My Clients Remodel With Amazing Results

My clients purchased a single-family home in the Crocker Amazon neighborhood last year, and aimed to complete an extensive remodel prior to moving in. They just moved in a few weeks ago, and I stopped in to see the renovations this week.

This was an older house that sorely needed a new kitchen, bathroom, and a better “flow.” My clients worked with their contractor to totally revamp the kitchen, move doorways, add closet space and create a more open living/dining room area, among the more major items. They agreed to let me post a few before and after photos, as I thought it would be cool for my readers to see just what you can do when you buy a cosmetic fixer.

The living room got a fireplace facelift, with lovely stonework, a darker wood stain and new wall color:
lvroom_before

lroom_after

Here’s the before and after of their kitchen. I love their choice of new countertops, cabinets and finishes:
kitchen_before

kitchen_after

kitchen_after2

It’s always encouraging to see what can be done to make a home more enjoyable, and ulimately, more valuable.

RSVP This Week for Home Buyer Boot Camp!

Time is running out for RSVPs—Get in shape for the Spring real estate market by attending our Home Buyer Boot Camp! Back by popular demand, Boot Camp will whip you through the ins and outs of getting financing, writing a winning offer and completing a smooth transaction. We’ll give you tons of practical, useful information you won’t find anywhere else.

Here are the deets:
Date: Saturday, April 19th
Time: 10:00-noon
Place: 1746 18th Street (betw Arkansas & Carolina in Potrero Hill)
Your Hosts: Yours truly, blogger-Realtor Eileen Bermingham of Zephyr Real Estate, and loan extraordinaire Mike Koran of Primary Residential Mortgage.

We’ll have refreshments and we won’t make you do push-ups. RSVP today to Eileen at ebermingham@zephyrsf.com, or call/text at 415.823.4656. I’ll confirm your reservation. Space fills up quickly, so please RSVP as soon as you can so we can guarantee you a seat.

RSVP for Home Buyer Boot Camp!

Get in shape for the Spring real estate market by attending our Home Buyer Boot Camp! Back by popular demand, Boot Camp will whip you through the ins and outs of getting financing, writing a winning offer and completing a smooth transaction. We’ll give you tons of practical, useful information you won’t find anywhere else.

Here are the deets:
Date: Saturday, April 19th
Time: 10:00-noon
Place: 1746 18th Street (betw Arkansas & Carolina in Potrero Hill)
Your Hosts: Yours truly, blogger-Realtor Eileen Bermingham of Zephyr Real Estate, and loan extraordinaire Mike Koran of Primary Residential Mortgage.

We’ll have refreshments and we won’t make you do push-ups. RSVP today to Eileen at ebermingham@zephyrsf.com, or call/text at 415.823.4656. I’ll confirm your reservation. Space fills up quickly, so please RSVP as soon as you can so we can guarantee you a seat.

SF Real Estate Market Strong, Despite Earthquake Risks

I was interviewed for a story that ran yesterday in the British daily The Guardian about the threat of a large earthquake and how that might influence people when they consider purchasing real estate in San Francisco.

Yes, local market is particularly strong right now, and yes, I routinely have conversations with home buyers about the concept of earthquakes and how they can protect their investment. When it comes down to it, it’s important to know what ground you’re on and how solid your foundation and other seismic components are.

The Guardian’s Nate Berg did a great job presenting all angles of this topic. Check it out here:
When, Not If: How Do San Franciscans Live With the Threat of the Next Quake?

And if you’re interested in my take on earthquake insurance, this past blog post discusses that:
Should You Buy Earthquake Insurance?

What Do Home Inspections Cover?

garage
Buying a home is a big deal, and you want to make sure there are no surprises with any of the systems once you own the property. There are typically two types of standard inspections done in San Francisco. One is a general contractor, and the other is a structural termite.

The general contractor inspection should be conducted by a certified professional from a reputable company that works in San Francisco on a regular basis. The inspector will go through the fundamental components of the property, which include a look at the electrical, plumbing and heating systems. The inspection will extend to the overall condition of the foundation and structural support, which extends to crawl and attic spaces. The roof will also be evaluated. What the inspector is looking for are any deficiencies, and he or she then can make recommendations for repair, or defer a particular item to a more specialized professional. For example, if there are any signs of issues with the sewer line, the inspector may recommend having a sewer lateral inspection done.

