What You Can Buy for $1,849,000 in Pac Heights


If you’re currently in the market for a 3BR/3BA, two-level condo in a renovated building with two-car parking and a good north-end location, you can expect to pay close to $2M. At least, that’s the knowledge gleaned from last week’s closed sale at 3150 Clay (above).

This lower unit in a two-unit Edwardian building had a private patio, landscaped and shared garden, and high-quality finishes throughout. The sellers had renovated the foundation, plumbing, electrical and roof, too. List price was $1,575,000, and that was obviously a starting point for the 16 buyers who submitted offers and aimed to make 3150 Clay their own. The unusual part? The successful buyers actually needed a loan and didn’t trump everyone with an all-cash offer. (They just paid the highest price.)

Get Preapproved for a Loan Before You Start House Hunting

The holiday weekend is behind us, and that means many buyers will be either entering the home buying market, or may already be out there looking for their next home.

If there’s one key piece of advice I can give to all of you, it’s that you should get fully preapproved for a loan before you start seriously searching for a property. Of course, it’s a good idea to get your feet wet and go to some open houses to get a sense for pricing and value. But before you start making appointments to see homes, the very first step should be that phone call to the mortgage broker or lender. Because if you don’t have a clear understanding of the loan amount for which you can qualify, you could end up wasting a lot of time.

And by “preapproved,” I don’t mean a short phone conversation with a lender wherein you tell him or her your salary, estimated credit score and assets. I mean that you will need to assemble and submit all the required documentation (read my recent post here that outlines the details) and have someone at the bank give the package a thumbs up. Without that bonafide approval, you could run into issues that could derail the purchase of the great house on which you just went into contract.

Your lender should also outline what your mortgage payment will be, incorporating property taxes and HOA dues (for a condo). And make sure that if you’re considering a loan that will have an adjustable rate, you’ll potentially be in a position to handle a larger mortgage payment if the interest rate rises when the loan adjusts. These days, it’s all about fixed-rate products.

The market is moving very quickly, with offers due a day or two after the first open house in some cases. If you’re a serious buyer and are ready to write an offer, you’ll have sufficient time to review disclosures and comparative sales. However, there won’t be time to assemble 15 pieces of financial documentation and have them reviewed by a lender. It’s best to get your paperwork in order now so you can write that offer when the time comes.

Tiny Trio of Houses Returns to Glen Park Market

Sellers of three different small single-family homes in Glen Park are giving it another go in Spring 2012. All three properties were previously on the market and didn’t sell. (I came close to writing offers on two of them.) So what condo alternatives are available in single-family form?

49 Martha (at Stillings)
1BR/1BA
900 sq feet
$625,000

49 Martha is a very appealing home that needs a bit of work. Though it’s a bit of a hike to the Glen Park retail area and BART station, the house has a nice, secluded setting and gets great natural light. It’s probably the most spacious of the three homes profiled here. The kitchen and bathroom are totally serviceable, and there’s also a room down off the entry where the washer/dryer are located. You could also use this room for guests or a family room. No garage, but there’s a parking pad at the base of the property. 49 Martha was on the market in Fall 2011 for $650,000, so the sellers have chopped the price a bit this time around.

26 Conrad (at Diamond)
2BR/1BA
692 sq feet
$689,000

Situated in a superior Glen Park location, 26 Conrad has a nice living room with city and Bay views, and a remodeled kitchen and bath. The bedrooms are adjacent to each other and you have to go through one bedroom to get to the other. The rear of the lot has a small yard, with a detached garage. The basement is sizeable and is perfect for storage or a workshop. 26 Conrad was listed last Fall in the $650,000 range and didn’t sell, so the owners have bumped up the price and are undoubtedly praying for a happy outcome.

9 Harper (at 30th)
1BR/1BA
554 sq feet
$535,000

“Attractive to the rise of the solo living movement&/or those wanting a less cluttered & less complicated life while reducing their ecological impact with a walkability lifestyle.” And so it goes in the marketing copy for 9 Harper, the smallest of the group. This house has ended up wedged between two properties, and is on the border of Glen Park and Noe. It’s fully detached and has a smidgen of outdoor space. On the market earlier this year for $499,000, 9 Harper is another home hoping to capture the excitement of the buyers storming the neighborhood in our Spring real estate season who won’t mind paying about $1,000/sq foot to be part of the “small house movement.”

