SoMa Brady Bunch Gets Better Prices

Not ones to let the grass grow under their feet, the sellers of the six units at 83-85 Brady just reduced the prices on five of the six condos.

The units came on the market around August 6-7 with two studios; two 1BR+/1BAs, one 1BR+/2BA, and one 2BR+/2.5BA. Prices ranged from $285,000 for a studio to $825,000 for one of the two bedrooms.

But buyers haven’t bitten, and prices have just been slightly reduced. Here’s the lineup:
Studios
#2: Was $375,000, now $349,000
#4: Was $285,000, now $275,000

1BR+
#1: Was $575,000, now $549,000
#6: Remains at $749,000
#3: Was $585,000, now $549,000

2BR
#5: Was $825,000, now $799,000.

If you have any interest in these condos, you may be able to get a pretty decent deal. (And I’m talking about further negotiation on price. If you ask me, that #6 should’ve had a reduction, too.)

Inventory Floodgates Open as Fall Real Estate Season Kicks In

True to form, the San Francisco real estate inventory spiked after Labor Day weekend. A total of 157 single-family homes, 167 condos and 45 TICs hit the market, in a variety of price ranges.

Of course, many “new” offerings weren’t really new—just brought back on at revised prices, with new listing agents, or revised staging.

Given that the most popular price range in the city has been anywhere from $400,000-$800,000 this year, the new inventory in the higher price ranges isn’t helping matters for existing high-end home sellers. Of those 157 single-family homes newly listed, 38 are priced at $1.5M or more. And of those 167 condos, twelve are in that range. Prior to Labor Day, there were 132 houses and 61 condos listed at $1.5M or more, so those properties may have to take a back seat for a little while as buyers turn their attention to the latest and greatest offerings.

But those buyers who have been looking for a little while should revisit homes that were on before Labor Day. Those sellers may be most willing to negotiate, especially as the end of the year looms.

Fireplace Mania Rocks NoPa Tudor Home

Featuring four fireplaces and more “fire brick” than you can shake a stick at, the 3BR/3.5BA single-family home at 2076 Grove is perfect for those buyers interested in doing their share to wear down the ozone layer.

The entry fireplace lets you know right away that Christmas in this household may be over the top when it comes to hanging stockings:

And let’s not foget about the living room fireplace:

Or the dining room one:

In short, you won’t need to tune your television to the yule log on Christmas Eve. The house is around 3600 square feet, and also has separate guest quarters and expansive formal gardens. List price: $1,925,000. (Open Sat 9/18 and Sun 9/19 from 2:00-4:00 for those of you who like to plan ahead.)

What You Can Buy for $2M on Elizabeth St in Noe Valley

Every once in a while, a particular street will see a spate of For Sale signs. Today we look at four recently listed luxury properties on Elizabeth, a desirable street in the heart of Noe Valley.

First up are two single-family houses. 760 Elizabeth is a 3BR/2.5BA Edwardian with three parking spaces listed at $2,295,000. The property was converted in 2002 from a two-unit to a single-family dwelling.

A few doors down is the ultra modern 729 Elizabeth, a 4BR/3.5BA, 2,750-square foot house with an open floor plan, beautiful finishes, and lots of natural light:

729 Elizabeth is listed at $2,495,000. Recently signed-off work on this home includes vertical and horizontal rear additions involving new bedrooms and baths.

And finally, we have two newly renovated condos at 489 and 485 Elizabeth. 489 Elizabeth has 4BR/3.5BA and 3,113 square feet and is listed at $2,095,000:


The unit also has a top-floor office mezzanine space, five outdoor spaces, and ample natural light.

Lower-unit 485 Elizabeth has 3BR/2.5BAs, and 2,384 square feet. It also has a deeded yard:

List price for the lower unit $1,775,000. Both condos have elevator access, radiant heat and two-car parking.

So readers, if you had around $2M to spend, which property would you buy?

Masonic Vic Gets New Look, New Agent, Same Price

It’s always disappointing when one of my reputable, experienced and hard-working colleagues brings on a potentially overpriced listing and gives it his or her best shot for half a year—only to have the listing yanked and given to another agent.

