California

This Spring's Fastest-Moving Housing Markets

4/23/14

Spring home buyers might be surprised that national housing data have pointed to a recent market slowdown. Although nationally, new construction starts and existing home sales have been sluggish in recent months, buyers in many local markets will need to move a bit faster this year than last in order to snag their dream house.

To measure how fast the homes in a market are moving, we calculated the share of homes for sale on Trulia two months ago (on February 14, 2014) that were still on the market on April 14. Faster-moving markets have a lower percentage of homes still on the market after two months, while slower-moving markets have a higher percentage.                                                       

Inventory Is Up This Spring, But It's Going Fast

Nationally, 55 percent of the homes listed for sale in mid-February were still on the market in mid-April. That's down a bit from 56 percent for the same period last year. The slight quickening of the national market is being driven mostly by homes priced at the low end of the market. To see this, we divided each of the 100 largest U.S. metros evenly into three price tiers (with each metro having its own price cutoffs based on what’s considered high-end, mid-range, and low-end locally). On average, at the national level, the low-price tier moved fastest, with 49 percent of the homes listed two months earlier still on the market in mid-April; in contrast, 62 percent of homes in the high-price tier were still on the market after two months.

Furthermore, the low price tier sped up more than the other tiers compared with a year ago, dropping 3 points in 2014 versus 2013, compared with 1-point drops for the middle and high tiers. As always, though, the national trend hides big differences in local markets, many of which are quickening while others are slowing.

The Market is Fastest in the Bay Area, Quickening in New York, and Slowing in Southern California

The share of homes for sale today after being on the market two months ago ranges from less than one third in the San Francisco Bay Area to more than two thirds in several markets in the Northeast and South. The fastest-moving markets are Oakland, San Jose, and San Francisco, where less than one third of homes on the market two months ago were still for sale in mid-April 2014. Outside of California, the fastest-moving markets are Denver and Seattle. Fast-moving markets tend to have larger price gains: in eight of the 10 fastest-moving markets, the year-over-year increase in asking prices exceeded the national average of 10 percent.

America’s Top 10 Fastest-Moving Housing Markets

#

U.S. Metro

Share of homes still for sale after being listed for at least two months, mid-April 2014

Share of homes still for sale after being listed for at least two months, mid-April 2013

Difference in share still for sale, 2014 vs 2013

Asking prices, Y-o-Y % Change, March 2014

1

Oakland, CA

29%

31%

-2%

22.7%

2

San Jose, CA

31%

35%

-4%

13.4%

3

San Francisco, CA

32%

36%

-4%

15.1%

4

Denver, CO

38%

47%

-8%

9.6%

5

San Diego, CA

41%

45%

-4%

14.0%

6

Seattle, WA

43%

49%

-6%

11.2%

7

Los Angeles, CA

44%

40%

4%

17.0%

8

Orange County, CA

45%

38%

6%

14.9%

9

Sacramento, CA

45%

41%

4%

22.2%

10

Middlesex County, MA

46%

52%

-6%

7.3%

Note: Among the 100 largest U.S. metros. The two-month shares and the difference are rounded to the nearest percentage point, and the difference was calculated before rounding; therefore, the rounded difference might not equal the difference between the rounded shares. To download the findings for the 100 largest U.S. metros, click here.


Some of the fastest-moving markets have slowed down since last year. While the share of homes for sale that are still on the market two months later in 2014 fell in the fastest-moving markets in 2013, it increased in Los Angeles, Orange County, and Sacramento. The share also increased considerably in Ventura County (from 38 percent to 48 percent) and Phoenix (48 percent to 55 percent) and moderately in Riverside-San Bernardino (from 49 percent to 53 percent). This means that many of the formerly hard-hit markets that led the housing recovery with price gains, investor buying, and bidding wars are now cooling off.

At the same time, markets elsewhere in the country are speeding up. Although the New York metro area isn't one of the fastest-moving markets, the share of homes for sale that were still on the market two months later dropped from 65 percent in April 2013 to 54 percent in April 2014. Edison-New Brunswick, New Jersey, and West Palm Beach are speeding up at a similar pace to New York, even though homes in these markets aren’t moving quickly enough to land those markets on the top 10 fastest-moving markets list.

