Glen’s SF East Bay Real Estate Market Update
January 1, 2017
Here are some highlights for the 38 East Bay Cities that I track:
- Following a dramatic 60% drop at the end of the year, inventory has started its’ seasonal trend upward with a modest 11.4% gain over the last 30 days. Expecting to follow the trends we saw in the previous 3 years, we anticipate a gradual increase on a month by month basis through spring and summer to occur before finally peaking in the fall months. Inventory levels are slightly less than what we experienced last year at this time. Our monthly supply is now 21 days. As a reminder of what we mean by “months supply;” If no more homes come onto the market, and homes continue to sell at the same pace as they have been over the last 12 months, then the “months supply,” (in this case 18 days), tells us that’s how many days it would take to sell the remaining number of homes we currently have available for sale in any given market.
- The number of pendings, (homes that are in contract), has decreased 9.4% over the last 30 days and is less than what we experienced during this time last year by 12.9%. The pending active ratio increased to 1.41. This supply and demand ratio signals whether we’re in a sellers or buyers market. Typically, a number well above 1, (more inventory with less pending) favors sellers. A number below 1 favors buyers. This is at a lower level than we saw last year at this time, (1.50). This will change in the coming months as we continue to move towards a more “normal” or balanced market for 2017.
- The percentage of homes “sitting” has begun to decrease. 43% of the homes listed now remain active for 30 days or longer, while 30% stayed on the market for 60 days or longer. This is due more to a clearance of some of the “stale” inventory seen as bargains and new homes beginning to come onto the market.
- The “distressed” market, (foreclosures and short sales) are no longer a factor representing less than 1% of the market with only .04% of the active listings and .02% of sales over the past 4 months.
- Median Price recovery on a city by city is beginning to see a slight increase. This is typical as we approach Winter. 16 out of the 33 East Bay cities tracked are now at or above their median price “peak” levels with another 12 cities within 20%. That means that only 5 cities are still well below their peaks, falling into the 20% to 30% range. The Median Price for the East Bay has decreased from $650,000 to $610,000 over the last 6 months, also typical for this time of year.
- The month’s supply for the combined 38 city area remains at 21 days. Historically, a 2 to 3 months supply is considered normal in the San Francisco East Bay Area.
- Our inventory for the East Bay (the 38 cities tracked) increased to 1,383 homes actively for sale. This is still above the December 2012 low of 1,086 and slightly less than last year at this time of 1,493. We’re used to seeing between 3,000 and 6,000 homes in a “normal” market in the San Francisco East Bay Area. Pending sales decreased to 1.945, slightly lower than where we were last year at this time of 2,234.
- Our Pending/Active Ratio is 1.41. Last year at this time it was 1.50. This will be moving towards a more balanced or “normal.” (a ratio of 1 with an equal number of listings and pending sales) as we continue into the new year.
- Sales have decreased from the last (4 month period) now at 7,417 for the 38 cities tracked. This is about what we saw last year at this time (7,351).
- Sales over the last 4 months, on average, are 2.1% over the asking price for this area down slightly from last year’s 2.7%. This has come down over the past 4 months from 3.0%
By Riley McDermid, SF Business Times, February 13, 2017
The Bay Area’s sky-high home appreciation values and limited inventory has made it the nation’s best market for sellers, a new report from Zillow said this week, but the area shows some signs of softening.
“Even though San Francisco is a seller’s market, it has slowed down in the last few months with more price cuts occurring this year versus last year,” Svenja Gudell, Zillow’s chief economist, told the Business Times. “It is still super hot in terms of competition, but not as hot as it used to be.”
To arrive at the rankings, Zillow crunched the percentage of its listings with a price cut by how long listings typically stay on the market. It found that in the San Francisco metro area (which includes the East Bay), 5.4 percent of listings cut their price and homes stay on the market for just 51 days. That’s compared to 7 percent of listing with a price cut that stayed an average of 90 days on the market nationally, Zillow said.
