Monthly Archives: February 2010

Neighborhood Spotlight: Corona Heights

Eureka Valley, Cole Valley, Duboce Triangle, the Haight and Buena Vista Park are all neighbors. And smack dab in the middle of them is Corona Heights.

This small neighborhood is home to the Randall Museum, and has several parks nearby, so it’s great for dog owners. There’s Corona Heights Park itself, which has a dog area, and slightly north is Buena Vista Park. On the south side is Tank Hill. All are nice, open spaces. There are some crazy secret stairways in Corona Heights, too–one on Saturn Street, and one on Vulcan. And don’t forget about the tennis courts on 15th Street between Beaver and Buena Vista Terrace, or Mount Olympus, a historical site on Upper Terrace.

If you’re looking for the closest Muni rail lines, you’ll find them either in Cole Valley (N Judah) or the Castro. However, the 37 Corbett runs straight through Corona Heights, from Twin Peaks to the Haight. That’ll get you to the Muni rail stations in the Castro.

Single-family home and condo prices in Corona Heights are pretty much in line with surrounding neighborhoods, though they’re probably slightly lower (though not by much). Single-family house prices range from $741,000 for a 2BR/2BA cottage to $1,675,000 for a 3,000 square foot 3BR house on Market (originally listed at $2,450,000). And let’s not forget about the renovated, Mediterranean house currently back on the market at 424 Roosevelt Way.

Quite a few condos have recently sold in the neighborhood, too, at an average price of $879,857.

Alamo Square Painted Lady Gets a Price Chop

It doesn’t have the cache of its neighbor one block up at 722 Steiner, but 850 Steiner is a 3BR/2.5BA “gracious grand dame with potential” that’s just become more affordable.

First listed in October 2009 for $1,850,000, 850 Steiner’s price was reduced to $1,749,000 for the holidays, but Santa didn’t bring a buyer. The seller has just reduced the price significantly to $1,495,000. The kitchen and bathrooms could use some work, but at this price, such expenses may make sense. The seller is only the third owner in the house’s history, which is kind of nice. These properties don’t turn over often.

Carlisle A Good Option for Seniors in San Francisco

In addition to being a Realtor in San Francisco, I’m on one of the boards at the senior organization On Lok, and also hold a Seniors Real Estate Specialist designation (SRES). So I’m often asked about housing options for seniors in the city. Truth be told, there aren’t many.

But one property I think is worth mentioning is The Carlisle, located at 1450 Post at Gough (technically Lower Pacific Heights). The 93-unit building was constructed in 1992 for seniors age 62 and over. It’s marketed as a luxury residence, so it’s not the answer to affordable living for seniors. But it’s essentially a retirement community for independent, active seniors who want a San Francisco home within walking distance to shops, restaurants and public transportation.

The condos themselves (mostly one bedrooms, with some studios and two bedrooms) range from $150,000-$850,000, and carry monthly fees of $3,000-$4,500+ that include meals, housekeeping, and activity/health centers. Seniors purchasing units at the property tend to be paying all cash, often relocating from outer areas and desiring to spend their retirement years in a more urban, accessible setting.

Sales activity at The Carlisle over the past year has been fairly brisk. Sixteen units have been reported as sold in the MLS since January 2009, ranging in price from $157,000 for a 1BR with 519 square feet to $799,000 for a 1BR with 1700 square feet. There are two units pending, and eight units available (seven 1BRs from $153,000-$849,000) and one two bedroom listed at $850,000. Check out the Web site for floorplans and more. And do contact me if you’d like to schedule a showing.

SF Moves to Prohibit Garage Installations

Our friends at Plan C are asking for support in the San Francisco garage arena. This is an important issue for homeowners and property values. I’m sending along Plan C’s recent alert that I received this weekend:

“Don’t let garages become prohibited in S.F.!

Supervisor David Chiu has proposed to essentially prohibit garages in his district; North Beach, Chinatown and Telegraph Hill. A property owner would have to obtain a conditional use permit to install a garage.

The Board of Supervisors would now be the body to hear appeals, not the Planning Commission and the Board of Appeals. The proposal would completely prohibit garages in buildings in which any “no fault” eviction – Owner Move In (OMI), Capital Improvement, Ellis Act evictions etc – was performed in the prior 10 years.

If passed, this proposal could be the first step towards imposing similar restrictions in other parts of the City.