In contrast, the slowest-moving markets are in the South and the Northeast. All but one of the 10 slowest-moving markets had year-over-year price increases below the national average of 10 percent.

America’s Top 10 Slowest-Moving Housing Markets

#

U.S. Metro

Share of homes still for sale after being listed for at least two months, mid-April 2014

Share of homes still for sale after being listed for at least two months, mid-April 2013

Difference in share still for sale, 2014 vs 2013

Asking prices, Y-o-Y % Change, March 2014

1

Richmond, VA

72%

61%

11%

3.6%

2

Hartford, CT

71%

67%

4%

-1.2%

3

Albany, NY

70%

70%

0%

-1.5%

4

New Haven, CT

70%

68%

3%

-0.3%

5

Long Island, NY

70%

68%

2%

4.8%

6

Knoxville, TN

68%

64%

4%

6.2%

7

Springfield, MA

67%

66%

1%

3.0%

8

Columbia, SC

67%

67%

0%

8.0%

9

Birmingham, AL

66%

67%

0%

16.7%

10

Greenville, SC

66%

66%

0%

6.1%

Note: Among the 100 largest U.S. metros. The two-month shares and the difference are rounded to the nearest percentage point, and the difference was calculated before rounding; therefore, the rounded difference might not equal the difference between the rounded shares.

 


Why do some markets move faster than others? The tables above show that faster-moving markets have had bigger price increases: these fast-moving markets are sellers’ markets where homes don’t stay on the market for long. The scatterplot shows that markets with bigger price increases tend to move faster (though not always):

But fast-moving markets are different in other ways, too. They tend to be more expensive to begin with; in other words, they have had both higher price levels and bigger price increases in the past year. Expensive markets – including many in California – have a perennially tight housing supply because of limited construction, so homes don’t stay on the market for long.

Finally, foreclosures are affecting the speed of the market, particularly at the low end. In metros that still have a significant foreclosure inventory– which are concentrated in states with slower "judicial" foreclosure laws – the low-priced tier moves more slowly than in metros with fewer foreclosures. Since many foreclosures tend to be lower-priced, fewer foreclosures mean a smaller supply of lower-priced homes, so homes in the low tier don’t stay on the market as long. The fast-moving low tier is yet another hurdle for first-time homebuyers: not only do potential first-timers face declining affordability and a slow jobs recovery, but the homes they can afford aren’t waiting on the market for them.

This story first appeared on Trulia's Trulia Trends blog, an Atlantic partner site. 

Top image: beeboys /Shutterstock.com








This Spring's Fastest-Moving Housing Markets

4/23/14

Spring home buyers might be surprised that national housing data have pointed to a recent market slowdown. Although nationally, new construction starts and existing home sales have been sluggish in recent months, buyers in many local markets will need to move a bit faster this year than last in order to snag their dream house.

To measure how fast the homes in a market are moving, we calculated the share of homes for sale on Trulia two months ago (on February 14, 2014) that were still on the market on April 14. Faster-moving markets have a lower percentage of homes still on the market after two months, while slower-moving markets have a higher percentage.                                                       

Inventory Is Up This Spring, But It's Going Fast

Nationally, 55 percent of the homes listed for sale in mid-February were still on the market in mid-April. That's down a bit from 56 percent for the same period last year. The slight quickening of the national market is being driven mostly by homes priced at the low end of the market. To see this, we divided each of the 100 largest U.S. metros evenly into three price tiers (with each metro having its own price cutoffs based on what’s considered high-end, mid-range, and low-end locally). On average, at the national level, the low-price tier moved fastest, with 49 percent of the homes listed two months earlier still on the market in mid-April; in contrast, 62 percent of homes in the high-price tier were still on the market after two months.

Furthermore, the low price tier sped up more than the other tiers compared with a year ago, dropping 3 points in 2014 versus 2013, compared with 1-point drops for the middle and high tiers. As always, though, the national trend hides big differences in local markets, many of which are quickening while others are slowing.

