What You Can Buy: 2BR Condos

Two-bedroom condos are one of the most popular options for first-time home buyers in San Francisco. I thought we’d take a look at a trio of new listings that offer good space, cool locations and nice amenities for their price points:

1099 23rd Street #19
2BR/2.25BA, 1904 sq ft
1-car parking
HOA dues: $641/month
List Price: $850,000

I’m digging 1099 23rd Street #19, a spacious tri-level loft with multiple skylights, soaring ceilings and a wall of windows. The updated kitchen has stainless-steel appliances, granite counters, and maple cabinets. There’s a large bedroom upstairs, and the lower level has the master suite with a second gas fireplace. Nice closet space and laundry room, too. HOA dues are on the high side for a 21-unit building in Dogpatch, but they include outside management and grounds maintenance. This is a solid Dogpatch location, in easy walking distance of all the restaurants and shops on and around 22nd Street, as well as near the Muni line and freeways.

3236 17th Street #1
2BR/2BA, 1534 sq ft
1-car pkg
HOA dues: $200/month
List Price: $899,000

Another spacious condo, 3236 17th Street #1 is situated on the first floor of a three-unit building constructed in 2008. The open floor plan has a remodeled kitchen, and the main living spaces are nicely separated from the bedrooms by a long hallway. There’s side-by-side parking for one car, a storage room, and shared rear yard. 3236 17th Street is right in the thick of it all in the Mission, with a bike lane outside its door and plenty of restaurants, shops and cafes a few steps away.

899 North Point #1
Russian Hill
2BR/2BA, 1171 sq ft
1-car pkg
HOA dues: $312/month
List Price: $949,000

899 North Point #1 is an excellent option for buyers who want to be in a convenient location close to The Bay. The unit is located on the first floor of a three-unit building, and it’s another contemporary property that was constructed in 2009. As is typical for more recently built condos, the living/dining/kitchen areas are open and provide good space for entertaining. The bedrooms are a decent size, and the master has a bath with a stall shower. Amenities include radiant heat, hardwood floors and views of Mount Tam and The Bay from the living room. You’re a stone’s throw from iconic Ghirardelli Square, Aquatic Park, Fisherman’s Wharf and North Beach. And the cable car stops one block away!

Buyers Turn to TICs in Tight Market

As condo prices climb and low inventory persists in centrally located neighborhoods, San Francisco buyers appear to be more willing to take on TICs.

A total of 66 TIC interests sold in the last quarter of 2011, at an average price of $594,127. However, buyers snapped up 94 TICs in Q4 2012, and the average price shot up by about 9% to $645,091.

In a city where the average condo price is almost $1M, TICs still represent a more affordable path to home ownership—particularly where 2BR units are concerned. Almost half of the TICs sold in the last quarter of 2012 were 2BRs, with 1BR TICs representing 32% of the total sold. The least popular TIC type was the 3BR+ unit; only 22% of buyers purchased those.

The TIC market has always been a niche one, with far less units selling than that of condos. (For example, 671 condos sold in Q4 2012 in comparison to those 94 TICs sold in the same time period.) But those TIC numbers could increase in 2013, particularly in neighborhoods such as the Mission/Mission Dolores, North Beach, Lower Pacific Heights and NoPa, which represented the most popular areas for TIC sales late last year.

I checked out a few TIC offerings on my broker tour last week, and in most cases, listing agents reported distributing multiple disclosure packages to interested buyers, as well as offer deadlines. There was a time when TICs would sit on the market for an average of 90 days, but that doesn’t seem to be the case in the current market.

TICs still carry unique risks. For example, the type of financing they require (fractional) lets you avoid a lender foreclosing on the entire building. But you’re still on title with multiple owners, which requires everyone to share responsibilities such as paying property taxes. And fractional financing is only offered through adjustable-rate loans, which can increase over time and leave you vulnerable to higher mortgage payments in the future. Additionally, your lender pool will be small. So if you’re looking to refinance, you’ll be limited to the interest rates those two or three lenders will be offering.

But a TIC is a bonafide homeownership opportunity in a city where rents have managed to hit all-time highs, and where a 2BR condo costs an average of $919,796.

North Beach Edwardian Villa Closes Escrow for $820,000 Under Asking

First listed in October 2008 for $3,995,000, the 5BR/4BA, 3,550-square foot Edwardian at 643 Greenwich in North Beach closed escrow last week in an all-cash transaction with a selling price of $3,175,000.

The property was widely discussed in the blogosphere last year, noting that the building was remodeled in 2001 and then again in 2006. The latter renovation was when the two-story vertical addition took place. The finished product features four levels and Bay/Golden Gate Bridge views.

