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...]

21 Days & Counting: What’s Not Selling Quickly

Most of the homes that hit the San Francisco market are in contract within a week or two, with multiple offers and an ultimate selling price of well over the list. However, there are actually properties sitting on the market that have somehow slipped through the cracks. If you’re a buyer on a budget and sick of complaining about how there’s no inventory, you may want to consider one of these single-family houses that has been on the market for 21 days or longer:

250 Elsie
Bernal Heights

2BR/1BA, 1100 sq ft
No parking
Days on Market: 23
List Price: $759,000

The Scoop: 250 Elsie was built in the mid-1800s but has an open floor plan and a loft above. The yard has mature fruit trees, formal box hedges, and rose bushes. The foundation has been upgraded and there’s a large, undeveloped basement.
The Location: Steps from Bernal’s Cortland Avenue retail strip, and close to the Mission Street corridor.
Background Check: This is a probate sale that’s not subject to court confirmation.
Bottom Line: If you’re all about outdoor space, 250 Elsie will fit the bill. Consider leasing a garage, parking is not that easy in this location. Or contact your favorite garage contractor and see what the possibilities are for creating a one-car garage out of all that basement space.

740 Foerster
Miraloma Park

2BR/2BA
1 parking
Days on Market: 29
List Price: $899,000

The Scoop: 740 Foerster is a lovely art deco single-family home with a remodeled kitchen and family room down. Stairs to yard that’s mostly concrete. Low termite report on file.
The Location: A bit of a hike to the downtown Glen Park area and BART, but great freeway access and a peaceful environment.
Background Check: Last sold for $1,010,000 in 2007.
Bottom Line: Solid house in good shape that doesn’t need work.

1766 10th Avenue
Inner Sunset

3BR/2BA, 1425 sq ft
2 parking
Days on Market: 37
List Price: $949,000

The Scoop: A spacious home with open beam ceiling, 1766 10th Avenue has a formal dining room, large split bath with separate shower and tub, and two good-sized bedrooms overlooking the large yard. Lower level has two bonus rooms, full bath, laundry and two-car tandem parking.
The Location: Reasonably close to the 9th and Irving retail area, UCSF Medical Center (for all you physicians in the crowd), and Muni lines.
Background Check: Went into contract, but fell back out.
Bottom Line: Nice neighborhood location and overall attractive house with good period detail.

What You Can Buy: SF Houses

There are many neighborhood and property options in San Francisco. Today we take a look at four new single-family homes listings in different price points and areas. For those kicking off a house hunt who aren’t terribly familiar with the many neighborhoods in the city, this is a great way to start getting a sense for what’s out there:

754 Monterey Blvd
Sunnyside

$749,000
2BR/1BA, 1124 sq ft
Built 1924
1 pkg

Featuring an updated kitchen and bath, formal dining room and a lovely garden, 754 Monterey has lovely 1920s period details. Monterey Boulevard has four lanes of traffic, so if you’re very sensitive to noise, this may not be the best choice. But the location is convenient to 280, two bus lines, BART, City College, Safeway and more. The property last sold in 2009 for $633,000.

243 Romain
Twin Peaks

$1,195,000
2BR/1BA, 952 sq ft (as per tax records)
Built 1908
1 pkg

The big selling point for 243 Romain is the floor-to-ceiling windows and deck that overlook the city skyline and homes in the background, as well as the secluded, landscaped yard. The house is definitely on the small side, but having those views really opens things up. At the corner is a footbridge that lets you cross Market Street, and drops you down into the Castro. Weather in Twin Peaks is generally cooler, foggier and windier in the afternoon, but the neighborhood is great for clearing your head and appreciating a more quiet environment. The house last sold in 2008 for $899,000.

770 4th Avenue
Inner Richmond

4BR/2BA, 2652 sq ft
$1,749,000
Built 1914
2 pkg

770 4th Avenue is great for buyers who need a lot of bedrooms and space, as well as those who are looking for a property to update and make their own. All the details are there, from a living room with a fireplace and built-ins to wainscoting and wood molding. The 700 block of 4th Avenue is right off Golden Gate Park, and is one of my favorite streets in the Inner Richmond because it’s tree lined and has a lovely feel to it. 770 4th Avenue has been owned by the same family since 1973, and we’re told that they took great care of the property.

3110 Buchanan
Cow Hollow

$1,195,000
2BR/1BA, 1066 sq ft (as per tax records)
Built 1900
1 pkg

An excellent condo alternative for buyers who are serious about living in Cow Hollow, 3110 Buchanan is s small Victorian house with a lot of charm in the form of bay windows, high ceilings, French doors and crown moldings. One of the bedrooms is half of the double parlor, and there’s a large eat-in kitchen that looks out on to the patio. Decent-size parking space, as well as washer/dryer hookups and storage. 3110 Buchanan is one and a half blocks from the heart of Union Street, and about five blocks to the Chestnut Street retail area. The block itself loses points in the charm department, as you’re adjacent to a motel. But the location is convenient, particularly for North Bay commuters.

