Realtors meet in SF, celebrate strong market

They’ve weathered the storms and now they’re making hay.

The 21,000 real estate professionals in San Francisco this week for a conference survived the housing downturn and saw the market rebound strongly this year.

Now they can look forward to a steadily growing economy next year, said Lawrence Yun, chief economist of the National Association of Realtors, which is holding the four-day conference at Moscone Center, starting Friday.

Yun forecasts that 2014 sales volume nationwide will equal the 5.1 million existing homes sold in 2013, while prices will rise 6 percent, largely from tight inventory.

That dearth of listings is most pronounced in California.

“An acute shortage (of homes for sale) continues to be felt in coastal California, from San Diego to San Francisco,” he told an audience.

Sales of new homes should jump 18.5 percent, going from 430,000 in 2013 to 510,000 next year, but they’re such a small slice of the market that the impact will be minimal, he said.

The biggest wild card: new federal regulations on mortgage lending that could disqualify 10 percent of those who can get a mortgage today.

Interest rates could hit 5.4 percent by late 2014, a significant increase from today’s 4.16 percent, but rising incomes should help offset that, Yun said.

Conference sessions with titles like “They are back … low inventory and multiple offers” and “Power marketing for luxury real estate” underscored how the assembled real estate agents face a better economic climate.

Attendees represent a cross section of America, which means some culture shock – and sticker shock – as they hear about other markets.

“Their worlds are so different from our world,” said Liz Rush of McGuire Real Estate, about the agents from other states.

In 10 years selling homes in the East Bay, “This was the best year ever, ever, ever,” she said. “The market is out of control in a really good way.”

Bay Area prices are up about 32 percent compared with last year to a median of $540,000 – although medians are much higher in places like San Francisco and Silicon Valley.

Compare that to this: “We’ve had a very strong market with 3 percent appreciation this year,” said Kathleen Williams, who sells houses in Norman, Okla., near Oklahoma City. The median price is about $153,000.

Denise Gannalo from New Canaan, Conn. – a bedroom community about an hour from Manhattan – said prices there rose 12 percent to a median of $1.3 million. That buys a four-bedroom Colonial that’s 30 or 40 years old, she said. “If you want new construction it’s going to be over $2 million.”

Hillary Rodham Clinton will deliver a keynote speech on Saturday that is closed to the media at her staff’s request. Even the TV feed from the ballroom to the media room will go dark when she takes the stage, although the Realtors are well armed with cell phones to capture the moment.

Carolyn Said is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: Twitter: @csaid

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