By now, this may be belaboring the point, but this latest piece of perspective is just breathtaking: 43.5 percent of the homes for sale in metropolitan San Francisco as of earlier this month were listing for $1 million or more.
That figure comes from Jed Kolko, the chief economist at the real-estate tracking site Trulia, who has calculated a similar share for each of the 100 largest metros (xlsx) in the country. San Francisco is not surprisingly on top:
But the distance between San Francisco and most of the rest of the country is remarkable. In 68 of the 100 largest metros — including Chicago, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Dallas — million-dollar homes comprise less than 5 percent of what's on the market. They make up less than 2 percent of for-sale housing in 44 of the largest metros.
A couple of caveats here: These numbers are based on asking prices, not actual sales, so let's assume that many of these people will be talked down from their listing figures. Kolko is also looking at metropolitan statistical areas, not cities (some similar million-dollar figures that have been making the Internet rounds, with this nice graphic, appear to use city-only numbers and so look slightly different).
For this reason, Washington's numbers may feel a little low. The Washington MSA is divided here into two divisions. Bethesda-Rockville-Frederick in suburban Maryland comes in at 19th among the 100 largest metros (at 10 percent). Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, a government division that also includes one county in West Virginia, comes in at 24th (at 7.4 percent).
If you do happen to have a million dollars (or access to a mortgage that size), it will also not surprisingly buy you a lot less in San Francisco or New York than it will just about anywhere else in the country:
A number of dynamics lie behind these numbers, many of which are beyond the realm of policy. But while the high cost of living in San Francisco reflects the fact that many people want to live there (drawn in part by high-paying jobs in the tech industry), part of San Francisco's challenge lies on the supply side. The city has historically been stingy with new construction permits, relative to other major U.S. cities. Median incomes may not be keeping pace with median home prices. But neither is new housing construction with new demand from people who want to live in the area.