Cash Buyers Snap Up Liberty Hill Luxury Condo

The market is moving quickly in prime San Francisco neighborhoods, as I’ve recently noted. The latest example of purchasing prowess occurred at 482 Liberty, a 3BR/2BA condo with an amazing view and parking at Liberty and Rayburn.

482 Liberty went into contract within four days with a list price of $1,699,000. The all-cash sale closed yesterday at $1,850,000.

It’s really critical for buyers to get into highly desirable properties as soon as possible once these homes hit the market. There’s certainly a large supply of buyers ready to jump on the right place, and it’s not unusual to have a multiple-offer situation the day after the first open house.

Buyers Kick Into Gear, SF Homes Slam Into Contract

It’s been an unusually busy start to 2012 for San Francisco real estate. I haven’t seen this active a market in the January-February timeframe in a few years, and many other agents with whom I’ve talked agree.

There are currently 183 single-family homes, 243 condos, 33 TICs and 53 two- to four-unit buildings in contract. Many well-priced properties are being snapped up within a few days or a week’s time. This means that when I head to a home that’s listed on the Tuesday broker tour, I’m often informed shortly after crossing the threshold that the property is already in contract.

For buyers, this means that getting to that first open house is critical if you want the opportunity to make an offer. Many times, the first showing of a home is at the weekend open house. And a side note: Though an agent enters a listing into the MLS the week prior, the property may not be quite ready for showtime. Sellers sometimes still need to clean out the garage or complete final de-cluttering. It never hurts to have your buyer agent request a showing prior to the open house, but don’t be surprised if the sellers request that you simply attend the open house.

If you’re on the home-buying warpath, I recommend being fully preapproved with a lender before you seriously begin looking at houses. There’s nothing worse than stopping in at a Sunday open for a lovely 3BR house in Noe Valley and learning that they’re taking offers in three days—and you haven’t even submitted any financial documentation to a lender yet. Believe me, there are enough property details to review in order to determine whether this is the house for you (i.e., disclosures, comps, neighborhood info). Adding a quickie preapproval that doesn’t give you time to consider what you’re getting into is not the best way to proceed.

Based on the high volume of homes going into contract—and the likely possibility that Spring will usher in even more inventory—it’s clear that more and more buyers are getting off the 2011 real estate-buying fence and making purchasing decisions. I don’t expect this activity to soften as the months wear on, due primarily to the low interest rates and feeling that we have definitely reached the bottom of the San Francisco market in most neighborhoods.


Just Sold: 4150 20th Street in Eureka Valley

My clients just purchased this Victorian two-unit building at 20th and Hartford, in the heart of Eureka Valley. The property has a main level with two bedrooms, formal dining room and eat-in kitchen, and connects to the bonus carriage house studio at the rear that has its own kitchen area and bathroom (with garage below). The lower unit is a spacious one bedroom with full kitchen and bath. The seller took meticulous care of the property and restored many of the details over many years. All units were sold vacant, providing a nice opportunity to rent the one -bedroom unit at market value.

4150 20th Street is a good example of a property that is great for an owner occupier who can also benefit from an income unit downstairs. Depending on the variables involved, not every building is appropriate for this sort of scenario. If you or anyone you know may be interested in such a purchase, please contact me. I’d be happy to help!

Listed at $1,495,000, 4150 20th Street closed at $1,425,000.

SF Market Sees Return of Multiple Offers

The two-unit building above at 208-210 Caselli in Eureka Valley is the latest property in San Francisco target by a multitude of serious buyers in San Francisco. Vacant and featuring two 3BR/2BA units with wood-burning fireplaces, open floor plans and hardwood floors (plus two separate garages), Caselli was listed for $1,399,000 on February 9th. The sellers received 14 offers all over the asking price yesterday (on a holiday, no less).

