Pretty much every article from respected economic sources is painting a rosy picture for the results of 2016 as well as the outlook for 2017, with a few caveats.
2016 saw unemployment fall in 271 of 387 urban markets while payroll jobs expanded in 303. Real GDP was revised upwards for 2016 by the Federal Reserve Bank in December to 1.9% and is projected at 2.2% for 2017.
However, it is difficult to predict how significantly some recent changes in economic and monetary policy and actions at the federal level will impact the economy in general and real estate specifically. The first change is the rapid rise in long term interest rates, which are up 0.5% since early November. The second is the dramatic appreciation in the value of the dollar in the same time frame, up 2.5% against the Canadian Dollar, 7.2% against the Euro, and 15.7% against the Yen.
How might these affect the real estate market in San Mateo County and the Bay Area? Well, rising interest rates affect far more than just home mortgages. They dampen business investment and feed inflation. Rising inflation can have a damaging effect on the economy because it can become part of vicious cycle of rising interest rates fueling inflation which drives higher interest rates, and so on. We have been in that paradigm before and it can take a terrible toll on both the economy and real estate values. As interest rates rise, property values fall (as I discussed in our November report).
Right now, our economy is being driven mainly by strong consumer spending. And while there has been a lot of talk about big infrastructure spending by the new administration, any positive impact on the economy from that will be felt in 2018 and beyond. So, if consumer confidence weakens from concern over rising inflation, or if purchasing power erodes because of it, the economy will suffer.
The charts on the following pages graphically depict this message: San Mateo County remains a strong sellers market, with incredibly low inventory of both homes and condos. Median sales prices ended the year up 13.5% for single family homes and down 5.0% for condo/townhomes. At $1,340,000 and $700,000, respectively, both are below their peaks earlier in the year (May $1,400,000 homes; April $818,500 condo/townhomes). However, given the incredibly low inventory, it is likely that prices will strengthen as the Spring selling season starts.