Here’s My Favorite SF Liquefaction Map

This being earthquake country, it’s important to know what sort of ground lies beneath the home you own or are planning to purchase. In San Francisco, there are liquefaction zones, which are essentially landfill and are not recognized to be as stable. I’ll let Wikipedia explain it in more detail here.

Yes, people are buying and selling property all the time who live in what are deemed liquefaction zones. Some of the most popular neighborhoods, in fact, are those which are very much a part of these zones. Think the Marina, North Beach, South Beach, Mission Bay, South of Market, and the Mission. But that factor isn’t stopping developers, who are building new condo developments at a frenzied pace in the last four of those neighborhoods.

That’s because the more modern the building, the better the engineering. Properties built more recently are designed to withstand large earthquakes, particularly those properties situated in liquefaction zones. Of course, if the big one hits, it won’t be just homes in liquefaction zones that are affected.

So be sure you have some idea as to the quality of your foundation and your home’s overall structure. And check out the liquefaction map when you need it for a reference point. View and download it here.

Don’t Leave Money on the Table By Selling Off Market

I’ve written favorably about off-market sales in the past (most recently, here). And I still believe such sales can be beneficial for all the reasons I mentioned in that blog post from a year ago. But the market has changed a lot since then, and I firmly believe that limiting exposure to one’s home in the 2014 market creates a high likelihood that you’ll leave money on the table.

A recap: An “off-market” sale is one that occurs without an agent having listed the property in the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) database. All agents who pay a membership fee to the San Francisco Realtor Association have access to the MLS. By restricting access to your home to agents in various smaller networks or within one agent’s company, you’ll never know what price you can truly attain.

That’s because of the phenomenon that’s taken hold of the current market. In the past, you could pretty much look at comparable sales, and price your home accordingly. And because of consistently low inventory, there would likely be a buyer ready to make an offer. But buyers in the 2014 market—similar to those who purchased property in the last half of 2013—are proving to be willing to offer prices above the comp level.

For example, that Noe Valley 3BR house listed for $1.3M? The listing agent and sellers most likely thought that listing at $1.3M would land them in the $1.5M range. However, even they didn’t anticipate receiving 15 offers and accepting an offer from all-cash buyer who offered $1.8M. Had those sellers decided to go off market, they could’ve been out a few hundred thousand dollars (or more). There are plenty of examples of this sort of dramatic outcome happening right now.

So before your listing agent suggests bypassing the MLS in favor of marketing to a specific group of agents, keep in mind that you’ll never know how much you could’ve attained by fully marketing your home.

Excelsior in the Spotlight, SF Gets Dynamic

The latest Zephyr MarketTracker shines the spotlight on the Excelsior neighborhood. Recently profiled in The Chronicle for its residents’ desire to build up the retail area along Mission, the Excelsior continues to attract first-time home buyers.

We also take a look at which American cities are considered to be the most dynamic based on a variety of factors. Guess which city tops the list?!

Plus recent sales and stats. It’s all here in the Zephyr MarketTracker!

Sell Now If Your Home Calls for Compromise

We’re almost two months into 2014, and homes are selling like hotcakes. Limited inventory and high demand are driving the market, and as I tour homes in all neighborhoods of the city throughout the week, I wonder: Why aren’t more people selling?

Because now is absolutely the time to put your home on the market if you have any inclination to do so. Maybe you have that job relocation possibility in Denver? Or you’ve owned your house in the Sunset for the last 25 years and would rather be living in wine country? There are plenty of reasons you might be considering a big move, and I’m here to tell you that you should take advantage of the market while it’s still in your favor.

The best part is that if your property requires any type of compromise, buyers are much more willing to make one (or three) in the current market. For example, the cottage above in Corona Heights was awful cute. But it was located on a busy street, had no garage, no real expansion potential and was very small with one bedroom that was more like an alcove:
Though the home took three months to sell, the point is that it sold. For only a bit less than its $699,000 list price.