A termite inspection covers the condition of the wood throughout the building, as well as structural support. You’ll get the scoop on whether there’s earth-to-wood contact, termite damage, or dry rot. The written report will typically include estimates for all “Section 1″ items, which are recommended repairs. It’s ideal to have a termite inspection for review in a disclosure package so buyers have an idea as to how much they may have to spend to do repairs in the future. Keep in mind that if you’d like to have the wood underneath stucco inspected (ideal), you’ll need to let the seller know that so they can give permission to the inspector to drill test holes. (They patch the test holes.)

Other inspections you can have done are related to fireplaces (particularly if they haven’t been used in a while), the aforementioned sewer lateral, and foundation (if you’re interested in a structural engineer’s opinion). If the general contractor flags electrical or plumbing issues, you may want to have a licensed electrician or plumber do a walkthrough and provide an estimate on resolving those issues.

Some inspectors will turn on washer/dryers and other appliances to make sure they’re operating properly. It’s also a good idea to turn on the heat (or air conditioning, if that’s available), and a gas fireplace. If you’re not in a position to have appliances checked, including a home warranty in your purchase is an excellent idea. The warranty covers repairs for the first year of your ownership and is about $400.

Here are some of my go-to inspectors:
General Home:
GCIS
Arch Home Inspection
H.R. Wellington

Termite:
Fox Structural & Termite
Lingruen & Associates
H.R. Wellington
Markoff

Microhoods Key to Bernal’s Home Values

bernalheights
Bernal Heights has many distinct areas within its neighborhood. From the hip enclave of Precita Park to the winding streets on the East Slope, the price of real estate literally varies depending upon which part of Bernal you’re in. So it’s important to lean heavily on sales in your particular part of the neighborhood when you’re accurately trying to determine property values in Bernal.

To help buyers and sellers with that task, I’ve deconstructed Bernal Heights into seven unofficial microhoods, complete with their respective price averages and low/high prices, as well as recent sales volume.

A few ground rules: My geographical boundaries are rough approximations, and there will be some overlap with streets that fall on microhood borders. Also, sales information is for single-family homes sold from September 2013-March 10, 2014.

North West Slope
Average Price: $1,195,589
Low: $699,000 High: $1,688,888
Number Sold: 10
northwestslope
The North West Slope has quaint tree-lined streets, hidden staircases and lots of charm. It’s near Mission Street’s bus lines and not far from the 24th & Mission BART station/30th & Church J Muni, as well as The Front Porch, Emmy’s Spaghetti Shack, Cole Hardware and Safeway. Five homes on the North West Slope sold above $1.3M over the past seven months, including a 2BR/2BA at the top of Bocana listed for $1,095,000 that sold for $1,610,000.

North of Cortland
Avge Price: $1,260,818
Low: $910,000 High: $1.6M
Number Sold: 11
northofcortland
This area just north of popular Cortland Avenue is generally its most expensive. Because who doesn’t want to be in walking distance of restaurants, cafes, shops, a grocery store, and library? North of Cortland’s narrow streets are dotted with architecturally appealing homes and have a village-like feel. There’s also easy access to Bernal Hill’s trails. Notable sales include the renovated Victorian at 228 Ellsworth for $1.6M, and the contemporary home at 77 Anderson, which had a down-to-the-studs renovation and sold for $1,499,000 in an all-cash transaction.

Precita Park
Avge Price: $1,206,125
Low: $934,000 High: $1,605,000
Number Sold: 8
precitapark
The Precita Park microhood has really blossomed over the past several years, and the high real estate prices here reflect that. From Precita Park Cafe and Hillside Supper Club to Harvest Hills Market and Precita Bark dog wash/shop, there’s a nice selection of retail businesses for locals to enjoy. And the park itself is a great place to relax and unwind, particularly for kids and dog owners. Prices for houses ranged from $934,000 for a modern cottage on Shotwell to $1,605,000 for a 4BR home just up the hill on Folsom.

