Real estate inventory change from February to July 2020, in metro area and city proper. Photo: Zillow

Photo: Zillow

Real estate inventory change from February to July 2020, in metro area and city proper.

A new report confirms what many have been talking about for weeks: There is a mass exodus out of San Francisco, and the numbers are staggering.

Online real estate company Zillow released new statistics shining a stark light on the issue this week. Their “2020 Urban-Suburban Market Report” reveals that inventory has risen a whopping 96% year-on-year, as empty homes in the city flood the market like nowhere else in America.

The reason for this change is likely a combination of a few unprecedented factors that have collided this summer, resulting in a historic shift in the city.

The astronomical cost of owning a home in the San Francisco city limits — which has been sky high for over a decade now, since the second tech boom — had to break at some point, and the coronavirus seems to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. The pandemic soon led to tech giants like Google, Facebook and Twitter rethinking what work looks like, as many have allowed employees to work remotely for the foreseeable future, and maybe forever.

This, combined with the fact that most entertainment venues, eateries and bars in the city have closed, has given many residents — particularly tech employees and transplants — little reason to stay, when more spacious, literally greener pastures beckon in (relatively) less costly regions in California such as Lake Tahoe or Palm Springs. 

It should be noted that San Francisco had an unusually low inventory relative to other large cities prior to the pandemic. Historically, the ratio of homes for sale relative to total housing has been a quarter of what New York’s was.

Regardless, the 96% year on year change in inventory marks a significant moment.

Zillow economist Josh Clark tells SFGATE that the remote work shift alone has not sparked the exodus.

“It may be tempting to credit the city of San Francisco’s inventory boom to the advent of remote work that came with the pandemic, but one only has to look at to San Jose to question that narrative,” Clark said. “The San Jose metro, which like the city of SF is dominated by tech workers, has not seen a similar rise. Two things that could drive the difference are San Francisco’s density and its smaller share of family households.”

The same dramatic shift has not been seen in other large cities across the country, according to the report.

“When comparing the principal city to its surrounding suburbs, the San Francisco metro area does break the mold. Higher levels of inventory, up 96% YoY following a flood of new listings during the pandemic, are sitting on the market in the city proper, a significantly larger jump than the surrounding suburbs,” the report states. “Whereas in similar cities like Los Angeles, Miami, Boston, Seattle, and Washington, D.C., declining or flat inventory is a consistent trend within and outside the city limits.”