“We are finding all over the country that all-cash buyers are older affluent people," says John Burns of John Burns Real Estate Consulting in the Business Times, regarding new research his firm conducted with Pacific Union. "It was surprising to me, too, but when I thought about it, we’ve seen a lot of these all-cash buyers in other large cities like Chicago or New York, so why not in San Francisco?”
Why not indeed. In the Bay Area overall, 40 of the 323 cash transactions in which Burns' agents were involved from February to June of 2014 involved tech buyers. That's just 12 percent, so please, place your jealousy/blame proportionately.
Nonetheless, in San Francisco proper, all-cash tech buyers represented 27 percent of transactions, which is a lot, but maybe shouldn't account for the preponderance of anti-tech frustration we've heard in recent years. And, predictably, the all-cash tech crowd's share of buys was even higher in Silicon Valley — 33 percent — while it was markedly lower in Marin, at just 10 percent.
So who are the real all-cash buyers of Bay Area homes we hear so much about? "The buyer profile has been in their 50s or 60s, so early-edge Baby Boomers who are now retiring," says Burns. 42 percent of this group earned their lucre the old-fashioned way: investment banking, consulting, etc. etc., and the other 40 percent did so the old, old fashioned way, with "family" or "legacy" wealth though a few got rich from athletics or the arts.
Also according to Burns, these newly purchased homes aren't sitting idle or being prepped for a flip, as the mythology surrounding them usually suggests. "Two-thirds of the buyers were moving in, so it’s more that people want to move in and stay," he said.
Buying is one thing, but most, including Burns, still believe that VC investments funneled to technologists remain responsible for the prohibitively expensive rental market, as Zumper was hardly the first to point out in September.
Burns and team wrote in their report that "One of the best leading indicators we’ve come across in trying to identify inflection points in Bay Area apartment rents is venture capital... funding patterns." And, following the dot-com crash, "VC funding to local companies plummeted in lockstep with apartment rents," they add. So what's next? "[We] think another decline this time around is inevitable," the team concludes. You're preaching to the choir, people, just try telling that to Andreessen Horowitz.