New Site for Open Houses

The San Francisco Association of Realtors recently launched a new directory of open homes that buyers can use. This is a welcome addition to the home buying process, because not everyone gets The Chronicle—nor do they want to slog through its online listings. With SF Open Home.com, users can enter the day and criteria, and a list of open homes will result. Each listing is displayed with photo links and much more detail than any Chronicle newspaper ad can provide.

Of course, the database is only as good as the data it holds. So encourage any Realtors you know to make sure they enter open house information for all their listings!

145 Madrone Gets $50,000 Over

145madrone
Brought on the market at the end of October, 145 Madrone–a total fixer and in need of a gut–featured 1,728 square feet inside across three levels. The home was best suited to a contractor, but at $849,000, it was difficult to predict where the selling price would be. I was a bit nervous even walking through the house, as there were a few places in which the floor didn’t appear to be wildly stable.

The buyer ended up paying $900,000, which could be an acceptable selling price, depending on future plans. The house is located in a prime West Portal location, and given the low turnover in that neighborhood, this could turn out to be a good investment.

Ken Rosen: Not All Doom & Gloom

I attended a luncheon yesterday at which economist Ken Rosen spoke. Surprisingly, he was pretty positive about San Francisco real estate. Of course, by “positive,” I mean he stated that we’ll probably be seeing a challenging market through 2009, but that things will start recovering in 2010.

His message? View real estate in San Francisco like you would a long-term investment. If you are planning to purchase property and retain it for five to ten years, Rosen thinks that now is a good time to get into the market. Compared to the rest of the country, he believe San Francisco is doing pretty well due to the stronger job market. It seems that the tech world is doing us a lot of good.

Arden Estates Rises

I was driving through West Portal recently, and spotted progress on what will be known as Arden Estates. This controversial development will result in seven standalone single-family homes, with 3BR+/3BAs, high-end finishes, and two-car garages. It’s not often you see a development being built that consists of multiple houses; after all, this isn’t Vallejo or Orange County. Rumored to have list prices in the $2M range, I am also wondering if the more sophisticated city buyers will acquiesce to the sort of cookie-cutter ambiance Arden Estates will likely provide. The $2M price point has a lot to offer in many very popular neighborhoods across San Francisco.

Pocket Listing of the Day: 1217 Cole

I got a call from a colleague today, alerting me to a new pocket/off-market listing she has that’s located at 1217 Cole Street. This is a 2BR/1BA first-floor Edwardian condo with one-car tandem parking. As you can see from the Web site photos, it looks like a pretty nice place. And at $789,000, I think the property is priced very well; it’s well within the comparative property selling range, and there’s good value for the location and overall scale. For those of you unfamiliar with Cole Valley, it’s one of the most desirable neighborhoods in the city. And the 1200 block in particular is in great proximity to the Cole Street shops, restaurants, and Muni line.

Lower Credit Score = Better Deal

Housing prices are softer, but you can get yourself an even better deal when it comes to a loan program if your credit score is the best it can be.

Boosting your credit score from, say, 660 to just 740 can actually lower your mortgage rate by a quarter of a point. To improve your credit score, the key is to focus on paying down debt, which will bring your crucial debt-to-credit ratio down.

This is a great time to do your financial planning for 2009. If you’re considering a purchase in the next year, it’s an excellent idea to get your credit score in shape as your first priority.

Hayes, Arterra Appeal to First-Time Buyers

I’m in the process of assisting one of my first-time home buyer clients with a purchase at Arterra, the city’s first LEED-certified green complex in Mission Bay, developed by Intracorp. There are a handful of one-bedroom units with parking still available that are priced in the high $500,000s. We managed to get into contract at a much lower price, and my client also locked in a very low interest rate, to boot. Though she’s happy with this deal, she’s also happy with the amenities Arterra offers: 24-hour hour front desk with concierge services; state-of-the-art fitness center; community lounge; rooftop sundeck with a bbq and views; and a fully furnished guest suite for homeowners’ friends and family.

Over at Intracorp’s sister development, The Hayes, there are a couple one-bedrooms with parking still available in the same range. The Hayes is a nice neighborhood location—close to restaurants and public transportation. There is also a fitness room (though not as bright and sunny as that of the Arterra). The one bedrooms don’t have a particularly great outlook. However, if your price point is around $500,000, you’re either looking at a high-risk TIC interest purchase in a multi-unit building, or a solid one bedroom in The Hayes.

SF Estate Homes Chop Prices

The high-end housing market in San Francisco is seeing plenty of sellers hoping for holiday gifts in the form of a purchase contract. To that end, sellers are conceding a bit on their original prices. Between October and the first week in December, a total of 59 homes above the $1.5M price point saw price reductions in their list prices.

On the condo front, 35 units originally priced at $1.5M or above have seen prices drop since October. (This data is courtesy of my Pacific Union Estates division statistics, discussed during our twice monthly Estates meetings.)

This is really a rather startling amount of price reductions. Heads up: December is the time to take advantage of the market and interest rates. Particularly if you are looking for an estate home in San Francisco, the stars are aligned for you to get a good deal.

A Touch of England in Mission Dolores

I stopped in to see how things are panning out at Chelsea Park, the development in Mission Dolores on 19th Street, between Guerrero and Dolores. It’s a somewhat suburban-type development, more like something you’d see in southern California. Walking around the courtyard, I felt like I was in a Universal Studio set for a movie set in a tidy English village.

But if you’re looking for a townhouse, or a basic one- to three-bedroom condo, Chelsea Park’s developer is ready to make a deal. There are two one-bedroom units in the $600,000s, and a couple 2+ or 3-bedroom townhomes listed at $900,000. I’m betting the prices could go lower. There are currently eight residents living in the complex, and 14 units are in escrow.

The parking garage features stacked parking, which involves automatic lifts. But if the alternative is having no parking in this neighborhood, stacked is better than nothing.

On the downside, the units feel a bit cramped, and don’t have a ton of light. But the finishes are quite nice, and the location is central to everything you’d want in Mission Dolores. The park is half a block away, and who can argue with having Tartine around the block? You can beat the crowds and get on line early for your baguette.

The Hippie House for $1,950,000

I stopped at 908 Steiner in Alamo Square on my broker tour today. The property was built for a family in 1888 and ultimately became a halfway house in the postwar years—giving way to a hippie enclave in the ’60s and ’70s. The current owners have preserved murals and original artwork from the hippie years, visible in some of the three-story Victorian’s many rooms.

But alas, here we are heading into 2009, and times have changed. Buyers aren’t necessarily looking for a preserved hippie house featuring wall-to-wall ornate carpet and wallpaper on every surface. They also don’t really like small bathrooms with multiple shelves showcasing various Barbie dolls. At the right price, well, maybe. But at the current $1,950,000 list price, these trappings begin to feel like a liability for the seller. Paired with no garage, this hippie Victorian may be on the market for a while.

Update: 908 Steiner sold for $1,275,000 in Sept 2009 (!)

The Perfect Real Estate Storm in SF

I received about five different emails from various mortgage brokers last week, informing me that interest rates have fallen below six percent. This is apparently due to the Federal Reserve and Federal Home Loan Banks announcing that they’d purchase up to $600 billion in mortgage-backed securities.

What we’re seeing is a perfect storm for buyers in San Francisco—softened home prices; motivated sellers due to the time of year; less qualified buyers with whom to compete, and of course, low interest rates.