What are some other compromises that buyers in the current market may overlook? Here are some of the most common ones:
- No parking, or tandem parking with one or more cars
- House with no yard or outdoor space—or one that backs up to a restaurant or school yard
- Extensive foundation or structural work needed
- Original-condition and barely livable kitchen or bath
- No closet space
- Location that’s not near retail or public transportation
- Situated on a high-traffic street, or transportation line
- Low level of natural light
- Condo with particularly limiting HOA restrictions (pets, rentals)
- Awkward floor plan
- Low curb appeal that can’t be easily helped (I’m thinking faux stone, or starters)
- Ridiculous amount of stairs at the entrance
- Older building with no heat
- Multi-unit building with low rents and deferred maintenance.

I could go on. But you get the point. Give me a shout ( if you’re ready to talk about your property’s value. I can craft a custom marketing plan that will win over home buyers and convince them that they can work with whatever objections they might have.

Thanks for Another 5-Star Yelp Review!

My client just purchased a fantastic condo in the Haight, and also happened to write a very nice Yelp review for me. I wanted to share her review, because it will give you a sense for what I do in addition to keeping this blog going year after year (click on the review to make it larger):

If you’re a buyer in need of an agent who will look out for your interests and help you craft a strategy for a successful house hunt, please give me a shout! I’m taking on new clients at the moment and would be happy to chat with you.

And if you’d like to check out my other 21 Yelp reviews and video about my business, just click here.

Think Outside the Neighborhood Box for Under $1M

The single-family home market in San Francisco is a very competitive one, and the average price for a house is above $1M at this point in time. So it takes some serious strategizing, compromising and an open mind when it comes to finding a house for under a million dollars.

Most buyers in this price range realize quickly that if they want a house, they’ll need to go beyond buyer-saturated neighborhoods like Bernal Heights, Glen Park or West Portal. Because for every ten people who’d like to live in Bernal, there are maybe five that’ll consider less obvious and familiar areas.

That’s why I decided to highlight three neighborhoods that I believe are up-and-coming, meaning that someday, I may sit down with new buyers and hear them say that one of these areas is actually their target ‘hood.

Make no mistake: Homes in these neighborhoods are fetching multiple offers and over-asking prices. But if you approach your purchase the right way, your offer could be the one that prevails. So here, for your consideration, are my picks:

1. Ingleside
Average house price: $700,000
The Scoop: Has a solid retail strip with cafes, restaurants, gym, a Whole Foods, rail line and freeway access, and hasn’t been completely overrun by buyers just yet. Yes, the weather is foggy. But if you can deal with that, you will have a convenient location that’s a quick drive to Stonestown Galleria. There’s also a lot of student life with nearby City College. Developers are taking notice, too; there are at least two residential condo developments in the works on Ocean Avenue.
Cool House on the Market: 145 Lakeview
This cute 2BR/2BA corner home listed for $598,000 was recently remodeled and has a new furnace, tankless water heater, washer/dryer hookups, and double-paned windows. Though the floor plan is a little funky (e.g., the second bedroom is actually part of newly permitted space that could also function as a family room or gym), the house is located two blocks from the M muni line, four blocks from the Balboa BART station and 280. List price is $598,000.

2. Midtown Terrace
Average house price: $861,000
The Scoop: Literally located in the middle of the city, Midtown Terrace was developed on the western slope of Twin Peaks. You’ll find a lot of detached houses here, and many homes have views. The neighborhood is completely residential and doesn’t have its own retail area. But you can walk to the Mollie Stone’s nearby on Portola, and a bit further east is West Portal. Buses run along Portola, as well.
Cool House Recently on the Market: 45 Dellbrook
45 Dellbrook is a gracious 3BR/2BA home that could use updating but is in overall good condition, and was listed for $799,000. All three bedrooms are on the main level, and there is a family room downstairs (with a bar!). The house went into contract within two weeks.

