Silicon Valley Commuter Alert: 283 Dorland #302

It’s the perfect storm for a hip, Silicon Valley-commuting home buyer: A 2BR/2BA condo with one-car parking (plus guest parking); Liberty Hill views; two master suites; and in-unit laundry, coupled with a location where Mission Dolores, Duboce Triangle, and the Castro meet. And where you’re about ten minutes from the freeway and multiple Peninsula employer shuttle stops.

Listed at $799,000, 283 Dorland #302 is a top-floor unit of around 1,073 square feet that’s situated in a six-unit building. HOA dues are $460/month. The building was constructed in 1992, so it’s not going to give you charming period detail. But you will get good space and can fall out the door and into Tartine, Samovar, Delfina, Frances, BiRite or Mission Dolores Park. In other words, all the types of places that make a commute worth it. Not to mention that you’re within a block’s walk to the J Church, in the event you want to catch a train downtown. (Downtown commuters, this one’s for you, too.)

The unit last sold in 1993 for $300,000. Here’s a parting shot of one of the bedrooms:

Iconic Painted Lady Loses Some Luster

It’s been almost two months since the historic and iconic home at 722 Steiner first floated on to the market. I toured the property soon after, and though I found the property to be interesting, it didn’t exactly feature a top-notch interior. But it had its merits.

The sellers decided to reduce the list price on Friday from $3,999,999 to $3,850,000. Hardly an earthshattering price chop, but they’re moving in the right direction. It really is challenging to put a price tag on a house like this, but the sellers will know when they’ve hit the right price. I’m thinking more about $3.5M, but we’ll see.

Open House Spotlight: Lake District Charmer

The Lake district is one of the more pleasant neighborhoods in San Francisco, and well worth traversing. If you find yourself wandering around the area this weekend, stop in at 65 5th Avenue, just south of the Presidio Golf Course.

The handsome, 3BR/2.5BA wood-shingled home features all its bedrooms on the top floor, has a remodeled kitchen, three working fireplaces, wraparound deck, and a lush garden. I particularly like the deck:

Nothing too fancy, just a nice, gracious home. List price is $3,150,000. Open 2-4 on Sunday.

Artani Back in Action on Van Ness

Over on the Van Ness corridor, The Artani is treading the residential sales waters again after a disappointing attempt at selling the units last year. Many of the units were rented temporarily, and those renters are being offered a shot at purchasing their units. Otherwise, a majority of the 20 one bedrooms, twelve 1BR+den/2BAs, and 20 2BR/2BAs are waiting for buyers.

I attended The Artani’s launch party last night (a lively affair) and toured a few of the models. The last time I was there, I rode up in a construction elevator with a bunch of workers, and had to navigate the very much work-in-progress building. So it was interesting to see the finished product. They’ve done a nice job with the floor plans and finishes, featuring CaesarStone counters, Italian tile backsplashes and baths, Bosch or Viking appliances and distressed wood floors.

The 1BR/1BA units are priced from the high $400,000s, and the 1BR+den/2BA condos start in the mid $500,000s. The 2BR/2BA are priced from the high $600,000s. HOAs dues range from the high $300s to the mid $400s. Each unit gets a parking space, and everyone has access to the loungey roof deck.

Here are a couple shots of a typical kitchen and bath:

I saw unit 405, a 1BR/1BA listed at $499,000. It faced south, and the main outlook was a roof with duct and other equipment, as well as other buildings. Unit 306 was a large 2BR/2BA corner home with all the bells and whistles. The living/kitchen areas faced Van Ness, which is busy, but in an odd way, was kind of appealing. If you’re a Type A personality who likes a lot of activity surrounding you, #306 could be a good fit. Though this one is not available, it’s representative of a larger unit on that side of the property.

Unit 402 ($549,000) was a 1BR/1BA that faced the small street on the north side of the property, affording a nice view into the windows of the apartments across the way. The window on the property line that faces west had a nice downtown view, but due to building codes was required to be many inches thick. This leads to a somewhat distorted view, like looking through a magnifying glass. (I thought it was me, at first, feeling the effects of the signature Artani cocktail.)

Overall, I think the Artani is priced competitively for a luxury building located on Van Ness. The biggest hurdle for the sales team will be to overcome the hesitancy on the part of buyers to live on Van Ness, an area that is between neighborhoods, has a bit of a homeless issue and is noisy from all the traffic. Some buyers looking for two-bedroom condos might sooner gravitate toward LindenHayes, which has a superior location and finishes (but much higher price points). In the end, I think The Artani offers pretty good value.

