Monthly Archives: January 2010

Walk Score Winners: 2BR Condos in Russian/Telegraph Hill

We’re taking a look at 2BR condos with high Walk Scores today in the Telegraph and Russian Hill neighborhoods:

Let’s stop first at 520 Vallejo:

520 Vallejo
Telegraph Hill
List Price: $725,000
HOAs: $184/mo
1-car pkg
Walk Score: 98
This newly condo-converted, lower unit has in-unit laundry and a deeded patio. It’s two blocks from Columbus Avenue. There is a pet restriction limiting you to one pet with a 30-lb maximum weight. And one of the bedrooms is painted a bold red.

817 Union
Russian Hill
List Price: $775,000
HOAs: $304
1-car tandem parking
Walk Score: 92
Initially listed in mid-November for $799,000, the seller has come down a bit in price in the new year. This is also a unit in a newly converted condo building and it was remodeled in 2009. There’s a den in addition to the two bedrooms and hardwood floors. Maybe the seller is ready to make a deal.

524 Filbert
Telegraph Hill
List Price: $795,000
HOAs: $534.02
Walk Score: 94
This top-floor flat has restored plank floors, a sweet kitchen, formal dining room and great views. The dues are high now, but the fee is temporary because the roof is being replaced. It’s likely they’ll go back down to their normal $370 level after the project is completed. Though there’s no deeded parking with this unit, the seller has a leased space for $400/mo. The unit was last sold in December 2008 for $665,000.

[And if you’re wondering why I’m not linking to property Web sites, it’s because none came up in Google searches for any of these homes. Sellers, make sure you insist on a property site with professional photography if you want to compete for the buyers out there.]

Join Next Week's Condo Conversion Rally at City Hall

My friends at Plan C are organizing a rally on the steps of City Hall next week, in support of expediting condo conversion. Here’s the lowdown, straight from Plan C:

“Please join Plan C at 8:15AM on Wednesday, Feb. 3, on the City Hall steps for a rally to support condo conversion reform! As many of you know, the condo lottery drawing happens at 9AM on February 3, and we’ll be done in time for you to attend the lottery itself.

You may have read within the last few months in the Chronicle and in the Examiner that the mayor’s office is considering again the possibility of a condo-lottery bypass initiative for qualifying TIC owners.

As you are already aware, expediting the conversion of owner occupied TICs to condominiums would help bring ownership and mortgage relief to middle income San Franciscans and has the potential to bring significant revenue to the city during this time of budget and financial distress. The revenue collected could have a meaningful impact to the city’s bottom line and has the potential to save crucial city jobs and services from further cuts.

The expediting of TICs to condominiums would be facilitated by the payment of a specified fee to the City that is higher and in addition to the usual mapping and permit fees collected from winners of the current condo conversion lottery. The fee would likely only be available to owner occupied TICs that are lottery eligible.

The proposed fee for the bypass of the lottery hasn’t been set, and we would like to again call on you for your input. The fee has to be low enough for TIC owners to be willing to pay it (and to be fair) – but also high enough to be meaningful to the City’s budget deficit. Initial discussions concerning the development of this initiative have considered fees in the $20,000-40,000 range per unit or 5-10% of a unit’s value.

As usual, we encourage you to email the supervisors (particularly your supervisor) on the need for condo reform by going to our Plan C Web site and clicking on “‘Contact City Hall.'”

Luxury Market Finds Its Footing

Properties in the $1.5M+ price range in San Francisco have been selling at quite a reasonable pace, considering our current economic challenges. Unsurprisingly, the city continues to attract buyers with substantial wealth, and these buyers are deciding to snap up luxury real estate.

But make no mistake: Just because luxury buyers have the money to spend, it doesn’t mean they aren’t also looking for a deal. And sellers in higher price ranges are discovering that they may need to get realistic about their properties’ value.

