San Francisco Leads Nation in Foreclosure Reduction

Colorful homes in San Francisco
Houses in San Francisco. Ian Ransley.

The San Francisco housing market continues to recover, and in more ways than one.

New research shows that foreclosure activity has dropped significantly across the Bay Area. This will support home prices and increase market stability going forward.

The Federal Reserve recently published a positive outlook for the San Francisco metropolitan-area housing market. Among other things, it predicted strong demand for homes into 2013. That’s good news for sellers.

Here’s more good news for homeowners in the area. Foreclosure filings are receding — and fast.

36% Drop in San Francisco Foreclosures

Last week, RealtyTrac released their Metropolitan Foreclosure Market Report for the third quarter of 2012. Among the nation’s largest metro areas, San Francisco experienced the largest reduction in foreclosure activity. Third-quarter foreclosure filings fell 36%, compared to the same time last year.

RealtyTrac’s report included all properties with at least one foreclosure filing, across all three phases of the foreclosure process — defaults, auctions, and bank repossessions. In total, there were 9,798 filings in the San Francisco metro area, during the third quarter of 2012. That marks a 3% reduction from the previous quarter, and a 36% reduction from the same period in 2011.

Typically, a major reduction in foreclosure activity helps to stabilize the market in two ways. First, we have an overall drop in the number of homes for sale. With a consistent level of demand, a drop in supply will put upward pressure on home prices.

Secondly, we have less price erosion resulting from distressed properties. Foreclosure homes are often priced and sold below their market values. So they end up as low-end comps, or comparable sales, putting downward pressure on home prices. Thus, the San Francisco real estate market benefits in two ways from this trend.

On the broader stage, this is just one of several factors boosting Bay Area home prices. The metro-area unemployment rate hit 7.4% in August, down from a recession high of 10.1% in January 2010. Housing inventory has fallen across the board, not just in the foreclosure sector. Meanwhile, demand is growing among investors and ‘regular’ home buyers alike.

Homes are Selling Faster, and for More

According to data provided by ZipRealty, San Francisco’s real estate market is still bustling. Home sales typically drop off in the fall, after the summer buying ‘season.’ But that doesn’t seem to be the case here. In most Bay Area counties, homes sold faster this September compared to last. List prices and sale prices both rose at the same time.

Within San Francisco County, the median number of days on market (DOM) was 40 days in September. That marks an 18% decline from the same time last year. At 12 days, Santa Clara County had the lowest median DOM for the Bay Area (it’s no wonder prices are jumping in places like Saratoga). The median DOM declined in eight of the nine Bay-Area counties over the last year. Only Solano County saw an increase in this metric.

The median listing price rose in eight of nine counties as well, again with exception of Solano County. Median selling prices rose in all nine counties over the last year. This is according to data from ZipRealty, a real estate company headquartered in Emeryville, California.

The latest S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index was released the day before Halloween. According to that report, home prices rose 5.3% across the San Francisco metro area, from August 2011 to August 2012.

While California seems to be leading the recovery, it’s becoming a national trend. At the monthly level, prices rose in 19 of the 20 major metro areas tracked by Case-Shiller. “The sustained good news in home prices over the past five months makes us optimistic for continued recovery in the housing market,” said David M. Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices.