Noe Valley Voice June 2009

Op-Ed: Noe Valley No Longer Immune from the Housing Slump

By Misha Weidman

It's been comforting to think that Noe Valley's home prices have held up better than the city's as a whole. In fact, a real estate agent was quoted as saying as much in a recent edition of the Noe Valley Voice.

I beg to differ, and I believe I have the data to prove it. Below is a chart that tracks the monthly percentage changes in single-family home prices in Noe Valley from the all-time high, and compares them to the percentage changes for the city as a whole. The chart is based on sales data drawn directly from the San Francisco Association of Realtors' Multiple Listing Service (MLS) for Subdistrict 5C, an area roughly bounded by Guerrero, 30th Street, Diamond Heights Boulevard, Portola, and 22nd Street.

In March 2009, Noe Valley home prices were down nearly 30 percent from their all-time high of $1.63 million, reached just a year earlier in March 2008. April 2009 home prices recovered 8 percent of that drop, leaving Noe Valley prices down 22 percent, slightly better than the city as a whole.

However, it's worth noting that there were only four sales in April, and none of them were in the usual price range. Two homes sold for over $2 million. The other two sold for $875,000 and $585,000--cheap by Noe Valley standards.

All statistical measures become less reliable as the number of data points shrinks. I use a three-month moving average of median values to minimize the effect of aberrational sales and seasonal fluctuations. Still, with only four sales occurring during the month, I wouldn't take too much comfort from April's apparent bounce.

So does that mean that your house has lost 25 to 30 percent of its value? Maybe, but only if you bought your house in March 2008 at or near that month's median value. Otherwise, you're really speculating about the difference between how much you might have made if you'd sold at the market's peak versus today.

And is Noe Valley doing better than the city as a whole? Not anymore. The chart clearly shows that Noe Valley's prices held up for around nine months longer than the city's at large, but that they've now dropped about as far on a relative basis.

Need some good news? The median price for a Noe Valley home, based on sales for all of 2008, was $1,380,500. Even with March's abysmal showing, the median price based on sales through April 2009 is $1,195,000. That means we're off only 13.4 percent for the year. Feel better now?

Misha Weidman is an independent real estate broker and attorney. He also blogs at his site From 2005 to 2008, he wrote the online Cities Guide to San Francisco for London's Economist newspaper. He has lived in Noe Valley for 18 years.