Such is the case at 1322 Masonic, which hit the market earlier this year. The 4BR/2.5BA, 3400-square foot house was initially priced at $2,395,000 and then was reduced by $100,000 in June before the sellers withdrew the listing in July.

The house is now back on the market, with—you guessed it—a new agent, similiar price of $2,295,000, and new staging. I thought the floor plan was a little funky in terms of flow when I toured the home (probably due to the fact that the property was previously a five-unit building). However, I’m sure there’s a buyer out there for this home; it’s just a matter of timing. But sellers, before you spin your wheels changing staging, agents, and anything else you can think of, consider this basic tenet: A realistic price will do wonders for helping to snag a buyer, and close your sale.

How's the Market In: Bernal Heights

I have many clients who live in Bernal, and am often asked how the market is doing in the neighborhood. The Bernal real estate market is usually pretty healthy; buyers like the favorable weather, as well as the close proximity to the Cortland retail strip and freeways. First-time home buyers typically target Bernal because the homes are generally smaller and thus more affordable in comparison to other nearby areas like Noe Valley.

Bernal Heights is divided into a few key areas—the north slope, which is arguably the most desirable; west slope, which is closer to Mission but is also very desirable; the east slope, which is a little more remote and can come a little too close to Bayshore and Hwy 101; and the south slope, which features the appealing Holly Park area (but can get a bit less desirable the closer you get to Hwy 280). Architecture runs the gamut, and includes Victorians, Edwardians, and boxy 1940s offerings.

Many homes change hands in a given year in Bernal, so inventory is not usually a problem. To date, 96 single-family homes have sold at an average price of $753,805, with a 1,370 average square footage. Thirteen of those homes sold for more than a $1M, but this price range is usually in the minority. Your dollars at the higher end in Bernal will get you more house than in nearby Glen Park or Noe Valley.

There are currently more than 40 single-family homes and eight condos on the market in Bernal. Though condo sales aren’t as common in Bernal, they do happen. Condos usually don’t rise above the $700,000 price point; however, Bernal isn’t where most buyers go to purchase condos. (More likely neighborhoods for condos would be the Mission or Noe.) Notable homes currently available include 91 Winfield, a 2BR/1BA with a bonus room, listed at $629,000, as well as a very nice Edwardian listed at $949,500 at 212 Banks that has 3BR/3BA and 2,385 square feet.

I think Bernal is the type of neighborhood that will continue to perform pretty well throughout this economic downturn; its average sales prices are smack dab in the middle of the range where most homes are selling in San Francisco. Add to that the fact that you can own a house for what a condo would cost you in more pricey neighborhoods, and it’s no surprise that many homes on the west/north slopes sell with multiple offers.

Strong Summer for San Francisco House, Condo Markets

The economy is chugging along, and the downward trend continues to affect the national housing market. San Francisco has its share of foreclosures, short sales, and limited ability for buyers to get loans in what’s considered a very expensive geographical area. Despite these issues, however, the summer real estate market was surprisingly resilient.

A total of 616 single-family homes sold in San Francisco from June-August 2010, for an average of $1,044,790. Of those 616 homes, 93 were sold for more than $1.5M—including one eight-bedroom home on Pacific that sold in June for $11.5M in an all-cash transaction after spending 278 days on the market. These stats are an improvement over last summer; the average then was $997,132. However, it’s interesting that more homes managed to sell in 2009’s decidedly worse market.

The condo market saw a jump in volume this summer; 509 units sold from June-August 2010, in comparison to only 447 last year. Average prices were very similar ($748,716 in 2010, and $755,128 in 2009). Of the 509 condos reported sold this past summer, 21 units sold for more than $1.5M, and six sold for more than $2M. Buyers are clearly continuing to invest in luxury condo properties, most specifically in Noe Valley; Pacific Heights; Russian Hill; and in buildings such as the St. Regis and Four Seasons. (These numbers don’t include data from new development sales offices such as One Rincon, The Infinity, One Hawthorne and more.)

