What You Can Buy: 3BR Condos

It’s a good time to check out the three-bedroom condo inventory in some of the most popular neighborhoods in San Francisco. Condos with three bedrooms are common options for what are called “move-up” buyers, who have been living in smaller homes but who now need that third bedroom for a new baby, guests or an office. And why not spread out if you can afford it?

Here are my picks from current market offerings:

642 Steiner
Alamo Square

3BR/2BA, 1 pkg
HOA dues: $344/month
List Price: $1,049,000

642 Steiner is situated in one of my favorite neighborhoods in San Francisco—Alamo Square. The condo is a spacious Queen Anne Victorian that’s been updated and also boasts lovely period details such as wide hallways, high ceilings, original wainscoting and moldings. Clocking in at almost 1600 square feet, this is a great unit for families that need good bedroom separation. There’s also a nice deck off the kitchen. 642 Steiner is located right off Alamo Square Park itself, and is three blocks from Nopa and the hot Divisadero corridor. Tech shuttles also stop nearby, so plan your commute accordingly. 642 Steiner last sold for $1,030,000 in November 2009.

2327 Divisadero
Pacific Heights

3BR/2BA, 1 pkg
HOA dues: $390/month
List Price: $1,525,000

I’m totally digging 2327 Divisadero, a renovated top-floor condo that’s smack dab in the middle of Pacific Heights. Yes, Divisadero is busy, but it calms down significantly north of California Street, which is where 2327 Divisadero is located. The building exterior has extreme curb appeal, and the unit is rife with quintessential Edwardian period detail. Rooms are gracious and generously proportioned across 1856 square feet, and the gourmet kitchen opens to a small deck. The master bedroom has an ensuite marble-finished bathroom, and residents share the landscaped garden. 2327 Divisadero is very close to Alta Plaza Park, Fillmore Street, Divisadero shops and restaurants, and the Presidio. This unit last sold in March 2005 for $1,180,000. Oh, and offers are due today.

1580 Great Highway #4
Outer Sunset

3BR/3BA, 1 pkg
HOA dues: $328.20/month
List Price: $749,388

Ah, the Great Highway. I know it’s far west if you’re commuting downtown or to the Peninsula, but you can fall out your door and run on the beach or along the Great Highway path. This location is phenomenal for dog owners. Though 1580 Great Highway #4 isn’t the prettiest building to look at, the unit’s floor plan is quite large (1798 square feet) and includes three—three!—bathrooms. There are ocean views from the living/dining/kitchen area, and a deck with hills views, as well. A lot of bang for the buck, is what I say. The condo is one block from the N Judah Muni line, and three blocks south of Golden Gate Park.

SF Sales Up Across the Board, Supes Consider Retrofit Legislation

Sales of single-family homes, condos and multi-unit buildings are up almost 7% over the past 180 days. That means buyers are looking at a competitive Spring for long-awaited inventory, and sellers are expecting the multiple-offer activity to continue.

View recent sales, stats and the latest on the mandatory earthquake retrofit legislation, Mexican Museum development downtown, and an update on Hayes Valley’s upcoming condo development in this edition of the Zephyr MarketTracker.

Attend Our SF Condo Buyer Workshop!

If you’re considering purchasing a condo this year, please also consider attending our upcoming San Francisco Condo Buyer Workshop. We’ll be covering all the details you’ll want to know, from the scoop on the current market to what to look out for in HOAs and how condo building details can affect your loan options.

I’ve been selling condos for the past decade in all neighborhoods in San Francisco, and have pretty much seen it all when it comes to HOA pros and cons. I’ve also been covering the condo market in depth on my blog since 2008. And my colleague, Mark Wiener, has logged plenty of years in the mortgage business. He’ll be able to jumpstart your search with the fundamental, current information you’ll need to know about condo loans.

Our workshop will be happening on Thursday, April 11th from 6:30-8:00PM at 1400 Van Ness at Bush. Plenty of metered parking (which I think is free after 6:00) and we’ll also have some food & drink. What else could be better (besides happy hour, but you don’t get the condo info at a bar).