79 single-family homes have sold for more than $1.5M since October 1, 2009. And 50 of those sold for under their original asking prices—well under. Of the 30 condos sold in the same time period, 22 sold for under asking.

I thought it would be interesting to check out two properties that sold for dramatically less than their asking prices, to give you a sense for what’s possible heading into 2010.

3212 Baker was a completely renovated, 4BR/3BA home with two-car parking situated steps from the Palace of Fine Arts:

The sellers completed renovations in late 2008, and the home came on the market in March 2009 for $4,250,000. It then sat on the market throughout the year, enjoying a series of price chops, until all-cash buyers purchased the house in mid January for $2,950,000.

Another example of a huge list/sale price disparity was over at 66 Sea Cliff:

The Cape Cod-style, 3BR/2.5BA single-family home—located on one of the most desirable Sea Cliff streets—was listed in September 2009 for $2,448,000. (It previously sold for $2,525,000 in 2004, and $2.1M in 2002.) 66 Sea Cliff went in and out of contract in the Fall, and the sellers reduced the list price by $100,000 before Thanksgiving. However, its buyers ended up paying $1,850,000 in mid January.

So if you’re considering purchasing a luxury home in San Francisco, know that it may take sellers a bit of time to come to terms with their property’s value. Make an offer, and if doesn’t work the first time around, try again—and again. You just might walk away with a good deal.

Duboce At Your Doorstep at 50 Carmelita

Situated on the northwest perimeter of Duboce Park (and technically in Hayes Valley), the restored Queen Anne over at 50 Carmelita is a pretty cool property. The home has 4BR/4.5BAs across three levels, and 3,781 square feet of space at a list price of $2,495,000.

There are two top-floor master suites with cathedral ceilings and downtown/park views, and, basically, top-of-the-line everything. The garage offers two-car, side-by-side parking (good to have in this neighborhood), and you can preside over the park on your front porch.

Buyers who are particularly private probably won’t like the public nature of the home (windows out to the lawn, where anyone can hang out, etc). But they can check out the other 11 luxury properties on the market in the $2M-$3.4M price range in the surrounding neighborhoods known in Realtor terms as “districts 5 and 6.” However, I suspect the right buyer won’t take long to show up at 50 Carmelita.

State of the TIC Market in San Francisco

Despite their risky and complex nature, tenancy-in-common (TIC) interest sales made a strong showing in 2009.

A total of 403 TIC interests sold last year, for an average of $603,780. Units spent an average of 92 days on market (DOM), and that lengthy timeframe doesn’t seem to be shortening. Of the 403 TICs sold, 162 sold in the fourth quarter of 2009, at an average of $586,755. September and October saw 73 TICs selling, and surprisingly, 89 interests sold in the last two months of 2009. Buyers apparently weren’t slowed down by the holidays in this property category, either.

Though two- and three-unit buildings were popular—with 26 and 25 interests selling, respectively—the big winner was the six-unit building category. A total of 42 TICs sold in six-unit properties. Ultimately, all but 51 TICs were sold in 4-21-unit properties in the fourth quarter of 2009, meaning an awful lot of buyers qualified for the restrictive and often costly fractional/individual financing used on such properties.

As we head into 2010, I’m seeing 66 TIC interests in contract at an average list price of $568,561, and they’ve spent an average of 140 days on market.

There are 97 TICs on the market now, ranging in price from $330,000 for a 2BR/1BA interest that just came back on the market in a seven-unit building in Nob Hill, to a “house-like, eco-friendly” 2BR/2BA listed at $1,295,000 in a three-unit building that features Alcatraz and Bay views.

On the downside, it’s taking an average of 20+ years to condo convert three- to six-unit buildings purchased now, according to TIC attorney specialist Andy Sirkin, who recently gave in an-person update at our sales meeting. And for existing TIC owners who have been in the lottery multiple times, it’s looking like seven-year lottery candidates will be the big winners this year. So if you’ve been in the lottery for less than seven years, it’s unlikely you’ll “win” the right to condo convert this year (or, actually, next year).

