Real Estate Data for the Rest of Us

Pending Sales Momentum Slows, But Strong Summer Still Expected

Looking at this month’s report, pending home sales slowed for the first time in five months, indicating a slower end of the summer selling season than anticipated. In July, it posted a monthly decline of 1. 8%, but a solid 8.2% annual increase, following a consistent annual gain of 10.4% last month. The index has increased on an annual basis for ten consecutive months now.

Here’s why this is notable, and what home buyers and sellers should know:

  • Affordability is going to be the decisive factor in the housing market’s continued recovery. Since pending sales are homes that are in escrow (e.g., have a signed contract) and will likely close in 1 to 2 months, it suggests that existing home sales through the summer will post solid year-over-year gains. However, we starting to see a slowdown which may be because home prices are pushing up against the affordability ceiling especially in faster moving markets where inventory is tight.
  • Regionally, the housing markets where we continue to see an upswing in home buying and selling activity are areas with strong job growth, particularly the West (10.4%), followed by the South (7.8%) and Midwest (5.0%). We’re also seeing a 12% spike in the Northeast, which had stalled thanks to an especially cold winter.
  • To take a deep dive into what’s happening in the West, specifically in California, the California Pending Home Sales Index also released earlier this week showed continued robust growth with 5 straight months of double-digit increases. However, increases were driven by stronger markets in the Central Valley and Southern California, while pending sales in the San Francisco Bay Area reversed from the period of improvements. Bifurcation of California markets speak to affordability limits that some high performing markets may be reaching. Additionally, with inventory shortages persisting in those markets, there also may be a limit to how far improvements will go.
  • First-time buyers have made a marked comeback, which is promising for housing market going forward. Fears over millennials’ disinterest in homeownership is abating, and the increase in their homeownership rate as indicated in the latest Census’ Homeownership survey is a promising gage for where they stand on homeownership.

 

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Slowing Price Appreciation Good For Sustainable Housing Recovery

The Case-Shiller index released this morning revealed an annual price appreciation that increased slightly, but was mostly flat. Overall, this is a good sign for the housing market and consistent with other positive housing indicators that were recently released. Here are my thoughts:

  • While the appreciation in home prices picked up slightly, it is still slower than what we’ve seen over the two years. This lack of monthly growth suggest steadier market conditions and is a welcomed change because it indicates a more sustainable housing recovery and a balance between buyers and sellers. The National Home Price Index increased a 4.3% from last May, which is slightly higher than the 4.2% increase in April 2015.
  • A slower pace of growth is a good news for potential home buyers because it means the housing market will be less frenzied. In the last couple of years, many have been discouraged by rapid price increases and bidding wars. On the other hand, a slowdown in home prices may discourage some home sellers from listing their homes. When adjusted inflation prices are about 20% below the peak nationally – and at levels seen in 2003, though prices have exceeded the previous peaks in some metros, such as in Denver and Dallas.
  • Variation in home price appreciation rates reflects varying local economies. Robust increases in prices persists in markets with the strongest job growth, but also where inventories of homes available for sale have been tight. The highest annual increases were in again in Denver, San Francisco and Dallas, which all which posted a robust gain of around 10% year over year.
  • Although the Case-Shiller index lags compared to other home price indices (as it accounts for price changes between March and May), it is accounting for the impact of mix of sales, and suggests that prices are in effect rising more timidly. The 10-City Composite increased 4.7% from last May, while the 20-City Composite increased 4.9% during that the same period. The slight pick up in price gains is consistent with previously released data indicators, thought we may see some slowing in Case-Shiller index growth again in the next couple of months
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The Debt of Wrath: Do Student Loans Affect Saving for a Home?

In less expensive housing markets, young millennials saving up for a 20% down payment will actually be hindered by a college degree because of student debt payments. But in the most expensive markets, only those with a college degree will be able to make enough to save up for a home within their lifetime.

To go to college, or not to go? That is a question many millennials ask themselves. A college degree undeniably comes with perks, including better long-term job prospects and higher lifetime earnings. But many millennials who get a college degree must pay back student loans, making it more difficult to save for a down payment in the short run.

So why does this matter? Well, saving for a down payment is one of the biggest obstacles to homeownership. In fact, according to a recent Trulia survey*, 30% of 25-30 year olds in the U.S. said that they are currently trying to save for a down payment in the next two years. Moreover, there’s been much discussion about the impact of student loan debt on the ability of recent graduates to save for a down payment and buy a home.

