The ABCs of HOAs

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Condos are a popular option for many home buyers in San Francisco. Prices for condos are more affordable, and there’s less upkeep involved. For busy professionals, condos in central neighborhoods fit more lifestyles than that of single-family homes.

The residents within a condo building are part of a homeowners association (HOA). In larger buildings, there’s usually an HOA board, too. These entities make decisions about the property with respect to expenditures, special assessments and other issues that arise.

There’s a lot to evaluate when you’re considering a condo purchase. I thought I’d put together a primer on the basic HOA disclosures and documents of consequence so you’ll know what to expect when you locate a condo you like and may want to write an offer on. [Read more…]

Thanks For Another 5-Star Yelp Review!

It’s always a pleasure to receive an unsolicited Yelp review from happy clients. The latest is from the sellers of a condo in Arterra in Mission Bay, which recently closed escrow. They were a pleasure to work with, and a reminder that many of my clients are genuinely nice, thoughtful people who appreciate my efforts. (Click on the image below for a larger view.)

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If you’re thinking about buying or selling in 2015, please get in touch with me at ebermingham@zephyrsf.com or 415.823.4656. I am actively seeking new clients and would love to chat about your plans. Check out my other 24 Yelp reviews if you’d like to read more about how I work with clients.

The 411 on CA’s Construction Defect Law

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New construction single-family homes and condos are being built and sold at a rapid-fire pace in San Francisco. If you’re considering buying this type of property, it’s important to know what to expect when it comes to consumer protection and your rights in the event you discover a construction defect.

Construction defects are unfortunately pretty common in new buildings—everything from water intrusion (the most common one) to inadequate ventilation or faulty sewer systems. Dealing with defects isn’t fun, but there’s a way to handle them thanks to legislation called SB 800. [Read more…]

“Off-Market” in a Hot Market Can Shortchange Sellers

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The San Francisco real estate market is booming, and sellers are greatly benefitting from buyer demand. There are five or more buyers for every listing, particularly in popular neighborhoods. Interest rates are low, our local job market is strong and there’s no shortage of foreign investors.

If you’re thinking of selling your home in the near future, here’s how you can capitalize on this hot market: Make sure your agent enters your property in the San Francisco Multiple Listing Service (SFARMLS) database. This is the database agents use to search for available listings. Sites like Redfin and Trulia also get their listings from the MLS. A well-priced property promoted to the fullest extent can typically attract multiple offers, which is what leads to the maximum selling price possible. My most recent listings sold for more than I or my sellers expected, and I truly believe that would not have been the case had we sold off market. [Read more…]

Holidays Approach, Time To Make Your Move

We’re speeding toward Thanksgiving, which only means one thing when it comes to San Francisco real estate: Inventory will decline after turkey day, and serious buyers need to take a second look at what’s been sitting on the market.

There are 255 single-family homes and 288 condos currently available, a good portion of which have been on the market for three weeks or more. Take 7 Burnett ($1,695,000), a beautiful 3BR/2BA Twin Peaks condo with this view:

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Or for something more quirky with amazing curb appeal, look at 10 Carmel ($3M) in Cole Valley–a 1909 firehouse that’s now a very cool pad for a buyer who likes entertaining and living in a unique home:
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It’s definitely time to buckle down and work with current inventory. Our market moves so quickly that you can sometimes get obsessed with new listings and completely miss out on homes that won’t involve tedious multiple offers and overbidding. Give me a shout if you need some help finding the right place. I’ll be in town and ready to work!

Yes, SF Real Estate is Seasonal

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Yes, our San Francisco market is going strong—and has been for the past several months. But if you’re planning to buy or sell real estate, it’s important to know that the industry does slow down after Thanksgiving.

I know of a few colleagues who are bringing new listings on the market in early December. But new inventory will substantially decrease after your Thanksgiving dinner leftovers are gone.

There are currently 288 single-family homes and 293 condos on the market. If you’re a buyer who genuinely wants to make a purchase before the end of the year, the takeaway here is that you should seriously consider whatever comes on the market that might work for you.

And if you’re a homeowner who is still thinking about putting your house on the market this year, it is high time to get your home ready for sale. Everyone you need, from stagers to small-scale contractors, painters and gardeners is busy. Making sure you have time to line up what you need can be a challenge going into November.

Don’t Forget About Lofts in San Francisco

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Lofts have always been one of my favorite types of homes in San Francisco. With their high ceilings, open spaces and large windows, lofts always feel bigger than they actually are. Developers went on a loft-building spree in the late 1990s-early 2000s to create live-work housing in “transitional” neighborhoods like South of Market, The Mission, South Beach, and Dogpatch. And these properties still offer good bang for the buck.

The new construction coursing through the city no longer includes lofts. But it’s important not to overlook existing loft inventory, as it provides a unique, spacious form of housing that’s near downtown, freeways, public transportation and some of the best restaurants in the city. And most lofts come with parking and modest HOA dues, which can’t be said for today’s new construction condos. [Read more…]

5 Tips for Buying—And Being Happy With Your Home

The San Francisco market moves quickly, and sometimes buyers get swept away in the frenzy. They find themselves suddenly in contract on a home that they aren’t entirely sure about.

A variety of activities kicks in once you’re in contract, and you have to be completely on board in order to hit your milestones. Wiring in a hefty deposit, working with your lender on outstanding financial docs, paying for and conducting inspections—that all happens in the first week. If you’re half-heartedly proceeding, I can guarantee there’s a good chance you’ll miss deadlines, and potentially waste your and a lot of other people’s time if you decide to cancel the contract.

