The San Francisco Real Estate Market – December 2010 Update

The San Francisco Real Estate Market – December 2010 Update

Despite mostly negative reports from other parts of the country, the San Francisco home market has performed relatively well since the autumn market began after Labor Day. Indeed, the number of listings accepting offers in November was well above last year’s and the median home price is at its highest since the April tax-credit crush. Typically the market slows down dramatically from mid-November to mid-January, but so far it is slowing far less than usual.

Generally speaking, 30-40% of San Francisco new home listings accept offers within 30 days of going on market (i.e. quickly). They are perceived as good values, often attract multiple offers, and the sales prices for such homes are still, on average, slightly above the list price. (Houses perform better than condos, and condos perform better than TICs and multi-unit buildings.) Another 20% of new listings sell after 1 or more price reductions: on average, they’re on the market for over 100 days before offer acceptance, and sell at a sales price to original list price percentage that is 10-14% lower than that of homes selling quickly. And then 30-40% of listings expire without selling, typically due to being perceived as overpriced. The San Francisco home market is active, but buyers aren’t buying everything (as it seemed they did in the bubble years) – they’re buying only those properties they consider fair or, better yet, compelling values.

Statistics are generalities, often subject to surprising fluctuations due to a variety of reasons. Median prices may be affected by other factors than changes in value. Averages may be distorted by a small number of sales substantially higher or lower than the norm, especially where the sample size is small. New-development condo sales not reported to MLS are not included in this analysis. All information contained herein is derived from sources deemed reliable, but may contain errors and omissions, and is not warranted.

Homes Accepting Offers
The number of SF homes – houses, condos, TICs & 2-4 unit buildings -accepting offers is remaining generally stable. Though the market typically starts to slow markedly in November, this has not occurred this year, and the number of listings accepting offers in November was only slightly reduced from October, and was 17% above November of 2009, and 90% above November 2008 (the market crash era).

Median Sales Price
The Median Sales Price is that price at which half the properties sold for more and half for less. The median price for all home types in San Francisco was $775,000 in November which is its highest since April. However, median price is a very general statistic, which can be affected by a number of factors (such as an increase in high-end home sales), and it’s not unusual for it to fluctuate up and down by month. It’s certainly too early to conclude SF home values are on a sustained upward trajectory.

Median Price: Distress vs. Non-Distress Sales
A distress sale is a bank-owned property sale (usually pursuant to foreclosure) or a short sale (the lender must reduce the loan amount to allow the sale to close). The cross-hatched and solid bars delineate the median prices of distress property sales and non-distress homes respectively: in SF, distress properties have a much lower median sales price than non-distress sales — in November, $435,000 vs. $802,000. This is due to 3 reasons: firstly, the majority of distress sales in the city occur in the least affluent neighborhoods and housing costs less there anyway; secondly, distress properties often look distressed, and thirdly, buyers expect major discounts on a such sales. (Otherwise, they wouldn’t bother with the considerable hassle of dealing with the bank sales departments.) Of the 43 distress home sales in November, only 2 were above $750,000. September and October each has 11 distress home sales over $750,000.

Homes for Sale
The number of listings actively for sale declined significantly in November, but is still running 17% above November of last year. The cross-hatched section of the bars delineates the number of distress properties actively for sale: in November, they totaled 483 or about 18% of all active listings. Again, though these sales occur throughout the city, most of them are clustered in specific neighborhoods. San Francisco has been much less impacted by foreclosures and short sales than most other California counties.

Luxury Homes Accepting Offers
In this analysis, luxury homes are defined as houses and condos listed at $1,500,000 and above. October was the strongest month for luxury home sales in the past 25 months, and November was not far behind. Such sales in November of 2010 were 61% above those in November of 2009, and 350% above November of 2008 (the nadir of the market, right after Lehman Bros.).

New Listings
As is typical for this time of year, the number of new listings crashes in November (and December), and then revives again in January. The cross hatched portions of the bar delineate new distress-home listings, which
at 129 in November, are at the second highest number of the past 25 months. (The average number of new distress-home listings over the past year was 116 per month.)

Average Days on Market (DOM)
This chart measures the average number of days between going on market and accepting an offer for all home types: at 58 days in November, it was the lowest, by a few days, of the past 25 months. Breaking it down
further, houses had an average DOM of 52 days, condos were at 67 days, and luxury homes ($1.5m and above) were at 57 days. Those homes that do sell generally sell relatively quickly.

Months’ Supply of Inventory (MSI)
MSI is defined as the number of months it would take to sell the current inventory of homes for sale, at the current rate of sale: generally speaking, the lower the MSI, the greater the demand. MSI for all SF homes was 3.8 months in November, which is moderately low. However MSI varies widely by property type: for houses, the MSI was lower at 3 months; for condos, it was 3.9 months; for TICs, 6.3 months; and for 2-4 unit buildings, 5.2 months of inventory. The MSI for luxury homes was 3.8 months.

Expired/Withdrawn Listings
On one hand, the SF home market has been stable both in regards to buyer demand and to property values – and November was an excellent month in sales activity – but on the other hand, quite a few listings expire without selling, typically because they are perceived as overpriced. November had the highest number of expired/withdrawn listings since last December – December generally being the highest month as properties are withdrawn for the holidays, often to be re-listed in January (not unusually at reduced prices).

Return on Investment
Comparing stocks with homes is like comparing apples with hardboiled eggs, but it’s still interesting. This chart is based upon all-cash purchase (no leverage). Stock performance does not include dividends and real estate performance does not include value of housing provided or potential rental income. Real estate appreciation is calculated on changes in median sales price for 2 & 3 bedroom houses and 2 bedroom condominiums in a sampling of SF districts. (Appreciation based upon changes in average dollar per square foot was 59% for houses and 64% for condos.) The chart does not adjust for transactional costs or for the $250,000/ $500,000 capital gains exclusion for primary residence sales. All numbers should be considered approximations.

2-4 Unit Buildings Accepting Offers
November was reasonably active for the sale of 2-4 unit residential buildings – one of the top 5 months of the last 25. Changes in financing conditions, tenant eviction law and the TIC market have affected this market in the past 2 years.

TICs (Tenancies-in-Common)
This chart shows the number of TICs for sale vs. the number sold in any given month. Due primarily to major changes in TIC financing conditions, the number of TIC sales in the city has fallen dramatically as compared to the period before September 2008. In November, there were 269 TIC units for sale, 39 new listings, 30 accepted offers, 16 sold (closed escrow) and 50 listings expired.

Paragon Performance
This chart shows the average percentage of sales price to original list price when acting as listing agent for luxury homes of $2,000,000 and above. Of the major city brokerages, Paragon consistently achieves the highest Sales Price to Original List Price percentage and lowest Days on Market for luxury homes (and indeed for all home sales as well). Homes that are priced correctly, prepared to show in their best possible light, and marketed comprehensively unsurprisingly achieve the highest sales prices in the shortest amount of time.

Since September 1st, Paragon’s percentage market share for luxury homes is up over 47% year over year, we are currently the #2 luxury home brokerage in the city by unit sales for homes $1,500,000 and above.

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