The Market is Fastest in the Bay Area, Quickening in New York, and Slowing in Southern California

The share of homes for sale today after being on the market two months ago ranges from less than one third in the San Francisco Bay Area to more than two thirds in several markets in the Northeast and South. The fastest-moving markets are Oakland, San Jose, and San Francisco, where less than one third of homes on the market two months ago were still for sale in mid-April 2014. Outside of California, the fastest-moving markets are Denver and Seattle. Fast-moving markets tend to have larger price gains: in eight of the 10 fastest-moving markets, the year-over-year increase in asking prices exceeded the national average of 10 percent.

America’s Top 10 Fastest-Moving Housing Markets

#

U.S. Metro

Share of homes still for sale after being listed for at least two months, mid-April 2014

Share of homes still for sale after being listed for at least two months, mid-April 2013

Difference in share still for sale, 2014 vs 2013

Asking prices, Y-o-Y % Change, March 2014

1

Oakland, CA

29%

31%

-2%

22.7%

2

San Jose, CA

31%

35%

-4%

13.4%

3

San Francisco, CA

32%

36%

-4%

15.1%

4

Denver, CO

38%

47%

-8%

9.6%

5

San Diego, CA

41%

45%

-4%

14.0%

6

Seattle, WA

43%

49%

-6%

11.2%

7

Los Angeles, CA

44%

40%

4%

17.0%

8

Orange County, CA

45%

38%

6%

14.9%

9

Sacramento, CA

45%

41%

4%

22.2%

10

Middlesex County, MA

46%

52%

-6%

7.3%

Note: Among the 100 largest U.S. metros. The two-month shares and the difference are rounded to the nearest percentage point, and the difference was calculated before rounding; therefore, the rounded difference might not equal the difference between the rounded shares. To download the findings for the 100 largest U.S. metros, click here.


Some of the fastest-moving markets have slowed down since last year. While the share of homes for sale that are still on the market two months later in 2014 fell in the fastest-moving markets in 2013, it increased in Los Angeles, Orange County, and Sacramento. The share also increased considerably in Ventura County (from 38 percent to 48 percent) and Phoenix (48 percent to 55 percent) and moderately in Riverside-San Bernardino (from 49 percent to 53 percent). This means that many of the formerly hard-hit markets that led the housing recovery with price gains, investor buying, and bidding wars are now cooling off.

At the same time, markets elsewhere in the country are speeding up. Although the New York metro area isn't one of the fastest-moving markets, the share of homes for sale that were still on the market two months later dropped from 65 percent in April 2013 to 54 percent in April 2014. Edison-New Brunswick, New Jersey, and West Palm Beach are speeding up at a similar pace to New York, even though homes in these markets aren’t moving quickly enough to land those markets on the top 10 fastest-moving markets list.

In contrast, the slowest-moving markets are in the South and the Northeast. All but one of the 10 slowest-moving markets had year-over-year price increases below the national average of 10 percent.

America’s Top 10 Slowest-Moving Housing Markets

#

U.S. Metro

Share of homes still for sale after being listed for at least two months, mid-April 2014

Share of homes still for sale after being listed for at least two months, mid-April 2013

Difference in share still for sale, 2014 vs 2013

Asking prices, Y-o-Y % Change, March 2014

1

Richmond, VA

72%

61%

11%

3.6%

2

Hartford, CT

71%

67%

4%

-1.2%

3

Albany, NY

70%

70%

0%

-1.5%

4

New Haven, CT

70%

68%

3%

-0.3%

5

Long Island, NY

70%

68%

2%

4.8%

6

Knoxville, TN

68%

64%

4%

6.2%

7

Springfield, MA

67%

66%

1%

3.0%

8

Columbia, SC

67%

67%

0%

8.0%

9

Birmingham, AL

66%

67%

0%

16.7%

10

Greenville, SC

66%

66%

0%

6.1%

Note: Among the 100 largest U.S. metros. The two-month shares and the difference are rounded to the nearest percentage point, and the difference was calculated before rounding; therefore, the rounded difference might not equal the difference between the rounded shares.

