A megaregion that’s hot! hot! hot!

The Bay Area has four of the twenty hottest real estate markets nationally, according to realtor.com.  Another top-twenty metro is just south of us, and three others are also located in the Northern California region.  Or, as some are starting to call it, the Northern California Megaregion.

Don’t be fooled.  This photo is from the 1980s.  We don’t have traffic like this now.

The hottest market in the nation?  Drumroll…Vallejo!

But don’t fret, the usual suspects are still hot! hot! hot!  In second place nationally is the San Francisco metro–San Francisco, Oakland and Hayward.  The San Jose metro–San Jose, Sunnyvale and Santa Clara–is ninth.

Vallejo (forever enshrined in my memory as “low-overhead Vallejo” by an auto dealer’s TV ads back in the ’70s), Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz and Stockton are hot! etc! in large part due to the diaspora of Silicon Valley workers priced out of Silicon Valley homes.

And although I don’t want their commute, #4 Sacramento, where starter homes start at $400k, “move-up” homes at $800k (about where a Palo Alto one-bedroom condo starts), and neighboring #9 Chico are getting their share of Bay Area workers.  Sacramento and Chico are part of what the Bay Area Council, a business group, calls the Northern California Megaregion:  the six counties in and around Sacramento, three Northern San Joaquin Valley area counties, and three Monterey Bay area counties.

Realtor.com’s top twenty list hints at a “megaregion”, because the NorCal city markets on the list are actually huge Statistical Metropolitan Areas that extend far beyond city limits, often on the fringes of the Bay Area or well beyond its limits.

“Vallejo”, for example, stands for the Vallejo-Fairfield MSA, which is really all of Solano County, traditionally the most affordable part of the Bay Area.  Likewise, “Santa Rosa” represents the Santa Rosa-Petaluma MSA, which is all of Sonoma County.  And “Santa Cruz” is the Santa Cruz-Watsonville MSA, encompassing all of Santa Cruz County.

Not long ago the Bay Area was three major cities, with most of the jobs, surrounded by tens of bedroom communities, with most of the bedrooms.  Not long ago people believed that if you drove too far south on El Camino you’d fall off the edge of the earth.

Today most people know that you can drive for hours without falling off the edge, and for an increasing number of Bay Area workers, that’s their commute.  Today the Bay Area is, in effect, an urban core, with most of the jobs, and huge swaths of Northern California are turning into its bedroom communities.

At this rate, Red Bluff is in the proverbial “path of progress”.

“Homes coming soon!”

Realtor.com’s hot! hot! hot! list makes it plain that the Bay Area in general, and Silicon Valley in particular, is still a tremendous job engine with an outsized influence on neighboring regions.  It’s also a reminder of how fortunate those of us are who can live here.

copyright © John Fyten 2017


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