San Francisco has become a cliché when it comes to housing prices. We get it—it’s expensive. Crazy expensive. In fact, with a median home list price sitting at (brace yourself) $1.6 million, it’s far and away the priciest metro in the country, according to realtor.com® data.
But the fact that San Francisco is a nosebleed-inducing outlier when it comes to home prices doesn’t mean it can’t tell us plenty about the state of the housing market nationwide.
“San Francisco has been affected by macroeconomic conditions and events that affect the whole country—soaring stock markets, plunging interest rates, and high consumer confidence,” says Compass Chief Market Analyst Patrick Carlisle.
Carlisle notes those pluses go hand in hand with some of the seductive elements specific to the city: namely, the high-tech boom of Silicon Valley and the rollout of recent large IPOs in the region—along with the gaggle of millionaires they’ve created. Add it all together, and you wind up with a potent brew of ungodly-seeming home prices.
“When you compare San Francisco home prices to other parts of the nation, it blows people’s mind,” says San Francisco agent Brian Tran.
It’s little wonder that there’s been a migration of buyers to the city’s less traditionally desired neighborhoods. According to a data analysis prepared for realtor.com® by Compass, neighborhoods in the western and southern parts of the city saw the highest appreciation rates in home sales in 2018. (The report studied single-family homes in areas of the city with at least 35 house sales annually.)
So move over, Marina. Step aside, Pacific Heights. The lesser-known areas on the outer edges of San Francisco, mostly historically working–class areas far from downtown, have emerged from the fog as viable options for budget-conscious buyers (albeit, still rather well-heeled ones—affordability in this town is a relative concept).
“It’s not really a big secret. People are looking for affordable homes they can still buy,” says Carlisle. “And a lot of people prefer houses, not condos. The largest pressure in buyer demand has been in more affordable house districts.”
Urban pioneers open to finding their homes in sleepier, less-gentrified parts of the city can find benefits beyond a (slightly) less stressful mortgage—maybe an ocean view, or a faster commute to the South Bay. These areas may not be household names yet, but they’re becoming better known to bargain-seeking buyers, who are seeking sanity from a housing market that seems to have lost its mind.
Here are the 10 neighborhoods with the highest-rising home prices in San Francisco, ranked by the percentage increase in median sale prices year over year. Happy hunting!
2018 median home sale price: $1,281,500 (+25.6% over 2017)
This southern neighborhood hugging the intersection of U.S. Highway 101 and Interstate Highway 280 is obscure to those familiar with the tourist-ridden areas of the city. Portola is not cable cars and Fisherman’s Wharf. But those who have found this “hidden” area tucked in the southeast corner of the city applaud the “unique working class ‘old San Francisco’ community that’s getting nicer without getting exclusive,” as a commenter on Street Advisor noted.
The transitioning neighborhood boasts both John McClaren Park and the Coffman Pool. And in a sign this neighborhood has truly arrived, popular eateries such as Bahn Mi House and Four Barrel Coffee have sprung up along San Bruno Avenue.
The mostly single-family homes on the market are—gasp—“still affordable,” according to local listing agent Samantha Huang. She’s noticed buyers who’ve been priced out of the adjacent Bernal Heights neighborhood checking out Portola.
“It’s very convenient for transportation. And trendy little shops are moving in on San Bruno Avenue,” she adds.
This renovated three-bedroom just a couple of blocks from the park is priced under the neighborhood median at $988,000—a pricing strategy designed to garner multiple offers.
2018 median home sale price: $1,147,500 (+20.5% over 2017)
This neighborhood is far out, as in the very southern edge of San Francisco right along the border of Daly City. There are bunches of single-family homes built mostly in the ’50s and a scarcity of rental units. The area boasts the adjacent Crocker-Amazon Park, as well as jogging and hiking trails, a golf course, two lakes, and a public school.
The area has its fair share of pluses: It is near public bus lines, is a short drive to the underground Bay Area Rapid Transit station, and has easy access to I-280.
“The neighborhoods that still have homes around $1 million or under have been really strong,” says broker associate John Murphy of Zephyr Real Estate. “Crocker Amazon has been performing really strongly, and at a price point a lot of people can afford.”
We found a neighborhood home that’s landed on the market for the first time in 50 years. Built in 1945, the charming three-bedroom could use some renovations, but it’s available for only $928,000.
