U.S. House Prices Are Up, But Next Quarter Will Really Tell the Story

Thanks to a global pandemic, the first quarter of 2020 has been bananas. Still, a recent report from the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) puts housing prices nationally up 1.7 percent and a full 5.7 percent over the first quarter of 2019. So what’s the deal?

Pre COVID-19

According to the report, the uptick in first quarter home prices can be chalked up to falling interest rates and small inventories. Here’s the caveat — there’s a lag between contract signing and sale closing, so these statistics may not accurately reflect what happened after the pandemic really hit home. The data is based on closings through March 31, but that lag means these numbers are a measure of prices from last January through February. Next quarter will be the true test but thus far prices are generally at least holding and in some cases increasing. 

In the Bay Area

This jives with recent activity across Compass markets, including the San Francisco Bay Area. I recently shared preliminary data for San Francisco real estate sales during the pandemic if you’re dying for information. The takeaway is that prices have not come down, and if the FHFA report is any indication, that may not be happening anytime soon.


These charts show weekly data, of which the exact numbers for the last week will change as sales continue to be reported. What is interesting is when they relaxed the shelter in place rules, you can see an initial spike of new listings coming to market, which we thought would continue to increase and instead have slowly been declining. Word on the street (from stagers and my other colleagues) is there are more listings coming for June. But we shall see.


In this second chart, we used the combined SFD/Condo median sales price because there just are not enough straight single family house sales closing right now in a given week – across both property listing types you can see a very stable median price. Stay tuned for the June newsletter, which will review year-over-year data and full-month May data.

The Takeaway

Only time will tell if this is the buying opportunity of the decade or the hands-down best time to sell. In the meantime, I’m here to be your sounding board if you’d like discuss your purchase or sale options for the San Francisco Bay Area. 

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