Since Case-Shiller Indices cover large areas – 5 counties in the SF Metro Area – which themselves contain communities and neighborhoods of widely varying home prices, the C-S chart numbers do not refer to specific prices, but instead reflect home prices as compared to those prevailing in January 2000, which have been designated as having a value of 100. Thus these charts are broad generalizations about appreciation (or depreciation) trends: for example, a reading of 250 signifies that home prices have appreciated 150% above the price of January 2000. For data on actual median home prices for specific locations, please access our main market analysis page: Paragon Market Reports. At the very bottom of this report, there are a few charts on overall median home prices in SF, Marin and Lamorinda/Diablo Valley.
Please note that we don’t update every chart in this report every month since what is most meaningful are longer-term trends.
Long-Term Appreciation Rates by Price Segment
Case-Shiller divides all the house sales in the SF metro area into thirds, or tiers. Thus the third of sales with the lowest prices is the low-price tier; the third of sales with the highest sales prices is the high-price tier; and so on. (The price ranges of these tiers changes as the market changes.) As seen in this first chart, the 3 tiers experienced dramatically different bubbles, crashes and recoveries over the past 12 years, though the trend lines converged again in 2014 – this is discussed in detail later in this report.
Short-Term Appreciation Rates by Price Segment
In recent months, home prices have been increasing significantly, with more affordable houses seeing by far the highest appreciation rates. But 2017 has been an unexpectedly feverish market for all market segments.
Longer-term trends are always much more meaningful than short-term fluctuations.
The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Index for the San Francisco Metro Area covers the house markets of 5 Bay Area counties, divided into 3 price tiers, each constituting one third of unit sales. Most of San Francisco’s, Marin’s and Central Contra Costa’s house sales are in the “high price tier”, so that is where we focus most of our attention. We’ve also included some data on the Case-Shiller Index for metro area condo values, but unless otherwise specified, the charts pertain to house prices only. The Index is published 2 months after the month in question and reflects a 3-month rolling average, so it will always reflect the market of some months ago. In effect, we are looking into a rearview mirror at the market 3 to 5 months ago. The August 2017 Index was published at the end of October 2017. Much more information regarding the Index’s methodology can be found on its website.
The 5 counties in our Case-Shiller Metro Statistical Area are San Francisco, Marin, San Mateo, Alameda and Contra Costa. (And we believe the Index generally applies to the other Bay Area counties as well.) There are many, vastly different real estate markets found in such a broad region, moving at different speeds, sometimes moving in different directions. San Francisco’s single family dwelling (SFD) sales, which are what Case-Shiller measures, are only 7% to 8% of the total SFD sales in the 5-county metro area, while Alameda and Contra Costa make up over 70% of SFD sales.Therefore, the Index is always weighted much more to what is going on in those East Bay markets than in the city itself. (Marin’s percentage is about 7% and San Mateo’s about 14%.) SF makes up a much larger proportion of condo sales in the metro area, as condos are now the dominant type in home sales now in the city.
These first 2 charts below illustrate the price recovery of the Bay Area high-price-tier home market over the past year and since 2012 began, when the market recovery really started in earnest. In 2012 – 2015, home prices dramatically surged in the spring (often then plateauing or even ticking down a little in the following seasons). The surges in prices that have occurred in the spring selling seasons reflect frenzied markets of high buyer demand, low interest rates and extremely low inventory. In San Francisco itself, it was further exacerbated by a rapidly expanding population and the high-tech-fueled explosion of new, highly-paid employment and new wealth creation. The markets in the Bay Area are appreciating at somewhat different speeds, depending on the price segment. As clearly seen in the second chart above, the low-price tier has been seeing the most dramatic movement, but all 3 segments saw spikes in spring 2017.
For more regarding how seasonality affects real estate: Seasonality & the Real Estate Market .
Short-Term Trend: Past 12 Months
This chart below highlights the highly seasonal nature of home price appreciation over the past 5 years.
Longer-Term Trends & Cycles
The next 4 charts below reflect what has occurred in the longer term (for the high-price tier that applies best to San Francisco, Marin, San Mateo and the most affluent portions of other counties), showing the cycle of recession, recovery, bubble, decline/recession since 1988. Note that, past cycle changes will always look smaller than more recent cycles because the prices are so much higher now; if the chart reflected only percentage changes between points, the difference in the scale of cycles would not look so dramatic (as seen in the third chart below).
Comparing San Francisco vs. U.S. Appreciation since 1987
Interesting divergences occurred after the 1989 earthquake, making the SF recession longer and deeper in the early 1990’s, during the dotcom spike and drop, and since the latest market recovery began in 2012, which in SF was supercharged by the local boom in high-tech.
Annual MEDIAN SALES PRICE Changes in San Francisco
As a point of comparison: NOT Case-Shiller data. First houses, then condos.
