...Over the past few years, no luxury market has been more over-heated than San Francisco. As occurred in the 1990s, the city’s luxury market has ridden the current tech bubble to unprecedented heights—in the process creating what may be one of the most severe real estate bubbles in the country. In the city proper, the median value of homes has skyrocketed, from $670,000 at the beginning of 2012 to $1.12 million today, a gain of more than 67 percent, according to Zillow.com.
Now there are signs that this boom is about to slow. This stems from two factors—the inability of consumers to afford this housing and the gradual slowdown of the tech bubble. The 87 tech IPOs over the past two years are trading 80 percent below their IPO price, and not surprisingly, venture capitalists are become more wary. Many key firms—Twitter, Hewlett Packard, Yahoo—are all laying workers off.
All this suggests that, as in Miami and New York, San Francisco property owners face stagnant or even declining prices. The market could be further weakened as tech workers and companies head to more affordable markets elsewhere.
Right now the decline in the luxury market has not yet turned into a full-on crash in multi-family housing. But there are some worrisome warning signs, such as rising apartment vacancy rates...
In some areas like San Francisco and New York, a rollback of multi-family prices could be beneficial, because high prices are driving young, educated people out to other regions. Since 2010 educated millennials have been headed increasingly to more affordable regions such as Nashville, Orlando, New Orleans, Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, and Columbus. Even Cleveland and California’s exurban Inland Empire, which still has relatively reasonable housing prices, at least by California standards, are growing their millennial workforces faster than places like New York or San Francisco.
Young people may also benefit as units shift from condo to rental. Of course, the weakening market won’t be too good for the investors, developers and landlords, many of whom embraced the “back to the city” mantra with religious zeal and now will have to confront demographic reality.
But other trends suggest that this decline may be more painful than many suspect. We may be entering a phase where we have reached “peak urban millennials” as they head into their 30s, get married and move to the suburbs. The idea that investing in the urban core and in luxurious density guarantees a happy result has now lapsed into mythology. It needs to be replaced with something that more accurately affects not what developers hope (or planners decree) but what people need and can afford...
On the other hand: Pacific Union's Nina Hatvany predicts the luxury market will stay robust.
Labels: Highrise Development, Housing in the City, Smart Growth