Sellers, note that if all your ducks are in a row and your property presentation and financing details are solid, there is a good chance your TIC interest will sell—but it may take time to land the right, qualified buyer. It’s critical to have your financing, legal, title company, and Realtor team in place and on the same page before you come anywhere near putting your property on the market.

And buyers, consider TICs if you understand all the details involved (and of course, can qualify/afford the financing offered). There’s a lot of homework to do up front, and I pretty much give my buyers in this property category an unofficial seminar—and insist that they speak with a real estate attorney—before they (and I) are convinced TICs are the right option for them.

Update: Linden Hayes Sales Under Way, Pricing Goes Public

The 32 units over at Linden Hayes—now with its official address of 233 Franklin—are finally seeing some list price ranges from the sales team.

Six units have been sold, according to Doug Shaw at Pacific Union. So if you want to jump on the bandwagon, here are the latest ranges:

1BRs: $525,000-$649,000

2BR/2BA: $800,000-$965,000

3BR/2BA: $940,000-$995,000

The first owners can expect to move in around mid-March. Contact me if you’d like a private tour. But keep in mind that the building is nowhere near finished!

"Dept of Sidewalk Parking" Opens in San Francisco

A crafty Excelsior resident and self-proclaimed “Commissioner of Concrete” has launched a new blog dedicated to raising awareness about the annoying habit of sidewalk parking throughout the city.

The San Francisco Department of Sidewalk Parking blog holds that because many homeowners’ garages are cluttered with belongings or have in-law units, they instead park on sidewalks. As a result, trees and gardens are removed to accommodate the extra parking.

Groups like SPUR have also noted this issue, and the Planning Department Code Enforcement staff is currently working on developing guidelines for complying with the city ordinance that requires at least 20% of a front yard be devoted to landscaping or plant material.

I’ve toured lots of houses in areas like the Richmond, Excelsior, and even Bernal Heights, and have indeed seen garages so filled with crap that cars wouldn’t fit. People, clean out your stuff and clear the sidewalks. Or rent storage.

A Look Inside the Mission’s Newest Development: 555 Bartlett

I attended a friends and neighbors party at the Mission’s new 555 Bartlett last night. The building isn’t quite complete, but it’s pretty obvious that it will cater to what San Francisco buyers need—reasonably priced units with parking in a central, increasingly hip location.

The 58-unit development is located at the corner of Mission and Cesar Chavez and features a mix of predominantly one- and two-bedroom condos.

The developer is pricing Bartlett in a very appealing price range for new construction—and for a majority of San Francisco buyers. The one bedrooms will start in the $400,000s, and the two bedrooms will be listed in the mid-$500,000s. There are a handful of three-bedroom units in the $600,000s, and a few studios. Many of the one bedrooms, some with studies, face the 26th Street side of the project, which will be quieter. The two bedrooms face Cesar Chavez.

Here’s a look at the living room of the staged one-bedroom model, along with the kitchen—and a desk area that lies between the bedroom and bathroom:

The two-bedroom model is staged a bit more whimsically, and also includes a painted “brick wall” :

Finishes are quite nice for the price point, and include quartz countertops, Bosch gas range, microwave and dishwasher, and Kohler faucets. Most units have small balconies or decks, and are pre-wired for ceiling fans and alarm systems.

There’s also an approximately 11,000-square foot interior courtyard, bike storage, an elevator, and a Walgreens on the ground level. Parking comes with each unit, but those opting for no parking can chop $40,000 off the purchase price. HOA dues will range from $270-$350/mo.

The location is extremely convenient for downtown and Peninsula commuters. BART is three blocks north on Mission, and 280 or 101 are about two minutes away. You can also walk one block to Valencia and find yourself a stone’s throw from Pi Bar, Anthony’s Cookies, and Beretta. Or head south on Mission and hit El Rio, Blue Plate, Good Frikin’ Chicken, Emmy’s Spaghetti Shack, the Front Porch, and Safeway.

