Real Estate Roundup: More Than Half of Bay Area Homeowners Are Now Equity-Rich

Here’s a look at recent news of interest to homebuyers, home sellers, and the home-curious.

Nationwide, home price appreciation pushed up the number of equity-rich owners in the third quarter, with San Jose and San Francisco once again leading the U.S. in that respect.

That’s according to ATTOM Data Solutions’ latest U.S. Home Equity & Underwater report, which says that there were more than 14 million equity-rich homes in the third quarter, defined as those where the loans comprised 50 percent or less of the property’s estimated value. That translates to 26.4 percent of all homes with a mortgage, up on both a quarterly and annual basis.

“Median home prices nationwide are up 9.4 percent so far in 2017, the fastest pace of appreciation through the first three quarters of a year since 2013,”ATTOM Data Solutions Senior Vice President Daren Blomquist said. “Continued home price appreciation is also helping to grow the number of equity rich homeowners across the country compared to a year ago.”

As in the first-two quarters of this year, San Jose and San Francisco had the largest number of equity-rich homeowners in the U.S., a respective 61 percent and 56.4 percent. That’s a significant increase from the second quarter, when 52 percent of homeowners in San Jose and 47 percent of homeowners in San Francisco were classified as equity-rich.

Several hurdles are preventing more first-time buyers from taking advantage of today’s low mortgages rates, but lenders are optimistic that 3 percent down payment products will help motivate that segment of the market.

Citing survey results from Genworth Mortgage Insurance, HousingWire reports that 57 percent of lenders believe that the share of first-time buyers will grow faster than the overall housing market in 2018. Nearly two-thirds of lenders expect demand for 3 percent down payment loans to pick up next year, with Genworth Mortgage Insurance President and CEO Rohit Gupta saying that such products are performing well at the company and that they are prudent given today’s strong underwriting standards.

Although low-down-payment loans may help some millennials and other first-time buyers get a foot in the door, these buyers still face substantial challenges, including a lack of affordable homes on the market and student debt.

One reason for the lack of affordable options for first-time homebuyers is that many move-up buyers are sitting on the fence, unsure of how they will fare in the current market.

A ValueInsured survey found that 79 percent of homeowners think that now is a good time to sell a home. Of those who are interested in selling their properties, nearly three-quarters are concerned with timing the real estate market properly. About 60 percent of potential sellers do not want to purchase another home given the current high prices, and a near equal amount are waiting for prices to stabilize before they put their current home on the market.

ValueInsured also asked Americans what current buyer trends they believe will be future mistakes, as home shoppers take extraordinary measures to close a sale amid tight supply conditions. Forgoing a home inspection was the top choice, cited by 58 percent of respondents, followed closely by purchasing a home without seeing it and co-buying property with strangers.

News regarding America’s inventory crunch can be disheartening for would-be homebuyers, but they can at least take some comfort in the fact that more new homes are in the pipeline.

A blog post from the National Association of Home Builders says that U.S. housing starts rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.29 million units in October, up 13.7 percent year over year and the second highest since the end of the recession. In a statement accompanying the report NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz said that single-family home production should continue to pick up speed provided that the job market keeps driving buyer demand.

The West was the only U.S. region in which housing starts fell in October, declining by 3.7 percent year over year. Permit activity picked up in all regions, as the West led the way with 13.0 percent growth.

(Image: iStock/malerapaso)

Key Takeaways From Pacific Union’s Real Estate and Economic Forecast to 2020

Yesterday, Pacific Union held its fourth annual Real Estate and Economic Forecast in partnership with John Burns Real Estate Consulting to project Bay Area activity through 2020. Below are some key, high-level takeaways from the live event. To watch the full one-hour presentation, click here.

