Price Per Square Foot: It May Not Be As Reliable as You Think

If you are a routine grocery shopper, then you already know that comparing ‘per-unit’ pricing is a smart way to shop. If something costs .48 cents per ounce then you can easily compare different brands and sizes and quickly determine that .51 cents per ounce is likely more than you need to spend. It is logical then that the same process would apply to home prices.

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Continuing with the grocery analogy, the concept works well when comparing apples to apples. Price per square foot is a good barometer to consider when looking at houses and condos that are almost identical or at least very similar to each other. This works well on a new construction cul de sac in the suburbs and in high rise buildings in the city. The challenge in SF however is that the housing inventory is very old and uniquely diverse. This means that one home is usually very different than the one next door, including the details of the interior, the exterior, the parking, the view, you get the picture.

The other challenge with price per square foot in the city is that we are often relying on inaccurate square footage figures from tax records. This means that the fundamentals are not accurate, so any comparison based on square footage would be incorrect. So while price per sq foot might seem perfectly logical, it may not really be as solid a data point as you think. Each situation is different, so let me know what you are looking for and we will take a closer look.

SF Real Estate Market Update May 2016

Home sales activity, representing buyer demand, is one of the most basic market trend indicators. We typically compare the same time period because home sales are seasonal, lower in the winter and summer months and higher in the spring and fall. Over the first four months of 2016, the number of homes sold declined by 13% for single family homes and 10% for condominiums versus the same months in 2015. While this does represent lower demand, reviewing other indicators will provide a better understanding of overall market conditions.

The amount of supply available, how long it takes to sell and at what price, will provide a better indication of market dynamics buyers and sellers can expect. On the supply side, the inventory of available homes for sale remains low, but it has increased compared to last year. Single family home inventory was up slightly in April 2016 versus the prior year to 587 homes. Condominium inventory year-over-year was up by 94 units or 15%. In terms of the time required to sell homes placed on the market, the average in 2016 was 35 days, four days longer than in 2015. A selling time under 60 days is considered short and seller favorable, indicating an active market. Finally, the median home price, which represents market conditions motivating a buyer and seller to agree upon a sale price, surpassed or equaled its twelve month high in April 2016.

Median Sales Price

7.1%

5.9%

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Patrick’s Properties

239 8th St #7

South of Market

Hip urban loft with large private patio, parking & storage
Listed at $899,000
Open house Monday, May 30th: 1pm-4pm

81 Clairview Ct

Midtown Terrace

Sweet single family home, 3 beds 1 bath
Listed at $895,000
Open house Tuesday, May 31st: 1pm-2:30pm

1350 Natoma St #7

Inner Mission

Newer townhome-style condo. 2 beds 2.5 baths, parking & storage
Listed at $849,000
Showings begin June 11th