Prices over the past three months across San Francisco zip codes remained fairly stable for condos, but dropped off for single-family homes. Heading into the Fall, there are 637 single-family homes currently on the market, as well as 663 condos. That’s a lot of inventory that will be topped off by all the new properties I’m expecting to hit the market in mid September. Those are also the properties that may represent the best opportunities for negotiation; I find that the homes that fall off the radar can end up being the hidden gems buyers have been seeking, and are connected to increasingly motivated sellers.

Update: 238 Olive Condos Return with Refreshed Prices

I stopped in to see the newly built condos in mid June over at 238 Olive. I liked the overall finishes and spaces, but questioned just how many people would want to live on that particular street.

Two of the eight 2BR/2BA condos are in contract, and one is closing next week, according to the listing agent. Prices originally ranged from $739,000-$819,000. However, the remaining five condos took a summer hiatus; they’ll be back in mid September priced from $699,000-$789,000. Though the location isn’t the most desirable in the world (I’ve never yet met a buyer who preferred to live on the “Van Ness/Civic Center” corridor), it is convenient to a lot of other neighborhoods, and the new pricing may make up for that factor.

Updates: Warfield Condos Crash, Blue Church Condos Pray for Cash

Things looked promising for the hip “office condos” at The Warfield building when they hit the market in mid May. Seven of the eight floors were being offered as commercial office condos with a special use that would allow for residential dwellings. Prices for the spaces ranged from $1,339,000-$1.4M. Thrown in with each purchase were eight tickets to all performances at the Warfield Theatre.

But unfortunately, the Planning Department has squashed potential buyers’ rock star dreams. Shortly after Pacific Union International started marketing the properties, according to one of the listing agents, city planners decided that they didn’t agree with the seller’s interpretation of the “accessory use housing” designation which allowed for 25% of the space to be used for residential purposes. The result? The units can only be sold now as commercial condos. There are two companies currently negotiating to lease several of the floors.

In other news, the infamous “blue church” condos as the corner of 28th and Church in Noe Valley are officially on hold once again:

The former church was demolished in October 2009, after a protracted battle between the church’s pastor and the property developer. But then…Nothing happened. Rumors recently began circulating that the property was going to revert back to the pastor.

Here’s the latest: J Branch Development is currently trying to obtain financing for the project, according to lead architect Tony Kotas at Kotas/Pantaleoni Architects. Unfortunately, lending is at a premium, and this has become a huge challenge. In the meantime, the developer is planning to maintain the site by cutting back weeds and cleaning things up in response to growing complaints from neighbors.

Dog Days of Summer: Price Reductions Up, New Listings Down

New condo and single-family home listings over the past month have declined steadily. Indeed, this trend is reflected in my broker tour lineup for Tuesday; there haven’t been many new listings in the past couple of weeks. At this point, sellers are waiting to bring their properties on after Labor Day.

And that strategy could be fueling a price reduction fever among sellers of existing available properties.

With many buyers finishing up their summer vacations and existing sellers getting nervous that all the new inventory will undermine them in September, it’s a good idea to take advantage of the timing if you’re a qualified buyer who’s ready to make a home-purchase decision.

A Visit to the New Condos at 83-85 Brady in SoMa/Hayes Valley

I toured the six new units at 83-85 Brady this week. The building replaces a much smaller property that was demolished to make way for the current five-story structure.

I sold a condo across the street at 74 Brady several years ago, so I’m familiar with this unique street that’s a mix of residential and commercial spaces. Though Brady falls into the South of Market district, it also rides the cusp of Hayes Valley. You walk three blocks up to Market and there’s Zuni, and Muni a few blocks further. So for those who want the affordability of SoMa with the conveniences of nearby, more pricey Hayes Valley, Brady is a no brainer.

83-85 Brady has two studios; two 1BR+/1BAs, one 1BR+/2BA, and one 2BR+/2.5BA. They’re all spacious enough (though one of the studios clocks in at a tiny 320 square feet–listed at $285,000). The 1BR+ floor plans have a bedroom up front with a closet (and somewhat odd angles, which makes it challenging to fit a bed), as well as an additional “plus” room without a closet that would work for, well, a second bedroom, office or guest room. What we noticed about this floor plan, however, was that the only closet in the unit was in the bedroom. Given that there’s no additional storage in the garage, this could be a problem for many buyers who have…coats or other things they’d rather not display.

