Market News

Housing and the Economy: Rising from the Ruins

These are a few excerpts from a rather long article in November 5th edition of The Economist, “Housing and the Economy: Rising from the Ruins”. It joins what seems to be a growing, but certainly not universal consensus (per the recent JP Morgan and Hanley Wood analyses) that even nationally – much less San Francisco, which has been performing much better than most markets – speaking to a turning point has been reached in the housing market: prices have bottomed out, buy vs rent calculations have improved dramatically, virtually no new housing having been built (even as population grows), a light discerned at the end of the tunnel on the foreclosure crisis, and so on.

The Economist was virtually the first major business publication to foresee the housing bubble (actually years in advance per their world home values index), and is not known for starry-eyed optimism or boosterism regarding housing markets.

“There are two things everyone knows about American economic recoveries. The first is that the housing sector traditionally leads the economy out of recession. The second is that there is no chance of the housing sector leading the present economy anywhere, except deeper into the mire….Home prices languish near post-bubble lows, over 30% below peak….Housing markets are far from healthy. Yet current pessimism seems overdone. A turnaround in sales, prices and construction may be closer than many imagine.

The potential for a strong housing recovery lies in the depths of the bust… [which] dragged new construction to unprecedented depths. At the current rate, fewer homes will be added to the housing stock this year than in any year since records began in 1968. America therefore has only a minor problem of excess housing supply…Rental markets…look far stronger…Vacancy rates in some cities are strikingly low…[for instance] 3.6% in San Francisco—which translates into rising rents…Rising rents help housing markets heal…by encouraging renters to consider buying…Rental market strength is also rousing a long-dormant building industry. New housing starts rose 15% from August to September…

The convalescence [of the housing market] may be complicated…Yet once the housing sector finds its footing it may quickly gain momentum…Such hopes for housing would smack of an effort to reanimate a corpse, had the bust not so far outpaced the boom. But a turnaround now seems probable on many measures.”

November 6, 2011 / by / in
Weekly Market Charts

Market Dynamics by week for the past 6 months through October 23, 2011 for San Francisco houses, condos, TICs and 2-4 unit buildings.

Listings Accepting Offers: The week ending 10/23/11 had 155 listings accepting offers, but that number will go down as some of these deals fall through – probably to the low 140’s. Still, that is well above the 100 listings that accepted offers in the corresponding week in 2010.


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New Listings Coming on Market: The number of new listings since Labor Day has been well below the number last year. Insufficient new inventory is not meeting buyer demand.


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Listings for Sale: Inventory continues to decline and still reflects the situation for much of this year. Inventory is very low. At this time last year, there were almost 700 more listings on the market. On a percentage basis there were over 35% more listings on the market.


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Percentage of Listings Accepting Offers (going under contract): the percentage for the week ending 10/23/11 will probably decline to somewhere in the 7.7% range from the 8.4% showing today as it is adjusted for deals that fall through. Still, that would be among the highest rates we’ve seen in many years – last year at this time, the percentage was about 4%. Strong demand + very low inventory = very high percentage of listings accepting offers.


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Median House Sales Price: Weekly fluctuations in median price are not particularly meaningful, but for what it’s worth, the last 3 weeks have been above and sometime far above the average median for the past 6 months ($712,000). The week ending 10/23/11 saw a median house price of $749,000; the week before saw $841,000. (But frankly, we prefer to look at median prices for entire quarters or longer periods, as opposed to individual weeks.)


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Units Sold: Last year, reflecting the huge burst of new inventory in mid-September, the week corresponding to last week saw a huge burst of closed sales (150 closings). That compares to a number for the week ending 10/23/11 that will probably end up in the mid-nineties when all sales are entered into the system. Low inventory is certainly constraining the number of sales, and appraisal issues are probably increasing the number of deals that fall through now.


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Expired/ Withdrawn Listings: For about every 2 listings that sell, another listing expires or is withdrawn without selling, usually due to being perceived as overpriced. Many of these expired listings will be eventually re-listed at a lower price and ultimately sold – though they probably would have sold for more money if more aggressively priced to begin with.


