The Most Competitive House Markets in San Francisco Right Now

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…]

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. [Read more…]

Just Listed: 2BR Ingleside Charmer

My new 2BR/1BA single-family home listing at 231 Jules Avenue in up-and-coming Ingleside just hit the market. Featuring lovely 1920s detailing throughout, the home has a living room with wood-burning fireplace. The remodeled kitchen is well-appointed, with granite countertops, window atrium, and stainless-steel appliances. Two bedrooms are at the rear of the main level and overlook the garden, which has mature fruit trees and lawn with irrigation system.

Need a little extra space for guests or an office? Downstairs are a couple bonus rooms and bathroom, as well as a one-car garage and laundry area.

Conveniently located two blocks from Ocean Avenue, 231 Jules is super convenient to Whole Foods, public transportation, cafes, restaurant, services and schools. And if you commute to the South Bay, there’s easy access to 280.

List price is $629,000 and we’ll be open Sunday, October 13 from 1:00-4:00. Stop in and see me!

(Please note: This is a short sale, subject to lender approval.)

Up-and-Coming Ingleside A Good Bet for Buyers

Nothing attracts home buyers more than a good, solid retail area that they can walk to from their new home. Consider all the wildly popular neighborhoods that have retail areas featuring hot restaurants, cafes, shops and services: Noe Valley, Hayes Valley, The Mission, Cole Valley, Cow Hollow, the Marina and the Inner Sunset, to name just a few. Buyers will pay dearly to be in walking distance of these strips, because if you can’t walk to anything, why live in San Francisco?

Blog readers and clients alike often ask me where I think the “up-and-coming” neighborhoods are. I think one of them is definitely Ingleside, particularly if you’re looking for a single-family house. Known for years as the area around City College in San Francisco’s southwest end, Ingleside is becoming more high profile as its Ocean Avenue retail area grows. The arrival of residential units, a refurbished library and of course, Whole Foods, has really bumped up the neighborhood’s desirability. (Click here for a profile of the neighborhood, as presented by Zephyr.)

And in terms of public transportation, Ocean Avenue has two bus lines, the K Muni line, and BART’s Balboa Station—not to mention proximity to 280. As a result, the area is getting popular with young professionals who commute to downtown San Francisco or the Peninsula.

Developers are taking notice of Ocean Avenue opportunities; along with condos aimed at the family demographic in the works at 1490 Ocean Avenue, developer Brian Spiers is in the process of obtaining entitlements for a residential property at 65 Ocean. These are certainly signs that Ingleside is poised for big changes over the next few years.

As if you needed more proof that Ocean Avenue is the hot place to be, the Chronicle featured the area this week in a pretty cool article.

Ingleside was hit hard during the economic downturn, but many of the home values are gradually recovering. The average price for a 2BR house in the third quarter was just under $600,000. So you can actually find a house here for less than the $1M San Francisco average. But the more spacious, well-situated homes (e.g., near Ocean Avenue) are already starting to sell for well into the $700,000s.

There was a time before 24th Street, Cortland Avenue, Valencia and Union Street first started attracting buyers and visitors—kind of like what Ocean Avenue is doing now.

Where the Cash Buyer Competition Is

If you’re aiming to close on a property in 2013, it’s a good idea to size up the competition and hone your strategy at this point in the year. After all, we only have a couple months left before Thanksgiving (I know!), and inventory slows down right after the turkey leaves the table.

In very thick multiple-offer competition, the biggest wild card will be whether a cash buyer steps into the mix who’s willing to pay top dollar to buy a home. As most real estate fans know, cash sales don’t equal discounts, and cash buyers know that they have to offer a competitive price to win.

So if you’re looking at a hot property in a neighborhood that’s prone to attracting cash buyers, you may be out of luck. For buyers with loans, it’s unfortunately the way it goes: Sellers are looking for a sure thing, and a quick path to their proceeds so they can get on with their lives.

