Monthly Archives: December 2009

Marquee Lofts Unit Sees Semi-Sweet December Sale

Last sold for $1.4M in November 2004, 151 Alice B. Toklas Place #702 closed escrow last week for $1,330,000.

The 2300-square foot, 2BR/2.5BA unit with two parking spaces is located in one of my favorite buildings, and was designed by noted architect Stanley Saitowitz. Unit 702 is the product of two units joined together, and has 13-foot ceilings, panoramic views, and great natural light.

There are two master suites that have “disappearing” pocket doors (see above photo). And the unit was used in the Keanu Reeves/Charlize Theron film “Sweet November” back in 2001.

#702 was initially listed back in March 2009 for $1.8M, and saw a series of price reductions that led to the final $1,330,000 sales price. So the seller did take a hit in price. But given the limited number of buyers who can afford a loan on a $1M+ property these days, all parties should be quite satisfied.

Walk Score Winners: Pacific Heights, The Haight, Telegraph Hill

Here’s a roundup of some current condos that have excellent Walk Scores:

1835 Franklin, #1103
Pacific Heights
List Price: $825,000
Sq ft: 1400
HOAs: $1,165/mo
Walk Score: 100
If you can get past the $1,135 per month HOA fees, 1835 Franklin could work for you. This 45-unit building is right at Franklin and Sacramento. There’s a master suite, and views. The seller has agreed to pay the HOA dues for one year.

155 Central
The Haight
List Price: $799,000
Sq ft: 1660
HOAs: $303/mo
Leased pkg only/$330/mo
Walk Score: 94
Fresh off a $50,000 price reduction, 155 Central is awaiting its Santa Claus. This is a big Victorian condo in a nice Haight location, and the unit has great period detail. The seller has agreed to pay six months’ worth of parking.

9-11 Tracy
Telegraph Hill
List Prices: $799,000 (top); $749,000 (lower)
2BR/2BA, each unit
HOAs: $150/mo
2-car pkg, each unit
Walk Score: 98
These condos are smack dab in the middle of Telegraph Hill/North Beach, on a small street. The building was just condo converted, and is located behind Molinari’s Deli. For those who want to fall out their door and into one of San Francisco’s most coveted ‘hoods, 9-11 Tracy fits the bill. Prior to its condo conversion, the building was on the market earlier this year under a 9-11 Kenneth Rexroth address for $1,650,000.

LindenHayes Condo Development Ready for Its Closeup

The 32-unit development with a 98 Walk Score that fronts Hayes, Grove and Linden in the heart of Hayes Valley & its adjacent cultural playground is now officially known as LindenHayes. Floor plans and other details are online now.

The five-story building will feature one-, two-, and three-bedroom unit configurations with air conditioning and an elevator. Sternberg Benjamin Architects designed the project (they’re also behind developments like 3949 Sacramento, 798 Stanyan and Beulah and The Coliseum on Clement) and the look will be crisp, Euro-contemporary.

Finishes are high end, including cabinets by Studio Becker; Bertazoni ranges; Fisher Paykel refrigerators, and Brazilian hardwood floors. Residences will also be pre-wired for computer/entertainment needs.

Grove Cafe will be the commercial tenant, and I’m expecting that presence to really tie in the neighborhood. Locationwise, you’re in walking distance of pretty much everything, including public transportation, restaurants and the Opera, Symphony, and Asian Art Museum.

Pricing is still to be set, but occupancy is expected by February 2010. Agent-accompanied, hard hat tours are available now for serious buyers—give me a call and I’ll get you in anytime between 9:00-4:00PM, M-F.

Upper Market Vic Sells for $775,000 Under Asking

Does that kitchen scream $2M+ house? 3224-3224A Market first came on the market in April, thinking it was. The 3BR/2BA heavily Victorian home also had a rear studio cottage. List price was $2,450,000.

The incremental price reductions started in June. After five reductions throughout the year, the sale closed last week for $1,675,000.

Are the buyers getting a deal? I’m thinking this is a unique property that was priced way too high to begin with. The property is a bit of an oasis, and the cottage is cute:

So if you see a property you and your agent think is unrealistically priced—and you like it—take a shot. Sellers may be much more open to being flexible, especially at this time of year.

The Planning Dept Wants Your Two Cents

Hate that new monster home across the street from you that never should’ve gotten the thumbs up? Now’s your chance to speak up.

