New Mid-December Listings Seek Ready Buyers

I have to tip my hat to any sellers who put their properties on the market the week before Christmas. These are what I call serious sellers, and if you’re a serious buyer, it’s worth your time to consider such listings. Here’s a roundup of three properties which just came on the market:

81 29th Street
Bernal Heights
2BR/1BA
$615,000

Following in the footsteps of its first-floor neighbor at 83 29th Street—which sold for $570,000 this past June—81 29th Street is a well-presented unit with that extra room over the stairs that can serve as an office or nursery. The double parlor functions as both bedrooms in this stage set (no closet in the front “bedroom,” which is typically a living room), with the ample kitchen at the rear open to the living/dining areas. Not much outdoor space, and parking is leased across the street for $250/month. Amenities include in-unit laundry and lovely period detail throughout. This block of 29th Street is a mix of commercial and residential space, and is very convenient to 280 and Muni. You can also walk out your door and hit Rock Bar, the Front Porch and a variety of other useful retail businesses.

453 Noriega
Golden Gate Heights
3BR/3.5BA
$1,675,000

For those buyers who like a touch of SoMa in an otherwise sleepy Golden Gate Heights neighborhood, 453 Noriega will certainly zip things up for you. Rebuilt and renovated down to the studs, this very modern view home has an open floor plan with high-end finishes throughout. And let’s not overlook the Flora Grubb-designed garden and two-car garage. The house was last sold in 2007 for $951,000.

4046 26th Street
Noe Valley
3BR/2BA
$1,188,000

4046 26th Street is an interesting proposition: It can be used as a single-family home, or two units. If you’re going the house route, it’d be nice to create a comfortable master suite downstairs. The main level has been opened up, and has a perfectly serviceable kitchen. Yard is largely concrete with perimeter plantings. Oh, and if you can’t pull a bunch of cash out of your stocking, you can skip this one. The sale requires a quick close that a loan won’t be able to accommodate.

Just Sold: Noe Valley View Home


My clients just purchased this 4BR/2.5BA single-family home on a great block in Noe Valley at 4338 26th Street. The well-appointed property has a galley-style kitchen with breakfast room, formal dining room, and living room with fireplace. Decks on the upper two levels capture panoramic Northern views and overlook the large, landscaped yard. One-car garage with laundry and excellent location near 24th Street and the Douglass playground and park. List price: $1,595,000.

The Facts Behind Credit Reports & Loans

This time of year often sees prospective home buyers start to lay some groundwork for a home purchase in the following year. And based on many such individuals contacting me about potential house hunts this month, I’m guessing it wouldn’t hurt to put up a few posts about the many aspects behind getting your loan preapproval.

I recently ran a post about the reasons lenders need to pull credit reports when completing loan preapprovals. In keeping with that reality, I thought I’d share some tips from my colleagues at Guarantee Mortgage about how credit report details factor in to your loan preapproval. Because the more buyers understand about the process, the more confident they can be about making decisions along the way.

Each of the credit bureaus report address history, number of credit inquiries in the last 120 days and discrepancies related to social security numbers or name variations. Lenders then review what the bureaus report and compare them to the info you provide in your loan application. So it’s important to know what’s important to a lender, and you won’t get tripped up:

Note your address history. If an address is reported within the last two years that isn’t listed on your loan application, then an underwriter may request a written explanation to connect the address to your living history. Be prepared to provide that documentation if need be.

Be aware of your credit inquiries. When there are credit inquiries reported, lenders ask that a borrower explain the details behind the inquiry, as well as whether any new credit was obtained. If there were new accounts opened, but not listed on the credit report, then the report needs to be updated so the new account is shown. Your credit score could be impacted by this process.

Name variations will need to be clarified. This is common to see for married couples or for those who have moved to the United States from another country. Lenders will typically ask a borrower to sign an “also known as” statement at closing to address this.

Have your credit checked early in the preapproval process. The bottom line is that you should allow a lender to run a credit check as one of the first steps in your loan preapproval process. It’s key to understand what issues may exist, how you can resolve them, and ultimately, how you can avoid a lot of stress in your house hunt.

[Above tips provided courtesy of Guarantee Mortgage.]

Holiday Roundup: What’s Left?