 


Why do some markets move faster than others? The tables above show that faster-moving markets have had bigger price increases: these fast-moving markets are sellers’ markets where homes don’t stay on the market for long. The scatterplot shows that markets with bigger price increases tend to move faster (though not always):

But fast-moving markets are different in other ways, too. They tend to be more expensive to begin with; in other words, they have had both higher price levels and bigger price increases in the past year. Expensive markets – including many in California – have a perennially tight housing supply because of limited construction, so homes don’t stay on the market for long.

Finally, foreclosures are affecting the speed of the market, particularly at the low end. In metros that still have a significant foreclosure inventory– which are concentrated in states with slower "judicial" foreclosure laws – the low-priced tier moves more slowly than in metros with fewer foreclosures. Since many foreclosures tend to be lower-priced, fewer foreclosures mean a smaller supply of lower-priced homes, so homes in the low tier don’t stay on the market as long. The fast-moving low tier is yet another hurdle for first-time homebuyers: not only do potential first-timers face declining affordability and a slow jobs recovery, but the homes they can afford aren’t waiting on the market for them.

This story first appeared on Trulia's Trulia Trends blog, an Atlantic partner site. 

Top image: beeboys /Shutterstock.com








How China Will Dominate the U.S. Electric-Bus Market

4/22/14

Next Monday, a battery-powered, 40-foot bus is set to roll off the assembly line in a former recreational vehicle factory in Lancaster, California, a blue-collar desert community north of Los Angeles, and be delivered to the local transit authority.

There’s no missing the symbolism—a defunct manufacturing plant that once made massive, gas-hogging RVs is reborn to produce carbon-free transportation (and local jobs)—as the world tips toward climate catastrophe.

But here’s who’s driving this $800,000 bus: China. The owner of the factory and the technology that lets the eBus go 155 miles on a charge is BYD, the $38 billion Chinese conglomerate that makes everything from electric cars to LED lighting to solar panels. (The company is best known in the United States for the owner of 10 percent of its shares—a Nebraskan investor named Warren Buffett.)

As I wrote in The New York Times last October about BYD’s move into Los Angeles:

THERE’S a newcomer to this city’s auto row. Compared to the shiny showrooms displaying the latest Mercedeses and Toyotas, the Chinese carmaker BYD’s outpost in the shadow of downtown skyscrapers looks rather forlorn.

Just two of its models — a red electric sport utility vehicle and a brown gasoline-powered sedan — are on view in an otherwise empty storefront. But it’s the pair of 40-foot-long battery-powered buses parked across the street that is driving the company’s ambitions to become the first Chinese automaker to break into the United States market.

The company beat American competitors to win contracts to build electric buses for transit agencies in Los Angeles and nearby Long Beach. BYD is also pursuing deals to supply electric shuttle buses to rental car agencies, amusement parks and Silicon Valley technology companies. In New York, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority began a two-month road-test of BYD’s battery-powered eBus in September.

Media attention, though, has focused on BYD’s rocky entry into the U.S. market. California state regulators last year docked the company $99,245 for violating state labor laws by under-paying Chinese engineers it brought over to work at the Lancaster factory. The labor commission later dropped that charge and reduced the fine to $37,803 for minor infractions of state labor laws.

Then in March, the Long Beach transit board canceled its $12.1 million deal with BYD for 10 buses because federal officials, who are providing most of the money for the transit project, said BYD had not been an eligible recipient of U.S. funding at the time of the bidding.   

Those setbacks are distractions from the real story: China has begun to emerge as a green tech and energy innovator.

Take the 324 kilowatt-hour iron phosphate battery that powers the eBus. BYD has built another factory in Lancaster to assemble battery packs, which can also be used to store renewable energy from solar panels or wind turbines. A smaller version of the battery pack powers the e6 SUV, giving it a range of 186 miles on a charge, compared to 75 miles for most electric cars currently on the market.

While Americans tend to focus on invented-in-Silicon-Valley technology—Tesla!—the rest of the world is jumping onboard the eBus. BYD has signed deals to supply the vehicle to countries in Asia, Europe and South America. And the e6 has started to appear in taxi fleets around the world.  So don’t be surprised if you hop in one at LAX sometime in the next few years.

Meanwhile, back in the U.S., there’s a paucity of homegrown competitors in the electric bus market, with the leading rival being a South Carolina company called Proterra.

So count on continued coverage of Tesla Motors’ plans to sell its luxury electric sports sedan to China’s 1 percent—Elon Musk!—while China quietly moves the masses around Southern California and Silicon Valley in its silent-running eBuses.

This post originally appeared on The Atlantic.








How China Will Dominate the U.S. Electric-Bus Market

4/22/14

Next Monday, a battery-powered, 40-foot bus is set to roll off the assembly line in a former recreational vehicle factory in Lancaster, California, a blue-collar desert community north of Los Angeles, and be delivered to the local transit authority.

There’s no missing the symbolism—a defunct manufacturing plant that once made massive, gas-hogging RVs is reborn to produce carbon-free transportation (and local jobs)—as the world tips toward climate catastrophe.

But here’s who’s driving this $800,000 bus: China. The owner of the factory and the technology that lets the eBus go 155 miles on a charge is BYD, the $38 billion Chinese conglomerate that makes everything from electric cars to LED lighting to solar panels. (The company is best known in the United States for the owner of 10 percent of its shares—a Nebraskan investor named Warren Buffett.)

As I wrote in The New York Times last October about BYD’s move into Los Angeles:

THERE’S a newcomer to this city’s auto row. Compared to the shiny showrooms displaying the latest Mercedeses and Toyotas, the Chinese carmaker BYD’s outpost in the shadow of downtown skyscrapers looks rather forlorn.

Just two of its models — a red electric sport utility vehicle and a brown gasoline-powered sedan — are on view in an otherwise empty storefront. But it’s the pair of 40-foot-long battery-powered buses parked across the street that is driving the company’s ambitions to become the first Chinese automaker to break into the United States market.

The company beat American competitors to win contracts to build electric buses for transit agencies in Los Angeles and nearby Long Beach. BYD is also pursuing deals to supply electric shuttle buses to rental car agencies, amusement parks and Silicon Valley technology companies. In New York, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority began a two-month road-test of BYD’s battery-powered eBus in September.

Media attention, though, has focused on BYD’s rocky entry into the U.S. market. California state regulators last year docked the company $99,245 for violating state labor laws by under-paying Chinese engineers it brought over to work at the Lancaster factory. The labor commission later dropped that charge and reduced the fine to $37,803 for minor infractions of state labor laws.

Then in March, the Long Beach transit board canceled its $12.1 million deal with BYD for 10 buses because federal officials, who are providing most of the money for the transit project, said BYD had not been an eligible recipient of U.S. funding at the time of the bidding.   

Those setbacks are distractions from the real story: China has begun to emerge as a green tech and energy innovator.

Take the 324 kilowatt-hour iron phosphate battery that powers the eBus. BYD has built another factory in Lancaster to assemble battery packs, which can also be used to store renewable energy from solar panels or wind turbines. A smaller version of the battery pack powers the e6 SUV, giving it a range of 186 miles on a charge, compared to 75 miles for most electric cars currently on the market.

While Americans tend to focus on invented-in-Silicon-Valley technology—Tesla!—the rest of the world is jumping onboard the eBus. BYD has signed deals to supply the vehicle to countries in Asia, Europe and South America. And the e6 has started to appear in taxi fleets around the world.  So don’t be surprised if you hop in one at LAX sometime in the next few years.

Meanwhile, back in the U.S., there’s a paucity of homegrown competitors in the electric bus market, with the leading rival being a South Carolina company called Proterra.

So count on continued coverage of Tesla Motors’ plans to sell its luxury electric sports sedan to China’s 1 percent—Elon Musk!—while China quietly moves the masses around Southern California and Silicon Valley in its silent-running eBuses.

This post originally appeared on The Atlantic.








On Earth Day, a Commitment to Climate Action

4/22/14

Forty-five years ago, an oil well being drilled off the coast of Santa Barbara, California blew out. At the time, it was the worst oil spill in U.S. history. Forty-five years ago, too, the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, Ohio, caught fire—again. Cities from New York to Philadelphia to Los Angeles were regularly blanketed in harmful smog.