What’s more, the top five sellers’ markets nationwide are all in the Bay Area. Berkeley came in first with zero percent of listings having a price cut and homes spending an average of 41 days on Zillow. That was followed by San Mateo (with 3.8 percent of listings having a price cut and homes spending 45 days on Zillow); Redwood City (3.8 percent and 46 days); Pleasant Hill (zero percent and 49 days) and Fremont (4.1 percent and 49 days).
Zillow said that the ranking underscore that even if there is some correction happening in home values, the region’s residential real estate boom continues to outshine the rest of the U.S.
“Home values in the San Francisco metro are up 4.8 percent over the past year, which is considerably slower than a year ago, when they were rising 13 percent year-over-year,” Gudell said. “Buyers in San Francisco will notice the difference compared to last year, but overall San Francisco still remains one of the most competitive markets in the country.”
By Mark Greene, Forbes, February 7, 2017
Active and higher. That’s it, that’s my forecast; housing markets will be active and interest rates will trend higher. The question of course is how active and how much higher, so here you go:
As far as the housing market in 2017, I can say with absolute certainty that people will be selling houses, people will be buying houses and people will be getting mortgages. I am 100% certain of this and you can use this information with ironclad confidence as you tread into whatever housing market dynamics you are contemplating. Mortgage interest rates do not drive or impede housing market activity. People buy and sell houses in all interest rate environments and for a host of reasons that have nothing to do with mortgage payments. Families grow, families shrink, jobs and fortunes change, people get married, people get divorced, this list could go on all night. Interest rates are just part of the equation; they are not the headline determinant.
And interest rates have already telegraphed the near term future trend with a dramatic move north following the U.S. Presidential election. Almost immediately after the votes were tallied, mortgage rates which had been hovering around 3.50% zoomed up to 4.25% and have settled in with this as the current norm. And while the Fed left short term rates unchanged at last week’s meeting, notice has been given that engineered rates will be moving north in 2017.
Should 10-year Treasury yields move to somewhere between 3% to 4%, we will see mortgage interest rates in the 4.75% to 5.75% range.
The U.S. economy has yet to break out and definitively march towards real growth but signs are bullish and bets are being made that robust will be a regular part of the economic lexicon before long.
If the new Administration makes good on plans to lower taxes, reduce regulatory burdens and accelerate job growth, then a more robust economy is inevitable. Lower my taxes and I will have more money to spend and save. Eliminate some of the regulations that make mortgage getting so cumbersome and I can help more people buy homes. Accelerate job growth and more people can spend, save and buy homes. JFK said “a rising tide lifts all boats” and all signs point to a rising tide.
Interest rates have been engineered below market equilibrium forces for over a decade. US economic growth has been suppressed and anemic for so long that we have organically accepted mediocrity as a new norm. The financial markets immediately responded to promised tax and regulatory reforms anticipating accelerated economic growth. Economic growth breeds inflation and rising interest rates is simply part of those mechanics.
The math is simple; more people with jobs and a more robust economy means more people will be buying and selling homes in a higher interest rate environment. So my forecast is that 2017 will deliver a more robust economy, higher interest rates and a more active housing market. You can hold me to it.
By John Diaz, San Francisco Chronicle, February 10, 2017
In one sense, California’s housing crisis is a matter of simple math. This state was not building anywhere close to the number of homes that would be required to accommodate the addition of 300,000 residents a year over the past decade. Demand is greatly outstripping supply, and it’s only going to get worse with the anticipated population growth of 3.4 million by 2025.
So why isn’t that construction happening?
The causes are all political .
There are no inherently evil intentions in the people putting up these barriers. Californians who are fortunate enough to own a home in a comfortable community don’t want to disrupt their good life with newcomers clogging roads, overcrowding schools or overrunning their parks. They worry about the impact of property values.
Taxpayer groups don’t want to subsidize affordable housing. Politicians want to require below-market housing mandates that may or may not have any correlation with a development’s economic viability. Unions demand that any government-promoted housing must require union-level wages. Environmentalists and neighborhood groups want to reserve the right to challenge developments even if they fit within zoning guidelines. No city wants to be told how much it must contribute to the greater good of making its region or its state more affordable.
But add up each of those forces — and the clout that each brings to bear — and it’s clear to see why not enough building is getting done.