Smackdown: Lower Pac Heights Condo vs Bernal House

Two very different neighborhoods have two very different properties to offer at the $1.3M price point this week. First up is 1751 Lyon in Lower Pac Heights:

1751 Lyon is a well-appointed 3BR/1.5BA, 1570-square foot top-floor condo in a two-unit building. The living room has a gas fireplace and opens to a formal dining room. There’s a chef’s kitchen with marble countertops, Wolf range, and Sub Zero refrigerator, as well as a built-in office area. Outdoor space is a large, deeded roof deck with downtown views. The deeded parking space is for a small- to mid-sized car. HOA dues are $258/month. 1751 Lyon has a 98 Walk Score, and is near Ella’s Restaurant, the Presidio and the Laurel Heights shopping area. List price: $1,295,000.

In the other corner, we have 118 Elsie in Bernal Heights:

118 Elsie is a “modern architectural view home” that features 3BRs/2BAs, 1931 square feet and two-car parking. There’s an open floor plan and a master suite with sweeping views. All public spaces and bedrooms have amazing views, too. The house is situated on a one-way street up the hill from Cortland, and walking from this location will involve going up and down the hill. Once you get going, however, you’re near Mission Street, as well as the heart of Cortland Avenue. List price: $1,295,000.

Which would you rather own?

Painted Lady in Alamo Square Flies Off Shelf

Though it’s still showing up as an active listing in the MLS, the Painted Lady at 710 Steiner that was listed in early May has been snatched up by twentysomething buyers with all cash, who are in contract for above the $2,295,000 asking price.

You can see 710 Steiner above; it’s the house to the right of the blue property–last one on the right:

It’s no surprise that there was a rush for this piece of San Francisco history. Who wouldn’t want to own an exquisitely maintained Victorian on one of the most famous and most photographed residential stretches in the world? The 5BR/2.5BA, 2500-square foot home has three decks and downtown views. The new owners will probably renovate the kitchens and bathrooms down the line, but that’s a drop in the bucket—and a good investment.

How Much Will You Pay for a 1BR Victorian?


I stopped in at 284 Collingwood out of curiosity on tour yesterday. The 1BR/1.5BA Victorian single-family home sparked my interest because it is listed for $1,560,000 (for a 1BR house).

The current owners paid $1,250,000 in cash for the property in 2007, and completed a major renovation and extension a couple years later. The house is lovely, with a floor plan that works and a nice garden, as well as room for two- to three cars. And you can’t beat the Castro location.

However, the fact remains that 284 Collingwood only has one bedroom. So the buyer pool is certainly narrower. Despite these odds, there are multiple buyers interested, and the sellers have set an offer date. I’m sure everyone on the seller side is hoping for a cash offer, because there are no comps out there at this price point for a 1BR house in the neighborhood. I suspect, though, that the next owners will be creating some new comparative sales data that will bode well for other 1BR Victorian homeowners who may be considering selling.

Couldn’t Sell in 2009? Give It a Shot in 2012!


Many homeowners who attempted to sell property in the 2009-2010 timeframe weren’t successful. The MLS is littered with property histories showing withdrawn or expired listings across those two years. This activity was mainly due to the fact that buyers were sitting out the market and economy, loans were a challenge to obtain, and sellers generally were looking for more money than their homes were worth.

But the variables have certainly shifted this year in San Francisco. Cash transactions are commonplace, lenders are bestowing loans on buyers again, and those buyers are snapping up condos and houses like there’s no tomorrow. For sellers who want to give it a whirl again, now is the time to make your move.

77 Jersey (above) in Noe Valley is just one of the many examples of this activity. Purchased for $975,000 in 2007, the sellers of this 3BR/1BA, 1344-sq foot first-floor condo with tandem parking attempted to resell in Fall 2009 for $1,049,000. Though they had an offer in place, the contract fell out and the sellers ended up withdrawing the listing at the very end of that year.

Once the Spring 2010 hit, the sellers were at it again, this time listing the condo for $999,500 and withdrawing it by July.

But last week, the unit sold in 38 days for the list price of $975,000. The sellers obviously came to terms with the fact that their property had not appreciated since 2007, and they also lowered the price further. Those factors definitely contributed to their success.

It’s important to note that if you purchased your home in the 2005-2008 timeframe, it’s likely that your home won’t necessarily be worth more than you paid. But the difference is that buyers are out there, they’re getting loans or have cash, and inventory is moving. But being realistic about your home’s value is still a critical necessity.