One year later, inspired by the bipartisan efforts of Democratic Senator Gaylord Nelson and Republican Congressman Pete McCloskey, 20 million Americans took part in the first Earth Day demonstrations. Across the country, people gathered in the streets, in parks, and on college campuses to call for air, water, and wildlife protections. The strength of Americans’ convictions led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act. As a result, our air is safer to breathe, our water is safer to drink, and more of our natural resources are protected for future generations.

Earth Day is as important now as it was then. Our health, our economy, our security, and our planet’s future are once again threatened by pollution and environmental degradation.

Our climate is changing, and that change is being driven by human activity. Every year, the United States pumps millions of tons of carbon dioxide pollution and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Recent reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reinforced that these emissions will have devastating effects on our planet, from higher average global temperatures to sea level rise to more severe weather.

That’s why last year President Obama announced the Climate Action Plan, an ambitious strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, to better prepare our communities for the impacts of climate change we can’t avoid, and to lead on the international stage in addressing this global challenge. 

read more

How Police Spied on a Whole City

4/21/14

This is the future if nothing is done to stop it.

In a secret test of mass surveillance technology, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department sent a civilian aircraft over Compton, California, capturing high-resolution video of everything that happened inside that 10-square-mile municipality.

Compton residents weren't told about the spying, which happened in 2012. "We literally watched all of Compton during the times that we were flying, so we could zoom in anywhere within the city of Compton and follow cars and see people," Ross McNutt of Persistence Surveillance Systems told the Center for Investigative Reporting. The technology he's trying to sell to police departments all over America can stay aloft for up to six hours. Like Google Earth, it enables police to zoom in on certain areas. And like TiVo, it permits them to rewind, so that they can look back and see what happened anywhere they weren't watching in real time. 

If it's adopted, Americans can be policed like Iraqis and Afghanis under occupation–and at bargain prices:

McNutt, who holds a doctorate in rapid product development, helped build wide-area surveillance to hunt down bombing suspects in Iraq and Afghanistan. He decided that clusters of high-powered surveillance cameras attached to the belly of small civilian aircraft could be a game-changer in U.S. law enforcement.

“Our whole system costs less than the price of a single police helicopter and costs less for an hour to operate than a police helicopter,” McNutt said. “But at the same time, it watches 10,000 times the area that a police helicopter could watch.”

A sargeant in the L.A. County Sheriff's office compared the technology to Big Brother, which didn't stop him from deploying it over a string of necklace snatchings.

Sgt. Douglas Iketani acknowledges that his agency hid the experiment to avoid public opposition. "This system was kind of kept confidential from everybody in the public,"he said. "A lot of people do have a problem with the eye in the sky, the Big Brother, so to mitigate those kinds of complaints we basically kept it pretty hush hush." That attitude ought to get a public employee summarily terminated. 

He also gave this incredible quote:

"Our first initial thought was, oh, Big Brother, we're going to have a camera flying over us. But with the wide area surveillance you would have the ability to solve a lot of the unsolvable crimes with no witnesses, no videotape surveillance, no fingerprints."

Notice that he didn't conclude that the "wide area surveillance" wouldn't be like Big Brother after all, just that Big Brother capabilities would help to solve more crimes. 

So why not try them out?

He later explains that while the public may think its against this, we'll get used to it:

I'm sure that once people find out this experiment went on they might be a little upset. But knowing that we can't see into their bedroom windows, we can't see into their pools, we can't see into their showers. You know, I'm sure they'll be okay with it. With the amount of technology out in today's age, with cameras in ATMs, at every 7/11, at every supermarket, pretty much every light poll, all the license plate cameras, the red light cameras, people have just gotten used to being watched. 

The CIR story reports that no police department has yet purchased this technology, not because the law enforcement community is unwilling to conduct mass surveillance of their fellow citizens without first gaining the public's consent, but because the cameras aren't yet good enough to identify the faces of individuals. It's hard to imagine that next technological barrier won't be broken soon.

I'd be against mass surveillance of innocents in any case. 

But it's especially galling to see law enforcement professionals betray the spirit of democracy by foisting these tools on what they know to be a reluctant public because they deem it to be prudent based on a perspective that is obviously biased.

Many Americans elect their own sheriffs. This is the future if nothing is done to stop them.

This post originally appeared on The Atlantic.