What You Can Buy: Smart Investments for Owner Occupiers

One of the most strategic and desirable investments you can make in San Francisco is to purchase a three- to four-unit property that has one or more units vacant, a garage, and a good neighborhood location. Let’s face it, rents in the city are high, and if your rents reflect today’s market, you’ll be ahead of the game in the long run.

It’s extremely important to be well versed in San Francisco’s rent laws before you consider such a purchase. I’ve been a successful owner-landlord for the past 16 years, and there’s definitely a list of do’s and don’ts to which you’ll want to adhere. You also will want to have a large down payment or you’ll have no cash flow. Here are three properties worth a look, particularly if you’re in this for a long-term hold:

1031-1037 Divisadero
Neighborhood: NoPa
The Deets: Two vacant Victorian two-unit buildings on one lot with a capacity for eight-car parking. There are two 1BR/1BA units, and two 2BR/1BA flats.
List Price: $3.7M
The Scoop: NoPa’s become all the rage in the past couple years, so finding tenants for three of these nice units shouldn’t be a problem. The property was built in 1880 and has all the period details people love. You can move in to one of the larger units in the front building for your primary residence, and rent out the rest. 1031-1037 Divisadero is on a double lot and has updated kitchens/baths, and hardwood floors. The building came on the market at the end of August for $3.9M, so the current list price reflects a reduction. [Read more…]

What You Can Buy for Under $1M with Bay & Bridge Views

If your budget is under $1M and you want a condo with views, your best bets will be neighborhoods like South Beach and Mission Bay. Real estate is roughly around $1,000/sq foot there, so if you manage to snag a property with Bay views, you’ll really be getting the best bang for your buck.

Here’s a look at three condos with views in popular buildings that are near 280, Caltrain, BART, Muni, AT&T Park, and renowned restaurants:

260 King #1515
The Beacon (Mission Bay)

1BR/1BA, 903 sq ft
HOA dues: $762/mo + $140.40 parking/mo
List price: $799,000
260 King #1515 in The Beacon has dead-on Bay views from every window, and that’s no exaggeration. This is the type of home where you walk in and immediately realize that the online photos don’t do the views justice. The unit features hardwood floors, a kitchen with granite counters and stainless-steel appliances, and an in-unit washer/dryer. There’s also a separate alcove if you need an office area. Constructed in 2004, The Beacon spans two buildings (250 and 260 King) and has 595 units. It’s got excellent amenities like a 24-hour doorperson, concierge services, lap pool, spa, fitness center, club house and dog park. There are currently eight condos available in the Beacon for under $1M, but #1515 offers the best views and position in the building for the money. [Read more…]

What You Can Buy: 21 Days & Counting

Properties in San Francisco commonly go into contract within a week or two of being on the market. Which means that things move quickly. However, there are many homes that have been on the market for three weeks or more. In my never-ending quest to unearth buyer opportunities, I wanted to profile a trio of properties that are available with no offer date—and potentially, no competition:

424 28th Street
Noe Valley

Days on Market (DOM): 24
3BR/2BA, no parking
List price: $1,595,000
Finding a spacious, detached single-family home in a good location in Noe Valley for less than $2M is a bit of a challenge these days. That’s why I’m surprised no one’s snapped up 424 28th Street. Yes, this house is a little quirky, with bedrooms scattered among three levels, and no, there’s not a garage. But you can take it upon yourself to add parking (there’s an estimate on file for $120,000 for a garage installation). The sellers have secured a leased parking space in the interim that’s only half a block away. You also have front and rear backyards, views, and a family room. The house is situated two and a half blocks from the J Church Muni station and the shops/restaurants in the south end of Noe. [Read more…]

What You Could’ve Bought: For Under the List Price

Buyers are paying an average of 12% over asking for houses and 10% for condos in the current San Francisco market. So I always catch a little thrill when I spot properties that sell for under the list price.

A handful of homes sold for under asking in April in popular neighborhoods. Let’s take a look at some sales that were possible without overbidding and waiving contingencies:

301 Main #20B
South Beach

List Price: $2.1M
Sale Price: $1,975,000
Days on Market (DOM): 50
Cash Sale: Yes
Shed no tears for this seller, who managed to flip this unit for significantly more money. Purchased in October 2013 for $1.6M, this 2BR/2BA unit at The Infinity was listed again in February for $2.1M. That price apparently didn’t fly, but $1,975,000 did. If there’s ever a case that needs to be made for the strength of the 2014 market, #20B is a good sale to reference. [Read more…]

What You Can Buy: For Up to $500,000

The average condo price in San Francisco in the first quarter was just over $1M, and for houses, it was around $1.4M. So what can you buy if you can afford…half that amount or less?

