Graphic with housing market ebbs and flows in San Francisco

Our Pre-Pandemic Housing Market Cycles in San Francisco

Graphic with housing market ebbs and flows in San Francisco

Our Market Patterns [Pre-Pandemic]

Written in 2017, revisited in 2023 (see Seasonality

It’s as Clear as Fog: Why Timing Can Mean Everything

San Francisco’s real estate market has two main selling seasons. Unlike most places, summer is generally the slow season while the market sees the most inventory and activity right after Labor Day and right after the Super Bowl in the spring — after all, what else are you going to do on Sunday afternoons? 

The name of the game for sellers and their listing agents is to balance days on market while to get the most people through a listing. And, no matter how you disrupt the market, there are enough old school agents and clients in San Francisco who bring their properties to market in the same old way they’ve done for years. Why does this matter?  Well, traditionalist agents will follow old strategies and will only bring their listings on at certain times of the year which impacts competition, selection and — potentially— the resulting sale price.

And, instead of summer being the busiest tie of year (as it is in other areas of the country), new property listings for sale will traditionally hit the market after the Super Bowl (no — really, what else would you be doing on a Sunday?!) and after Labor Day.

The chart we’ve made shows the patterns of when new inventory hits the market and these notes will explain some nuances we’ll see. And, how much is a lot? Inventory has been very tight and light since 2012. A very good week during 2013-2015 will have about 150 new listings come on the market during a week. An average one will have about 100 and a very light one will have less than 50. We’ve only ever seen 3 or 4 weeks during the past 2 years with more than 150 new listings.

2023 Update: We would be lucky to see more than 100 new listings a week in San Francisco, even at the heights of 2022’s unusually strong and buoyant housing market. But the patterns here hold true with the addition of an extra holiday in June since 2022. 

There will often be 1-2 weeks of 100+ listings (2x as many condos as houses, no more than 5-10 2-unit houses, and less than 5 5+ unit buildings) after the Super Bowl, in early May, after Labor Day and — potentially — in early November.

Towards the end of the year (December) you’re likely to see:

  • More relative bargains because there will be folks who need to sell before year’s end;
  • You’ll also see many income-property buyers looking to complete a purchase before year’s end too’ and,
  • There will be more “off-market” properties where sellers and their agents are willing bypass the MLS and sell their property before (or without) moving out, painting and staging.

A Bit of deja vu?

You may see some properties that look awfully familiar in February or September, are the they the same ones you saw last year? Most likely yes. What gives? If a property is taken off the market for more than 30 days or reduced by 5% or more, the property gets the much-coveted “new” status that resets the days-on-market count and pushes the property to the top of search results on apps and websites. 


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