So the question arises: Do we have the collective will to change that dynamic, when it results in the nation’s highest poverty rate, our children unable to settle down near us and businesses struggling to recruit and retain workers in a transient economy?
So far, the answer has been no.
Just ask Gov. Jerry Brown, who last year pushed the not-so-radical notion that proposed residential projects that fully complied with local zoning and set aside at list 5 percent of their units for below-market sales should be put on a fast track. Opposition came from various quarters — tenant groups, environmentalists, the League of California Cities — but the true death blow came from the construction trades, which the Legislature’s Democrats dare not cross. Their beef: They wanted any projects that got special treatment to be subject to the equivalent of union wages.
A “prevailing wage” clause is no small deal in construction. A 2005 UC Berkeley study found that such clauses added as much as 37 percent to the price of a unit. It concluded that such union-friendly pacts essentially subsidized construction workers at the expense of low-income buyers. Those requirements work in pricey San Francisco and parts of Los Angeles, but they make projects unattainable most everywhere else.
Brown’s “by-right” plan to streamline housing died last year.
Freshman state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, has come in with a scaled-down plan (SB35) to spur housing construction. It would put the first real teeth in a state process that identifies how much housing each city must provide at each income bracket: Those that are out of compliance would be forced to give fast-track approval to projects that fit their zoning rules.
Asked where he is getting opposition, Wiener said, “You get pushback from everyone.” He has tried to fend off union opposition — at the expense of home buyers — by including a prevailing wage provision.
So it goes in California.
The Legislature also is looking for ways to raise money to subsidize affordable housing, though that is a futile chase:. At an average subsidy of $300,000 a unit statewide — much more in the coastal areas — it would take tens of billions to even come close to meeting the demand. Another fallacy, especially prevalent among San Francisco progressives: The focus should be limited to affordable housing. This crisis is the result of shortages at all price levels.
Gabriel Metcalf, CEO of SPUR, a San Francisco urban planning think tank, said he is struck by the “self righteousness that good liberal Democrats can have” in stopping new housing — and their failure to see the contradiction with their expressed concern for the underclass. “There needs to be a call to (homeowners’) moral conscience to care about other people who do need housing,” he said.
We all need to compromise to preserve the California Dream.
That awakening needs to reach the state Capitol, and city halls everywhere.
By Vanessa Rancano, KQED – The California Report, February 1, 2017
California is producing less than half the new homes it needs to meet demand in the Golden State.
In its first comprehensive analysis since the year 2000, California’s Department of Housing and Community Development paints a bleak picture of the state’s housing landscape. While it points to some hopeful developments, the report suggests lawmakers will need to consider serious policy changes if California is going to build the projected 1.8 million new homes needed by 2025.
The Statewide Housing Assessment Report is still in draft form, and its authors are gathering public input at workshops around the state. On Monday a small group of mostly local government representatives and advocates met in Fresno to hear the report’s findings.
“About a third of all California renters today are paying more than 50 percent of their income in rent,” California Department of Housing and Community Development Director Ben Metcalf told the group.
Those paying the largest share of their income for rent and transportation aren’t concentrated in expensive cities like San Francisco — they’re largely living in rural Northern California counties and in the Central Valley.
“We’re seeing home ownership rates at the lowest level they’ve been since World War II,” Metcalf said. And, he added, while just 12 percent of Americans live in California, 22 percent of America’s homeless live here, more than in any other state.
Among the challenges driving the lack of affordable housing is unstable funding, the report finds. Federal allocations for affordable housing declined in California from 2003 to 2015. There just aren’t enough affordable rentals, and even for those who get assistance, Section 8 vouchers can’t keep pace with soaring rents.
The authors also point to regulatory hurdles and land use policies that jack up development costs and delay building.
On the upside, the report finds some positive impact from state and local bonds for affordable housing and permanent housing for the homeless, along with revenue from the state’s cap-and-trade program.
Still, the report suggests there are big consequences resulting from the failure to meet housing needs. When you factor housing in, California has the highest poverty rate in the country. Housing instability affects people’s health and kids’ academic performance. And as people move farther from jobs, long commutes increase pollution.
Overall, the report concludes the lack of housing costs the California economy almost $240 billion a year.
Once they’d heard the findings, the group in Fresno offered input. They discussed special barriers facing disabled communities and highlighted housing issues unique to vulnerable populations.
Ashley Werner, an attorney with the Leadership Council for Justice and Accountability, a nonprofit that helps low-income communities, raised concerns about undocumented immigrants.
“I think there’s a lot of different policy solutions we can put in place to protect them, and protect our whole population,” Werner said. “I think that’s especially important right now.”
Even with looming layoffs, tech still drives region’s economy
By GEORGE AVALOS, Mercury News, February 10, 2017
Job growth in the tech industry used to zoom like a race car, but these days, hiring by this principal driver of the Bay Area’s economy chugs along more like a family SUV.
The technology industry’s job growth in the nine-county region has dramatically decelerated, according to this newspaper’s analysis of figures released by state labor officials and Beacon Economics. Tech’s annual job growth throttled back to 3.5 percent, or 26,700 new jobs, in 2016. That’s much slower than the 6 percent annual gain of 42,300 jobs in 2015, or the 6.4 percent gain in 2014.
And while the industry’s 3.5 percent growth last year is still a sturdy annual pace, Bay Area technology companies have already disclosed plans to slash about 2,000 jobs in the first three months of 2017.
“You have growth and you have layoffs at the same time in tech,” said Stephen Levy, director of the Palo Alto-based Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy. “You have layoffs because there are several companies trying to make the same products or services. Not all will succeed; some will fail.”
Even so, job growth in technology companies last year far outpaced total job growth of 2.6 percent across all industries in the Bay Area. That indicates the tech sector remains a major engine of the region’s economy.
“Tech will continue to outperform the overall job market over time, even as it goes through structural changes,” said Scott Anderson, chief economist with San Francisco-based Bank of the West.
By Riley McDermid, SF Business Times, February 8, 2017
Some Bay Area immigrant tech workers are pulling out of buying local real estate over concerns that President Trump’s H1-B visa plan could force them to return to their home countries, local real estate agents report.
The nerves surrounding Trump’s plans for holders of H1-B visas have continued as a series of court cases wend their way through the legal system in an attempt to clarify who will and who will not have freedom of movement in and out of the U.S. H1-B visa holders are also concerned about what would happen to their real estate investments here if they are expelled from the country.
“[It] appears Trump will go after the H-1B visa directly in an attempt to open up more jobs for American workers, according to a leaked draft of a new executive order,” Business Insider reports. “In the hypothetical situation that an immigrant worker gets their H-1B visa revoked shortly after buying a house, they would have to pay between 6% and 7% of the home value in closing costs and transfer tax, a one-time fee imposed on the owner when a property changes hands.”
By Emily Landes, SF Chronicle, February 3, 2017
After years of rents creeping higher and higher, San Francisco is finally seeing real signs of a slowdown with several apartment listing and real-estate data companies noting lower rents and rising inventory. San Francisco rents were down 2.3 percent compared with one year ago, according to AppFolio—the biggest drop in the 20 high-population metros the property management site researched for its recent affordability report.
That’s right: San Francisco rentals are now more affordable than New York, L.A. and Miami, with workers in the South Florida city needing to spend 54 percent of their incomes on rents, versus 46 percent in S.F. The affordability calculations are based on the percentage of average monthly household income put toward the average monthly apartment rent, which is currently around $3,200 for a one-bedroom in S.F. (Check out the slideshow above to see what you can get around that price.)
That average rental cost has not been seen in San Francisco since April 2015, according to apartment market analysis company Axiometrics. It also found that the slowdown happened relatively quickly; the annual effective rent growth was still at 5.7 percent only one year ago. Similar slowdowns can be seen in San Jose, where the market has dropped 2.4 percent compared to a year ago, according to Axiometrics. Rents also dropped in Oakland, though by less than 1 percent.
While Oakland rents may be flattening out, they’ve still risen over 60 percent in the last five years, according to Amalia Otet at RentCafe. “If five years ago Oakland was the go-to place for those priced out of San Francisco, with rents around $1,500 a month in 2011, the huge influx of new people seeking cheaper housing has pushed up rents in the area to record highs,” she said. “Moreover, Oakland is rather timid regarding new apartment construction, with approximately 300 units delivered in 2016.”
