Supply-Demand Imbalance and Low Mortgage Rates Drive California Home Price Growth


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Rising demand for real estate and shrinking supply have caused San Francisco to become one of the most expensive places to live in the U.S. since the beginning of the decade, while falling mortgage rates have boosted purchasing power.

According to an analysis by John Burns Real Estate Consulting, home price growth has outpaced income growth by 70 percent in the San Francisco metro area since 2001, the second highest rate in the country, behind Los Angeles. That figure includes the 44 percent benefit homebuyers have obtained from low mortgage rates, which have dropped from 7.2 percent in June 2001 to 3.97 percent for the week ended Dec. 17.

The analysis points out that California homeowners have benefited the most from the imbalance between supply and demand. Six of the nine U.S. housing markets where JBREC says that “home prices have risen faster than can be explained” are located in the Golden State, including San Jose, where they have outpaced incomes by 53 percent over the past 14 years.

Source: Pacific Union blog

(Image: Flickr/FutUndBeidl)

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 Realtor.com, 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)