I surveyed first-quarter sales to nail down specifics about what you can expect to be available in the $500,000 range. So let’s get to the point and look at each property category. [Read more…]

What You Can Buy: View Condos

San Francisco properties with views of the hills, city skyline, ocean or Bay command a premium. The whole “million dollar view” tag line really does ring true for some homes.

And when it comes to condos in centrally located neighborhoods, views are the icing on the cake. View condos certainly fall under the “luxury” category, and they’ll typically cost above the $1M average for a two-bedroom unit.

I surveyed the market and picked out my favorite three view condos to spotlight today:

657 Corbett #3
Twin Peaks

4BR/3BA, 2101 sq ft
1-car parking
HOA dues: $316.22/mo
List price: $1,495,000
657corbett657 Corbett #3 is the penthouse condo in this four-unit building, and it certainly pulls out all the stops. The two-level residence features walls of glass with stunning views of downtown, The Bay and beyond. And it’s a corner unit, so you also get great east and south views. Three bedrooms are all on the same level, with the fourth bedroom on the main level. Though you’re not in the heart of a retail area, the reason to live on Corbett is for its views. Because let’s face it, you don’t get views in the flatlands of the Castro. Quick comp: #1 on the first floor of 657 Corbett is a 4BR/3BA unit with 2007 sq feet that’s in contract with a list price of $1,395,000. [Read more…]

What You Can Buy in March: 21 Days & Counting

The San Francisco market is low on inventory right now. That means you have to dig a little deeper to find buying opportunities, especially for properties in desirable locations. One of my strategies is to take a closer look at homes that have been on the market for three or more weeks. The possibility of multiple offers is lower, and sellers may be thinking about taking a little less on their list price.

Here are three properties that I think are well worth considering at the moment:
555 Bartlett #321
The Mission

Days on market (DOM): 48
1BR/1BA, 1 pkg
List Price: $629,000
I’m a big fan of 555 Bartlett, as I sold a unit there in 2010 when the building was constructed. Unit 321 has upgraded cabinetry and quartz countertops in the kitchen and plenty of natural light. This particular unit is on the third floor and overlooks the landscaped courtyard (that has a bbq area). Very convenient location near BART, Valencia/Mission restaurants and easy freeway access. One huge plus is the newly landscaped Cesar Chavez, which has really transformed the look and feel of the street. HOA dues are $375/month in this 58-unit building, and parking/storage are included. #321 last sold in 2010 for $452,500. [Read more…]

What You Can Buy: Condos for $1.1M with High Walk Scores

Prices for condos with period detail and which are located in very walkable, central neighborhoods are averaging $1.2M for two bedrooms and $1.4M for three-bedroom units. These types of units command a premium because: a) who doesn’t love a quintessential San Francisco property with Edwardian or Victorian detailing, and b) everyone wants to live in an area that lets you walk out your door and be only minutes from a retail area and public transportation.

There’s a handful of condos on the market in this price category, and I thought I would provide a tour of three of them today. So hop in the front seat, and let’s get to it:

1332 Waller
The Haight

3BR/2BA, 1769 sq ft
1 pkg
Year Built: 1904
List Price: $1,099,000
Walk Score: 92
1332 Waller is a two-level Edwardian condo. As the listing agent notes, the property is situated in the middle of three great neighborhoods—the Haight, Cole Valley and Buena Vista. So you can take advantage of both the Haight and Cole Valley’s excellent retail areas, as well as many nearby public transportation options. This flat was renovated in 2003, and it has two bedrooms, a formal dining room, split bath and modern kitchen on the main level. A staircase off the dining room leads you to a large master suite with a wet bar and full bath; just outside is a deck and garden. 1332 Waller has exclusive use of the garage parking spot, storage, and the washer/dryer. [Read more…]

What You Could’ve Bought: For Under List Price

It’s unusual in the current San Francisco market for buyers to be able to purchase a home for less than the list price. Most of the time, a property has to be on the market for at least a couple months, and even then, there’s no guarantee the seller will be willing to take less. But here are three homes that changed hands for substantially less than asking:

