Amid population boom, many homeowners are selling and leaving SF 

click to enlarge Deann Sonoda
  • Mike Koozmin/the S.F. Examiner
  • Deann Sonoda, holding her newborn, sorts through a moving box in the garage of her Burlingame home. Sonoda and her husband recently sold their San Francisco home and moved outside of The City, affording them better schools for their newborn and a suburban lifestyle.
When Deann and Jason Sonoda sold their 2,000-square-foot condo in the Haight recently, they did not buy another home in San Francisco — they had already relocated to Burlingame.

The couple, both in their mid-30s, decided to decamp from The City for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was better schools and fewer hassles associated with urban life.

“We looked for around six months between San Carlos and Burlingame and ended up buying a place in Burlingame,” Deann Sonoda said. “It’s a single-family home, in a great school district and has parking. It’s only 15 to 20 minutes from San Francisco, a 10-minute walk to Caltrain and an easier commute to the South Bay.”

The Sonodas are not alone. They are part of a trend of homeowners in San Francisco who are selling their property and leaving town, according to a recent real estate survey. At the same time, The City is experiencing one of the largest population booms in recent decades, which is contributing to a housing crisis and ever-increasing cost of living.

Sixty percent of all people who sell their homes in The City are leaving San Francisco after they sell, according to a survey of real estate agent sales over the past 12 months.

And in a nod to the tensions surrounding evictions and the influx of tech workers, the survey found that 47 percent of homebuyers work in the tech industry.

The survey was commissioned for Paragon Real Estate, one of the largest residential brokerages in The City with about 1,000 sales a year.

“Perhaps the biggest single reason for selling is to relocate for what are perceived to be better public schools outside San Francisco or to save money by enrolling children in suburban public instead of city private schools,” noted the survey.

While the main reason behind such moves was schools and family, job-related reasons and retirement played into such designs.

And 25 percent of home sellers moved to try to get more bang for their buck, according to the survey.

San Francisco’s median home price in March was $937,500, while the Bay Area’s overall median home price was $555,000.

No better deals can be found in the rental market either, where most estimates put the median price for a one-bedroom apartment at well over $3,000 a month.

The outflow of residents comes amid a demographic boom in San Francisco, bringing The City’s population to heights never before seen. And according to figures released by the state Wednesday, the Bay Area is California’s fastest-growing region.

In 2013, San Francisco’s population increased by 1.3 percent, or about 10,000 residents, according to new numbers from the California Department of Finance. The City’s population now stands at 836,620.

That might not seem like a huge increase until you consider the population shift from 2000 to 2010. According to the 2000 census, San Francisco had 776,733 residents. By the 2010 census, that number had increased to 805,235.

More people have moved to The City in just the past three years than in the entire decade prior.

Despite this population boom, Lamisse Droubi, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker, said many of her clients are skipping town.

“I would say the majority of our sellers are in fact leaving The City,” she said.

Many of her clients are leaving, according to Droubi, for much the same reason as the Paragon survey’s findings.

The perception that San Francisco schools aren’t as good as public schools in nearby counties is wrong, said Gentle Blythe, a spokeswoman for the San Francisco Unified School District.

“SFUSD is consistently ranked one of the top-performing urban school systems in California,” she said. “Enrollment in our public schools is growing and we’re offering an even more robust curriculum as public and private funding begins to improve. Our student-to-teacher ratios are one of the lowest in the state, and SFUSD has a higher percentage of Nationally Board Certified teachers than any other urban district in California.”

Still, with a newly born baby that will one day go to school, the Sonodas made their decision in part because of schools outside of San Francisco.

Selling your home

The following figures, aside from the median home prices, represent findings in a survey done over the past 12 months:

50% Homebuyers who were first-time buyers

47% Homebuyers who work in tech industry

26% Homebuyers who bought with cash

3% Homebuyers who were foreigners

$937,500 Median S.F. home price in March

$555,000 Median Bay Area home price in March

Source: Paragon Real Estate

About The Author

Jonah Owen Lamb

Jonah Owen Lamb

Born and raised on a houseboat in Sausalito, Lamb has written for newspapers in New York City, Utah and the San Joaquin Valley. He was most recently an editor at the San Luis Obispo Tribune for nearly three years. He has written for The S.F. Examiner since 2013 and covers criminal justice and planning.
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