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As home prices skyrocket across the state, there’s one California city where they’ve shot up more than anywhere else in the U.S. — nearly doubling in the past five years.
No, it’s not San Francisco, San Jose or Oakland. It’s not even in the Bay Area.
It’s Stockton, the Central Valley community twice dubbed America’s “most miserable” city by Forbes Magazine because of its high rates of housing foreclosures, unemployment and violent crime.
The jump in home prices in Stockton and neighboring Lodi — up about 92 percent over the past five years — is dramatic evidence of the ripple effects of the Bay Area’s tight housing market and the increasingly out-of-reach cost of living here. As people flee San Francisco and Silicon Valley in search of cheaper housing, heading to places like Stockton, Oakland and Sacramento, prices in those second-tier markets are rising.
“There’s flight away from areas where it’s expensive, to areas where it’s relatively cheap,” said Andrew Leventis, deputy chief economist at the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which first noted Stockton’s dramatic rise. “It would be just incredibly improbable if that wasn’t driving up prices in the west by some magnitude.”
The federal agency analyzed housing markets in the country’s 100 largest metropolitan areas. Oakland came in second, boasting an 86 percent jump in prices, according to the report released this week. Sacramento, also a major destination for Bay Area expatriates, is number six, seeing its home prices climb 74 percent.
The San Francisco/South Bay area is high on the list too, coming in at number four with a 77 percent increase — far above the national average of 35 percent.
Lance McHan, a real estate agent in the Stockton area, said Silicon Valley transplants are eating up homes. About half of the 18 homes he sold this year went to buyers from the Bay Area — many of them making the long commute to their Bay Area jobs. That increased demand is changing the area.
“Prices are rising,” McHan said. “Even rentals, the rental market, there’s a shortage as well. People used to pay $1,200 a month for a three-bedroom, two-bath. Now they’re paying $1,500, $1,600, $1,700 for a three-bedroom, two-bath.”
But prices in Stockton have a long way to go before they could give a Bay Area resident sticker-shock. Stockton homes sell for a median price of $260,000, compared to $1.25 million in San Francisco, $860,500 in San Jose, and $697,000 in Oakland, according to Trulia.
When Katrina Gonzalez, a manager at Red Lobster in San Jose, decided earlier this year that she wanted to buy a house, she quickly realized her options were limited. So Gonzalez and her husband, who works as a supervisor at Tesla, started looking at homes in Tracy, Livermore and Pleasanton. To their dismay, even those cities on the far edges of Silicon Valley were too expensive.
Stockton ended up being what the couple could afford. In July they paid $305,000 for a four-bedroom house, where they plan to eventually raise a family. And Gonzalez found she actually likes living in Stockton.
“I know everyone gives Stockton a really bad rap,” she said, “but our neighborhood’s really nice … Everything you have in San Jose, you have here in our area.”
But there is a big downside to the move — Gonzalez now spends at least three hours a day commuting to her job in San Jose, shelling out $150 a week in gas.
Stockton comes from a troubled financial history, which experts say is another factor in its recent soaring housing prices. The city of 300,000, about 80 miles northeast of San Jose, filed for bankruptcy in 2012 after being hit hard by the housing market crash. That year the city had the nation’s highest foreclosure rate — one in every 153 homes had a foreclosure filing, which was more than four times the national average, according to RealtyTrac.
Because home prices plummeted so far, they had farther to rise.
“They fell really hard,” said Ralph McLaughlin, chief economist with real estate website Trulia. “Then they rebounded pretty significantly.”
Seattle is also high on the list. The city comes in at number five, after seeing home prices rise 75 percent in the past five years.
McLaughlin attributed that to Seattle’s status, along with Denver and Austin, Texas, as a “second-tier tech hub” — a city that lures Silicon Valley tech workers with its promise of cheaper housing.
“If you’re in the tech industry, there are jobs in those areas that you could probably get,” he said, “but you wouldn’t have to give up an arm and a leg and a first-born child to get a house.”
Cities where home prices are soaring
Of the country’s 100 largest metropolitan areas, these saw the biggest increases in home prices over the past five years:
- Stockton/ Lodi — 91.94 percent
- Oakland/ Hayward/ Berkeley — 85.71 percent
- Las Vegas/ Henderson/ Paradise — 85.21 percent
- San Francisco/ Redwood City/ South San Francisco — 77.07 percent
- Seattle/ Bellevue/ Everett — 74.66 percent
- Sacramento/ Roseville/ Arden/ Arcade — 74.03 percent
- North Port/ Sarasota/ Bradenton, Florida — 72.5 percent
- Riverside/ San Bernardino/ Ontario — 70.82 percent
- Cape Coral/ Fort Myers, Florida — 70.1 percent
- West Palm Beach/ Boca Raton/ Delray Beach, Florida — 69.19 percent
Source: The Federal Housing Finance Agency