Houzz: The Go-To Site for All Things Remodeling

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This is the time of year when many homeowners start plotting their long-awaited remodeling jobs. One site that will help immensely—and which will easily find you looking at the clock and muttering, “I was on this site for two hours?!”—is Houzz.

Houzz is an online platform for home remodeling and design, and it is well worth your time. You can search through photobooks of various room designs for everything from a kitchen or bath renovation to a home office revamp and beyond. If you want to go to the next level, the site connects you with the professionals who can potentially help you, facilitating your questions about their work. The service providers range from interior designers, landscapers, and contractors to architects. And all the less sexy service providers are included, too, like electricians, heating and solar energy contractors.

And of course, there’s a community aspect to Houzz where you can chat about remodeling, products and beyond.

Houzz also offers a mobile app for those who like to design their kitchens from their phone or iPad.

So make Houzz your starting point for that 2014 remodel. And a shout-out to my excellent interior designer colleague, Suzy Baur, who introduced me to Houzz!

Modest Price Increases in SF, Spotlight on Potrero Hill

The new Zephyr MarketTracker is out, and the biggest news is that prices in the single-family home and condo markets are only up 2.8% and 3.8%, respectively, over the past six months.

We also take a look at some properties in Potrero Hill (average price, roughly $950,000 for a home), as well as note that the move-in date is coming up for Nob Hill’s Marlow development.

Plus, details on the Fairmont’s giant gingerbread house! It’s all here in the latest edition of the Zephyr MarketTracker.

Buyers Land Holiday Deals in Luxury Market

The rule of thumb in San Francisco real estate is that if you’re sitting on the market for a very long period of time—and the holidays are approaching—-it’s highly likely you’ll eventually sell for significantly less than your original list price. Though most sales in our city are closing for above list price, I did find some recent sales that wrapped up after Thanksgiving.

In other words, the sellers came to grips with the reality of their home’s worth, and got it all done before the end of the year:

21 Laidley
Glen Park

Original List Price: $1,950,000
Sale Price: $1,410,000
Days on Market (DOM): 57 days
21laidley
Views certainly count for something in San Francisco, but so do the number of bedrooms, parking availability and location. 21 Laidley doesn’t have parking, and though it’s in a nice part of Glen Park, the two-bedroom limit and a tucked-away locale didn’t quite merit an almost $2M price tag. I think the buyer paid an appropriate price for 21 Laidley.

1081 Pine #401
Downtown

Original List Price: $3,125,000
Sale Price: $2,300,000
DOM: 136
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1081 Pine #401 is a two-level townhome with a nicely remodeled kitchen, private balcony, three bedrooms/baths, and two-car parking. It also carries a $900/month HOA fee and is situated on a busy street. So the $3M+ starting point did seem wildly ambitious. But hey, if you’re a seller who’s not in a hurry, you can list in the summer and wait around for a buyer to pay your price. That didn’t happen, but they sorted things out in early December, probably dreading making a go of it in 2014 with an overpriced downtown condo listing. And the buyer paying all cash undoubtedly greased the wheels.

1350 Jones
Nob Hill

Original List Price: $4,500,000
Sale Price: $2,900,000
DOM: 234 days
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Located on a prime Nob Hill street, 1350 Jones is a London townhouse-style single-family home with interesting architectural details. But it basically needs to be completely updated, so the more palatable $2.9M selling price will most likely allow the buyers to invest in some remodeling and create a very cool home.

Just Sold: 2BR House in Crocker Amazon


My clients just purchased 181 Lowell, a house that was in the same family for years. They’re ready to remodel, and are excited about their new project. Apparently, 18 other buyers were also excited about the prospect, but we managed to secure the home and close before the end of the year. Just a couple blocks off Mission Street and featuring downtown views from the kitchen, 181 Lowell has plenty of room for expansion downstairs and lots of cool 1920s period detail. Special shout out to our lending team of Ryan Dang and Miky Cuo at Wells Fargo, as well as Chris Matthews at Old Republic Title. And thanks also to listing agent Kilby Stenkamp, who was a pleasure to work with. List price: $499,000.

Should I Remodel My Kitchen Before I Sell?

Three potential sellers have recently asked me this question, so I thought it would be a good time to let everyone know where I stand when it comes to remodeling in order to sell your home—particularly if you’re thinking of selling in the new year.

