Real Estate Data for the Rest of Us

articles about “Home Prices

How Special Are Million-Dollar Listings?

Homes that cost a million dollars or more are rare in most of the country but make up more than 20% of the for-sale market in San Francisco, Fairfield County, and San Jose. The typical million-dollar listing in New York is smaller than the average American home.

Close your eyes and imagine a million-dollar home. Depending on where you live, you might be picturing the modest three-bedroom down the street, or you might be thinking of a sprawling mansion. You might even be drawing a blank if you live in a market where million-dollar homes are almost unheard of.  While a home listed for a million dollars might cause just a shrug in some parts of California and New York, million-dollar homes are few and far between once you get more than a couple hours’ drive from an ocean. To see what a million bucks buys across the country, we calculated the share of for-sale listings on Trulia priced at or above $1,000,000 in each of the 100 largest metros, as well as the typical size of homes priced at or near the million-dollar mark, all as of March 3, 2014.


In Most Metros, Million-Dollar Homes Represent Just a Sliver of the Market
Nothing drives home the huge differences in housing costs across the country more than how rare or common million-dollar homes are. Million-dollar homes account for more than 20% of listings in New York, neighboring Fairfield County, CT, and Long Island; in Orange County and Ventura County, on the southern California coast; and in San Francisco and San Jose. In fact, million-dollar homes make up close to half the San Francisco market, at 44%.

# U.S. Metro Share of for-sale listings priced at or above $1,000,000
1 San Francisco, CA


2 Fairfield County, CT


3 San Jose, CA


4 Orange County, CA


5 Ventura County, CA


6 New York, NY-NJ


7 Long Island, NY


8 Honolulu, HI


9 Los Angeles, CA


10 San Diego, CA


For the share of listings priced at or above $1,000,000 in all of the 100 largest metros, click here.

But in 68 of the 100 largest metros, million-dollar homes make up less than 5% of the for-sale market, including the major metros of Philadelphia, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, and Atlanta. Furthermore, million-dollar homes are less than 2% of the market in 44 of the 100 largest metros. … continue reading


Whipsaw Week Turns Out Strong for Housing Data

The short holiday week isn’t halfway done, but three new data reports have given new signals about the housing recovery.

Jed Kolko, Chief Economist
November 26, 2013

Yesterday NAR reported the fifth straight monthly drop in pending home sales. Today, however, Census reported a big jump in new building permits, to the highest level in 5 years, and Case-Shiller reported the largest month-over-month increase in home prices since April. What should we make of these mixed signals?

•Some of the weakness in the October pending home sales data was probably due to the government shutdown. Watch next month’s data closely for signs of a rebound.

•The October existing home sales data – released last week – were also down, but the overall number masked a key trend: the continued shift from distressed (foreclosure and short sales) to conventional sales. While overall existing sales rose just 6% year-over-year, conventional sales were up 22% year-over-year.

•The shift from distressed to conventional sales is a key part of the housing recovery. Sales data that combine distressed and conventional sales – like pending sales index and the existing home sales index – understate the recovery in home sales.

•Today’s October 2013 permit data showed multifamily permitting the highest in 5 years, with single-family permits just shy of their 5-year high. This was a strong report for construction. The housing starts data for September and October won’t be released until December 18, however.

•These solid permits data are not just due to monthly volatility. The three-month average for total building permits (i.e., Aug-Oct) is also at a 5-year high.

•The construction recovery is uneven. Permits are now above local norms in metro Boston, NYC, San Francisco, Austin, Houston, Oklahoma City, and San Jose. However, permits are still way below local norms in Atlanta, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Sacramento, Chicago, and Detroit.

•Today’s Case-Shiller report for September showed the biggest month-over-month increase since April for the 20-metro index. The more reliable national quarterly report showed Q3 prices rising slightly faster than in Q2 – and the second-highest quarterly gain since 2005 Q4.

