Things are looking up in the Bay Area for home builders, but for home buyers, the news remains pretty dismal.
That's the report from the National Association of Home Builders, which on Monday issued a list of metropolitan areas where the market for homes has improved, at least from the builders' perspective.
The NAHB just added San Francisco and San Jose to its list of metropolitan areas with improving markets. Yet San Francisco is the second least affordable city in the country, and San Jose is the eighth least affordable on a different NAHB ranking.
The "improving markets" index measures employment growth from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, housing price appreciation from Freddie Mac and single-family housing permit growth from the U.S. Census Bureau.
A metropolitan area must see improvement in all three measures for at least six consecutive months following those measures’ respective low points before being included on the improving markets list.
San Francisco bottomed out in terms of permits on Feb. 28, 2009, and has had a 2.5% increase since then. It got a 9.6% increase in prices since its trough on Jan. 31, 2012, and a 4.2% increase in employment.
San Jose is up 5.7 percent since March 31, 2009 in permits, 8.1% in prices since January 31, 2012 and 9.3 percent in employment since July 31, 2010
But in a Nov. 15 report, the NAHB found that San Francisco was still the second-least affordable place to live in the country.
Only people in the New York area have more dismal prospects of buying a house than people living in San Francisco and the Peninsula, the NAHB found.
That's not because houses are more expensive in New York, it's because people there make less money.
In the New York region, which the association defines as "New York-White Plains-Wayne, NY-NJ," the median family income is $68,300 a year while the median home costs $455,000.
And in "San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City, CA" the median family income is $103,000 while a home costs $659,000.
So the association figures that 31.4 percent of San Franciscans can afford to buy their residence, compared to only 28.5 percent of New Yorkers.
Of course, these regions are defined somewhat arbitrarily. It's debatable whether Redwood City is any more a part of San Francisco than Oakland.
Speaking of Oakland, "Oakland-Fremont-Hayward" is the 24th least affordable area. There, 65 percent of residents can afford a house, because the median household income is $93,500 and the median price of a house is $329,000, the association found.
"San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara" is the eighth least affordable with 46.2% able to afford a home, on $105,000 in income and a $530,000 home price.