What You Get For: $950,000-$1M

We’ll take a look at three very different properties being offered in the $950,000-$1M price range. For those interested in purchasing a home in San Francisco, this sort of exercise is designed to help you sort through the unique property types that exist, as well as get a feel for the neighborhoods in which they lie.

andersonFirst off is 78 Anderson on Bernal Height’s north slope. This is the more desirable end of the neighborhood, and the 4BR/2BA cottage with one-car parking has vaulted ceilings, an updated kitchen and is about two blocks from the Cortland Avenue main strip. Last sold in December 2007 for $990,000, it’s not clear how the sellers will make out.

Next up is 650 Chestnut #106 in North Beach:
I remember showing this property when it was last on the market in June 2005; it ultimately sold for $1,009,000. The 3BR/2BA condo in the Villa North Beach complex at Mason Street is now on the market for $959,000. I liked the unit, though—it was big (about 1600 square feet), and had a very large patio. It’s in walking distance of everything North Beach has to offer, and makes for an easy downtown commute.

Finally, there’s 438 Buchanan,a TIC interest in a three-unit building in Hayes Valley.
Yes, it’s located at the busy Buchanan and Oak intersection, and yes, it’s only a stone’s throw from the housing projects. But this recently renovated, 2200+ square foot unit has three bedrooms + a den, 2.5 baths, and is on two levels. It’s the top level that I really liked (above), with its patio and high-end finishes. That’s listed at $979,000. Though the unit is in a three-unit building, one of the units is a commercial space on the ground level. All that’s needed are two buyers who’ll owner occupy the two residential units, and the building can bypass the condo lottery. In the meantime, the seller is keeping the commercial space and is offering wrap-around financing with a down payment of 20% or more at a 6.5% interest rate.

So which one would work for you, if you had to pick one? Please feel free to comment!

Hideaway of the Day: North Beach’s 11 August Alley

augustI like to spotlight unique, quintessential San Francisco hideaway properties when I can. Today’s pick is 11 August Alley.

If you can afford the $1.6M price tag, this 1329-square foot, 2BR/2BA cottage complex could be just what you need. It’s located between Union and Green/Mason and Powell, in the heart of North Beach. There are two Victorian structures surrounding a garden. The property is technically a single-family home, as per city records. There’s a spacious guest studio over the garage that’s being identified as the second bedroom. And don’t forget about the bonus room with sauna, as well as the dining area framed by walls of glass.

Listed on September 24th, August Alley is still available. Could the price be a tad high? Apparently, legendary Realtor Malin Giddings once owned the property, which is enough to warrant $1.6M, no?

Living the Life of Luxury at the Fairmont Heritage Place

maseratiFor the out-of-towners dreaming of the luxury life in San Francisco comes the Fairmont Heritage Place, Ghirardelli Square.

The development is located on North Point and Polk, and features 53 one-, two-, and three-bedroom vacation residences sold through fractional ownership. For example, the one-bedroom listed in the MLS being offered at $185,400 entitles you to stay a certain number of days per year. HOA dues for this interest are $675 per month. A 2BR/2BA interest ($830 HOAs) is listed at $276,187; a 3BR/3BA with $967 HOAs is being offered at $377,407.

Along with the touted high-end finishes and luxe design, you get a long list of amenities—not the least of which is a Maserati Quattroporte (above) as your house car. Tool around in that while the housekeeping staff is cleaning your unit and you’re on the horn with your Fairmont-supplied personal shopper or scheduling an in-residence dinner cooked by a private chef. Economic crisis, be damned. Take the Maserati up to the top of Twin Peaks and crack open a bottle of Cristal. Everybody’s doing it.

455 Vallejo Shored Up & Ready to Sell

455vallejoThe latest unit to go on the market over at 455 Vallejo in the North Beach area is #111—a very lovely 1BR/1BA listed at $630,000.

Best known as the building that was perched atop the hill directly affected by the landslide that occurred in February 2007, 455 Vallejo hasn’t been successful on the resale front since the incident. #111 was on the market in late 2008 for about a month at a list price of $649,000, but there were no takers.

Only three other units have been on the market since the landslide, but all were withdrawn. However, the city has completed all the work required to stablize and anchor the hillside, according to the listing agent. So maybe 455 Vallejo is back in business? There are 22 1BR units available now in neighborhoods such as Pacific Heights, Russian Hill, the North Waterfront, Marina, and Cow Hollow for up to $700,000, with an average price of $565,261. We’ll see what the market says.