Please RSVP as soon as you can, so we can save you a seat!
Eileen Bermingham

Just Sold: House-like Eureka Valley Condo

My clients just purchased a beautiful 3BR/2BA, two-level condo at 4439 19th Street in the popular Eureka Valley neighborhood. Listed for $995,000, the condo features a large, remodeled kitchen, formal dining room, and fantastic period detailing throughout. Downstairs is a master suite that boasts a limestone shower stall, double sinks, two closets and built-in bookshelves. One-car parking, too! The property is in proximity to the shops, restaurants and public transportation in the Castro, and is also situated on a lovely, tree-lined street.

Off-Market Sales a Win-Win for Buyers & Sellers

I’ve been talking to a number of homeowners lately who are interested in selling their house, condo or TIC—but don’t know where they’ll go. The fact that we’re in a seller’s market is great for them, but it’s also daunting when these homeowners think about competing with other buyers and purchasing their next home in a timely manner. Many have children, hectic lives, and busy jobs, all of which make the thought of buying and selling property a logistical nightmare.

One option to consider is selling your home off market. I’ve had seller clients achieve this very successfully, and it benefited them in several ways. They could skip the time and money spent on staging their homes, as well as avoid throngs of people coming through their home (many of whom probably wouldn’t end up writing offers, anyway).

Sure, there’s the widely held belief that the more buyers who come through, request disclosures, and write offers, the higher price a seller will attain. This is not necessarily the case. We’re all familiar with the “list-low” strategy aimed at attracting every possible buyer to the property, but in the end, what sellers really want are the handful of offers from the most qualified buyers who are paying a desirable price.

In an off-market scenario, sellers can list their property a bit closer to the price they’re really looking for, and it’s also a great way to test the waters on that price without the clock ticking in the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) and on Redfin and the other sites buyers reference for days on market and other details. And savvy buyers are typically willing to get with the program and consider meeting a seller’s price when they realize that they won’t be competing with the general public for the property. (Many buyers in San Francisco would prefer to opt out of seeing staging and low list prices and cut to the chase of getting the home they want at a fair price that’s in line with the comps.)

Sellers can also breathe a bit and get more flexible timing in off-market sales, particularly if they don’t know where they’re going next. Obtaining what’s called a “rentback” allows a seller to remain at the property for a 30-60 time period while they find a new home and purchase that property. This can be done on or off market, but such a scenario could also include some time up front for the seller before the buyer even gets his or her loan process going.

If you’re a seller, consider your off-market options. I’m discussing this type of sale with multiple homeowners, and have a marketing strategy in place. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you’d like to chat in more detail about your real estate situation.

Market Street Alive with New Housing

If you’ve recently driven, walked, or taken public transportation along Market Street in the Castro/Duboce Triangle neighborhoods, you’ve seen the cranes and construction sites that belong to a number of new condo and rental buildings. Our economy has bounced back, and with that comes financing for developers both big and small.

Depending on how the developers of new condo projects structure their investments, some buildings may be sold as condos, while others will be leased. Yes, we’re in a seller’s market, but if a developer raised funds for a long-term rental investment, attempting to switch over to a sales strategy doesn’t mesh with what was originally presented to investors. And everyone has to answer to Wall Street at one point or another.

Regardless of whether a building has condos for sale or lease, trends among Market Street residential projects are similar to those in the Hayes Valley developments: one parking space for every two units, as well as landscaped courtyards and “zen” gardens. Developers are positioning these properties to take advantage of a transit-rich corridor, where residents will be commuting downtown or to the Peninsula. You can expect high-end finishes, and premium $900-$1,000+ per square foot pricing in the buildings that will be selling units.