Though not yet ready to be shown to the public, 555 Bartlett will open soon. And don’t get too put off by the existing exterior colors; I’m told they are primer for the final color scheme.

555 Bartlett is also approved for FHA loans.

Let me know if you’d like to schedule an appointment before the masses get through the doors.

Mission’s Union Gets FHA Approval

One of the latest condo developments to get FHA loan approval is Union, the 76-unit complex at Bryant between 19th & 20th in the Mission. The project has been on the market since last year, and is more than 50% sold, according to the sales team, and it’s now possible to buy a condo in Union with as little as 3.5% down.

Union is split into two parts: the townhomes, and the recently released brick-and-timber lofts. Price ranges for remaining townhomes are $675,000-$799,000 for two bedrooms, and $820,000-$895,000 for three bedrooms.

One-bedroom lofts range from $575,000-735,000; two bedrooms are $660,000-$755,000 and three bedrooms are listed between $795,000-$859,000. The loft units tend to be smaller than the townhomes.

Before you run out to get preapproved for an FHA loan, make sure you run the numbers and find out how much your monthly payments will be. As I’ve noted in this blog before, FHA loans let buyers purchase homes who don’t have the required 20% down payment. But be mindful of how much cash you’ll have to come up with on large loan amounts.

What You Can Buy for $1.5M

The $1.5M price point is actually quite popular in San Francisco, so today we take a look at what you can get for your money: a view home in Noe Valley, former firehouse in Hayes Valley, and what appears to be a wannabe presidential residence on the West Portal/St. Francis Wood border.

Let’s start with 744 Duncan at Diamond, in Noe Valley:

Last sold in 2003 for $1,050,000, the sellers are now looking for $1,495,000 for their 2,000-square foot, 4BR/3BA home with a nice yard and views. There are three bedrooms on the top floor, and this master suite with killer bay and city views:

Next up is 229 Oak at Octavia:

This 2500-square foot home was built in 1913 and originally housed a commercial fire dispatch headquarters. It now has four bedrooms and three bathrooms on two levels, complete with a loft office space, garden and two-car parking. The property sits on the same lot as a newly constructed luxury home on Lily that just came on the market for $1.9M, and the lot will be officially split at close of escrow.

229 Oak was first listed last year at a whopping $1,760,000 and was relisted in December at its current price. The location on Oak between Octavia and Gough isn’t too bad; 101-bound, cross-city commuters will turn right on Octavia, so the 200 block isn’t as heavily trafficked. But it is fairly busy. The property is currently in contract, awaiting its buyers’ close of escrow on their own home. A great house for those who’d love a lower level workspace.

Finally, we have 1550 Portola at San Leandro. If Obama and his family are looking for a San Francisco place, this is probably a good White House substitute (at least, in theory):

The 5BR/4BA home was built in 1920 and boasts 5,000 square feet. There’s a lot of mahagony woodwork, period detail—and wallpaper. Lots of wallpaper.

I couldn’t leave out a photo of my favorite bathroom. Michelle Obama would have a field day redecorating:

The home was first listed in June 2009 for $1,595,000, and then reduced last September to its current price. Portola is another busy street, but for a buyer who doesn’t mind constant traffic outside the door and who’d appreciate the close proximity to the West Portal retail area, this home will do the trick.

Lenders Held to Good-Faith Estimate

Lenders now have to stand by their initial good-faith estimate that they provide borrowers, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Closing costs are given to loan applicants up front, but these good-faith estimates can sometimes change when the loan is finalized. However, as of January 1st, lenders will be forbidden from increasing some charges at the closing table and will be limited to a 10% increase on other fees. If the costs of such services such as title insurance or credit reports turn out to be substantially more than initially indicated on the good-faith estimate, the lender will have to east the difference.