And Caselli is not the only example of a multiple-offer magnet. There was 1462 11th Avenue, a 2BR/1BA single-family house with an okay bonus room on the garage level that was listed at $649,000. The home  is being sold via court confirmation, which means the accepted offer will be subject to an overbid in court. However, that scenario did not deter the eight buyers who made offers. The winning offer? Somewhere in the neighborhood of $820,000, with a first overbid of $862,550. Another example was over at 119 Joost in Sunnyside, a 3BR/1BA single-family home within walking distance to downtown Glen Park. Listed at $689,000, the sellers received about ten offers and the selling price is reportedly well above $700,000.

To be sure, buyers aren’t flocking to just any property in any neighborhood in the city. Making the cut are typically vacant two-unit buildings or single-family homes in central locations near public transportation, restaurants, services and cafes. Particularly popular are areas like Noe Valley (see the recent SF Chronicle article about my ‘hood here); Mission Dolores; Eureka Valley; prime parts of Bernal Heights; the Inner Sunset/Richmond; and Sunnyside.

What’s fueling this sudden urgency among buyers? For one thing, the low interest rates are convincing people that they can lock in a favorable fixed rate and put their mortgage payments on auto pilot. I also think the reality is setting in that prices are not plummeting in the near future, and that we may have hit our low point in the more popular neighborhoods. Get in now before prices go up any higher, the thinking is likely going.

I do have one piece of advice for buyers: Use the list price as a mere reference point. For example, if the average value for a 2BR house in your favorite neighborhood is $800,000 and a great home comes on the market listed at $695,000, chances are good that the house will sell for significantly more than asking.

Cool Liberty Hill Condo Hits Market

With an awesome view deck like the one that graces 482 Liberty, who needs a yard? The 3BR/2.5BA house-like condo definitely bears “commanding” views. The main level has fabulous public spaces, a gourmet kitchen, and den. And all three bedrooms are on the upper level, which also has an additional sitting area. Two large terraces, side garden and one-car parking round out the mix. HOA dues are $300/month for this two-unit association.

This is a prime Dolores Heights location near Dolores Park, the Castro and the Valencia corridor.

List price: $1,699,000. And you know what? This property will likely get snapped up in the next week. Open Sat 2/18 and Sun 2/19 from 2:00-4:00. Go and get it.

What You Can Buy In District 4

One of the more attractive areas of San Francisco is what’s known as District 4 in Realtor terms. This is the region west of Twin Peaks that encompasses 16 different neighborhoods—everything from Miraloma Park and Sunnyside, to West Portal and Balboa Terrace. I thought we’d take a look at three homes currently on the market in District 4 so you can get a sense for what types of homes are available.

First up is 2531 14th Avenue in West Portal:

Featuring 3BRs/2BAs and 1850 square feet, 2531 14th Street is a three-story home situated about three blocks from West Portal Avenue, the local retail strip. The home has been recently remodeled and has a master suite on the upper level with views. List price is $1,084,900; the sellers have been trying to sell the home since 2010. There’s two-car parking, and a yard with a big, fat palm tree.

We move on to 195 Urbano in Ingleside Terrace:

South of West Portal and St. Francis Wood is the enclave of Ingleside Terrace. This neighborhood is not far from the West Portal retail district, and is bordered by Ocean Avenue, which also has public transportation and services. 195 Urbano is a 4BR/3.5BA house with 3400 square feet, listed at $999.950. Buyers will probably not rejoice in the finishes; the kitchen has a ’70s thing happening, and there’s some knotty pine and wood paneling thrown in throughout the property. But you do get a lot of space, and 280 is not far away if you’re a Peninsula commuter.

Last up is 32 Taraval in Forest Hill:

I’m liking this one the best out of our trio of homes. 32 Taraval is right on the border of Forest Hill and West Portal, so it’s very central to the West Portal retail area. Traffic can be a little busy along Taraval, but the house is set back a bit from the street. 32 Taraval has 4BRs/2.5BAs and 2426 square feet. It’s got the best kitchen of the bunch. (You know that because Ann Sacks tiles and marble countertops are involved.) Bedrooms are spacious and the house has style. List price is $1,395,000. There’s already an offer date of February 22nd for this one, so you know interest is strong among the buyer set.

