432 Ivy in Hayes Valley: Already $200,000 Cheaper!

Recently marketed “pre-MLS”–seemingly a trend these days–the 3BR/2.5BA Edwardian at 432 Ivy in Hayes Valley floated an off-market list price of $1.5M.

Situated on a small street smack dab in the middle of Hayes Valley, 432 Ivy features all three bedrooms upstairs, which includes a master suite. All the architectural details are there, from the wood-burning fireplace to the built-in cabinetry, coved ceilings and crown moldings. There’s even a deck and small garden, along with a garage that can fit two cars.

The official, on-market price? $1,295,000. Between the more palatable list price and the 98 Walk Score/100 Transit Score, I’m guessing 432 Ivy will be in contract before its first open house on September 4th. If you’re an interested buyer who’s not represented by an agent, feel free to contact me at 415.823.4656/ebermingham@zephyrsf.com and I’ll arrange a showing for us!

Tall Taxes on Tap for Short Sales in 2013

Pursuing a short sale could soon be much more taxing for homeowners heading into 2013.

A short sale occurs when lenders forgive part of the loan debt (technically viewed as income, for tax purposes) and take less than they’re owed. The Mortgage Debt Relief Act of 2007 has been allowing home sellers to exclude up to $2M of this debt/income on their principal residence since 2007. Debt related to a loan modification, as well as a foreclosure, has also qualified for the exclusion.

However, the Act expires at the end of 2012. That means that if the government doesn’t extend the Act’s benefits, homeowners who close a short sale in 2013 will be responsible for paying tax on the forgiven debt. This could translate into big bucks, and doesn’t help if a homeowner is already in financial difficulty.

Here are more details, straight from the Tax Board’s Web site.

I’ve consulted a few sources within the short sale sector of the real estate industry, and word on the street is that there are a couple versions of the Act in both houses at the moment. But neither have much steam behind them. So a closing in January 2013 or later would mean taxation issues for the amount of debt forgiven. This will particularly affect homeowners who are upside down on their property, but who have some wealth to protect.

It may not be too late to start and complete a short sale now; it all depends on the property location and details, as well as the lenders involved. Short sales can take many months to finish, and we’ve only got four months left in 2012. Give me a call if you’d like to talk confidentially about your own situation.

Highs & Lows of SF Real Estate: Eureka Valley

Though many tales you may be hearing about San Francisco real estate lately involve outrageous selling prices and aggressive multiple-offer situations, there are also plenty of stories involving under-asking sales. I thought I’d profile two sales at opposite ends of the spectrum that occurred within about six blocks of each other in the popular Eureka Valley neighborhood:

3601 21st Street/Church
List price: $1,398,000
Sale price: $1,860,000

This Spanish-Mediterranean 4BR/3BA, 2391-sqaure foot home at 3601 21st Street (above) had great views, as well as a separate legal unit and a lovely garden. The property came on the market in mid May, went into contract about a week later, and closed in mid June. The seller received 16 offers, which goes to show you how many buyers are looking for house in the area in the $1.4M-ish range.

4080 20th Street/Noe
List price: $1,995,000
Sale price: $1,530,000

4080 20th Street was a 3BR/2.5BA Victorian with no garage that was listed initially at $1,995,000 in March. It was actually a pretty cool property, with a renovated kitchen with panoramic views. The upper level had two bedrooms and a half bath, and the lower level featured space for an office, family room or bedroom, and full bath. There was also a nice garden. (No garage, though, which most $2M properties have.) So the list price turned out to be a bit ambitious. By the end of March, the price was knocked down to $1,750,000, and then there was another price chop in May to $1,575,000.

The key thing to note here, buyers, is that it sometimes takes sellers time to come to terms with what their house is worth in a given market. Don’t rush in during the first week of marketing with an offer for almost half a million less than asking. Give it at least a couple months.

San Francisco Hits Four-Year Low in Inventory Levels

If you’re a San Francisco homeowner who’s considering selling your property in the next few months, here’s some motivation for you: San Francisco continues to experience low inventory levels. Buyers continue to flock to properties as if there were fire sales going on, and don’t seem to be averse to paying more than they would have paid last year. And it doesn’t look like this activity level will abate anytime soon.