Here’s a preview of the major residential buildings that are on the rise. I will update this post as I confirm lease vs sale offerings:

1998 Market / Buchanan
The Homes: 115 residential units, consisting of one-, two- and three-bedroom condos for sale
The Scoop: Dubbed “Linea,” this development is designed by Arquitectonica—which also designed The Infinity, as well as many other buildings nationally/internationally—and was formerly a gas station and auto repair shop. The building will consist of nine stories, two roof decks and a very cool “glass curtain” design. There will be approximately 90 parking spaces.
Buy If: You want to live in a cool-looking building that’s a block away from Whole Foods, Safeway and near all the bars, restaurants and shops in the Castro, as well as Hayes Valley. Oh, and being able to grab a street car outside your building is a nice perk, too.
Developer: Brian Spiers and Canyon Johnson Urban Funds (Magic Johnson’s company)
Sales Begin: Second quarter, 2013

2001 Market / Dolores (above)
The Homes: 82 units, mix of two and three bedrooms. Though many real estate Web sites have classified the property as one that will involve condo sales, I have confirmed with multiple industry sources that this will be a rental building.
The Scoop: This former Ford auto dealership will feature a Whole Foods on its ground level, and will feature resident gardens, gathering spaces, and rainwater catchment. The parking garage will include 43 spaces for the residences, and 64 spaces for the retail component.
Rent If: You want to be able to walk downstairs to Whole Foods. And oh, yeah, have every possible store, bar, and restaurant at your doorstep. Did I mention great public transportation and freeway access?
Developer: San Francisco- based Prado Group
Leasing Begins: Mid 2013

200 Dolores/15th Street (above)
The Homes: Ten condos, three additional flats in the adjacent single-family house on the same parcel
The Scoop: One and a half blocks from Market Street, this project has been in the works for a few years. It consists of a renovated and relocated single-family house that has been transformed into three 2BR condos, as well as the new building which will feature nine 2BR units and one 1BR across four floors. There will be parking for each unit (surprise!), with private roof decks for select units. Shared landscaped courtyard for both buildings.
Buy If: You’re looking for a smaller building in a hot location, just up the street from the Castro, Mission Dolores, and plenty of public transportation and freeway access.
Sales Begin: Spring 2013

2200 Market / 15th Street (above)
The Homes: 22 condos in a five-story building; leasing or sales availability not yet announced.
The Scoop: This project is being constructed on the site of the former Leticia’s Mexican restaurant, and is at the crossroads of the Castro, Duboce Triangle, and Hayes Valley. There will be two commercial spaces, as well as a dozen parking spots.
Rent or Buy If: You’re looking for a slightly smaller building that’s nonetheless in the thick of things.
Availability: TBD

2299 Market/Noe, 16th Street (above)
The Homes: Eight 1BRs; 8 2BRs
The Scoop: “Icon” will feature units with high-end finishes, and will have a common area with a zen garden. The 18 parking spaces will be stacked, meaning there are lifts in the garage that will allow cars to park above and below each other.
Buy If: You’d like to be in the middle of the Castro, with a bird’s eye view of everything going on in this vibrant intersection. What was recently once a part-time Christmas tree lot will be a welcome batch of residences.
Sales Begin: April 2013. Sale preapproval is happening now for serious buyers who want to vault themselves to the top of the VIP list. Give me a shout and I will work with you to put your preapproval in place.

Please contact me if you’d like info on any of the developments which will have units for sale. I have extensive experience representing buyers of new construction condos, and can assist you with all purchasing details. Of course, I can only be of help if you visit the project with me, so contact me and I’ll get things going.

Heights Smackdown: 3BR House vs Condo

Pacific Heights and Corona Heights are two very different neighborhoods. But today we take a look at what you can get for your money in both places in the $1,350,000-$1.4M range:

1907 Lyon / Sacramento
Pacific Heights
3BR/1BA, leased parking

Boasting nice curb appeal and period detail, 1907 Lyon is situated on the border of Pacific/Presidio Heights and is within walking distance of Laurel Village, as well as the shops and restaurants along Sacramento Street (not to mention the Presidio itself). The house is more of a condo alternative, given that it’s smaller in scale than the larger homes you typically see in the area. No yard, but you have all three bedrooms on the upper level, and a generous living space downstairs. The kitchen and bathroom are nicely remodeled. (Yes, there’s only one bathroom, but you can expect a compromise when you’re looking in this price range for a house in Pacific or Presidio Heights.) There’s no garage, but the sellers have leased parking at a garage half a block away, across from the library and are including one year’s worth of parking in the sale. There are also plans available for adding that second bathroom on the main level. 1907 Lyon was last sold in 2009 for $1,230,000.

