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.