Covid has had an interesting effect on rental markets, with housing becoming cheaper in the country’s most expensive cities (San Francisco, New York City, Boston, San Jose, and Oakland to name the top 5), while getting pricier in more historically affordable areas. What’s going on? Amidst the pandemic we’re in, demand for rentals has dropped in the aforementioned larger cities, the desire for housing in cheaper suburban areas has gone up. According to the rental platform Zumper, people are opting to move out of their large city dwellings and opting for cheaper housing while they work remotely, effectively closing the gap between price distribution of rentals across the U.S.
For the first time since 2011, the number of homes for sale in San Francisco reached levels similar to that of our last recession with 50% more single family homes on the market than this time last year, and 130% more condos. Could this be the start of a buyer’s market emerging in the city? SF sellers are having to decrease asking prices to stay competitive as more people are working remotely and choosing to seek new homes outside the city.
At the same time, single-family home sales in the greater Bay Area have jumped up by 70% in June alone, highlighting the exodus of people from bigger cities to smaller surrounding suburbs. And with the stock market performing strongly and interest rates reaching record lows, people are more eager beaver than ever to buy a home.
Apparently June was the ideal time for buying a luxury home in San Francisco. Last month, more than 30 luxury single-family homes ($3 million and up) were sold, the highest in 2 years, causing average home values in the city to reach a record high of $1.8 million. WOW, right? Even in the middle of a pandemic, buyers with $$$ remain the least affected by financial hardship due to coronavirus.
Meanwhile, median condo prices saw about a 4% dip in values. Condos, in high supply due to recent new construction, are typically bought by younger and less affluent buyers than single-family homes, and as such, may have been hit harder by the increase in unemployment.
COVID-19 has caused a lot of folks to rethink their living arrangements. The logic seems to be, if nearly everyone is working from home now, why not move out of the city and into a home in the 'burbs where you can get more bang for your buck? For some, that means buying a second home while continuing to rent in big cities like New York and San Francisco. The appeal? Cheaper prices, more space, closer to nature, and being able to raise a family comfortably, while still getting the occasional city fix. It's the best of both worlds!
With big companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Shopify setting the trend for employees to work from home forever-ish, potential home buyers are wondering why they're living in a pricey city to be close to work when work is actually just their dining table most days anyway.
This may explain why the Oakland market is recovering much faster than in San Francisco or San Jose. Move-in ready homes in Oakland are selling in 5-10 days with multiple offers. There are fewer homes on the market, but almost as many people searching as there were pre-pandemic.
The more suburban cities like Berkeley or Walnut Creek will likely see an increase in buyers too as remote work becomes the norm. I mean hey, if your money could get you a bigger house with an actual yard and your only trade-off is having a longer commute where you cry in the car two days out of the week instead of five, then I say why not?
Once upon a time, millennials were willing to sacrifice a few stimulus checks (and then some) on each month's rent to live in a closet-sized apartment just to be part of the hustle and bustle of a city. But when all the alluring things about living in a city (like bumping into people on crowded streets, standing in ridiculously long lines for brunch, and cramming your way into packed sports arenas and concert venues) can potentially change, the possible danger of these everyday social interactions could accelerate a trend away from densely populated urban cities and into the suburbs.
After the lockdown, new home sales came to a screeching halt (as did everything else). But in the last two weeks, homebuilders have seen sales start to climb back up, particularly with dual-income first-time buyers wanting to leave their tiny apartments and buy larger move-in ready homes that they find more safety and stability in. More emphasis is now being placed on outdoor areas, functional layouts, and overall MORE SPACE.
The secret is out: Doordash tastes the same from wherever you are.
The average U.S. home costs $240,000. But in San Francisco, a two-bedroom apartment costs around $750,000 to build. The costs of construction in SF are 13% higher than New York, 60% more expensive than Chicago, and 75% more than in Houston. But why is it SO expensive?
For starters, the price of land and labor in California is insanely higher than other states. In SF, a construction worker makes about $90 an hour. (Did you just audibly gasp because you had no idea this was a construction worker's average wage and consider maybe you too could work in construction someday? Because same).
But it’s not just that. There are so many costs that go into building affordable housing. Government fees, permits, hiring consulting companies.... So. Many. Things. It literally took the City Council 6 months just to agree on the financing paperwork alone. More attorneys are involved in projects than actual construction workers. And we wonder why it takes SO long to get any sort of traction on building affordable housing (or any housing at all) in the city. *Insert crying face emoji here.*
We all hear it time and time again. "Rent is so expensive in the Bay Area!" But just how expensive? Well, rental website Zumper actually reported that rent prices broke all-time high records not once, not twice, but SEVERAL times in 2019! According to Zumper, the median price of a one-bedroom apartment in SF this past June was $3,720. According to another rental website, Adobo, a one-bedroom in SF was going for even more, topping out at $3,904 just last month.
The good news is that the current SF one-bedroom median price is now estimated to be lower, around $3,490. And by good, I mean actually-just-medicore news because wow, that is still a ton of rent money. Wouldn't you rather just use that money to build some equity in a home across the bay and take advantage of all the tax write-offs instead? Asking as a (knowingly) biased real estate agent.
In 2017, Business Insider writer Sam Dogen (also renowned author of my favorite finance and real estate blog Financial Samurai) became a stay-at-home dad after he sold his SF rental property for $2.75 million, leaving him with a $1.8 million profit after paying off the mortgage, taxes, and fees. Umm, can we say GOALS? Now a couple years later, he wants to buy property in SF again. Why now, you ask? (Or maybe you didn’t ask and I’m gonna tell you anyway?)
Well, Dogen says property prices in the US have softened and mortgage rates have collapsed. All while rent prices continue to rise! Plus he thinks the fact that 2020 is an election year, the stock market is thriving AF, and the amount of foreign buyers has dramatically decreased, all point to now being a good time to start looking into purchasing. He listed about 87** other reasons if you’re interested in reading all of them (**ok fine slight exaggeration, but honestly, there were a lot and they were all pretty convincing).
*Disclaimer: Every economist, journalist, and psychic will have varying degrees of optimism and pessimism about where the housing market is going—up, down, all around. If you want to compare different points of view and form your own educated prediction, here are a few other market forecasts to satisfy your inner nerd: Realtor.com, Redfin, Forbes, Freddie Mac, and Zillow.
All things real estate.