So the real question is – if owning a home is part of your personal American Dream, is a college degree a necessary pre-cursor to being able to afford a down payment and securing the keys? The answer depends on where you want to buy a home.

Can You Really Save Up for a Down Payment?
A common approach to figuring out how long it will take to save for a down payment to buy a home is to calculate a 20% down payment (the ideal amount home buyers should put down) using the median housing price of a metro area, and assume that a would-be homebuyer is saving 10% of what they make each year (for which we’ll use the annual median household income). To get the number of years that it will take for a household to save for a home, you then divide the 20% down payment by the amount saved each year.

So, if the median house is priced at $200,000 and the median household income is $50,000, it would take eight years for the median household to save for a down payment.

Median Priced Home: $200,000
20% Down Payment on Median Priced Home: 20% x $200,000 = $40,000
Median Annual Income: $50,000
10% of Income Saved Each Year: 10% x $50,000 = $5,000
# of Years Required to Save Down Payment: $40,000 / $5,000 = 8 Years

However, eight years isn’t really an accurate estimate of how long it will take to save for a down payment because both home prices and household income can change during those eight years. For example, if you’re not getting a raise at the same rate at which home prices are rising, it will take longer to save for a down payment and vice versa. Additionally, this calculation doesn’t factor in student debt repayment, which is one obstacle to homeownership for college-educated millennials. The average college-educated American has about $26,000 in student loan debt, which translates into an average monthly payment of about $280 per month on a 10-year repayment plan. Moreover, approximately 30% of young millennial households have a 4-year college degree and 70% do not.

A more accurate method (which we used here in this study) is to estimate how much home prices and household income change over time, and calculate the point in time at which cumulative household savings equals the down payment required at that future time period. This calculation also factors in student debt repayment and how that takes away from a household’s saving power.

To estimate how much the required down payment will grow over time, we used the 20-year Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) home price growth rate for each of the 100 largest U.S. metros given the current median listing home prices on Trulia. For household income growth, we used data from the Census’ 2013 American Community Survey (ACS) to identify the difference in income between fully-employed 25-30 year olds and 45-50 years olds with and without a college degree to extrapolate how much money each group is expected to make over time. Doing so takes into account the fact that households tend see the largest increase in income over this 20-year period. We then assume a 20% down payment requirement and 10% savings rate for each group. For the college-educated group, we assume that they’ve signed up for a 10-year repayment plan on their student loans and subtracted the average monthly student loan payment ($280) from their savings for the first 120 months. Last, we identify the specific month in the future at which each group – those with and without college degrees — has saved up enough for a 20% down payment on a median priced home in their respective housing market.

Where You Can Save for a Down Payment Fast
First, the good news: there are many housing markets in the U.S. where a Millennial will be able to make enough money to save for a down payment in a reasonable time, regardless of whether they hold a college degree. Topping the list is Detroit, where a 25-30 year old could save for a down payment in 4.1 years with a college degree and 5.3 years without. Dominating the rest of the list are metros in Ohio where would-be homeowners in Akron, Dayton, Cleveland and Toledo can save for a down payment in six years or less.

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Where You Can Save a 20% Down Payment Fast
With a College Degree Without a College Degree
# U.S. Metro Years Needed to Save for Down Payment Required Down Payment at Time of Purchase U.S. Metro Years Needed to Save for Down Payment Required Down Payment at Time of Purchase
1 Detroit, MI 4.1 $21,644 Detroit, MI 5.3 $22,145
2 Camden, NJ 5.3 $43,348 Dayton, OH 5.3 $26,339
3 Dayton, OH 5.7 $26,534 Buffalo, NY 5.4 $32,483
4 Akron, OH 5.9 $29,861 Akron, OH 5.7 $29,718
5 Cleveland, OH 6.1 $30,437 Toledo, OH 5.8 $27,875
6 Buffalo, NY 6.3 $33,055 Camden, NJ 5.9 $43,993
7 Rochester, NY 6.3 $32,767 Cleveland, OH 5.9 $30,343
8 Toledo, OH 6.6 $28,322 Rochester, NY 6.3 $32,767
9 Pittsburgh, PA 6.7 $37,838 Pittsburgh, PA 6.3 $37,556
10 Kansas City, MO 6.8 $39,330 Syracuse, NY 6.4 $35,329

 

Where You Can Save Faster Without a College Degree
What’s more is that in several of these housing markets, millennial households without a college degree can actually save for a down payment faster than college-educated households. For example, in metros like Columbia, El Paso and Las Vegas, 25-30 year old households without a college degree will be able to save for a down payment at least a year and a half faster than those with a college degree.