Costs that lenders can’t increase at all include origination charges, discount points (after the interest rate is locked), and transfer taxes. The costs that can’t increase more than 10% are required services selected by the lender, as well as title search and lender’s title insurance (if the lender selects the title company or the borrower chooses a title company suggested by the lender).

Sounds good, right? The twist is that lenders are widely expected to raise fees and overestimate some others to make up for potential increases.

So review your good-faith estimate from the start, and retain a copy of it so you can compare it when you receive your estimated closing statement from the title company. I always request the latter document prior to my clients signing loan documents, so they can review the fees and make sure everything is in line with what they’ve been told. Given this new regulation, it’s more important than ever to keep an eye on closing costs.

13 New Condos Coming at 15th & Dolores

The long-vacant lot and its adjacent historical structure at the corner of 15th and Dolores are finally scheduled to become high-end residential housing later this year (barring one more upcoming “formality hearing”):

The property went through Planning review channels last Fall, and is now slated to host a mix of one- and two-bedroom condos (plus one three bedroom). Development on the land has been battled by neighbors for years, but it looks like the time has come for residential housing to take hold.

The existing structure—originally built in 1904 as a parsonage, which is a house provided for the pastor of a church—will be transformed into three condos, and the lot will ultimately see four stories of ten additional units. Parking will be available for all condos.

The developer is experienced in creating “unique, boutique residences,” according to one of the listing agents for the project. So I’m guessing pricing will be closer to the $1M mark and above for these units. (Luxury properties in established neighborhoods are generally selling at $1,000/sq foot.)

Smaller buildings with luxury finishes seem to be the trend these days, as those buyers willing and able to pay higher prices tend to prefer smaller buildings in well-established neighborhoods with limited development opportunity. And this one is in an extremely walkable, central location in Mission Dolores and straddling the Castro, Duboce Triangle, and Hayes Valley areas.

I’ll keep you posted on this project as it unfolds.

SF Market on Track in New Year

It’s been a challenging time for all real estate markets, and San Francisco felt its own pain throughout most of 2009. But buyers and sellers were doing substantial business in the fourth quarter of last year, pointing to a definite housing recovery in the city.

The last quarter certainly looked better in terms of volume. A total of 564 single-family homes and 485 condos were reported sold by the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). Contrast that to same time period in 2008, when only 464 houses and 357 condos sold.

But sales price averages pointed to a definite trend in our housing market– higher single-family home prices, and lower ones for condos. The single-family home average in the last quarter was $992,146, up from $919,305 in the same period of 2008. However, the average condo sold for $756,052 vs. $795,690. This is probably because condo inventory is routinely higher, and there’s more for buyers to choose from.

Multiple-offer scenarios slowly returned late last year, particularly for single-family homes. Shortly before Christmas, my buyers were involved with two multiple-offer situations, one of which had 13 offers. I’m expecting more of the same in 2010 as buyers rush to take advantage of the still-low interest rates and federal tax credit. There’s also a renewed confidence in the Bay Area job market, which has encouraged buyers to make their purchases now.

Foreign buyers stepped into the San Francisco market in a big way last year. Reports from within my company pointed to a rising trend in buyers from France, Asia, and Canada taking advantage of favorable exchange rates and softer property prices. Indeed, I was contacted later in the year by buyers from England and Japan who are interested in evaluating their prospects for a second home in downtown San Francisco. Our city’s international appeal fortunately continues to shine.

It’s likely that as the stock and job markets steadily improve, San Francisco real estate will hold its own. Yes, loans will still be difficult to obtain for those who can’t meet lenders’ stricter requirements. But in desirable, walkable neighborhoods, don’t expect to see prices slip much lower in 2010. I think our market “bottom” has come and gone.

Get in touch:

Eileen Bermingham

Zephyr Real Estate


BRE# 01352627

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