This is a power grab by the Board of Supervisors and an attempt to incorporate the rent ordinance into the planning code and punish property owners. Both of these are bad ideas. Supervisor Dufty is the swing vote on this proposal. He voted for it with reservations on the first vote. We need you to write to him to let him know your opposition to this bad legislation. We need Supervisor Dufty to vote no on this, so that a Mayor’s veto can be sustained.

The next vote is scheduled for Tuesday February 23.

Please e-mail the Mayor, the Supervisors (including Supervisor Dufty) by clicking here – let them know that you oppose this legislation .

Also, please call the Mayor and Supervisor Dufty. Tell them the same thing (the phone call is easy, and youll be speaking either to a volunteer staffer or an aide):

Mayor Gavin Newsom 554-6141
District 1- Eric Mar- 554-7410
District 2- Michela Alioto-Pier- 554-7752
District 3- David Chiu- 554-7450
District 4- Carmen Chu- 554-7460
District 5- Ross Mirkarimi- 554-7630
District 6- Chris Daly- 554-7970
District 7- Sean Elsbernd- 554-6516
District 8- Bevan Dufty- 554-6968
District 9- David Campos- 554-5144
District 10- Sophie Maxwell- 554-7670
District 11- John Avalos- 554-6975″

"Aggressive Dog" Guards Bernal Heights 1BR Cottage

Easy on the eyes—but not easy to show due to the aggressive dog lurking within, according to the listing agent—271 Nevada is an appealing home. The Craftsman cottage has 875 square feet and features softwood floors, wainscoting, a formal entry foyer, and rare for Bernal Heights, two-car parking and storage.

The kitchen and bedroom have Bay/East Bay views, and there’s also a nice deck and garden. Personally, I’m charmed by the dining area:

The $749,000 price tag translates into $856 per square foot (the average for Bernal since September 2009 is $537/sq foot). But we’re not talking about new construction here; I’m not entirely confident in sellers’ square footage estimates–particularly when you’re talking about neighborhoods with homes built in the Victorian era. So let’s put the square footage factor on the backburner.

There are ten other single-family homes on the market in Bernal, most of which are larger. And all have at least two bedrooms. Nevada was sold for $790,000 in 2007, so nobody’s flying high with the current list price. I think you have to add value to the fact that you’ve got a detached, single-family home in a desirable neighborhood (though Nevada’s a bit closer to Bayshore than some buyers might like).

Yes, you can buy a two-bedroom condo for $749,000, but many of them are located in SoMa and South Beach, or in large buildings with high HOA dues. And you won’t get a home with tons of character, views or two-car parking.

If Nevada looks like a possibility, check it out this weekend. Just don’t try to sneak into the yard for a quick interior peek. That dog will be waiting for you.

2010: Year of the Short Sale

It’s becoming more and more obvious as I tour, show and evaluate properties that there are many homeowners coming up on three-, five- or seven-year adjustable rate mortgage revisions. And in many cases, they won’t be able to refinance or keep their property at the higher interest rate. Those are definitely ingredients for a rise in short sales over the next year.

But fortunately, some of the major lenders are warming up to short sales, according to a story yesterday in the Financial Times. Bank of America, in particular, has added staff to handle short sales. And Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, and other large banks seem to be following suit.

So if you’re evaluating a property that will be a known short sale, have your agent find out which lenders are involved. If it’s one of the big boys, it might mean a shorter waiting time for short sale approval. No buyers want to sit around for three months waiting for their offer to be approved by the bank; if the wait time is no longer in question, short sales may be easier to navigate. And if you’re a potential seller with one of these large banks holding your loan, now may be the time to work something out.

NoPa Renovation = Two Luxury Condos

The low-key, pale blue 2BR/1BA single-family home above on Broderick between Hayes and Grove was sold in 2005 for $910,000 (listed at $799,000 at the time). It’s now resurfacing as two luxury condos with a far different exterior:

Welcome to the new incarnation of 526-528 Broderick. We now have 526 Broderick’s 1776-square foot, 4BR/3.5BA, two-level lower unit listed at $1,150,000. And upstairs is 528 Broderick, which is a 3BR/2.5BA, 1383-square foot unit all on one level.

