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Out-of-town Zillow users are lusting after San Francisco property

Houses line Putnam Street in the Bernal Heights neighborhood in San Francisco on Sept. 27, 2022. | Source: Michaela Vatcheva for The Standard

Out-of-town Zillow users appear to be lusting after San Francisco real estate, according to data from the home-finding website shared with The Standard.

Narratives around rampant crime and drug use driving people away from the city are plentiful. However, Zillow data shows that users are still interested in living or moving here.

While the majority of interest in San Francisco listings still came from within the city, there was plenty of traffic from other major California cities, such as San Jose and Los Angeles.

The Bay Area has seen a yearslong contraction in population, beginning in 2020, when the population dropped by 93,000 residents between April 2020 to Jan. 1, 2021. The slide has only continued, with San Francisco’s population declining by 0.6% last year.

But with many tech companies enforcing return-to-office policies, including Zoom’s recent elimination of fully remote work in favor of a hybrid model, interest in returning to the San Francisco metro area appears to have been piqued.

While the majority of views for San Francisco properties still came from within the city at 63.4% of the inbound views, people from other California cities, including San Jose, Los Angeles, Sacramento and San Diego, comprised the next-highest chunk of interest for SF listings in the first three months of 2023.

“People tend to not move too far from their original location, especially if they have a family,” said Crystal Chen, a spokesperson on behalf of real estate rental platform Zumper. “Since a lot of renters moved to the suburbs during the pandemic, many may still be there. The return-to-office policies that a lot of companies are enforcing may be a big reason they're being drawn back to the city.”

As for San Franciscans themselves, they are mostly interested in other California cities, too, according to Zillow data. The cities receiving most attention from San Francisco residents are Sacramento, San Jose, Los Angeles and Stockton.

Those wanting to make the move to San Francisco face steep competition to secure housing, as the number of available properties has dipped this year, following a trend of declining new listings largely due to the high interest rate on mortgages, according to a market report from Zillow. According to Zillow data analyzed by The Standard, the number of for-sale unique listings in San Francisco dropped 21% between April 1 and June 30, or from 7,257 to 5,733 listings, compared with the same period last year. Average rents rose 0.2% from June to July, reaching $3,188, 0.6% higher than last year, according to a spokesperson from Zillow.

“The housing market is cooling off slightly as the spring shopping season gives way to a seasonal late-summer slowdown,” a Zillow spokesperson said. “But competition is still stronger than pre-pandemic norms, as those continuing to search for homes deal with exceptionally few options to choose from."