Bright Future for TIC Lending in San Francisco

I was invited to a TIC Roundtable last Friday sponsored by Sterling Bank and Trust. The officers and lender reps were in attendance, as was TIC attorney Lyssa Paul. We had an interesting Q&A about Sterling’s goals in the TIC lending arena, as well as identified a few trends in the TIC market—all while sitting 40 stories up in the Transamerica Building.

A few highlights:
The outlook for long-term TIC financing is strong. Sterling has consistently underwritten TIC loans, while other lenders have been in and out of the market. The bank’s conservative underwriting approach allows it to assume less risk and therefore grant loans. They also plan on increasing their TIC loan volume, and are pleased with the headway they’ve made in the past six years in San Francisco. Also, it’s unlikely that a secondary market is going to materialize for TIC loans.

TIC loans will continue with three-, five- and seven-year ARMs. The reason there are not longer-term loans that can more effectively fix low interest rates is because Sterling is a community bank that funds loans through its security deposits and short-term funding sources. So they have to match what they loan with what they pay on interest-bearing accounts. So there are no plans for a 30-year fixed loan in the near future.

First-time home buyers still rule as TIC purchasers. Sterling reports that 80% of its TIC borrowers are first-time home buyers. The other TIC purchasers seem to be cash buyers looking for pied-a-terres in the city, most notably in north-end neighborhoods.

TIC loans continue to perform well. Of the 800 or so fractional loans Sterling has on its books, only about eight of those loans were connected to foreclosure or a short sale. And the latter only occurred in the past couple years. The foreclosures were related to homeowners who had gone into the purchase with only 10% down; Sterling briefly offered that option, but doesn’t do so any longer for obvious reasons.

TIC agreements are still critical. Attorney Lyssa Paul says that one of the main issues that consistently arises is the lack of a TIC group’s ability to produce a current TIC agreement. Either some groups didn’t have one drawn up, or they haven’t updated them.

Buyers and sellers need to update TIC agreements during a sale. Sellers and buyers need to be aware that whenever there is a TIC interest transfer, it’s necessary to engage an attorney to remove the seller’s name from the TIC agreement and replace it with the buyer’s name. And all TIC group owners need to additionally sign the updated agreement. This has apparently been a factor that has delayed TIC closings.

Preview: 1840 Washington in Pacific Heights

I took a first look at 1840 Washington this week, the new 26-unit condo development in Pacific Heights. To recap previous posts, 1840 Washington features a mix of one-, two-, and three-bedroom homes. Pricing starts at $725,000 for 1BRs, and hovers in the $800,000s-$1,039,000 for larger units.

I checked out multiple units on each of the eight floors, which is somewhat like being a kid in a candy shop for a Realtor. Approximately four of the 26 units are sold, so 1840 Washington is in good shape for having not done a full marketing push yet.

1840 Washington is in the midst of a busy area, across from the Academy of Art, next to the 1800 Washington condo complex and around the block from House of Prime Rib (!). Its exterior and overall building feel is very much in line with surrounding properties. This isn’t really a building that provides unobstructed views and amazing outlooks (with the exception of a few units.) For the most part, you’re getting fairly spacious condos that face other buildings or overlook rooftops. But that can be expected based on the location and position within the block.

I thought I would feature a few photos of a one-bedroom unit; this is the model and it was staged:

I liked the finishes, which consist of Studio Becker cabinets, Bosch appliances, and Caesarstone counters. Here’s a sample kitchen:

One of my favorite units was #202, which has a deeded walk-out patio overlooking a garden area:

I thought the bedrooms were a reasonable size, and a few had seating areas that could easily accommodate a desk or office area.

There are deeded parking spaces in the garage, and no “stacked” or lift mechanisms are involved. I also liked that there’s on-floor storage, meaning you don’t have to head down to a cage or closet in the garage.