1966-68 Greenwich
Cow Hollow

List Price: $3,900,000
Sale Price: $2,650,000
Days on Market (DOM): 99
1966-68 Greenwich was billed as a family compound, and consisted of two condos. There was a 3BR/2BA home with two-car parking at the front of the lot, and a rear 2BR/1.5BA cottage with one-car parking (which the seller was renting on a short-term basis for an income of $100,000/yr). Both buildings were extensively remodeled, and the cottage had its own private entrance. The seller also included plans for enlarging the rear unit by 2500 square feet. Great location near Union Street shops and restaurants, as well as 101. [Read more…]

What You Can Buy—Before the End of the Year

There’s still time to get into contract and complete a home purchase before the end of the year. There are about 14 business days left before Christmas, so buyers with cash or very large down payments will be in strong demand to achieve the year-end selling goal.

If you’re one such buyer, you may want to consider one of the newer listings that have recently come on the market. Here’s a look at three homes that I love, and which I believe have list prices that leave room for the requisite overbidding:

3754 Cesar Chavez
Noe Valley

2BR/1BA, 936 sq feet

3754 Cesar Chavez is the classic small Noe Victorian that’s great for a single person or couple planning to live there for a few years before upgrading to a larger, more spacious place. The home is well appointed, with an open, bright kitchen, period detail throughout and a deck off the rear. Brick foundation and one-car parking in the garage. Though the house is situated on a busy stretch of Cesar Chavez between Guerrero and Dolores—and backs up to the Samoan Church/sits next to a parking lot, the location is central to BART, Muni and the freeways. You’re also in proximity to the Mission restaurants and shops, as well as the excellent 26th & Guerrero grocery store around the corner.

16 Amber
Diamond Heights

2BR/2BA, 2 pkg

Yes, Diamond Heights is foggy and somewhat remote. But where else can you get a top-floor condo with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, two-car parking and views listed for under $700,000? 16 Amber is in a smaller complex with a building entrance that’s shared by only three other units. The condo has a balcony with south-facing views and an updated kitchen. HOA dues are just under $500. You’re a 10-minute walk from Safeway, and five minutes’ drive to 280.

2374 Union
Cow Hollow

3BR/2BA, 1696 sq ft
1 pkg

2374 Union is my pick of the bunch here, and with good reason. First, this 2300 block of Union is completely residential but is only one block east from the retail stretch of Union. Second, the condo itself has all the amenities—remodeled kitchen, parking, shared yard—and is in a well-preserved 1906 building. There are four units in the building, and HOA dues are a low $394/month.

What You Can Buy: Houses in SoMa

The South of Market (SoMa) neighborhood in San Francisco’s southeast end is known for its lofts, multi-unit buildings and industrial/commercial spaces. On occasion, however, a single-family house goes on the market. Such unique properties are excellent for urban dwellers who want the privacy and space, as well as want to avoid monthly HOA dues and related issues. These houses, however, are a rarity; in the past three years, only six have sold.

That’s why it’s cool to see two SoMa houses hit the market simultaneously over the past week. Here’s a look at the details:

36 Rausch
Year Built: 1906
List Price: $1,100,000

36 Rausch is on a cute block between Howard/Folsom and 7th/8th Streets. The house has nice period detail throughout, like bay windows, crown moldings and coved ceilings, so it’s totally different from the usual architecture you see in the area. There’s a space at the entrance level that could be used as its own unit (unwarranted kitchen, etc). Finishes are Home Depot level, and the flooring could use an upgrade. But 36 Rausch scores points for being unique and offering an interesting space that future owners could renovate to their tastes.

275 Shipley
Year Built: 1913
List Price: $1,495,000

I’m a big fan of 275 Shipley, an artfully renovated house that’s right off 6th Street between Folsom and Harrison. The house sits on a 50-foot wide lot and has a very cool yard, unheard of in SoMa, which adds up to unparalleled indoor-outdoor living. The three bedrooms are all on the top floor, and the master has a private deck. Did I mention the two-car garage?

What You Can Buy in August: 21 Days & Counting

New listings got you down? Well, I found two condos and one single-family home that have been sitting on the market for more than 21 days. And that means potentially writing an offer without having to compete with other buyers and pay way over the list price. Here’s what I have to show you this time around:

251 Upland
Mt Davidson Manor

Days on market (DOM): 33
3BR/2BA, 2134 sq ft
2 pkg
List Price: $995,000

Where can you find a 2,000+ square foot house with three bedrooms, two full bathrooms and parking in a nice neighborhood for under $1M? 251 Upland fits the bill. Though it doesn’t have much outdoor space, the home occupies a corner lot and has lovely 1930s period detail. The kitchen is spacious and has a breakfast nook, and the lower level includes a bedroom, den/media room, laundry area and storage. 251 Aptos is right near Ocean Avenue, Lakeside Village, Whole Foods and Stonestown Galleria.

226 Ashbury

Days on market (DOM): 24
2BR/2BA, 1300 sq ft
1 pkg
List Price: $899,000

226 Ashbury is a condo that had a brief foray into contract before coming back on the market earlier this month. It’s obviously gotten lost in the newer inventory shuffle. Situated only half a block from Golden Gate Park, this Victorian condo features a large master suite that can also accommodate a sitting area or office, remodeled kitchen, exclusive-use deck and direct access to the common paved yard. You’re on the first floor of a three-unit building, but for the location and overall unit scale, the list price seems like a deal to me.

1244 Jackson
Nob Hill

Days on market (DOM): 25
3BR/1BA, 1,332 sq ft
1 pkg
List Price: $1,299,500

1244 Jackson is located right on the cable car line, which is charming (but could also be noisy). The building was constructed in 1910 and has all the gracious interior details to show for it. Yes, you only have one bathroom, but if you can get past that, you’ll enjoy an eat-in kitchen with Golden Gate Bridge views, and parking.

What You Can Buy: 21 Days & Counting

I found two single-family homes and one condo that have been sitting on the market for more than 21 days. As active San Francisco buyers know, decent properties that don’t garner multiple offers within one or two weeks of coming on the market are worth considering. If anything, there will be less competition, and you may actually be able to negotiate with the seller.

Here are my picks this week:
1424 Wawona

Days on market (DOM): 23
3BR/2.5BA, 2106 sq ft
2 pkg
List Price: $1,188,000

1424 Wawona is one of those houses that doesn’t have the classic San Francisco charm, but it has a very functional floor plan and quiet location on a cul-de-sac across from Stern Grove. All three bedrooms are on the upper level, there’s a nicely remodeled kitchen, updated bathrooms, and a unique yard with a deck on the upper level.

1853 Filbert
Cow Hollow

Days on market (DOM): 23
2BR/2BA, 1,048 sq ft
1 pkg
List Price: $1,185,000

Boasting a prime Cow Hollow location near Union Street, 1853 Filbert features a remodeled kitchen and baths and opens onto a lovely shared patio and landscaped garden. The building was constructed in 1909, so 1853 Filbert has period detailing throughout. There are six condos in the building, and HOA dues are $375/month. Two storage units are included, as well. The property was on the market in 2012 with a last list price of $1,125,000 (down from $1,185,000) and the seller withdrew the listing. But we’re in a new market now, so they’re going for their original price this time around.

381 San Leandro
Balboa Terrace

Days on market (DOM): 32
4BR/2.5BA, 2995 sq ft
2 pkg
List Price: $1,399,000

Looking for a four-bedroom home in a family-friendly neighborhood for under $1.5M? 381 San Leandro Way may be the one for you. The two-story home has it all, including a banquet-sized dining room and remodeled kitchen with breakfast area open to a deck, and all three bedrooms on the same level. Did I mention that the master bedroom has ocean views? The only drawback is that there’s no yard—just a rear easement that allows for a garage and off-street parking. But the space and stately architecture are all there. 381 San Leandro was initially listed for $1,549,000, and the current $1,399,000 price represents a reduction that happened this past week.

SF Market Sitters: 21 Days & Counting

In a market where new listings get multiple offers within a week or two, it’s important not to lose sight of the rare homes that are taking offers “as they come.” Maybe the list price started out too high, and buyers are fearing that the sellers are looking for a lot more than their asking price. Or maybe there’s something particularly challenging about the location or floor plan (that you may be able to live with). And of course, we can’t ignore the possibility that the seller is simply not genuinely motivated to sell. In any event, here are my picks for three weeks or longer:

405 Arguello #201
Inner Richmond Condo

1BR/1BA, 716 sq ft
1 pkg
Days on market (DOM): 77
List Price: $599,000

Yes, 405 Arguello #201‘s deck above is deeded and exclusive—and, you’re literally around the block from Clement Street’s restaurants and shops. This well-appointed unit is in a building that was constructed in 1991, and it has an open living/dining/kitchen area. Best of all, the unit faces the rear of the building, so traffic noise from busy Arguello is mitigated. There are six units in the building, and parking/storage are included. There’s also a common laundry area. HOA dues are a low $202/month.

