The Brannan in South Beach has been a coveted luxury hi-rise since it was built in 2000. I had the pleasure of selling a one-bedroom condo there in 2006. At the time, I thought it was incredible that someone would pay $700k for an 823 square foot home. Yet, here we are in 2020 and similar sized homes at The Brannan are now selling for over $1 million. The San Francisco housing market never ceases to amaze me.
I’m getting an email a day in my inbox from predictors and pundits about real estate and the Coronavirus. While we as real estate agents can’t deliver a lot of clarity (our crystal balls are always foggy anyway), here are some observations about real estate in light of these unusual circumstances.
San Francisco residents are intrepid. We’ve seen no decline in open house traffic, and people seem fine about sharing air space with each other. And this is not just inside houses; yesterday I saw a crowded line of diners stretching down half a block waiting to get into Liho Liho.
Rates are dropping! And dropping! This is increasing buying power and could further drive prices up (which have been going up already since the first of the year).
The stock market sucks right now– and it’s impossible to know how it’s going to behave in the short term. When this happens, there is often a flight to the more reliable, slow-moving real estate sector.
No matter how bad the economy might get, everyone still needs a place to live. People will always get married or divorced, get a promotion or laid off, have kids or see them fly the nest, and go through the other life changes that gets homes bought and sold.
Views, views, views. It’s a well-known fact that buyers will pay BIG money for an incredible view in San Francisco. The prestigious Bellaire Tower, located at 1101 Green Street at the top of Russian Hill, has some of the best views in the entire city. I sold a 931-square foot, one-bedroom home there in 2007 for $855,000. It sure seemed like a lot at the time. And yet, the same home just one floor above sold for over $1.1m in 2016. Another similar sized home in the building is now pending sale at an estimated $1.6m. How’s that for a nice view?
Bellaire Tower lobby
Bellaire Tower entrance
I find the most dramatic increases in price when I look at some of my listings in 2011. Post-recession, we saw housing prices at their lowest during this time. I sold a 4 bed, 2 bath home at 1120 Clay Street in December of 2011 for $949,000. The San Francisco housing market started picking up again in 2012. By 2015, this same home sold for $1,525,000. That’s a 160% increase in under four years. And it would likely sell for $1.7m today.
The 2015 listing states ‘extensive remodel’, but I can’t seem to find any differences in the photos below. Can you?
Our real estate analyst always gives us a mess of charts to pick from (you can see all of them here) I selected ones that were pretty and also piqued my curiosity enough to fall down some internet rabbit holes. Sometimes it’s worth digging a little deeper into statistics to get the “story behind the story.”
Let’s start with Median House Sales Prices.
This chart has always made me wonder why San Mateo and San Francisco remain neck-and-neck on median home prices. I used to think it was that the area appealed to dual income couples commuting in different directions- one to the City, the other to Silicon Valley. Then I went down Rabbit Hole #1 and learned that San Mateo has the most $5M+ sales in cities like Atherton and Woodside, and there are plenty of $2M sales in towns like Menlo Park and Burlingame, and a clutch of towns like Millbrae, Foster City, and San Carlos with median prices hovering just below that $2M mark.
Now let’s take a look at condos. It’s a hard fact of life that the demand for housing in the Bay Area will only continue go up as more people move here. And with single-family homes so expensive, it’s reasonable to expect our next generation to buy condos if they want to remain in the Bay Area.
This next chart offers a glimpse of what that future might look like and gives us the rough discount our buyers can get when they are willing to buy a home with shared walls.
Lastly, let’s look at year-over-year monthly appreciation. This next chart always confuses me a bit. Then I remember that each line popping up above the horizontal one means the price of your home is continuing to rise, while the overall peaks and valleys reflect how fast it’s happening.
For those who remember, our declining market in the late 2000s seemed like a never-ending nightmare. We counseled our buyers then to remember that their purchase was not just a house but a home. Given that 13 years is the average length of time a San Franciscan stays in their house (Rabbit Hole #2 taught me that), it’s a fair certainty that most who bought between 2008 and 2012 came out ahead.