84 Mars
Corona Heights
3BR/2BA, 1 pkg

At the other end of town is the condo at 84 Mars in Corona Heights. This multi-story property houses two condos, and 84 Mars covers the top two levels of the building. And the good news is that there’s an elevator. The living room features soaring ceilings, a gas fireplace, private balcony and views of the City and Bay. The master bedroom upstairs has a bathroom with limestone finishes, a steam shower and Jacuzzi tub, and overlooks the garden. The third bedroom is a loft-style space and overlooks the living room. Location is convenient to the Castro and Cole Valley, though you can expect a bit of a walk to each. 84 Mars was last sold in 2007 for $1.2M.

When’s The Best Time To Sell?

I recently blogged about the best day of the week on which to list your home. But the question I’ve been asked at least twice a week by potential sellers over the past couple months is: When is the best time to sell?

Ask any Realtor out there now in San Francisco, and he or she will respond, “Now!” Yes, it’s true that our property inventory continues to be low in relation to the number of qualified buyers looking for homes. But I think there are a few key points worth making for all the potential sellers out there.

San Francisco did have its down market a couple years ago, but values have come back, and there seem to be anywhere from four to 30 buyers for every property that comes on the market. (Single-family homes are garnering the crazy, 20-offer activity, and condos/TICs receiving four- to ten offers. Of course, activity will depend on your neighborhood and level of amenities your home offers.)

Buyers started getting off the fence last year, realizing that we’d hit bottom and that they could also now get loans again. And as San Francisco attracts many well-paid workers, buyers don’t seem to have a problem coming up with solid loans or cash for their purchases. Rents are at historical highs in the city, and it’s finally making sense for renters to buy property vs pay that $4,000/month for a two-bedroom apartment in Noe Valley.

Based on these factors, you could certainly make a case for “now” being the best time to sell. But the more I think about it, I’m going to say that listing your home in May, June, July, as well as September and October will be the best times to sell in 2013.

I’ve been selling real estate in San Francisco for more than ten years, and it never fails that the market heats up in the Spring and Fall. This year should be no exception. The weather is nicer across all neighborhoods, buyers are out and about, there are no major holidays and people are generally in town to make purchases. In terms of determining an accurate value for your property, the Spring and Fall are nice because we have a few months’ worth of data to reference in the current year.

In addition to the best time of year to sell, it’s equally important to determine the best time to sell for you. And you’ll need a solid game plan. Here are the main factors you’ll need to sort out:
– Where will I go if I sell?
– Can I buy my next home first, and sell after?
– How long it will take to sell my property?
– How much is my property worth, and how much will I need for my next purchase?
– What will I have to do to get my property ready for sell?
– What are the main selling costs?

As it takes time to develop your game plan, I recommend getting started at least a couple months prior to your targeted selling timeframe. One of the primary parts of my job is to consult with potential sellers about the aforementioned factors. If you’re aiming for Spring or even Fall, please contact me at 415.823.4656 or ebermingham@zephyrsf.com. I’d be happy to provide information and recommendations without pressuring you to “sell now!”

New Condo Projects Rise in Hayes Valley

New condo construction in San Francisco is in full force these days, and Hayes Valley is one of the epicenters of new development. I thought I’d take a look at four of the most heavily anticipated projects, and will be following their progress over the next several months.

One new developer is behind three of these projects: DM Development, which formed in 2010 and has been busy snapping up parcels of land in the neighborhood.

Trends in Hayes Valley new construction appear to be interior courtyards, which will offer a nice urban refuge and sense of community. You can also expect a ratio of one parking space for every two condos, which means these developers are counting on transit-reliant buyers.

Pricing will likely be in the $900-$1,000 per square foot range.

If you’re interested in getting in before the masses, please contact me and I can make it happen. I’ve represented many clients in new construction sales, and am responsible for looking out for your best interests. But know that I can’t lend you my expertise and experience unless I accompany you to the sales office on your first trip.