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October 31, 2011 / by / in ,
J.P. Morgan Report: Housing: A time to buy

Dr. David Kelly is the Chief Market Strategist for J.P. Morgan Funds, and David M. Lebovitz is a Market Analyst on the J.P. Morgan Funds U.S. Market Strategy Team. They’ve just issued a 12-page report on the US housing market, titled ” Housing: A time to buy.” Below is an excerpt from the report’s Foreword:

“With the debt crisis in Europe still unresolved and economic growth in the U.S. sluggish, the capital markets continue to exhibit elevated volatility. However, this does not mean that no investment opportunities exist. Although the U.S. housing market remains extremely depressed, we believe that given current valuations and demographic dynamics, now may be the time to consider an investment in housing.

Few financial manias in history have had as devastating an economic impact as the American real estate bubble of the 2000s. From soaring boom to dismal and continuing bust, it has shipwrecked the financial plans of millions of American families, led to an absolute collapse in the construction industry and, through the magic of modern financial leverage, led to the biggest global recession since World War II. A few years ago, most Americans believed that there was no better long-term investment than owning your own home. Today, many regard home ownership as a financial ball and chain.

But while the change in attitudes has been dramatic, so has the change in the numbers themselves. Years of falling prices and falling mortgage rates have made home buying more affordable than it has been in decades. Moreover, home prices look downright cheap, not only from the perspective of mortgage rates and income, but also relative to the cost of renting or the cost of constructing a new home.

Meanwhile, continued population growth, combined with lender and borrower caution, has increased pent-up demand. While the inventory of homes both on the market and in foreclosure remains high, minimal home building over the past three years is gradually eating into this stockpile, a process that could quickly accelerate with any pickup in demand. Home prices play a crucial role in determining household wealth and shaping consumer confidence. In addition, any revival in home building could provide a much-needed boost to overall economic growth and employment. However, beyond the implications for the macroeconomy and financial markets, the numbers on housing have an important message for American families today, and particularly younger families setting out on life’s great adventure: Five years ago, at the peak of the home-buying euphoria, it was emphatically a time to rent. Today, when home ownership is depreciated more than ever before, the numbers tell us it is a time to buy.”

Click here to view the full report.

October 23, 2011 / by / in ,
The San Francisco Luxury Home Market

A market trends overview by the Paragon Real Estate Group
for San Francisco Home Sales of $1,500,000 & Above

October 2011 Update

It’s not unusual for the high-end home market to slow down during the summer months, just as it does to a greater degree during the holiday season from mid-November to mid-January. However, this year, though 3rd quarter activity was generally comparable to last year’s, considering how hot the second quarter of 2011 had been, the luxury house and condo market slowed down more than expected. This is probably due to the extreme volatility in the financial markets and the huge concerns regarding the European debt crisis experienced over the summer. More than other market segments, the buyers and sellers of luxury homes are keenly attuned to such events and have a tendency to put large, new financial endeavors on hold while waiting for things to shake out or stabilize.

It is also true that in the spring, it appeared that high-tech IPOs would continue to create large amounts of new wealth in the Bay Area, and many of these IPOs have since been put on hold. Presumably, this is a temporary situation.

Even with the cooling off from the very hot second quarter, strong demand remains for the best properties — best location, pride of ownership, well prepared for showing and well priced. Activity did pick up in the latter part of September, which may signal the beginning of a strong fourth quarter.

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Sales Price to List Price Percentage, Days on Market,
Price Reductions & Expired Listings

Most of the luxury homes that do sell, sell quickly at very close to asking price. Those going through price reductions spend a much longer time on market and sell at an average discount of 18% off original list price. And many listings still expire without selling, usually because the market deems them overpriced.


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Luxury House & Condo Sales

Sales in the third quarter fell substantially from the second quarter — a not uncommon drop from spring to summer sales seasons. The number of sales was comparable to third quarter results in recent years. Sales close 4-8 weeks after offers are accepted.


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Listings Accepting Offers

While comparable to the 3rd quarters of 2010 and 2009, there was a large drop in both the number and percentage of luxury home listings accepting offers when compared to the second quarter of 2011, when we hit the highest points since 2008. Activity did pick up in the three weeks ending October 9th — those were the most active three weeks for luxury homes accepting offers since May.

This chart shows accepted offers by quarter.


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This chart shows the percentage of listings accepting offers by quarter.


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And this chart shows listings accepting offers by WEEK, from May through October 9th. One can see the pick up in activity that started in mid-September after a very slow August. This is the most current information we have regarding the heat of the market.


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Average Dollar per Square Foot

Dollar per square foot values, even in the high-end, vary widely from neighborhood to neighborhood. The absolute highest are typically paid for luxury condos in prestige buildings with staggering views. Remember that short-term fluctuations are relatively meaningless — they occur naturally since the “basket” of homes sold varies from month to month, quarter to quarter.


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Luxury Home Sales by San Francisco Realtor District

The older prestige neighborhoods running across the north of the city from Sea Cliff through Pacific Heights to Russian & Telegraph Hills still dominate sales, but high-end sales in the greater Noe Valley/ Castro/ Haight Ashbury district have soared since the late nineties, and luxury condos in new developments in South Beach, SOMA and Yerba Buena are also a major part of this market now. St. Francis Woods has been an enclave for sales of big houses for quite some time.


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Inventory of Luxury Homes for Sale

The number of new luxury home listings ticked up in September from the summer months, but was still well below that of September 2010. The same was true for overall inventory of high-end homes for sale.


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Months’ Supply of Inventory (MSI)

While not historically high at over 4 months of inventory, the MSI for luxury homes is running higher than that for all SF houses and condos, which in September was under 3 months (which is considered very low). Still luxury home MSI this past September dropped from the summer months and was well below that of September 2010. We expect it to drop further in October.


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Average Days on Market (DOM) Before Acceptance of Offer

Average DOM is about as low as it has been since 2008. Those luxury homes that are selling are selling relatively quickly.


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Luxury Home Sales vs. Listings Expired or Withdrawn

It’s not unusual for the number of expired listings to jump during the summer months and that is what happened in the third quarter. Still the third quarter 2011 had a much lower percentage of expired listings than the third quarters of 2010 and 2009.


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Unit Sales of Homes of $2,000,000 and Above

The second quarter saw a big jump to sales levels not seen since 2008, but in the third quarter sales dropped back to a more normal number. Paragon’s percentage market share in the $2m+ home segment increased by 50% year over year, and after 7 years in business, Paragon is now 1 of the 4 top brokerages for luxury home sales in the city.


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MEDIAN SALES PRICE is that price at which half the sales occur for more and half for less. It can be, and often is, affected by other factors besides changes in market values, such as short-term or seasonal changes in inventory or buying trends. Though often quoted in the media as such, the median sales price is NOT like the price for a share of stock, i.e. a definitive reflection of value and changes in value, and monthly fluctuations are generally meaningless. If market values are truly changing, the median price will consistently rise or sink over a longer term than just 2 or 3 months, and also be supported by other supply and demand statistical trends.

DAYS ON MARKET (DOM) are the number of days between a listing going on market and accepting an offer. The lower the average days on market figure, typically the stronger the buyer demand and the hotter the market.

MONTHS SUPPLY OF INVENTORY (MSI) reflects the number of months it would take to sell the existing inventory of homes for sale at current market conditions. The lower the MSI, the stronger the demand as compared to the supply and the hotter the market. Typically, below 3-4 months of inventory is considered a “Seller’s market”, 4-6 months a relatively balanced market, and 7 months and above, a “Buyer’s market.”

DOLLAR PER SQUARE FOOT ($/sqft) is based upon the home’s interior living space and does not include garages, unfinished attics and basements, rooms built without permit, lot size, or patios and decks — though all these can still add value to a home. These figures are usually derived from appraisals or tax records, but are sometimes unreliable or unreported altogether. All things being equal, a house will sell for a higher dollar per square foot than a condo (due to land value), a condo higher than a TIC (quality of title), and a TIC higher than a multi-unit building (quality of use). Everything being equal, a smaller home will sell for a higher $/sqft than a larger one. (However, things are rarely equal in real estate.) There are often surprisingly wide variations of value within neighborhoods and averages may be distorted by one or two sales substantially higher or lower than the norm, especially when the total number of sales is small. Location, condition, amenities, parking, views, lot size & outdoor space all affect $/sqft home values. Typically, the highest dollar per square foot figures in San Francisco are achieved by penthouse condos with utterly spectacular views in prestige buildings.