California Tax Credit Set to Cause Buyer Stampede?

First-time home buyers in California will be able to take advantage of a California tax credit in the next couple months, according to Dawn Wotapka at the Wall Street Journal’s “Developments” blog.

Those qualified buyers who purchase a home can get up to $10,000 in tax credits, starting May 1st.

The Developments blog also reported earlier this week that Governor Schwarzenegger is expected to soon sign a bill giving as much as $10,000 each to first-time buyers of existing homes and any new-home purchaser starting May 1. It’s expected that the new-home portion to be exhausted within five months.

If you’re heading into contract on a first-time home right now, check out the details of the tax credit so you’re prepared to benefit.

Cow Hollow Condos Debut at Scott and Lombard

During my broker tour this week, I visited the new 12-unit condo building at 3190 Scott Street at Lombard that just opened its doors. All the units are two bedrooms/two baths, and range in price from $899,000-$1,149,000. (There is one unit that has 2.5 baths.) All but one unit have some sort of outdoor space, whether it’s a patio overlooking Lombard Street or one that faces the rear of the property.

The floor plans are similar in each unit—one level features a smallish master bedroom and bathroom, and the other level has the living area, kitchen, bedroom and another bath. Here’s a shot of one of the living areas that face the Bay:

And here’s a sample kitchen:

My favorite unit was 310, listed at $1,099,000. The master suite was located on the entrance level, and had an outlook of the nearby buildings. The kitchen/living area and bedroom/bath upstairs had Bay-facing outlooks, and the outdoor space was off the front balcony.

There are one or two below-market-rate units, but given that these are around $900,000, I’m not sure how “BMR” they are.

HOA dues are around $428, and there’s an elevator in the building. One-car parking is included for each unit.

Though the condos offer good space, the biggest drawback is that they’re located pretty much on Lombard. So you get the constant traffic and bustle from multiple lanes of traffic on a primary San Francisco corridor. Within a block radius, you’re surrounded by the Days Inn, Super 8, Presidio Inn, and America’s Best Value Inn, so there won’t be a shortage of accommodations for your guests if you don’t want them holding up in your second bedroom. Granted, once you cross Lombard you’re in the heart of the Chestnut Street retail area. But there will be substantial noise from the Lombard activity for those desiring a quiet place to live.

But if you look at the average sales prices and overall size of the comps, 3190 Scott comes off as being more spacious and is definitely viewed as an upscale building. (A good comp that’s currently in contract is over at 2839 Union, between Baker and Lyon. This is a top floor, 2BR/1.5BA plus sunroom and original kitchen that was listed at $1,079,000 and went into contract within a month.) I think 3190 Scott is a good fit for, say, Marin or downtown commuters who are looking for a good separation of space between bedrooms, as well as luxury finishes and a bit of outdoor space. Contact me if you’re interested in seeing the building. So far, none are in contract yet, so you’ll have your pick.

The ABCs of HOAs

Condos are a popular option for many home buyers in San Francisco. Prices for condos are more affordable, and there’s less upkeep involved. For busy professionals, condos in central neighborhoods fit more lifestyles than that of single-family homes.

The residents within a condo building are part of a homeowners association (HOA). In larger buildings, there’s usually an HOA board, too. These entities make decisions about the property with respect to expenditures, special assessments and other issues that arise.

There’s a lot to evaluate when you’re considering a condo purchase. I thought I’d put together a primer on the basic HOA disclosures and documents of consequence so you’ll know what to expect when you locate a condo you like and may want to write an offer on.

Here goes:
CC&Rs: The “Conditions, Covenants, and Restrictions” are the bible of your HOA. CC&Rs are typically boilerplate for each association, and are drawn up by a real estate attorney and recorded with the city. They cover key details such as what percentage of the common area is allocated to each unit and what exclusive-use areas exist. The CC&Rs outline the responsibility of the HOA and how issues such as delinquent HOA dues and unit remodeling are to be handled. It’s key to note the voting rights within the association, too, as well as how special assessments (additional charges beyond monthly HOA dues) are managed.

