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January 4, 2010

SF Market on Track in New Year

It’s been a challenging time for all real estate markets, and San Francisco felt its own pain throughout most of 2009. But buyers and sellers were doing substantial business in the fourth quarter of last year, pointing to a definite housing recovery in the city.

The last quarter certainly looked better in terms of volume. A total of 564 single-family homes and 485 condos were reported sold by the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). Contrast that to same time period in 2008, when only 464 houses and 357 condos sold.

But sales price averages pointed to a definite trend in our housing market– higher single-family home prices, and lower ones for condos. The single-family home average in the last quarter was $992,146, up from $919,305 in the same period of 2008. However, the average condo sold for $756,052 vs. $795,690. This is probably because condo inventory is routinely higher, and there’s more for buyers to choose from.

Multiple-offer scenarios slowly returned late last year, particularly for single-family homes. Shortly before Christmas, my buyers were involved with two multiple-offer situations, one of which had 13 offers. I’m expecting more of the same in 2010 as buyers rush to take advantage of the still-low interest rates and federal tax credit. There’s also a renewed confidence in the Bay Area job market, which has encouraged buyers to make their purchases now.

Foreign buyers stepped into the San Francisco market in a big way last year. Reports from within my company pointed to a rising trend in buyers from France, Asia, and Canada taking advantage of favorable exchange rates and softer property prices. Indeed, I was contacted later in the year by buyers from England and Japan who are interested in evaluating their prospects for a second home in downtown San Francisco. Our city’s international appeal fortunately continues to shine.

It’s likely that as the stock and job markets steadily improve, San Francisco real estate will hold its own. Yes, loans will still be difficult to obtain for those who can’t meet lenders’ stricter requirements. But in desirable, walkable neighborhoods, don’t expect to see prices slip much lower in 2010. I think our market “bottom” has come and gone.

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