Kitchens are typically the primary renovation target in a property. The kitchen is where everyone pretty much lives these days, and it’s the core of a home. You can certainly command more money when you’re selling if you have a remodeled kitchen. Buyers come through the property and don’t knock money off the list price for the new kitchen they “need” to do. But that’s only if they like the remodeling you’ve done.

And therein lies the rub: If you’ve just renovated your kitchen to make it more appealing to buyers, whether you will achieve that goal will largely depend upon the individual buyers out there at the time you’re selling.

However, sellers have been successful with “light” kitchen remodels—updated counter tops, perhaps some painted or replaced cabinetry, and new appliances. These are the types of jobs that can be done relatively quickly with a committed contractor, and can sometimes make a big difference in how much a buyer will pay.

SF Overbidders Head Into the Holidays

The two weeks leading up to Thanksgiving saw a flurry of buying activity in San Francisco. However, the level of overbidding wasn’t as rabid as it was a few months ago. I did manage to find three new SF Overbidders Club members (criteria: paying 25%+ over the list price) who turned up in the Castro, Marina, and Presidio Heights.

1032 Castro
Eureka Valley

3BR/2BA
List Price: $959,000
Sale Price: $1,340,000
Overbid Amount: 40%
Closed Escrow: 11/15/13

This modest home with a quirky downstairs third bedroom and bath received an onslaught of offers, primarily because it was a house vs. a condo, in a popular location—and also had two-car parking.

2451 Bay
Marina

4BR/2BA
List Price: $2,375,000
Sale Price: $3,250,000
Overbid Amount: 37%
Closed Escrow: 11/27/13

Graced with odd curb appeal, 2451 Bay is situated directly across the street from the Palace of Fine Arts—which is fabulous if you don’t mind the constant presence of tourists outside your door most of the time. The spacious home has been updated throughout, and also has a large, unwarranted one-bedroom unit and a large garage. Paying almost 40% over asking in all cash did the trick!

3311 Jackson
Presidio Heights

3BR/2.5BA
List Price: $2,880,000
Sale Price: $3,701,000
Overbid Amount: 28.5%
Closed Escrow: 11/15/13

3311 Jackson was in the same family for six generations, which is code for “needs updating and probably a major renovation.” But that didn’t scare off the buyer, who paid almost 40% over the list price for this large corner home in a great location just south of the Presidio.

What You Can Buy—Before the End of the Year

There’s still time to get into contract and complete a home purchase before the end of the year. There are about 14 business days left before Christmas, so buyers with cash or very large down payments will be in strong demand to achieve the year-end selling goal.

If you’re one such buyer, you may want to consider one of the newer listings that have recently come on the market. Here’s a look at three homes that I love, and which I believe have list prices that leave room for the requisite overbidding:

3754 Cesar Chavez
Noe Valley

2BR/1BA, 936 sq feet
$895,000

3754 Cesar Chavez is the classic small Noe Victorian that’s great for a single person or couple planning to live there for a few years before upgrading to a larger, more spacious place. The home is well appointed, with an open, bright kitchen, period detail throughout and a deck off the rear. Brick foundation and one-car parking in the garage. Though the house is situated on a busy stretch of Cesar Chavez between Guerrero and Dolores—and backs up to the Samoan Church/sits next to a parking lot, the location is central to BART, Muni and the freeways. You’re also in proximity to the Mission restaurants and shops, as well as the excellent 26th & Guerrero grocery store around the corner.

16 Amber
Diamond Heights

2BR/2BA, 2 pkg
$699,000

Yes, Diamond Heights is foggy and somewhat remote. But where else can you get a top-floor condo with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, two-car parking and views listed for under $700,000? 16 Amber is in a smaller complex with a building entrance that’s shared by only three other units. The condo has a balcony with south-facing views and an updated kitchen. HOA dues are just under $500. You’re a 10-minute walk from Safeway, and five minutes’ drive to 280.

2374 Union
Cow Hollow

3BR/2BA, 1696 sq ft
1 pkg
$1,399,000

2374 Union is my pick of the bunch here, and with good reason. First, this 2300 block of Union is completely residential but is only one block east from the retail stretch of Union. Second, the condo itself has all the amenities—remodeled kitchen, parking, shared yard—and is in a well-preserved 1906 building. There are four units in the building, and HOA dues are a low $394/month.