I sold this neat little 3-level condo at 130 Langton Street #A back in 2006 for $535,000. It was a high price at the tail end of the San Francisco tech boom. And even though prices went down after the crash, the value of this home more than recovered. It sold again in 2014 for $750,000. Today it would go for over $900,000.
Here are some before and after pictures. Personally, I think the lime green back in 2006 was way more fun than the new gray. Don’t you agree?
Exterior in 2014
Living, Dining & Kitchen in 2006
Living, Dining & Kitchen in 2014
As part of the Consolidated Presidential Primary Election of March 3, 2020, San Francisco voters will have the opportunity to weigh in on local ballot measures, Superior Court Judges, and Democratic County Central Committee candidates.
Below are ballot measure recommendations and the slate the San Francisco Association of REALTORS® endorses on the basis of support for homeownership.
We encourage you to share this guide to all of your networks across San Francisco, even if you are not a registered voter in San Francisco. It is to our benefit in the real estate industry to have as many pro-homeownership elected officials and legislative measures in place as possible.
Additionally, the deadline to register to vote in San Francisco is tomorrow–Tuesday, February 18, 2020. Find out more information here.
Proposition A – City College Job Training, Repair and Earthquake Safety Measure: NEUTRAL
General obligation bond that would raise $845 million for City College to make capital improvements and repairs on buildings, including for seismic safety. The bond WOULD increase property taxes by $11 per $100,000 of assessed value.
Proposition B – San Francisco Earthquake Safety and Emergency Response Bond: YES
General obligation bond that would raise $628.5 million for improvements and construction to the emergency firefighting water system, fire and police stations, a firefighting training campus, the 911 call center, and disaster response facilities. The bond would NOT increase property taxes.
Proposition C – Retiree Health Care Benefits for Former Employees of the San Francisco Housing Authority: NO POSITION – NOT REAL ESTATE RELATED
That ballot measure that would make City employees who previously worked for the SF Housing Authority eligible for retiree health coverage.
Proposition D – Storefront Vacancy Tax: NEUTRAL
Ballot measure that would tax property owners or small business leaseholders whose storefronts have been vacant for 6 months or more of the year (consecutive or nonconsecutive). The tax would begin in 2021, starting at $250 per linear foot and increasing to $1000 per linear foot by 2023. The tax applies to storefronts who are adjacent to a public right-of-way and are located within a Neighborhood Commercial or Neighborhood Commercial Transit District.
Proposition E – Limits on Office Development: NO
If San Francisco fails to meet its affordable housing goals every year, this proposition would reduce the amount of office space the City is allowed to build. Office development helps fund affordable housing construction, thus the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development estimates that Prop E would cut $600-900 million from affordable housing funding. The City Economist estimates Prop E would cut the City’s GDP by 8.5% and increase unemployment by 5%.
Superior Court judges are elected by voters of the county on a non-partisan ballot at a general election. The term of office for a trial judge in California is 6 years. Superior Court Judges preside over all civil, criminal, and small claims cases.
Commissioner Pro Tem – San Francisco Superior Court
Dorothy Chou Proudfoot
Administrative Law Judge – SF Rent Board
Kulvindar “Rani” Singh
Managing Attorney – SF District Attorney’s Office
DEMOCRATIC COUNTY CENTRAL COMMITTEE CANDIDATES
Every four years, each political party elects its County Central Committee, the governing body of the political party for that county. The Democratic County Central Committee forms the leadership of the San Francisco Democratic Party and has tremendous influence over San Francisco politics.
If you live in Assembly District 17 (Eastside of San Francisco), vote for all these 12 candidates:
Environmental Non-Profit Manager
Transportation Policy Attorney
Non-Profit Policy Analyst
Director, Arts Non-Profit
Mick Del Rosario
Public Health Manager
Youth Employment Coordinator
Housing Data Analyst
Deputy District Attorney
If you live in Assembly District 19 (Westside of San Francisco), please vote for all these 10 candidates:
Small Business Owner
Digital Communications Strategist
Small Business Owner
Financial Crime Investigator
Supervisor, City and County of San Francisco
Civic Tech Entrepreneur
Chief of Policy
Questions? Contact Jay Cheng, SFAR’s Government Affairs and Community Relations Deputy Director, at email@example.com.