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San Jose called hardest place in U.S. to buy a home

Inventory in Silicon Valley capital is up, but it hasn’t made a dent in the problem

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If you just bought a house in San Jose, it might be time to treat yourself to an extra pat on the back, because real estate site would have you believe this was a borderline Herculean feat.

Realtor Deputy News Editor Clare Trapasso reports that San Jose is the single most difficult place to buy a home in the United States. She reached that conclusion by comparing the number of homes currently listed on the site, the median home price in the city, and the overall San Jose population in the last quarter of 2019.

According to Realtor, San Jose had a median home price of $1.1 million and only four active listings per 1,000 households.

As of Tuesday, the site lists 1,162 homes for sale in the entire city, out of an estimated population of roughly 1.03 million people and an average household size of 3.09—which is a bit less than the four per 1,000 figure from last quarter.

For comparison’s sake, San Francisco has 1,054 current listings on the site, and a population of 883,305—that’s one home per 838 persons. (That’s by no means a great number; in fact, if not for Trapasso limiting the rankings to the worst offenders in each state, SF would be in the top ten—but it is better than San Jose’s one per 886.)

Looking at the rest of the region’s most populous cities for comparison, Oakland features one listing per 558 persons, Fremont one listing per 703 people, and in Santa Rosa that figure is one per 155 persons.

Realtor, of course, works at the disadvantage of only having its own listings from which to draw conclusions. But competitor sites, like Redfin or Zillow, don’t have a larger number of current listings right now.

The California Association of Realtors notes that the number of home sales (not listings) in the Bay Area in December climbed up 16 percent year over year, and 18.8 percent in Santa Clara County specifically. However, 2019 in general was a terrible year for that metric, which declined for 12 straight months starting in the summer of 2018.

What does this mean for people actually living in the Bay Area? Well, the most interesting thing about San Jose’s current predicament is that the city’s incredibly tight housing inventory is by no means unique. In fact, it used to be even worse.

One year ago, Trulia singled out San Jose as the number one metro area for inventory growth from 2018 to early 2019, and San Francisco came in ninth on that same list.

The previous year, San Jose’s total housing stock grew by more than 3,000 units, according to U.S. census estimates, and by more than 5,300 the year before.

While this all sounds good, it doesn’t translate into measurable relief on housing demand. Everything the city and region have done in terms of new housing is just getting swallowed up by a market with an insatiable appetite.