Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I've Moved!

Inside SF Real Estate has moved:

Please set your bookmarks accordingly! You'll be able to post comments easily, and email me directly from the site if you'd like.

Look forward to seeing you there!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Update: 4552 19th Street, Eureka Valley

A few weeks ago, I spotlighted 4552 19th Street, a large, newly renovated home listed at $4.3M. Given the location, it was a little surprising to me that the price was so high. Well, I just received a price reduction alert on the property. It's now listed at $3,749,000. They're on the right track. If you're going to do a price chop, do a good one.

And while I'm at it, here is the 19th Street exterior, in its previous incarnation back in 2006. It sold for $1,467,500 as a fixer.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Florida Street Frenzy

This 2BR/1BA house on Florida, between 19th & 20th in the Mission, was listed for $778,000 in September. It sold for $880,000 amidst four offers, after only 18 days on the market. Sandwiched between two larger buildings, the house had two levels and a really charming garden. Though the building is low on exterior charm, I thought it was a good alternative to the cookie-cutter condos in the area.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

See-Through Bedroom

Over at the St. Regis, you can own a 2BR/2.5BA unit with parking for $2.6M. See that "mirror" behind the couch? Well, it's not a mirror. It's a transparent, glass wall between the living room and one of the bedrooms. Preferable? Only if you make your bed every day.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Fiesta on the Hill

Stop by Cortland Avenue in Bernal Heights on Sunday for the annual Fiesta on the Hill. It's a fun and busy street fair that features the Bernal version of crafts booths, food vendors, and merchants. More than 15,000 people are expected. This year is the 20th Fiesta, so join the celebration! Being there reminds you of Bernal's cozy neighborhood feel.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

San Francisco Hideaways

I stopped in at two very charming cottage properties on my broker tour yesterday. Here's the lowdown on both:

22 Bergen is a 3BR/2BA home with one-car parking, listed at $1,250,000. The house is at the end of a cul-de-sac, just off Hyde. The location alone should sell this property, but it appears to be in good condition and is a good condo alternative for those buyers who want to be in the Russian Hill/North Beach neighborhoods.

Also heavy on the charm is 221 Greenwich:

This is a remodeled home listed at $1,975,000 that smacks of classic Telegraph Hill feel. You can only access it via the Greenwich steps, so this is not for someone shy of stairs. Once inside, there are two spacious bedrooms, two baths, and great Bay views from both levels. Though parking is leased one block away, the seller has agreed to pay the cost for one year. Definitely worth checking out.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

SF Market in Good Shape

If sales data is any indication, the San Francisco market is as healthy as ever. (Don't you love those types of comments from Realtors?) In any event, volume is certainly not down these days. There were 601 single-family homes and 513 condos sold in the third quarter of this year. In 2007, 593 houses and 543 condos sold.

The number of current pending sales is a good indication of how many properties will be reported sold next month. So far, there are 174 single-family homes pending, and 149 condos. Last November, a total of 188 houses and 189 condos were sold. So based on what's pending now (i.e., all conditions have been removed within the transaction, and the loan just has to fund), it looks like we are on track to match the volume for November 2008.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Eureka Valley's Latest Trophy Home

Clocking in at more than $1,000 per square foot, this newly renovated home at 4552 19th Street offers six bedrooms, 4.5 bathrooms, and two-car parking. Plus, views, views, views. If it sells at its $4.3M asking price, it will represent the second most expensive home ever sold in Eureka Valley. (First prize goes to a six-bedroom/4.5 bath home on Collingwood that sold for $4.6M in March 2005.) Not sure if our current market can compete with the one in 2005, but I suppose anything is possible these days.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Break for the Blue Angels

Yes, it's Fleet Week, and the annual Blue Angel exhibition is this weekend! Find the friend with a roof deck in Russian Hill and head over with your six pack. Check out the full schedule of events at the official Fleet Week site. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

No Shortage of Estate Homes in Noe Valley

When I was first starting in real estate seven years ago, I remember looking at my Tuesday broker tour lineup, and noticing that there was actually a house listed at close to $1M. This was a pretty high price for my neighborhood. It hit me today that there's now a collection of 14 single-family homes currently available for $1.8M+, and one condo for $1,895,000. At the top end of the lineup is 3816 22nd, the renovated firehouse listed at $5,975,000, but the bulk are between $2-3M.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