I wanted to post this nifty chart that tracks inventory levels from July 2010 to July 2012. As you can see, we’re at a four-year low where inventory is concerned:


What this means for homeowners is that if you’re considering selling, this Fall will be a great time. Put your house on the market anytime after Labor Day and through the beginning of December. Buyers will be out in full force, and you can take advantage of the low inventory level to get the most money possible for your property.

Outer Sunset Townhome Tempts First-Time Buyers

The standalone one-bedroom condo/townhome at 4431 Kirkham at 48th Avenue in the Outer Sunset may be small at 560 square feet. But how many condos are available that don’t share walls and are part of an association that only consists of two side-by-side homes?

4431 Kirkham is half a block from Ocean Beach, as well as the N Judah stop. The property has a cute front garden that creates a nice curb appeal. The main level has a living space and upgraded chef’s kitchen, and the bedroom is upstairs. You have your own private rear garden. List price: $399,000.

Please contact me if you’d like to see Kirkham. My guess is that the property won’t be on the market for very long.

Stately Parnassus Heights Home a Cool Find

It’s a challenge to find a nice single-family home for sale in a centrally located neighborhood these days that hasn’t already gone into contract within the first 48 hours of going on the market. So when I come across an available property that’s waiting for the right buyer and offers lovely period detail, plenty of living and sleeping space and parking, I feel the need to give that home a shout out.

337 Parnassus is a 3BR/3BA Edwardian that sits on an extra-wide lot (two parcels) and features a wraparound yard. The main level has spacious public rooms and a nicely remodeled kitchen. Upstairs are three bedrooms and two bathrooms, and a third level holds the finished attic that would make a great playroom, media room or guest area.

I loved the rear bedroom, with its wall of surrounding windows, as well as the kitchen and its Turkish limestone counters. There’s also room in the garage for two tandem parking. List price: $1,595,000.

Though this stretch of Parnassus is busy and directly adjacent to UCSF’s bustling campus, there’s a surprising sense of privacy once you’re inside. And the large lot results in a sort of buffer to the nearby activity. You can’t overlook the 86 Walk Score, which takes into consideration the proximity to Cole Valley and the Inner Sunset’s retail hubs; the Muni rail and bus lines; Golden Gate Park; and the Haight. And the best thing? You won’t have to compete with 25 other buyers to get the space and location that you need. Contact me if you’d like to schedule a showing!

What You Can Buy in SoMa

South of Market is a popular neighborhood for young professionals looking for proximity to freeways, downtown and nightlife. Here’s a look at three hot properties that just hit the market. I sold condos in two of these buildings in the past, and can vouch for my clients’ satisfaction in both cases:

701 Minna #13
$649,000
2BR/2BA, 1160 sq ft
Built 1999
22 units

The tri-level, top floor corner unit at 701 Minna #13 features great light and a true window on the city. In addition to versatile space that affords privacy (unusual for loft living), you get an in-unit washer/dryer, deeded parking, additional storage and a shared pano roof deck with a bbq. Homeowners association (HOA) dues are $408/month. 701 Minna is smack dab in the middle of the developing mid-Market area where a new tech hub is transpiring, along with lots of plans for future residential units. There’s a Harvest Market at the corner, and plenty of restaurants within walking distance—not to mention extreme proximity to Market Street and all the public transportation you’ll need. Great for downtown or freeway commuters.

655 5th Street #20
$599,000
1BR/2BA, 986 sq ft
Built 1999
20 units

The two-level loft at 655 5th Street #20 is well appointed, with shiny finishes and nice natural light. There’s not much of an outlook, but there are plenty of windows. Unique to this unit is an extra large parking space that could potentially accommodate two small vehicles. Though there was HOA litigation pending due to construction defects, that has been settled and reconstruction is about to begin to resolve building issues. (That means you’ll be able to get a loan now.) HOA dues are $440/month. This location is ideal for downtown and Peninsula commuters, as it’s very close to the Caltrain station at 4th Street and King. There are also a ton of restaurants and cafes within walking distance.