The top level living area is pretty spacious, and they’ve even included a piano with the staging to emphasize that fact:

Most 3BR+ condos in the neighborhood have sold in the $700,000-$800,000 range. But none quite match the finishes and floorplans of 526-528 Broderick. 1696 McAllister, a 5BR condo with 3,000+ square feet and two-car parking sold last year for $1.4M. If today represents a slightly different market, the Broderick developer may be in luck. My sense is that bringing on these units now vs. Spring will work to their advantage. First open is Sunday from 1:00-4:00. (Working on finding a Web site, as there doesn’t seem to be one online yet.)

Lone Mountain Homes Worth a Look

Lone Mountain isn’t a neighborhood a lot of buyers consider when they start house hunting. The University of San Francisco is located there, and the area is surrounded by the Richmond, Panhandle, Laurel Heights and Anza Vista. For downtown commuters, the 31 and 28 buses run on Geary and Balboa. And for park lovers, Lone Mountain is perfect. It offers close proximity to the Presidio, Golden Gate Park and the Panhandle. Depending where you’re located, you can get a neighborhood membership to the USF Koret fitness facility. Your best bets for restaurants/retail areas are Clement Street in the Richmond, California Street in Laurel Heights, and, a bit further south, Haight Street.

I stopped in at three single-family homes currently on the market in Lone Mountain this week. I think the neighborhood definitely offers more bang for the buck, and the homes tend to be pretty spacious. Here’s a look at what’s out there:

190 Ewing Terrace
1978 sq ft
1-car parking
List Price: $1.2M
This spacious home just came on the market at the beginning of February. It needs updating, but is in otherwise clean and solid condition based on appearance. It’s located on a cute circular block and has sizeable bedrooms, including a master suite with Golden Gate Bridge outlooks. There’s the expected wet bar in the garage (typical for the area), a garden with a Koi pond (needs to be cleaned) and nice Japanese landscaping.

I liked this house because it has good bones. A buyer could come in and blow out the kitchen, create a nice master suite and connect to the hall bathroom, and update the bathrooms. But the average price for a 3BR home in Lone Mountain is $1.2M, so I’m thinking a more realistic selling price is more in the $1,050,000-$1.1M range.

25 Tamalpais Terrace
1565 sq ft
2-car parking
List Price: $995,000
I liked this house, and it’s also located on a very nice street, within what’s known as the University Terrace area. I love the Rousseau architecture, and the center patio feature within. The owners qualify for a USF Koret gym neighborhood membership, too. Only drawback is that the property is tenant occupied, and it’s a conservatorship sale—identical to a probate sale—that will require court confirmation. And keep your eye on the parking situation in the University Terrace area, as USF is contemplating adding new science labs that could attract more students (and drivers) to the neighborhood.

2539 Turk Blvd
1700 sq feet
List Price: $1.3M
The most remodeled and “done” house of the bunch, 2539 Turk is situated opposite USF and its lovely greenery. Turk is a busy street, but having that view outside your window is pretty sweet:

The home was sold in January 2008 for $1,250,000, and came on the market earlier this year for $1,395,000. It’s now down to $1.3M. The current owners spent about $175,000 renovating the property, but are now being transferred and would like to sell. They did a nice job, fabulously updating the kitchen and bath, and even incorporating a 650-bottle, acclimatized wine room on the garage level. The garage fits three cars, which is not a claim most houses in the city can make. A couple issues: The third bedroom is accessed through either of the other bedrooms (meaning it’s more of a sunroom), and the yard is covered by the third bedroom/sunroom overhang.

Condo Prices Back to 2004?

Robert Selna at The Chronicle wrote a good piece today on condo resale prices. I spoke with Robert late last week for the article (thanks for the quote!), and we both concluded that it seems like the condo market in San Francisco has hit its bottom.

I think the biggest insight you can glean from the story is the fact that condo prices seem to be where they were in 2004. So sellers, if your current list price is well above the comparative sales for a similar unit in 2004—and no buyers have stepped forward—you might want to revisit your asking price.

Walk Score Winners: Houses in the North End of San Francisco

We’re taking a look today at two of the lesser-priced single-family homes in the north end of the city with very high Walk Scores. Here are a couple options for excellent walking locations if your goal is to own a house in the more classic neighborhoods of the city–for up to $1.5M.