300 Ivy
Southwest corner of Gough & Grove
Alternate address: 401 Grove
The Homes: 63 homes total. Among them are one studio; 23 1BRS; 34 2BRs; 5 townhomes.
The Scoop: The crew is finishing up the framing of the five townhomes fronting Ivy Street, and has started work on the roofs. In the main building, all the concrete and framing work is done on the third floor. Amenities include lush, landscaped courtyard, along with a living roof garden with outdoor grill, seating/dining areas, and sun deck. Lock in one of the 32 parking spaces early if you need one. There will also be room to accommodate 68 bikes.
Buy If: You want to be in the heart of the neighborhood, and are okay living alongside Gough’s three lanes of traffic. There’s also opportunity here to purchase a unit that faces either Ivy or Grove, which will be quieter and feel more residential. Also buy here if you’re looking for a location that offers proximity to Muni.
Developer: Pocket Development
Sales Begin: April 2013

400 Grove (above)
Grove and Gough, adjacent to Performing Arts parking garage
The Homes: Mixed-use building, with 34 residences.
The Scoop: This one hasn’t broken ground yet, and is across the street from 300 Ivy. The building will reportedly be called WaveHouse, due to Fougeron Architects’ design that features a wave-like exterior facade intended to be a modern reinterpretation of the classic San Francisco bay window. Landscaped interior courtyard.
Buy If: You want a centrally located home with a bit of style on the outside, and a courtyard within that will provide a bit of an urban refuge.
Developer: DM Development
Sales Begin: January 2014

8Octavia (above)
The Homes: 13 1BRs; 33 2BRs. 25 parking spaces, and a 925-square foot average size
The Scoop: Stanley Saitowitz-designed residences arranged around interior courtyard. This slice of land right at the intersection of Market and Octavia hasn’t become a construction site just yet.
Buy If: You’d appreciate living along the Market corridor, and having really easy freeway access. You’re only a few blocks away from the Hayes Valley retail area, and public transportation is literally at your doorstep.
Developer: DM Development
Sales Begin: Spring 2014

Hayes450 (no photo)
Located on Hayes between Octavia and Gough
The Homes: 50 one- and two bedroom condos
The Scoop: Smack dab along the Hayes Street retail strip, Hayes 450 has a prime location in the neighborhood.
Buy If: You’re looking for a home with everything outside your door, and which has less lanes of traffic.
Developer: DM Development
Sales Begin: January 2014

SF’s Seismic Retrofit Legislation on the Move

The Mandatory Seismic Retrofit Program legislation is due for its first hearing on Monday, March 18th before the Board of Supervisors Land Use and Economic Development Committee. Based on conversations I’ve had with various clients, friends, and colleagues, it seems like many people are a bit unclear about the details.

I’ve reviewed the legislation and also have spoken to Patrick Otellini, the Director for Earthquake Safety in the Mayor’s Office, so I thought I would share the information with you as it currently stands.

The proposed legislation, authored by Mayor Lee and six Board of Supervisors, adds a new chapter to the San Francisco Building Code that would require mandatory seismic retrofitting of existing wood-frame buildings which were built before January 1, 1978, have three or more stories—the first of which is a “soft” story—and contain five or more dwelling units.

Soft-story buildings are those that have a first, or ground-floor, level with either garage space or commercial businesses/storefronts. Soft-story buildings were responsible for 7,700 of the 16,000 housing units rendered uninhabitable by the Loma Prieta earthquake. And it’s estimated that soft-story residential buildings will be responsible for 66 percent of the uninhabitable housing following a seismic event on the Hayward fault.

Otellini estimates that there are approximately 2,800 buildings that would require retrofitting under the legislation. These buildings are most notably located in the Mission, Western Addition, Richmond, North Beach and Marina neighborhoods, according to the San Francisco Community Action Plan for Seismic Safety (CAPSS). The CAPSS study’s recommendations is the basis for the legislation.

The legislation has “compliance tiers” that guide how quickly certain properties need to complete seismic upgrade work. For example, Tier 1 properties are those that have senior centers or other care facilities on their ground floors. Tier 2 will include buildings containing 15 or more dwelling units, and after that will come buildings that have some sort of commercial/retail occupancy on their first story, as well as buildings that are in mapped liquefaction or landslide zones. The latter is the most complicated property type, as the engineering involved for dealing with liquefaction/landslide zones is more complex.