3. Crocker Amazon
Average house price: $614,725
The Scoop: Just south of Excelsior lies Crocker Amazon, another neighborhood populated with single-family homes. Nearby Mission Street provides multiple transportation lines, and the Balboa BART station is not very far. Good for commuting to downtown or the Peninsula. Two of my clients purchased a home in the area in late 2013, and were able to get past 18 other buyers for their home. They’re in the process of remodeling and are excited about their new ‘hood.
Cool House on the Market: 75 South Hill Blvd
The 2BR/1BA home at 75 South Hill is a great project house, as the kitchen needs work and there is expansion potential in the basement, which has high ceilings and parking for at least one car. Only blocks from City College and multiple elementary schools. List price is $599,000.

All About Location for TIC Sales

Tenancy-in-common (TIC) interests have traditionally been popular with buyers who value a more central location in a desirable neighborhood. Because when it comes to affordability, TICs still will get you more space in a better location than a condo will.

And the neighborhoods in which TICs have sold recently read like a who’s who of hot ‘hoods. Here’s where buyers purchased their TICs from October 2013-February 12, 2014:
Noe/Eureka/Cole Valleys
Lower Pac Heights
Nob/Russian Hills
Hayes Valley
Presidio Heights.

The average cost of a TIC in that time period was $1,035,252. But that high price is largely due to multiple sales in Nob Hill’s newly renovated Park Lane at 1100 Sacramento. Seven units sold in that building, ranging in price from $1,595,000-$7M. With the exception of that unit sold for $1,595,000, the six other Park Lane buyers paid cash for their units.

But if you take the Park Lane units out of the mix, the average price citywide for a TIC was $839,633 vs $1,011,212 for a condo.

Buyers appear to be comfortable owning TICs and assuming the risks that come with them. Group loans are largely a thing of the past. And for TIC groups that have formed over the past few years, it was pretty obvious that they would be owning a TIC for a long time to come due to the backlog in the city’s lottery system.

Last year’s condo conversion legislation that allowed longtime TIC owners to bypass the lottery addressed some of that backlog. But it also banned other condo conversions beyond those properties for the next ten years.

Based on the most recent sales data, however, it doesn’t appear that the legislation is cutting down on the marketability of TICs—particularly in popular neighborhoods. If you’re a TIC owner who’s ready to move on and your building is in a hot neighborhood, give me a call and I can help you take advantage of the current market.

Buy the Right Insurance for Short-Term Rentals

The biggest mistake homeowners make when using their property as a short-term rental on sites like Airbnb is having insufficient insurance.

Though Airbnb guarantees up to $1M for property damage, there’s no coverage for an extremely important item—personal liability. If a guest is injured on your property, you’re on your own.

What you need to have in place is a vacation rental policy, which includes coverage called “personal injury,” says Roger Larson of Larson Insurance Brokers/TWFG Insurance Services. This protects you if a short-term tenant is injured during his or her stay. Larson says that many property owners assume they’ll be covered for personal liability on their existing policy. But liability on a primary home policy doesn’t cover any type of rental exposure.

Larson also clarifies that if you’re renting your condo, there’s no additional risk to the homeowners association. HOAs have commercial policies that cover the common areas.

Of course, the larger issue with short-term rentals is that properties in multi-unit buildings are, uh, illegal. And most HOAs don’t allow short-term rentals in their Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&Rs).

But if you’re listing your home on Airbnb anyway, be certain you have the right type of insurance.

Full House for Our Home Buyer Workshop

Much-needed rain didn’t keep away the very nice folks—including kids and dogs!—-who attended our Home Buyer Workshop this past Saturday. We were pleased to meet many prospective San Francisco home buyers interested in how to approach the possibility of purchasing a home.