And You Thought SF Was Expensive

I've just returned from a week's stay in Kapalua, Maui. The Ritz-Carlton is on the tail end of completing an 84-unit development consisting of three- to four-bedroom units that start at $4M. Now, Maui is a great place to vacation, but honestly, those who have an extra $4M (the penthouses are rumored to be in the $9M range) might desire more than a crowded, high-rise like development that's somewhat out of scale with its surroundings. Something I thought about while hanging out on the beach and watching the dump trucks go in and out of the work site.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Time for A Break

It's been a busy year in real estate for me, and it's time to take a week off to relax and recharge. I'll be hanging out in one of these ocean front condos in Kapalua, Maui, attempting to hit golf balls consistently and applying copious amounts of sunblock. Check back during the week of Oct. 6th for the inside scoop on San Francisco real estate!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Go Ahead, Be A Nosy Neighbor

An online tool I use frequently during transactions is the city's online permit site. For my purposes, the site lets me look up the permit history on a property on which I'm either representing a buyer or seller. Many times, it takes a while for the 3R, or building permit history, to arrive from the city. So the online history lets me get a jump on things. But it's also useful when you see work going on in a particular house near you. Type in that property address, and you can see what they're doing--or realize what they shouldn't be doing.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Field Report: 9 Williar

I wrote an offer with a client this week on 9 Williar, a remodeled, mid-century single-family home in Ingleside. Listed at the bargain-basement price of $499,950, I was very aware that the average actual selling price of a 2BR/1BA in the neighborhood was at least in the mid-$500,000s. When all was said & done, the seller received 13 offers, and the property is in escrow for above $580,000. It goes to show you that underpricing homes still pulls in the buyers.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Fat Mike's Mansion on the Market

The punk fans out there will be interested in seeing this home at 1601 Monterey, in St. Francis Wood. It's currently being sold by a gentleman by the name of "Fat Mike," front man and bassist of the punk band NOFX. Purchased in 2003 for $4,056,700, Fat Mike (a.k.a. Michael Burkitt) and his wife are now offering the home at a list price of $5.4M. The home has been renovated, leading to some interesting takes on traditional rooms. It definitely feels like an estate, as the home is on a half-acre lot and has ten-car parking. We'll keep our eye on this one.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Artani Comes to Market

The latest building to hit the Van Ness corridor is The Artani. Definitely more pricier than its neighbor, Symphony Towers, the Artani offers one bedrooms ranging from $579,000-$899,000; one bedrooms with dens from $679,000-$1,149,000; and two bedrooms from $769,000- $1.4M. While the finishes and square footage are nice and reasonable for this building, I have my doubts that the units will fly off the shelves. I've yet to meet a buyer with a goal to live on Van Ness. Typically, doing so is a result of some sort of compromise. But for proximity to the opera, symphony, and the like, as well as public transportation, you can't beat the area. Plus--the Artani is a non-smoking building, which is a first in San Francisco.

Monday, September 22, 2008

How Much Can this Mansion Appreciate in Two Years?

One of San Francisco's more spectacular properties is now on the market. Say hello to 3701 Washington, a Beaux-Arts mansion in the heart of Presidio Heights. Listed at $17.5M, the property boasts six bedrooms, six and a half baths, as well as a two-level, one-bedroom carriage house. And the home has changed hands twice since 2005. It sold for $10M in 2005, then $14,250M in 2006. We'll see how much appreciation will be gained in this next sale. 3701 Washington joins the elite list of eight single-family homes currently on the market listed from $15M-$65M.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Another Great "Project" House

I stopped in at 2434 Leavenworth on my Tuesday broker tour yesterday. This house has great potential. It's located just down the hill from the foot of the crooked part of Lombard (where some of the Hell's Angels were gathered, taking photos). There are 3,600 square feet on the top two floors, as well as an additional 1,400 square feet of unwarranted rooms and bath on a third level. There's a quirky quality to the whole place, but the right person could come in and really spruce up the place. Among other things, one could renovate the kitchen and baths, and enhance the original features, such as the two grand staircases, six fireplaces, and wood casing throughout. List price is $2.8M.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Saturated in SoMa

The South of Market neighborhood remains the go-to place for young professionals looking for affordable condos or lofts with reasonable homeowners association (HOA) dues. With 96 units currently listed as available in the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), there's plenty to choose from. And that doesn't even include some of the new-construction buildings, which don't typically begin marketing through the MLS.

One bedrooms dominate the SoMa condo market. There is a selection of units ranging in price from $438,000 for a short-sale unit with a large patio, low dues and leased parking, all the way up to $999,999 for an 1800+ sq foot unit in the Clocktower Lofts at 2nd Street that's been on the market for 44 days. But most one bedrooms in the area are in the mid-$500,000s-$600,000s.