2018 median home sale price: $1,681,000 (+16.7% over 2017)
Once dubbed “The Great Sand Waste” and “The Outer Lands,” this region of sand dunes and potato fields took nearly a century to transform into prime real estate. But transform it did. Located in the northwest corner of the city, it sits close to the Pacific Ocean.
In the outer avenues, close to Ocean Beach, you can buy a home with sweet vistas. The area, bordering Golden Gate Park, features a mix of condos, rental units, and single-family homes.
Local agent Natalie Hatvany Kitchen of Team Hatvany says home buyers are often surprised to find that a place on this side of town means “a house with an amazing view … and the views aren’t the ones you’d think of.”
The location is often a trade-off for buyers, she says. “The commute across town to downtown can easily take 45 minutes, but the deal is worth it.”
And buying a home with an ocean view (often shrouded by fog!) is a chance to take advantage of an undervalued asset.
“Homes with ocean views in San Francisco are the biggest buying opportunity today,” says Sam Dogen of Financial Samurai.
2018 median home sale price: $1,100,000 (+15.8% over 2017)
Call it the Whole Foods effect. For this once-tough neighborhood close to San Francisco State University, things are changing.
“Now it’s really happening,” says local listing agent Janice Lee.
“All the cool restaurants have moved in over the last two or three years,” she adds, noting the popular Indian restaurant Pakwan and the sushi spot Sakesan.
And the Amazon-owned grocery store on Ocean Avenue is part of a new, mixed-use development with rental units. In addition, a street beautification project added palm trees, planters, “traffic calming features,” and public art, generally encouraging a walkable space.
For commuters, the Balboa Park BART station recently completed a multimillion-dollar package of improvements. The transit center serves about 25,000 riders daily.
The hilly area sits near the foot of Mount Davidson, and the nearby Ingleside Terraces sundial (it really works!) has an entire neighborhood park built around it. A new local library with an outdoor seating area has garnered positive reviews.
“You can walk to BART and can walk to all those restaurants,” says Lee. “And it’s affordable. Depending on the client’s price point, I suggest [Ingleside] homes as hidden gems.”
2018 median home sale price: $1,350,000 (+13.6% over 2017)
If you surf, Outer Parkside is paradise. Just blocks from Ocean Beach on the city’s west side, this neighborhood has long been popular with the wetsuit set. Golden Gate Park and the San Francisco Zoo are nearby. The L Taraval transit line brings residents downtown, and tech buses are readily accessible on 19th Avenue, a quick train ride away.
An onslaught of cafes such as Andytown and bars such as the Riptide draw area residents out of the house, even on a windy night.
“It’s starting to have more life,” says Lee, who notes that both single-family homes and multifamily units are popular.
“I’ve seen a lot of families who have moved in with in-laws,” she adds, and they’re buying places with additional room or downstairs apartments for extended family members.
“It’s in the city but really close to Golden Gate Park and Ocean Beach, so the amount of open space nearby is remarkable,” says listing agent Matt Ciganek. “It’s traditionally been known as a foggy district, but the benefits and prices still outweigh the weather.”
If you’re curious about the offerings, a three-bedroom with ocean views is now pending sale with a list price of $1,095,000.
2018 median home sale price: $1,082,500 (+13.4% over 2017)
Fun fact: Although he’s associated with Haight-Ashbury, Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia grew up in the Excelsior. The ethnically diverse neighborhood is close to John McClaren Park, home of the—you guessed it—Jerry Garcia Amphitheater.
The neighborhood is about 2 miles from the desirable and pricey area of Bernal Heights, and still a relatively painless commute to the South of Market tech hub. Like many of the areas on this list, it sits on the southern side of town and was never quite known as a scenic spot.
Local real estate broker Herman Chan advises clients looking for the best benefit-to-cost ratio to consider the Excelsior.
“You get more bang for your buck there,” he says. Though there are some condos, the majority of the homes in the area are medium-size, single-family dwellings.
“Supply is so tight,” he adds, “you either give up on the city and leave, or you become a pioneer and go into neighborhoods that historically weren’t as desirable.”
Peter Paine and his husband, Sumner, moved from the trendy Bernal Heights area and bought a home in the neighborhood.
“We love it,” Paine says. “It’s an interesting neighborhood where you have a lot of families that have been here for a long time.”