San Francisco, on the other hand, added 3,600 new units last year, which all the researchers agree is one of the biggest contributors to the softening in the apartment market. “Supply is finally catching up with demand in the market, so rent growth is starting to slow,” said Nat Kunes, vice president of product management at AppFolio. “It took a few years extra after the recession to get to this point because during the recession construction effectively stopped as renter demand was still growing.”
But RentCafe’s Otet doesn’t believe the rental relief will last long. “Demand for apartment living is still particularly strong in S.F., and the high occupancy levels—measured at 95.6 percent by apartment research firm Yardi Matrix—maintain competitiveness among San Francisco’s renters,” she said.
By Crystal Chen, Zumper, December 20, 2016
San Francisco ended the year holding onto its position as the most expensive rental market in the nation. After a hot 2015, the median price of one bedroom units in the city has cooled off substantially, down 4.9% since this time last year.
Overall, the priciest neighborhoods seem to have hit a price ceiling that renters are willing to pay and there seems to be a migration of people from the most expensive neighborhoods.
By RICHARD SCHEININ, Mercury News, January 30, 2017
A new national “Hotness Index” is top-heavy with Bay Area real estate markets. No surprise there.
Because of the region’s housing supply (low) and demand from buyers (high, as always), the San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward metro area is No. 1 on the January list from realtor.com, and the San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara metro area is No. 2.
More of a surprise is that the Top 10 includes several not-so-distant metro areas where homes are still relatively affordable.
We’re talking about Vallejo (No. 3), Sacramento (No. 6), Yuba City (No. 7), Stockton (No. 9) and Fresno (No. 10).
Those markets — less than chic, until recently — are among the 10 hottest in the entire country, according to realtor. com. Its “Hotness Index” identifies where houses are selling most quickly, and which markets are generating the most listing views on realtor.com.
“Buyers who are challenged by affordability are starting to look to the outlying areas,” said Jonathan Smoke, realtor.com’s chief economist. “The average down payment in 2016 in San Francisco and San Jose was $150,000 or more. The average down payment in Fresno and Yuba City was under $28,000. That’s quite a bit of difference in terms of what it takes to become a homeowner.”
He added that the outlying Northern California markets on the list “have median prices that are half or even in some cases less than third of the median prices in San Francisco and San Jose.”
Generous retirement benefits for public safety employees could help push the Bay Area city of Richmond into bankruptcy
By JUDY LIN, CALmatters, February 6, 2017
When the state auditor gauged the fiscal health of California cities in 2015, this port community on the eastern shore of San Francisco Bay made a short list of six distressed municipalities at risk of bankruptcy.
Richmond has cut about 200 jobs — roughly 20% of its workforce — since 2008. Its credit rating is at junk status. And in November, voters rejected a tax increase that city leaders had hoped would help close a chronic budget deficit.
“I don’t think there’s any chance we can avoid it,” said former City Councilman Vinay Pimple, referring to bankruptcy.
A major cause of Richmond’s problems: relentless growth in pension costs.
Payments for employee pensions, pension-related debt and retiree healthcare have climbed from $25 million to $44 million in the last five years, outpacing all other expenses.
By 2021, retirement expenses could exceed $70 million — 41% of the city’s general fund.
Richmond is a stark example of how pension costs are causing fiscal stress in cities across California. Four municipalities — Vallejo, Stockton, San Bernardino and Mammoth Lakes — have filed for bankruptcy protection since 2008. Others are on the brink.
“The truth is that there are cities all over the state that just aren’t owning up to all their problems,” said San Bernardino City Manager Mark Scott.
Increasingly, pension costs consume 15% or more of big city budgets, crowding out basic services and leaving local governments more vulnerable than ever to the next economic downturn.
Richmond is a racially diverse, working-class city of 110,000 whose largest employer is a massive Chevron oil refinery. Like many California municipalities, Richmond dug a financial hole for itself by granting generous retirement benefits to police and firefighters on the assumption that pension fund investments would grow fast enough to cover the cost.