The Planning Department acknowledges a perceived public lack of trust in its discretionary review (DR) process that ultimately approves, rejects and modifies proposed building projects. As part of its improvement efforts, the Department is currently seeking addresses of projects that have been approved and/or built which did not resonate well with the public. The Department wants to analyze these projects in the context of DR reform.

This is your chance to speak up! If you’re aware of a project wherein you believe the DR process failed, please send the site address (and, if possible, the permit number or DR case number) to Elizabeth Watty ( by January 24, 2010. The Department’s goal is to analyze these projects in time for the next hearing on the subject that will take place on Febuary 22nd.

Noe Valley/Mission Luxury Condos Unwrapped

Once the site of the Palm Broker nursery, the new development called Nove is taking shape on the 1100 block of Guerrero on the Noe/Mission border are getting closer to coming on the market.

The development will encompass the three two-unit buildings above that front Guerrero, as well as three single-family homes on Ames, which is directly behind Guerrero. No word on unit configurations yet, but sources say pricing will clock in at around $850 per square foot.

This is an excellent location for buyers who want to walk to everything, including BART, Muni, Valencia corridor and the heart of Noe Valley on 24th Street. I’ve lived in the neighborhood for more than a decade, and can attest to the convenience factor.

New FHA Condo Rules Restrict Buyers

New Federal Housing Administration (FHA) financing rules for condo buyers are already limiting purchases—particularly in new developments.

The FHA is now limiting the number of buyers who can obtain loans insured by the agency in one building, effective as of Monday. The rules also put limits and a lot more restrictions on loans granted to buyers purchasing units in buildings which have too many delinquent owners, poor finances and high quantities of rentals.

It’s understandable the FHA is taking these measures, because approximately 18% of loans the agency insures are either delinquent or in foreclosure. The agency’s financial cushion has dipped below the federal minimum.

Another new rule requires that at least 30% of units in new buildings be pre-sold before the agency insures any loans. The number will rise to 50% in 2011.

Buyers in San Francisco won’t be as affected by the changes in FHA policy as some other, less expensive markets will be. I think the new rules will actually be a good thing in San Francisco; our city is small and one building gone wrong can have a far-flung effect on an entire neighborhood.

Nob Hill Condos Target First-Time Home Buyers

I often get contacted by prospective buyers wondering what’s available for around $400,000 in San Francisco. Unfortunately, the options are limited and usually don’t involved parking. But if you’re looking for a highly walkable condo with luxury finishes in an affordable price range, 901 Bush Street may be for you.

A bit of background on this 38-unit building: Its owners Ellis Acted the property back in 2006. (This means they used legal means to get out of the rental business and empty the building of tenants, making it the largest property ever Ellis Acted in San Francisco.) Then came a fire and rehab. And an attempted condo conversion by the owners. The city denied the conversion—not surprisingly, since you can only convert buildings with six or fewer units. Lawsuits followed, and there was reportedly a settlement with the city that paved the way for a “special use district” that enabled the building to be considered new construction. The units then came on the market as condos.

The units were priced in the $300,000-$500,000 range. They feature high-end finishes such as Caesarstone countertops and stainless-steel appliances. Twenty-two units have sold since 2008, and sixteen have sold this year—the latter being mostly one bedrooms with an average sales price of $397,430. There are seven available now and four in contract. The owners have somehow managed to withstand the economic downturn that hit in late 2007 and got even worse in October 2008. The building is even approved for FHA financing. Monthly homeowner association dues (HOA) are $270.

Though the building history is rather unfortunate, I have to admit that 901 Bush addresses the need for housing in this price range that’s located in a walkable, transit-rich area.

Geocaching in Miraloma Park & Mt. Davidson

A great way to get to know San Francisco better (and to pass the time with visiting relatives for the holidays) is to go geocaching.There are almost one million caches hidden worldwide, according to the Geocaching Web site. The activity involves using a GPS device in conjunction with the Geocaching Web site to find hidden containers.

I had the opportunity to go geocaching over the Thanksgiving holiday, and thought I’d share my experience with you. My partner and I decided to head to Miraloma Park and Mount Davidson (click here for a map) to find a couple caches. Our first one was off Myra, where we had to find some secret steps between people’s houses. Here they were:

A short while later, I was heading uphill to find a cache that was hidden in a fake rock, according to the instructions:

And about twenty minutes later, we found the cache:

This would be a great cache to seek with relatives. Once you’re up those steps and on the trail, it’s like you’re hiking somewhere outside San Francisco.