380 10th Street #12
$519,000
1BR/1BA, 789 sq ft
Built 2004
30 units

380 10th Street #12 is situated in the Tenth Street Loft building, a brick and timber property with a lot of style. This unit is in excellent condition, with hardwood floors, a gleaming kitchen, in-unit laundry and nice finishes. There’s also deeded parking and a very cool shared roof deck. HOAs are $352/month. 380 10th Street is right across from Costco and around the block from Bar Agricole. It’s a great location for freeway commuters and for tech workers in one of the many offices scattered throughout SoMa. It’s also not very far from the Mission, which opens a whole other door.

Walk Score Winners: Eureka, Lower Pac Heights, Telegraph Hill

I specialize in finding centrally located properties for buyers, so I thought I’d showcase a trio of homes with excellent Walk Scores and which are situated in very desirable neighborhoods.

82 Chattanooga, Eureka Valley
$1,395,000
92 Walk Score

82 Chattanooga (above) is a detached, 3BR/2BA single-family home with a remodeled chef’s kitchen, walk-out garden, two-car parking and various seismic and system upgrades. The floor plan is all on one level, so it has somewhat of a condo feel. But 82 Chattanooga is right near the J Church Muni line (like, the train runs behind the lot), and is about four blocks from Dolores Park. You’re also in walking distance of the Mission restaurants and cafes. Heading south, you’re about two blocks from Noe Valley’s 24th Street retail area.

8 Cottage Row, Lower Pacific Heights
$619,000
100 Walk Score

8 Cottage Row (above) is part of the historical Cottage Row district. Cottage Row itself is a little side street situated between Bush and Sutter and Fillmore/Webster. This condo is a 2BR/1BA with about 700 square feet. It has a decent-sized kitchen and bathroom, two discreet bedrooms and a living room. And let’s not forget the in-unit washer/dryer. Only drawback is that the unit is located on the ground level, which means people can walk by your windows and look into the unit on both the Cottage Row and Bush Street sides. (But there are ways to address that.) Constructed in 1885, the four-unit building doesn’t have a garage. But for God’s sake, you’re half a block from Fillmore Street and near a variety of bus lines to downtown. HOA dues are $400/month, but they’ll be going down to $300/month at the beginning of next year.

368 Vallejo, Telegraph Hill
$999,999
98 Walk Score

Have a hankering for a small single-family home pied-a-terre near the waterfront, Bay Club, Ferry Building and Jackson Square? 368 Vallejo is a 900-square-foot 1BR/1.5BA slice of a property that may do the trick. Featuring an open-plan kitchen, laundry, and office area across two levels, the home also has a sheltered patio. It was rebuilt in 2005 and has a nice sense of style. No parking, but who needs a car when you can step outside your door and walk everywhere from one of San Francisco’s iconic neighborhoods?

Inventory Still Tight in SF Market

Buyers are still flooding the San Francisco market like there’s no tomorrow, snapping up properties within days and paying well over the list price to get the properties they want. That’s because demand is high, and supply is low. And sellers are benefitting hugely from these conditions.

You can read more behind what’s happening in the Zephyr Quarterly Newsletter. Plus, some excellent community organizations will be sharing almost $1M in grants that will lead to some pretty nifty neighborhood improvements. And Ocean Beach is in for some future changes as part of its master plan.

It’s all here in the Zephyr Quarterly Newsletter.

Tech Worker Alert: Hot Mission Flat Coming Soon

Buyers looking for a large, top-floor condo on a prime block of the Mission have a good prospect coming their way.

My company, Zephyr, has a 1600-square foot 3BR/2BA condo that’s in the process of being prepped for hitting the market possibly after Labor Day. Included is a master suite, downtown views, deck, and one-car independent parking. List price will be $1,295,000.

This two-unit building is in a prime location near tech shuttles, every restaurant, cafe and bar imaginable and freeways/BART/Muni. The lower unit in this building sold just last week for $1.4M. That was an exquisitely presented, two-level 4BR/2BA with almost 2,000 square feet. (And yes, this is technically zoned in Eureka Valley for Realtor purposes; however, it feels more like the Mission to me.)

Give me a shout if you’d like to arrange a pre-market showing. It’s my guess this property will be sold before it even officially goes on the market. If you’re ready to buy, you may as well let me help you get the jump on the masses.