Cash buyers picked up 184 condos/TICs and 98 single-family homes from July 1-September 18, 2013. Where did they appear, and which neighborhoods were hit the hardest?

Eureka Valley, Lower Pacific Heights, Bernal Heights, Portola and Ingleside attracted many single-family home cash buyers in that timeframe, with a majority of the sales prices landing in the $600,000-$1M price range. A total of 18 homes sold above $2M.

On the condo front, neighborhoods such as the Haight, Noe/Eureka Valley; Lower Pacific Heights; Western Addition; Pacific Heights; Nob/Russian Hills; Mission, SoMa/South Beach were the most popular ‘hoods for cash buyers. Sales in the $600,000-$1.2M range were the most common, though there were quite a few sales in the $1.3M-$2M range, and six sales were above $2M.

Word of advice? If you’re looking for a home in the aforementioned neighborhoods and price ranges, and the property you like already has 15 disclosure packages out, it might be a good idea to move on to something else if you aren’t willing to pay top, top dollar and waive contingencies. Buyer burnout becomes quite common at this stage of the year, and a change in strategy is one you might want to discuss with your Realtor if you want to be successful in your house hunt by year’s end.

What You Can Buy: 3BR Houses for Up to $1M

Single-family homes with three bedrooms, two bathrooms and one-car parking for up to $1M are popular among San Francisco buyers. There are presently 82 such homes in this price range, so I thought I would highlight a trio of properties in distinctly different neighborhoods:

408 Urbano
3BR/2BA, 2300-square feet
2-car parking
Ingleside Terrace
List price: $849,000

408 Urbano is a mid-century, split-level home that has a formal dining room with fireplace, and a kitchen/dining area that leads out to a deck. You can enjoy the benefits of high ceilings, hardwood floors and plenty of natural light. Though this is not perhaps the best walking location, freeway proximity is good and Ocean Avenue and Muni aren’t far away. Ingleside Terrace has more of a suburban feel, which is great if you’re looking for a low-key environment for your family (while still being able to live in the city).

665 Arguello
3BR/2BA, 1253-square feet
1-car parking
Inner Richmond
List Price: $895,000

665 Arguello is situated on a well-trafficked street, across from Rossi Park and near restaurants and public transportation. The house isn’t huge, but it’s well appointed with two bedrooms on the main level and the third on the lower level. Kitchen and bath finishes are serviceable and totally workable, and the large yard could use some landscaping. There’s also a family room on the lower level. 665 Arguello is an excellent condo alternative, as this price range in the Inner Richmond is typically in line with condo values. There are no HOA dues here, and no one living above or below you.

33 Nebraska
4BR/2BA, 1785-square feet
2-car parking
Bernal Heights
List Price: $950,000

Though the “box” architectural design lacks charm, its floor plan is typically very functional. Such is the case at 33 Nebraska, located on the east slope of Bernal Heights. There are three large bedrooms on the main level, which is a real plus. East-facing windows line the living and dining room walls and frame great views. Downstairs is a media/family room that opens to the huge, landscaped yard. There’s also a fourth bedroom and second full bath suite on the garden level. 33 Nebraska is a little further out than you may want to be in Bernal, but it’s only five blocks to where the shops and restaurants are along Cortland, and about three blocks to the 101. 33 Nebraska was last sold for $850,000 in 2004.

What You Can Buy In District 4

One of the more attractive areas of San Francisco is what’s known as District 4 in Realtor terms. This is the region west of Twin Peaks that encompasses 16 different neighborhoods—everything from Miraloma Park and Sunnyside, to West Portal and Balboa Terrace. I thought we’d take a look at three homes currently on the market in District 4 so you can get a sense for what types of homes are available.

First up is 2531 14th Avenue in West Portal:

Featuring 3BRs/2BAs and 1850 square feet, 2531 14th Street is a three-story home situated about three blocks from West Portal Avenue, the local retail strip. The home has been recently remodeled and has a master suite on the upper level with views. List price is $1,084,900; the sellers have been trying to sell the home since 2010. There’s two-car parking, and a yard with a big, fat palm tree.