Condo Alternatives for the Holidays

You may be looking for a nice condo in a central neighborhood in San Francisco. Perhaps your budget is somewhere in the $700,000-$900,000 range, which it most likely is if you need at least two bedrooms and parking. But perhaps you should consider a small house instead.

Houses with 1,000 square feet or less are definitely on the small side, but they can be excellent options if what you truly want is privacy, your own garden and washer/dryer and no HOA dues. Yes, you’re compromising on space, but you’re getting location and are avoiding sharing walls and outdoor space with neighbors. Here are three good properties to consider, and they’re all available:

518 Chenery
Glen Park
2BR/1BA, 958 sq feet
$779,000

518 Chenery is conveniently located about two blocks from the Glen Park retail area and BART station. The home has lovely 1920s details and a remodeled, country-style kitchen. The living room even has a wood-burning fireplace, and there is a patio and landscaped garden. Drawbacks are small bedrooms and bathroom access through one of those bedrooms. But if you can come to terms with that, 518 Chenery could be the perfect place to celebrate Christmas.

1120 Elm
Western Addition
2BR/1BA, 850 sq feet
$650,000

The Victorian cottage at 1120 Elm is a circa-1890 carriage house has all the period detailing you could want, from high ceilings to crown moldings. The home features a renovated chef’s kitchen, large bedrooms with ample closet space, unfinished basement and outdoor space. It’s situated on a cul-de-sac, which means there’s not much traffic coming through. The home is adjacent to a school and school yard, so you have to be okay with that factor.

221 Foerster
Sunnyside
2BR/1BA, 989 sq feet
$599,000

221 Foerster is a classic 1920s Sunnyside starter home. The main level has two bedrooms, updated kitchen and bathroom, as well as open living/dining areas. There’s a bonus room downstairs, and a large, level yard with apple and lemon trees. Sunnyside Elementary is directly across the street, which could be convenient for that family you may be thinking of starting. You’re a couple blocks south of Monterey Boulevard, and not very far from downtown Glen Park and the BART station. Freeway access is also quite easy from here.

Good Deal: Sunnyside House + Cottage for $649,000

We have many unique properties in San Francisco, and 645 Congo in Sunnyside is a great example of one of them that also represents what I’d consider to be a good deal.

The updated 2BR/1BA main house has a living room, dining room and remodeled kitchen, with about 1,050 square feet, as per tax records. There’s a built-in sound system, remodeled bath with oversized shower, and refinished hardwood floors. The rear landscaped patio (above) is certainly spacious enough for relaxing and grilling, as well as a cute studio cottage that has its own kitchen, remodeled bath, newer roof and private entrance. (The sellers are also throwing in the patio furniture & window coverings.)

There’s no garage (not a surprise, given the Victorian-era architecture), but Sunnyside is not a neighborhood that’s terribly challenged when it comes to street parking. You’re about five blocks from the Glen Park hub that offers BART and many restaurants and services, as well as a couple blocks to 280 for Peninsula commutes.

Sunnyside lies within what’s known as District 4 in Realtor parlance. The average single-family home sale in the first quarter of 2012 was $877,601, and 114 Congo’s $649,000 list price lands it well below that average. (Though the average price for a 2BR house in Sunnyside is $572,750 year-to-date, none of the four houses sold had legal cottages that could help a homeowner benefit from, say, rental income in a very hot rental market. Considering the amenities and charm the property provides, I’d say this is a good deal. And given the market in this price range, I’d also venture to say that this property won’t be on the market for very long.

Sunnyside Starter Comes With Time Machine


The sellers over at 327 Hearst have stepped back in time with the sale of their 2BR/2BA home. From the looks of the elaborate shower in one of the bathrooms, it looks like they’ve potentially climbed in and emerged  eleven days earlier, when the home first went on the market.

Hearst fell out of contract in that time span, so 327 Hearst is on the lookout for new buyers. The 1600-square foot property is actually not a bad deal; the kitchen is updated, there’s a master suite, decent-sized yard, and south-facing views. (Plus, the inevitable bonus family room is downstairs alongside the second bedroom and bath.) And don’t forget about that time machine! List price remains at $659,000.

The house is located south of Monterey, which is a little less desirable than the streets north of the main strip. But it’s in walking distance of the Glen Park BART and restaurant/shop hub, and has great freeway access.

Sunnyside Starter a Magnet for Buyers

The very appealing 3BR/2BA single-family house at 224 Baden is new to the market. But based on buyer activity in this price range, I am predicting there will be a lot of interest in this property.  I previewed the home today on Zephyr Tour, and really liked the space (1500+ square feet). There’s a very spacious kitchen and reasonable bedroom/bath downstairs, as well as two large bedrooms on the main level. Add to the mix a wood-burning fireplace, formal dining room, chef’s kitchen and one-car garage in a convenient Glen Park location, and you have yourself a fine city dwelling.

I particularly liked the garden:

224 Baden is north of Monterey Boulevard, which means it’s in the more desirable part of the street and is further away from the freeway. You’re about four blocks away from the Glen Park BART station, so this is a home that downtown commuters should seriously consider. Ditto that for Peninsula commuters, as you’re a hop, skip and jump away from 280. And of course, you’re also very close to the downtown area, which has a range of restaurants and shops. (Had a great dinner recently at Le Petit Laurent.)