How To Compete for Bank-Owned Properties

The past two years have ushered in an unprecedented number of bank-owned property sales in San Francisco. But actually purchasing one can be a challenge.

Competition among buyers in general for bank-owned homes is strong, because the perception exists that such properties are “deals.” In some cases, they are. But disclosures are minimal, and even with property inspections involved, there will always be information lacking (and appliances missing). And the reality is that many homes in this category end up selling at or around market value—especially those located in central, walkable locations. Paying market value for properties that offer little in the way of history or known issues doesn’t usually resonate well with buyers.

Even so, the bar is rather high in San Francisco when you’re competing for bank-owned properties, especially when they’re listed below market value. So when that bank-owned, $500,000 house comes on the market in the neighborhood where such homes typically sell for $650,000 and above, you can bet you won’t be the only buyer making a bid. The list-it-low strategy still works like a charm.

Here’s what you can expect if you decide to write an offer:
Preapproval with the bank that owns the property. You may have spent hours submitting documentation to your mortgage broker or lender to get to this point, but if the listing office is recommending preapproval with a particular lender, the bank probably won’t consider your offer if you haven’t been preapproved with that institution. Allow time for completing the preapproval.

Short inspection periods. Expect to compete with buyers who are limiting themselves to waived or very short inspection contingency periods, and keep in mind that the bank won’t be making repairs or offering credits. What you see is what you get.

45-day close of escrow. All-cash buyers will probably be able to close in 15 days, but 45 is the norm for bank-owned sales. Expect some rough going when it comes to the appraisals, because appraisers like to see appliances and working systems.

14-day loan/appraisal condition removals. If you’re working with the lender who’s also selling the property, this is doable. But make sure your agent is on top of things and checks in with the lender. I’ve seen situations lately wherein lenders let a file sit for a week before anything got done.

No appraisal condition for over-asking prices. If you write an offer for substantially over the list price, it’s likely you’ll be expected to waive an appraisal contingency. If the appraisal does come in at less than your offered price, you’ll have to come up with the outstanding amount.

Keep in mind that none of the aforementioned are mandatory. You can write an offer with whatever terms you’d like. But do know that your competition will be working on this level. So if you really want the property, this is probably what you’ll need to include in your offer to “win.”

Check Building Permit Histories When You’re Buying

Was that room downstairs added with permits? Was the roof redone ten years ago with permits? Is the two-unit building you’re buying actually zoned as such?

These are the types of questions my clients are often faced with when considering purchasing a home in San Francisco. Properties here often have varied histories, and it’s important to know as much as you can.

One of the best tools for doing so is the city’s online permit site. The online history is useful when you’re doing preliminary research on a property you may be interested in purchasing.

Sellers are required to present a printed 3R Report from the Building Department that lists the permit history. However, that report takes weeks to arrive, and you want to do as much as you can to avoid surprises during escrow.

Condo Spotlight: 75 Folsom #1401 in South Beach


One of the more prestigious buildings in South Beach, Hills Plaza at 75 Folsom is in a prime South Beach location right at the waterfront. Originally constructed for the Hills Brothers Coffee Company in 1925 by architect George Kellum, the property was renovated in 1989 into its current state.

I’m liking unit 1401 that just came on the market, listed at $625,000. It’s a 1BR/1BA condo with about 844 square feet and city views. The unit gets great natural light, has high ceilings and recessed lighting. There’s in-unit laundry, one-car parking and storage, an elevator and 24-hour doorperson. Oh, and did I mention the fabulous wraparound, common-area roof terrace?

There are 67 residential units in Hills Plaza, as well as a ground floor that includes such tenants as Crunch, Palomino Restaurant, Gordon Biersch, and Starbucks. HOA dues for #1401 are a somewhat steep $1,043/month and include water, garbage, exterior building maintenance, security and property management.

Recent sales at 75 Folsom include a 1,019-square foot 1BR/1BA on the 8th floor that changed hands for $550,000 (no views, but good light), as well as a 1BR/1BA, 1066-square foot unit with Bay Bridge views that sold for $835,000.

Give me a shout if you’d like to check out #1401!