Median and average statistics are generalities subject to fluctuation due to a variety of reasons (besides changes in value): how they apply to any specific property is unknown. Averages may be distorted by one or two sales substantially higher or lower than the norm, especially when sample size is small. Sales not reported to MLS – such as many new-development condo sales — are not included in this analysis. All figures should be considered approximate and are derived from sources deemed reliable, but may contain errors and omissions, and not warranted. We are happy to provide or direct you to the original data upon which each chart is based.

October 18, 2011 / by / in ,
Weekly Market Charts

For the sale of San Francisco houses, condos, TICs and 2-4 unit buildings by week through 9/25/11, as reported to MLS.

Units For Sale: There were about 275 fewer homes (about 13% fewer) for sale in the week ending 9/25/11 as there were a year ago. Inventory remains very low, especially as compared to buyer demand.


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New Listings: The number of new listings coming on the market so far in September 2011 is down a whopping 29% from last year: over 250 fewer new listings this year. This is putting a large crunch on the market as compared to last year.


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Units Accepting Offers: The number of homes accepting offers in week ending 9/25/11 was up about 10% from last year. Inventory down, the number of new listings way down, but homes going under contract going up = a significantly stronger market.


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Percentage of Listings Accepting Offers: A relatively pure statistic of supply and demand. Last year, the percentage was 5% for the week ending 9/25/11; this year it’s about 7% (a historically very high percentage).


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Listings Expiring or Withdrawn from Market: very low.


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Listings Closing Escrow (Sold): September sales reflect July and August accepted-offer activity. September 2011 is running about the same as last year – albeit with much lower inventory levels. If inventory was higher, both the number of listings accepting offers and listings closing escrow would certainly be higher. Historically, closed sales should start picking up in the next couple weeks.


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October 1, 2011 / by / in ,
U.S. Cities Where Homes Sell the Fastest

“Although the U.S. housing market continues to struggle, many local markets are doing significantly better than the country as a whole, with some places virtually missing the housing bust altogether.

While shifts in home values are important in any market, it’s important for sellers to determine the length of time a property can expect to be on the market before it will be sold. The faster that homes sell, the faster an inventory backlog can be cleared, suggesting heightened demand and an upward trajectory in prices. Additionally, if a home is on the market for an extended period of time, it may may turn off prospective buyers and force sellers to accept less-favorable offers.

To find the cities where this trend is the most extreme, real estate website Zillow.com analyzed the numbers to identify the cities where homes sell the fastest, according to the median number of days on the market. The numbers presented here are representative of home sales between mid-April and mid-July 2011.”

Click here to read the rest of the article.

September 26, 2011 / by / in ,
Weekly Charts

These charts track SF market activity through 9/11/11 for houses, condos, TICs and 2-4 unit buildings.

Inventory finally started to creep up a little – though still terribly low by historical standards — fueled by an influx of new listings. Hopefully, this will continue in the coming weeks. Last September saw a huge surge of over 1100 new listings – the highest in over 2 years, which powered much of the autumn market.

New Listings:

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Inventory of Homes for Sale:

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Listings Accepting Offers: 4-business-day weeks following Monday holidays are typically on the lower end as far as listings going under contract. The week following Labor Day had a higher number than the week following Memorial Day and the same number as the week following the 4th of July. It was a very slow week for actual closings.

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September 17, 2011 / by / in ,
The San Francisco Residential Real Estate Market – The Story is Still Low Inventory

September 2011 Update

August 2011 Market Snapshot
As compared to August of 2010, we had 25% fewer listings for sale as of 8/1; 6% fewer new listings; 28% more listings accepting offers; 7% more closed sales; 30% fewer expired/ withdrawn listings; and 28% fewer listings for sale as of 8/31. Every statistic points to a market with too little inventory to satisfy buyer demand. It is now common for appealing, well-priced homes to receive multiple offers within 1 or 2 weeks of coming on market. (Note that closed sales lag accepted offers by 4-8 weeks, so August’s closed sales mostly reflect accepted offers in late June and July.)


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SF Homes for Sale
The inventory of SF homes available to purchase continued to decline in August. There were approximately 550 fewer MLS listings for sale in August of 2011 as in August of 2010 – and that does not factor in the large parallel reduction in new-development condos on the market. Last year in September, we saw the biggest burst of new listings of the past 2+ years, which helped power sales volume through the autumn. A good many buyers (and their agents) would be grateful to see a similar surge in listings this September.