The studios are nice enough, though it’s important to note that the really cool deck just outside unit 2 is shared. So if you’re planning on getting some sleep, you better hope your neighbors don’t decide to hang out at your doorstep.

A couple of the condos occupy their entire floor. However, the kitchen is somewhat oddly configured, so part of it disappears en route to the living area, which in the case of unit 6 below, is off to the left:

Finishes are nice, with CaesarStone counters in the kitchen and travertine tiles in the bathrooms. Each kitchen has its own individual cabinets, countertops and backsplashes. I was stopped in my tracks when I came across this jiggy ‘splash in the rear studio:

There are six parking spaces in the garage. Two are located on the side of the garage, and the remaining four are stacked. So you will have to deal with raising and lowering your car on the lift mechanism in the event you don’t score one of the regular spaces.

I think the Brady condos are priced relatively competitively (studios are $275,000 and $375,000; one bedrooms are $575,000 and $585,000; and two bedrooms are $749,000 and $825,000). HOA dues range from $404-$573/mo. The good: Convenient location, nice finishes, two common-area decks, nice finishes. The bad: Stacked parking for a majority of homeowners; somewhat oddball floor plan features; limited closet space.

Cole Valley Construction Project Hits the Market as REO

It seems like the math was all wrong for the recent purchase and down-to-the-studs renovation attempt from the start. Purchased in a private sale in May 2008 for $1,280,000, the 2,000+ square foot house at 1124 Stanyan at Parnassus, the home’s new owners quickly embarked on obtaining permits for a major renovation.

But things went awry with construction within four months, and the project was stopped. It went on the market for $899,000 in its down-to-the studs condition, with no walls, toilets, sinks, or light fixtures. And was withdrawn shortly after.

But now 1124 Stanyan is back as a foreclosed construction project, listed at $1.3M. Based on the current, unfinished condition, I’m guessing the new owner will need a fair amount of cash to complete this house. Is it worth it? I’m not entirely sure. The block is nice, but is situated near the firehouse, as well as on the busy stretch of Stanyan that’s also impacted by busy Parnassus. If you purchase this project for $1.3M and spend $200,000-$300,000 to finish the project (not an exaggeration by any means on this 3,000-square foot home), will you be able to get at least $1.5M in this location down the road?

Yerba Buena Gets Its Own Neighborhood

One of the more major revisions to the San Francisco Association of Realtors’ district map is the inclusion of the Yerba Buena area as its own official neighborhood. (Click on the image above to enlarge and see what’s now known as 9G—and then click again to magnify the district.)

I’m liking this new designation, because I’m already used to differentiating South of Market and Yerba Buena. SoMa below 5th Street has always had a different feel, anyway, so we may as well make it official. And with the emergence of Yerba Buena Gardens over the past several years, as well as an improved Moscone Center and other local amenities, the area deserves individual recognition.

So what are the latest stats for Yerba Buena? There are 36 active condo listings (no houses in this part of town), many of which are located in the St. Regis or Millennium luxury buildings. It’s important to note that these properties will always jack up the averages, because they typically sell units in the $2-$4M range. There’s also BLU at 631 Folsom, which is also among the pricier mid-range condo properties (in the $800,000-$1M range for 2BR condos), as well as Museum Parc at 300 3rd. This is a ’90s property with around 237 units that still has appeal due to solid floor plans and a great location.

A total of 32 units has sold for up to $1M this year in Yerba Buena, at an average price of $561,238 for this price range. For homes above $1M, there’s only one reported sale in the MLS at BLU—a 2BR/2BA, 1100-square foot unit that sold in June 2010 for $1.1M. Another key factor in the averages in Yerba Buena is that the newer developments that are still selling exclusively via their sales offices (One Hawthorne, BLU and the aforementioned luxury buildings) don’t report every sale in the MLS. One trick to sleuth out actual sales? Have your Realtor look up the tax records for the properties. For example, only six units have been reported sold in the MLS for BLU, but there are many, many more units showing up as sold in the tax records. It’s a great way to get a handle on the true values in a district like this.

