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Jessica Branson's Real Estate Newsletter

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2017 Wrap Up

Welcome to my newsletter where I give you an insider’s take on real estate — with a special emphasis on where I sell: San Francisco, a proud sanctuary city that has had three mayors in three months.

Pace of Change
I feel like finding the right time to weigh in on the market has been like trying to find the right time to jump into the fastest game of double dutch ever (though not nearly as fun). Like everyone I am trying to get a handle on the ever-changing political, economic, and social developments. The #MeToo movement, mass shootings, North Korea tensions, fires, hurricanes, mudslides, the Mueller investigation, the new tax bill, the government shutdown. I better just dive in now, as it does not appear that the pace of change will slow anytime soon.

How High Can You Go?
2017 was a crazy year. Trump's first year in office and all of the big issues that I mentioned above (and more) twirled in the background as our economy grew, the stock market broke new records, and housing prices continued to soar. Today it was reported that in 2017 the US economy continued to grow showing it’s resilience. In San Francisco, the local economy remains strong, companies are growing and hiring, unemployment is still hovering around 2%.

I had thought that 2015 would be the height of our real estate market, as 2016 showed the market coming down for a smooth landing, largely due to uncertainty about the election. But in 2017 the market went up again and that year won out for SF's highest housing prices on record yet (see stats below).

If you bought a home five years ago in Noe Valley, for instance, it has likely gone up close to 40% in value. In 2013 the average price of a home there was about $1.9M now it’s $2.6M. Average. Each year the crazy high prices become the "new normal," just as we grow accustomed to the surprising news happening around us. In both realms I am trying to keep my eyes open and my wits about me.

What Goes Up
There are still certainties we can rely on to make good decisions and set strategies. We do know that what goes up, also must come down. The housing market and the stock market are due for a correction. When it will happen and how much will be lost is unknown. Bankers, other realtors, developers are whispering about a three year time frame — three years until the downturn hits. I feel like it may be sooner — it cannot hurt too much to be a bit more conservative.

Catch A Falling Knife
Sellers, uncertain about the new tax laws and their longer term implications, want to take advantage of high sale prices but are also shocked at how much their next Bay Area home will cost. They may wait it out to try to time the market perfectly. Obviously you want to sell at a high — the question is will our market go much higher in the near term. I don't think so. Sellers who know they will move in the next year or two, would be smart to sell sooner than later. I know I have said this for a couple years now. And, I am still right :) No seller who has sold in 2015, 2016 or 2017 is left wishing they had waited longer.

Some buyers got into a bit of trouble trying to time the market and hold out for lower prices. Those who sat it out over the last few years are going to have to keep sitting it out or bite the bullet and enter a more expensive market with a tad higher interest rates. Prices that looked ridiculous three years ago, look like good deals today. That's OK. There could also be practical reasons for waiting: building purchase power to buy more house, to be able to take less of a loan, etc. Buyers today will have to hold their purchases for a little longer to see gains, but in the end nothing has beaten SF's sweet equity.

My advice is to time the market according to your needs, and be to prepared to weather the storms that will inevitably come — you won’t go wrong.

Better than the Best?
Out of the gate in 2018, there is little inventory and a lot of active buyers. Interest rates, though going up (~4% for jumbo loans), are still very low, and rents here are still very high. I have a listing on the market now — hundreds of people through the first open house, 9 disclosure package requests at the end of the first open house weekend. If this is an indication of the first quarter housing activity in SF, I'd say we are not seeing the impending dip quite yet.

2017 was the strongest year yet for my business as well. Out of more than 4000 SF Realtors, I am in the top 25, and I am among the top 15 of all SF Listing Agents. I continue to be the #1 Agent at Alain Pinel San Francisco — thanks to all of my amazing friends and clients who support and continue to recommend my services. I work incredibly hard to exceed your expectations.

Please don't hesitate to reach out for real estate/home advice, or just to say hello.

Happy new year!


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