San Francisco Bay Area Companies on 2016 Best Places to Work Lists



Airbnb’s San Francisco headquarters.


Nearly one-third of America’s 50 best companies to work for are located right here in the Bay Area, and their happy, highly paid employees will likely continue to drive housing demand for the foreseeable future.

In its annual Employee Choice Awards, Glassdoor ranks the 50 best large U.S. companies based on workers’ reviews of their employers. Employees rate their companies on criteria such as compensation and benefits, the CEO, career opportunities, and workplace culture.

Bay Area-based tech companies have a heavy presence at the top of the list, taking five of the top 10 spots for employee satisfaction. This year, San Francisco-based vacation-rental website Airbnb ranks No. 1 in the U.S. for employee happiness, with workers awarding the company an overall score of 4.6 on a five-star scale. Glassdoor puts the average annual salary for Airbnb software developers at about $132,000.

Foster City-based insurance software maker Guidewire Software, which didn’t rank in the top 50 on last year’s list, made great strides on the worker-satisfaction front, zipping into the No. 3 spot with an overall score of 4.5. The company’s software engineers earn an average of $117,000 per year, with senior positions pulling down an additional $26,000.

Three of Silicon Valley’s best-known tech giants also landed in the top 10: Facebook (No. 5), LinkedIn (No. 6), and Google (No 8). LinkedIn and Facebook moved up the list from last year, while Google fell from the top spot. Software developers earn an average annual salary of $125,000 at Facebook, $132,000 at LinkedIn, and $127,000 at Google.

Ten other Bay Area-based companies were rated among the top 50 for best employee morale, six of them from the tech world. San Jose’s Adobe Systems ranked No. 19, followed by Protiviti (No. 23), Apple (No. 25), Twitter (No. 26), (No. 32), and Workday (No. 35).

But Bay Area techies aren’t the only ones satisfied with their employment situation. Biotech company Genentech was No. 34, followed by architecture and design firm Gensler at No. 38. Two companies from the energy sector also cracked the top 50: San Ramon‘s Chevron (No. 39) and San Mateo-based SolarCity (No.50).

If current job-growth patterns persist, there will be no shortage of workers moving to the Bay Area in search of both a higher salary and greater career satisfaction. In a recent report, the Center For Continuing Study of the California Economy said that Bay Area companies were responsible for nearly half of the state’s job growth in October.

(Photo: Flickr/Sharon Hahn Darlin)

A Silicon Valley ZIP Code Remains America’s Most Expensive


The prosperous Silicon Valley economy and a slim supply of homes for sale have once again vaulted a Bay Area community to the top of 2015’s list of America’s priciest ZIP codes.

That would be the San Mateo County town of Atherton and its 94027 ZIP code, which Forbes recently named as the nation’s most expensive for the third consecutive year. With a median home price of $10,564,038, homes in Atherton sell in an average of 106 days – fairly quickly given that eight-digit price tags are out of reach for most homebuyers. Forbes notes that Atherton is home to high-rolling, high-tech bigwigs including Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and HP CEO Meg Whitman.

Two other San Mateo County ZIP codes landed in the top 10: No 7. Woodside‘s 94062, with a median sales price of $5,533,534, and No. 10 Hillsborough’s 94010, where homes go for $4,951,458. ZIP codes in Santa Clara County’s Los Altos Hills (No. 11) and the Marin County communities of Belvedere (No. 13) and Ross (No. 20) also ranked near the top of the list.



(Photo: Flickr/Ed Bierman)

San Francisco Real Estate Update- October 2015


The pace of single-family home sales in San Francisco has been remarkably consistent since the early summer, and in October, properties sold in an average of 28 days, one day faster than in September. The median sales price was up on both an annual and monthly basis, finishing the month at $1,295,000.

Competition for homes in the city remains intense, with the average single-family home selling for 110.4 percent of original price and the MSI falling to 1.5.


It has taken more than $1 million to buy a San Francisco condominium for most of this year, and that pattern held fast in October, with the median sales price at $1,111,500. Sellers took home an average of 108.4 percent of asking price, a bit less than in September.

As with single-family homes, the MSI for San Francisco condominiums dropped from the previous month to end October at 1.9. Properties sold in an average of 27 days, in line with what we observed earlier in the summer.


