer staggering views from very high floors. Over the past 15 years – and accelerating in the current market recovery – there have occurred some very large shifts in the luxury home market, with districts other than the old-prestige, northern neighborhoods becoming major destinations for (very) high-end homebuyers. However the northern neighborhoods like Pacific Heights still dominate the ultra-high end in SF: houses selling for $5 million or more. The greater South Beach-Yerba Buena area, with its many new luxury condo towers now comes in second place for luxury condo sales (reported to MLS) after the Pacific Heights-Marina district.

Luxury CONDO, CO-OP & TIC Sales

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Luxury HOUSE Sales

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San Francisco Neighborhood Map

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For prevailing SF (and Bay Area) median home sales prices, our interactive maps of neighborhood and city values can be found here: Bay Area & San Francisco Home Price Maps

Other updated reports you might find interesting:

SF Home Prices by Bedroom Count, Property Type & Neighborhood

Our Most Recent Market Analyses

San Francisco Market Overview Analytics
: Interactive, auto-updating charts for all the standard real estate statistics – median sales price, average dollar per square foot, days on market, months supply of inventory, listings for sale, and so on.

San Francisco District Sales Overview: A breakdown of sales by price segment for 14 different sections of the city.

SAN FRANCISCO REALTOR DISTRICTS

District 1 (Northwest): Sea Cliff, Lake Street, Richmond (Inner, Central, Outer), Jordan Park/Laurel Heights, Lone Mountain

District 2 (West): Sunset & Parkside (Inner, Central, Outer), Golden Gate Heights

District 3 (Southwest): Lake Shore, Lakeside, Merced Manor, Merced Heights, Ingleside, Ingleside Heights, Oceanview

District 4 (Central SW): St. Francis Wood, Forest Hill, West Portal, Forest Knolls, Diamond Heights, Midtown Terrace, Miraloma Park, Sunnyside, Balboa Terrace, Ingleside Terrace, Mt. Davidson Manor, Sherwood Forest, Monterey Heights, Westwood Highlands

District 5 (Central): Noe Valley, Eureka Valley/Dolores Heights (Castro, Liberty Hill), Cole Valley, Glen Park, Corona Heights, Clarendon Heights, Ashbury Heights, Buena Vista Park, Haight Ashbury, Duboce Triangle, Twin Peaks, Mission Dolores, Parnassus Heights

District 6 (Central North): Hayes Valley, North of Panhandle (NOPA), Alamo Square, Western Addition, Anza Vista, Lower Pacific Heights

District 7 (North): Pacific Heights, Presidio Heights, Cow Hollow, Marina

District 8 (Northeast): Russian Hill, Nob Hill, Telegraph Hill, North Beach, Financial District, North Waterfront, Downtown, Van Ness/ Civic Center, Tenderloin

District 9 (East): SoMa, South Beach, Mission Bay, Potrero Hill, Dogpatch, Bernal Heights, Inner Mission, Yerba Buena

District 10 (Southeast): Bayview, Bayview Heights, Excelsior, Portola, Visitacion Valley, Silver Terrace, Mission Terrace, Crocker Amazon, Outer Mission

Some Realtor districts contain neighborhoods that are relatively homogeneous in general home values, such as districts 5 and 7, and others contain neighborhoods of wildly different values, such as district 8 which, for example, includes both Russian Hill and the Tenderloin.

As always, the quality of the specific location and the range of amenities of the property; its curb appeal, condition, size and graciousness; and the existence and quality of parking, views and outside space can all significantly impact unit values.

These analyses were made in good faith with data from sources deemed reliable, but they may contain errors and are subject to revision. Statistics are generalities and how they apply to any specific property is unknown without a tailored comparative market analysis. Sales statistics of one month generally reflect offers negotiated 4 – 6 weeks earlier. Median sales prices often change with even the smallest change in the period of time or parameters of the analysis. All numbers should be considered approximate.

© 2017 Paragon Real Estate Group

These tables report median sales prices, average home size and units sold, by property type and bedroom count for a variety of San Francisco neighborhoods. If you are interested in data for a neighborhood not listed, please contact us. The tables follow the map in the following order: houses by bedroom count, condos by bedroom count, and 2-unit building sales. Within each table, the neighborhoods are in order of median sales price.

The analysis is based upon sales reported to San Francisco MLS in 2016 by December 22. Value statistics are generalities that are affected by a number of market factors – and sometimes fluctuate without great meaningfulness – so all numbers should be considered approximate. Median prices often disguise a huge range of values in the underlying individual sales.

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Median San Francisco House Prices

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Median San Francisco Condo Prices

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Median Prices: San Francisco 2-Unit Buildings

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These statistics apply only to home sales with at least 1 car parking. Homes without parking typically sell at a significant discount. Below Market Rate (BMR) condos were excluded from the analysis.

As noted on the tables, the average size of homes vary widely by neighborhood. Besides affluence, the era and style of construction often play a large role in these size disparities. Some neighborhoods are well known for having “bonus” bedrooms and baths built without permit (often behind the garage). Such additions can add value, but being unpermitted are not reflected in square footage and $/sq.ft. figures.

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Selected San Francisco District Snapshots

Illustrating the breakdown of home sales by price segment over the 12-month period.

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Our full collection of district snapshot charts is here: SF District Home Sales by Price Segment

The Median Sales Price is that price at which half the properties sold for more and half for less. It may be affected by “unusual” events or by changes in inventory and buying trends, as well as by changes in value. The median sale price for an area will often conceal a wide variety of sales prices in the underlying individual sales. All numbers should be considered approximate.

Square footage is based upon the home’s interior living space and does not include garages, storage, unfinished attics and basements; rooms and apartments built without permit; decks, patios or yards. These figures are typically derived from appraisals or tax records, but can be unreliable, measured in different ways, or unreported altogether: thus consider square footage and $/sq.ft. figures to be very general approximations. Size and $/sq.ft. values were only calculated on listings that provided square footage figures. All things being equal, a house will have a higher dollar per square foot than a condo (because of land value), a condo’s will be higher than a TIC (quality of title), and a TIC’s higher than a multi-unit building’s (quality of use). All things being equal, a smaller home will have a higher $/sq.ft. than a larger one.

