Here’s how much it cost to buy a house in the Bay Area (before the outbreak)

Market watchers in the Bay Area are curious to see what the ongoing pandemic will do to home sales in the near future.

Even for those unable to buy or sell property, what happens to home value is a critical indicator of what’s happening to the rest of the economy. In March, Compass Real Estate updated its exhaustive map of sales activity across the Bay Area, crunching median sales prices for the previous 12 months.

What’s most interesting here is the timing: These numbers represent activity up through the second week of March—shortly before the Bay Area began sheltering in place. That means that when we compare the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak on the home market (whatever they may be), these numbers are what we’ll be comparing them to, a time capsule of Bay Area homes as they were just days before everything changed.

Here’s what the market looked liked shortly before shelter-in-place orders went into effect/.

  • In San Francisco, the 12-month average for a single-family house was $1.6 million. Breaking things down by neighborhood reveals a vast spectrum of prices, all the way up to $5.7 million for a house in Pac Heights on the high end, which was the second highest house price in the entire Bay Area. Note that the gap between Pac Heights and the rest of the city remains particularly dramatic; SF’s second priciest block was St. Francis Wood, where a home cost more than $3.2 million
  • SF’s cheapest place to buy was in Bayview, with a median price of $994,500 making it the only San Francisco neighborhood still averaging less than a $1 million for a house. Even in the Excelsior, the average cost of housing climbed to more than $1.16 million. A more detailed SF map that breaks Bayview down to smaller sub-neighborhoods finds houses cheapest in Bayview Heights ($945,000).
  • If anyone’s curious, the sole SF neighborhood with a median roughly the same as the city was Bernal Heights, with a $1.6 million average. The Outer Richmond was close to the middle mark with $1.58 million.
  • The most expensive place for homes in the Bay Area was Atherton, which, over the course of a year, averaged $6 million for a homes—no surprise, as this small, exclusive Peninsula city often gets singled out as the single most expensive place to buy nationwide.
  • The most affordable place to buy regionally was Vallejo at $427,000. In Contra Costa County, the most affordable redoubt was Pittsburg ($462,000). And in Alameda County, the subregion of southeast Oakland was cheapest at $496,000.
  • In the North Bay, southeast Santa Rosa was the cheapest spot at $620,000, while Belvedere proved priciest at $3.58 million.
  • San Jose’s average was $1.1 million, with the highest prices coming in the Almaden Valley neighborhood (more than $1.52 million), with Alum Rock the cheapest ($770,000).

The Compass figures were similar to the California Association of Realtors (CAR)’s figures from the same time, although CAR’s numbers are less comprehensive and represent monthly sales data instead of longer trends.

For example, the CAR average for SF houses sold in February was $1.61 million, nearly the same number as the Compass report and up $105,000 from the same time last year. With the exception of Contra Costa County, which dipped 2.2 percent from February 2019, every Bay Area County saw significant price appreciation year over year, up to 15.4 percent in Santa Clara County.

Almost all prices were up, just as has been the case consistently for years. But then, over the course of just a few weeks, almost everything about life in the Bay Area changed, and where we go from here remains to be seen.

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