We move on to 195 Urbano in Ingleside Terrace:

South of West Portal and St. Francis Wood is the enclave of Ingleside Terrace. This neighborhood is not far from the West Portal retail district, and is bordered by Ocean Avenue, which also has public transportation and services. 195 Urbano is a 4BR/3.5BA house with 3400 square feet, listed at $999.950. Buyers will probably not rejoice in the finishes; the kitchen has a ’70s thing happening, and there’s some knotty pine and wood paneling thrown in throughout the property. But you do get a lot of space, and 280 is not far away if you’re a Peninsula commuter.

Last up is 32 Taraval in Forest Hill:

I’m liking this one the best out of our trio of homes. 32 Taraval is right on the border of Forest Hill and West Portal, so it’s very central to the West Portal retail area. Traffic can be a little busy along Taraval, but the house is set back a bit from the street. 32 Taraval has 4BRs/2.5BAs and 2426 square feet. It’s got the best kitchen of the bunch. (You know that because Ann Sacks tiles and marble countertops are involved.) Bedrooms are spacious and the house has style. List price is $1,395,000. There’s already an offer date of February 22nd for this one, so you know interest is strong among the buyer set.

The Highs & Lows of SF Real Estate

The San Francisco market certainly has its ups and downs like any other. And what’s driving sales are buyers and sellers who are able to come to agreement on price. For every property that sells for under its asking price, there seems to be one that swings in the opposite direction and raises eyebrows.

So I like to periodically present snapshots of sales that exemplify our current mood swing market. I noticed a couple highs and lows this week in Noe Valley and Ingleside Terrace that are worth a look:

High: 557 Hill, Noe Valley

557 Hill was last sold in 2005 for $2,275,000. The 3BR/3.5BA, 3,000-square foot home with two-car parking was listed again in mid March  at $2,485,000. It was on the market for five days and closed escrow in mid April for $2.6M. So much for the widely held beliefs that properties have lost value since the go-go years of 2005.

Low: 230 Urbano, Ingleside Terrace

230 Urbano is a 3BR/2BA, almost 4,000 square foot home near the neighborhood’s Sun Dial (a nice stretch of green). It was pretty basic inside–perfectly liveable, but could use some updates. The property was listed in September 2010 for a whoppin’ $1.4M. It was reduced a month later to $1.2M and then to $1,139,000 before going into contract and selling for…$973,000 last week for all cash.

How’s The Market In: Lakeside

One of the lesser-known neighborhoods in the west part of San Francisco is Lakeside. Bordered by Sloat on the north, Junipero Serra on the east, 19th Avenue on the west/south, Lakeside is a slice of a ‘hood that’s adjacent to San Francisco State University, Stonestown Galleria, Stern Grove, and Ingleside/Balboa Terraces. Here’s a map for your reference:

The homes in Lakeside were constructed from 1936-1950, and the developers targeted buyers who were professional men (and their families).  The plan for Lakeside was explained in the October 1936 issue of California Homes: “For the Man of Means: If you are a San Francisco executive you’ll like Lakeside. Close to your executive offices in the matter of distance and in the matter of time due to the Twin Peaks Tunnel; close to your favorite golf course and bridge club; close to your heart in the architecture of your needs…” They made sure to put utilities underground, and also built out Lakeside Village on Ocean Avenue so there were some stores and services. These days, Lakeside dwellers and buyers like the area because it’s convenient to the aforementioned places, area schools, West Portal and Hwy 280.

Lakeside is a small geographical area, so sales aren’t exactly prolific year round. A total of 17 single-family homes (no condos here) sold in 2010 for an average of $913,014. All but three were three- to four-bedroom homes with large square footage. All but four sold for less than $1M.

There are presently three listings available for sale in Lakeside, ranging from $695,000-$749,000. Three other homes are in contract. The market has held up well in this neighborhood, and there’s probably not sufficient inventory for all the buyers who might like to reside here.