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Where You Can Save at Least 1 Year Faster Without a College Degree
# U.S. Metro Years Needed to Save without College Degree Years Needed to Save with College Degree Difference
1 Columbia, SC 8.1 9.7 -1.6 years
2 El Paso, TX 7.4 9.0 -1.6 years
3 Las Vegas, NV 8.7 10.2 -1.5 years
4 Daytona Beach, FL 10.8 11.9 -1.1 years

How is this possible? Two reasons. First, the boost in income that you get for having a college degree in these metros is small. Second, households with college degrees typically have student loan payments, which hinder their ability to save for a down payment.

 

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Want To Be A California Homeowner? Go To College!
Next the bad news: there are several housing markets where a college degree is the ticket to saving for a 20% down payment, and nearly all of them are in California.

And even households with a college degree will start to show gray hairs by the time they’ve saved up enough to buy a home. For example, it will take 29.4 years for a 25-30 year old household to save up a 20% down payment on a median priced home in San Francisco, 18.8 years in Los Angeles, 18.5 years in Orange County and 17.7 years in San Diego and San Jose.

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Where Saving For a 20% Down Payment Takes Decades
With College Degree Without a College Degree
# U.S. Metro Years Needed to Save for Down Payment Required Down Payment at time of purchase U.S. Metro Years Needed to Save for Down Payment Required Down Payment at time of purchase
1 San Francisco, CA 29.4 $560,590 San Francisco, CA Not Possible N/A
2 Los Angeles, CA 18.8 $196,616 San Jose, CA 45.4 $665,508
3 Orange County, CA 18.5 $235,959 Los Angeles, CA 39.9 $353,270
4 San Diego, CA 17.7 $192,081 Orange County, CA 32.3 $347,842
5 San Jose, CA 17.7 $289,072 San Diego, CA 29.0 $262,589
6 Honolulu, HI 16.0 $165,588 Oakland, CA 27.3 $267,605
7 Oakland, CA 15.6 $193,453 Ventura County, CA 22.9 $230,929
8 Ventura County, CA 15.5 $189,325 New York, NY 20.2 $149,905
9 Denver, CO 14.3 $125,314 Fairfield County, CT 20.1 $185,494
10 Cape CoralFort Myers, FL 13.3 $74,130 Honolulu, HI 18.0 $173,574

The news gets even worse for those that don’t have a college degree. In pricey San Francisco, saving up for a 20% down payment is impossible. Why? Because prices are high and rising fast, so the monthly increase for the required down payment outpaces the increase in the total monthly household savings during a typical lifespan. And in other California metros, young millennials without college degree will be old and gray (or possibly in the grave) by the time they’ve saved enough for a 20% down payment – 45.4 years in San Jose, 39.9 years in Los Angeles, 32.3 years in Orange County, 29.0 years in San Diego, 27.3 years in Oakland and 22.9 years in Ventura County.

Trulia_SJDownpayment_Chart

No College Degree? Try a 10% Down Payment.
Just because you don’t have a college degree, doesn’t mean you should completely abandon your dreams of homeownership. While a 20% down payment is the “traditional” amount that allows borrowers to avoid costly mortgage insurance, it is not uncommon for homebuyers to put 10% down (however, we recommend putting down as large of a down payment as you can afford). In the long run, putting 20% down will save you money, but putting 10% down can get you into a home in less than half the time. How is this possible? Because price appreciation outpaces income growth for that cohort, so the required down payment for a home increases faster than the marginal increase in monthly savings contributions.

For example, millennials without a college degree in San Francisco will actually be able to save for a 10% down payment in 28.5 years, compared to not being able to save for a 20% down payment ever. And in other expensive metros, the number of years to save for a down payment is cut by more than half. In pricey San Jose, the time is cut from 45.4 years to just 15.4; in Los Angeles it drops from 39.9 to 12.8 years; Orange County drops from 32.3 to 11.6 years and San Diego moves from 29.0 to only 11.8 years.

