What Stories Do the Data Tell?

What you’ll find here is a compilation of relevant market data as reported on San Francisco’s Multiple Listing Service, which captures the fair share of residential real estate sales in the City.

Looking at sales data is a good starting point for buyers and sellers alike but it shouldn’t be the only deciding factor when it comes to truly determining a property’s value and worth (note, those can be different figures too).  the sole deciding factor in deciding a property’s real worth as each property is so special.

Because real property is viewed as being inherently unique (no two properties can occupy the same space) this is one of the rare legal areas where  judges are still empowered to use their inherent equitable authority as judges to compel a property sale, removal of residents from a parcel or other actions (like injunctions or orders) because money damages (purely legal relief) are deemed insufficient. Keep this in mind as you consider each data point and each comparable property you consider when assigning value to a given property.

Each data point represents a story unto itself and can only go so far as a comparison to any other property no matter how seemingly identical. 


Factors Influencing Home Sales Data Quality

Sample Size

Small differences in square footage or number of similar sales can be amplified if you lack a proper sample size of properties or if property values are as expensive as they are in San Francisco


There are certain annual market cycles for San Francisco that other markets lack. Unlike other places, the summer is usually the slow time of year in San Francisco for example


For whatever reasons, a good portion of property transactions never end up reported in the MLS, so the true value of a property may be hindered as a result (see sample size). Also, a lot of agents want to deflect attention away from $/sqft issues and will omit square footage.

Not all data is created equal. 

Data from outlets like Zillow or Redfin is mostly sourced and syndicated from reputable organizations like the San Francisco Association of REALTORS, but some of the data Zillow or others may use is scraped from other property tax records or open data sources that are oftentimes inaccurate, outdated or incomplete. You shouldn’t be making hugely important life decisions regarding home sales and purchases on flawed data, right? 

This is why you work with professionals like Kevin and Jonathan for accurate, current and detailed data and the proper context that goes along with it which will empower you to make the right decisions. 


Take Away Item 1: List Price is Largely Irrelevant — the Market Will Find the ’Real’ Value 

We live in a market where more than 50% of properties sell over list price — even with COVID-19.


Every market has its own rules, customs and practices. In San Francisco, agents had tended to price property listings less than what properties were worth. Right or wrong it’s the way it was done here since the economy recovered after the 2012 low point in the market.

Now, with the pandemic, rarer instances of when agents would practice ‘transparent’  are becoming more common. But still, for every listing that is 'transparently' priced we can show you at least 3 more that are radically underpriced ... on purpose.

The rationale behind this tactic is to attract interest and attention that would yield multiple offers that would go to drive a property’s final sale price — much like an auction boosts sale prices when people get caught up in the competitive moment let their emotions dictate their bids.

on property pricing: priced to entice or transparent?

(% sold over list price — all housing types)


Take Away Item 2: It’s Expensive Here, But It’s Always Been  

We live in a market where $1,000/sqft is the norm. It’s a resilient market and, compared to other places in the world, there’s a lot of room for price growth

From 1903, a real estate summary
There has been a lot of confidence in San Francisco real estate for a very long time. This excerpt is from a 1903 reporter.


There have been housing crunches and booms since the very beginning. Crises, pandemics, crashes and bubbles ever since gold was found up north in 1849. But apart from that gold, San Francisco has always been a destination and aspirational city to be a part of.  There are the big attractions  that draw people here:  a temperate climate, the pervasive entrepreneurial spirit, the diversity of people from all over the country and world, the area’s natural beauty, cuisine, proximity to nature, its universities, and, of course, the engines of the tech and data economy are based here among more.

Real estate is at the very heart of many of the tourist attractions here — the Painted Ladies on Alamo Square are, after all, a row of Victorian houses with one of them seller as a fixer in 2020 for more than $3.5 million and Lombard Street is a, well, street.

San Francisco has drawn entrepreneurs and innovators alike as it has done so since its founding. Population booms and housing crunches (and crises) have been as much a part of San Francisco as the fog has been. Because it’s been a boom town, it has attracted folks from far and wide seeking opportunity which has led to diverse architecture, housing patterns and market patterns as a result.

Combine the above draws with the fact that we’ve run out of room to build anything (not to mention the cost) the Bay Area's real estate market has been impact by a lot of policy-driven factors that make land a scarce commodity. Some of those policies relate to strong historic protections, property tax and capital gains tax policies that favor long-term ownership, rent control laws and heavily regulated building regulations that make construction contentious and difficult many times, all combine to make the place even more valuable than it would otherwise be.