243 Romain
Twin Peaks House

2BR/1BA, 925 sq ft
1 pkg
DOM: 21
List Price: $975,000

243 Romain is situated on the block that has the Market Street bridge, which lets you walk directly from your block to the other side of Market and drops you down either into Noe or Eureka Valleys. The house is on the smaller side, with less than 1,000 square feet. But the kitchen and bathroom finishes are reasonable, and there’s a cute yard. Buyers have probably stayed away because 243 Romain is priced at $1,054/sq ft, which is what new construction is fetching these days. However, at the right price, you can get a house vs condo in a walkable location. This is the third coming of 243 Romain, as the seller started out in May with the first of what has now become three listing agents, pricing the home at $1.2M. So technically speaking, the property has been on the market a lot longer than 21 days.

60 Escondido
Pine Lake Park House

5BR/3.5BA, 2956 sq ft
2 pkg
DOM: 24
List Price: $1,329,000

60 Escondido is a big, lovely house on a block that runs parallel to Sloat Boulevard at 34th Avenue. So you’ll hear Sloat traffic, but you’ll also be across the street from the shopping center that has everything from a grocery store to a post office. The house has been updated with a remodeled kitchen, and there are three bedrooms on the main level. Downstairs are two more bedrooms, a full bath and entertainment area. They started out with a $1,380,000 list price, which didn’t help in a neighborhood where the average house price this year has been $1,250,000.

If you’re interested in any of these homes, feel free to give me a shout at 415-823-4656/ebermingham@zephyrsf.com, and I’d be happy to assist you!

What You Can Buy: 1BR Houses

Small one-bedroom houses are sometimes good condo alternatives in San Francisco, particularly if they’re nicely remodeled and are in centrally located neighborhoods. Today we take a look at a trio of one-bedroom homes in popular areas of the city:

439 Hill
Eureka Valley

1BR/1BA, 947 sq ft
No parking
Days on Market: 1
List Price: $995,000

The Scoop: 439 Hill is a Victorian cottage that has a living room, formal dining room, and rear sitting area on the main level. Downstairs is an unwarranted, remodeled studio that’s currently tenant occupied. There’s a garden with a hot tub, waterfall, small pond and several sitting areas.

The Location: Prime Eureka Valley block near Muni, Mission Dolores Park, Noe Valley, and the Castro.

Background Check: Though 439 Hill is priced at $1,050/sq foot, there is an unassigned value to the unwarranted studio, which could be legalized in the future and incorporated as a second bedroom.

Bottom Line: For those looking for the privacy of a house in an excellent location (and studio income, to boot), 439 Hill is a good option.

217 Bocana
Bernal Heights

1BR/1BA, 460 sq ft
1-car pkg
Days on Market: 7
List Price: $599,000

The Scoop: 217 Bocana is a unique cottage, complete with a living room with Murphy bed and kitchen on the main level. Downstairs is a bedroom accessed via what I’ve learned is called an alternating tread staircase (typically reserved for ships). There are small front and rear yards.

The Location: Excellent north slope location, just up the hill from the heart of Cortland Avenue.

Background Check: Last sold for $475,000 in 2010, the home has gone through some changes in its current ownership. The lower level bedroom has been added, along with the crazy staircase. The property extends between Bocana at the front and Bennington at the rear, and you can access the home from either street.

Bottom Line: 217 Bocana is maxed out on expansion, but if you’re willing to compromise on space to achieve a superior Bernal location, this house may be a good fit for you.

86 Stanton
Eureka Valley

1BR/1BA, 435 sq ft
No parking
Days on Market: 38
List Price: $985,000

The Scoop: 86 Stanton includes two buildable lots and one updated cottage that sits in a little dell down flagstone steps, with a terraced, stone-paved front yard and grassy side yard. The house features two skylights, bleached hardwood floors and peaked beamed roof.

The Location: Tucked away in the Upper Market area, 86 Stanton is near Kite Hill and about one mile from the Castro.

Background Check: Last sold in 2005 for $795,000, 86 Stanton has been on and off the market since 2011 at various list prices. There are plans available for a three-bedroom house and carriage house, though they haven’t been approved by the city. The cottage is currently tenant occupied.

Bottom Line: Intriguing development opportunity, but buyers should investigate their options before committing to a purchase.