~Welcome to the Econo-Almanac~

I started this website in mid-2004 to chronicle San Diego’s spectacular housing bubble.  The purpose of the site remains, as ever, to provide objective and evidence-based analysis of the San Diego housing market. A quick guide to the site follows:

  • New visitors are advised to begin with the Bubble Primer or (if wondering about the site name) the FAQ list.
  • Housing articles I’ve written are found in the main section below.
  • Discussion topics posted by site users are found in the “Active Forum Topics” box to the lower right.
  • This website is an avocation; by day I help people with their investments as a financial advisor*.  Market commentary, an overview of our investment approach, and more can be found on my firm's website.

Thanks for stopping by…

July 2020 housing data -- inventory hits a new low

Submitted by Rich Toscano on August 16, 2020 - 5:17pm
There just isn't much to buy out there.

Sales are strong, but nothing crazy, when you consider the rebound from the lockdown:

But inventory is the lowest it's been since the post-bubble bull market got started:

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May 2020 housing charts

Submitted by Rich Toscano on June 22, 2020 - 9:12pm

April 2020 housing charts

Submitted by Rich Toscano on May 20, 2020 - 8:38pm

March 2020 housing data

Submitted by Rich Toscano on April 20, 2020 - 8:55pm
Hello friends, sorry for the delay on this.

For the month of March, things looked pretty normal-ish, except for pendings, see right below. Which all kind of makes sense given the timing of the lockdown.

The April numbers will likely look a little weirder than March. In the meantime, user sdrealtor has been posting some updates from the trenches over on the previous data update; see the comments at the bottom. It sounds like the market is pretty resilient, from what he is seeing.

Graphs below and more to come when the April numbers are available...
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December 2019 housing graphs

Submitted by Rich Toscano on January 21, 2020 - 9:22pm
Well, here's how the stats looked for the year:

Quite a change from December 2019, notably with months of inventory down 36%. It's no coincidence this took place alongside a steep drop in interest rates. I think the behavior of the past 2 years -- the rapid  slowdown when rates rose, followed by a rebound when rates fell again -- makes it pretty clear that the housing market is very much beholden to continued low rates.

Here is what I believe to be the best indicator of short term market strength -- months of inventory (number of homes for sale divided by the number of pending sales in a given month).

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October 2019 Housing Graphs

Submitted by Rich Toscano on November 17, 2019 - 2:41pm

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September 2019 housing data: prices pull back but supply remains low

Submitted by Rich Toscano on October 11, 2019 - 4:07pm
A summary of last month in 2 charts:

1. Prices eased off

2. But months-of-inventory remains low, and supportive of somewhat higher prices. Unless that changes, I wouldn't expect anything like the price decline we saw at this time last year:

More graphs below!
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July 2019 housing data

Submitted by Rich Toscano on August 23, 2019 - 3:05pm
Just the graphs this month, my friends...

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Shambling a tiny, halting step towards affordability

Submitted by Rich Toscano on August 6, 2019 - 1:50pm

Below is a San Diego housing update my financial planning firm sent to our clients and friends. (If you'd like to sign up for our quarterly updates, you can do so here). Stick around for some bonus pigg-only graphs at the end.

Measuring housing expensiveness

We all know that buying a home in San Diego costs a lot more than in most cities. But that's always been the case, and probably always will be, because San Diego is such a desirable place to live. More interesting is the question of how expensive San Diego is compared to its own history. This can tell us whether prices are out of whack even after adjusting for the desirability factor.

A good way to measure housing expensiveness is to compare home prices to local rents and incomes. Rents tell us how much it costs to live in San Diego as a non-owner, while incomes show how much money San Diegans have to spend on housing.[1] By comparing home prices to rents and incomes, we can get an idea of their cheapness or expensiveness relative to the economic factors that typically drive them. (This is also known as their "valuation").

Here's a chart of San Diego housing valuation since the late 1970s:

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June 2019 housing data

Submitted by Rich Toscano on July 8, 2019 - 5:50pm
There was a bit of in increase in months of inventory in June, but it seems pretty par for the course for this time of year:

If rates stay nice and low, I expect that the trajectory of the 2019 line will end up looking more like 2016-17 than 2018. (And if they don't... well then it's probably the 2018 route).

Here's a look at price changes vs. inverted month of inventory, still tracking quite well on the assumption that 2.5 months is the "new normal" equilibrium level of inventory.

Price-wise, we are right back at peak levels, in nominal terms.

In valuation terms we are still below last year's peak, but I will soon have more on that. In the meantime, more graphs below!

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May 2019 housing data

Submitted by Rich Toscano on June 24, 2019 - 8:52pm
Mostly just charts this month, friends. A couple quick observations:

- The market was pretty strong again but weakened from the prior month, in terms of both price and months of inventory... this chart sums that up best.

- But interest rates have dropped further, which should be a tailwind in the coming months (if the new low level persists)

- FWIW prices are (slightly) down year over year in real and nominal terms -- but the comparison will get easier starting in July, which is when prices started declining last year. Between that and the drop in rates (again, assuming that persists), I am guessing we'll be back in positive y-o-y territory soon.

More graphs below!

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April 2019 resale data: the rebound continues

Submitted by Rich Toscano on May 12, 2019 - 3:11pm

April was another strong month, as prices firmed up further and months of inventory decreased. This latter point is best illustrated on a graph that compares monthly changes... note how late last year -- take December for instance -- inventory was much higher than a year earlier. Now, it is only slightly higher than the year-ago level:

The 3-month average of single family price/square foot also rose again, and prices appear to be nearing last year's peak:

Despite this, the year-over-year price comparison weakened, because April 2018 was a tougher month to compare against. (The peak for this series was in June, so comparisons will continue to get tougher for a couple months):

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Mar 2019 housing data: further strengthening (but real prices negative y-o-y)

Submitted by Rich Toscano on April 29, 2019 - 5:28pm
Last month I introduced a chart of the year-over-year price change, and I belatedly realized that I should have included an inflation adjustment. That is after all the more relevant figure -- if your house's price went up 1%, but inflation rose by 2%, your house is now worth less than it was in purchasing power terms, which what actually matters.

And on that note, the real "home price" (actually 3-month average of the single family price per square foot) did indeed go ever-so-slightly negative last month. This marks the first time in negative territory since 2012:

Weep not for the market, though, as it has shown some resilience of late, with months of inventory declining:

... and prices bouncing a bit:

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February 2019 housing data: a bit of strengthening

Submitted by Rich Toscano on March 10, 2019 - 5:20pm
After declining into the end of the year, prices have gained a bit:

December was weak enough, however, that the 3 month average single-family pr/sqft was still a new low. Note that the current correction is unlike anything seen since the housing bull market began (which I date Jan 2012, as that was the date of the inflation-adjusted low).

Here's a fun new graph... the year-over-year change in the single family home price per square foot (I used a 3-month average to smooth it out a bit):

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December 2018 housing data: highest months-inventory since 2011; prices decline

Submitted by Rich Toscano on January 21, 2019 - 3:36pm
Hey all -- few words this month, and mostly charts. I will note the two stats I called out in the title...

1. Months of inventory is highest since 2011 (which was right at the tail end of the bust).

December is always highest but you can see the big increase over recent years:

2. The higher inventory seems to have started impacting prices. Single family price/square foot was down 3.3% for the month. Here's how that looks on the Case-Shiller proxy (3-month average of single-family price/sqft):

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