Despite the ongoing health crisis, rising unemployment, and battered economy, residential real estate is still on the rise. Why and how is this even happening?? This new phenomenon, coined by the CEO of Zillow, is called "The Great Reshuffling."
With millions of people making major housing changes, from upsizing to downsizing, being closer to family and further from the office, this pandemic is causing us to rethink and reshape the way we live and work. Those who plan to WFH forever are moving away from urban centers, where demand is far outstripping supply. Buyers want to move to larger spaces, while current homeowners are hanging onto their homes amid all the uncertainty, limiting available inventory.
Instead of LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION, the new real estate mantra seems to be HOUSE HOUSE HOUSE (although that doesn't roll off the tongue quite as easily). So while commercial real estate is on the struggle bus, residential real estate is still for the most part very much a seller's market.
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.
Is that like the biggest oxymoron or what? But we are in strange times, so let's just roll with it. Between a global pandemic, a collapsing economy, political and racial unrest, a mind-numbing mask-wearing debate, the second wave of coronavirus, the re-shutting down of businesses, not to mention this is all happening during an election year where Kanye West is apparently running for president (seriously, what. is. happening!), June/July has been one crazy year.
Yet, despite the chaos, the real estate market is making a dramatic recovery. Mortgage applications are at an all-time high, interest rates are dropping to record lows for the third week in a row, and I have been really really busy (probably not a good data point but you get the idea).
Before the legalization of recreational marijuana, industrial warehouse properties in Oakland were largely being used by artists to curate and host events or create large scale projects. But once 2016 hit and weed became legal, cannabis businesses began filling these industrial properties instead. Rents have shot up and many artists have sadly been priced out altogether.
When Oakland announced permits for marijuana dispensaries in 2018, 116 businesses applied for only eight available spots. Between May 2017 and August last year, 124 businesses approached the city to open indoor growing operations. Rents for industrial properties rose 70% in 2017 alone. And while Alameda County made around $12 million in cannabis sales tax last year, none of that went towards arts or culture programs.
This isn't just specific to Oakland though. This is happening in states like Washington, Nevada, Illinois, Michigan, and even in Canada, which legalized cannabis as a whole country. While many artists supported the legalization of marijuana, they did not foresee the consequences of workspace rent hikes, which have unfortunately put a lot of them out of a place to work and live.
BART has now approved a development project at the West Oakland Station that will include 762 housing units (!!!) with more than 30% of units being marked specifically for affordable housing. The development will also include more than 50,000 square feet of retail space and 300,000 square feet of office space, along with additional crosswalks and wide sidewalks for pedestrian access, perfect for getting those Fitbit steps in. The hope is that this project will be transformative for West Oakland, providing much needed housing that is more easily accessible to neighborhood amenities and resources.
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!
After 115 years of having its headquarters in downtown SF, PG&E announced that it will be selling off their SF buildings and making the move to Oakland in order to save on real estate costs. (Hm, sounds familiar...) Their new office at 300 Lakeside Drive (right on Lake Merritt and a few blocks from 19th Street Bart) will be completed in 2023.
After a brutal couple months (which equates to 250937 days in corona years), stats show that the housing market could actually be leading the economy's recovery. Mortgage applications rose to an 11-year high. Interest rates are at all-time lows. Average home prices across the country hit a record high of $365k. Buyers are like, what pandemic?
Americans' home-spending habits aren't changing as drastically as they have during past recessions, showing that people are confident that this too shall pass and the economy will get back on track. 8.5 out of 10 experts agree: the economy will begin to recover in the second half of 2020. Which is pretty much like, right now.
Why is everyone betting on the strength of the housing market?
While this data might be comforting to some, others are concerned about rising home prices and the widening gap in affordable housing. Home prices have gone up faster than most people's incomes, and the pandemic is only accelerating that trend. It remains to be seen what will happen long term (mostly because the crystal ball everyone pretends to have doesn't exist), but for now, it looks like our economy is slowly but surely on its way to recovery.
All things real estate.