  • Most U.S. housing markets remain at low-to-normal risk levels, both in the short term and the medium term.
  • Mortgage rates are projected to grow by about 80 basis points by 2020, increasing annually at about a 20 basis-point pace.
  • Across the Bay Area, housing markets are generally at normal risk, though San Francisco and Silicon Valley show some sings of above-normal risk due to a lack of affordability. While there is no evidence of a tech correction, if one occurs, these two markets would see their risks increase.
  • Employment growth remains steady, though the increasing share of jobs in lower-income groups does not bode well for affordability in the Bay Area, especially in Sonoma and Napa counties.
  • Proposed tax changes could significantly reduce future buyers’ deductions, making it more expensive to own a home. Also, the proposed changes could further disincentivize current homeowners from selling, thus exacerbating the region’s inventory shortage.
  • An analysis of the impact of the wildfires on Sonoma County and Napa County real estate markets suggests:
    • The rebuilding of homes will occur over several years.
    • A revised forecast of 1 percent to 3 percent higher home prices than previously expected due to the decline in homes for sale
    • A revised forecast of 2 percent to 4 percent higher new home construction costs than previously expected in the first year of rebuilding due to the additional demand for labor and materials. This special bump in cost above previous expectations should moderate down in future years.
  •  This year saw more strong home price growth in California. Across the entire Bay Area, the median home price increase averaged 9 percent year to date through September.
  • An analysis of individual Bay Area communities shows that there is continual variation in home price fluctuation, which is driven by local market conditions and relates to prices in neighboring communities but most importantly is tied to jobs and income growth.
  • In segmenting the markets by median home price changes, we use four categories: normal, double-digit, slowing, and heated.

Normal (up to 10 percent appreciation): Similar to last year, most Bay Area markets fall into this category, and median prices average about $761,000. These were generally more affordable markets, and no San Mateo County city falls into this category. Among cities with normal appreciation, an average of 56 percent of homes sold for more than asking price for an average 6 percent premium.

Double-Digit (10 percent to 20 percent growth): Unlike last year, double-digit percent median price growth was seen in many San Mateo County and Santa Clara County cities. Median prices averaged about $1.15 million. Many of these markets lost steam last year, but Silicon Valley’s strong job market helped prop them up. Buyer competition also increased, with 67 percent of homes selling for more than asking price for an average 9 percent premium.

Heated (20 percent to 40 percent appreciation): This year, two cities in Marin County — Sausalito and Tiburon — saw median price growth of more than 20 percent, a respective 22 percent and 28 percent. Overall, the median price in ZIP codes with the highest growth rates was $1.16 million, unlike last year, when the median price in heated markets averaged $800,000. Two ZIP codes that were heated last year continued at the same price growth rate: 94610 in Oakland and 94303 in Palo Alto. In Sonoma County, two of the fire-impacted cities, Glen Ellen and Kenwood, have also seen strong price growth in 2017.

Slowing (22 percent depreciation to flat): Although fewer cities saw slowing prices this year than last year, these are again relatively more expensive markets where the median home price averaged $1,900,000. Still, about 43 percent of homes in these areas sold for more than asking price, for an average 8 percent premium.

  • Affordability and access to transportation and jobs continue to drive differences in home price appreciation. The highest appreciation was seen in markets where job growth with higher-income jobs led the local economy. By contrast, areas where job growth was dominated by lower-paying jobs saw slowing appreciation.
  • When analyzing how the landscape has changed from last year, the main differentiator is intensified buyer competition in almost all markets. More homes are again selling above asking price in 2017 across the Bay Area — particularly in San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara counties — and in higher price ranges. Premiums paid this year are also higher in all counties.
  • Overall, Bay Area inventory has continually dropped in 2017, with year-to-date supply down 14 percent. Santa Clara County has seen the largest inventory decline this year, down by 25 percent, while Alameda County has seen the smallest supply drop, with 5 percent less inventory year to date. Furthermore, while the inventory of homes priced higher than $2 million saw some improvement earlier in 2017, year-over-year changes now show declines.
  • While condominium prices in San Francisco took a breather in 2017 for newly constructed units, the continued price increase for resale units and the declining inventory of new units are likely to prop up prices going forward. In addition, stronger activity for units priced at less than $1,300 per square foot suggests that higher-end condominiums hitting the market may find more challenging conditions.
  • Lake Tahoe’s housing market has benefited from wealth creation in the Bay Area, and sales of homes priced above $3 million jumped by 141 percent year over year in the third quarter.
  • From 2018 to 2020, home prices are projected to grow by 12 percent in Napa County; 12 percent in Sonoma County; 2 percent in Santa Clara County; 2 percent in Marin, San Francisco, and San Mateo counties; and 5 percent in Alameda and Contra Costa counties.
  • Lastly, the panel agreed that price trajectories are more likely to resemble a tabletop compared with the mountain peak that occurred following the housing bust in 2006, where the tabletop suggests moderating price growth through 2020. Nevertheless, unexpected changes to housing supply and demand or job and income growth would destabilize the housing market and lead to a different outcome.