Welcome to the Holiday Home Stretch, 2013


If you’re a serious home buyer, it’s quite possible that December will be your month to find that home of your dreams. Yes, inventory is lighter, but the competition thins out as other, less-serious buyers get distracted by the holidays. And the sellers who are still offering their homes for sale are more likely than they would have been a few months ago to negotiate on price.

There were 209 single-family homes, 217 condos, 31 TICs and 100 two- to four-unit buildings available at the end of last week. These numbers are slightly lower than last year at this time of year. But it’s a great time to make your purchase and wrap things up before the end of 2013. There will inevitably be a crop of newly active buyers coming into the market in early 2014, which will not help your case.

So stick with your home-buying mission and don’t overlook any possibilities. And if you’re thinking of jumping into the market in 2014, please contact me and we can discuss the details.

Just Sold: Noe Valley Victorian Condo


My clients just purchased this quintessential, top-floor Noe Valley 2BR condo in a prime neighborhood location. Featuring wonderful period detail throughout, a formal dining room and private deck with panoramic, south-facing views, 21 Clipper also has parking and a lovely garden. We managed to get past five other buyers who submitted offers, and my clients are thrilled with their new home. And a shout out to the fabulous Patrick Skovran at Wells Fargo for efficiently getting our loan through at the holidays, as well as Charles Richards’ team at Chicago Title. List price: $899,000.

[Please note that we’re taking a Thanksgiving break at Inside San Francisco Real Estate. Have a restful and fun Thanksgiving, and check back in on Monday for more market insights & shenanigans.]

Source Your Funds & Avoid Closing Delays

One of the easiest ways to derail or delay a home purchase is to start pulling in money from undisclosed sources during the escrow process. It is critical these days to document all the sources for your funds with your lender.

Buyers in San Francisco often make home purchases with funds that may be coming from different sources. For example, there may be money coming from a 401K, or a family member who’s helping with the deposit. This is all fine, but the most important thing to recognize is that you need to disclose all fund sources to your lender.

This is because lenders are committed to verifying every dollar the borrower will be using for a down payment, closing costs and reserves, according to my colleagues at Guarantee Mortgage. So if, for example, you are making any non-payroll deposits into accounts that will be used to show sufficient assets for closing, you’ll need to show a paper trail.

If your deposit isn’t coming from one of your own accounts and is instead being wired in by a family member, the lender will need to see a gift letter for that money. The biggest sticking point is when buyers have funds wired into closing from a non-disclosed account. Lenders will want to see two months’ bank statements on such an account.

Best idea? Put your game plan together during your preapproval stage so you and the lender are clear about where all your purchase money is originating.

Diverse Inventory Abounds in San Francisco

San Francisco has some of the most varied housing stock available in the world, from Victorians and urban lofts to Spanish-Mediterranean houses and high-rise condos. In this edition of the Zephyr MarketTracker, we look at some of the currently available offerings.

Interested in kicking off your holiday season a little early? The Treasure Island Holiday Show happens tomorrow and Sunday, and features snow-making activities, shopping, music and food.

We also look at the most recent sales citywide, as well as price averages and other data. It’s all here in the Zephyr MarketTracker!

True To Seasonal Form, Luxury Market Lags


The market for single-family homes and condos in the $2M+ range is already showing signs of annual holiday lag, and it’s not even Thanksgiving yet. A total of 53 houses and 32 condos awaits buyers in this segment of the market.

The houses have been on the market for 74 days or longer, and the condos for 92 days. There may be a few buyers out there who will swoop in between now and the end of 2013 with successful offers, but my bet is that a majority of luxury homes currently available will be greeting the new year in the MLS.

What this means for sellers is that this isn’t the best time to add your property to the luxury home glut unless you are priced very realistically. It’s not the time to test the market or expect buyers to overpay. And buyers should view this time period as an excellent opportunity in which to pick up a great home for perhaps less than they would have paid earlier in the year.

The serious sellers of the bunch will make price reductions, particularly if their home has been on the market for 30 days or longer. Approximately 30% and 31% of the sellers of currently available single-family homes and condos, respectively, have already done price reductions. That means there are quite a few properties out there that may have room to move on price.