•Price gains are clearly slowing in California. In the rest of the country, though, prices are accelerating in some markets and slowing in others.

•Case-Shiller data show what was happening in the market several months ago. The Trulia Price Monitor shows the current trend: October asking prices slowed slightly, but prices are still rising at a fast pace. We’ll report November’s Price and Rent Monitors next Wednesday, December 4.

Overall, this has been a strong 24 hours for housing data. The broader trend in sales data is better than the pending home sales report appears because of (1) the shift from distressed to conventional sales and (2) some of the drop is probably temporary impact of the shutdown.

Price data show healthy slowing from unsustainable levels earlier this year but no signs of a crash. The best news for the housing recovery, though, is the strong permits data. Construction has been the laggard of the recovery, with starts still 40% below normal (as of August), held back by high vacancy rates and slow household formation. The jump in permits points to more construction activity in the next month or two and more inventory coming onto the market next year.


Best Places to Live to Avoid Natural Disasters

In Ohio and upstate New York, you’ll find metros at lower risk for hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, wildfires, and earthquakes. And – as a bonus – it’ll cost you much less to live there.

Jed Kolko, Chief Economist
August 15, 2013

Today, Trulia added three new hazard maps – for wildfires, hurricanes, and tornadoes – to the two hazard maps we introduced earlier this summer, featuring earthquakes and floods. As part of your home search, you can now check Trulia to find whether the neighborhood of your dreams puts you in the eye, at the epicenter, or in the path of a natural disaster. You’ll see that California is high risk for wildfiresFlorida for hurricanesOklahoma for tornadoes, and more.




But where should you live to avoid nature’s wrath? No place is risk-free, of course. But using our new maps, we found 10 large metros that are relatively lower risk for all five types of major natural disaster

Where to Hide from Mother Nature’s Fury
To find the metros that best dodge natural disasters, we used the data that powers our hazard maps and calculated the average risk within each metro area for each of the five types of natural disasters. Most metros were high risk for at least one of the five natural disasters, even though no metro area is high risk for everything. Earthquakes and wildfires tend to go hand-in-hand, with California and other parts of the West highly susceptible for both. Hurricanes and flooding also tend to strike the same places, particularly in Florida and along the Gulf Coast, while tornadoes affect much of the south-central U.S. What parts of the country are left? Not the cities in the coastal Northeast, which – as we all know after Hurricane Sandy – face hurricane and flood risk. Instead, the metros at medium-to-low risk for all five disasters span Ohio (Cleveland, Akron, and Dayton), upstate New York (Syracuse and Buffalo), and other parts of the Northeast and Midwest, away from the coasts.

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Home Prices Rising Faster in Cities than in the Suburbs – Most of All in Gayborhoods

The suburbs may have faster population growth, but urban neighborhoods have faster home-price growth nationally and in 16 of the 20 Case-Shiller metros. Furthermore, home prices are climbing most steeply in high-rise neighborhoods and areas with large gay and lesbian populations.

Home prices have been climbing nationally for more than a year. The Trulia Price Monitor, Case-Shiller, and other price indexes show price gains for nearly all large metro areas. But within a metro, the city and the suburbs are often totally different housing markets.  In last decade’s housing bubble and bust, most of the overbuilding and foreclosures happened in the suburbs and outlying areas, but many downtowns are dotted with vacant buildings or even vacant blocks. Which areas are seeing a stronger recovery – cities or suburbs?

To answer this, we looked at (1) price gains, based on the change in median price per square foot among all non-foreclosure homes for sale on Trulia, and (2) population growth, based on the U.S. Postal Service’s count of occupied households in each ZIP code. Both measures are year-over-year, with prices through the end of May 2013 and population through mid-June 2013. We classify urban and suburban neighborhoods based on the kind of housing they have – urban neighborhoods are mostly condos, apartments, and townhouses, while suburbs have mostly detached, single-family homes – which we think is more accurate than using big-city boundaries (see note).