On the two-bedroom front, prices are predominantly in the $700,000s-$800,000s. Of course, this doesn't include buildings such as The St. Regis or Millennium Tower, both of which are marketing two bedrooms in the $2.5M-$4M range.

Monday, September 15, 2008

A Good "Project" Building

I saw 179-181 27th Street in Noe Valley on broker tour last week, and thought it was a great project for either TIC partners (two units carry a lot less risk for TIC arrangements) or one owner with an eye toward investment. The property features two large 2BR/1BA Victorian flats priced at $650,000 and $750,000 (entire building listed at $1,395,000).

The kitchens in both units could use updating, and there are certainly some major structural issues that need attending. For example, the building has no heat. (An estimate is on file for about $14,000 for heat installation.) There's also a $28,000 termite report. But on a long-term basis, this building could work well for the right buyer.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Time to Reassess Your Property's Value

Some property values in San Francisco have undoubtedly dropped over the past year. This means that you could be paying more property taxes than you should.

The Assessor's Office reports 1,600 requests for informal property value reviews since May 2008. But it's important to note that, according to City Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting, those 1,600 requests represent less than 1.5 percent of all residential property owners in San Francisco. He cites San Bernardino as a comparison, which has received 132,235 requests.

For some owners whose condo building had even one foreclosure sale in the past year, for example, it may be time to file a request for a review. For more information, you can visit the Assessor's Web site to see what's possible.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Ease on Down the Road

In and out of contract twice since it first came on the market in June, 67 Lippard in Glen Park poses a unique challenge to the intrepid buyer: a sewer easement. This means that there is a city sewer line that runs underneath the house. So if it needs to be repaired, or altered in any way, for example, the city has the right to dig up your property to access the line. Not to mention that you have a major sewer line in close proximity to your home.

But if you're okay with livin' on the edge, this 2BR/1BA, 935-square foot house is still available for $675,000.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

"Lower" End of Market Heats Up

Despite the continuing economic turmoil this year, you'd think that sales in The Bay Area would have fallen off precipitously. Surprisingly, the number of homes and condos sold has only declined year to date by 11% in the nine Bay Area counties.

These numbers exemplify the strength of sales in the under-$500,000 price ranges. I think there are three reasons for the concentration of sales in this range. First, the number of foreclosures and short sales have increased over last year, as banks and other financial institutions have been dumping these properties from their books. Secondly, mortgage monies are more readily available in this price category, as they meet the conforming limits. Finally, as home prices have declined, affordability for first-time home buyers has increased.

Just some encouraging words for those looking to get into the real estate market!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Three Cheers for FHA Loans

I had the pleasure of closing a purchase transaction last month with clients who obtained an FHA loan. These loans involve the Federal Housing Administration, and they are geared toward first-time home buyers.

The big deal about FHA loans is that you can have a minimum of 3% down payment (though the minimum increases to 3.5% after September 30, 2008). You can purchase a single-family home with a loan amount max of $729,750 (this decreases to $625,500 after January 1, 2009); credit scores have to be in the 580-620 range as a minimum. There are FHA loans available for 2-4 units, as well as for condos. Requirements vary on these types of properties.

I worked with Sue Ballinger at Guarantee Mortgage on the FHA transaction last month, and have to give her kudos in getting this loan done.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

A Visit to Cubix Yerba Buena

I stopped in yesterday at the new Cubix Yerba Buena, located at 766 Harrison, between 3rd and 4th Streets in the South of Market neighborhood. The project features 98 studios ranging in price from $279,000-$328,000. Though small, the studios are well appointed, and the finishes are stylish and modern. The best buyers for these units are either first-time home buyers looking to get into the housing market, or empty nesters looking for a pied-a-terre in the city. There's also a rooftop garden deck, a City CarShare pod, laundry room on each floor and leased parking/storage options. Though these studio cubes aren't for those who crave space, they are efficient. The building is also a half block away from Whole Foods, and is in walking distance of just about everything downtown.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Note to Developer: Skip the Stack

I saw the six newly renovated condos at 2401 44th Avenue several weeks ago, and thought they were nice in terms of overall condition and finishes. Targeted at empty nesters or first-time home buyers, these 2BR/2BA condos, ranging in price from $595,000-$685,000, seem like they would have been sold by now. But they've been on the market since May, and none have closed yet.

What it comes down to, according to the listing agent, is the issue of stacked parking and high homeowners association (HOA) dues. When developers are looking to ensure parking for all, they sometimes decide to install automated, mechanical lifts. In 44th Avenue's case, there are two levels of parking, and you press a button to operate the device so your car is in a position to be driven off the lift. Unfortunately, there isn't enough room in the garage for six, independent parking spaces unless you stack them.