Trulia_SFDownpayment_Chart

Saving 20% Down vs. 10% Down in the Most Expensive Housing Markets Without a College Degree
U.S. Metro # of Years to Save 20% Down Payment # of Years to Save 10% Down Payment
San Francisco, CA Not Possible 28.5
San Jose, CA 45.4 15.4
Los Angeles, CA 39.9 12.8
Orange County, CA 32.3 11.6
San Diego, CA 29.0 11.8
Oakland, CA 27.3 11.3
Ventura County, CA 22.9 9.8
New York, NY 20.2 8.8
Fairfield County, CT 20.1 9.3
Honolulu, HI 18.0 8.3

To recap, student loans payments temporarily hinder households saving for a down payment. But because college-educated households earn more in the long-run, a college degree is about the only way to save for a down payment in some of the most expensive markets. However, households without a household degree should fear not – saving up for a 10% down payment is disproportionally faster because of higher appreciation in house prices relative to income during the additional years of saving for 20% down

METHODOLOGY
To estimate how a college degree impacts the ability to save for a down payment, we take a three step-approach:

(1) Estimate income, income growth, and monthly savings for each month into the future.

We use 2013 ACS data on annual median incomes for households headed by 25-30 year olds with and without a college degree for each of the largest 100 metropolitan areas. Next, we use the median annual income of households headed by 45-50 year olds with and without college degrees to project household income growth for each cohort. In addition, we assume a 2% inflation-adjusted increase in pay, and a generous savings account interest rate of 1%. Doing so takes into account the fact that household income tend to increase over time, both because of inflation but also because of life-cycle effects. We then assume each household saves 10% of their monthly income for a down payment, but subtract the average student loan payment of $280 from the college-educated cohort’s savings for the first 10 years (estimated payment on the average student loan debt is available here: https://studentloans.gov/myDirectLoan/mobile/repayment/repaymentEstimator.action).

(2) Estimate median prices, price growth, and the estimated down payment for each month into the future.

We estimate the 20% down payment on the median priced home for each metro in each month. To do this, we use the FHFA 20-year growth rate to the June 2015 median house price listing on Trulia for each metro weighted by a 2% inflation rate. Doing so takes into account the fact that house prices change during the period in which a household is saving for a down payment.

(3) Estimate the month in the future when each cohort can buy a home.

We calculate the month in time when cumulative monthly household savings equals the required 20% down payment for each cohort, and then convert the number of months into a yearly figure. We calculate the number of years to save for a 10% down payment in similar manner.

* This survey was conducted online within the United States between May 26th and 28th, 2015 among 2,026 adults (aged 18 and over) by Harris Poll on behalf of Trulia via its Quick Query omnibus product. Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population.Propensity score weighting was used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, the words “margin of error” are avoided as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in our surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated

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Spin Cities: Where Renters Pay The Most For In-Unit Washers and Dryers

Doing laundry sucks and having to go to a Laundromat each week sucks even more. But the hassle may outweigh the added cost of having an in-unit washer and dryer, depending on where you live. In Philadelphia, renters pay a 20% premium to have laundry within their rentals, while those in Dallas-Fort Worth pay a 3% premium.

Mark Uh
June 16, 2015

Summer is coming. But instead of spending the endless days of the season lounging by a pool, many renters will inevitably spend a portion of their days hauling laundry down the block or across town to their local Laundromat.

Here at Trulia, we (and your landlord) know that having an in-unit washer and dryer is a coveted amenity that often ranks high on renters’ list of must-haves. But just how much extra in rent are you likely to pay each month to not have to collect quarters or haul your skivvies down the street for the world to see?

Trulia took a spin through the large multi-family buildings listed for rent on its site and found that across 13 top metro areas, in-unit washers and dryers command a 10% per month premium on average.

Those living in Philadelphia pay the biggest premium for in-unit laundry to the tune of 20%, or $211 extra in monthly rent. Those living in Seattle pay 4%, about $29 more in rent each month to avoid having to brave the rain with their laundry baskets in tow.

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Where Renters Must Pay The Highest Premiums for an In-Unit Washer Dryer *
U.S. Metro(click on hyperlinks below to access interactive neighborhood maps) Average  % Rent Premium Average $ Rent Premium % of Multifamily Rentals Listed as Having a Washer / Dryer Median Year Built Median Rent
Philadelphia 20% $211 48% 1965 $1200
Los Angeles 17% $325 26% 1987 $2095
San Francisco 14% $245 35% 1979 $2620
Boston 14% $255 36% 1956 $2000
Chicago 11% $168 56% 2001 $1796
New York 10% $175 20% 1958 $2100
Houston 9% $139 36% 2001 $1450
Washington 8% $133 58% 1996 $1750
San Diego 8% $118 37% 1986 $1750
Atlanta 7% $73 33% 2000 $1200
Miami-Fort Lauderdale 5% $79 42% 1990 $1650
Seattle 4% $29 41% 1994 $1495
Dallas-Fort Worth 3% $33 26% 2002 $1200
*Please note that the washer/dryer premium in this study refers to the premium one must pay in order to live in an apartment that has a private washer/dryer within the unit. This premium does not apply to units that do not have a washer/dryer in-unit but do have communal washers/dryers on building premises.