Most specifically, CC&Rs outline use restrictions, such as pets, garbage disposal, right to lease, and occupancy limitations. These are important because they sometimes deviate from boilerplate matters. Some CC&Rs now ban certain dog breeds, and if you have hardwood floors, it’s important to note whether you’ll have to put down area rugs to mitigate foot noise. A very significant limitation may be on renting your unit; make sure you’re aware of any restrictions if your future plans include holding the condo as rental property.

Finally, CC&Rs include the condo map, which is a diagram of each level of the building. You should make sure what you’re purchasing corresponds with the map, such as parking and storage. When you make a subsequent visit to the property, make sure your deeded parking and storage correspond to the condo map. And pay attention to amendments or exhibits that were added to the original CC&Rs. They may represent information that supersedes the original document.

Bylaws: This document typically outlines the duties of the HOA board, and is usually boilerplate.

Condo/Financial Disclosure: This one pager confirms the current HOAs for the unit, as well as the amount in “reserves.” The latter is the money available in the HOA bank account for maintenance and building expenditures. For larger buildings, you will want to see a reasonable amount in reserves. For smaller buildings in San Francisco, it’s not unusual to have nothing in the reserves. Residents typically use a pay-as-you-go approach. The condo disclosure states whether there’s any pending litigation, and also confirms whether there’s a move-in/move-out fee.

Budget: Depending on the size of the building, a budget can be as simple as a one-page document showing all the annual expenses and income, or a multi-page booklet that spans several years. Things to look for are reasonable maintenance and upkeep operating expenses, as well as projected income. Also, some large buildings will have one or more “reserve studies” on file. This is an estimate of the life of major building components, and how much it will cost to maintain and replace them over, say, a 30-year period.

Insurance: You should receive a declaration of current insurance for the building. This insurance does not cover individual units; most lenders are requiring individual unit coverage these days. Make sure you know what’s covered, and get some quotes for your own unit.

HOA Meeting Minutes: Some associations meet quarterly, some meet monthly or annually, and some don’t meet at all. If any meetings have taken place, there will usually be minutes taken by an association member. These should be included in the disclosure package. This is where you’ll be able to read about garage break-ins, the neighbor who’s playing his music too loud after 11PM or other issues.

First-Time Home Buyers: Get Ready for Your Closeup

If you’re looking to share the details of your home search with the world, take note that HGTV is looking for San Francisco first-time home buyers to profile on its series, “My First Place.”

You need to actually be a first-time home buyer, and HGTV would prefer it if you were “fun and interesting,” too. You have to be willing to share your personal and financial struggles and consider your life an open book. Also, you have to close on your purchase by the end of the summer, and be buying within a 60- to 90-mile radius of downtown San Francisco.

Selected candidates will receive a surprise housewarming gift, too.

Interested? Message Cole Schneider at for an application and more details.

North Beach Edwardian Villa Closes Escrow for $820,000 Under Asking

First listed in October 2008 for $3,995,000, the 5BR/4BA, 3,550-square foot Edwardian at 643 Greenwich in North Beach closed escrow last week in an all-cash transaction with a selling price of $3,175,000.

The property was widely discussed in the blogosphere last year, noting that the building was remodeled in 2001 and then again in 2006. The latter renovation was when the two-story vertical addition took place. The finished product features four levels and Bay/Golden Gate Bridge views.

Cow Hollow Home Sells, Back on Market Less Than a Month Later

How much would it suck if you bought a house in Cow Hollow, were about to move in, and then found out you were being transferred out of state?

If you’re the current owners of 215 Moulton, you’re in this boat. They closed escrow on the property on February 26th for $1,540,000 (we covered the property in a recent feature). They’re now listing it again less than a month later at $1.6M. And no, they never even got a chance to move in.

Is there something about Moulton that makes people flee? The house has changed hands four times since 2003. I personally really liked the property, but it might be the place to go if you want to hang out temporarily. Not sure a buyer will be looking to pay $60,000 more—especially without any kind of staging inside, or furniture of any kind—but I suppose Spring is here, and anything goes.

Open House Spotlight: Haight Eastlake Stick Vic

If you’re out and about this weekend, check out the 3BR/2.5BA, 3600-square foot single-family home at 1322 Masonic (at Frederick) in the Haight-Buena Vista Park area. I sold a multi-unit building recently further down Masonic, so this listing caught my eye. It’s on a much quieter stretch of Masonic than that of my past listing.