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Percentage of Listings Accepting Offers
One of the clearest statistics of the current (low) supply and (high) demand dynamic is the percentage of listings which accept offers within a given month. August, which is typically a slow month, continued the trend begun earlier in 2011 with a very high percentage of listings going under contract. August’s 22% – 23% is a tremendous jump from the 14% of August 2010, and is among the highest of recent years.


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Average Dollar per Square Foot for SF Houses
Most of the distress house sales in San Francisco are in the lower price ranges (lower for the city) and in the less affluent neighborhoods, and that is where they impact values. Once one gets above $750,000, distress house sales are relatively rare and impact values very little. Here we see the huge difference in average dollar per square foot values between homes above and below $750,000. Two different markets: higher priced houses gaining in values, while lower priced houses (with a large percentage of distress sales) so far continuing to decline.


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Average Dollar per Square Foot for SF Condos
Lower priced condos are often heavily impacted by distress sales, while higher priced condos are not. In the second quarter of 2011, dollar per square foot values for condos $650,000 and above were at their highest since 2008. Average dollar per square foot is a very general statistic of a large basket of very different properties in very different locations. As always, sustained longer term trends are what are meaningful.


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4-Bedroom House Values
We just completed our semi-annual analysis of SF home sales by neighborhood, property type and bedroom count, looking at the number of MLS sales; low, high and median prices; average size and average dollar per square foot. For the complete report:
Values by Neighborhood & Property Type


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2-Bedroom Condo Values
The number of MLS sales; low, high and median prices; average size and average dollar per square foot. For our complete report:
SF Values by Neighborhood & Property Type


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S&P Case-Shiller Index
The Case-Shiller Index that most applies to SF is their “High Tier” Home Price Index. (Indeed, an Upper High Tier Price Index would be even more applicable.) This Index for the 5-county San Francisco Metro Area recorded its fourth increase in as many months. We put much less stock in monthly fluctuations than in longer term trends – right now the trend is mildly upward. The chart numbers reflect price changes based upon an assumption of January 2000 values equaling 100. Thus 144 = a value 44% above January 2000. A change from 184 to 144 reflects a 22% decline. For more information about Case-Shiller:
Case-Shiller Index Deciphered


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Months’ Supply of Inventory (MSI)
MSI in San Francisco is as low as it has been in years, reflecting motivated buyers snapping up homes in a low-inventory environment. For just houses, MSI is lower still, and in some hot neighborhoods, MSI is under 2 months of inventory, which is considered very, very low.


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Average Days on Market (DOM)
This statistic lines up with all the others. The hotter the market, the faster buyers act to buy appealing listings. And the current average of 58-60 days, while historically low, is distorted by distress sales (a much longer process), sales that fall through (and come back on market, typically to sell to a second buyer), and especially distress sales that fall through, all of which raise the average DOM significantly. For example, the average days-on-market figure for distress condo sales is now 95 days. In fact, most of the homes selling today are accepting offers within 2 to 3 weeks of going on market.


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30-Year Mortgage Interest Rates
The upside of all the financial markets turmoil is incredibly low interest rates, which, of course, make a huge difference in the ongoing cost of home ownership. Along with rising rents in the city, this is one of the big reasons why the Rent vs. Buy equation is changing so dramatically. In early 2010, pundits predicted that 30-year rates would be over 6% by now, but instead we’re hitting new lows. Rates can fluctuate dramatically. Chart by Bankrate.com. To make your own Rent vs. Buy calculations:
Rent vs. Buy Calculator


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DISTRESS HOME SALE can be one of two things: the sale of a bank-owned property typically pursuant to a foreclosure (also called an REO sale), or a so-called short sale, in which the seller-owner must get lender approval for a “short” payoff, a reduction in the loan amounts due on the property in order for the sale to close. These 2 kinds of distress sale are actually different animals, though both can be long, tiresome endeavors to close because one is dealing with bank bureaucracies. (In 2010 in California, about 40% of short sales fell through without closing sale.) However, in an REO sale, the seller is the bank (which may own hundreds or thousands of these properties), the property often looks “distressed” and the bank has very limited disclosure responsibilities (which is a liability to buyers). In a short sale, the seller is usually the individual owner-occupier, the property condition is and shows much better, and full seller disclosure laws apply (the buyer knows more about what he or she is buying). Both types of distress sale can be very good deals for savvy buyers and indeed investors are buying many of the REO properties around the country. But there are potentially greater risks and almost always greater hassle factors involved.