List price is $729,000. Given that the average 3BR home price in Sunnyside since last September is around $705,000, I’d say this home is priced very well (code for: multiple offers). Check it out this weekend—open 1-4 on Sat 1/29/11 and Sun 1/30/11.

UPDATE: After two weeks on the market, 224 Baden received nine offers and it’s in contract as of February 9, 2011 for about $100,000 over its asking price.

How’s the Market In: Sunnyside

Sunnyside is a relatively quiet residential neighborhood lined with single-family houses. It sits just north of City College (check out this map for the area) and is in close proximity to Hwy 280 and downtown Glen Park. The area is popular with first-time home buyers seeking starter homes, as well as long-time residents who appreciate the close-knit community feel. (The most recent high-profile project was the renovation of the Sunnyside Conservatory on Monterey.)

Monterey Boulevard is the dividing line between the north and south portions of Sunnyside. There’s a Safeway on Monterey between Foerster and Gennessee, as well as some restaurants and services. In general, the north part of Sunnyside commands the highest property prices, particularly for homes on blocks that are only a few blocks away from the Glen Park BART station. Property values tend to fall a bit on the south end, especially the closer you get to 280.

A total of 35 houses have sold this year in Sunnyside, at an average of $682,722. This is the norm for the area, as an average of 45 homes per year have sold since 2007. There are currently a dozen houses, four TICs and two condos on the market. The houses range in price from $480,000 for a 2BR/1BA, 995-sq foot short sale home, to $899,000 for a 3BR/2BA, 1700-square foot home on Joost at Congo that’s been sitting for the past 245 days.

Sunnyside is the go-to ‘hood for buyers who have been priced out of Noe Valley, Glen Park and even Bernal Heights. You tend to get more for your money in Sunnyside; additionally, the other three neighborhoods don’t have much inventory at all in the popular $600,000-$800,000 price range, let alone for single-family homes. My pick these days is at 459 Joost (above photo), which is a 2BR/1BA, 1120-sq foot home with panoramic views, a brick courtyard entry, and in walking distance to downtown Glen Park. Listed at $649,000, the home seems like a very fair deal.

The short sale/foreclosure wave hasn’t spared Sunnyside; the neighborhood has had its fair share of such sales over the past two years. But again, the number of homes sold this year appears to be on track. Fourteen homes were withdrawn or expired from the market this year, eight of which had been listed at more than $700,000. I think Sunnyside will continue to hold its own, as San Francisco simply never has enough inventory to meet first-time home buyers’ needs.

Buyers Flock to District 4 for Single-Family Homes

There seem to be many buyers hunting for San Francisco single-family homes in District 4. In Realtors’ terms, District 4 is the area that encompasses Sunnyside; Miraloma Park; Westwood Park/Highlands; Mount Davidson Manor; Balboa/Ingleside Terraces; Monterey Heights; Sherwood Forest; Diamond Heights; Forest Hill/Extension; West Portal; Midtown Terrace; Forest Knolls and St. Francis Wood.

Many of these neighborhoods have homes that are worth less than $1M, and for single-family home buyers, that’s the sweet spot. I’m seeing a significant uptick in homes sales in the area, as evidenced by the number of properties that have gone into contract or are pending (in contract, with sale conditions removed).

No less than 37 single-family homes are on their way to closing sales, with an average list price of $1,001,451. Most were listed in the $700,000-$900,000 range. And many reportedly saw more than one offer. A total of 37 homes have closed escrow in the area since the beginning of the year, with eleven homes selling for above their asking prices (244 Santa Paula in Forest Hill was listed at $1,395,000 and sold for $1,520,000). But most sold for less than asking (most dramatically, 69 Amber in Diamond Heights listed at $1,250,000 and selling for $905,000, and Sunnyside’s 266-68 Monterey listed at $1,049,000 and selling for $700,000.)

There are 64 active listings in District 4, some of which have had significant and attractive price reductions. If you’ve been sitting on the fence for the past year but long to have a single-family home in the city, District 4′s neighborhoods will likely have something for you.

Sunnyside Fixers Hit the Market

Looking for a property for under $500,000 to serve as a pleasant abode—or a construction project? Head on over to Hearst Avenue in Sunnyside, where you’ll find two possibilities.

350hearstFirst up is 350 Hearst (above), a pint-sized cottage that features one bedroom off the kitchen, a living area, kitchen and a large yard with a workshop. At $478,000, this could be a nice abode for a single, first-time home buyer.

142hearstOver at 142 Hearst, you’ll find what’s being billed as a “fixer upper.” In reality, it’s a teardown best suited to a contractor who’ll renovate the property and resell it as a new single-family home. List price is $312,000, so all you contractors out there can make your bids and see who ends up in court. (Jury’s out on whether the car and the truck are included.) This is a probate sale, meaning the best offer will be chosen, a court date will be set, and a first overbid will be established. Those who are willing to bid above the court price can duke it out and win the right to renovate.

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.