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San Francisco real estate ‘overvalued,’ says Swiss financial firm

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Them’s fighting words around here

A photo of a San Francisco street taken through a bubble. Photo via Wikicommons

Zurich-based Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS) released its annual Global Real Estate Bubble Index Thursday. The financial firm ranks San Francisco as one of the most overpriced cities in the world. It also says we’re heading toward a dangerous price bubble.

To back this up, UBS cites some alarming statistics. Via a press release the firm said of SF’s housing market:

In San Francisco, in the wake of the technology boom and buoyant foreign demand, real house prices have soared 65 percent since 2012. Price growth has slowed in recent quarters, but remains 6 percent above the national average.

Despite the thriving economy, average incomes have risen only 10 percent since 2012 and have not kept pace with house prices, worsening housing affordability further.

Estimates by the U.S. Census disagree with a few of those numbers. San Francisco’s median household income went from $73,012 in 2012 to $103,801 in 2016, according to the American Community Survey. That’s an increase of more than 42 percent.

Median non-family households went from $59,924/year to $81,776, an increase of 36 percent.

However, UBS is correct stating that income can’t keep up with housing.

Photo by Focqus

Paragon Real Estate estimated in June that the average price of a single-family home in San Francisco increased nearly 100 percent since 2012, breaking $1.5 million. This number appears more drastic than the 65 percent UBS figures.

So, even if the numbers disagree, there’s at least nominal consensus on the trend. (Any would-be San Francisco home buyer over the past five years would support this anecdotally.)

Of 20 cities assessed in UBS’s bubble index, San Francisco ranks tenth. Obviously, that’s not good. It is, however, not bad enough for UBS to term the city a “bubble risk,” instead still holding steady as simply “overpriced.”

UBS ranked SF’s high risk as largely steady the last three years in a row. It’s not so bad compared to, say, number-one ranked Toronto. But UBS still terms SF “the most overvalued U.S. urban housing market” that it studied.

Also of note, UBS’s own investments didn’t do a great job of anticipating the last big real estate bubble, as the company required a $5.3 billion bailout in 2008, with much of the money coming from the Swiss government.