East Slope
Avge Price: $1,097,467
Low: $700,000 High: $1,575,000
Number Sold: 15
eastslope
There was a time when Bernal’s more remote East Slope was home to dirt trails and vacant lots. As the area developed alongside Highway 101, streets were paved and staircases built to help people get around on the hilly, sometimes twisty streets. (In fact, a couple streets are only accessible by stairs.) Prices for homes on the East Slope aren’t stratospheric; the roughly $1.1M average was influenced by three sales for $1.4M+, including the 4BR contemporary view home at 365 Franconia that sold for $1,575,000. East Slope dwellers appreciate their low-key microhood, and even have their own architectural design review board to maintain the character of the area.

South East Slope
Avge Price: $937,500
Low: $750,000 High: $1,375,000
Number Sold: 6
southeastslope
The South East Slope is bordered by 101/Bayshore Boulevard and Alemany/280, and isn’t wildly convenient to the retail portion of Cortland. But the houses offer good space in a neighborhood where it’s a challenge to land a single-family house for less than $1M. For example, a really cool, 3BR/2BA mid-century modern home with east bay and southern views sold for $789,000 at 463 Nevada. And the best part? The Alemany Farmer’s Market is at your doorstep!

South of Cortland
Avge Price: $918,000
Low: $660,000 High: $1.5M
Number Sold: 9
southofcortland
Similar to its North of Cortland counterpart, the South of Cortland microhood is in proximity to the heart of Cortland Avenue. And you can actually find homes in the $700,000-$900,000 range. (Though the recent $1.5M cash sale half a block off Cortland at 330 Banks is the most expensive home ever sold in this microhood.)

Holly Park/St. Mary’s Park
Avge Price: $1,000,556
Low: $750,000 High: $1,255,000
Number Sold: 4
hollypark_st.mary's_south
Situated between Cortland and the Excelsior, Holly Park/St. Mary’s Park probably has the highest population of homeowners whose properties have been in their family for years. The homes in St. Mary’s are laid out on streets shaped like a bell, and St. Mary’s Park itself also has a popular, fenced-in dog area. Just to the north is Holly Park, which was renovated about ten years ago and is very popular with locals. It’s also only a few blocks from Cortland’s Avedano Holly Park Market, as well as the heart of the retail area. And nearby Mission Street gives you access to bus lines. Single-family home prices are solidly in the $900,000s, with the high-end topping out at around $1,255,000.

Spring a Good Bet for More Inventory

We’ve been operating at a very low housing inventory to date in 2014. It seems like there are anywhere from five to twenty buyers for every property that comes on the market, creating consistent multiple-offer situations and substantial overbidding.

I do expect this activity to continue throughout the year. Our economy is strong in the city, and there is seemingly no end to the number of buyers who are materializing and willing to pay very high prices for homes. But I believe there are many homeowners who are in the process of either planning a move or seriously considering one. It’s hard to pass up an opportunity to cash out, especially if you own a home in a very “hot” neighborhood.

As a result, we can expect a spike in inventory as soon as April, which will scatter buyers around a bit more. Coupled with new construction condo projects beginning sales in the Spring, the pressure should ease a bit on the resale market.

What’s the takeaway? If you’re a buyer who’s planning to start looking in the Spring, it’s important to get sorted out now with your financing. And if you’re a homeowner, this is the time to start preparing your home with painting, repairs and staging so it stacks up well against the competition.

Pricey Prospects for New Condos in SF Pipeline

thecentury
It’s been quite a year for developers of new construction condos and houses in San Francisco. After an economic downturn during which very few new projects were built in the city, construction lurched ahead again—particularly along the Market Street corridor, in Hayes Valley, the Mission and many other popular neighborhoods.

And oh, what a reception these new developments received! Projects such as 300 Ivy in Hayes Valley and ICON in the Castro sold out in record time, and at record prices. Buyers seemed very willing to pay a premium of $1,000-$1200/sq foot for new and shiny, particularly in transit- and retail-friendly communities. And 3500 19th Street at Valencia took advantage of the tech-buying boom and Mission mania by largely selling out all of its 17 condos with sales prices in the $1.3M-$2.3M range.