The SF Inventory is Finally Arriving

Buyers and Realtors have been complaining about the lack of residential inventory in San Francisco since earlier this year. Indeed, it seems like buyers are fully engaged in our single-family home, condo and multi-unit offerings and have hit the market looking for property all at the same time. That means that for every cool house in a central location, there are 10-15 sets of buyers waiting to pounce.

The multiple offers and pouncing is still happening, but I’ve been encouraged over the past two weeks by the increase in property availability. Of course, I gauge most activity by how many listings come on the market daily, but there are more anecdotal signs that things are changing. For example, I noticed three houses with newly adorned For Sale signs on my Upper Noe dogwalk route this afternoon. And about three other properties being painted. Our Zephyr preview tour had more than a dozen new listings last week, and this week there are another 14 for us to see. Instead of only being able to recommend a couple properties for each of my buyers, I’ve been able to recommend significantly more to many of them.

I don’t think it’s coincidental that the inventory increase is happening in May. I’ve been selling real estate for the past ten years, and there’s always a bump up in offerings around this time of year. But a couple months ago, I was a bit concerned that history wouldn’t repeat itself.

If you’re thinking of jumping into the market, I have some news for you: It’s time to go look at open houses. There are finally enough properties coming on the market to keep you fully occupied from 2:00-4:00 on Sunday.

Buyers Will Pay for “Done,” Even in So-So Locations

Despite most San Francisco buyers’ firm proclamation at the outset of their house hunt that they won’t pay for someone else’s renovation, many are doing just that. One trend that doesn’t appear to be slowing is that of buyers snatching up fully renovated single-family homes—and paying dearly for them, even if the homes are not in prime locations within a given neighborhood. (Because not everyone can afford a newly renovated home in the heart of Noe Valley, right?)

The latest example of this trend occurred recently at 124 Chilton, technically situated in Glen Park. The property looked like this only about a year ago:


However, 124 Chilton was renovated to unrecognizable levels over the past few months; the owners added a third story and horizontal extension, as well as completely revamped the first and second floors.

The result was a 3BR/3BA, 2510-square foot modern residence with high ceilings, high-end finishes, and a peaceful, landscaped garden:


124 Chilton is located on a cul-de-sac in Glen Park, but it feels more like Sunnyside. The block is on the south side of busy Bosworth Street, which lies between the house and the downtown Glen Park hub. That means that anytime you want to head to BART or a restaurant, you need to navigate along and across Bosworth, which may not be ideal if you’re also toting children.

However, the lack of geographical convenience didn’t deter five buyers, who submitted offers on the home fairly quickly. The winning offer is reportedly in contract for more than $200,000 over the $1,475,000 list price. So if you’re thinking of renovating your home on the outskirts of Noe Valley, for example, it might be worth exploring as we continue headlong into the new and improved 2012 San Francisco real estate market.

Preview: Millwheel South in Dogpatch


I toured the new Millwheel condos at 1301 Indiana/1280 Minnesota in the Central Waterfront/Dogpatch area this week.  The Millwheel South project consists of two buildings featuring a total of 32 units, with Millwheel North’s 39 units slated for construction in the not-too-distant future.

There is one 1BR unit available at Millwheel South ($569,000/727 square feet). However, this project primarily features spacious two- and three-bedroom condos across four floors. Pricing ranges from $649,000 for a 1,115-square foot 2BR/2BA on the first floor, to $799,000 for a 3BR/2BA with 1,360 square feet on the top floor. (Some units have as much as 1600 square feet.) Finishes are lovely, and include wide-plank, matte oak floors, imported Italian tile and Elfa closet systems. Kitchen appliances include Frigidaire refrigerators, dishwashers and ranges, as well as Bosch washer/dryers.

I looked at units on each floor and thought I’d share a few highlights. #203 is a 2BR listed at $749,000 and is 1600 square feet. Here are a few shots of its kitchen, master bathroom, and living area:


#203 faces Indiana Street, which means you have a dead-on view of the 280 ramps. So if you have the windows open, you will hear traffic noise. However, there is a lovely garden that’s been recently planted; I think this will help buffer things (below):

#204 (3BR/2BA, $729,000) across the hall fronts the courtyard between the two Millwheel South buildings (below). This is definitely the quieter side of the building, though your outlook is of the neighboring units:

I walked through #401 (3BR/2BA, 1,360 square feet, $799,000) and thought it had a nice floor plan. Here’s a shot of the living area, so you can get a sense of the view and space (below):

The bedrooms in #401 face Indiana, so that may not be ideal for those sensitive to traffic noise.

