The San Francisco Real Market — Where the Only Certainty is Uncertainty

A lot of time and energy is spent dissecting real estate markets around the country, and that’s particularly true here in San Francisco. Between the national media breathlessly updating the world on the city’s admittedly staggering cost of living or its latest IPOs, and locals just trying to make sense of a market that’s unlike anywhere else, it’s easy to feel a little lost. A recent article in the Examiner hit the nail perfectly on the head when it comes to real estate in San Francisco — turns out, everyone is confused!

The Thing about 2019

In 2019, we have access to more information than we’ve ever had. There are real estate websites and blogs (ahem) and self-proclaimed experts, all sharing their insight and statistics and charts and graphs, all of them offering drilled-down, often contradictory data. And since hindsight is 2020, it’s easy to wrap up the San Francisco real estate market of the entire last decade in a single sentence. That’s not so easy when you’re actually living it in real time. There is no crystal ball telling us what’s yet to come, but history can offer us perspective and patterns.

Here’s what we do know, and what the article points out nicely. Microclimates in San Francisco are a real phenomenon, with the market changing to a surprising extent from one neighborhood to the next. Condos are easier to snag than single family homes. The market in San Francisco, like markets everywhere, historically follows the school year. And the fall frenzy of buying and selling could mean the market’s future goes one of two ways — a softening or a continued rise in the current bubble.

I’ve written before about my thoughts on trying to time the market, but seasonal market fluctuations are real and if history is any guide then spring is traditionally the time to sell and fall is the time to buy. The market has pulled back the past five Septembers in a row only to resume a stable climb sometime after Super Bowl Sunday. If you’re thinking of buying in San Francisco, that pattern makes the next two months prime time to get the best deals. Regardless, work with someone who has seen the market through multiple iterations. There’s a lot to be said for experience.

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