Many aspects of value cannot be adequately reflected in general statistics: curb appeal, age, condition, views, amenities, outdoor space, “bonus” rooms, parking, quality of location within the neighborhood, and so forth. Thus, how these statistics apply to any particular home is unknown without a specific comparative market analysis. Data is from sources deemed reliable, but may contain errors and is subject to revision.

This link below can be used to access other real estate reports and articles.

Neighborhood Market Reports

SAN FRANCISCO REALTOR DISTRICTS
District 1 (Northwest): Sea Cliff, Lake Street, Richmond (Inner, Central, Outer), Jordan Park/Laurel Heights, Lone Mountain

District 2 (West): Sunset & Parkside (Inner, Central, Outer), Golden Gate Heights

District 3 (Southwest): Lake Shore, Lakeside, Merced Manor, Merced Heights, Ingleside, Ingleside Heights, Oceanview

District 4 (Central SW): St. Francis Wood, Forest Hill, West Portal, Forest Knolls, Diamond Heights, Midtown Terrace, Miraloma Park, Sunnyside, Balboa Terrace, Ingleside Terrace, Mt. Davidson Manor, Sherwood Forest, Monterey Heights, Westwood Highlands

District 5 (Central): Noe Valley, Eureka Valley/Dolores Heights (Castro, Liberty Hill), Cole Valley, Glen Park, Corona Heights, Clarendon Heights, Ashbury Heights, Buena Vista Park, Haight Ashbury, Duboce Triangle, Twin Peaks, Mission Dolores, Parnassus Heights

District 6 (Central North): Hayes Valley, North of Panhandle (NOPA), Alamo Square, Western Addition, Anza Vista, Lower Pacific Heights

District 7 (North): Pacific Heights, Presidio Heights, Cow Hollow, Marina

District 8 (Northeast): Russian Hill, Nob Hill, Telegraph Hill, North Beach, Financial District, North Waterfront, Downtown, Van Ness/ Civic Center, Tenderloin

District 9 (East): SoMa, South Beach, Mission Bay, Potrero Hill, Dogpatch, Bernal Heights, Inner Mission, Yerba Buena

District 10 (Southeast): Bayview, Bayview Heights, Excelsior, Portola, Visitacion Valley, Silver Terrace, Mission Terrace, Crocker Amazon, Outer Mission

Some Realtor districts contain neighborhoods that are relatively homogeneous in general home values, such as districts 5 and 7, and others contain neighborhoods of wildly different values, such as district 8 which, for example, includes both Russian Hill and the Tenderloin.

© 2016-2017 Paragon Real Estate Group


We have updated our median home price maps for the entire Bay Area by city, for San Francisco by neighborhood, and then specifically for the Marin, Lamorinda & Diablo Valley, and Wine Country markets. To access them, click on the map image below.

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These 2 charts below are specific to the San Francisco house and condo market, illustrating median price movements since 1994. All parts of the Bay Area saw similar trends, though the percentages up and down varied significantly between markets.

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A few interesting points regarding the above graphs: The year of highest percentage appreciation in the past 25 years was 2000, the height of the dotcom bubble. (However, by dollar appreciation, as opposed to percentage change, recent years have seen by far the greatest increase in prices.) When the dotcom bubble popped, SF condo prices were much more negatively affected than house prices: Young, high-tech workers play a bigger role in the condo market. And in 2016, the condo median sales price plateaued (and declined a little in some neighborhoods) while houses continued to appreciate, albeit at a much slower rate than the previous 4 years. We ascribe this plateauing in condo appreciation to, firstly, a big increase in new condo construction (more supply) and, secondly, to some cooling of the high-tech hiring boom (somewhat less demand).


Bay Area Median Price Changes

From Top of Bubble to Crash & Recovery

These next two charts illustrate BAY AREA median house prices and price trends since the market peaked in each county prior to the 2008 crash, to the bottom of the market during the 2009-2011 recession, to 2016, after 5 years of recovery. We also threw in a separate section for San Francisco condos, since they are such a large part of the city market.

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Based on the charts above, this next table is a bit complicated, but for those interested, it lays out the different percentage ups and downs from pre-crash peak, to post-crash bottom, and then back up to the present. It also breaks out the recent appreciation rate from 2015 to 2016.

If all these percentages up and down are too mind boggling, jump to the charts further below in the report, with additional county market comparisons and some interesting angles on demographics.

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All Bay Area markets saw large surges in home values from 2000 to 2005-2007 (illustrated in the Case-Shiller chart further below); all went through significant or even terrible declines after the 2008 financial markets crash, typically hitting bottom in 2009-2011; and all have made dramatic recoveries since. But there are big differences in how these events played out in distinct markets, with 4 main factors behind price changes over the past 16 years:

· BUBBLE: Generally speaking, the lower price ranges and the less affluent areas saw much bigger, crazier bubbles than other segments, inflated in the years prior to 2006 by predatory lending, subprime loans and the utter abandonment of underwriting standards.

· CRASH: In 2008-2011 distressed-property sales devastated the lower price segments and the areas where they predominated, and they suffered the biggest declines in home prices. When the recovery started in 2012, they began from unnaturally low points, which had little to do with fair market values. Other market segments were certainly dramatically affected as well, but to much lesser degrees.

· PROXIMITY to the high-tech boom: SF and Silicon Valley have been the white-hot hearts of economic expansion. Oakland and the rest of Alameda County were the closest, significantly-more-affordable housing options. Then, as one moves further away, the effect on home prices gradually lessened.

· AFFORDABILITY: The more affluent areas led the recovery in 2012-2014, but then the highest pressure of demand started shifting to less expensive neighborhoods, cities and counties. Amid the feverish appreciation in prices, buyers desperately searched for affordable housing options. Now, some of the most expensive markets are beginning to cool, while less expensive ones remain very competitive.

