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California Housing Market Report and Predictions 2019 2020

California’s Housing Market Forecast

This report covers key housing market data including California home prices, sales, recent trends from CAR, NAR, Statista, Zillow and more, and predict what might be next for 2020.

Unlike many other US housing markets, California real estate prices have sagged, and the experts believe taxes and departing businesses are the reason.

Will California Bounce Back?

In a nutshell, California home sales had the smallest decline in 13 months. Sales according to CAR, rose about 4.6% in the 4ook to 749k price range.  Home prices rose to a new median all time high of $611,190 which is which is $266,000 higher than the price of $245,230 ten years ago. California condo prices bounced back to $470,000.

Active listings had been strong the last year, yet May saw the lowest growth in a year. It seems those who would sell have sold their homes.

Zillow says May median prices came in at $547,700, and they forecast home prices will rise only about $1000 by next summer. Property managers and landlords will enjoy high occupancy rates and perhaps rising ROI if they use the right property management software and modern management strategy.

Home Prices Rise in California. Screen capture courtesy of Zillow.

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Tight Rental Conditions and Rising Rents

Despite lower mortgage rates, flat home prices, Zillow predicts California rent prices will rise. Unlike those in the national housing picture, Californians have solved the buy vs rent home dilemma, by continuing with renting. Given the ultra-high real estate prices, first time buyers simply can’t come up with the downpayment or manage the lofty mortgage payments. The fact that mid-priced homes sold more in May, might show Millennials are buying.

Average Rent Prices California. Screen capture courtesy of Zillow.

The situation is different from cities such as Chicago, Denver, Phoenix, and Las Vegas, for instance, where lower prices and low mortgage rates make buying instead of renting a wiser choice.

Despite all the political turmoil, dour expert forecasts, and trade uncertainty, not much seems to get in the way of California’s immense economic machine. The Golden State is moving into the rank of 4th of world’s largest economies.  A record 18.7 million Californians are employed, wages are rising, and they’re ready to buy homes if they’re affordable.

The issue is buying power, home prices and the lack of available homes and apartments in California that makes the market so tough here. It’s the price of prosperity and regulations.

Will US Economic Strength Persist?

California GDP is strong and consumers have lots of buying power with record low interest rates persisting. The case for lower prices by UCLA might be overstated. California home prices don’t slouch for long.

Currently in June, across most of the California housing market, active listings are growing, sales are flat and prices are rising. Strangely, apartment rents in California are actually falling much to the chagrine of rental property managers.

In this post, lets explore the main factors that will drive the California housing market for the years ahead.

California Dreamin

California is a special place to buy a home, live or even rent an apartment.  It’s this dynamic pull of outrageous wealth and regulations that presents hazards for multifamily investors. Definitely wise to hire a Realtor. The questions many are asking this spring is:

  1. will there be a recession?
  2. is this is a good time to buy a home in Los Angeles, Riverside, Anaheim, or Bay Area?
  3. is this the right time to buy rental property?
  4. is the Los Angeles housing market going to crash?
  5. which California cities produce the highest rental yields?
  6. is the Los Angeles real estate market overpriced?
  7. is the US economy really growing?
  8. why is their so much negative forecasting by some media?

Buyers are nervous yet the stats below show they are buying.  And if there were more affordable properties available, the real estate market would be very hot.  Okay enough chit chat, let’s get the to May California real estate stats.

Similar growth has occured in New York, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Denver, and Seattle, but the CA cities of San Jose, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Oakland and San Diego have enjoyed unprecedented growth. House prices and multifamily prices have risen in California.

Please see our San Francisco housing market, San Jose housing market, Los Angeles housing market, San Diego housing market, Oakland housing market reports for insight into how the economy is affecting each metro market.


California property managers and income property investors should check out our posts on property management software, cloud platforms, property management automation, on demand services, growth strategy, and property accounting software.  See out suite of property management solutions.

With the number of multifamily units being delivered, tax savings, and the millions still needed to be built, we know demand should never be a problem. What’s built will get occupied.

Is California’s Housing Market Good?

This epic report on the state of California’s housing market explores what’s happening. You’ll find some eye-opening insight, stats, videos, and opinions about housing in the booming Golden State economy. Please share this material generously as you like and check out our US housing market report too.

Home Prices California. Screen capture courtesy of CAR.

GDP, Wages, Mortgage Rates, Jobs, and Home Prices

The economy is solid, expected to dip slightly in 2020, with a upward push in 2021. With continued low mortgage rates, financing a home or a rental property purchase becomes more feasible. Luxury homes are sitting on the market longer, yet low priced properties get bought quickly.

California’s economy grew 4.7% in the 12 months ended in February compared to the national rate of 2.8%. It could grow at a 2.55% pace in the next six months — faster than the national 1.59 – report from Mercury News.