(all housing types)


Take Away Item 3: There are Fewer and Fewer Properties for Sale

We live in a market where it’s difficult to build new homes and where inventory is scarce because there’s not room to build among other reasons

There are various reasons as to why so few homes come up for sale. Even during the height of the Pandemic we were edging towards a buyer’s market (which means there would be enough months’ supply to satisfy demand) but we never got there. Here are some of the reasons why: 

  • Geographic: we’re locked in by water
  • Human-made: rent control and eviction control laws promote long tenancies 
  • Human-made 2: stringent planning and zoning requirements that allow a lot of community involvement cand drag on for years before permits for new construction or remodeling are approved 
  • Financial: taxes — property tax locks and long-term capital gains are two of the most common impediments to selling 
  • Affinity populations/destination setting: San Francisco means so many things for so many types of people. From a mild climate, an accepting climate, a climate of rich cultural traditions to a climate where people can get rich through the tech and biotech sectors among more, it’s a sought-after place to live in

Inventory Levels 

(all property types)


Let’s delve a bit deeper shall we? Condominiums are the most traded property type in San Francisco. Single-family houses are, of course, the  bread and butter of any market as it is here. 






Raffi Sees the Future


Growth in San Francisco has been around ever since it was nothing more than an adobe building. But when the prices are going up and when they decline to when they go up again is something that is a bit more unpredictable. 


Let us know what we can do to unravel the great mystery of San Francisco real estate.


Hi, we’re Kevin Ho and Jonathan McNarry of Vanguard Properties in San Francisco, California. We’re partners in life and in business. Together with our big black Labrador retriever, Raffi, we are top producing Realtors in San Francisco’s competitive and valuable residential real estate market.

We truly love what we do and are passionately committed to our clients, their needs and advancing their interests. We represent both buyers and sellers with many repeat clients but we are always expanding our client base. Our belief is that by working with you you will make better informed decisions in this most important of areas of life.

We invite you to contact us to learn more and to start your success story now.

Some Quality Time?


To that extent possible, the information on this website is copyright protected. But other information such as links, articles and other ephemera are only reproduced here for educational purposes and may not represent our views or are otherwise approved by us. More important, whatever the source, remember to research all matters discussed here to your own satisfaction; trust but verify. 


Real estate is always changing and evolving. Because it’s based on people and people are, well people. Therefore, real estate can be complex and as fickle as it is surprising. And while the information and knowledge on this site is considered to be accurate and correct, it cannot be warranted. Market conditions in San Francisco, in California, and the world can change with a tweet or a sneeze and is beyond anyone’s control as hard as we try.

In San Francisco, things like local, state and federal tax regulations can change quickly leading to big implications that take time to be realized or appreciated. Other factors like rent control rules, eviction control, lending practices and standards, building and zoning regulations are just a few of the other things like pandemics, forest fires or mortgage rates that can change with little or no notice. All of these things and other intangible factors may well impact market values and performance. So keep your wits about you and keep in touch with us. 

Kevin is a licensed California attorney but focuses on real estate about 99.9 percent of the time. It’s important to note that while you can’t take the attorney out of him he will not be acting as your attorney here. To the larger point, you should also seek out qualified folks who work in their respective sectors if you have further questions about X, Y or Z; we have referrals too if you need. 




©  2011-2021, Kevin Ho, Jonathan McNarry, RTI, Inc.

All rights reserved.

Kevin K. Ho, DRE 01875957/SBN 233408

Jonathan B. McNarry, DRE 01747295

Vanguard Properties
2501 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94110
555 Castro Street, San Francisco, CA 94114

Privacy Cookies. Mmm. Cookies. 

We’ve been told that our website may be using cookies — the electronic ones — not the ones that Cookie Monster loves. These cookies, tracking pixels and related technologies are small data files that emanate from our server or platform and are stored on your device or browser.

Our site uses cookies developed by third parties for a variety of purposes with the most important ones to us being focused on supporting our abilities to support our clients — current and future — as they look for San Francisco real estate services.

Also, cookies may also be used to track how you use our site, which, of course, may give rise to seeing related advertisements on other websites you visit. To comply with the California Consumer Privacy Act, we have deployed various measures you may see on this site. If you have a question or concern, feel free to contact us at [email protected]. We want you to be aware that your personal information stays private with us as we employ SSL standards among other protocols to safeguard private information. 

%d bloggers like this: