Bay Area Housing Post-Pandemic: What’s in Store?

Mike Ghielmetti, founder and president of Signature Development Group, a residential and commercial property developer based in Oakland: I think there has been a lot of supply — not near as much as needed to satisfy the housing demand — but there’s been, relatively speaking, a lot of supply in the Oakland, Berkeley, San Francisco, San Jose markets, which is a good thing for consumers. And there ought to be some really good deals in the next year or two.

Gustavo Lopez, realtor: It used to be that renters were moving fast to get a place, and they were also overbidding and sometimes they were coming over [saying], “I will pay six months in advance if I get this place.” Now, it’s all the opposite, and the landlords are saying, “Hey, I’ll give you free utilities for six months or I discount $2,000 from these rentals for three months or four months.” So, it’s that level of desperation.

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Rows of houses stand June 6, 2007 in San Francisco, California. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Housing Prices May Not Come Down

Issi Romem, economist and founder of MetroSight, and affiliated researcher at the Silicon Valley Institute for Regional Studies: A lot of people kind of presume prices are going to fall now because everything is bad in the economy and people aren’t buying. But that’s not actually what we’re seeing. What could make them fall are the real effects on the economy. If people are out of jobs and can’t afford to buy houses, that will affect housing prices.

Igor Popov, chief economist at Apartment List: There’s still a lot of optimism for home values going forward. That’s going to be compounded by really tight inventory. In these moments of tight inventory, which I think we’ll see, at least in the short run, I don’t think the home values will actually fall all that much, because the buyers that are still out there are still going to be the ones that are really bullish on their local economies and their ability to bounce back from this.

Income Inequality Will Grow

Matt Schwartz, president and CEO of the California Housing Partnership: People who were previously not in need of assistance are now going to need it. People who previously needed some assistance are going to need more, at least for an interim period. That’s something we’re all very concerned about. We had around 1.4 to 1.3 million households who were living without an affordable place in California. Now that number is going to grow.

Igor Popov: Right now what we’re finding in our data is the best predictor of who’s able to pay their housing costs, who’s able to keep working, is the ability to work remotely. There are some people who can carry about their jobs because their jobs are relying on emails, on phone calls, on meetings that can be held virtually. Whereas people who work jobs that require face-to-face interaction are really being left behind.

The big problem is that those two kinds of jobs correlate really strongly with income. High earners are much more likely to be able to be working from home right now and are much more likely to continue to make their salary, afford their housing, whereas those occupations that cannot work from home are also disproportionately high poverty occupations.

Working From Home May Change Where We Live

Issi Romem: I think mostly employers are going to realize that they have a lot to gain by allowing people to work from home, even if that’s not fully working from home the whole time.

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