The recent Napa earthquake jolted everyone on the west coast and forced us to revisit how prepared we are for an earthquake. Though a huge earthquake will cause inevitable damage, there are a few fundamental things—some more expensive than others—you can do as a homeowner to minimize damage that can happen in a large earthquake. [Read more...]
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!
Two things are certain right now: Our California drought doesn’t have an end in sight, and construction is booming in San Francisco.
The push for “green,” or eco-friendly construction erupted several years ago. But what I’m wondering is whether architects and builders can start including “blue,” or drought-friendly features in future renovations and new construction.
A recent piece on NPR discussed how Australia—which has a nine-year drought in its history—began addressing its water shortage problem by revamping home plumbing systems. Consider Melbourne, which gets 23 inches of rain annually (similar to that of San Francisco in a typical year). Half the homes in Melbourne now have systems to capture and store rain, and newer homes are being built with dual plumbing systems to recycle graywater. For example, rinse water from the washing machine goes to the toilet for flushing.
Melbourne is now down to 40 gallons per person per day, including outside watering. Californians average two to four times that amount.
Green construction is great, and should continue. But it would be awesome if, in the future, homeowners and builders would take the lead from Melbourne and create “blue” construction properties.
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.
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...]
If you’re aiming to buy or sell a single-family home in San Francisco, it’s important to take note of the selling patterns in the city’s various neighborhoods. You’ve probably read my blog post from earlier this week on the hottest condo markets, but when it comes to overbidding on houses, the landscape looks slightly different.
The neighborhoods where buyers are overbidding most intensely are varied, and there are many. [Read more...]
One of the keys to success in the current San Francisco market is knowing which neighborhoods are the most competitive. Armed with that intel, you can more easily gauge how much to offer on a property, or what list price will work to your advantage.
As many of my regular readers know, I’ve been running a feature highlighting extreme overbidding for several months, regularly inducting new members into the SF Overbidders Club. The reality is that we have many neighborhoods in San Francisco that are showing double-digit overbid percentages, and it’s important to know what the selling patterns are when you’re determining values.
When it comes to the San Francisco market, these patterns can change pretty quickly. My sales data is based on reported MLS sales in the time period April 1 – May 12, 2014, so it’s the most current info available. [Read more...]
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
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. [Read more...]
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.
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.
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. [Read more...]
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. [Read more...]
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.
We are in a serious drought situation in California. Not only was last year the driest calendar year in California since recording began in 1849, but the state’s population has nearly doubled since the 1970s. San Francisco is a dense city, and we all have to take responsibility for making sure we don’t use more than our fair share of water.
Gov. Jerry Brown recently called for people to reduce their water usage by twenty percent. I thought I’d share 20 of my favorite ways to save water; when enough individuals follow these sort of tips, it adds up to a lot of water saved:
1. Run the washing machine for full loads only.
2. Flush the toilet only when absolutely necessary.
3. Use a dishwasher instead of washing dishes by hand.
4. Limit shower use to a max of five minutes; you’ll save up to 1,000 gallons monthly.
5. Turn off the water when you’re brushing your teeth, lathering your hands or shaving.
6. Consider buying a dual-flush, low-flow toilet.
7. Water outdoor plants/lawns in the early morning or late evening.
8. Cut your watering to two times a week instead of seven.
9. Plant drought-resistant trees and flowers.
10. Use a broom to clean the sidewalk and driveway, not the hose.
11. Install low-flow showerheads.
12. Run the washing machine for full loads only. Max out at two loads weekly. Yes, it can be done. Not everything has to be immediately washed after you’ve worn it.
13. While you wait for hot water, collect the running water and use it to water plants.
14. Soak pots and pans instead of running the water while you scrape them.
15. When doing laundry, match the size of the load to the water level.
16. Love baths? Keep them to a minimum. A full bathtub requires up to 70 gallons of water.
17. Install water-saving aerators on all your faucets.
18. Check your faucets and showerheads for leaks. Drips are deadly in droughts.
19. Wash your pets outdoors, in an area that needs watering.
20. Water dry spots in your landscaping by hand instead of running the entire irrigation system.
Ror more tips, check out the non-profit organization Water Use It Wisely.
People love to talk about the price-per-square foot when comparing San Francisco property values. There’s also a tendency to reference this type of information when making a decision about how much to pay for a home.
But I don’t recommend using price-per-square foot as a reliable data point, because it has its flaws.
The bottom line is that there’s no standardized square footage source. So square footage quoted in the MLS and marketing materials is typically based on either tax records or past seller appraisals.
It’s no secret that tax records can be wildly inaccurate and outdated. Assessor-Recorder Carmen Chu recently visited our sales meeting at Zephyr and talked about how antiquated the city’s computer systems are. Throw in the fact that our tax records go back to the early 1900s, with some having disappeared after the 1906 earthquake. Even if sellers make an honest effort to update their own tax record through city channels—for example, if they’ve added a legal bedroom and bath—the square footage they’re adding isn’t based on one standard source.
Equally important is the fact that San Francisco’s housing inventory varies, from houses with unwarranted bedrooms and units to TICs that represent a percentage of their overall building. Unwarranted, or “illegal” rooms are those completed without permits, and those spaces are not recognized as part of the overall square footage. TICs will not have a registered individual square footage count in the tax records; the number stated usually represents that of the entire building. It’s virtually impossible to compare apples to apples when it comes to this data point.
Past appraisals could be accurate, but I’ve seen cases where there are two or three appraisals on hand that have all had different square footage counts. And as you might expect, sellers and agents typically reference the highest number. As one agent recently commented to me, “The square footage sometimes grows over time.” She mentioned one property in particular that had changed hands three times over a ten-year period, and each time, the square footage increased in the MLS.
Square footage is strongly referenced in new-construction condo developments, because buyers are paying well over $1,000/square foot for such properties. However, there have been cases when buyers discovered that the square footage quoted for a particular unit was more than the actual size. And when you’re paying $1,000/square foot or more, that can make a big difference.
So if you’re comparing values by price-per-square-foot, do so with a grain of salt.