My co-host, Mike Koran of Primary Residential Mortgage, and I presented segments on loan preapproval, as well as what’s going on in the market, how you can compete in multiple-offer situations and what to expect once your offer is accepted:


Mike’s office proved to be a great spot for the event, with plenty of parking outside on 18th Street in Potrero Hill. We also provided coffee, juice and pastries to keep the energy up.

We’re planning Spring and Fall workshops, so if you’re interested in attending just drop me a line and I’ll keep you in the loop once we set the next dates.

And thanks to the many attendees who are also readers of this blog. It was great meeting you in person!

Just Sold: Gorgeous Haight Condo

My client just purchased 117A Frederick, a beautiful one-bedroom condo in a classic and very special Queen Anne Victorian in the Haight.

The top-floor unit features fabulous period details, a nicely remodeled kitchen and bath, skylights, private deck and an amazing bedroom with fireplace in the turret. The building itself is set back from the street, surrounded by landscaped gardens. There’s also a private garage and storage.

List price: $795,000; the seller received a total of seven offers.

What You Could’ve Bought: For Under List Price

It’s unusual in the current San Francisco market for buyers to be able to purchase a home for less than the list price. Most of the time, a property has to be on the market for at least a couple months, and even then, there’s no guarantee the seller will be willing to take less. But here are three homes that changed hands for substantially less than asking:

1966-68 Greenwich
Cow Hollow

List Price: $3,900,000
Sale Price: $2,650,000
Days on Market (DOM): 99
1966-68 Greenwich was billed as a family compound, and consisted of two condos. There was a 3BR/2BA home with two-car parking at the front of the lot, and a rear 2BR/1.5BA cottage with one-car parking (which the seller was renting on a short-term basis for an income of $100,000/yr). Both buildings were extensively remodeled, and the cottage had its own private entrance. The seller also included plans for enlarging the rear unit by 2500 square feet. Great location near Union Street shops and restaurants, as well as 101.

21 Laidley
Glen Park

List Price: $1,950,000
Sale Price: $1,410,000
Days on Market (DOM): 57
This 2BR/3BA, deco-style single-family home on a quirky street in Glen Park had nicely landscaped gardens, a view deck, and an artist studio. It was all about the large lot, and there was no garage. The new owners are now just up the hill from the 30th Street and Church Street corridors, which feature restaurants such as La Ciccia, as well as the J Muni line to downtown.

345 Richland
Bernal Heights

List Price: $849,999
Sale Price: $750,000
Days on Market (DOM): 55
Though the final selling price of the 3BR/1BA single-family house at 345 Richland didn’t sell for dramatically less than asking, it kind of is dramatic when you consider that buyers have been paying an average of 12% over asking since November 2013 in Bernal Heights (with six homes selling for 25%+ over the list price). 345 Richland wasn’t in a prime Bernal location, as it’s fairly far south of Cortland. And the house is a fixer. But kudos to the buyers for bucking the throw-money-at-Bernal-houses trend.

How Do You Compete in the SF Real Estate Market?!

You’ve been hearing all the horror stories from your friends who have been toiling away in the San Francisco real estate market encountering crazy multiple-offer situations, being one-upped by cash offers or just generally having their offers rejected.

Yet you still want to jump in and buy a property in the city. But what do you need to do to ensure success?

You’re in luck, because I’ll be hosting the Home Buyer Workshop with my colleague, Mike Koran of Primary Residential Mortgage, this Saturday, February 8th. We’ll be talking about what you can expect in the market, how to get your financing going, and ultimately, how to compete.

We’ll also throw in a little bonus chat about what the actual purchase transaction timeline looks like, so you have a heads up on what needs to be in place—and when.

So join us if you’re a would-be home buyer who’s getting serious about hitting your real estate goal in 2014:
Home Buyer Workshop
Saturday, February 8th
1746 18th Street, between Arkansas & Carolina in Potrero Hill

RSVP to Eileen at, or call/text me at 415-823-4656.

Looking forward to hearing from you!