Given that Lakeside has such a limited inventory and sales history, sellers (and buyers) can use sales in the neighboring areas of Merced Manor; Balboa Terrace; Stonestown; Merced Heights; and even Lakeshore and Pine Lake Park. Those neighborhoods tend to share a similar feel, but it’s important to note that comps should involve homes of similar architecture, number of bedrooms and adjust for remodeling and overall condition.

What You Can Buy for $1M

There’s a wide variety of properties in San Francisco, and we take a look today at three very different homes at the $1M price point:

3569 Pierce
List Price: $995,000
2BR/1BA, 1575 sq ft
1-car pkg
HOA dues: $250/mo
This first-floor condo in a two-unit building has a gourmet kitchen, wood-burning fireplace, formal dining room and hardwood floors. There’s also a shared, landscaped garden. Location is prime Marina, close to Marina Green and the Chestnut Street retail area.

65 Borica Street
Ingleside Terrace
List Price: $998,000
4BR/2BA, 1719 sq ft
2-car parking
Fully detached and built in 1923, this Spanish-Mediterranean single-family home has a Mayan fireplace, formal dining room, spacious kitchen with a garden view, and rear decks. The price was reduced in mid May from $1,129,000 to the current $998,000 list price.

472-474 Pennsylvania
Potrero Hill
List Price: $995,000
Two units
2-car pkg
Consider this two-unit building that will be delivered vacant. There are two 2BR/1BAs, a terraced yard, and two-car side-by-side parking. Good Potrero location, in walking distance of both Potrero shops and restaurants, as well as the Dogpatch cafes and restaurants (and about five blocks away from the Muni line that runs up & down Third Street). You’re a little close to 280 here, but how much that will bother you is a personal choice. This is a good option for someone with a decent down payment who wants to owner occupy one unit and rent out the other. Or, go in with a friend and keep your costs manageable.

Ingleside Terrace Home Sells for a More Earthbound Price

The 4BR/3BA home at 112 Lunado Way in Ingleside Terrace first came on the market in February at $1,650,000—potentially ready to ride the coattails of the April 2009 sale of neighbor 25 Mercedes. The latter had sold for $1,765,000 after 112 days on the market. But it was also the most expensive home sold last year within the confines of Ingleside Terrace.

However, no buyers materialized for Lunado at its initial list price, and after a series of reductions, the property sold last week for a more realistic $1,289,000. Indeed, the median price for the area over the past year was $1,083,800.

So buyers, it goes to show you that, given enough time and sufficient reality doses, some sellers will sign on the dotted line for significantly less than asking. But it just may take time (about four months, in the case of Lunado). And make no mistake: There are seemingly plenty of buyers looking for $1M+ homes in San Francisco. But many of them are sitting on the sidelines, waiting to make the right move at the right time.

Entry-Level Price Range Explodes in San Francisco

There was a time when it was pretty challenging to find properties with decent space in San Francisco for up to $650,000. Now that the market has softened a bit—and some of the buyers who sat on the sidelines last year (saving money in the interim) have jumped back in the game—there’s a perfect first-time home buyer storm sweeping over the city.

Bad metaphors aside, I’m really encouraged by activity in this market segment. A look at the properties listed for up to $650,000 that have gone into contract recently or are pending is indicative of its strength. To date, 110 such condos have gone into contract since January, at an average price of $467,943. Of these, 61 one-bedroom units were listed at an average of $463,841, and most interestingly, 29 two-bedroom condos were listed at an average of $525,921. There was a time when it was virtually impossible to find a two-bedroom in this range, but that seems to be fortunately changing. And 78 condos are pending that were listed for up to $650,000.

I should note that not every neighborhood will have two bedrooms in this range. The most likely possibilities are areas such as the Mission, South of Market, Diamond Heights. Things open up for one bedrooms, with neighborhoods like the Van Ness corridor, Mission Bay, South Beach, South of Market and the Central Waterfront (Dogpatch) popping up.

