Data Says Big Run-Up in Bay Area Home Prices Slows

The meteoric rise in home prices that has defined Bay Area real estate markets for more than two years is settling down. Select communities continue to post double-digit price increases, but prices in the region as a whole are falling back to earth, according to newly released data.

House built of $100 billsThe most recent S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices delivered the sobering news: The San Francisco metro area, which had shown double-digit annual gains since November 2012, posted an annual return of 9 percent in August. One year earlier the year-over-year appreciation stood at 25.4 percent.

On a month-to-month basis, the pullback was even more pronounced: San Francisco had the largest monthly decline among the nation’s 20 largest metro areas in August — a 0.4 percent drop — and was the only metro area to post a negative monthly return two months in a row. (Prices fell 0.3 percent  from June to July.)

That’s the bad news. The good news is that even as home-price gains slow down, the increases posted over the past two years still make the San Francisco metro area one of the hottest markets for price growth.

The 9 percent annual rise in home prices that seems paltry when judged by past performance is nonetheless the third-highest gain among Case-Shiller’s top-20 markets.

Nationally, home prices posted an annual gain of 5.1 percent in August, and on a monthly basis they rose 0.2 percent — not much of a contrast to the Bay Area’s recent cooling.

And a look at local sales data shows that year-over-year comparisons of median single-family home prices varied widely in Pacific Union’s Bay Area regions, according to MLS statistics.

Annual-home price gains were up a solid 20 percent in our Silicon Valley region in August, and up 15 percent in our Contra Costa County region and 13 percent in the East Bay.

The annual declines in August were in our Sonoma Valley region, down 3 percent; Napa County, down 2 percent; and the Mid-Peninsula subregion, down 1 percent.

Lastly, if you’re wondering why Case-Shiller is just now reporting home-price data for August when other real estate researchers are preparing October results, well, that’s the way the index operates. The data is among the most highly regarded of all housing reports, known for its breadth of research and the accuracy of its conclusions, but it will never win a race for fast results.

Median Single-Family Home Prices in PU


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Pacific Union Real Estate Economic Forecast SF Bay Area

What an amazing evening for Pacific Union! Last night, Pacific Union CEO, Mark McLaughlin teamed up with John Burns, of John Burns Real Estate Consulting Firm, presenting some very interesting and thought provoking statistics on the future of the Bay Area Real Estate marketplace. Their research and projections are not to be missed.  I could not be more proud of my company and our CEO, Mark McLaughlin. What a fantastic event and exciting movement to be part of.
PUI_Economic Webcast
Please have a look at the video link to last night’s webcast event:
 PUI_Economic Webcast_Mark McLaughlin & John Burns PUI_Economic Webcast_Mark McLaughlin
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Pacific Union Moves Up List of Bay Area’s Fastest-Growing Companies

Pacific Union is excited to announce that we’ve been named to the San Francisco Business Times’ 2014 list of the 100 fastest-growing private companies in the Bay Area, which ranks local businesses based on fiscal-year revenue gains between 2011 and 2013. Our firm moved up the list’s rankings more than 40 spots from one year ago.Pacific Union logo

The San Francisco Business Times ranked Pacific Union as the 55th fastest-growing Bay Area-based private company, with a two-year revenue increase of nearly 141 percent. Last year, we ranked 96th on the publication’s list of fastest-growing companies.

Pacific Union was one of just two residential real estate brokerages named to the list and the highest ranked.

Our firm has moved up the ranks of several other notable media and industry lists this year. In August, we worked our way up almost 800 spots on the 2014 Inc. 5000 list, which ranks the fastest-growing companies in the U.S. Earlier in the spring, Pacific Union improved its standings on both the REAL Trends 500 report and RISMedia’s PowerBroker report.

In April, we were also humbled to be recognized as Christie’s International Real Estate’s “Affiliate of the Year” at the company’s annual global conference in Barcelona, Spain.