The other cache we hit was on the northeast side of Mount Davidson. We parked down the street from the trailhead, and then headed up. We were looking for an ammo box hidden somewhere near a dead Eucalyptus tree. The best part was when we got to the top, we had the honor of standing at the highest point in San Francisco. And the views were there to prove it:

We made the find after a while, and then descended. Fun outing—we also hit Golden Gate Park earlier that day. But since this is a real estate blog, I’ll throw in that Miraloma Park has some pretty good homes for sale. There are eight houses listed from $699,000-$1,098,000. All have been listed for an average of 42 days, so if you decide to look for a cache in the neighborhood, you might want to also look for a holiday house bargain.

Noe Valley Condo Development Hits the Skids

230 Duncan between Dolores and Church wasn’t always the plastic bag disaster it is today. It was a 1,000-square foot single-family home from 1900-2007 that was used as a rental property in its later years.

The Planning Department granted a demolition permit back in 2006. Contractors then obtained permits in November 2007 to erect four stories and create two dwelling units for a recorded cost of $850,000.

Things didn’t go smoothly after that. The next-door neighbors filed a complaint at the end of 2007 when the demolition damaged part of their building. And the 230 Duncan project has been at a standstill since its last story went up. Neighbors are disgusted and the site’s a blight.

No word on what the outcome will be. My guess is that a replacement developer may get a pretty good deal on an unfinished structure.

Reader Comments on Ken Rosen's Theories

Just wanted to pass along some insightful reader comments in response to Ken Rosen’s theories on where interest rates are heading:

“I don’t necessarily disagree, but what did he say about the length of time we can expect rates to stay this low, and what happens when they start to rise? As an economist, he should be pointing out that there is a balance; and that prices will react (decrease) if interest rates are increased.

So the question becomes, does the proportionate rise in rate offset the decrease in price? For me, especially in SF, price is a big deal since our tax rates are tied to price and I’d much rather have a low cost basis. Another point to consider is the impact that raising interest rates will inevitably have on the broad basis of home owners with variable rate loans. It’s not a good impact, let’s leave it at that for the sake of this discussion.

This fact probably is more a signal that rates will remain low since no one but the sadistic want to see more homeowners pushed out and more bank foreclosures. The real estate market is very fragile right now. Several external forces are controling “prices” unlike the heyday when real estate itself was rising tremendously. For me, I’d encourage potential buyers and sellers in that it looks like the worst is behind us and very few are predicting anything remotely close to catastrophic in residential real estate—so it may make sense to consider a transaction if you think you’ve found a good home.”

Good thoughts, all of them. Ken’s theory was based on the fact that he thinks the economy will continue to steadily improve. As a result, the Fed won’t keep interest rates as low as they are.

Any further thoughts, readers?

Ken Rosen: Take Advantage of Low Interest Rates Now!

The low interest rates we’re currently enjoying will be higher by the middle of 2010, according to economist Ken Rosen. I attended yesterday’s First Republic holiday luncheon in San Francisco, where Rosen presented his thoughts on the state of the current residential real estate market.

Realtors love to tout low interest rates as a way of encouraging buyers to get off the fence. So coming from a Realtor, this sentiment is looked upon by consumers with a grain of salt. But when it’s coming from a well-known economist, the news should make consumers take notice.

In other parts of the economy, we have a long road to recovery. On the positive side, Rosen pointed out capital markets improvements and the stimulus package. But the “foreclosure tsunami,” continued credit losses, employment weaknesses and high oil prices are still dragging everything down.

There have been small housing price increases of late in San Francisco, but those have taken place in the entry-level part of the market, according to Rosen. In the last three months, averages in this market segment have gone up 2-3%. He expects the tax credits and low interest rates to spur purchasing activity in the new year, and the jumbo loan market to pick up again in—when else?—mid 2010.

So buyers, get busy while you still have the advantage. Rosen’s belief is that the best loan to get is the one given at the bottom of the market. That, apparently, means now.

Get in touch:

Eileen Bermingham

Zephyr Real Estate


BRE# 01352627

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