OAKLAND had a gigantic subprime bubble, a huge 60% crash, and then a sensational recovery highly pressurized by being just across the bridge from SF (and much more affordable). The Oakland median house price is up a staggering 182% since 2011, partly because it crashed so low. However, because its subprime bubble was so big, it is only 12% above its inflated 2007 price. Alameda County as a whole has experienced much the same market. Other comparatively lower-priced Bay Area markets, such as northern Contra Costa, Solano, Napa and Sonoma, more distant from the high-tech boom, saw similar dynamics, but are still somewhat below their 2007 peaks despite substantial recoveries.

SAN FRANCISCO, more expensive and affluent, had a much smaller bubble and much smaller crash with far fewer distressed property sales. The high-tech boom then supercharged its recovery: Its median house price is up 90% from the bottom hit in 2011 (much less than Oakland), but is 48% higher than its 2007 peak, the biggest increase over the 10 years of any of the markets measured. Silicon Valley has similar statistics, and other high-price markets like Marin and the Lamorinda/Diablo Valley area of Contra Costa County, saw comparable, if somewhat less dramatic, dynamics.


Additional Bay Area Market Comparisons

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Bay Area Housing Affordability Index

The Bay Area is among the least affordable places in the country, but it is still somewhat more affordable than during the historic low in 2007. Interest rates play a big role in that comparison.

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Interest rates changes, which have a large impact on affordability, continue to confound predictions as to sustained direction.

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Selected Demographic Snapshots

A few angles on how the Bay Area is different from other places, and how Bay Area counties differ from one another.

17Some local context to the political issue of immigration: The Bay Area would be a totally different place without it, much poorer financially and culturally.

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All Bay Area counties have been rapidly growing in population. San Francisco in particular is very densely populated and getting more so.

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Along with Washington DC and Seattle, the Bay Area ranks among the best educated metro areas in the country.

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Case-Shiller Home-Price Index Trends

By Price Segment, since 1988

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This chart above based on the S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index illustrates the enormous differences between the bubbles and crashes of different price segments in the Bay Area market (as alluded to earlier in this report): Notice the insane size of the bubble for the low-price tier (the light blue line) – it went up 174% from 2000 to 2006, about twice as much as the high-price tier (green line) – which then led to its staggering crash. It is interesting to note that the overall appreciation of all three price segments are now relatively similar when compared to 2000, with the low-price tier taking a small recent lead.

Note: Case-Shiller analyzes the Bay Area market by low, mid and high-price tiers, each tier equaling one third of sales. For any Bay Area home, whatever its price in January 2000, Case-Shiller assigns it a value of 100. All other values on the chart below refer to percentages above or below the January 2000 price, i.e. 150 equals 50% price appreciation since that date. Case-Shiller does not use median sales price data, but instead uses its own proprietary algorithm to reach its conclusions.


Bay Area Rents

Some rents have begun to drop in the Bay Area, especially in San Francisco due to the current boom in apartment building construction. However, the city still has the highest rents in the land.

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Other recent or recently updated reports:

San Francisco Luxury Home Market
San Francisco Apartment Building Market
San Francisco Real Estate Market in 2016

These analyses were made in good faith with data from sources deemed reliable, but may contain errors and are subject to revision. It is not our intent to convince you of a particular position, but to attempt to provide straightforward data and analysis, so you can make your own informed decisions. Median and average statistics are enormous generalities: There are hundreds of different markets in the Bay Area, each with its own unique dynamics. Median prices can be and often are affected by other factors besides changes in fair market value, and longer term trends are much more meaningful than short-term. It is impossible to know how median prices apply to any particular home without a specific comparative market analysis.

© 2017 Paragon Real Estate Group


In this report, various price thresholds will be used for the luxury home designation, depending on when the chart was first created, if different property types are being combined, or simply to look at the high-end market from slightly different angles. If the luxury segment is defined by the top 10% of sales, then the threshold in San Francisco for houses was approximately $3 million in 2016, and for condos, between $1.85 and $1.9 million. However, due to the essential relation of location to value, $3 million might buy you a large, gracious, pristine house in one neighborhood, and an uninhabitable fixer-upper in another. As always in real estate, the devil is in the details.
Year-over-Year Changes in Sales Volume
San Francisco Luxury House Sales1San Francisco Luxury Condo, Co-op & TIC Sales2

MARKET SUMMARY

The luxury real estate market is impacted by a number of factors: positively, by improvement in general economic conditions and confidence, highly-paid employment and population growth, and especially, by the creation of new wealth in large quantities. All these elements were dynamically present in the Bay Area from 2012 through mid-2015. Then significant economic and political volatility put down a damper, pretty much across the board. Chinese stock market turmoil, the crash in oil prices, Brexit, the U.S. presidential election, as well as an apparent cooling in our high-tech boom, all injected uncertainty into financial markets and our local luxury real estate market. Furthermore, Bay Area high-tech IPOs, which had created a stupendous amount of new wealth since 2011, basically dried up – and newly rich or substantially enrichened buyers had played a big role in demand. All this was accompanied by a surge in the construction of new, luxury condo projects in San Francisco, producing a considerable increase in supply, just as demand appeared to be softening.

The luxury market began to cool, with significant, but not cataclysmic adjustments in the standard measures of supply and demand. (The most affordable house segments around the Bay Area continued to rock and roll last year.) Most affected over the past 16 months was the market for re-sale luxury condos, particularly in those districts where big, new-construction projects are concentrated. Their sales appreciably decreased, with some decline in values. It is hard to get definitive data on new-project sales activity, but it is believed to have softened as well with the increase in competitive listings.

While inventory grew, the number of high-end listings, both houses and condos, expiring without selling jumped, a clear sign of supply outpacing demand, sellers looking for more money than buyers were willing to pay, or both.