How’s the Market In: Cole Valley

I’ve met two new clients over the past few weeks who mentioned Cole Valley as one of their strongly desired neighborhoods. The area continues to be a popular choice among buyers—particularly those who need spacious single-family homes or flats in a charming neighborhood with a good retail district and easy public transportation access.

Cole Valley is a small neighborhood that doesn’t have tons of turnover. So the homes that do come on the market are typically sold fairly quickly, in comparison to many other areas in San Francisco.

Home prices are higher than in many other neighborhoods. A total of 16 single-family homes have sold in Cole Valley this year, at an average price of $1,923,000. (Six of these homes sold in two weeks’ time, a testament to the appeal of the neighborhood to those with deeper pockets.) Eight of the 16 homes were sold for $2M+, and were an average of 2,548 square feet. There are currently four houses in contract as of this writing, with two available—including a very cute 3BR/1.5BA on Carmel with about 1,470 square feet and two-car parking for $1,295,000.

Condos are a popular and more affordable option in Cole Valley. To date, nine condos have sold for an average of $799,222, and one condo is currently in contract. Five flats are on the market, including 1131 Shrader, which I profiled recently as part of a Walk Score Winner feature.

Pricing trends in Cole Valley have remained fairly steady over the past year, with a slight uptick for single-family homes.

It’s important to note that many of the properties sold this year have changed hands for under or at their asking prices; for example, eleven houses and six condos went below their list prices. Sellers in Cole Valley may initially be overestimating how much buyers can realistically pay in the current economy. However, I do believe that Cole Valley is one of the neighborhoods in the south part of the city that will undoubtedly continue to hold its value, due to all it has to offer.

High-End Sellers Chase Steadily Shrinking Buyer Pool

While I was seeing properties this week on my broker tour, it struck me that there were some amazing homes simply sitting on the market. I didn’t think these homes were overpriced; in fact, I thought a fair amount were very well priced and seemed to offer good value.

Then it hit me: There are simply less qualified buyers out there for single-family homes, condos, and TICs in the $1.5M+ price range. Upon further investigation, I found plenty of data to back up this trend.

First, the numbers. Here’s a look at how many of these properties sold over the past few years:

2005 574
2006 516
2007 605
2008 540
2009 357
2010 256 to date

High-end purchases in San Francisco hit their peak in 2007, and have gone downhill since then. No surprises there—the economic downturn and mortgage crisis were in full swing by then. Though the luxury market is not dead by any means, it’s definitely hurting. Current stats bear this out: Though there are 54 houses, condos, or TICs in contract with $1.5M+ list prices, there are also 170 active listings in this range. And 123 such listings have been withdrawn since January. So there’s a very low absorption rate right now. Moreover, most homes in San Francisco are selling for less than $1M. Of the approximately 2,692 houses, condos and TICs that have sold this year, a total of 2,120 were sold for below $1M. Only 572 such properties have sold for above $1M. This certainly indicates where the 2010 market is.

What this all boils down to is that loans for $1M+ are simply more challenging to obtain. Though lenders such as Bank of America, First Republic and Wells Fargo are offering such non conforming and super jumbo loans, the lenders are also quite strict about their requirements due to recent economic and employment trends. For example, one lender explained that a buyer applying for one of these loans will need at least 10% of the loan amount in cash reserves in addition to the closing costs and down payment. And the cash reserves can’t be held in any sort of retirement account.

The reason? Buyers at this price point are usually very tech focused, well educated and rely significantly on stock options within their company. Many of these individuals have C-level jobs that aren’t readily available should they be lost. And financial advisors are, in some cases, counseling underwater homeowners to walk away from their mortgages if need be. So lenders are safeguarding themselves against making large loans to clients who may be at risk of losing their jobs. Which explains the importance of the cash reserve requirement (something that wasn’t happening in the boom years).

If current luxury property owners don’t absolutely have to sell their homes, it might be best to hold off until things settle down a bit. But if you have to sell, it’s important for your home to be competitively priced and presented so you can stand out from the crowd.