Every year at this time, San Francisco real estate inventory begins to dwindle. Our broker tour sheets go from 40 pages to five, and less sellers put their homes on the market. However, there are some solid properties out there that are worth considering. I decided to showcase three of them today, in case they might fit your bill:

901 Rockdale
Miraloma Park

3BR/2BA, 1 pkg
$1.1M

Though it has odd curb appeal, 901 Rockdale has a nice floor plan and convenient location. This 1928 Tudor-style house has a living room with cathedral ceilings and a fireplace, and the window perfectly frames the Marin Headlands and surrounding homes (above). The formal dining room leads to the remodeled kitchen, and there are two bedrooms on this level. Downstairs is a third bedroom and separate bath. Square footage is on the small side, so this isn’t a sprawling home that could accommodate a lot of people. 901 Rockdale initially came on the market listed at $1,025,000, but fell out of contract and came back on at the current $1.1M price. This may be a good time to negotiate something. The house is situated just across Portola from the West Portal retail area, and is also right down the road from Mollie Stone’s.

2295 Vallejo #401
Pacific Heights

1BR/1BA, 1 pkg
$985,000

There’s a limited number of homes in San Francisco with these kind of views, so you pay dearly for them when such homes become available. In this case, you have a roughly 830 square foot, top-floor condo in Pacific Heights Place, a 43-unit building constructed in 1975. The kicker is the private terrace that’s perched above Vallejo and Fillmore Streets. 2295 Vallejo #401 has been recently remodeled, but this is all about the views, terrace, and prime San Francisco location. The buyer for this unit will value the latter two attributes above all. HOA dues are $423/month, and there’s an elevator in the building along with shared laundry. This condo has been on the market at this price since the summer, so maybe there’s a buyer out there who can break the stalemate?

365 Connecticut
Potrero Hill

2BR/2BA, 1 pkg
$829,000

On the market since the end of November, 365 Connecticut is a well-appointed first-floor condo in a two-unit building. This property has the elusive second bathroom, along with a remodeled kitchen and nice period details throughout. There’s a spacious shared yard, as well as one-car garage parking, extra storage and private washer/dryer. HOA dues are $250/month. The location at Connecticut and 18th is exactly where you want to be in Potrero, so for anyone looking for a nice condo in a good Potrero location, 365 Connecticut is it. This unit last sold for $800,000 in 2006.

Please contact me at 415.823.4656/ebermingham@zephyrsf.com if you’d like to see any of these properties. I’ll be here for the holidays.

Keep A Tight Leash on Cashier’s Checks

One of the requirements for buyers making offers on properties that are being sold through probate sales with court confirmation is that you have to submit a cashier’s check for 10% of your offer price. It’s important to know the details about cashier’s checks so you don’t end up losing access to your funds temporarily.

Probate sales with court confirmation (click here for an overview) have been going on for many, many years—well before the go-go San Francisco housing market kicked in. A buyer would make an offer, include the check, and the sale would progress.

These days, however, homes being sold in this manner in desirable neighborhoods can easily fetch five or more offers. And that means five or more buyers will go to their banks and get cashier’s checks for large amounts of money. That’s a lot of checks floating around. So it’s important to be aware of what’s at stake when you get a cashier’s check from your bank, and what exactly happens during the sale process.

First, you’re obtaining a cashier’s check made out to an estate or conservatorship. There is usually a fee of approximately $25 to obtain the check. The bank then debits your account in the amount of the cashier’s check, and assumes responsibility for covering that check in the event it is cashed.

You hand over your check to your real estate agent, who is supposed to record possession of the check in a trust fund log at his or her office.

Your agent then delivers your offer package and check to the listing office. Someone on staff at that office should also be logging the receipt of the check. The listing agent and executor/seller review offers and then the prevailing buyer signs his or her check over to the title company. The check sits in an escrow account for one or two months in anticipation of the court date, and is void after 90 days of being issued.

But what about the buyers who haven’t “won” the right to get their contract to the court date? The listing office releases the checks to all the other buyers, who can either pick the check up in person (probably the best way to proceed), or have their agent do so. The absolute next step is to take the check back to the bank and make a “deposit,” so the bank can reinstate the funds in your account.

Here’s the critical factor: In the event the check is lost, stolen or destroyed in the interim, you are then required to wait a period of 90 days from the issuing date on the check before the bank will reinstate the funds in your account. Again, that’s because the bank is taking responsibility for covering the amount of the cashier’s check in the event that it’s cashed. If you suddenly don’t have access to, say, $70,000, that could put a real crimp in your house hunt for three months.

You may have gotten the sense that I’m not a big fan of this process. I think exposing so many individual buyers to financial risk is really unnecessary and is an outdated procedure that should be changed. There’s no reason buyers can’t submit proof of deposit funds with an offer, with the prevailing buyer getting the cashier’s check to the title company. Not only does the existing process cause a lot of people to run around for nothing, it also increases the chance that a check can be lost.

I can’t singlehandedly change the probate listing procedures, but I can advise you that you need to keep a close eye on the whereabouts of your cashier’s check at all times. And once you know the outcome of the offer situation, either deposit the check with your bank, or sign it over to the title company.

Pre-MLS Opportunity: New Noe Condos


The bank-owned, vacant Victorian two-unit building at 1101-1103 Dolores at 24th Street (above, before renovations) was listed for $849,900 in June 2011 and billed as “a perfect opportunity to live in one flat and rent out the other.” The 2,426-square foot property is on a corner lot with unobstructed views of downtown, and benefits from a highly convenient location that’s in walking distance to Noe Valley’s retail strip, the Valencia corridor, BART and Muni. The building sold within two weeks for $1.3M in cash.

The sellers renovated the property to the nines, and two condos are now being offered in a pre-MLS marketing strategy for the holidays:

The deets:
1101 Dolores
$1.5M
(Lower unit)
3BR/2BA, two-level unit with one-car parking
Approx 1800 sq feet

1103 Dolores
$2M
(Upper unit)
3BR/3.5BA, two-level residence, one parking
Approx 2300 sq feet

There are views from every level of the homes, and of course, high-end finishes. Give me a call if you’d like to schedule a showing! My guess is that these condos will be sold quickly, as there’s a strong market for new construction in desirable neighborhoods.

Take Your Pick of Luxury Homes

If you’re a buyer looking to spend $1.5M+ for a single-family home or condo in San Francisco, you certainly have your pick of inventory this holiday season.

There are currently 72 single-family homes available between $1,595,000-$25M. How this all shakes out is that the bulk of these current listings are $1,595,000-$3M. After that, there are 18 homes offered in the $4M-$10M range. And the final six are priced from $13.5M-$25M. Average list price is $4,620,110 and days on market average is 80.

And there are 37 condos available, mostly from $1.6M-$3M. The averages here are $2,434,973, with 103 days on market. The most expensive condo is the 2BR/2BA penthouse at The Ritz-Carlton, which was listed at $8M in mid October 2012 and is holding steady at that price.

If you’re a buyer in this segment of the market, you should be able to negotiate your way into a good deal. And while you’re at it, get me involved. I’d be happy to assist you so you can get into your home by Christmas!

Don’t Push Back on Pulling Credit

If you’re interested in figuring out what you can afford in the San Francisco real estate market, the first step is getting fully preapproved for a loan. And part of that process involves a lender pulling your credit so it can verify the type of loan for which you’ll qualify.

My colleagues at Guarantee Mortgage report that some buyers are resistant to having their credit pulled. Indeed, I’ve had clients question why such activity is necessary. The upshot is that pulling credit has more of a purpose than just determining the buyer’s credit score.

Lenders in the current market—especially jumbo lenders—are equally as interested in the “depth” of borrowers, says Guarantee Mortgage. For example, they want to see that a buyer has used credit in the past 24 months, and believe that if the buyer doesn’t have debt, the credit score may be compromised. As a result, the lender may not be getting an accurate read on the borrower’s ability to pay.

Additionally, lenders want to make sure a buyer’s credit line still actually exists. Guarantee also reports a recent situation wherein a borrower who had credit in the past closed it all down. He had no active trade lines over the past 24 months, and his loan options became significantly limited. He had wanted a 30-year fixed, jumbo loan, but was unable to get it. As a result, the buyer had to go with an adjustable rate mortgage with a lender that was willing to overlook his lack of current credit.

I strongly recommend consulting with a lender or mortgage broker when you believe you may be getting serious about buying. They can alert you to these sorts of issues early on, so you can potentially rectify them and take advantage of the best loan and interest rate available.