Report: Housing affordability a statewide crisis and Bay Area prices soar again — up 17.9 percent in Santa Clara County

The number of available homes is down across the state of California, as prices surge and the affordability crisis becomes a statewide concern.

In August, the median price of a single-family home rose 7.2 percent year-over-year to $565,330 in California, its highest level in a decade; it was the sixth straight month that the median price exceeded $500,000 for the state.

That’s according to the latest report from the California Association of Realtors (C.A.R.). Naturally, the Bay Area gets special mention: Region-wide, prices rose 10.2 percent year-over-year across the nine counties to $856,200.

The median price of a single-family home in San Francisco was $1,380,000, up 9.7 percent year-over-year. The median was $1,375,000 in San Mateo County, up 10 percent; $1,150,000 in Santa Clara County, up a daunting 17.9 percent; $867,500 in Alameda County, up 11.9 percent; and $627,860 in Contra Costa County, up 10.2 percent.

The story behind the price increases, of course, is the lack of inventory. Statewide, active listings fell 11.9 percent from a year ago. Every county in the Bay Area and Southern California experienced a drop in unsold inventory, as did most of the Central Coast and Central Valley, the report said.

And what’s available sold faster than ever. The median number of days required to sell a single-family home in California in August was 18, compared to 28 a year ago. Spot-checking the Bay Area, the trend holds: San Francisco homes spent 15 days on market in August, compared to 25 a year ago; San Mateo homes spent 11 days on market, compared to 14; Santa Clara homes spent 9.5 days on market, compared to 15.

It’s all a function of supply and demand. Buyers fight over the few available homes and prices keep rising: “Even the most affordable markets are facing rising prices,” the report said, ominously. “California is no longer home to a single county with a median price below $200,000, and only 10 of 58 counties have a median price lower or equal to the national median price of $258,300.”

Despite the low inventory, sales rose 1.3 percent year-over-year across the state — a modest increase, but significant given the few homes available. In the Bay Area, the sales increase was more robust: 6.5 percent, year-over-year, despite the chronically tight housing supply.

The pressure-cooker market can be seen most clearly among lower-priced homes, which are particularly “inventory constrained,” said C.A.R. president Geoff McIntosh. In other words, the supply of affordably priced homes keeps shrinking, leading “to weaker sales growth, faster rising prices and fierce competition for the few homes that are listed.”

That’s been exactly the fallout in Sunnyvale, where a modest house recently sold for $2,470,000 — $782,000 over its asking price.

When prices are computed on a per-square-foot basis, the Bay Area again leads the state in prices, the report said: “San Francisco had the highest price per square foot in August at $871 per square foot, followed by San Mateo ($863/sq. ft.), and Santa Clara ($668/sq. ft.). Counties with the lowest price per square foot in August included Siskiyou and Lassen (both at $129/sq. ft.), Kern ($135/sq. ft.), and Tulare ($136/sq. ft.).”

Photo: A house in Sunnyvale that recently sold for $2,740,000 — $782,000 over the listing price. (Courtesy Dave Clark and Keller Williams)


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