The Down and Dirty On Laundry Costs

Anyone who has rented an apartment without laundry knows that it takes time, energy and a lot of quarters to get your clothes clean. Even if there are Laundromats within walking distance of your apartment, carrying 10lbs of laundry can be burdensome.

In large cities, wash and folds (places that do your laundry for you) cost around $1.00 per pound of laundry. Assuming that you do 10lbs of laundry per week, you will spend $40 per month. If you opt for cheaper, coin-operated machines, at $3 a load you’ll pay a least $12 a month.

If you live in Seattle or Dallas-Fort Worth, renters could be better off renting a unit with a washer and dryer because the costs of doing laundry offsite are similar to the washer/dryer premium in those metros. In the other metros listed, however, you’ll pay anywhere from $73 to $325 extra, so renters on a budget will have to weigh the inconvenience of having to go to the Laundromat over the cost savings.

Sprawled out metros such as Philadelphia and Los Angeles likely have a greater washer/ dryer premium, because the distance from most apartments to the nearest Laundromats will be farther away. Metros where the cost of goods and living is more expensive (and presumably laundry services are more expensive) such as New York, San Francisco, and Boston also have high premiums.

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Washer/Dryer a Must-Have Amenity? Start The Search Cycle In these Suds-Friendly Neighborhoods

Have you decided that having laundry in your apartment is worth the added premium? Below are some helpful maps showing renters which ZIP codes have the highest percentage (shown in dark green) and lowest percentage (shown in light green) of large apartment buildings with washer and dryers in-unit. Click on the maps to be taken to an interactive city map showing where you’ll find the highest percent of in-unit apartment washers and dryers.

PhiladelphiaPhiladelphiaNeighborhoods with the highest % of in-unit washer/dryer: Conshohocken, Manayunk, Northern Liberties, Callowhill

Neighborhoods with the lowest % of in-unit washer/dryer: Overbrook Farms, Millbourne, Walnut Hill 

Los AngelesLosAngelesNeighborhoods with highest % of in-unit washer/dryer: Santa Monica, Pasadena, Studio City, Little Tokyo, Skid Row, Arts District

Neighborhoods with lowest % of in-unit washer/dryer: Woodland Hills, View Park–Windsor Hills, Wilshire Center, Koreatown

San FranciscoSanFranciscoNeighborhoods with the highest % of in-unit washer/dryer: Inner Richmond, Laurel Heights, Lone Mountain, South Beach

Neighborhoods with the lowest % of in-unit washer/dryer: Twin Peaks, Diamond Heights, Glen Park

BostonBostonNeighborhoods with highest % of in-unit washer/dryer: Downtown, South End, Mission Hill, South Boston

Neighborhoods with lowest % of in-unit washer/dryer: Fenway/Kenmore, Allston/Brighton, Roxbury, Dorchester, Mattapan

ChicagoChicagoNeighborhoods with the highest % of in-unit washer/dryer: West Loop Gate, The Loop, River North, South Loop

Neighborhoods with the lowest % of in-unit washer/dryer: Roseland, South Chicago, South Austin, Garfield Park

New York NewYorkNeighborhoods with the highest % of in-unit washer/dryer: Midtown West, Lenox Hill, Tribeca, Hudson Square, SoHo

Neighborhoods with the lowest % of in-unit washer/dryer: Greenwich Village, West Village, Midtown East 

HoustonHoustonNeighborhoods with the highest % of in-unit washer/dryer: South Main, River Oaks, Fourth Ward, Westbury, Willow Meadows

Neighborhoods with the lowest % of in-unit washer/dryer: Gulfgate-Pine Valley, Greater East End, Magnolia Park, Afton Oaks

District of Columbia DCNeighborhoods with the highest % of in-unit washer/dryer: Shaw, LeDroit Park, Capitol Hill, Arlington – Clarendon

Neighborhoods with the lowest % of in-unit washer/dryer: Southwest Waterfront, Fort Dupont, Shepherd Park

San DiegoSanDiegoNeighborhoods with the highest % of in-unit washer/dryerScripps Ranch, Mission Valley, Mission Valley East, Torrey Highlands, Rancho Pentasquitos