Some of the first-floor units enjoy deeded patio space. Here’s a look at the patio for #102 (3BR/2BA, $735,000) which spans the entire unit. It’s a nice setup, as you gain a little more privacy (below):

Purchasing a unit in the 1280 Minnesota building will give you the opportunity to have an eastern outlook, which mitigates traffic noise and lets you avoid the 280 outlooks. Here’s the outlook from my #304 in 1280 Minnesota (below). This is a 2BR/2BA unit with 1144 square feet, listed at $729,000:


As you can see, all outlooks are of the urban variety, and buyers for this project have to be comfortable living in an area that is still in transition with respect to the mix of residential and commercial/industrial properties.

There is a deeded parking space for each unit; however, if a buyer elects to purchase a unit without parking, they’ll reduce the price of the unit by $25,000. There is an elevator in the building, but no roof deck or other amenities.

My take on Millwheel South is that it’s a good fit for 280 and downtown commuters. It’s a bit on the outskirts of the Dogpatch area, but certainly in walking distance to the restaurants, cafes and bars in the neighborhood:

However, what you sacrifice in location you gain in space; at roughly less than $500 per square foot, 1301 Indiana provides much more value than new construction condo developments in more central areas (i.e., 299 Valencia).

There are presently 11 units in contract at Millwheel South, so there are plenty remaining. Give me a shout at ebermingham@zephyrsf.com / 415.823.4656 if you’d like to schedule a tour!

Mission All Grown Up—And Still Growing


I was running home on Monday morning after dropping my car off for servicing in SoMa. My route home brought me through the Mission, and I suddenly found myself reflecting on how much things have changed there since I first moved to San Francisco in the late ’90s.

Back then, I remember picking up my personal trainer to go to Crunch on Van Ness at 6:00am. She lived on San Carlos and 19th, and though she was willing to take public transportation to meet me at the gym in the early morning, I thought it might be safer to swing by and pick her up with my car. San Carlos is a little street parallel to Valencia, and thus was a magnet for random street activity.

It still is today, but now there are smatterings of luxury condos thrown into the mix—a sign of the times for the Inner Mission and the demographic it attracts when it comes to real estate. I thought I would check out the new condos at 179 San Carlos to see how they stack up next to recent new construction projects in the immediate area.

179 San Carlos was a vacant lot for a long time. The owner started the development process way back in 2004, with permits issued in 2008. I think they were held up at that point due to the economic downturn, so it’s no surprise that they have finished the construction in 2012 and have already sold one unit in the current market.

179 San Carlos #2 features 2BRs/2BAs, an office area and one-car parking, with about 973 square feet ($829,000). This condo has two spa-like baths, as well as a chef’s kitchen with high-end finishes. There are wide-plank floors throughout, as well as a shared yard and roof deck.

The first floor unit #1 is a 2BR/2BA unit with a large den and about 1,019 square feet. It was sold quickly with a $799,000 list price and is in contract for above the asking price.

#3 is the top floor, two-level condo that has 3BRs/2.5BAs and a reverse floor plan wherein the bedrooms are on the lower level. Initially marketed outside the MLS for $1,199,000, the price upon MLS entry is now $1,269,000.  I really liked this unit a lot; the views from the main level are extremely appealing, and the unit gets great natural light. With more than 1600 square feet, there’s plenty of room to stretch out. Of course, you’ll probably have the slickest property on the street, but it will be an enjoyable property nonetheless.

New construction condos in the Mission are selling for anywhere from $800-$1,000 square foot (witness the robust activity at 299 Valencia, which is already more than one third sold out). The deal behind the Mission’s continued popularity is that buyers—typically employed by tech companies—purchasing property there are looking for interesting, edgy urban areas in which to live that will provide proximity to public transportation, tech shuttles and restaurant/bars/cafes. 

It’s likely that the smaller-scale condo properties such as 179 San Carlos will be more prevalent in the next few years, as there isn’t that much land to be developed into larger buildings. (299 Valencia is one of the few that’s materialized.) And the Mission will more than likely attract more and more businesses that will appeal to these new Mission residents. I’d say that the neighborhood is no longer “in transition.” However, it will undoubtedly continue to grow into one of San Francisco’s most desirable neighborhoods for those looking for a mix of housing with all the basic amenities nearby.