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A San Diego Data Dive Shows A Market Upended By Tight Supply

California is home to roughly 39 million people, making it by far the nation’s most populous state. In 2022, however, only 55.3% of its occupied homes were owner-occupied, the third lowest percentage in the U.S. after New York (53.9%) and Washington, D.C. (42.3%), according to the Census Bureau.

Landing a California home is hard and expensive – especially in San Diego. That makes the work of buying and selling homes in the Golden State lucrative and competitive.

This competitive landscape changed in the pandemic era, a HousingWire review of CoreLogic data reveals.

The data examined below represents multiple listing service data and mortgage market analytics for San Diego County, as well as the state of California and the country as a whole from 2019 to 2023. This data from CoreLogic‘s Discovery Platform was shared exclusively with HousingWire.

Competing for slices of a shrinking pie

Broadly, San Diego followed the same pandemic-era trajectory as the rest of California and the rest of the country. A sales boom in 2020 and 2021 slashed home listings’ days on market and pushed up home sales’ price per square foot and sale-to-list price ratios.

In 2023, however, while sale-to-list price ratios and price per square foot have corrected nationally in recent years – with price per square foot even reaching prepandemic levels – those metrics remain elevated in California and San Diego.

It is not difficult to sleuth out the reason that San Diego’s low days-on-market and high price-per-square-foot persist: the number of homes for sale has been hollowed out and remains anemic. The number of listings in San Diego fell 50.5% from 2019 to 2023, almost double the 26.4% drop experienced by the rest of the country.

With fewer listings to go around, low-producing brokerages were forced out. The share of listings posted by offices ranking 501 or higher in San Diego by listing count fell from 41.6% in 2019 to 35% in 2023, and the total number of offices posting listings fell about 36% over the span – roughly 3,600 fewer offices.

Their loss was the gain of bigger players. The top 10 offices by listing count gained 2.7 percentage points in market share, albeit with a setback in 2023. Offices ranking 11-100 were the biggest winners, growing market share in each of the last five years and netting an almost 5-percentage-point gain over the five-year period.

Although a boon for mid-to-high-production offices, the period from 2019 to 2023 has not been kind to larger companies. After grouping offices by their parent company or franchisor, it is clear that the leaders’ market advantages have evaporated, leaving a more competitive playing field.

In 2019, Coldwell Banker offices enjoyed a roughly 4,400-listing lead over the next biggest rival, Keller Williams. Keller Williams offices, in turn, held a more than 2,000-listing lead over No. 3, Compass.

In 2023 by contrast, Coldwell Banker held about a 400-listing lead over Compass, which held a roughly 400-listing lead over eXp.

eXp commanded the greatest market share increase over the period, going from 11th in 2019 to 3rd in 2023, while Pacific Sotheby’s International Realty experienced the greatest fall, sliding from 4th to 10th.

The top 10 companies in 2023 by listing count had a wide range of average price per square foot, but all boasted few days on market and high sale-to-list price ratios, further evidencing the tightness of San Diego’s for-sale market.

Mortgage data paints a similar picture of the increasing competitiveness of the San Diego market.


With fewer listings come fewer home sales. With fewer home sales come fewer purchase mortgages.

As with listings, the pullback in purchase mortgages from 2019 to 2023 was more pronounced in San Diego and the rest of California than in the rest of the United States.

San Diego produced about 42% fewer conforming mortgage loans (loans that meet federal purchase qualifications) and about 31% fewer jumbo (nonconforming) loans for home purchases in 2023 than in 2019.

Throughout the period, San Diego retained its distinctive preference for VA loans, as compared to the rest of California and the rest of the U.S. VA was the second most popular purchase mortgage loan type throughout the period in San Diego, while FHA was the second most popular in the other geographies.

While borrowers’ loan type preferences were constant, the number of borrowers shrank considerably over the period. That suggests lenders and mortgage servicers, too, have had to fight for their slice of a pie that shrank significantly in the last two years.

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