The home buying frenzy is finally showing signs of cooling in the Bay Area. Are the days of homes going for $1 million over asking price after just days on the market coming to an end?
Mortgage rates have shot up since the beginning of the year following a honeymoon period of record low rates through the pandemic. Data now points to what most industry experts had anticipated for months: While home buyer demand is still strong in the Bay Area compared to elsewhere – and inventory still scarce, the Bay Area housing market is “normalizing” and seeing less intense competition.
“In general I would characterize the Bay Area as a cooling market alongside a lot of other markets that are also cooling ,” said Redfin deputy chief economist Taylor Marr. “We’re seeing the entire country’s housing market react to interest rates.”
Sheila Cunha, president of Bay East Association of Realtors, said she’s seen a slowdown for the last month. She just put a home in San Leandro on the market and didn’t receive any preemptive offers, which would not have been the case just a few months ago.
“I hate to use the words ‘normal market,’ but I’ve been doing this for over 20 years and been through all of the markets, and this is becoming a more normalized market,” she said. “I’ve been sitting in on so many meetings lately where people say they didn’t get 20 offers, they only got three.”
We examined three key metrics to show where the Bay Area and California housing market stands.
Home sales are declining
One of the most obvious signs of a real estate slowdown is a decline in the number of home sales.
Redfin data shows home sales stayed high and relatively steady for most of 2021, when the market was hot and rates were low.
At the start of 2022, there was a decline in sales, which appeared to be seasonal, then a return to growth. That momentum slowed in March; then, home sales began to decline in mid-April and are now down 19% year-over-year for the period from May 23 to June 19.
Countywide data shows the number of homes sold in San Francisco started to drop off in mid-April, and the year-over-year decline was 25% from mid-May to mid-June. There are similar patterns in other Bay Area counties, with home sales falling 22% year-over-year in Alameda County, and declining 23% in Contra Costa. Santa Clara County saw even larger declines of 26%.
Price drops are becoming more common
Redfin data shows that in the San Francisco metro, which also includes San Mateo County, the percent of active listings with price drops was at just 1% at the start of the year, and has gradually increased since, with a sharp ascent at the beginning of April. It’s now over 4% for the period from mid-May to mid-June.
“There are close to one-in-five homes in the region that are dropping their prices, and it’s a little bit higher in San Jose,” Marr said.
Homes are selling for closer to their asking price
This sale-to-list-ratio looks at what homes are selling for versus their list prices – a high ratio over 1 indicates a hot market with lots of competitive bidding.
The sale-to-list ratio in the San Francisco metro rose to the highest it’s been in the past several years in late March, peaking at 1.13. It has since decreased to 1.1. During the same period in 2021, it was 1.09, while in 2019 the ratio was 1.07.
“It’s definitely cooling down quickly,” Marr said, but noted that this is a lagging metric, and we have still “yet to see how much demand has dropped off from Bay Area sales.”
He said that since rates have risen, it reduces the purchasing power of buyers and he expects the ratio to “continue to dive and it may even fall below 1 at the end of year, given how much mortgage payments have risen.”
Redfin’s seasonally-adjusted Homebuyer Demand Index looks at data points including home tour requests and other home-buying services, and as of June 19 the index showed a 16% year-over-year decline nationwide.
Data from the Mortgage Bankers Association shows both a monthly and annual decline in mortgage applications in California. Purchase applications are down 11.9% from April to May, and 26.8% year-over-year, while refinance applications have decreased 25.3% from April to May, and 83.5% year-over-year. The agency does not have more localized data.
Wei said other signs that suggest a slowdown are properties are staying on the market longer and days-on-market are a little bit higher, which suggests a decrease in competition. According to data from the California Association of Realtors, San Francisco’s median days-on-market for May is 12 days, which is a 9% year-over-year increase.
“There are not as many multiple offers on the market, which suggests the market is not as hot as before,” Wei said.
Data from ShowingTime , which tracks real estate showings across the country, shows that the seven-day moving average declined 47% from the start of 2022 in California.
What comes next?
Renee White, a broker associate with Keller Williams who is based out of Walnut Creek, said in the Bay Area if a home has the quality and is priced right, there will always be competition, particularly because of the lack of inventory. While she’s still seeing offers come in on listed homes, she believes we’re currently in a “flat market.”
“We might have to ignore the gains we had this year; those people were lottery winners,” she said, adding that “now is the time to buy when everybody else isn’t buying.”
Marr said the first signs of cooling have been more pronounced in expensive coastal markets because they tend to be more sensitive to higher rates and worsening financial market conditions.
The housing market first started to show signs of moderation in expensive coastal cities as early as February with fewer offers and mortgage applications, a decline in touring activity and more price drops on active listings, Marr said.
Nationally, real estate companies including Compass and Redfin have recently announced layoffs , and average monthly mortgage payments in the Bay Area are more than 50% higher than they were a year ago. According to Redfin, searches for “homes for sale” on Google for the week ending on June 18 declined 14% from a year ago.
Oscar Wei, deputy chief economist for the California Association of Realtors, said that “just like across the nation, California as well as the Bay Area is seeing some slowdown in terms of sales,” which is “not exactly a surprise.” Like Marr, he also said that buyers in the Bay Area are probably more sensitive to financial market activity.
“We anticipate a continued slowdown in the coming month and probably into the second half of 2022,” Wei said. “In the coming months we’ll see more increases in interest rates. One of the reasons why we’re seeing the impact is the cost of borrowing… This impacts people’s desire to buy a home.”
Wei said the prospect of a recession brings uncertainty to the economy and the housing market, so potential buyers will probably hold off for a bit.
Kellie Hwang is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: [email protected]