The key to making a confident and successful home purchase lies in being prepared and knowledgeable. Here are five tips for being successful in the residential real estate game: [Read more…]

New Listing: 286 Parnassus in Cole Valley

286Parnassus LR1My new listing at 286 Parnassus has just come on the market, and it’s sure to be a hit with buyers seeking a home near everything the city has to offer.

286 Parnassus is a 1BR/1BA condo in a three-unit Edwardian building. The open floor plan features a remodeled kitchen and bath, as well as a bedroom with great natural light and partial downtown views (yes, that’s the Transamerica Building you can see). There’s a gas fireplace in the living room and a private balcony off the kitchen.

Amenities include exclusive-use washer/dryer, a shared, landscaped garden and hardwood floors.

I’m not kidding, 286 Parnassus really is in the center of it all near Golden Gate Park, public transportation, a car-sharing garage. Go a few blocks and you’re in the heart of the Cole Valley, Haight or Inner Sunset retail districts. UCSF is just down the street.

List price is $579,000. We’ll be open this Sunday, 9/21 from 2:00-4:00. Check out our Web site for more info at 286parnassus.com

The 5-Star Yelp Reviews Keep Rollin’ In!

I love writing this blog, but I also love selling San Francisco real estate. And I love when my clients have a great experience buying that real estate. It’s pretty much what gets me out of bed in the morning.

I wanted to share my latest review from my clients who made their purchase in rapid-fire fashion—and without having to pay through the nose to get what they needed (click on the review for the larger version):

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Give me a shout if you’re on track to buy (or sell) a home—and want to do it before the end of the year. We can meet to strategize and then find you what you need without a lot of drama.

I’m a Realtor First, Blogger Second

I’ve received a handful of calls over the past year from home buyers and sellers looking for my opinion on their individual real estate situations. The buyers are either in contract on a property and a transaction issue has come up, or are negotiating a purchase agreement and seeking assurance about where the market is going. The sellers have accepted an offer but are looking for my input on whether or not they should grant a requested buyer credit or risk falling out of contract.

I’m always happy to hear from my extensive blog base, but I thought it might be a good time to remind everyone that I’m able to stay in business and write my blog because I’m selling real estate. And I do reserve a good portion of my strategies, market insights and advice for clients—meaning there’s way more you need to know beyond my blog post content when you’re transitioning from reader to being a home buyer or seller.

If you’ve already engaged the services of a Realtor you trust, it’s probably best for you to follow his or her advice. Because if you committed to working with your Realtor, it should mean that you value his or her counsel and have worked through many details together. You now have a track record with your agent, a professional who will also get paid a fee when your transaction closes. We work in a service-based industry, and our time, market knowledge, and negotiating expertise are a few of the services we offer that make us valuable.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a long time and are now planning to buy or sell a property, please remember that I am an experienced, knowledgeable, highly organized and down-to-earth agent who will work in your best interest (even if it means advising you to pass on a particular home or reject a certain offer). Many of my readers have become clients, and have gone on to refer their friends, co-workers, neighbors and family to me.

And every time that happens, it allows me to keep writing this blog and sharing my insights with you on a consistent basis.

Need further proof? Check out my Yelp reviews and video here.

Looking forward to working with more of you in 2014!

Ignore the “Homestead” Scam

It’s inevitable that after you complete the purchase or refinance of your home, you receive a notice in the mail from a company with a random name like “TRS” offering to prepare a Declaration of Homestead for you. They typically request anywhere from $25-$75 to draw up the declaration and send it back to you so you can take it to City Hall to record the document.

When you get the letter, throw it out. It’s a scam.

A homestead declaration, in a nutshell, is a legal document that protects the equity in your home from creditors. The reality is that homestead protection is automatic in California, so there’s no need to pay anyone to create it for you. These companies target first-time home buyers who may not be aware of all the facts.

5 Ways to Avoid Home-Buying Closing Delays

Contract timelines are always tight in the current San Francisco market. That means that buyers are typically removing appraisal and loan approval contingencies within days of having offers accepted. If you’re not prepared to jump on the fast track to completing your purchase, drama can ensue.

Here are five ways to avoid major closing delays, courtesy of my colleagues at Guarantee Mortgage who presented at our Zephyr sales meeting this week. [Read more…]

What You Need To Know About Gift Funds

It’s no secret that the cost of real estate in San Francisco is high. Many first-time home buyers are turning to family—specifically, to their parents—for a little extra help. If you’re considering making a purchase that will partially rely on what are called “gift funds,” here’s what you need to know, courtesy of my colleague Gordon Friedman of Mortgage Service Professionals:

– The funds must be for a primary residence or second home (not for an investment property)
– The gift must be from a parent, relative, domestic partner, spouse or fiance
– A gift letter is required, which must state the gift amount, property address, date given/to be given, and donor address. The letter also must state that no repayment will be required
– Buyer must have 20% or more in down payment, though the entire down payment can be a gift
– If the buyer has less than 20% down, there will be a 5% borrower contribution required
– For a jumbo loan (more than $625,500), a 5% borrower contribution is required regardless of the down payment. [Read more…]

All Deeds Must Record At Same Time for Condo Conversion

As the current crop of TICs converts to condos, I’m seeing many owners listing their TIC interests prior to the actual condo conversion of the entire building. This means the buyer is expected to step in at the tail end of the condo conversion and work with all existing owners as they refinance and everyone completes the conversion process.

In other words, whether there’s a group loan or fractional financing in place, all new condo deeds have to record simultaneously. If there is one owner in the group who doesn’t have a loan, that owner needs to wait until everyone’s refinancing/new purchases are completed prior to obtaining a condo deed. [Read more…]