However, there has been nothing approximating a crash and, all in all, demand held up quite well considering all the circumstances at play. So far, price declines have been relatively minor; there was no falloff in high-end house sales, in fact those selling for $3m+ hit a new peak last October. And some smaller and medium-sized luxury condo projects in the Pacific Heights district saw brisk sales at high prices, this being a highly prestigious area where new construction is relatively rare. Even with some cooling in the high-tech boom and the dearth of new IPOs, the local economy persists as the envy of the world, and an astonishing amount of wealth yet remains in the Bay Area.

If local companies such as Uber, Airbnb, Pinterest and Palantir go public, it could recharge demand as the new-wealth machine starts minting new millionaires once again. On the other hand, how the foreign luxury home buyer will react to political changes both here and abroad is uncertain. For that matter, with all the wildly moving parts currently in local, national and international politics and economics, it is difficult to make predictions with any sense of certainty. However, Ted Egan, chief economist for the city of San Francisco, puts the odds of a new recession at 10% or less.

San Francisco Luxury Home Sales
by Neighborhood
34Average Dollar per Square Foot Values by Year

Average dollar per square foot values ticked down in 2016 for both high-end houses and condos after years of appreciation, but still remain historically high. Of sales reported to MLS, 10 houses and 34 condos and co-ops sold for over $2000 per square foot; 6 sales reported values over $3000 per square foot. These sales were concentrated in the Pacific Heights district, Russian & Nob Hills, and South Beach & Yerba Buena. Average dollar per square foot values should always be considered gross generalizations, since there is such a wide variety of homes of differing locations, sizes, conditions, eras of construction, views, lot sizes, and so on. Square footage can also be measured in different ways and not all sales even report square footage.

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New Listings, Inventory Levels, Accepted Offer Activity & Closed Sales by Month

In many of the charts following in this report, not only are longer-term trends in supply and demand illustrated, but also the extreme seasonality of the luxury homes market in San Francisco. Activity climbs through spring, slows in summer, spikes in the short autumn selling season, and then plunges during the mid-winter holiday season. Among other things, the seasonality of this segment significantly affects monthly and quarterly median sales prices in the city as the number of expensive home sales ebbs and flows so dramatically.

As noted at the beginning of this report, the price thresholds for the luxury home designation sometimes vary from chart to chart, for the reasons previously mentioned.

New Listings Coming on Market
A long-term view since 20066Monthly Number of Active Listings
Since 20147Listings Accepting Offers by Month
Since 2014

8Monthly Sales Volume Trends
Since 2012

9Market Dynamics Analyses

In many of the following graphs, the cooling of the luxury market in the city in 2016 is illustrated. The changes are significant, but should not be overstated: The market cooled from being characterized by overheated demand and inadequate supply, to something approaching a more normal balance between buyer and seller. So far, there has been neither a crash in demand nor in prices.

Months Supply of Inventory
by Year and by Month1011
Sales Prices to List Prices by Year and by Month1213Percentage of Listings Selling Over List Price by Year

14Average Days on Market by Year

15Pricing, Overpricing & Expired Listings

The luxury market has always been more prone to egregious overpricing than the general market: Perhaps this simply goes along with fabulous homes in high prestige locations, but it sometimes results in price reductions in the multi-millions. As the market frenzy has cooled, pricing correctly has become ever more important: Overpricing often has significant negative ramifications for sellers, including the possibility of no sale occurring at all – something occurring with greater frequency. As the supply and demand dynamic has shifted, buyers are competing less, negotiating more aggressively, and walking away from listings they see as significantly overpriced.
Luxury House Sales
With and Without Price Reductions
16Luxury Condo Sales
With and Without Price Reductions
17Trends in Expired Listings

18Other recent reports you might find interesting:

Survey of the 2016 San Francisco Real Estate Market
San Francisco Apartment Building Market Report

It is impossible to know how general statistics apply to any particular home without a specific comparative market analysis, which we are happy to provide upon request. Please call or email if you have any questions or need assistance in any way.


*These analyses were made in good faith with data from sources deemed reliable, but may contain errors and are subject to revision. It is not our intent to convince you of a particular position, but to attempt to provide straightforward data and analysis, so you can make your own informed decisions. Median and average statistics are enormous generalities: There are hundreds of different markets in San Francisco and the Bay Area, each with its own unique dynamics. Median prices and average dollar per square foot values can be and often are affected by other factors besides changes in fair market value. Longer term trends are much more meaningful than short-term.


These charts show the breakdown of San Francisco home sales as reported to the city’s Multiple Listing Service in 2016 (as reported by 12/21/16). These analyses are sorted by city districts and neighborhoods by the number of transactions in different sales-price segments. Note that median sales prices will change every time the time period or neighborhoods included in an analysis change.

The first 4 charts are overviews for the entire city, first for house sales and the second for condo, co-op and TIC sales. Then below the San Francisco neighborhood map come the breakdowns for specific city neighborhoods and districts.

For further breakdowns of neighborhood home prices by bedroom count: SF Home Prices by Bedroom Count, Property Type & Neighborhood

Home Sales by Property Type & Price Segment
San Francisco Overviews

San Francisco House Sales

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San Francisco Condo, Co-op & TIC Sales

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2016_Condo-TIC_Unit-Sales_by-District_Pie_Chart

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Home Sales by Property Type & Price Segment
by San Francisco Neighborhood & District

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Richmond-Lone-Mtn_Sales-by-Price-Range

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These 2 charts below track San Francisco luxury home sales by price range and neighborhood. In these charts, we designate the luxury segment as those condos, co-ops and TICs selling for $2,000,000 or more, and those houses selling for $3,000,000 and above.

Lux-House-Sales_3m-plus-by-Neighborhood

Lux-Condo-Co-op-TIC-Sales_2m-plus-by-Neighborhood
These statistics are based upon sales reported to the Multiple Listing Service (MLS).
All data herein is from sources deemed reliable but may contain errors and is subject to revision. All numbers should be considered approximate.