How does the city expect building owners to pay for this mandatory work? That’s not entirely clear as of yet. The legislation states that the city intends to consider the creation of an optional special tax financing program, which would be a combination of bonds issued by the city and special taxes paid by the building owner.

Another option in the works, according to Patrick Otellini, is for banks to provide financing to the building owners. Otellini was meeting with a group of lender representatives this week to gauge interest for this scenario. He mentioned the possibility of an owner taking out a loan for, say $100,000 (an average cost for this seismic work).

Assuming the Land Use Committee approves the legislation on Monday, March 18th, the item will then be heard in front of the full Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, March 26th, with Tuesday April 2nd being the final reading before the Board. Mayor Lee then has ten days to sign the legislation if the Board passes it, and it would then take effect 30 days after Mayor Lee signs it.

Of course, the legislation could go through many revisions between now and then, particularly after public opinion is heard.

Defining “Luxury” Real Estate in San Francisco

The Wall Street Journal recently ran a piece that discussed the price points that defined “luxury” in various cities. New York, Paris, London, Hong Kong and Sydney all rank among the top ten cities for luxury living, and Hong Kong is the priciest.

The real estate barometer was a luxury, two-bedroom apartment with about 1,000 square feet. The price in New York for this real estate was $2,135,000, while London clocked in at $4.1M, and Hong Kong’s estimate was $4.81M. The article didn’t cite San Francisco, so I thought I would explore what defines luxury in our city.

It’s widely believed among San Francisco real estate agents that $2M is the price point that represents luxury properties in San Francisco. However, I think that’s more the case for single-family homes. A total of 37 2BR condos sold for $1M+ from December 2012 – March 5, 2013, ranging in price from $1,025,000-$3,850,000. The average sale price in this $1M+ category was $1,423,757, and the average square footage on these 2BR units was 1452.

So I’d say that you definitely get more for your money in San Francisco these days, particularly where condos are concerned.

Just Sold: Charming Mission Home

My clients just closed on a cool 2BR/1BA house in the hot Mission neighborhood on Friday. The home has lovely 1920s details and gets great natural light. It also has a very functional floor plan.

Situated within walking distance of a multitude of restaurants, bars, and cafes 1015 Florida also has good access to public transportation and freeways. List price: $665,000.

1BR Prices Soar in SoMa

It’s not news that the South of Market, South Beach and Mission Bay markets have improved dramatically over the past year. The fury with which buyers are snapping up 1BR condos is whipping through these neighborhoods. This is somewhat atypical, in that 1BR units tend to have a narrower buyer pool. But for first-time home buyers looking for proximity to downtown and hip neighborhoods, 1BR condos are a great bet.

Even buildings hard hit by foreclosure and short sale activity in recent years are on the upswing. Take The Palms, for example, at 555 4th Street. You couldn’t give away a unit there at one time, and prices for units plummeted. But welcome to 2013: You’ll be competing with 15 other buyers for that 1BR listed in the high $500,000s. And you can expect to see a few cash buyers in the mix, too.

One buyer recently made a nice play for a brick and timber warehouse conversion unit at 310 Townsend (above). Technically located in SoMa, the building is on the border of Mission Bay and South Beach. So it’s central, has great style, and unit #202 was a 945-square foot 1BR/1BA listed for $799,000. The buyer came in with all cash and paid the transfer tax (approx $5562), and the unit was sold this week for $818,000.

No, this wasn’t way over the asking price. But $800,000+ in cash for a SoMa condo (with transfer tax thrown in) is getting up there where values are concerned. The average price for a 1BR unit in these neighborhoods in 2013 thus far is about $674,022; five 1BRs in buildings such as Madrone, 340 Ritch, 75 Folsom, and 650 Delancey sold in the $839,000-$998,000 range.

The bottom line? If you’re looking for a 1BR condo in a premium building in these neighborhoods, expect to pay in this range—whether you have cash or not.