Neighborhoods with the lowest % of in-unit washer/dryer: Barrio Logan, Kensington, Normal Heights, University Heights, El Cajon

AtlantaAtlantaNeighborhoods with the highest % of in-unit washer/dryerNorthLake, Sandy Springs, Lindridge-Martin Manor, Lindbergh

Neighborhoods with the lowest % of in-unit washer/dryer: Redan, Lithonia, Union City, Atlanta University area

Miami MiamiNeighborhoods with the highest % of in-unit washer/dryer: Downtown, Dodge Island, Virginia Key, Upper East Side, Morningside, Edgewater

Neighborhoods with the lowest % of in-unit washer/dryerBrownsville, Allapatttah, Coral Way, Miami Shores, El Portal

Seattle SeattleNeighborhoods with the highest % of in-unit washer/dryerWoodinville, Cottage Lake, Kingsgate, Totem Lake

Neighborhoods with the lowest % of in-unit washer/dryer: Canyon Park, Pioneer Square, West Lake, South West Union

Dallas DallasNeighborhoods with the highest % of in-unit washer/dryerLos Colinas, Broadmoor Hills, Deep Ellum, Castlemere, Willow Bend, Breckenridge Park

Neighborhoods with the lowest % of in-unit washer/dryer:
Southwestern District, Grand Prairie, University Park, Downtown

Methodology

Data is sourced from the Zillow Group rental listing database. We looked just at units in multi-family apartment buildings for rent between September 2014 and February 2015. For each metro area, the listings were split into quartiles based on the age of the building. We then took the difference between the median rent of apartments that have a washer/dryer and apartments that do not have a washer/dryer in order to obtain the ($) premium for each quartile. We averaged these ($) premium figures in order to obtain the average ($) premium for each metro.

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An Economist Goes House Hunting

Trulia’s new chief economist shares her take on today’s housing market and how she looked at the numbers and weighed her options as she searched for a place to call home San Francisco.

Hello everyone. My name is Selma Hepp, Trulia’s new Chief Economist. I am thrilled to now be a part of Trulia’s housing economics research team. Over the years, I’ve admired the prolific and creative insights that Trulia has uncovered about the housing market and I’m excited to build on the great work that has already been done.

I’m joining Trulia at an exciting time for the company and at a point of transition for the housing market. Home prices, sales, and new construction have been bouncing back over the past five years, and in some markets have outpaced their growth during the boom. In the beginning, investors propped up most of this growth, but now key economic fundamentals like job growth and household formation are driving the recovery. While this is great news for the economy, it’s actually a double-edge sword for the average house hunter: as home values improve, affordability worsens. In fact, housing affordability is one of the most pressing housing issues right now, and one of the key themes that I want to explore on the Trulia Trends blog in addition to inequality, and how major demographic shifts are impacting homeownership.

Trulia will continue to publish new research that will help house hunters understand which trends really matter, such as: Can I really afford a home in this neighborhood? What’s it like to live in this neighborhood? Where can I find my dream home? What compromises do I need to make?  At the same time, I will follow all the major housing policy decisions and key industry reports– from home prices, sales, new construction starts, mortgage rates and job growth – and help house hunters translate what’s happening and how it will impact them. If you have a question or want to talk through story ideas, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me by email (selma@trulia.com) or Twitter (@SelmaHepp).

My Journey Home
When I accepted the position as Trulia’s Chief Economist, I immediately started my home search. The new job meant a long distance move from Los Angeles to the San Francisco Bay Area.

Buying a home typically takes 18 months. San Francisco is a notoriously expensive place for renters and buyers. The going median rent in the metro area is $3,500 which is actually $400 more than metro New York. Median prices, similarly, are well above a million dollars. The caveat, again, is actually finding a home that suits ones needs given the Bay Area’s notoriously tight supply of homes for sale. In the most desirable locations, the inventory supply is barely approaching two months. To put this into context, a more balanced housing market would require about seven months of homes for sale. But I’m not discouraged – inventory has been on an upswing and has improved over the last year.

Fortunately, I was able to find a sublease for a studio apartment in North Beach for three months – which would give me some time to really get to know the city and consider other locations around the Bay Area (many of my friends and colleagues suggested that I check out Oakland). But for now, I’m in love with my new home. In the coming months, I plan on soaking in all that San Francisco has to offer as I think about new ways of helping home buyers, sellers, and renters understand the housing market – all while enjoying my new view.

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