© 2017 Paragon Real Estate Group


This first chart is a somewhat lighthearted, but we believe accurate look at how various 2011 investments would have played out through 2016. (FB is dated from its 2012 IPO.) When calculating appreciation, purchase and sale dates are critical factors, and changing those can alter the results significantly: Using 2011, the last bottom of the real estate market, as the purchase date certainly plays to the advantage of home price increases. If you bought gold or soybeans in 2011, you really should have sold them a couple years ago at the height of the commodity price boom.

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Besides the appreciation percentage noted, buying a home in 2011 with all cash would have generated large, additional financial returns in the form of extremely low monthly housing costs. Buying it with 20% down supercharges the return on cash investment, and that is before adding in other advantages: Even with an 80% loan, by 2016 your monthly housing costs, with recent low interest rates and tax advantages, would be well below market rents. Then there is the huge capital gains exclusion on the sale of a primary residence, which would not apply to other investments.

Sales of Probates, Penthouses, Fixer-Uppers, Lofts;
Homes with Views, Elevators & Wine Cellars

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Long-term San Francisco Median Home Price Appreciation

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San Francisco median house prices continued to appreciate in 2016, albeit, at 6%, at a considerably slower rate than the previous 4 years, while condo prices basically plateaued (and indeed dipped in some neighborhoods). As with almost everything to do with real estate values, it boils down mostly to supply and demand, as discussed below.

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In 2016, the supply (and sales) of house listings in the city continued to dwindle, while a surge of new-construction condo projects hitting the market appreciably increased the inventory of condos available to purchase. In 2003, house sales in San Francisco were over 50% higher than in 2016. According to a study by the National Association of Realtors, the median time house owners are staying in their homes has jumped from an average of 6 years in 1987-2008 to 9 years since: Owners are getting older, not changing jobs as often, and baby boomers are aging in place as NAR put it. House owners sell their homes much less frequently than condo owners, who tend to be younger. In SF, there is also the factor of a reluctance to sell when that means facing a very challenging market for buyers. And with very low interest rates, and very high rents, some owners are renting out their houses instead of selling.

It all boils down to a continuing strong demand for houses meeting a steadily declining supply: Even with a market that cooled somewhat in 2016, competition between buyers continues to push house prices up, especially in more affordable neighborhoods. The equation is different for condos, which has become the dominant property-sales type in the city: A cooling market is meeting increased supply. There has been no crash in condo prices, but areas with the greatest quantity of new condo construction have seen small declines.

What Costs How Much Where in San Francisco

Below are a few of our many updated analyses on home sales and prices by neighborhood, property type and bedroom count.

House Sales & Values

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As can be seen above, two of the most affordable districts for houses, Districts 10 and 2, also provide 37% of all the house sales in the city. Generally speaking, they have continued to experience very strong buyer demand in 2016.

Condo Sales & Values

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District 9, a large district that stretches from SoMa, South Beach and Mission Bay to Potrero Hill, Dogpatch and Inner Mission, is increasingly dominating condo sales in the city. The great majority of new condo construction, especially of the largest projects, has been occurring in this district.

All our breakdowns by neighborhood and home size are here: SF Home Price Tables

Home Sales by Price Segment by District

Behind the overall median prices often quoted is a wide range of individual sales across a spectrum of prices. Here are a few of our updated analyses for every district of the city.

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Our complete collection of district analyses: SF District & Neighborhood Sales Breakdowns

San Francisco Overview Market Statistics

The following classic measures of market heat all tell the same story: Coming out of the recession in 2011, the San Francisco market became increasingly frenzied through the spring of 2015. In late 2015, as housing affordability became a critical issue, and the local high-tech economy saw some cooling, and financial markets worldwide experienced increasing volatility, the SF real estate market began to cool and normalize. Buyer competition for new listings softened, overbidding declined, days-on-market increased, appreciation declined or plateaued, and so on. And the condo market cooled more than the house market due to issues discussed above.

2016 saw a reasonable adjustment to a desperately overheated market, but nothing that suggests, so far, an imminent, dramatic downturn. Indeed, by national standards, most of our current statistics still define a relatively robust market. In a recent interview, Ted Egan, chief economist of the City of San Francisco, put the odds of a new recession at 10% or less.

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Real Estate Market Seasonality

Listing and sales activity builds from early January, the nadir of the market, into spring, typically the most active season. Accepted-offer activity provides an excellent illustration of the heat of the market during different times of the year.

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3 Important Economic Indicators

San Francisco & Bay Area Employment Trends

After dropping a little in the first half of 2016, SF and Bay Area employment numbers jumped back up in the second half, an encouraging sign for the local economy.

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Mortgage Interest Rates in 2016

Interest rates popped 22% higher since the election, though they still remain very low by any historical measure. Where they will go now is a subject of intense speculation since they are a critical component of housing affordability.

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The S&P 500 Stock Index since 1994

To the surprise of many, U.S. stock markets also popped after the election to their highest points ever.

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And now on to 2017, certain to be another interesting year.

Wishing you and yours a safe, healthy, happy and prosperous New Year.

It is impossible to know how median and average value statistics apply to any particular home without a specific comparative market analysis, which we are happy to provide upon request. Please call or email if you have any questions or need assistance in any way.

These analyses were made in good faith with data from sources deemed reliable, but may contain errors and are subject to revision. It is not our intent to convince you of a particular position, but to attempt to provide straightforward data and analysis, so you can make your own informed decisions. Median and average statistics are enormous generalities: There are hundreds of different markets in the Bay Area, each with its own unique dynamics. Median prices and average dollar per square foot values can be and often are affected by other factors besides changes in fair market value. Longer term trends are much more meaningful than short-term.

© 2017 Paragon Real Estate Group


These tables report median sales prices, average home size and units sold, by property type and bedroom count for a variety of San Francisco neighborhoods. If you are interested in data for a neighborhood not listed, please contact us. The tables follow the map in the following order: houses by bedroom count, condos by bedroom count, and 2-unit building sales. Within each table, the neighborhoods are in order of median sales price.