There are 1800 new construction units on tap for 2014, with more than 50,000 new units in the pipeline for the next six or more years. But if you’re a buyer who’s thinking about holding out until a unit in a particular building becomes available, be aware that prices will only go up from here. For example, currently being built is 35 Dolores, the former car repair warehouse across the street from the recently built rental building with Whole Foods as its anchor. 35 Dolores will likely finish construction in the summer, but will start selling in April. A majority of the units will be two bedrooms, and pricing for premium units will be $1500/sq foot.

Another very high-end project is 1645 Pacific, which is focusing on its handcrafted construction style that mimics an old-world, north-end-of-town architectural style. Final pricing hasn’t been released, but $1200/sq foot+ would seem to be the minimum starting point. The ultra luxury Park 181 at 181 Fremont will be asking $6M-$8M per unit, and Lumina (a.k.a. Infinity 3 and 4 at 201 Folsom) expects a $1B sellout by the time buyers finish snapping up all 651 units.

Not everything will be as stratospheric in price, though. But you can expect buildings like Fifteen Fifteen in the Mission, Onyx in Potrero, and Millwheel in Dogpatch to be in that $1,000/sq foot range. I believe upcoming Hayes Valley projects such as 400 Grove and 450 Hayes to be in the $1100+/sq foot range, based on 300 Ivy’s sales.

So if you’ve got you’re heart set on shiny and new, be prepared to pay a premium. If you want more space for the money, set your sights on the resale market. And if you have any questions on what’s in the works for new condos in any part of the city, please get in touch. Keeping track of all these cranes is a part-time job, and I can get you the scoop on whatever interests you.

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.

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):
catherine_yelpreview

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
145lakeside
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
45dellbrook
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
75southhillblvd
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.

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:
workshop_eb

workshop_mike

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!

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
10:00-Noon
1746 18th Street, between Arkansas & Carolina in Potrero Hill

RSVP to Eileen at ebermingham@zephyrsf.com, or call/text me at 415-823-4656.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Where PG&E Gas Lines are in San Francisco

gaslines_pge
It’s been a few years since there’s been a high-profile PG&E gas line fire in The Bay Area. The San Bruno disaster happened in 2010, but a street went on fire in Oakland due to a gas line eruption in December 2013.

San Francisco has fortunately not been the site of a similar fire recently. However, the gas lines do run underground in the city, and it’s important to be aware of their locations as part of your due diligence when buying a home. You can easily consult the pipeline map (above) on PG&E’s Web site. Just click on the map, and zoom in on San Francisco until you can see the actual street names and gas lines. You can also type in a property address to see which lines are potentially nearby.

The upshot is that most of the lines run throughout the southeast portion of the city. This includes:
- in and around Potrero, Dogpatch, Bayview, and Visitacion Valley
- through Bernal Heights along Folsom
- along the thoroughfares of Alemany, Cesar Chavez, Bayshore Boulevard.

There don’t appear to be any gas lines running elsewhere in San Francisco.

Attend Our SF Home Buyer Workshop!

Yes, the San Francisco real estate market can be daunting to home buyers. But if you get organized, learn what you can do to make it all happen and put your strategy in place, I guarantee you can get what you want (or at least get what you need). It’s time you consult the experts on how to achieve your real estate goals.

I’ve been the blogger of Inside San Francisco Real Estate since I started the site in 2008, and a Realtor since 2002. I like to step out from behind WordPress every once in a while and talk live and in person to prospective buyers.

My colleague, Mike Koran of Primary Residential Mortgage, is a well-regarded lender with an excellent track record.

Together, we’ll be co-hosting a home-buyer workshop that will give you the foundation you need to approach your home purchase in a strategic and intelligent way.

We’ll be covering:
- what to expect in the current market
- how to secure financing before you start house hunting
- how to compete and get your offer accepted
- the purchase transaction timeline.

Where and when:
Saturday, February 8th
10:00 – Noon
1746 18th Street @Arkansas in Potrero
Office of Primary Residential Mortgage
Refreshments provided!

Please RSVP to Eileen at ebermingham@zephyrsf.com or call/text 415.823.4656.

We’re planning on leaving time between 10:00-noon for questions, so it won’t just be a talkfest. Join us, what else is going on in early February?!