Selma Hepp is Pacific Union’s Chief Economist and Vice President of Business Intelligence. Her previous positions include Chief Economist at Trulia, senior economist for the California Association of Realtors, and economist and manager of public policy and homeownership at the National Association of Realtors. She holds a Master of Arts in Economics from the State University of New York (SUNY), Buffalo, and a Ph.D. in Urban and Regional Planning and Design from the University of Maryland.

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Home Prices Return to Prerecession Levels in Two-Thirds of U.S. Metro Areas

  • Thirty-one of the 50 largest U.S. housing markets saw prices climb back to prerecession levels last year.
  • Between 2006 and 2016, the median sales price rose by 31.5 percent in the San Jose metro area and 9.6 percent in San Francisco.
  • Lending standards are tighter than they have been in almost 20 years, and Americans have significantly better credit scores than they did a decade ago.

Although current housing market conditions may be reminiscent of the period leading up to the Great Recession, an excellent job market and stricter lending standards should prevent another bubble from forming.

A report says that the national median sales price was $236,000 in 2016, 2 percent higher than it was a decade earlier. Thirty-one of the nation’s 50 largest metro areas have seen home prices return to prerecession levels, including the Bay Area’s two largest cities.

In the San Jose metropolitan area, the median home price was $1,014,864 last year, making it the nation’s only seven-figure major housing market. Prices in San Jose were 31.5 percent higher than they were in 2006, but even that significant growth was not enough to rank it in the top 10 U.S. markets for highest appreciation. The median home price in the San Francisco metro area rose by a more modest 9.6 percent over the past decade, ending 2016 at $825,370.

Several recent reports, including one from Freddie Mac, say that the chances of another housing bubble are low, and’s analysis supports those theories.

“As we compare today’s market dynamics to those of a decade ago, it’s important to remember rising prices didn’t cause the housing crash,” Chief Economist Danielle Hale said in a statement accompanying the report. “It was rising prices stoked by subprime and low documentation mortgages, as well as people looking for short term gains — versus today’s truer market vitality — that created the environment for the crash.”

Current lending standards are more stringent than they have been in two decades, which Hale says is critical to the housing market’s overall health. Americans also have better average credit scores than they did before the recession, 734 in 2017 compared with 700 in 2006.

Although the job market was solid in 2006, it is even stronger today. As of October, the U.S. unemployment rate was 4.1 percent, the lowest in 17 years. Unemployment rates are half of what they were during the recession in 60 percent of the largest U.S. metro areas. Both the San Jose and San Francisco metro areas had lower unemployment rates last year than they did in 2006, a respective 3.9 percent and 3.8 percent.

(Photo: iStock/Sergii Kateryniuk)

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Are We in the Midst of a Housing Bubble? Freddie Mac Offers Some Reassuring Words.

Memories of the mid-2000s housing-market bubble — and the collapse that followed — have Bay Area homebuyers, investors, and real estate professionals wondering whether the current run-up in prices is evidence of another dangerous bubble in the making. But new research from Freddie Mac says those fears are overblown.

In fact, in one major indicator of a housing bubble — measuring the median house price to the median household income (PTI ratio) — the Bay Area isn’t even included on the list of overly inflated U.S. metropolitan areas.

Freddie Mac’s “bubble” report, released Thursday, listed 17 metro area with high PTI rations, and the only California region to make the list was Los Angeles. The only other West Coast region was Portland, Oregon.