MEDIAN SALES PRICE is that price at which half the sales occur for more and half for less. It can be, and often is, affected by other factors besides changes in market values, such as short-term or seasonal changes in inventory or buying trends. Though often quoted in the media as such, the median sales price is NOT like the price for a share of stock, i.e. a definitive reflection of value and changes in value, and monthly fluctuations are generally meaningless. If market values are truly changing, the median price will consistently rise or sink over a longer term than just 2 or 3 months, and also be supported by other supply and demand statistical trends.

DAYS ON MARKET (DOM) are the number of days between a listing going on market and accepting an offer. The lower the average days on market figure, typically the stronger the buyer demand and the hotter the market. Note that this statistic is distorted by distress sales, which often have a very high DOM, by that minority percentage of listings that sell after multiple price reductions, and by deals that fall through after offer acceptance (the listings come back on market, but the DOM clock keeping ticking). Appealing, well-priced new listings often accept offers within 7 to 14 days of coming on market.

MONTHS SUPPLY OF INVENTORY (MSI) reflects the number of months it would take to sell the existing inventory of homes for sale at current market conditions. The lower the MSI, the stronger the demand as compared to the supply and the hotter the market. Typically, below 3-4 months of inventory is considered a “Seller’s market”, 4-6 months a relatively balanced market, and 7 months and above, a “Buyer’s market.”

DOLLAR PER SQUARE FOOT ($/sqft) is based upon the home’s interior living space and does not include garages, unfinished attics and basements, rooms built without permit, lot size, or patios and decks — though all these can still add value to a home. These figures are usually derived from appraisals or tax records, but are sometimes unreliable or unreported altogether. All things being equal, a house will sell for a higher dollar per square foot than a condo (due to land value), a condo higher than a TIC (quality of title), and a TIC higher than a multi-unit building (quality of use). Everything being equal, a smaller home will sell for a higher $/sqft than a larger one. (However, things are rarely equal in real estate.) There are often surprisingly wide variations of value within neighborhoods and averages may be distorted by one or two sales substantially higher or lower than the norm, especially when the total number of sales is small. Location, condition, amenities, parking, views, lot size & outdoor space all affect $/sqft home values. Typically, the highest dollar per square foot figures in San Francisco are achieved by penthouse condos with utterly spectacular views in prestige buildings.

In real estate, sustained longer term trends across a variety of statistical measurements are the meaningful ones – and these are what we try to provide in our analyses. The fluctuations of monthly statistics — often quoted without context in news articles — are usually virtually meaningless (but make dramatic headlines).

Statistics are generalities, subject to fluctuation due to a variety of reasons. All information herein is derived from sources deemed reliable, but may contain errors and omissions, and is not warranted. Sales not reported to MLS are not included in this analysis.

September 7, 2011 / by / in , ,
High-tech boom brings a sense of déjà vu in San Francisco

“The number of technology jobs in San Francisco will soon surpass the record of 34,000 set in 2000, during the dot-com boom. It’s transforming once-troubled neighborhoods and setting off a scramble for pricey apartments.

Reporting from San Francisco— When Twitter inventor Jack Dorsey decided to start a new company last year, he bypassed Silicon Valley and set up shop in San Francisco.

The 34-year-old, who said he was drawn to the “variety and vibrancy” of city life, is one of a growing number of entrepreneurs resisting the gravitational pull of high-tech’s epicenter 30 miles to the south.

The result is a dramatic surge in economic activity not seen in San Francisco since the height of the dot-com boom more than a decade ago. It’s a rare bright spot in the nation’s troubled economy.

“Technology has firmly established a foothold in the city,” said Jeremy Stoppelman, founder and chief executive of Yelp, the online reviews site based in San Francisco.”

Click here to read the rest of the article.

August 19, 2011 / by / in ,
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