1840 Washington gets my thumbs up. Check out the Web site for more details, and my previous post for current pricing, square footage and unit configurations. And contact me at 415.823.4656 / if you’d like to make an appointment to tour the property.

Renovated Bernal Home Hits Its Target

The hot property of the week for the family/Peninsula commuter set looking for proximity to a cute and useful retail district in a fun neighborhood is over at 77 Ellsworth in Bernal Heights. The 3BR/3BA single-family home was renovated in 2009 and has almost 2,000 square feet. There’s also a pretty cool master suite at the garden level.

And did I mention the excellent open floor plan on the main level? There’s plenty of room for entertaining, and views to boot.

There are two smallish bedrooms upstairs, separated by a full bath. But the master suite encompasses the entire downstairs level, and has an interesting, open bathroom (fortunately, the toilet is enclosed):

On the other side of that low wall on the right is the sleeping area. So this isn’t ideal if you like privacy when you take a shower or bath.

Open houses have been swarming with young families looking to put roots down in a nice San Francisco neighborhood. Offers are due later this week, and there are already about eight disclosure packages out—meaning there will likely be multiple offers.

List price is $1,195,000. The best comp is at 60 Elsie, another modern home in a good Bernal location that closed escrow in September for $,1226,000. That home was a bit smaller and in a slightly less desirable location within the neighborhood.


Sunnyside Starter Comes With Time Machine

The sellers over at 327 Hearst have stepped back in time with the sale of their 2BR/2BA home. From the looks of the elaborate shower in one of the bathrooms, it looks like they’ve potentially climbed in and emerged  eleven days earlier, when the home first went on the market.

Hearst fell out of contract in that time span, so 327 Hearst is on the lookout for new buyers. The 1600-square foot property is actually not a bad deal; the kitchen is updated, there’s a master suite, decent-sized yard, and south-facing views. (Plus, the inevitable bonus family room is downstairs alongside the second bedroom and bath.) And don’t forget about that time machine! List price remains at $659,000.

The house is located south of Monterey, which is a little less desirable than the streets north of the main strip. But it’s in walking distance of the Glen Park BART and restaurant/shop hub, and has great freeway access.

Video Walkthrough: 156 Duncan

If you’re looking for a spacious, top-floor condo in a centrally located neighborhood with great natural light, parking, storage and an in-unit washer/dryer, look no further than my listing at 156 Duncan.

To get you in the door without actually making the trip, check out this video walkthrough. It will give you an excellent sense for the space and amenities:

156 Duncan: The Tour

We’ll be open this Sunday before the Super Bowl, from 1:00-3:00. Stop in and see me! Also easy to show, just give me a call at 415.823.4656 or email at



New Mission and Dogpatch Condos on the Way

Two new condo developments in the Mission and Dogpatch/Central Waterfront are on the way this Spring, with price points that don’t scream “luxury.”

299 Valencia will feature 36 one- and two-bedroom homes ranging in price from the $300,000s-$700,000s. The building is located on Valencia at 14th Street. (The lot was previously used for parking.) The immediate location is a bit transitional, but you’re one block away from Pauline’s Pizza and shops/cafes along Valencia. The 16th and Mission BART/Muni station is nearby, as well as the 101 and public transportation along Market Street. I think 299 Valencia will be a good option for buyers looking for mid-range housing in a central neighborhood. Check out the 94 Walk Score details. The sales office is expected to open in March.

And the other hot development is over Millwheel, at Indiana and 23rd Street. There will be 71 homes available, split into two phases—Millwheel South (32 units) and Millwheel North (39 units). Pricing will be in the $500,000-$800,000 range, with units weighing in at 1200-1500 square feet. Word is that the sales office will open in March for Millwheel South, with the second phase opening in 2013. This location is great for accessing freeways, the Third Street Muni rail line, and Dogpatch restaurants and cafes (though some may find it to be a little too remote).

Contact me if you’d like me to keep you updated on the best times to tour these properties.