The property is listed at $2,395,000 and is one of six “Victorian sisters” built by architect Richard Cranston. The owners have expanded and renovated the home over the past twelve years (they paid $550,000 for what was originally a five-unit building in 1998, and are listing with the same agent who sold it to them—props for loyalty). There’s a two-car garage, lovely garden, 480-square foot bonus gym/studio, and twin master suites. Here’s a look at one of them:

But back to that five-unit building history. The owners were able to do two things back in 1999 that would probably be unthinkable now. They changed the building from four studios and a one bedroom to a single-family house, and installed a garage. All with permits. Talk about seizing the day.

1322 Masonic will be open from 2-5 on Sunday 3/21.

Update: LindenHayes Nears Completion, Half in Contract

It’s been a few months since we last checked in on LindenHayes at Franklin and Hayes. So here’s the latest: Construction is drawing to completion as the builder finishes the common areas. As soon as the lobby and the landscaped courtyard are done (probably by April 3rd), LindenHayes will have its grand opening.

In the meantime, “dusty shoe” tours are continuing, by appointment. To date, there are 15 pending sales out of a total of 32 units—not bad for minimal advertising and no MLS entries.

Here’s a refresher on what’s available, and in what price ranges—keeping in mind that pricing is still “fairly fluid” at this point, according to Doug Shaw at Pacific Union:
- 16 1BR/1BA residences, ranging from $529,000-$649,000 (some in contract)
- 12 2BR/2BA, from $769,000-$965,000 (some in contract)
- Three 3BR/2BAs (all are in contract).

Parking is included with all units. Contact me if you’d like a dusty shoe tour before the grand opening.

Update: 555 Bartlett Off and Running

It’s been a week or so since the sales office at 555 Bartlett began taking reservations and writing contracts. To date, 25 of the 58 residential condos are in contract, according to the sales team. That’s an excellent sales rate for a new development in the current market. Given the overall quality and reputable developer involved, I’m not surprised. I was very favorably impressed upon my initial preview visit.

Current pricing lands one bedrooms from $440,000-$490,000; two bedrooms range from $530,000-$650,000. One three-bedroom unit remains, priced in the high $600,000 range. A large garage with ample parking, as well as various degrees of storage, are available.

Keep in mind 555 Bartlett is FHA approved. Give me a call if you’d like to check out the remaining inventory.

What You Can Buy for $700,000-$750,000

A slew of new two-bedroom condos in popular neighborhoods in San Francisco came on the market this week, so we’re taking a look at three of them.

38 Yukon
Eureka Valley
List Price: $749,000
2BR/1BA, 1125 sq ft
1-car pkg
HOA dues: $225/mo
This mid-century, first-floor condo in a two-unit building has an updated kitchen, private deeded deck, and living room with fireplace. It’s also across the street from Kite Hill, which is great if you have a dog. I’m a fan of mid-century floorplans, and this one has more square footage than some of the condos I’ve seen in the mid-century category.

735 Guerrero
Mission Dolores
List Price: $699,000
2BR/1.5BA, 1200 sq ft
Leased parking
HOA dues: $300/mo
Located smack dab in the middle of the hot Mission Dolores area, this first-floor flat has an office in addition to the two bedrooms. There’s also a remodeled kitchen. The leased parking is $200 per month. My guess is that the list price will attract a lot of attention.

16 Levant
Corona Heights
List Price: $729,000
1-car pkg
HOA dues: $375/mo
This is yet another first-floor condo in a two-unit building, and another mid-century property. The master bedroom opens to a deeded patio and terraced garden, and there’s a remodeled kitchen. The building was recently condo converted.

Big Price Chop for St. Francis Wood Mediterranean

It was September 2009 when 315 Santa Clara came on the market in the coveted enclave known as St. Francis Wood. The 4BR/5.5BA, 5700-square foot Spanish Mediterranean manse occupies a double lot, has an indoor pool, courtyards and terraces and was listed at $4,795,000.

The home’s price has just been reduced to $4,349,000—substantial, but consider that the property was last sold only three years ago for $2,650,000. Another case of 2010 optimism? That is one hefty chunk of appreciation. Granted, the master suite and another bedroom were remodeled by the current owners. But even at its reduced price, 315 Santa Clara would be the most expensive house sold since January 2009.

Here’s a parting shot of the pool: