Lake Shore Doelger a Good West Portal Alternative

One neighborhood that buyers sometimes overlook is Lake Shore. It’s located around Lake Merced in the western part of the city, near Stonestown and Merced Manor. And it’s just down Sloat Boulevard from West Portal and Stern Grove; your money goes a little further here than it will in West Portal proper.

I previewed 1400 Eucalyptus on the Zephyr tour this past week. The single-family home was designed by architect Henry Doelger, who was famous for his box-like design in the 1940s, in areas like Westlake in Daly City and also in the Sunset. For those looking for very functional floor plans and good space, a Doelger can be right on.

1400 Eucalyptus is a detached, corner lot home with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a very nicely remodeled kitchen. There’s a large living room with fireplace and formal dining room; the bedrooms are a few steps up in this split-level setup and include a spacious master suite. The garage accommodates two-car, side-by-side parking.

This home may sell for a bit more than its $818,000 asking due to its remodeled kitchen and overall good condition. (It’s actually priced above recent comps, so I can’t say that they’ve listed significantly lower than what can be realistically expected.) Offers are due within a week of coming on the market, so the sellers are obviously confident that they’ll be garnering a lot of interest in the house.

Open House Spotlight: 154 Carmel in Cole Valley

Who isn’t a sucker for a Cole Valley penthouse condo? You can get your fix at 154 Carmel, a modern 3BR/2BA, 2000-square foot residence in a four-unit building on a prime block in the neighborhood.

154 Carmel features grand living spaces, two wood-burning fireplaces, formal dining room with beamed ceiling and that ethereal kitchen above. You also get a one-car garage with your own driveway, and a landscaped shared yard. There’s also a deck off the master bedroom with awesome views. List price: $1,495,000.

This home is central to the heart of Cole Valley and its retail strip, as well as Muni. You’re about eight blocks from Golden Gate Park, and two blocks from Tank Hill and the greenbelt off of Stanyan.

Open Sunday 4/29 from 1:00-4:00. Head over after brunch at Zazie!

Preview: 299 Valencia in The Mission

I took a tour of the new 36-unit development at 299 Valencia in the Mission yesterday. The units are built out, but many aren’t quite finished and construction continues. However, it was easy to get a sense for the space, outlooks and overall potential appeal of the project.

First, the lay of the land: 299 Valencia has one- and two-bedroom condos with a variety of floor plans. The 1BR/1BA units start in the $400,000s and are 475-615 square feet. HOA dues are in the mid $300s per month. The 2BR/1BA homes start in the mid $500,000s and are 630-815 square feet, with HOAs of around $400/month. And the 2BR/2BA units start at $700,000 and are roughly 800-1000 square feet; dues are in the low to mid $400s/month. (For homes with parking and optional storage, HOA dues will be slightly higher than quoted.)

There are nine units per floor, and many have balconies or patios. Living areas are finished with white oak hardwood floors, and kitchens feature stainless-steel appliances and CaesarStone countertops. Here’s a shot of a typical kitchen:

I liked the units with outdoor spaces the best. For example, this balcony off one of the second floor units had a decent outlook (below):

One of my favorite units was #504 ($839,000), which has a view that’s somewhat dominated by The Armory (below):

And I also liked the view from the balcony in #506 ($749,000)—though you have to bear with the parking lot, which always presents the possibility of becoming another condo development in the future (below):

There’s only parking for the 2BR units, and a space is considered optional. For a home without parking, all quoted prices will be reduced by $35,000.

Bottom line on 299 Valencia from my perspective is that the location is convenient (though busy and very urban). In other words, if you’re sensitive to noise and a lot of activity, this may not be the best spot for you. Finishes are nice and floor plans are quite functional. Square footage is on the small side, which is particularly noticeable in the bedroom spaces. And the project won’t win any design awards; the units strike me as being best suited to residents who will spend more time hanging out in the cafe on the next block vs their own living rooms.

This end of Valencia is still somewhat transitional, but there’s certainly plenty of public transportation, restaurants, cafes, bars and shops within walking distance.

There are presently 12 homes in contract, and escrows are expected to start closing as soon as June 6th. Please contact me at or 415.823.4656 if you’d like to get in before the masses.

Market Overview, Sunday Streets, & More

The latest issue of the Zephyr MarketTracker takes a look at the most recent sales and offers a snapshot of the current market. Plus, the deets on Sunday Streets and the Doyle Drive closures, as well as more from our Chief Operating Officer on SF housing inventory.

It’s all here in the Zephyr MarketTracker!

Why Inventory is Low in the SF Real Estate Market

One of the hot topics in the San Francisco real estate industry right now is the low volume of properties for sale in relation to the number of buyers seeking homes. The situation is resulting in stampedes of buyers at open houses anytime reasonably priced properties hit the market.

So what’s the deal with the low inventory? Why aren’t more sellers materializing?

We’ve been discussing the issue at our sales meetings, and I thought I would share some insight from our esteemed Chief Operating Officer Randall Kostick. Randall’s seen just about every type of market, and he believes that the currently low supply of available property is the result of a consensus between buyers and sellers the real estate market is improving.

For buyers, according to Randall, an improving market is a call to action. In other words, buy now, before prices rise. But sellers are wondering whether they should wait a little longer for even better prices. For those who are simply cashing out of rental properties, waiting may make sense. However, if the sale of a given property has any ties whatsoever to sellers’ future plans (i.e., trading up for a larger home, or getting into a more advantageous investment), it doesn’t really make sense to wait.

I’m of the frame of mind that if you’re ready to sell a property and the market is hot, seize the day. Especially if you tried to sell the same property a year or two ago and it didn’t work out. Interest rates are low, the local job market is strong, and we certainly seem to be on the upswing in The Bay Area economy. Take advantage of the positive market, and pursue your real estate goals.


“Manipulative Pricing” Returns to SF Market

It started in the latter half of 2011: Well-appointed, “value-priced” properties came on the market, and quickly went into contract. Also making a steady reappearance were multiple-offer scenarios, particularly in neighborhoods like Noe Valley and other tech employee strongholds.

What we have as of April 2012 is the return of “manipulative pricing”—properties priced deliberately lower than market value with an eye toward attracting extreme buyer interest and substantially higher selling prices. Case in point was 1219 Cole (above), a gracious 2BR/2BA home on a prime Cole Valley street, listed for $1,095,000. The broker tour and open houses were zoos of buyers and agents, and the sellers ended up with 18 offers and a contract price reportedly well above that list price.

There are many other examples of such activity that span various price ranges and property types. An obvious indicator of manipulative pricing is the trend as of the last few weeks involving listing agents entering a property into the MLS and setting an offer date before any showings or open houses take place. Such a practice is a dead giveaway that the home is being listed for below-market value.

It’s not surprising to me that strategies used during the height of the market are returning in 2012. After all, the tech job sector is booming, buyers seem to be accessing large sums of cash, international buyers are continuing to make purchases here, and everyone has adjusted to the challenges of the lending landscape (and its low interest rates). Moreover, there is a real lack of well-priced, well-located inventory out there.

So if you have a great 3BR house in Ashbury Heights to sell, give me a call. We’ll list it at $1,195,000 and I’m sure you’ll be happy with the results.

Just Sold: 156 Duncan in Noe Valley

My seller clients closed escrow late last week on 156 Duncan, a uniquely large 1BR/1BA with lovely Spanish-Mediterranean details, in-unit washer/dryer, formal dining room and one-car parking/storage. Listed at $699,000, we closed the sale for $710,000.

The market in Noe Valley has definitely heated up in the past few months, particularly where single-family homes are concerned. Buyers continue to be employed by tech companies, and these buyers are looking for proximity to tech shuttles, freeways and restaurants/services within walking distance.

Open House Spotlight: 2830 Golden Gate Avenue

I’m liking 2830 Golden Gate, the 4BR/3BA Spanish Mediterranean single-family home in the Lone Mountain neighborhood. There’s a chef’s kitchen, fabulous period detail and architectural touches, as well as a two-car garage and lovely yard. List price is $1,298,000.

Not everyone thinks of Lone Mountain when they’re house hunting, but I think it’s a great, lesser-known neighborhood. You’re close to Golden Gate Park, Rossi Playground, USF and the Koret Center. Weather tends to be foggy, but certainly not insurmountable when it comes to getting outdoors.

2830 Golden Gate does not seem wildly underpriced, which is refreshing in what’s become a “list low” market to drive buyer interest.

Open Sat 4/14 and Sun 4/15 from 2:00-4:00!

You’re Invited: SF Home-Buying Workshop for the Tech Community

If you’re in the tech industry and are considering purchasing a home in a central San Francisco neighborhood that offers proximity to tech shuttles, freeways, restaurants and cafes, please attend my upcoming San Francisco Home Buyer Workshop for the Tech Community.

We’ll cover all the basics to get you started, like where you should start with financing, neighborhoods you shouldn’t miss, and how you can compete in the current market. My colleague, Guarantee Mortgage’s Mark Wiener, and I will get you up to speed on what you’ll need to know to be successful in your house hunt, and we’ll leave ample time for questions. You’ll be in and out with plenty of time to do whatever else you’d like on Saturday afternoon.

Here are the deets:
Saturday, April 28th
10:00am – 12:00pm

636 4th Street @Brannan in Soma
(Offices of Guarantee Mortgage)
Morning refreshments provided, too!

Please RSVP to Eileen at or text/call 415.823.4656. Hope to see you there!

View or download our flyer here:
Home Buying for the Tech Community

First Quarter of 2012 Ushers in Busy Spring Season

Momentum seems to be steadily building as we enter the Spring real estate season. Though volume for single-family houses was down in comparison to the last quarter of 2011, condo and TIC sales remained steady—as did prices.

For example, a total of 514 single-family homes sold in the past quarter at an average of $963,337 (down slightly from the average $970,872 price in Q4 2011). And 504 condos sold at an average of $748,622, along with only 66 TICs (average of $616,312).

Of course, much depends on individual neighborhood stats, as supply and demand vary across areas. For example, the average price of a single-family home in District 5 (i.e., Noe/Eureka/Cole Valleys and other central ‘hoods) was $1,579,546 in Q1 2012, and the average price for a condo in District 9 (Soma, South Beach, Bernal Heights, Mission) was $672,859.

The most important developments that occurred in the first quarter of this year were the escalating rise in multiple-offer scenarios, as well as the “list low” strategy on the part of sellers in order to drive buyer interest. Most importantly, we were dealing with low inventory levels, which resulted in buyers flocking to listings in droves in the most central neighborhoods and districts.

There are currently 455 single-family homes, 430 condos and 73 TICs in contract. Based on the Q1 numbers, I’d say that the number of properties in contract certainly keeps up the Q1 pace.

One thing we’re seeing happen less frequently is sellers withdrawing listings or letting them expire. There was a substantial decline in such listings in Q1 2012 (only 110 houses/127 condos withdrawn or expired, compared to 279 houses/270 condos in the last quarter of 2011).

What this all adds up to is the hope among buyers (and real estate agents) that sellers take advantage of the hot market and put their properties on the market in what is normally a very popular home-selling time of year. Homes show well in the Spring, and buyers tend to like to spend time looking at property in nice weather. Now that we have the pulse on the 2012 market, it’s a bit easier to get a read on realistic values.

Short Sales Require Committed Buyers

It’s unfortunately been fairly common over the past couple years to encounter properties being offered as short sales. In a nutshell, a short sale simply means that the seller owes more on the property than it’s worth. Not only is the owner going to come up short on what’s owed on one or two loans, but he or she will also not be able to cover selling costs such as broker commissions, city and county transfer tax, and various reports typically paid for by the seller and provided to the buyer as part of a disclosure package.

As you can imagine, it’s no picnic for the homeowner. He or she is probably in larger financial distress, and has spent a lot of time consulting with real estate agents, CPAs, and attorneys before reluctantly concluding that a short sale is the best option. For these homeowners, the benefit of a short sale is that it has less of an impact on credit history, and thus enables a seller to recover within a couple years from the short sale. The alternative is walking away and letting the home go into foreclosure, which has a much longer-lasting impact on a seller’s credit history and ability to recover.

And it’s typical for emotions to be running high on the seller side in a short sale, for obvious reasons. Though the seller is working to pursue the sale, he or she is definitely not happy about the situation. The hope is that he or she can resolve the sale as quickly as possible, which is not always easy to do.

When you’re a buyer considering making an offer on a property that’s being sold via a short sale, it helps to know that the only way a short sale can work is to have committed buyers involved. The seller truly does risk having the home foreclosed upon if the short sale isn’t completed in a timely manner, because that seller has stopped paying the mortgage and the lender(s) are not far behind.

I usually talk with my buyer clients about what they should expect in the short sale process. Above all, I ask that they only move ahead with an offer if they truly love the house and feel it’s worth passing on other properties during the wait for short sale approval. The worst way to behave as a buyer is to “throw in an offer” on a short sale property, with an eye toward continuing to look during the one- to three or more months it may take to get approval. Because the buyer suddenly bolting from the contract that has been submitted to the lenders throws the entire process out of whack. The offer is part of a very complex, multi-document hardship package, and any changes result in further delays for the seller. In the meantime, the lender(s) are potentially pursuing the foreclosure process, so there’s limited time to resolve the sale.

Buyers are required to sign a short sale addendum that accompanies the purchase agreement. One of the clauses in the addendum specifies that the buyers will commit to waiting for approval for a period of 45-60 days (whatever the buyer wants to include as a timeframe is negotiable). This means that the buyers should, in good faith, not cancel the contract within a couple weeks after they see another house on the market they like better. Though buyers typically don’t have money held in escrow prior to lender approval, the waiting period is a good faith effort and the seller expects the buyer to hang in there for at least that agreed upon timeframe.

In addition to tolerating the approval period, buyers need to expect the possibility of being countered for more money if the lender believes the property is worth more than the contract price. And buyers should also not be surprised to be asked for some sort of monetary contribution during the escrow period to close the gap between what one lender may be willing to accept.

The key to a short sale is having buyers, sellers, and real estate agents who understand all the potential pitfalls and who are committed to working them out. I’ve closed multiple short sales, and fortunately have had excellent teams in place every time. Something will always come up—sudden runs to the title company to sign random lender documents in person, buyers’ loans taking longer than expected and pushing the purchasing timeframe dangerously close to the trustee sale, for example. But in each instance, everyone was committed and worked to make things happen.


A $2M Home in An Unlikely Place: Dogpatch

It’s easy to hit neighborhoods like Noe, Eureka and Cole Valleys to see $2M+ homes on broker tour. But in addition to heading to those ‘hoods yesterday, I decided to check out a newer listing in that price range in Dogpatch, a neighborhood that doesn’t typically offer single-family homes at this price point.

Real estate inventory in Dogpatch, also known as the Central Waterfront, is primarily comprised of condos. The area is a mix of residential, commercial and light industrial. New construction condo buildings have gone up since the 1990s, but are in limited supply. Tennessee and Minnesota Streets feature a smattering of Victorian single-family homes, and that’s where I found myself yesterday on broker tour.

I checked out 1067 Tennessee, a 4BR/5.5BA Victorian home recently listed for $2.1M. Last sold for $615,000 in April 2008, the current owners have transformed the property into a contemporary showcase across three levels, with about 3,192 square feet.

The open floor plan hits you right away, as there’s no foyer to usher you in. The usual high-end finishes and appliances are there, such as a Bertazzoni six-burner range and marble counter tops.

Each level provides great space and a very appealing architectural aesthetic. However, the rear outdoor spaces are the epitome of the Dogpatch feel; the concrete patio backs up to a building covered in corrugated metal, and the area is dominated by hardscapes.

I think there’s a much more specific buyer pool for a property like this, given the price point and surroundings. The sellers are probably looking for the same type of buyers who purchased the only other $2M+ single-family home that has sold in the neighborhood over at 690 18th Street at Tennessee. That was a two-level house with an attached 4,000-square foot warehouse that changed hands in April 2011 for $2,449,000.

So buyers are out there for these more individualized homes. But I think these types of sales are driven more by buyers who perhaps have a business in Dogpatch and would want to be near their shop or office. Dogpatch has really changed a lot in the past decade, with an influx of businesses, restaurants and cafes. But with housing stock dominated by smaller, less expensive properties, the luxury single-family home market may not be as strong as it is in other neighborhoods.

Good Deal: Sunnyside House + Cottage for $649,000

We have many unique properties in San Francisco, and 645 Congo in Sunnyside is a great example of one of them that also represents what I’d consider to be a good deal.

The updated 2BR/1BA main house has a living room, dining room and remodeled kitchen, with about 1,050 square feet, as per tax records. There’s a built-in sound system, remodeled bath with oversized shower, and refinished hardwood floors. The rear landscaped patio (above) is certainly spacious enough for relaxing and grilling, as well as a cute studio cottage that has its own kitchen, remodeled bath, newer roof and private entrance. (The sellers are also throwing in the patio furniture & window coverings.)

There’s no garage (not a surprise, given the Victorian-era architecture), but Sunnyside is not a neighborhood that’s terribly challenged when it comes to street parking. You’re about five blocks from the Glen Park hub that offers BART and many restaurants and services, as well as a couple blocks to 280 for Peninsula commutes.

Sunnyside lies within what’s known as District 4 in Realtor parlance. The average single-family home sale in the first quarter of 2012 was $877,601, and 114 Congo’s $649,000 list price lands it well below that average. (Though the average price for a 2BR house in Sunnyside is $572,750 year-to-date, none of the four houses sold had legal cottages that could help a homeowner benefit from, say, rental income in a very hot rental market. Considering the amenities and charm the property provides, I’d say this is a good deal. And given the market in this price range, I’d also venture to say that this property won’t be on the market for very long.