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.