Most San Francisco and San Mateo County Homes Sale Above $1 MIllion Mark

Bay Area property prices continue to enjoy double-digit-percent annual increases, even as appreciation slows across the rest of the Golden State. And in Silicon Valley, homebuyers seem to have no shortage of cash at their disposals.1milsm

PropertyRadar’s most recent Real Property Sales report puts the September median price for a California home at $405,000, down 2.4 percent from August and up 3.3 from one year earlier. On a monthly basis, the median price fell in 21 of California’s 26 largest counties, though it remains near an eight-year high statewide.

In a statement accompanying the report, PropertyRadar Director of Economic Research Madeline Schaff noted that while appreciation is cooling across the state, Bay Area gains are still holding strong.

“Home prices in the Silicon Valley corridor, consisting of San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, continue to buck statewide trends and are experiencing double digit price appreciation,” she said. “The increased demand from plentiful well-paying jobs, exorbitant rents and fear of higher mortgage interest rates has sent home prices into the stratosphere.”

The report says that home prices in Santa Clara County increased by 13.8 percent year over year in September while rising 11.3 percent in San Mateo County, among the highest growth rates in the state. Extraordinary demand for Silicon Valley real estate appears to also be fueling appreciation in nearby Santa Cruz County, with prices there climbing by 18.3 percent on an annual basis in September, the highest rate of growth in California.

Silicon Valley homebuyers seem like they are swimming in cash, with all-cash deals accounting for 21.5 percent of transactions in the region so far in 2015 and nearly two-thirds of buyers dropping down payments of at least 20 percent. “At median price levels bouncing off of a million dollars, that is an impressive statistic,” Schaff said. In fact, more than half of all home sales in San Francisco and San Mateo counties in September exceeded the $1 million price point.

A graphic accompanying the report shows that the median sales price in most of Palo Alto and Los Altos actually appears to be above $2 million. Schaff doesn’t see price gains in the region slowing until buyer demand subsides or lenders become more tightfisted.

(Photo/Flickr: Alan O’Rourke)

Source: Pacific Union


What a Tech Bubble Could Mean for San Francisco Real Estate Market

Should history repeat itself and the Bay Area’s mighty tech empire again come crumbling down, homes may lose some of their value, but long-term demand seems almost certain to persist.

A blog post examines the likelihood of a tech bubble and what effects its bursting might have on the housing market. While stopping short of saying that current economic conditions indicate a looming bubble, the article notes one unsettling similarity to the dot-com era: the proliferation of so-called “unicorns,” companies valued at at least $1 billion without the financial results to warrant it.

During the late 90s tech-industry meltdown, employment in Silicon Valley in the sector declined by 17 percent, and home prices dropped by 25 percent. Chief Economist Jonathan Smoke said that while a tech downturn would certainly impact Bay Area real estate prices, the silver lining could be relaxed demand and fewer bidding wars. But even if a tech bubble were to temporarily cause frenzied demand to ease, the Bay Area’s lack of housing inventory will always be a moderating factor.

Source: Pacific Union

(Photo: Flickr/Anthony Quintano)


Economists think the low interest rates will continue for awhile

A message to homebuyers anxious about rising interest rates on home loans: relax. You’re not going to miss out on today’s superlow mortgage rates if you’re just now starting to search for your dream home in the Bay Area. (Or that getaway ski home in the Lake Tahoe/Truckee region.)

Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen

Recent analysis and crystal-ball gazing by economists has generally put off a rate increase until mid-December at the earliest, and quite possibly not until March 2016. The next meeting of the Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Markets Committee is scheduled for Dec. 15-16, and Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen has made it clear she will give the markets plenty of time to adjust to the change. If the global economy doesn’t improve markedly by December, March is a more likely date for a rate hike.

And even when rates do increase, they will crawl higher, not jump.

The Bay Area’s Yellen — remember, she was head of the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank before taking the top job — has said that future interest-rate increases will be gradual, no more than 1 percentage point a year. And perhaps much less: Jonathan Smoke, chief economist for, told The New York Times that he expects to see a gradual increase in interest rates totaling no more than half a percentage point over a 12-month period.

That means that today’s interest rates will still be a bargain by historical standards. And that will help make homes in the Bay Area and across Northern California much more affordable over the life of a mortgage than their price tags suggest.

Interest rates on a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.85 percent last week and have been largely unchanged for more than a month, according to Freddie Mac’s weekly rate survey. Fifteen-year mortgages were at 3.07 percent last week, with five-year adjustable-rate mortgages at 2.91 percent and one-year ARMs at 2.53 percent.

It’s worth noting that mortgage rates in Western states lately have been lower than the national average. Freddie Mac said the average 30-year FRM in the West was 3.80 percent, compared with 3.82 percent in the North-Central U.S., 3.87 percent in the Northeast, 3.89 percent in the Southeast, and 3.90 percent in the Southwest.

The bottom line: Talk to your real estate professional, start scoping out desirable neighborhoods, and get started on a preapproved home loan. But don’t forget to stop and smell the roses in your new backyard.

(Photo: Flickr/International Monetary Fund)

California Unemployment Rate Falls to Half of Recession Peak

The Golden State’s unemployment rate dropped in August, reaching half of the level recorded during the depths of the recession five years ago. Bay Area jobless claims followed suit, falling from the previous month in all nine counties.goldenbearflag

According to the latest numbers from the California Employment Development Department, the state’s unemployment rate declined to 6.1 percent in August on a seasonally adjusted basis, down from a high of 12.2 percent in 2010. California added more than 36,000 jobs in August, 470,000 over the past year, and 2.06 million since the beginning of the economic recovery in February 2010.

Commenting on the data, Palo Alto-based Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy says that those jobs represent 14.3 percent growth over the past five-and-a-half years compared with the nationwide rate of 9.7 percent. The organization notes that most of August’s job growth was due to gains in the government sector, while the professional- and business-services sectors saw losses. Both trends may be seasonal, due to an earlier beginning to the school year and companies transitioning from contract to permanent employees.

Jobless claims fell in each of the Bay Area’s nine counties from July to August, bucking the previous month’s pattern of across-the-board increases. San Mateo County continues to have the state’s most robust job market, with an unemployment rate of 3.3 percent on a nonseasonally adjusted basis, followed by Marin (3.5 percent), San Francisco (3.6 percent), Santa Clara (4.0 percent), Napa (4.2 percent), and Sonoma (4.3 percent) counties.

The Bay Area has demonstrated remarkable improvement in job growth since unemployment levels peaked, which according to EDD historical data was generally in 2010. Santa Clara, Napa, and Sonoma counties offer excellent examples of this trend, as all three saw unemployment rates peak at more than 11 percent during the recession’s darkest days.

In fact, CCSCE says that Bay Area job levels are now 10.6 percent higher than their prerecession peaks, by far the most in the state and up from 10.2 percent in July.

(Photo: Flickr/eyeliam)

September is San Francisco’s Architecture Celebration Month: Architecture and the City Festival 2015

design-for-community-2008DeYoung Museum, San Francisco


San Francisco is not a terribly old city, but it has an eclectic and rich architecture. It is old enough to span few architectural eras, which left us with masterfully adorned Queen Anne homes, charming shipyard workers cottages, elegant Art Deco structures,  some Richard Neutra buildings on Telegraph Hill and culminating with the today’s downtown’s skyscrapers and the organic shape of the DeYoung Museum.

Every month of September, San Francisco hosts the annual Architecture and the City Festival. The theme for this year’s festival is ” Play: Design in Action”, where the community will be able to observe “play as a dynamic and essential element of the creative process for design arts, explore how it is employed by San Francisco’s design community and discuss how it can be applied to other fields ( health, education, economic development)”.

The festival is presented by AIA San Francisco and the center for Architecture and Design and features month- long events, such as lectures, film exhibitions, behind the scenes walking tours and more, addressing different aspects of the design and planning process and showcasing the city’s architecture.

For more information on the events, visit the festival website:


Picture/Source: Architecture and the City website


Average U.S. Credit Score Reaches Record High

The average consumer credit score has reached an all-time high, enabling more Americans to leverage today’s low mortgage rates and save big bucks over the life of their home loans.fico

According to recent numbers from credit-data company Fair Isaac Corp., the average U.S. credit score was 695 in April of this year, the highest since the company began tracking the metric in 2005. FICO says that while the national credit score has been steadily rising for the past two years, it appears to be leveling off.

Nearly one in five Americans – 19.9 percent – now has a credit score of 800 or higher, which the company deems “exceptional.” The number of consumers with top-notch credit has climbed each year since the depths of the recession in October 2010, when 17.9 percent of Americans had 800-plus credit scores.

Further encouraging, FICO says, is that fewer consumers are scoring less than 550, which indicates that more of them are managing their credit responsibly. In October 2010, 9.0 percent of Americans had credit scores between 500 and 549, compared with 7.6 percent in April 2015.

Serious delinquencies – defined as total accounts more than 90 days past due — have also been falling over the past few years, from 19.4 percent in October 2013 to 18.2 percent as of April. However, FICO points out that the overall decline has been primarily driven by the real estate sector, where delinquencies have dropped from 6.8 percent in 2013 to 5.1 percent in April.

“This suggests that we are getting further and further from the worst of the housing downturn,” FICO researchers wrote. “By contrast, the auto and bankcard industries show relatively little, if any, drop in delinquency over the past few years.”

The 20 percent of Americans who have excellent credit will be rewarded for their fiscal responsibility with lower mortgage rates, resulting in substantial long-term savings on a home purchase. In a recent blog post, FICO says consumers with a credit score of more than 760 could qualify for a 3.57 percent interest rate on a 30-year, fixed-rate, $300,000 home loan. That translates to a monthly payment of $1,359 and $189,259 in total interest paid over the life of the loan. On the other end of the spectrum, homebuyers with scores between 620 and 639 would likely get a mortgage rate of 5.16 percent for that same home purchase, which equates to $1,640 in monthly payments and $290,374 in interest paid over the life of the loan.

FICO offers tips for consumers hoping to better their credit score, including paying down high-interest accounts first and prioritizing smaller debts over larger ones.

(Photo: Flickr/Simon Cunningham)

Source: Pacific Union blog

Different Housing Needs as U.S Population is Aging

Much has been written recently about the housing needs of millennials. But what about the housing needs of their grandparents? Aging baby boomers present new challenges to urban planners, developers, and home builders — hurdles that make millennials’ problems look like kids’ stuff.

Senior citizensBy 2030, one-quarter of the U.S. population will be age 50 or older, according to a recent study by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University. Close to 39 million adults will be between 65 and 74 years old by then, almost twice the number as in 2010. By 2035, the number of households aged 80 or older will have doubled since 2010.

As the population ages, housing will need to to change to meet specific needs, such as adding accessibility features and support services and providing affordable options for seniors on a budget.

“Even with the recent uptick in seniors housing construction, vacancies remain relatively stable and rents keep climbing in most markets,” David Brickman, executive vice president for multifamily business at Freddie Mac, said in a recent statement on housing trends. “Much of the building has focused on high-end properties in top-tier markets. These don’t directly benefit households outside of higher-income brackets or in smaller markets, although any new supply is beneficial because it helps increase vacancies and drive down rents locally.”

“Still,” he said, “most markets could absorb more seniors housing – particularly for the middle- and lower-income levels.”

The home-improvement industry needs to adapt as well, with a new focus on altering existing homes so they are accessible to the aging population. Features like extra-wide hallways and doors, first-level bathrooms and bedrooms, and home elevators will become more common in the years ahead.

“Being properly housed and cared for is vital to overall well-being, but can be harder to achieve as we age,” Brickman said, noting that the urgency will increase in coming years as millennials move into their 50s.

Modern housing for seniors doesn’t have to be the cold institutions of decades past. “We’re not talking about our grandparents’ nursing homes,” Brickman said. The main property types include:

  • Independent living, where adults live on their own but also get help with certain activities and services, including food.
  • Assisted living, where adults still live on their own but also get help with basic daily activities. These facilities also provide meals.
  • Memory care, which addresses the needs of seniors suffering from dementia. Demand for this type of care is rising as the overall population ages.
  • Skilled nursing, which delivers specialized care to seniors who cannot care for themselves.
  • Continuing-care retirement communities, which provide multiple care levels in a single property.

“Importantly, seniors housing also offers the sense of community that people crave,” Brickman concluded. “But costs run high, varying by the location and level of care and service. That said, seniors housing – in particular, independent living, assisted living, and memory care – can be much less expensive than full-time in-home or skilled nursing care.”

(Image: Flickr/Chapendra)

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