The analysis is based upon sales reported to San Francisco MLS in 2016 by December 22. Value statistics are generalities that are affected by a number of market factors – and sometimes fluctuate without great meaningfulness – so all numbers should be considered approximate. Median prices often disguise a huge range of values in the underlying individual sales.

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Median San Francisco House Prices

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Median San Francisco Condo Prices

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Median Prices: San Francisco 2-Unit Buildings

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These statistics apply only to home sales with at least 1 car parking. Homes without parking typically sell at a significant discount. Below Market Rate (BMR) condos were excluded from the analysis.

As noted on the tables, the average size of homes vary widely by neighborhood. Besides affluence, the era and style of construction often play a large role in these size disparities. Some neighborhoods are well known for having “bonus” bedrooms and baths built without permit (often behind the garage). Such additions can add value, but being unpermitted are not reflected in square footage and $/sq.ft. figures.

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Selected San Francisco District Snapshots

Illustrating the breakdown of home sales by price segment over the 12-month period.

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Our full collection of district snapshot charts is here: SF District Home Sales by Price Segment

The Median Sales Price is that price at which half the properties sold for more and half for less. It may be affected by “unusual” events or by changes in inventory and buying trends, as well as by changes in value. The median sale price for an area will often conceal a wide variety of sales prices in the underlying individual sales. All numbers should be considered approximate.

Square footage is based upon the home’s interior living space and does not include garages, storage, unfinished attics and basements; rooms and apartments built without permit; decks, patios or yards. These figures are typically derived from appraisals or tax records, but can be unreliable, measured in different ways, or unreported altogether: thus consider square footage and $/sq.ft. figures to be very general approximations. Size and $/sq.ft. values were only calculated on listings that provided square footage figures. All things being equal, a house will have a higher dollar per square foot than a condo (because of land value), a condo’s will be higher than a TIC (quality of title), and a TIC’s higher than a multi-unit building’s (quality of use). All things being equal, a smaller home will have a higher $/sq.ft. than a larger one.

Many aspects of value cannot be adequately reflected in general statistics: curb appeal, age, condition, views, amenities, outdoor space, “bonus” rooms, parking, quality of location within the neighborhood, and so forth. Thus, how these statistics apply to any particular home is unknown without a specific comparative market analysis. Data is from sources deemed reliable, but may contain errors and is subject to revision.

This link below can be used to access other real estate reports and articles.

Neighborhood Market Reports

SAN FRANCISCO REALTOR DISTRICTS

District 1 (Northwest): Sea Cliff, Lake Street, Richmond (Inner, Central, Outer), Jordan Park/Laurel Heights, Lone Mountain

District 2 (West): Sunset & Parkside (Inner, Central, Outer), Golden Gate Heights

District 3 (Southwest): Lake Shore, Lakeside, Merced Manor, Merced Heights, Ingleside, Ingleside Heights, Oceanview

District 4 (Central SW): St. Francis Wood, Forest Hill, West Portal, Forest Knolls, Diamond Heights, Midtown Terrace, Miraloma Park, Sunnyside, Balboa Terrace, Ingleside Terrace, Mt. Davidson Manor, Sherwood Forest, Monterey Heights, Westwood Highlands

District 5 (Central): Noe Valley, Eureka Valley/Dolores Heights (Castro, Liberty Hill), Cole Valley, Glen Park, Corona Heights, Clarendon Heights, Ashbury Heights, Buena Vista Park, Haight Ashbury, Duboce Triangle, Twin Peaks, Mission Dolores, Parnassus Heights

District 6 (Central North): Hayes Valley, North of Panhandle (NOPA), Alamo Square, Western Addition, Anza Vista, Lower Pacific Heights

District 7 (North): Pacific Heights, Presidio Heights, Cow Hollow, Marina

District 8 (Northeast): Russian Hill, Nob Hill, Telegraph Hill, North Beach, Financial District, North Waterfront, Downtown, Van Ness/ Civic Center, Tenderloin

District 9 (East): SoMa, South Beach, Mission Bay, Potrero Hill, Dogpatch, Bernal Heights, Inner Mission, Yerba Buena

District 10 (Southeast): Bayview, Bayview Heights, Excelsior, Portola, Visitacion Valley, Silver Terrace, Mission Terrace, Crocker Amazon, Outer Mission

Some Realtor districts contain neighborhoods that are relatively homogeneous in general home values, such as districts 5 and 7, and others contain neighborhoods of wildly different values, such as district 8 which, for example, includes both Russian Hill and the Tenderloin.

© 2016-2017 Paragon Real Estate Group


The first chart below is a simplified graph based on the S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index illustrating percentage increases and decreases in prices for houses in the higher-price tier. The markets in San Francisco, Marin, San Mateo and Lamorinda/Diablo Valley are generally dominated by high-price tier home sales. (If you wish our chart of market cycles for low-price or mid-price homes, please let us know.)

All the short-term fluctuations up and down have been removed so that the chart only reflects major turning points in the market. This chart is a general overview for 5 Bay Area counties, and there have been significant variations between market trends in different neighborhoods, cities and counties.

San Francisco Median Sales Price Trends
since 1994

Year-over-year median sales prices for SF condos and TICs have plateaued in 2016, while median house prices have continued to appreciate, albeit at an appreciably slower rate than the previous 4 years.

Note that the Case-Shiller Index does not measure home price appreciation by changes in median sales price (as in the second chart above), but uses its own special algorithm, which it believes adjusts for factors that often affect overall median sales prices, but are not related to changes in fair market value of specific properties.

Our complete report on cycles is here: 30+ Years of SF Bay Area Real Estate Cycles. This is by far the most widely read report on our website.

Short & Long-Term Mortgage Interest Rate Trends

Interest rate movements are much in the news since the election, and below are 2 charts illustrating short-term and long-term trends. Interest rates can be very volatile and affected by a wide range of economic and political factors: Rate changes are famously difficult to predict. Most experts believe the Federal Reserve Bank will raise its benchmark rate, for the first time in 12 months, later this month. Needless to say, mortgage interest rates play a large role in ongoing housing costs, except for buyers paying all cash.