Here’s how Freddie Mac explained the latest PTI numbers, and San Francisco’s absence on the list:

“Housing bubbles can occur at a local or regional level without triggering a national bubble. Accordingly, we also track the PTI ratios for the 50 largest metro areas. House prices evolve very differently in each metro, so we calculate the median PTI ratio and outlier threshold separately for each metro. As an example, housing costs claim a larger portion of household income in San Francisco, where the median PTI is 9.0, than in Dallas, where the median PTI is 3.9. In addition, the volatility of the PTI ratio is higher in San Francisco than in Dallas. As a result, it takes a very high PTI in San Francisco to attract our attention, while a PTI ratio barely above the national median is cause for concern in Dallas.”

The report suggests that the Bay Area’s high housing prices can be explained by the region’s booming economy, particularly the tech industry, rather than an irrational “mass delusion” fomented by eager investors, which is the ultimate hallmark of a housing bubble.

Freddie Mac acknowledges that today’s overheated prices and a slowdown in housing construction are cause for concern nationwide, but it concludes that we are not in the midst of a housing bubble. Here are its final words on the subject:

“The evidence indicates there currently is no house price bubble in the U.S., despite the rapid increase of house prices over the last five years. However, the housing sector is significantly out of balance. The incomplete recovery in residential construction following the crisis of the last decade has created several years of pent-up demand for household formation. What we can’t predict is how this imbalance will eventually be resolved. Will there be a gradual restoration of a normal balance between supply and demand? Alternatively, will the rate of home building remain stubbornly low, exacerbating the income and wealth inequality that followed the Great Recession?

“Another bubble appears to be a less probable scenario, but not an impossible one.”

(Image: iStock/juliannafunk)


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Real Estate Roundup: Bay Area Tech Hubs Are Among the Nation’s Best for Income Growth

Here’s a look at recent news of interest to homebuyers, home sellers, and the home-curious.

More good news for Bay Area workers and potential homeowners: incomes in three local cities rose by double-digit percentage points last year.

That’s according to an analysis by SmartAsset, which ranked the top 25 U.S. job markets for fastest-growing median annual incomes between 2015 and 2016. Oakland had the nation’s second largest income gains during that time period, up 15.7 percent to just over $68,000.

San Francisco ranks No. 6, with the median annual income up by 12.7 percent, while No. 8 San Jose saw incomes rise by 11.5 percent. San Francisco and San Jose were the only cities on the list where workers earned six-figure salaries in 2016, a respective $103,801 and $101,940.

The report comes on the heels of California’s latest favorable employment report, which said that the state added 52,000 new jobs in September. According to an analysis of the numbers by Pacific Union Chief Economist Selma Hepp, California grew jobs by 1.7 percent year over year, again outpacing the national growth rate of 1.2 percent.

California real estate remains the country’s least affordable, but San Francisco is no longer at the top of that list.

The latest National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index says that the Los Angeles metropolitan area was the nation’s least-affordable housing market in the third quarter, with only 9.1 percent of homes affordable to households earning the median $64,300 annual income. San Francisco, which had been the least-affordable U.S. housing market for nearly five years, dropped to the No. 2 spot. Just more than 11 percent of San Francisco households could afford to purchase the median-priced home.

Other California metro areas rounded out the rankings of the nation’s least-affordable large real estate markets: Anaheim, San Jose, and Santa Rosa. The Golden State is also home to the country’s five least-affordable small housing markets, including Napa and San Rafael.

Bay Area homebuyers on a half-million dollar budget are finding that their options are increasingly limited, particularly in Silicon Valley.

Citing CoreLogic data, The Mercury News reports that for the first nine months of 2017, just 25.5 percent of single-family homes in the nine-county Bay Area sold for less than $500,000. In Santa Clara County, where the median sales price was $1,075,000 in September, that number was even smaller: 9.0 percent.

From 2002 through 2007, the number of sub-$500,000 Bay Area home sales steadily dropped before rising during the Great Recession. Since the recession’s end, Bay Area home sales priced under $500,000 have declined to even lower levels than they were earlier in the century.