If you’re dreaming of a single-family home, the entry-level range is a little sparse. For up to $650,000, you’re generally looking at two-bedroom homes in areas such as the Outer Sunset/Parkside; Ingleside Heights; Sunnyside; Bernal Heights; Excelsior; Outer Mission; Visitacion Valley; Silver and Mission Terraces. A total of 100 single-family homes are currently in contract or pending with list prices of up to $650,000. And yes, the homes are generally located in the aforementioned neighborhoods.

Heading into February, we’re looking at 244 condos currently on the market (a mix of studios, one- and two-bedrooms). Now might be a good time to get off the sidelines, take advantage of the federal tax credit before it expires in the spring, and negotiate your way to your first home.

Checking Out Q1 House Averages

With volumes and prices down, the first quarter of the year opened with a whimper. Buyers were reluctant to make purchase decisions, and sellers held back from putting their homes on the market.

Most neighborhood averages were below $1M. That just supports my theory that the most popular price range continues to be $400,000-$900,000. Here’s a look at how single-family homes fared in a variety of neighborhoods:

Inner Richmond
# Sold: 2
Avge Price: $860,000

Inner Sunset
# Sold: 4
Avge Price: $793,200

# Sold: 11
Avge Price: $719,000

Ingleside/I. Heights
# Sold: 14
Avge Price: $445,279

Miraloma Park
# Sold: 8
Avge Price: $831,375

# Sold: 9
Avge Price: $684,333

Noe Valley
# Sold: 19
Avge Price: $1,291,605

Glen Park
# Sold: 8
Avge Price: $941,625

Corona Heights
# Sold: 2
Avge Price: $1,145,000

Pacific Heights
# Sold: 3
Avge Price: $3,524,500

The Mission
# Sold: 2
Avge Price: $592,625

Bernal Heights
# Sold: 11
Avge Price: $710,455

Potrero Hill
# Sold: 6
Avge Price: $952,333

The Excelsior
# Sold: 18
Avge Price: $529,411

Stop in tomorrow for a look at condo averages!

Neighborhood Spotlight: Ingleside

An often overlooked neighborhood is Ingleside. Located south of Sunnyside and City College, east of the Stonestown area, and just west of Mission Terrace, Ingleside enjoys close proximity to Hwy 280. It’s also fairly close to the Balboa Park BART & Muni station, which provides service to downtown San Francisco.

Ocean Avenue is the retail strip that runs across the north end of Ingleside. This is where you’ll find sandwich, coffee, and produce shops, clothing stores, library, veterinarian, and even a massive 24-Hour Fitness.

And the neighborhood is priced within the first-time home buyer range. Approximately 26 homes have sold in Ingleside since October 2008, at an average price of $504,277.

Conforming Loans Lead the Way

Conforming loans are about the only option these days for those prospective buyers who have less than a 20% down payment. Though this loan amount is poised to increase to $729,750 soon, it is currently set at $625,500. Along with that down payment, you’ll need acceptable credit scores and incomes.

So what’s available for up to $695,000, assuming you’re working with a 10% down payment? Quite a bit of inventory, it seems. There are 210 single-family houses on the market, ranging in price from $179,000 for a 625-square foot, one-bedroom short sale house that’s tenant occupied in Bayview, to a three-bedroom home in Bernal Heights on College Terrace. In addition to Bernal and Bayview, neighborhood selections include Merced Heights, Ingleside, Outer Sunset, and Sunnyside.

There are 493 condos available, but it’s important to have your lender or mortgage broker review a particular building prior to even considering making an offer. Lenders are hesitant to lend on condo buildings, so there are further limitations to what you may be able to purchase.

I’d recommend considering properties priced as high as $725,000-$750,000, as your chances of negotiating for what you can afford increase the longer the property sits on the market–presuming you have a motivated seller on hand.