The idea of having to drive on and off the device itself is deterring some potential buyers. And the feature costs money to maintain, contributing toward the high HOA dues (about $570 per month). The seller is currently offering pre-paid HOA dues as an incentive.

At the right price, these units will sell. But resale value will probably lag behind the average, given the parking situation and dues.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Happy Labor Day Weekend!

Have a great weekend, and I'll be back on Tuesday morning with some more real estate fun.

In the meantime, don't forget to check out Slow Food Nation, an intriguing, three-day event that celebrates fair trade and sustainable farming practices. The Tasting Pavilion event at Fort Mason is largely sold out. But there will be other activities happening, such as a farmer's market with more than 60 farmers in Civic Center Plaza and a quarter-acre vegetable garden in the same area. Also check out the comprehensive SF Chronicle guide to Slow Food Nation.

And don't forget about Sunday Streets. A 4.5-mile route between Chinatown and Bayview will close to cars from 9:00AM-1:00PM. You can partake in a variety of health-related activities, from yoga at Ferry Park, to base running in AT&T Park. (The event will also take place the following Sunday, too.)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Blue Bear: An SF Institution

Since 1971, Blue Bear School of Music in Fort Mason has taught more than 20,000 students how to play instruments and how to sing. There is also a special "Little Bear" section just for kids. Whether you're an adult or a child, Blue Bear is a great way to learn an instrument at an affordable price, through group or private lessons.

I've been learning guitar since January 2008, and have thoroughly enjoyed the classes. For $200, I get ten group lessons over a semester, and have learned everything from finger picking to advanced chord playing from my teacher, Janak Ramachandran. The group of four in my class is a lot of fun.

Signup for the Fall semester starts on September 2nd, and the classes kick off on September 29th. Check out the group class schedule, and see what might work for you or your kids!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

What's the Most Expensive House in SF?

It's 2845 Broadway, on the market for more than 900 days at a list price of $65M. The property is currently under construction and waiting for the buyer who wants to "complete an architectural masterpiece." You might have passed by this site, which is located on what's known as the Gold Coast of San Francisco (cross street: Baker). The property spans two lots from Broadway to Pacific, and is really quite spectacular. That's French limestone you're seeing on the exterior, and it can house 20,000+ square feet.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

This 'Hood's Not Lonely Anymore

The Lone Mountain neighborhood is often overlooked by home buyers because, well, it's sort of in the middle of other, more well-known areas. Bordered by Arguello on the west, Fulton on the south, Masonic on the east and Geary on the north, Lone Mountain is in between the Richmond, Golden Gate Park, and the Panhandle. The neighborhood is largely centered around the USF campus.

There are quite a few properties for sale that I saw on today's broker tour. With such varied homes on the market, I wouldn't be surprised if a few prospective buyers decide to keep Lone Mountain company on a permanent basis.

First up was 2627 Turk, a really lovely, 1930s single-family home that looks directly out onto the USF campus lawn. It has four bedrooms, three bathrooms, two-car parking, and a zero pest report dollar figure. The only issue some might have is the fact that Turk traffic can be pretty busy. But at $1,495,000, you get a lot of house.

Over at 916-918 Anza,you'll find a two-unit building begging to be cosmetically renovated. Both units have a functional 2BR floor plan, and the property has nice park views. This one is in contract, and I'm not surprised. Its $1.3M list price would be great for TIC partners who could could add value by doing a good remodel on the units.

662 Arguello is a cute 2BR/1BA condo with parking. It's been on the market for a bit, probably because it's only about 1,000 square feet and is located on busy Arguello. At $799,000, this price undoubtedly has room to move.

Only on the market a couple of weeks, 143 N. Willard is leading the list price pack at $1.6M for a 4BR, 3.5BA condo on two levels. There are also two decks and independent parking. This unit is more than 2,000 square feet, and is very stylishly done. The building is only a year old. My sense is that $1.6M is a bit high for this property, though. Maybe somebody will come in and pay the price, but if no one has yet, I would guess there is some softness in the list price.

Would You Like a Smart Car--and a TIC?

I saw the three, newly renovated tenancy-in-common (TIC) units at 1278-1280 Church when they came on the market several weeks ago. I liked the style, finishes and overall quality of this largely "green" building. The lower, two-level unit is in contract, but the other two units are still available--one with a Smart Car as a purchase bonus. For the square footage and location (if you don't mind the J Church rambling past your building, day and night), the $1,245,000-$1,395,000 list price ranges are not outrageous. And the individual TIC loans mitigate the risk. (Traditional TIC loans involve all owners sharing one mortgage.) In this case, buyers need about 30% down. But Smart Car or not, you are dealing with a TIC, and at the rate condo conversions are taking place for 3+ unit buildings, you will probably be reselling a TIC down the line. Something to keep in mind when you're wondering what else and where you can buy for $1,245,000.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Is All That Multiple-Offer Stuff Still Happening?

Yes, but in much more of a low-key way. Case in point: This lovely jewel at 2576 Diamond about four blocks from the Glen Park village. Listed at $829,000, the sellers received 3 offers after a two-week marketing period, and the property is in contract with an all-cash offer at $850,000. This is a cottage with 878 square feet, and a separate office structure on the rear of the lot.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Attention, First-Time Home Buyers!

Under the annals of "every little bit helps" comes the new, first-time home buyer tax credit. The credit is available for up to $7,500 to those who purchase homes between April 9, 2008 and before July 1, 2009. Single taxpayers with an income of up to $75,000 and married couples with an income max of $150,000 qualify. In the end, the credit works like an interest-free loan and you have to pay it over a 15-year period.

Spotlight: Radiance at Mission Bay

One of the better new developments is Radiance at Mission Bay. I checked it out a few weeks ago, after they were able to start showing actual units. For a while, the developer, Bosa, was not negotiating on price or much of anything else. But with the second phase of Radiance intended to be built, they're softening a bit on price. At the $1M price point, you can get an 1100 square foot, two-bedroom unit with a partial Bay view. Homeowners association dues are in the $600-800 range, but you do have nice amenities, great landscaping plans, and very high-end finishes. If I were thinking about moving to Mission Bay (and I have considered it, because where else can you get that weather?), I'd probably buy a unit at Radiance. A tip: Some buyers who put down deposits quite a while ago on units are now having issues obtaining their loans. So they're looking to reassign their contracts at less than they originally agreed to pay. That's happening at other developments like One Rincon, too.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Open House Goers: Beware of Outside Lands

You probably know by now that this weekend, Golden Gate Park is turning into a Bay Area version of Woodstock. SF Outside Lands is a three-day concert that kicks off on Friday. Honestly, I haven't heard of a lot of the featured bands, and at $85 for a one-day ticket or $225 for all three days, it seems a little expensive for a concert in the park. However, performers like Tom Petty, Steve Winwood, Jack Johnson, Radiohead and Beck are big enough to attract people in the city and from other areas.

But enough on my musical musings. The main message here is that if you're going to look at any open houses on Saturday or Sunday afternoon in the Sunset, Richmond or Cole Valley, don't count on finding parking very easily. Best to have someone with you who can babysit the car while you run in and take a look.

And if you're going to the shows, enjoy!

The West Portal Duo

I was out on broker tour this week, and found a couple good opportunities for the single-family home searchers looking for proximity to a retail district and public transportation. If you don't mind the fog, I think West Portal is a great neighborhood. The houses are architecturally appealing, the floorplans are generally very functional, and you can find larger garages than in areas such as Noe Valley.

In the case of 14 Forest Side, you have a solid house with a low pest report dollar figure and two good-sized rear bedrooms. This one is in walking distance of West Portal village. I'd rather see a generous two-car garage than the awkward "unwarranted rooms down" that pervade many homes in this area. But I suppose you can use the lower level to lock your guests away, as long as they don't mind walking across the concrete garage floor to get from the illegal bedroom to the bathroom.

Over at 319 Vicente, there's a reasonably remodeled kitchen and formal dining room. The bedrooms are fine. The garage level is a bit of a curiosity, and currently reeks of cigar smoke. But move everything out, and you're on your way to clearing the air.

I'd say these two are good buys, especially at the right prices.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Dog Days of August: Let's Make A Deal

August is typically one of the slowest months of the year when it comes to real estate. A majority of sellers hold off bringing their properties on the market until the Fall, and many buyers and agents are on vacation. So right now, it's a real mixed bag. Many of the buyers with whom I'm working are somewhat discouraged by the lack of inventory meeting their needs, but others are focused on slipping in and getting the rare San Francisco real estate "deal." In fact, two of my clients are purchasing a house in Sunnyside right now for $15,000 less than the asking price. The first offer fell out of contract because the initial buyers couldn't obtain financing, so we stepped in and are now getting what I would certainly define as a deal. The house is in great shape, needs practically no termite work, and will put a great roof over my clients' heads. Chalk one up for being in town and ready to buy.