I have already talked about how I think that Zillow.com delivers pretty mixed results in Michigan. In California, with higher population density, I think the results might be more accurate because there is more historic data per neighborhood.
Out of curiousity last night I Zillowed the duplex on 25th Avenue we rented in San Francisco, to see if we could ever buy it and move back. Can we? Doubtful. Zillow lists its value (for both flats) at about $880,000, with a range of $749,000 to $1,000,000. 'Spensive. But what was really fascinating was that when I looked at the ten-year range for the property, in 1997 it was worth about $220,000, with with a rapid (>250%) spike beginning in 1998. Did something happen in the Bay Area in the late 90s to drive up housing prices? I couldn't think of anything, so it must just be a nice place to live.
The point though, is that even though I cannot afford this house today, it's plausible that middle class people could have purchased this house back in the mid nineties for under $200K! This price would be comparable to much of suburban Toledo during the same period, which makes me wish that I hadn't even looked this up. The knowledge itself makes me feel bad. It's not that I don't love Toledo, which has a stunning amount to offer for a mid-sized city, but to learn we could have had San Francisco and then the property could have appreciated $600,000....well, maybe it's worth skipping summer camp because milk and property taxes are higher. It certainly explains how our landlord, a retired court reporter, could afford to rent out this home and live in a condo in San Rafael.* Toledo housing prices are pretty much where they were when this house started to take off like a rocket. I wonder though, is our kid going to be asking why we raised him in Michigan when we could have bought into California for only a million?
San Francisco Real Estate, Zillow
*By the way, I Zillowed her condo - $629,000.