That optimism proved unfounded, and now the bill is coming due.
City Manager Bill Lindsay insists that Richmond can avoid going off a cliff. Last year, financial consultants mapped a path to stability for the city by 2021 — but at a considerable cost in public services.
The city cut 11 positions, reduced after-school and senior classes, eliminated neighborhood clean-ups to tackle illegal trash dumping, and trimmed spending on new library books — saving $12 million total
City officials also negotiated a four-year contract with firefighters that freezes salaries and requires firefighters to pay $4,800 a year each toward retirement healthcare. Until then, the benefit was fully funded by taxpayers.
“I’ve seen some of my good friends go through it in Vallejo and Stockton, and what we found out during those [bankruptcies] is that your union contracts aren’t necessarily guaranteed,” said Jim Russey, president of Richmond Firefighters Local 188.
Richmond’s consultants said the city had to find $15 million more in new revenue or budget cuts by 2021. Lindsay said the city has been looking hard for additional savings, and the police union recently agreed to have its members contribute toward retirement healthcare.
By Michelle Hainer, Trulia, January 4, 2017
When looking for a return on your investment, keep these things in mind as you scour the market.
While location is key in almost any real estate transaction, that’s not all you should consider when purchasing a property you intend to “flip.” You need to examine the home room by room, looking for potential ways to make it marketable. “Flipping real estate is all about minimizing risk,” says Robin Mathis, a settlement attorney in Fairfax, VA, who flips homes with her husband, Mike Irvin. “It’s not something to go into lightly.” With that in mind, here are some details to mull over before you buy.
Basement and attic: All systems go
Just about every house-flip TV show will tell you that updated bathrooms and kitchens sell houses, but the less glamorous areas are just as important. “Things like electrical, plumbing, HVAC, foundation, roof, windows … these are the things that are more costly to fix or replace,” says Michael Hyne, who has flipped homes for sale in New Haven, CT. If most of these items aren’t in good condition, move on. “Nobody wants to buy a house with a crumbling foundation, even if [it] does have a brand-new kitchen,” he says.
Dining room: Versatility (and utility) is important
It’s a space that will probably be used frequently. You’ll want to have the option to customize it to your clientele. “It helps to know what kinds of families live in the area so that you can tailor your future renovations to your potential buyers,” says Hyne. “You wouldn’t want to do a modern-style renovation and then realize your clients are elderly people looking for a more traditional setup.”
Kitchen: Dream big (but make sure your plan is feasible)
For flips, the kitchen is definitely the heart of the home. Mathis often takes a contractor or home inspector with her to tour properties to make sure her ideas are actually doable. “Non-load-bearing walls are easier and less expensive to remove,” says Hyne, so think about where it’s feasible to knock them out to make a space look and feel more open. Also, consider what can be saved or reused. After all, it’s much more cost-effective to refinish or repaint kitchen cabinets than to replace them.
Bathrooms: Can you add or enlarge them?
“Most people want at least one and a half bathrooms, so think about where you can add one, even if it’s only a half-bath on the main floor,” says Hyne. Keep in mind that freshening up existing bathrooms doesn’t have to be costly. Simply changing the fixtures or other small elements may be all you need. “You can get a brand-new toilet for around $150, and it makes a huge difference,” says Mathis.
Living spaces: What updates and embellishments can be added?
Finishing touches and small updates in foyers, dens, or living rooms can create clean lines (think moldings, light fixtures, and other details), and you may be able to do them inexpensively. “Take a look at what they’re doing in million-dollar homes and then figure out how you can duplicate that in your price range,” says Irvin. He also advises thinking about ways you can make a home unique, which is especially important if it’s in a development where most of the homes have a similar layout.
Living room: Look for hardwood floors
“Refinishing existing flooring is about a third of the cost of installing new,” says Hyne. So, don’t be afraid to peek under that carpet to see what magic (or deflating dose of reality) lies beneath. Use this same logic when looking at the home’s existing finishes. Can dated wallpaper be removed? Will a new coat of paint be a huge improvement? Neutral choices are better, as they allow the home to appeal to a larger pool of buyers.