San Diego Housing Market News and Analysis
~Welcome to the Econo-Almanac~
I started this website in mid-2004 to chronicle San Diego’s spectacular housing bubble. The purpose of the site remains, as ever, to provide objective and evidence-based analysis of the San Diego housing market. A quick guide to the site follows:
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Submitted by Rich Toscano on August 11, 2006 - 1:26pm
San Diego homeowners with adjustable rate mortgages can breathe a sigh of relief. After 17 consecutive -- albeit modest -- rate increases, the Federal Reserve has decided to stand pat and keep its federal funds target rate at 5.25 percent.
The accompanying chart shows the seemingly unstoppable rise in the 1-Year Constant Maturity Treasury, an index often used to adjust monthly mortgage payments, during the Fed's tightening campaign.
Submitted by Rich Toscano on August 10, 2006 - 10:18pm
After getting hammered last month, the median prices for both SFRs and condos were up... the latter slightly, the former somewhat dramatically:
Submitted by Rich Toscano on August 10, 2006 - 9:05pm
Hi everyone. It's time for yet another administrative update on the state of things here at Econo-Almanac world headquarters.
I put together a very brief FAQ list. Should be old hat for many of you, but I thought I'd mention it.
I forgot to add this item on the original post, so this is an update... now that forum activity has taken off, I've expanded the number of forums to hopefully make things more usable. Existing content will all be in the generic "housing market" format, but from here on out folks should feel encouraged to create new topics in the most appropriate forum.
Submitted by Rich Toscano on August 9, 2006 - 12:37pm
The Take 5 episode from a couple weeks back actually generated record email and viewership for the show, so they invited me back for another round. This time my counterpart was a realtor named Lee Sterling, who I am pleased to report is a really nice guy and did a good job presenting his case.
As for myself, I was much more at ease than in my virgin appearance and I think that overall it went really well. If you want to check it out, tune in to KSWB/Channel 5 this coming Sunday at 10:30PM.
Submitted by Rich Toscano on August 2, 2006 - 10:23am
San Diego inventory continues to climb, although the rate of growth slowed a bit last month:
Submitted by Rich Toscano on July 27, 2006 - 5:15pm
During the Take 5 taping, my counterpart from SDAR frequently mentioned that today's low rates (in comparison to those in the 80s) are a good reason to buy. There was no time for me to address this topic on the show, but it gives me a good opportunity to rehash some related thoughts that I wrote for the May credit market update:
Submitted by Rich Toscano on July 27, 2006 - 1:28pm
I just got back from a taping of KSWB's "Take 5," where I discussed the real estate market with Will Carless (voiceofsandiego.org) and Charles Jolly (SD Association of Realtors).
As far as I can tell, the appearance went just ok. I was kind of nervous, being entirely new to the TV thing, and I only realized about halfway through that you have to be pretty aggressive about getting a word in (something that is very much not in my nature). So I did sort of a middling job of defending the bear case. The unabashedly bullish case made by Jolly was light on factual backing, to put it charitably, but he certainly had more poise delivering his message than I did mine.
Anyway, it's going to air on Sunday at 10:30 PM, if any San Diegans are interested.
Update: I've now watched the segment. I didn't look as nervous as I felt, and although I was remiss in rebutting some of the SDAR guy's points, many of them were weak enough to effectively rebutt themselves. So all in all it came out better than I expected, for what that's all worth.
Submitted by Rich Toscano on July 23, 2006 - 10:19pm
"Hold off on that panic attack," suggests a piece in today's LA Times. The implication of the article's title and opening-paragraph reference to Chicken Little suggests that those who expect a housing price decline are simply being emotional.
The article proceeds to trot out the usual suspects for this week's round of "permanently high plateau"-style nonsense. There is a new tack, however. While acknowledging the signs of trouble in San Diego, the article attempts to distance Los Angeles and the rest of Southern California from our fine city:
"Peculiar?" What seems peculiar to me is the idea that overbuilding of downtown condos could somehow be responsible for a decline in overall sales volume. Aside from the absurd idea that increased supply would cause a decrease in demand, the fact is that downtown is far too small to have any measurable effect on countywide stats. (To put this argument in perspective: ziprealty.com shows 759 homes listed downtown versus over 20,000 listings countywide).
Have a look at some graphs I put together late in 2005:
Submitted by Rich Toscano on July 21, 2006 - 1:05pm
As suspected, there has been a fairly serious media response to the first year-over-year decline in median prices.
We've known for a while that home prices were on the decline, thanks to the Shiller index and to numerous examples of specific properties selling for less than their prior purchase prices. But I guess that there's nothing like having it all wrapped up in a single stat like that (despite the previously noted issues with using the median to gauge actual pricing power).
Despite the recent spate of concerned commentary, including some backpeddling by no less than the chief economist of CAR, there are still plenty of optimists out there. As my man Calculated Risk has helpfully charted, California real estate salesperson licenses are up 14% over last twelve months. Brokers licenses are up 8%.
So not only are there still plenty of buyers, there are actually still plenty of people who are bullish enough on real estate to actually be entering the field.
That's optimism. And it underscores my point that, despite a recent directional shift in pricing momentum, we are just at the very beginning of the housing bubble aftermath. This correction will probably not be over until sentiment is almost universally pessimistic on housing. As the continued rush into the real estate industry clearly demonstrates, that day is still far in the future.
Submitted by Rich Toscano on July 17, 2006 - 9:15am
I was interviewed in an LA Times article running today: For San Diego Real Estate, the Skies Are Not So Sunny. (I'm on page two.)
Submitted by Rich Toscano on July 13, 2006 - 9:37pm
Since I mentioned yesterday that I was surprised at the sanguine tone of the UT article on the median price drop, I must in fairness mention that (as suspected) they came out with an expanded and more gloomily-titled piece today.
While I'm here, I can't help but comment on a couple of sections from the article. This:
...is simply outrageous. The "normal cycle of decline" is pictured here:
Submitted by Rich Toscano on July 12, 2006 - 1:30pm
The Union-Tribune reports that, as predicted here last week, year-over-year medians have gone negative. As of June 2006, the median price of a San Diego home was down 1% from a year prior. The median was down 6% since its peak last November, representing a loss of $30,000 on the median priced home.
Get ready for all the pundits to claim victory on their "soft landing" forecasts. Prices are down 1%, and that's a soft landing—get it? Of course, this interpretation requires you to pretend that prices have fallen as much as they are going to, despite the lack of any evidence to that effect.
Submitted by Rich Toscano on July 7, 2006 - 11:46am
I'm on vacation with Mrs. Piggington so I'm going to make this quick. MLS data shows that for the first time, median prices for both condos and single family homes have gone negative year-over-year.
Submitted by Rich Toscano on July 4, 2006 - 3:41pm
...is how Scooby-Doo might react upon reading about an impending rate hike by the Bank of Japan. Assuming, that is, that Scooby took an interest in global liquidity conditions instead of just constantly getting high.
Rampant E-Z mortgage lending during the first year-and-a-half of Fed tightening posed a seeming puzzle. But the answer to the puzzle lay outside our borders: in this age of globalized capital markets, tightness by one central bank could be offset by looseness of another. And they don't come any looser than that Bank of Japan. The BOJ's ultra-low rate policy made it easy for financiers to borrow in Japan, lend to US homebuyers, and pocket the interest rate differential. It also encouraged yield-starved Japanese to lend their own money in a similar manner.
Submitted by Rich Toscano on July 3, 2006 - 1:13pm
I'm breaking radio silence, finally, after having sequestered myself for a week and a half to cram for a securities licensing exam. (The exam manual suggested studying for 4-6 weeks vs. my 1.5 weeks, hence the cramming). Anyway, said exam was successfully passed yesterday, so I can close the door on that particularly onerous 10-day period of my life and get back to writing occasional content for this site.
I did check the forums from time to time during my absence, and now that I have a minute I wanted to revisit a really interesting article someone posted. The USA Today article, entitled "Buyers in more markets find housing out of reach," chronicles the plight of a San Diego postdoc who bought a home with 100% financing, whose PITI eats up 70% of her take home pay, and who has among other things taken to selling her fertile eggs in order to make the mortgage payments.
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