I’m a Realtor Seeking Buyer and Seller Clients

Though I spend a lot of time sharing San Francisco market insights on this blog, I am a full-time real estate agent. That may not be obvious sometimes, but what it means is that I earn a living helping people buy and sell residential real estate.

I know many of you are considering making a move in 2014, or you may know friends, family or neighbors who are. That’s where I’d like to come in. If you’ve been reading my blog on a regular basis, you know that I’m a straightforward, knowledgeable professional who’s been a Realtor since 2002. I’ve navigated clients through slow markets, crazy markets and everything in between. I have a strong work ethic, am obsessed with providing excellent service and am always available to talk, email or text when my clients have questions or concerns.

This year is winding down, and I am looking to kick off 2014 by making myself useful to buyers and sellers. Most importantly, I typically consult with people well before they’re actually ready to take action. So don’t hesitate to get in touch. The holidays add an extra dimension to everyone’s busy lives, but this time is also a good month for real estate strategizing.

You can view my most recent sales here, and my Yelp reviews here. My Yelp page also features a video about my business, so check that out if you’d like to put a voice and face to this blogger.

I look forward to hearing from you soon!

Close With Cash Now, Take Out a Loan Later

About a quarter of sales happening in San Francisco are all cash, and I’ve represented my share of cash buyers this year. But it may be a sound financial strategy to take out a mortgage on the property after you close escrow, as my colleagues at Guarantee Mortgage recently pointed out. The process is called “delayed purchase financing.”

There are a few benefits when you do this. Most importantly, if you obtain a mortgage within 90 days of your escrow closing date, you’ll be eligible for the mortgage interest deduction. Additionally, you may want to regain some liquidity and stash the money in investments that have higher returns than what you pay in mortgage interest. And of course, you might also be able to use the funds to purchase another property.

In the end, the interest deductions may be worth thousands of dollars over the life of the loan. So you may want to consider getting preapproved for a loan, even if you do have the cash to make your purchase now.

SF Overbidders Club: 2-Unit Building Edition

San Francisco’s two-unit building market has been quite busy in 2013. No surprises there, such properties—particularly when they’re completely vacant—are excellent options for buyer partners or those who want to owner occupy one unit and rent out the other.

A total of 303 two-unit buildings have sold citywide, year-to-date. And 29% of them were sold in all-cash transactions. Of the 112 such buildings sold from July-November 12, 2013, 66% were sold for more than the list price, which mirrors the selling pattern for single-family homes and condos in San Francisco.

Let’s welcome some new two-unit building owners to the SF Overbidders Club. Remember, you can only gain entry into the club if you pay 25% or more over the list price:

157-159 Collingwood
The Castro

List Price: $1,600,000
Sale Price: $2,125,000
Overbid Amount: 33%
Closed Escrow: 11/6/13

These two spacious, vacant units in a prime Eureka Valley location are exactly what a lot of buyers are looking for. Each unit had an oversized living room, formal dining room, large eat-in kitchen, and original hardwood floors. And the kitchens provided the opportunity to do your own remodeling. There was also a large, unwarranted in-law unit on the main level, as well as a large yard. (But only one parking space.) In the end, the seller received ten offers, five of which were all cash. The winning offer hit it out of the ballpark with a contingency-free contract and cash.

426-28 17th Avenue
Central Richmond

List Price: $899,000
Sale Price: $1,325,000
Overbid Amount: 47%
Closed Escrow: 9/23/13

This is another vacant two-unit building, with one 2BR unit and one 1BR. The property needed work, with broken back stairs and general TLC needed throughout. Kitchens and baths were in their 1950s original condition, too. In walking distance of Gaspare’s Pizza and Aziza on Geary, as well as four blocks north of Golden Gate Park, 426-28 17th Avenue is in a very convenient part of the Richmond.

29-31 Delmar
The Haight

List Price: $1,499,000
Sale Price: $1,988,000
Overbid Amount: 33%
Closed Escrow: 11/7/13

Yet another vacant two-unit building hit the market with a splash, in a popular Haight location. Each flat had 2BRs, split bath, living rooms with bay windows, formal dining rooms, and 1915 period detailing. The large garage had four-car capacity, and there was a landscaped garden. 29-31 Delmar was also sold in an all-cash transaction.