1519 Baker
Lower Pacific Heights
List Price: $1,100,000
3-car pkg
This stick Victorian has a somewhat awkward floor plan, but is located in a very central neighborhood. The double parlor and additional rooms are lined up on one side of the house, and the kitchen and dining room on the other. At the rear of the property is a narrow staircase that looks like it was added on to the exterior of the house at one point. That leads to a bedroom and bath where a man and his two Yorkies were sitting when I visited the property. But if you’re looking for a Victorian house in the north end of the city, you won’t really find one for that much less than $1.1M unless it’s for lot value. This one is probably a little high based on the comparative sales in the area over the past year. But it’s 2010, and negotiation is the name of the game. Walk Score: 95.

215 Moulton
Cow Hollow
List Price: $1,535,000
1-car pkg
Located on a small street between Greenwich/Lombard and Fillmore/Steiner, 215 Moulton has a very functional, accommodating floorplan. It was built in 1995 and inarguably has a ’90s feel in the finishes. But it’s got 2300 square feet across three levels and features a nice kitchen and living/dining areas plus half bath; a loft office area and bedroom upstairs; and a master suite at the garden level. The house has changed hands a few times in the past, selling most recently for $1.8M in 2007. Obvious comparative sale is next door at 213 Moulton—pretty much the same house that sold for $1,530,000 in an all-cash transaction in June 2009. Walk Score: 98

What's Up With the St. Regis?

Every once in a while, multiple properties hit the market in a particular neighborhood, block or building, and it makes you wonder what’s going on. I recently noticed that there are seven condos currently available at the St. Regis (188 Minna) in the SoMa area, which is kind of a big number within one property.

There are five 2BR condos currently available, all approximately 1600 square feet and priced from $1,795,000 to $2,490,000. Additionally, two 3BR properties are on the market for $2,595,000 and $4,800,000. I’ve asked around, and it doesn’t sound like anything strange is happening at the St. Regis—just sellers making changes and moving on. Not one of the seven units is classified as a foreclosure or short sale. (But two other units in the property are actually in the auction stage.)

The St. Regis has been performing fairly well in a challenging market for luxury homes. Last year, five 2BRs sold, ranging in price from $1,975,000 to $2,550,000. However, nine 2BRs were withdrawn by sellers or expired (two of which are on the market now). The building has some nice amenities, from concierge and butler service to an outdoor terrace, spa, and fitness center.

But the reason the St. Regis may have so many units sitting on the market (for an average of 90 days) is because newer, shinier buildings like The Millennium have entered into the mix and are competing for buyers’ attention. The Millennium boasts superior amenities such as Michael Mina’s rn74 restaurant, a private dining room, wine storage, a Sports Club/L.A. center and more. Its sister over at the Four Seasons (765 Market) only has three units on the market—including a 1BR that just came on at $2,650,000—and that building seems to be holding up well in terms of turnover.

Odeon Penthouse Officially on Market in Union Square

The unique Union Square penthouse property at The Odeon (181 O’Farrell #513) came on the market last week. The 3BR/2BA, two-level condo has 2516-square feet and is listed at $1,899,000.

The unit has a busy history. The current owners paid $2M and put another $400,000 in. They’ve tried to sell it in fractional increments (totalling $3.1M at one point), and off market in the $2.4M range. But the unit is officially on the market now and in the San Francisco MLS for a price at which the seller will not break even by any stretch.

HOA and parking expenses aren’t cheap—a total of $1312 per month. But the floorplan is pretty cool, with two bedrooms, one bath and the living areas on the main level. A master suite is on the upper level, which is the very definition of “boudoir” to me:

In any event, be the king Union Square and grab your penthouse while it lasts.

San Francisco Icon For Sale at 722 Steiner

It’s not every day you have an opportunity to get inside one of the iconic San Francisco Painted Ladies. The corner home in the famous row of six such Victorians is now on the market. I toured 722 Steiner this morning.

The 5BR/4.5BA single-family home (total of 11 rooms) also has an au pair unit on the garage level, and the property is almost 5,000 square feet. It overlooks Alamo Square park in the front, and has stunning city views from the rear:

The house fills up the lot, but there’s a small patio with stairs leading down to the in-law unit. Classic architectural details abound, from stained-glass windows and Bradbury wallpaper to moldings, medallions, and high ceilings. There are working gas light fixtures and five fireplaces. The property was built in 1892.

How much is all this worth? 722 Steiner is listed at $4M. That price also includes the claim to fame of being featured in more than 70 movies, television shows and ads. Steiner is reportedly the most photographed residences in the United States after the While House, and I believe it. Tour buses drive past routinely, and tourists take photos from surrounding corners at any time of day. (Saw both of these activities happening in my ten-minute stop at the property.)

But it’s a part of San Francisco history. Check it out this weekend, they’ll be open on Valentine’s Day from 2:00-4:00.

Citrino Condos Make A Comeback

The building at 566 South Van Ness between 16th and 17th Streets in the Mission known as The Citrino is making a minor comeback in the current market. Citrino completed construction back in 2007 and went on the market in July of that year at a time when the credit crisis hit the media in a big way. Things didn’t get much better after that.

Though the developer did sell 22 of the 32 condos, an ownership change then took place, and future sales were put on hold. Seven of the condos that remained were rented, and three were left vacant. One bedrooms had sold in 2008 from the low $400,000s to the low $500,000s, and the two bedrooms sold from the high $500,000s all the way up to the mid $700,000s.

New ownership is now in place, and it’s looking to sell off units as tenants’ leases expire. And two of the three vacant, top-floor units are already on their way to being sold. The pair of 2BR/2BAs with about 932 square feet and one-car parking came on the market at the very end of January and were listed at very competitive prices of $569,000-$579,000. They went into contract within days of coming on the market. The last top-floor condo is currently available for $569,000.

Citrino’s finishes are high-end, with Scavolini kitchens, Bertazoni ranges, Fisher Paykel dishwashers, CaesarStone countertops, and gas fireplaces:
There are nice outdoor spaces and a cool roof deck. HOA dues are in the $330 range. Probably the biggest downside is the block on which Citrino is located. Though it’s around the corner from the 16th and Mission BART station and about four blocks from the Valencia corridor, Citrino is opposite a rundown gas station, adjacent to the South Van Ness car wash/gas station at 16th, and a few doors down from a temporary occupancy hotel that breeds a lot of characters. Buyers have to decide if the nicely done units and the convenient location outweigh the sketchy street locale.

Returning to market after a hiatus is a strategy that’s picking up speed in the new development segment. The Artani at 818 Van Ness is getting ready to unleash a bunch of units it pulled from the market after an unsuccessful sales attempt last year, and 829 Folsom is also resuming sales after a marketing team change. In all cases, prices are lower than when the buildings first started selling in 2008-2009. I’m sensing some good opportunities for buyers who are ready to jump into the mix and get new-construction homes for reasonable prices.

Entry-Level Price Range Explodes in San Francisco

There was a time when it was pretty challenging to find properties with decent space in San Francisco for up to $650,000. Now that the market has softened a bit—and some of the buyers who sat on the sidelines last year (saving money in the interim) have jumped back in the game—there’s a perfect first-time home buyer storm sweeping over the city.

Bad metaphors aside, I’m really encouraged by activity in this market segment. A look at the properties listed for up to $650,000 that have gone into contract recently or are pending is indicative of its strength. To date, 110 such condos have gone into contract since January, at an average price of $467,943. Of these, 61 one-bedroom units were listed at an average of $463,841, and most interestingly, 29 two-bedroom condos were listed at an average of $525,921. There was a time when it was virtually impossible to find a two-bedroom in this range, but that seems to be fortunately changing. And 78 condos are pending that were listed for up to $650,000.

I should note that not every neighborhood will have two bedrooms in this range. The most likely possibilities are areas such as the Mission, South of Market, Diamond Heights. Things open up for one bedrooms, with neighborhoods like the Van Ness corridor, Mission Bay, South Beach, South of Market and the Central Waterfront (Dogpatch) popping up.

If you’re dreaming of a single-family home, the entry-level range is a little sparse. For up to $650,000, you’re generally looking at two-bedroom homes in areas such as the Outer Sunset/Parkside; Ingleside Heights; Sunnyside; Bernal Heights; Excelsior; Outer Mission; Visitacion Valley; Silver and Mission Terraces. A total of 100 single-family homes are currently in contract or pending with list prices of up to $650,000. And yes, the homes are generally located in the aforementioned neighborhoods.

Heading into February, we’re looking at 244 condos currently on the market (a mix of studios, one- and two-bedrooms). Now might be a good time to get off the sidelines, take advantage of the federal tax credit before it expires in the spring, and negotiate your way to your first home.

Get in touch:

Eileen Bermingham

Zephyr Real Estate


BRE# 01352627

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