7. Outer Sunset
2018 median home sale price: $1,350,000 (+12.5% over 2017)
Here are words we never thought would be uttered about this gray and gusty neighborhood: “The Outer Sunset is really becoming thought of as hip, with some new and interesting stores, coffee shops, and bars,” says Ciganek.
Despite it being remote and foggy, the west side neighborhood has won over the hearts and minds of quite a few home buyers. The area, which borders Golden Gate Park and Ocean Beach, is a major hike to downtown. But the N Judah light rail will take you there, eventually.
And for those who are willing to brave the hazy weather, “It’s the last frontier of affordable San Francisco, where you can actually buy a house and not a condo,” notes Lee. “You can buy a house here for the same price you get a condo in Noe Valley. You can get your own yard.”
“The fog isn’t as bad as it used to be,” insists listing agent Natalie Kitchen. “It’s easier to sell a house now than it used to be, with a little bit more sunshine. If you’re someone who is neutral on fog, you can get more for your money.”
That’s the case for neighborhood newcomers Naomi Lau and Alex Shih, who moved to the Outer Sunset after living in pricey Pacific Heights for eight years.
“We found ourselves frequenting the Sunset, enjoying the parks and local restaurants to meet with friends,” says Lau. “It wasn’t until we spent more time in the area, we could start to envision living there. … It isn’t the most central or trendiest part of the city, but we appreciate the grounded feel.”
A renovated and refreshed four-bedroom in the neighborhood recently had its price cut by $100,000. It’s on the market for $1.5 million and boasts of partial ocean views.
2018 median home sale price: $1,425,000 (+12.2% over 2017)
Located between I-280 and San Francisco City College, the park-filled neighborhood toward the southern end of the city has benefited from its close proximity to BART stations and multiple green spaces.
The area is a mix of duplexes and quaint cottages, and Monterey Avenue offers up cool bars, coffee shops, and restaurants. The Sunnyside Conservatory, a garden and meeting space, is a neighborhood jewel.
The spacious, quiet area has an almost suburban feel, but the tranquility comes with a cost.
“You’re not going to get a home for the same price [as in the Excelsior],” says Lee. “You’ll get more for your money in the Excelsior.”
2018 median home sale price: $1,525,000 (+9.9% over 2017)
Bordered by seven other neighborhoods, Miraloma Park, with its sweet views and ample green space, offers residents access to a variety of activities in each direction.
The leafy neighborhood boasts a commercial district with upscale grocery stores such as Tower Market and Mollie Stone’s. The housing mix, with mostly single-family homes, offers plenty of curb appeal, and includes midcentury modern, contemporary, and row houses.
“It was largely unknown,” Zephyr Real Estate’s Murphy says of the neighborhood. “But people are now seeing the value up there.”
And when he says “up there,” he means it. The neighborhood is home to the highest point in the city—928 feet above sea level.
Murphy says he’s seen significant price appreciation over the past couple of years. He recently sold a gut renovation with a walk-out backyard for $2.3 million.
And he doesn’t think the market’s topped out in this hilly haven.
“Prices are continuing to go up,” he adds. “If a lot comes on the market, it goes as quickly as it comes on.”
2018 median home sale price: $900,000 (+9.1% over 2017)
Visitacion Valley is yet another neighborhood along the city’s southern edge where home buyers never ventured before. Once a hub for workers at the nearby Hunters Point Naval Shipyard during World War II, the former barracks transitioned into some of the city’s largest public housing developments. And those developments earned a reputation of being plagued by violence and crime.
Today, it’s filled with a diverse population and longtime residents who mostly own their homes. A renovated six-bedroom home on the edge of the neighborhood has been on the market for a couple of months with an asking price of $1.4 million.
The median price sits below a million bucks, and it’s still an area on the way up. It isn’t perfect, but you will have San Francisco as your mailing address.
It’s bordered by the second-largest park in the city, John McLaren Park, as well as Gleneagles Golf Course. Improvements include a light-rail line to downtown San Francisco, and more shops and restaurants on San Bruno Avenue.
“There have been a lot of ups and downs,” says Carlisle of Compass. But not only are houses in this area still relatively affordable, they also offer easy access to the freeways heading south to the Peninsula and Silicon Valley. “That’s a bonus.”
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