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Holly Golightly’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s House For Sale

Breakfast at Tiffany's House

After 11 years under the thumb of a former Merrill Lynch broker who was docked for insider trading, the Manhattan townhouse made famous by the iconic Audrey Hepburn flick Breakfast at Tiffany’s has again come up for sale. Listed for$5.85M, the 15-foot-wide Upper East Side house served as the backdrop for the exterior shots, but, disappointingly, it seems most of the interiors were shot on a sound stage. That would explain why Mr. Yunioshi’s top-floor artist’s atelier is nowhere to be found on the floor plan! Check out the listing photos and floor plan, courtesy of Curbed NY, after the jump.

Breakfast at Tiffany's House 2

Breakfast at Tiffany's House 3


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Bay Area Continues to Lead California’s Job Growth

Two Bay Area regions led the state in job gains on an annual basis in September, and unemployment dropped in every county from the previous month, trends sure to help sustain intense demand for real estate here.Help_Wanted_Orange

According to a report from the Palo Alto-based Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy (CCSCE), the Bay Area added 12,900 jobs in September and 99,000 over the past year. The organization says that the San Francisco metro area led the state in job growth, gaining 37,500 positions since last September for a year-over-year increase of 3.5 percent. The San Jose metro area followed closely behind, with 31,500 new jobs, an annual gain of 3.2 percent.

CCSCE also cited employment growth in theEast Bay region, which added 21,500 positions since last September, a year-over-year increase of 2.1 percent.

The organization’s report followed the California Employment Development Department’s September unemployment report, which shows that jobless claims decreased in all nine Bay Area counties for the second consecutive month.

Marin County continues to enjoy the lowest unemployment rate in the state, down to 3.9 percent in September on a nonseasonally adjusted basis. Four other Bay area counties are the only ones in California with unemployment rates of less than 5 percent: San Mateo (4.1 percent), San Francisco (4.4 percent), Napa (4.4 percent), and Sonoma (4.9 percent).

All nine Bay Area counties have a lower unemployment rate than the California average, which dropped to 7.3 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis.

The construction sector showed the biggest annual job increases in the state, growing 6 percent since September 2013. CCSCE calls the gain a “triple winner” for California’s economy, nothing that positions in the field typically pay high wages and create jobs in other industries.

Perhaps more importantly, an increase in hiring in the construction sector means that more homes are being built, which is crucial to California’s overall economic health, the organization says.

“Building housing and infrastructure addresses two of California’s key economic competitiveness challenges,” wrote Stephen Levy, CCSCE’s director.


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100 Fastest-Growing Private Companies in the Bay Area 2014

Exciting, but not surprising news about the rise of Pacific Union International to #55 on the list.  I love working at this company!


No. 55: Pacific Union 
Mark McLaughlin, CEO
The San Francisco real estate brokerage grew 140.8 percent from 2011 to 2013.

Full Article:



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Marin County – Quarterly Real Estate Report – Q3 2014

Marin County: Q3 Results
Third-quarter real estate activity in Pacific Union’s Marin County region was a study in contrasts. July and August were exceptionally slow, but after Labor Day, the market caught fire as vacationing Bay Area residents returned home and set about the business of finding the perfect property. The higher end of the market saw strong sales, with multiple offers the rule for any well-priced home located in an attractive area.Inventory remained slim, however, as sellers held off putting their homes on the market. The run-up in prices over the past two years offered a clear incentive to sell, but many owners were caught in a Catch-22: Selling, even at a healthy profit, puts them in the same predicament as other buyers, scrambling to find their next home in an extremely tight market.

Mill Valley and Kentfield were the most active markets in the region. Homes priced from $1 million to $1.3 million sold briskly.

Looking Forward: Unlike the start of the third quarter, real estate activity in the fourth quarter looks to be quite vigorous, continuing the momentum that broke out in September. Buyers are already scouting the region to close sales before the holiday season arrives.

Defining Marin County: Our real estate markets in Marin County include the cities of Belvedere, Corte Madera, Fairfax, Greenbrae, Kentfield, Larkspur, Mill Valley, Novato, Ross, San Anselmo, San Rafael, Sausalito, and Tiburon. Sales data in the charts below includes single-family homes in these communities.

Median Sales Price

The median sales price represents the midpoint in the range of all prices paid. It indicates that half the prices paid were higher than this number, and half were lower. It is not the same measure as “average” sales price.

