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COVID Exodus: Home For Sale Listings Soar As Pandemic's Economic Impact Grips San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- Rents are tumbling and the number of homes listed for sale are soaring -- all signs that the COVID 19 exodus from San Francisco was not losing its momentum six months into the pandemic.

With many of the region's top employers still under work-at-home mandates or having furloughed or reduced staffing, the once red-hot real estate market has gone into a chill.

A report from -- a San Francisco-based online listing service -- said rents in the city have decreased by 5.2% month-over-month in September and are down by 17.8% since the start of the pandemic in March -- the fastest decline among the nation's 100 largest cities.

Median two-bedrooms were renting for a cost $2,592 while one-bedrooms were going for $2,240. It was a much different snapshot of the local market at the start of the year before the COVID outbreak triggered layoffs, furloughs and employees being forced to work from home.

Moving vans have become a common sight during the retreat from San Francisco. Among those who has left the city is William Hauser, who originally came to San Francisco to pursue his digital dreams.

Hauser talked with KPIX 5 in late August as he loaded a moving van ready to begin his exodus to his childhood hometown in Ohio.

"Honestly, I started being a software engineer, I got into computers, because it's convenient to be able to work remotely," he said. "Now that everyone has been working remote, and policies aren't cemented at least until next year, there's no reason to stay here when I could go back to family and work remotely there."

The same chill is sweeping through the home market. According to the San Francisco Association of Realtors and Multiple Listing Service, there was a 44 percent jump in the number of homes for sale in the city in the third quarter of 2020 compared to 2019. When it came to condominiums the number was up 34.4 percent.

As for prices, Compass -- a San Francisco-based high end real estate broker -- released figures showing a dramatic drop in the sale price for homes in Pacific Heights, Presidio Heights, Cow Hollow and the Marina. The average sale prices in September 2019 was $4.95 million while in September 2020 it had dropped to $4.4 million.

In San Francisco's other neighborhoods, prices were slightly up or flat in Sept. 2019 to Sept. 2020. That was a much different picture from the steady increases since 2012.

"COVID is forcing people to think about what they need in a home," said Frank Nolan, president of Vanguard Properties. "That's the Number One reason people are buying or selling.

According to a report from Compass, the San Francisco condo market was taking the largest hit.

"The number of price reductions - again heavily concentrated in the condo market - has jumped to its highest point in many years," Compass said in its report. "In certain segments, sellers are now competing for buyers, instead of buyers competing for listings."

Aside from the COVID pandemic's job impact, San Francisco residents Joe Imbriani and Anne Hocquet think city living has also lost some of its luster.

Imbriani cited the unkept condition of the city's streets.

"They (those who are leaving) think the city is just gotten to be one big trash can right now," he said.

Hocquet, who bought a home in San Francisco two years ago, felt the forced OVID-19 shutdowns of local businesses also was fueling the exodus.

"The city has lost a little of its appeal with everything being closed," she said. "It's not like you are missing anything."

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