With interest rates fears gone and strong US economic growth, negative forecasts don’t hold a lot of water.

Key Factors in California’s Housing Market Growth

1. high employment and rising wages create fuel rising home prices
2. demographics – lots of millennials buying and babyboomers selling
3. interest rates – on decline?
4. migration – slowed to keep prices stable
5. cost of business – extremely high (would you like to see my SanFranciso parking fee?)
6. home prices – wickedly high and rising
7. rent vs buy – renting is better right now, but for how long?
8. multifamily new construction – total construction starts in 2019 are down 8%
9. taxation and tax savings – much better this year

With taxes dropping, interest rates stable, wages rising, prices stable, mortgage requirements reasonable, and rising personal savings, why aren’t people buying? Simple, they’re hoping prices will plummet.

Keep Your Eye on the Economy

A number of big IPO’s in the tech sector this year suggest the economy isn’t doing badly. In fact, California’s gross domestic product rose by $127 billion from 2016 to 2017, surpassing $2.7 trillion. These charts below show the fundamentals and the forecast for 2019.

Screen Capture courtesy of

Which Cities Had Strongest Price Rises Last Month?

Home Prices during April:

  • Santa Barbara +37%
  • Monterrey +3.6%
  • Alameda +3.2%
  • Marin +3.8%
  • Contra Costa +5.4%
  • Los Angeles +3.5%
  • San Diego +4.0%

Prognosis Positive

Zillow suggests prices will grow a further 5.7% over the next 12 months. CAR expects the average home price to increase 3.1% to $593,450 in 2019, following a projected 7% over 2018 to $575,800.

US Home prices history

Screen Capture courtesy of

This telling chart above from First Tuesday, shows us how much potential is still in this housing market. Home sales were phenomenal in 2004/2005, and total home sales in US (green line) reached near 77,000 homes in June of 2004.

It suggests that housing sales are still being suppressed right across the country. A re-ignited housing market could add immeasurably to the economy. New home related accessory sales such as furniture, appliances, etc could add to GDP (American made) in 2019 and 2020.

A Healthier California Market

There are more homes for sale and more buyers. After a strong lull, the upward march on California homes prices continues. The growth of active listings is slowing, and combined with lower new construction, we could forecast much higher home prices for summer 2019.

Screen capture courtesy of

We’re seeing interest and money shift away from the overheated markets into less expensive secondary markets…Even if we see some markets overheat and demand softens slightly, that doesn’t mean prices will go down” —  Javier Vivas, director of economic research at

California Housing Market Update

Greater Los Angeles home prices rose 3.8% in April to an average of $536,450, up about r$19,000 from April 2019, and $19k from April last year.  Bay Area home prices rose 5.1% to $988,000 MTM, but are down about 2.2% from 12 months ago. Marin County (+3.8%), Contra Costa (+5.4%) and San Francisco County (.3%) were notable changes. ( stats).

Condo/townhome sales were up 2.1 in the Bay area in April to an average price of $730,000 which is $40,000 lower than last April. The average condo price plummeted in Napa (-15.9%) and jumped $50k MoM in San Bernardino.

Single family home prices in Los Angeles dropped 4.3% to $541,390.   Sales dropped by 2.5%. Orange County saw its condos price rise 3.7%.

Sacramento was a bright spot with sales up 5.5% and average price up $20000 to $385,000.  San Mateo however suffered a .6% price drop, or down 9.5% YoY.

Single detached home prices rose to $649,000 in San Diego which is up 4% or $26,000 from March.  In Orange County,  home prices rose 1.9% to $4,000 to $$825,000 up $53,000 since January’s number of $792,500.

Up in San Francisco, prices fell $5000 to a new average of $1,632,500, yet up from $1,505,000 in February, and home prices in Santa Clara 1.2% to $1,315,000.

Over in Contra Costa, house prices rose 5.4% to $679,000.

Zillow’s predictions are strong.  They forecast San Jose Prices to rise 19.25 over the next 12 months. Even if you don’t believe the Zesstimate, it is a positive sign for the market in California.  Sometimes, we have to keep our eye on the long term prognosis.

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Beautiful La Jolla by the Sea – Prices have dropped $70k with a further -3.2% in 2020

Affordability: Why It May Be Irrelevant Now

2019/2020 sees battle lines being drawn between federal, state and local politicians, long time resident/owners, businesses, and the people moving here to work in California’s booming economy. It’s a battle over home prices, quality of life, pollution, lifestyle, commuting, taxes, and whether people’s dream of home ownership will ever be realized.

Zillow Home Prices California

Zillow rates the California real estate market as cool, with a forecast growth of only .1%.

Chart courtesy of Zillow

What Tough Issues Are Californians Struggling With?

Is the talk of general affordability dying out and replaced by a new scrutiny of what’s really causing the problem? As the stats below reveal, lower priced home sales have dried up and entry level is now in the $500k range on average.  In the major metros, it’s much, much higher.

Key Questions: Will property taxes become the bone of contention in this war? Would you be okay about higher property taxes? Will people push to repeal Proposition 13? Will a potential economic flat period continue to dry up building permits?  Will the Fed keep pushing rates up?


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NIMBY’s are Still Blocking Housing Development

California is unique, however what’s happening here is happening in other hot locales such as Florida, Texas, New York, Toronto, Vancouver, Seattle, and other North American cities.

Not in My Backyard or NIMBY is a huge force in North American housing markets. With local governments and agencies unafraid of State fines for not opening up development, especially multifamily development, we’re headed for a drawn out battle. Taxes, mortgage rates, labor and materials shortages, and growing wages will increase pressure on these local governments/agencies bent on preventing development. Something’s gotta give.

And this state’s housing market dynamics are so complex, and political, that few real estate experts can reliably predict whether prices will rise and whether you should buy, or if this is the ideal time to sell your house.

Video below: Southern California home prices were up 8.4% and reached record levels. And that means even bigger prices in Malibu!

A Market Bursting at the Seams

The metro markets of Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego, San Jose, San Francisco and Sacramento are bursting at the seams with an overall price growth rate of 10% annually since 2012.

Seeing the impossibility of buying in the big cities, buyers are wisely looking inland to Riverside, San Bernardino and Sacramento Counties to find affordable homes or rental properties. This trend to remote locations and commuting will continue to shape buying and investing in California real estate over the next few years.

Housing Crash Predictions?

Hoards of millennials, working poor, and homeless people are praying for a California housing market crash, but prices have only leveled or dropped a little.

With such strong demand driving the whole California housing market  it’s unlikely a crash will happen. In fact, with the extra economic activity spawned by housing construction and household formation, there is upward price pressure. And the US economy as a whole is booming and we could be looking at an even longer run of economic prosperity.

Why Are Home Prices so High in California?

Some suggest the current problem blocking new housing development is “urban containment policies”  and NIMBYism. They combine to make housing growth unwelcome. And with elections looming, politicians will be reluctant to push new controversial legislation that would open land development and thus alienate their voters.

California’s Proposition tax laws enforce cheaper taxes for those who bought their properties. Property owners pay taxes based on the base-year assessment value they purchased and not at not at current real market value. Any change to that tax law, would increase their property taxes considerably.

Pic Below from shows how California compares to the national price growth up until 2015. Prices of course have grown substantially in 2016, 2017, and continue in 2018.

Battle Contestants: NIMBYs vs Anti-NIMBYs

The NIMBY’s (Not in my back yard) and YIMBY’s (Yes, in my back yard) are fighting it out to try to protect their positions on the future of California housing.  If development is stopped, home prices in California could become the states absolute number one problem, thus heating up what is an emotion-generating issue.

Add to this is the lack of land available, long commutes for workers, booming economy and spectre of inflation, rising wages and buyer expectations, increasing numbers of millennials wanting to buy, and you get the record high home and apartment rental prices in San Diego, Los Angeles, Orange County, San Jose, and San Francisco.

The resistance and political pressure is being increasingly seen in law suits, and feet dragging, and environmental roadblocks by local governments. Local governments don’t want further congestion, pollution, crime, higher taxes, and the destruction of their lifestyles.

Although construction is growing, it’s not enough to satisfy demand.

“The economists all cite the same reason: “As long as the economy keeps growing, that’s going to give a push to the housing market,” said Anil Puri, director of the Woods Center for Economic Analysis and Forecasting at Cal State Fullerton — from a report in the OCregister.

Big Cities and Big Prices

The demand has been strongest in the big metros of Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange County, San Francisco and the Bay Area. High prices have pushed workers inland to San Bernardino (7.9% forecast growth), Sacramento (5% growth forecast), Riverside (8.9% growth forecast), and other regions. Many hopeful buyers still can’t buy so they’re renting.

76% of the highest priced real estate markets are in California. Housing is heavily politicized due to the ongoing suffering of residents, tax base, excessive density, and congestion on the roads. And there’s a belief that politicians can make good changes. It’s hope vs NIMBYism.

California still has no rent price controls and bills to adopt price controls have failed. Given that the state wants to boost new housing construction, it can’t possibly introduce price controls. Smart investors would walk away.

Instead, California governor Jerry Brown pushed the largest collection of pro-housing legislation in recent memory, however he acknowledged that much more is needed.

Brown has had some strong words for Texas, and we wonder if this is resentment over businesses ditching California for the lower tax environment in Texas? Unfortunately, the governor’s legislation may add to the cost per unit of new housing and raise taxes.

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The Booming California Economy

California’s economy is in the midst of a 7 year economic expansion. The last 3 years have seen per capita income and employment growth of more than 3%. During the last quarter of 2017, California per capita income rose at a nationwide leading 4.6%.

Pay attention to these key projected figures. With Californians well fixed financially, they have more money to buy. Governments will have to raise mortgage rates, reduce tax benefits, and stiffen mortgage qualification rules to discourage them from becoming buyers. It’s like a war against anyone who wants to buy!

Graphic courtesy of DOT

Graphic courtesy of DOT

These two graphics below show that although the average per capita income is rising fast, it’s not keeping up with rises in house prices or rent prices.

And with permits dwindling, housing developers aren’t coming to the rescue

Graphic Above Courtesy of DOT

What Are They Buying?

The latest stats from CAR show buyers are buying more expensive properties, likely due to the fact there are more available. Overall inventory continues to decline although not as much as 2017 where listings dropped dramatically. Availability dropped most severely in homes less than $200k.

Who is Buying Homes in California?

Who’s buying homes in California and Nationwide. Infographic Courtesy of the California Association of Realtors.

The Predictions and Forecasts for 2020

Top institutional forecasters might look at large array of data, trends, and financial factors, however price forecasts in California comes down to a strong economy, continuing low mortgage and interest rates, rising wages, and the political resistance at the local level (NIMBYs).

NAR predicts home prices in California will grow slowly in 2019.  Potential home prices will be suppressed by 2.4% due to rising interest rates, and lowered a further .9% due to government tax changes. They couldn’t comment on construction permit and employment change effects.

Nationwide, in February Nonfarm payrolls jumped by 313,000 jobs  boosted by the largest rise in construction jobs since 2007 according to the Labor Department.


This Chart from CAR shows a synopsis of the California Market:

20132014201520162017p20182019 forecast
SFH Resales (000s)414.9382.7409.4416.7421.9426.2396.8
% Change-5.9%-7.8%7.%1.8%1.3%-3.2%-3.3
Median Price ($000s)$407.20$446.90$476.30$502.30$538.50$561,000$593,400
% Change27.50%9.80%6.60%5.40%7.20%7.0%3.1%
Housing Affordability Index36%30%31%31%29%28%25%
30-Yr FRM4.00%4.20%3.90%3.60%4.00%4.30%5.2%
Data Courtesy of CAR


“At some point, there’s going to be a correction, but I don’t see it on the horizon,” said Pat Veling, president of Brea-based Real Data Strategies.. “Sellers want more than sellers got six months ago.”  “Projections by the California Association of Realtors show a gradual decrease in home price appreciation over the next few years, said Oscar Wei, a senior economist for the group.

Is this The Best Time to Sell?

The stats show conclusively that sellers are above 55 years of age on average, (babyboomers) yet many homeowners are not selling. Many there is nowhere better than California to move to, and where would they buy a cheaper home anyway?

If you can find a new place to move to, selling your California home may be a wise move. The market won’t tank anytime soon, yet we may be nearing price peaks.  What’s different about this housing boom is the strength of wages which have been subdued. If and when they take off, we might see prices climb 10% to 20% more.

Average rate on 30-year fixed-rate loans in 2007 were 6.53% yet today they are well low of that.

Is buying income rental property in your future? Learn more about the best cities to buy property for investment purposes.  Take a look at apartment listings, and you’ll note how much prices for apartment rentals have risen.

The housing squeeze is making rental income suites a popular option and many are even choosing to start property management businesses. The California rental housing market is hot in 2018 but is this the right time to buy rental properties?  However, from setting rental prices, to writing listing ads, to screening tenants to onboarding and communicating well with tenants, management and maintenance can be hard work.

That’s why smart landlords and property managers choose the best property management software to save time and keep tenants happy.  Learn more about landlords and property management goals for 2019/2020 in our new State of Property Management report.


Additional Housing and Property Management Topics:

See also: Property Management SoftwareHousing Market Forecast 2020PM Software ComparisonRental Software | State of Property ManagementHawaii Housing Market Forecast | Denver Housing Forecast 2020Los Angeles Home PricesLos Angeles Apartment Prices | San Jose Housing MarketBest Property Management AppsProperty Accounting Solution | When is Best Time to Buy Property? | Buying Home vs RentingProperty Maintenance TipsRental Housing Market | Time Management Tips | Apartment Rental Prices | Best Cities to buy Rental Property | Property Management Solution | Tenant Screening | Cash Flow for Property Managers | How to Use Property Software | ManageCasa Cloud Based Property Software | LA Property Management Companies

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