In the city, the house median sales price continued to appreciate in 2016, albeit at a much slower rate than the previous 4 years. The condo median sales price, impacted by both a cooling in the market and a surge in new-construction condo inventory, generally remained flat year over year in 2016. Both segments have seen new bursts of appreciation in the first half of 2017 (not charted below).
Different Bubbles, Crashes & Recoveries
This next 3 charts compare the 3 different price tiers since 1988. The low-price-tier’s bubble was much more inflated, fantastically inflated, by the subprime lending fiasco – an absurd 170% appreciation over 6 years – which led to a much greater crash (foreclosure/distressed property crisis) than the other two price tiers. All 3 tiers have been undergoing dramatic recoveries. The mid-price-tier is just now back to its previous peak values, but the low-price-tier is still below its artificially inflated peak value of 2006 (though recently, it has been appreciating quickly). It may be a while before the low-price-tier of houses regains its previous peak. The high-price-tier, with a much smaller bubble, and little affected by distressed property sales, has now significantly exceeded its previous peak values of 2007. Most neighborhoods in the city of San Francisco itself have now surpassed previous peak values by very substantial, and sometimes astonishing margins.
Different counties, cities and neighborhoods in the Bay Area are dominated by different price tiers though, generally speaking, you will find all 3 tiers represented in different degrees in each county. Bay Area counties such as Alameda, non-Central Contra Costa, Napa, Sonoma and Solano have large percentages of their markets dominated by low-price tier homes (though, again, all tiers are represented to greater or lesser degrees). San Francisco, Marin, Central Contra Costa (Diablo Valley & Lamorinda), San Mateo and Santa Clara counties are generally mid and high-price tier markets, and sometimes very high priced indeed. Generally speaking, the higher the price, the smaller the bubble and crash, and the greater the recovery as compared to previous peak values.
Remember that if a price drops by 50%, then it must go up by 100% to make up the loss: loss percentages and gain percentages are not created equal.
The price thresholds for the different tiers changes every month, based upon the prices of the homes that sell in that month, so you may see small variations on various charts. For example, in the past year, the threshold for the Bay Area high-tier house price segment has ranged from $956,000 to $1,074,000 (in August 2017). We don’t always adjust these figures in every monthly chart.
Low-Price Tier Homes: Under $663,000 as of 8/17
Huge subprime bubble (170% appreciation, 2000 – 2006) & huge crash (60% decline, 2008 – 2011). Strong recovery but still a tiny bit below 2006-07 peak values. Currently appreciating more quickly than other price tiers.
Mid-Price Tier Homes: $663,000 to $1,074,000 as of 8/17
Smaller bubble (119% appreciation, 2000 – 2006) and crash (42% decline) than low-price tier. A strong recovery has put it somewhat above its previous 2006 peak.
High-Price Tier Homes: Over $1,074,000 as of 8/17
Much smaller bubble/ much smaller crash:
84% appreciation, 2000 – 2007, and 25% decline, peak to bottom.
Has been climbing well above previous 2007 peak values.
Case-Shiller Index for SF Metro Area CONDO Prices
High Price Tier vs. Low Price Tier Appreciation
2012 to Present
The more affluent neighborhoods led the city and the Bay Area out of recession in 2012, surging quickly, while the lower priced tier, still trying to recover from the huge distressed property/foreclosure crisis, lagged well behind. That dynamic shifted: the low-price tier caught up in 2014, and lately, as affordability has become an ever more pressing concern, it has become the greatest focus of buyer demand and has been appreciating significantly more quickly than than more expensive home segments. (Even though many of the more affordable houses in San Francisco, Marin, San Mateo and Lamorinda/Diablo Valley would actually qualify as high-price tier houses by overall Bay Area standards, the underlying dynamics are similar to Bay Area low-price tier homes, i.e. each market area’s dynamics reflect its own division into most affordable (low), mid-price, and more expensive (high) home segments).
In San Francisco, where many neighborhoods vastly exceed the initial price threshold for the high-price tier, declines from peak values in 2007 in those more expensive neighborhoods typically ran 15% – 20%, and appreciation over previous peak value has also exceeded the high-price tier norm.
San Francisco, Marin and Central Contra Costa
Median Sales Price Trends
Looking just at the city of San Francisco itself, which has, generally speaking, among the highest home prices in the 5-county metro area (and the country): many of its neighborhoods are now blowing past previous peak values. This chart shows both house and condo values, while the C-S charts used above are for house sales only. Median prices are affected by other factors besides changes in values, including seasonality, new construction projects hitting the market, inventory available to purchase, and significant changes in the distressed and luxury home segments.
Central Contra Costa County
Bay Area Counties Median Price Trends
And here are a few charts looking at San Francisco median sales price appreciation trends in specific neighborhoods.