Bay Area Remote Workers Hone in on Oakland & Other Suburbs

San Francisco homebuyers are now considering farther-flung suburbs in the Bay Area, where they can get more space for less money, as remote work becomes the norm in the age of coronavirus.

The housing market in Oakland and suburban parts of the Bay Area are recovering at a faster rate than San Francisco or San Jose, which may be an early indication of migration patterns as the future of remote work unfolds. Pending home sales and the number of new listings have begun to pick up throughout the Bay Area in early May after a drastic drop in April, but homebuyer demand is stronger in Oakland, where homes tend to be larger and less expensive, with more outdoor space. 

More than 72% of users inside the city of San Francisco searched for homes outside the city in April 2020, up from 67.8% a year earlier. The increase came while companies such as Menlo Park-based Facebook and San Francisco-based Twitter were deep in shelter-in-place orders, even prior to chief executives Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey announcing permanent work-from-home policies. Migration away from costly coastal cities toward less expensive places has been a trend for years, but the sudden shift toward more remote work is likely to accelerate the trend, especially when it comes to moving away from cities into more suburban areas. 

“The trend toward the suburbs will grow stronger and stronger as the pandemic continues and work-from-home culture becomes more entrenched. Places like Oakland are capturing people who are leaving San Francisco and San Jose because if employees are able to work remotely three or four days a week, a longer commute is well worth the trade for more space,” said Redfin lead economist Taylor Marr. “Homebuyer interest is already shifting towards larger single-family homes with bigger yards. As a result, we expect prices to grow faster in the suburbs. That’s likely to be especially true in the Bay Area, where homes in Oakland, Berkeley, Walnut Creek and farther-flung suburbs are expensive, but prices aren’t as sky-high as San Francisco.”

Home prices in Oakland rose 3.4% to $787,000 in the month ending May 11. Meanwhile in San Francisco, home prices declined 3.2% year over year to $1,496,000 in the four weeks ending on May 11. It was the only one of the 85 largest metros Redfin tracks to experience a year-over-year price decline in April. 

Pending sales—which, like new listings, is a good real-time indicator of what’s happening in the housing market—are recovering more quickly in Oakland than San Francisco. Pending sales were down 41.6% in Oakland in the first half of May, versus a 55.1% drop in San Francisco. That’s after pending sales plummeted more than 60% year over year in San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland in April.

New listings in Oakland were down 39.2% year over year in the first half of May. That’s up from April, but still makes for a tighter housing supply than in San Francisco, where new listings were down 29.7% year over year in the first half of May. 

“Move-in ready houses in Oakland are selling in five to 10 days with multiple offers. There are fewer homes on the market, but almost as many people searching as there were pre-pandemic,” said Oakland Redfin agent Katy Polvorosa. “One of my clients started looking at homes close to the city, but ended up buying further east, near Walnut Creek, where they could afford a bigger house. Nowadays, buyers want offices where they can work from home, they want to be able to talk on the phone in different rooms, they want space, and they want yards where the kids can play.”

Bay Area market summary: Four weeks ending May 11, 2020
San Francisco  San Jose Oakland
Median sale price $1,496,000 $1,287,000 $787,000
Median sale price YoY -3.2% 0.7% 3.4%
Homes sold YoY -58.2% -48.5% -49.5%
Pending sales 

(Four weeks ending May 17)

-55.1% -45.1% -41.6%
New listings YoY (Four weeks ending May 17) -29.7% -44.2% -39.2%
All homes for sale YoY (Four weeks ending May 17) -7.6% -31.5% -27.2%
Median days on market  25.1 21.6 31.2
Median days on market YoY +4.6 +1.1 +5.3


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