Our post-election report is here: Interest Rates & Housing Affordability

Average Dollar per Square Foot Trends by District
San Francisco HOUSE Sales, 2011-2016 YTD

Realtors divide the city into 10 different districts. For example, Pacific & Presidio Heights, Cow Hollow and the Marina constitute District 7. The central cluster of neighborhoods surrounding Noe, Eureka and Cole Valleys make up District 5. The broad area running south of Market all the way to Inner Mission and Bernal Heights is District 9, and so on. Some districts contain neighborhoods of relatively similar values, such as D5 and D7, and others contain neighborhoods of significantly varying values: For example, D8 includes both Russian Hill and the Tenderloin. In any case, using districts allows us to look at what is broadly going on in the city without breaking out the 70-odd individual neighborhoods. (If you would like data specific to a single neighborhood, please call or email.)

A San Francisco neighborhood and district map is included at the bottom of this report.

Like all value statistics, average dollar per square foot is not a perfect indicator of changes in home values. It can be affected by a variety of factors to create anomalous fluctuations; square footage can be measured different ways; and a fair percentage of home sales do not publish square footage at all, so that the calculations can only be made on those that do.

Very generally speaking, the more affordable house districts in the city (and around the Bay Area) have continued to see significant appreciation in average dollar per square foot values in 2016, while the more expensive neighborhoods have plateaued or even ticked down a little. However, one should not make too much of small percentage changes up or down over the shorter term. Sometimes, one has to allow a trend to develop instead of jumping to dramatic conclusions about where the market is headed based on limited data. 2016 YTD statistics may well change when the last 3 weeks of the year are included in the analysis.

Average Dollar per Square Foot Trends by Realtor District
San Francisco CONDO Sales, 2011-2016 YTD

The condo market has generally softened more than the house market and most of the district condo markets have plateaued in average dollar per square foot values or dropped a little. Much of this has to do with both a cooling in the high-tech boom (lessening demand) and a surge of new-condo projects coming on market (increasing supply). The district with the most significant decline, 5%, has been District 9, a large district encompassing SoMa, South Beach, Mission Bay, Potrero Hill, Dogpatch and Inner Mission: A large majority of SF new-condo construction is occurring in this area, and thus more definitively shifting the supply and demand dynamic.

On these charts, the only district showing a significant increase was District 2, Sunset-Parkside, but there are really too few condo sales in D2 for the data to be statistically reliable. District 7, Pacific Heights-Marina, saw a small percentage increase, but its 2016 average dollar per square foot value was affected by a sizable number of sales of newly-built, ultra-luxury condos, with very high values. If those sales were deleted, D7 would also have seen a small decline.

None of the declines in either house or condo dollar per square foot values yet suggest anything approaching a market crash. So far the changes appear to be moderate adjustments to shifts in the local economy, increasing new construction, and/or affordability issues at the higher end of the market.

Median House Price Trends by Neighborhood

Substantial median house price appreciation has continued in more affordable San Francisco neighborhoods, as illustrated in the first chart below

Looking at the next chart for median house price changes in higher-price neighborhoods, some important caveats apply: First of all, some of these neighborhoods, such as St. Francis Wood, Cole Valley or Inner Richmond, do not see many house sales in any given year. This makes price fluctuations more common without necessarily relating to changes in fair market value. (Do we believe that Inner Richmond houses suddenly appreciated 20% in 2016? No.) In Pacific Heights, the issue is both not that many sales and that the range of MLS sales prices is so huge, from $2,000,000 to $22,000,000 in 2016. This can cause median prices to jump up or down without great meaningfulness: Sometimes, just one or two additional sales can make the median price in a given period change dramatically.

Statistically speaking, the most reliable data in the chart below is for Noe & Eureka Valleys, which have a high number of sales: The median sales price there has basically plateaued from 2015 to 2016.

San Francisco Neighborhood Map
with Realtor Districts Delineated

All our reports can be found here: San Francisco & Bay Area Market Reports

These analyses were made in good faith with data from sources deemed reliable, but may contain errors and are subject to revision. It is not our intent to convince you of a particular position, but to attempt to provide straightforward data and analysis, so you can make your own informed decisions. Median and average statistics are enormous generalities: There are hundreds of different markets in San Francisco and the Bay Area, each with its own unique dynamics. Median prices and average dollar per square foot values can be and often are affected by other factors besides changes in fair market value, and longer term trends are much more meaningful than short-term. It is impossible to know how value statistics apply to any particular home without a specific comparative market analysis.

© 2016 Paragon Real Estate Group


Changes in interest rates affect local, national and international economies in a bewildering variety of positive and negative ways depending on the segment, and there is vehement disagreement as to what rate or rate movement is best, or most dangerous, for whom.

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As of Friday, November 18, mortgage interest rates have jumped about 15% since the election, with many economists and analysts predicting more to come in the not too distant future. Federal Reserve Bank Chair Janet Yellen recently suggested that the Fed is close to lifting its benchmark interest rate. However, predicting interest rate changes; what factors might arise to cause movements up or down; as well as the direction, scale and speed of changes; is enormously difficult. Witness the thousands of incorrect expert predictions over the past 10 years. For that matter, rates actually went downafter the Fed last raised rates in December 2015.

This report will focus on a single issue: Increases in interest rates raise the ongoing cost of housing and reduce housing affordability (unless there is a concurrent drop in prices). In the Bay Area, already experiencing significant social and economic ramifications from the high cost of housing at a time of historically low interest rates, this is a big concern, including how it might affect our real estate markets.

The degree of the effect of any interest rate changes will, of course, depend on what actually occurs at what speed, which is beyond our ability to predict. The possible scenarios in this report do not imply any predictions on our part. The first charts below provide some useful context.

Bay Area Home Price & Affordability Trends by County

From 2012 through Q3 2016, Bay Area home prices in most counties soared to new peaks. Affordability percentages dropped dramatically since 2012, but without quite reaching the lows of 2006-2007.

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In this report, affordability is calculated, under the C.A.R. Housing Affordability Index methodology, using 3 main criteria: 1) the county median house sales price, 2) the prevailing mortgage interest rate, and 3) county household income distribution percentages.

Long-Term Interest Rate Movements

The drop in interest rates from 2007, the last peak of market before the 2008 crash, through early November 2016 has been incredible. And the rates prevailing prior to the 2008 crash, in the 6% range, were themselves quite low by prior historical standards. The average annual rate from 1990 through 2007 was 7.4%. Just prior to the recent 2016 election, rates were between 3.5% and 3.6% (with an all-time low of 3.3% hit in 2013). The chart at the top of this report illustrates the sudden post-election pop in rates to 4.125% (11/18/16).

Interest Rate & San Francisco Median Price Changes since 2007

Home prices and interest rates dropped precipitately after the financial markets crisis of September 2008. Once the real estate recovery began in 2012, home prices skyrocketed while interest rates generally continued to bump along at or near all-time lows.

In effect, the big reductions in interest rates subsidized much of the surge in Bay Area home prices: Since the last peak of the market prior to the 2008 crash, to just before the 2016 presidential election, the interest rate for 30-year, conforming, fixed-rate home loans, fell about 43%, from roughly 6.3% to 3.6%.According to the S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index, overall Bay Area home prices have appreciated approximately 82% since 2012, though, please note, appreciation rates vary widely by specific location and home-price segment. The above chart shows SF median price changes only.

The decline in interest rates was not the only or even the primary factor in the appreciation of Bay Area home prices. The massive increase in employment, much of it high-paid, and the resultant surge in population (without a parallel increase in housing supply), along with the local explosion of new wealth from our high-tech boom, were the primary factors. Still, there is no arguing that plunging interest rates made increasing home prices much more affordable.

These interest rate rise scenarios below do not imply predictions on our part: A top interest rate scenario of 6.3% was chosen simply because that was the rate in 2007, the peak of the last cycle.

Short-Term Interest Rate Movements since December 2015
The same chart that began this report

Post-election increase: Short-term spike
or beginning of a longer-term ascent?

Monthly Housing Cost Scenarios
Illustrated Using the San Francisco Median House Price

Approximate monthly principal, interest, taxes and insurance costs for the purchase of a Q3 2016, median-priced San Francisco house at $1,300,000, using an 80%, 30-year fixed rate loan, at a number of interest rate scenarios.

As seen below, the 15% increase in interest rate from 11/10/16 to 11/18/16 added almost $4000 to the annual housing cost of purchasing a $1,300,000 home. If the rate goes to 4.5%, the increase is about $6700, and if it goes up to 5%, the additional annual cost of housing is over $10,000. Illustrating how declining interest rates help subsidize increasing home prices, the Q3 2016 SF median home price was 45% higher than the previous peak price in 2007, however the increase in monthly housing costs (PITI) was only 14% higher than in 2007 due the big drop in mortgage rates.

Minimum Qualifying Household Income

The below chart tracks approximate household income needed to qualify for the purchase of a Q3 2016, median-priced San Francisco house at $1,300,000, using an 80%, 30-year fixed rate loan, per associated PITI costs, at various interest rates.

As interest rates increase, household income requirements increase. Before the election, buyers needed an approximate income of $251,000 to qualify for financing their purchase of a median priced SF house, with a 20% down-payment. By Friday, November 18, the income requirement increased by $13,000. And if the interest rate goes up to 5% (and again, we are not saying it will), an additional $35,000 in annual income would be required.

Housing Affordability Trends for San Francisco

If housing costs increase, then housing affordability declines. In Q3 2016, the percentage of San Francisco households who could afford to purchase a median priced house, at 14%, was 6 points higher than the all-time low of 8% in Q3 2007. The recent interest rate increase through 11/18/16 drops that another percentage point. If additional rate increases occur, then, all things being equal, San Francisco will continue to move closer to the historic low hit at the peak of the last market cycle. And, of course, the affordability percentages of other Bay Area counties will also drop. (San Francisco, San Mateo and Marin have the 3 lowest percentages in the state, and must be in the running for lowest percentages in the country.)

To what exact degree interest rate changes would affect local real estate markets is unknown. Much would depend on the scale and speed of change as well as other economic trends in the Bay Area – such as high-tech hiring and IPOs coming to market – as well as macro-economic trends in the nation. But it could include a slowing of transaction activity and new construction projects, possible adjustments to home prices, or the continued pushing of buyers from more expensive areas to less expensive ones (including, possibly, those outside the Bay Area). High housing costs are not an easy problem to fix, and increasing interest rates, if they continue, are unlikely to help.
All the statistics and numbers used in this analysis are based on data deemed reliable but should be considered approximations and generalities, most useful in illustrating comparative values and broad trend lines. By definition, half of the homes sold cost less than the median sales price, and greater percentages of households could afford their purchase. Also other property types such as condos are typically significantly less expensive than houses, so they would be more affordable as well. Our gratitude to the California Association of Realtors, and in particular, its analyst Azad Amir-Ghassemi, for all their work on the Housing Affordability Index (HAI). For analyses and scenarios after Q3 2016, the numbers reflect our best estimates based upon our understanding of the CAR HAI methodology, and/or housing cost calculators. None of the interest rate increase scenarios included imply any predictions on our part that such increases will occur. Anyone contemplating purchasing a home with financing should confer with a qualified loan agent and their own financial planners. This report was written in good faith, but may contain errors and is subject to revision.

© 2016 Paragon Real Estate Group


Mary is the perfect agent to help anyone navigate the treacherous SF real estate market. Her knowledge of all products is very deep, and her attention to detail is amazing. Most critically, not only will you enjoy working with her, but other agents love working with her, too. This is invaluable in any transaction. I would recommend Mary on the buy side or sell side of any property sale.
~Robert Hatton, multi-unit building owner and SF landlord