Urban Neighborhoods Have Stronger Price Recovery, but Slower Population Growth
Here’s the punch line: urban neighborhoods had faster price growth in the past year, while suburban neighborhoods had higher population growth. The median asking price per square foot was up 11.3% in urban neighborhoods, versus 10.2% in suburban neighborhoods.  (The overall national increase, including urban and suburban neighborhoods, was 10.5%.) But despite faster price growth in cities, the suburbs are where people are moving: suburban neighborhoods had faster population growth than urban neighborhoods did, 0.56% versus 0.31%.

Change in home prices, Y-o-Y Change in population, Y-o-Y
Urban neighborhoods



Suburban neighborhoods



But shouldn’t price gains and population growth go hand-in-hand? Not necessarily: there’s more room to build new housing for a growing population in sprawling suburbs than in dense urban areas, so suburbs can more easily accommodate growth with new construction. In contrast, the more people want to live in dense, urban neighborhoods, the more they bid up the price of existing homes. Even with the recent rebound in construction of urban multifamily buildings, most new housing is still in the suburbs.

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Rebound, Not Bubble: Home Prices Still Undervalued

Although home price gains rival those of the last decade’s bubble, home prices today look undervalued by 7%. Prices are overvalued only in a few California and Texas metros.

Home prices today are rising nearly as fast as they did during the peak bubble years of 2005-2006. Since that bubble helped push us into the Great Recession, we should all be on high alert for the next housing bubble. To track whether home prices are in or nearing bubble territory, today we introduce Trulia’s Bubble Watch, which is based on the most recent price data from the Trulia Price Monitor and other data sources.

So are we in bubble territory? No. Bubble-phobes can rest easy. Even with recent sharp home price increases, prices are still low relative to fundamentals and are far below bubble levels.

Back to Basics: How to Spot a Bubble
To see a bubble, you first need to know what you’re looking for. A bubble in home prices (or in the price of any asset – like stocks or even tulips) is when prices soar above their fundamental value. Fundamental value is based on supply, demand, and realistic expectations about the future. We all learned in Economics 101 that prices move back toward an equilibrium determined by fundamentals of supply and demand. In a bubble, however, rising prices encourage speculation and fuel further demand – up until when the bubble suddenly bursts and people rush to sell, which causes prices to accelerate downward, sometimes well below their fundamental value. Bubbles are notoriously difficult to predict and hard to confirm until after they’ve burst: it’s impossible to be sure whether price gains are justified by fundamentals until, if and when, a bubble bursts. San Francisco home prices, for instance, are the highest in the country; is that “irrational exuberance” by speculative homebuyers, or are those prices justified by strong job growth, high incomes, great weather, and constraints on the local housing supply?

To answer that question, we assess whether home prices are overvalued or undervalued relative to their fundamental value by comparing prices today with historical prices, incomes, and rents. Incomes determine how much people can pay for housing, and price increases aren’t sustainable if they push prices too high relative to incomes. Rents reflect how much people value housing even if they won’t benefit from price appreciation (as renters don’t, but owners do); the price-to-rent ratio is like the price-earnings (P/E) ratio for stocks. Using data from multiple sources (see footnote), we create several measures of fundamental value and combine them in order to calculate how overvalued or undervalued home prices are relative to fundamentals.

Home Prices are Undervalued 7% Nationally and Regionally in 91 of the 100 Largest Metros
We estimate that national home prices are 7% undervalued in the second quarter of 2013 (2013 Q2). During last decade’s bubble, prices were as high as 39% overvalued in 2006 Q1, then during the bust, fell to 15% undervalued in 2011 Q4. Therefore, even with the recent price increases, home prices nationally remain undervalued relative to fundamentals and much lower than in the last bubble. That’s why today’s price gains are actually still a rebound, not a bubble. This chart shows how far prices are from bubble territory:


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