Q3_Median Sales

Months’ Supply of Inventory

The months’ supply of inventory is a measure of how quickly the current supply of homes would be sold at the current sales rate, assuming no more homes came on the market. In general, an MSI below 4 is considered a seller’s market; between 4 and 6 is a balanced market; and above 6 is a buyer’s market.

Q3_Months Supply

Average Days on the Market

Average days on the market is a measure that indicates the pace of sales activity. It tracks, on average, the number of days a listing is active until it reaches “pending” status, meaning all contingencies have been removed and both parties are just waiting to close.

Q3_Average Days on Market

Percentage of Properties

Under ContractPercentage of properties under contract is a forward-looking indicator of sales activity. It tracks expected home sales before the paperwork is completed and the sale actually closes.

Q3_Percentage of Properties Under Contract

Sales Price as a Percentage of Original Price

Measuring the sales price as a percentage of the final list price, which may include price reductions from the original list price, determines the success of a seller in receiving the hoped-for sales amount. It also indicates the level of sales activity in a region.

Q3_Sales Prices as Percentage

A Closer Look at Marin County

Q3_Marin County Q3


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10 Luxury Homes With Slashed Prices

Interesting article from Forbes Magazine about home prices in Belvedere. A definite read for all Marin County residences.

By: Erin Carlyle 

Home prices are rising across the nation. According to the latest data available from S&P/Case-Shiller, April sales prices across 20 major metros were up 10.8% year-over-year. But on prestigious Belvedere Island north of San Francisco, the most expensive home officially listed on the market is being offered at a deep, 31.6% price cut.

Initially listed at $27.5 million in May 2010, the 9,415-square-foot, six-bedroom home has been price-slashed twice. In February 2013, the price dropped to $21.95 million. Then in March, it dipped even further, to $18.8 million. Given the fact that the property has been on the market for four years now, a buyer might snag it for even less.

Despite a string of record-breaking $100-million-plus home sales this year, price tag reductions in theluxury market aren’t all that unusual. ”The upper end is going to look at their property a one-of-a-kind piece of artwork,” explains Ken DeLeon, a luxury broker in Palo Alto, Calif. “You’re more inclined to see people try a bold number, a big number, to start. And when that fails, you have to kind of get more realistic …It’s no longer a Rembrandt, it’s just a home.”

With the help of, which collects more than 98% of the listings on the nation’s Multiple Listings Services, Forbes compiled a list of 10 homes with majorly reduced prices. More than half of these properties have seen price reductions of greater than 20%; two have been reduced by more than 30%. The home closest to its original list price is still being offered at a 12% discount.

Luxury Homes at Discount Prices

Sellers and brokers who find they need to reduce prices may have been overly optimistic. to start out, says Dolly Lenz, an ultra-luxury broker in New York City. ”Perhaps [they] see a trophy sale reported (by you) and think that can happen for them as well,”

In many cases, the discounts are bucking against the local trends. In the greater San Francisco area, the median price for the top one-third of the residential market rose 34.1% from November 2011 (when the national housing market hit bottom) through March 2014, according to Zillow Z -3.37%. In other words, as luxury home prices in San Francisco were rising by about more than 30%, the nearby Belvedere Island estate dropped its price at about the same rate.

A similar situation holds true for “Fidelio,” a 12,000-square-foot home plus 5,000-square foot office on 61 acres in rural The Plains, Virginia,. Listed for $21 million in April 2013, the estate has since dropped to $15 million, a 28.57% cut. Meanwhile, about an hour East in Washington, D.C., prices have moved in the opposite direction: the median price for top-tier homes rose 11.5% from the November 2011 national bottom through March 2014. Thirty-five miles southwest, in Culpeper, Va., the median price for the top one-third of the residential market is up 15.3% in the same period.