A final note on current housing affordability: Although conditions are near a postrecession low, they are still more favorable than the long-term average — except in California and a handful of other coastal states.

According to a report from Black Knight Financial Technology Solutions, it required 21.2 percent of the national median income to purchase the median-priced home in September, compared with 24.2 percent in the 1990s and 26.2 percent in the first four years of this century. In a statement accompanying the report, company Executive Vice President – Data & Analytics Ben Graboske said that home price growth is canceling out savings provided by low mortgage rates, keeping housing affordability low across the country.

Forty-seven states had payment-to-income ratios lower than their averages between 1995 and 2003. California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington, D.C. were all less affordable than their long-term benchmarks in the third quarter.

(Photo: iStock/lsmailciydem)

Pacific Union’s October 2017 Real Estate Update

The median sales price rose year over year in October in all Bay Area regions in which Pacific Union operates, the result of continued buyer demand amid tight supply conditions. Prices reached one-year highs for single-family homes and condominiums in San Francisco, as well as for properties in Sonoma County.

Click on the image accompanying each of our regions below for an expanded look at local real estate activity in October.


Contra Costa County‘s median sales price ended October at $1.2 million, in the same general range as it has been since the spring.  Homes sold for an average of 99.1 percent of original price, also consistent with numbers recorded over the preceding four months.

The months’ supply of inventory was 1.4, down on both a monthly and yearly basis, with homes finding a buyer in an average of 29 days.

Defining Contra Costa County: Our real estate markets in Contra Costa County include the cities of Alamo, Blackhawk, Danville, Diablo, Lafayette, Moraga, Orinda, Pleasant Hill, San Ramon, and Walnut Creek. Sales data in the adjoining chart includes single-family homes in these communities.


For the ninth consecutive month, the median sales price in our East Bay region was in the seven-digit range in October, finishing at $1,152,000. Homes continue to command the largest premiums in the Bay Area, an average of 115.5 percent of original price.

Homes left the market in a brisk 18 days, one day faster than in the previous two months. With a 1.1-month supply of homes for sale, inventory was down from September and October of last year.

Defining the East Bay: Our real estate markets in the East Bay region include Oakland ZIP codes 94602, 94609, 94610, 94611, 94618, 94619, and 94705; Alameda; Albany; Berkeley; El Cerrito; Kensington; and Piedmont. Sales data in the adjoining chart includes single-family homes in these communities.


The median sales price in Marin County was $1,255,000 in October, just a few thousand dollars higher than in September. Homes sold in an average of 39 days, as the market returned to the pace of sales observed in the late spring and early summer.

The months’ supply of inventory was 1.6, with homes selling for an average of 98.9 percent of asking price.

Defining Marin County: Our real estate markets in Marin County include the cities of Belvedere, Corte Madera, Fairfax, Greenbrae, Kentfield, Larkspur, Mill Valley, Novato, Ross, San Anselmo, San Rafael, Sausalito, and Tiburon. Sales data in the adjoining chart includes single-family homes in these communities.


The number of homes for sale improved in Napa County on both a monthly and annual basis in October, with the months’ supply of inventory rising to 3.6. Buyers took an average of 79 days to close a deal, 11 days longer than they did in September.

The median sales price ended the month at $653,500, with homes selling for an average of 92.9 percent of original price.

Defining Napa County: Our real estate markets in Napa County include the cities of American Canyon, Angwin, Calistoga, Napa, Oakville, Rutherford, St. Helena, and Yountville. Sales data in the adjoining chart includes all single-family homes in Napa County.


The median sales price for a single-family home in San Francisco climbed to $1,588,000 in October, a one-year high and up 20 percent from September. The months’ supply of inventory fell to 1.1, the lowest level since last December.

Sellers received an average of 110 percent of original price, consistent with premiums recorded for most of this year. Single-family homes sold in an average of 24 days, almost a week faster than in the preceding month. 


San Francisco condominium prices also reached a yearly high in October, ending the month at $1.23 million. The months’ supply of inventory was 1.5, less than half of what it was in September.

Units sold in an average of 30 days, the quickest pace of sales recorded over the past year. For the ninth consecutive month, San Francisco condominium buyers paid premiums — an average of 104.9 percent of original price.


The median sales price for a home in our Silicon Valley region was above $3 million for the second consecutive month in October: $3,056,000. Sellers received an average of 106.1 percent of original price, the largest premiums seen over the past year.

The months’ supply of inventory was 1.4, down on both a monthly and yearly basis, with homes selling in an average of 21 days.

Defining Silicon Valley: Our real estate markets in Silicon Valley include the cities and towns of Atherton, Los Altos (excluding county area), Los Altos Hills, Menlo Park (excluding east of U.S. 101), Palo Alto, Portola Valley, and Woodside. Sales data in the adjoining chart includes all single-family homes in these communities.

Mid-Peninsula Subregion

With a 0.9-month supply of homes for sale in October, the Mid-Peninsula was the Bay Area’s most inventory-constrained region. It was also the fastest paced, with homes finding a buyer in an average of 16 days.

The median sales price was $1.65 million, down from September but nearly identical to last October. Homes sold for an average of 107.4 percent of original price, 10 percent more than they did the previous month.

Defining the Mid-Peninsula: Our real estate markets in the Mid-Peninsula subregion include the cities of Burlingame (excluding Ingold Millsdale Industrial Center), Hillsborough, and San Mateo (excluding the North Shoreview/Dore Cavanaugh area). Sales data in the adjoining chart includes all single-family homes in these communities.


Sonoma County‘s median sales price ended October at $650,000, reaching a one-year high. Buyers paid 97.6 percent of asking prices, nearly identical to September’s number.

The months’ supply of inventory was 1.7, and properties sold in an average of 57 days.

Defining Sonoma County: Sales data in the adjoining chart includes all single-family homes and farms and ranches in Sonoma County.


With a 4.1-month supply of properties for sale in October, Sonoma Valley had the Bay Area’s best balance between buyers and sellers. The median sales price was $775,000, up month over month and year over year.

Properties left the market in an average of 49 days, more than three weeks faster than they did in September, selling for an average of 97.5 percent of original price.

Defining Sonoma Valley: Our real estate markets in Sonoma Valley include the cities of Glen Ellen, Kenwood, and Sonoma. Sales data in the adjoining chart refers to all residential properties – including single-family homes, condominiums, and farms and ranches – in these communities.


With a 2.3-month supply of single-family homes in October, the Lake Tahoe/Truckee region had the fewest number of homes for sale all year. The median sales price was $710,000, down $20,000 from September but up 11 percent from last October.

Single-family homes sold in an average of 72 days, identical to the pace of sales one year earlier, and for 92.2 percent of original prices.

Defining Tahoe/Truckee: Our real estate markets in the Lake Tahoe/Truckee region include the communities of Alpine Meadows, Donner Lake, Donner Summit, Lahontan, Martis Valley, North Shore Lake Tahoe, Northstar, Squaw Valley, Tahoe City, Tahoe Donner, Truckee, and the West Shore of Lake Tahoe. Sales data in the adjoining chart includes single-family homes in these communities.


The median sales price for a condominium in the Lake Tahoe/Truckee region was $390,000 in October, down slightly on both a monthly and annual basis. As with single-family homes in the region, condominium inventory fell to a one-year low, with a 3.3-month supply.

Units sold in an average of 122 days, marking the slowest pace of sales since the spring. Buyers paid 93.8 percent of asking prices, nearly identical to what they did last October.

Defining Tahoe/Truckee: Our real estate markets in the Lake Tahoe/Truckee region include the communities of Alpine Meadows, Donner Lake, Donner Summit, Lahontan, Martis Valley, North Shore Lake Tahoe, Northstar, Squaw Valley, Tahoe City, Tahoe Donner, Truckee, and the West Shore of Lake Tahoe. Sales data in the adjoining chart includes condominiums in these communities.

Shared with permission from the Pacific Union Blog