The situation is replicated a third time in Post Falls, Idaho, where a 28,469-square-foot waterfront estate with 13 bedrooms and a 10-car garage was initially listed for $15.995 million in September 2011, then dropped by 25% to $11.995 million in July. In Spokane, Wash., 25 miles across the Idaho-Washington state border, the median price for a top tier home is up a modest 4.5% since the national market bottomed out, according to Zillow. A luxury property in the prestigious Old Preston Hollow neighborhood of Dallas, Tex., is being offered at $14.99 million, a 23% price cut. Meanwhile, the median price for the top one-third of the Dallas-Fort Worth residential market has gone up 12.6%.

Given that these luxury homes are moving in a downward direction, the cuts likely indicate a case of the “Rembrandt” pricing that DeLeon referenced.

“The luxury market has always seen list prices that were set higher above actual market levels,” says Jonathan Miller, president of real estate appraisal and consulting firm Miller Samuel Inc. “The housing stock tends to be less homogeneous so it is higher to price and [has] longer marketing times. It also sees more price creep than most sectors–i.e. ‘The house down the street got $5 million, so my house that is half the size must be worth at least $4 million.’”

Of course, some markets aren’t seeing price reductions in the luxury market at all. “I certainly don’t see it in Beverly Hills because the inventory is so minimal,” says Jeff Hyland, president of Los Angeles firm Hilton & Hyland, who says that sellers there wait out the market rather than cut prices. “We’ve seen a 20% increase in property prices, so I don’t see price reductions unless someone has bought another property, or there’s a divorce, or a death.” (And indeed, no property on our list is located in Los Angeles.)

Check out our full list of Luxury Homes With Slashed Prices.

(Note: Our tally of the most expensive homes on the market in Belvedere Island excludes Locksley Hall, which in 2005 was listed at $65 million, before dropping to $48 million. That home now features a price available “upon request” and is not officially on the market, according to agent Oliva Hsu Decker.)


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Two S.F. restaurants join world’s best, elevated to three Michelin stars

The 2015 Michelin Guide to restaurants made superstars of two more San Francisco fine-dining establishments, elevating Saison and Benu to three stars.

SF Restaurant Stars

The Bay Area and Wine Country now have four restaurants with three stars: The French Laundry, The Restaurant at Meadowood, Saison and Benu. Only approximately 100 restaurants worldwide hold three stars, and the designation is significant for chefs, who can use it to pack tables and boost their reputations in the often cut-throat fine dining world.

Michelin cited Chef Corey Lee‘s “incredibly precise culinary technique…. Corey applies a combination of classic French technique along with American, various Asian and noticeable Korean flavors to produce truly unique culinary creations.”

Saison’s Chef Joshua Skenes was praised for offering “seafood of stunning quality with a clear respect for Japanese cuisine, combined with a mastery of the northern California culinary philosophy”

Saison recently set the table for a $495 private dinner with Skenes and wine director Mark Bright. The restaurant’s regular tasting menu comes in at $248 and beverage pairings are an additional $248. Saison’s most expensive menu — the “discovery menu” is $646 with wine pairings. Now, those prices may be easier to justify, with the additional star.

But Skenes is not just content to go high-brow, he’s also targeting fast casual eaters, withthe announcement that he is opening Fat Noodle at Second and Mission Streets.

Benu’s Lee has also been ambitious and in expansion mode lately. French Laundry alumLee recently opened French eatery Monsieur Benjamin in Hayes Valley, which has seen strong reviews.

In addition to Benu and Saison winning accolades, the Bay Area restaurants with two stars are Acquerello, Atelier Crenn, Coi and Quince in San Francisco, Baume in Palo Alto and Manresa in Los Altos, which is temporarily closed after a fire in July.

According to Eater SF, “Acquerello was the only new entrant to the two-star category, and that upgrade makes chef Suzette Gresham America’s third female chef with two Michelin stars; no woman in the U.S. holds three stars as of yet.”

The one-star list, which includes stalwarts Spruce, SPQR, State Bird Provisions, La Folie, Aziza and many, many others, saw two newcomers: Kusakabe and Maruya, according to Michelin.

The Bay Area and Wine Country Michelin Guide goes on sale tomorrow.


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The 21 Best Dive Bars in America – 2014

21 Dive Bars in America 2014

I was pleasantly surprised to see our local Silver Peso in Larkspur made the list for top 21 Best Dive Bars in America!

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