Let’s Start Pushing for “Blue” Construction in SF

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.

Real Estate Near Fort Mason, Twist in Latest Sales

There are plenty of events happening in Fort Mason, the Marina outpost that hosts food truck gatherings, the city’s best vegetarian restaurant, a music school and other more interesting enterprises. Welcome the Epic Foodie Festival to the mix, which is sponsored by the Golden Gate Restaurant Association and features multiple events such as The Grand Tasting.

And if you’re interested in real estate that’s in walking distance of Fort Mason, we profile three new listings that fit the bill.

All that plus a market overview that shows that not every sale in San Francisco sells for way over the asking price. In fact, this batch has several sales that show under-asking prices.

It’s all here in the Zephyr Market Tracker!

Hard Hat Tour: Amero in Cow Hollow

Exterior_Amero
I went on a hard hat tour of the new Amero condo building at 1501 Filbert between Van Ness and Franklin last week. Featuring 27 two- and three-bedroom units, Amero also includes one parking space per unit. (Many other properties only provide one space for every two units.) There are four penthouses, as well.

Units range from just over 1,000 square feet to 2500 square feet. Finishes will feature natural stone countertops, walls and flooring; carpeting in bedrooms; European grey oak/wide plank flooring. The kitchen will be fully stocked with Italian cabinetry, Bertazzoni ranges and Thermador refrigerators, along with polished quartz countertops.

We checked out the fifth floor, penthouse level. Some of the units had drywall up, but others are just shells at this point. Here’s a look at one of the corner units:
Corner Unit

To give you a sense for the size of the kitchens and baths, here are a couple shots of both as they’re being constructed:
Kitchen

Penthouse_Bath

One of the townhomes we walked through had three levels. The first included a large patio and living/dining/kitchen area; the second level had a family room, bedroom, bath and storage and the master bedroom/bath were on the third level. Though there aren’t any views, buyers looking for a lot of space in the north end of town should seriously consider one of the townhomes. Here is the future living room:
Topfloor_master_north

Pricing will be in the $1100-$1300/sq foot range, with penthouses/townhomes listed for close to $4M. HOA dues will range from $550-$850/month, and common areas include a shared rooftop terrace with outdoor grills, fireplace and seating areas. There will also be bike storage available. The sales office is accepting offers from buyers now, with move-in dates projected for the Fall. If you’d like independent representation, please give me a shout at ebermingham@zephyrsf.com / 415-823-4656 and I can arrange a tour!

Q2 Goes Out Like a Lion for SF Real Estate

Has San Francisco real estate hit its peak for 2014? That’s the word on the street among many of my colleagues, and the second quarter stats certainly point to a buyer frenzy over the past three months.

Let’s hit up the single-family home and condo markets and see how they stack up against first-quarter numbers:

Single-Family Home Market
# Sold
Q2: 607
Q1: 442

Average Price
Q2: $1,537,074
Q1: $1,401,901

Percentage of Cash Sales
Q2: 20%
Q2: 25%

# Homes Sold for $1M or Less
Q2: 257
Q1: 226

Where to Buy for $1M or Less
Outer Parkside/Sunset; Parkside/Central Sunset; Merced Heights; Ingleside; Midtown Terrace; Miraloma Park; Sunnyside; Bayview; Crocker Amazon; Excelsior; Outer Mission; Visitacion Valley; Portola; Silver Terrace.

Volume and Prices Up, Cash Sales Down: Prices and volume increased over the past quarter, but cash sales dropped 5%. Given that trend, we may see less cash buyers snapping up homes over the summer.

Condo Market
# Sold
Q2: 786
Q1: 568

Average Price
Q2: $1,145,328
Q1: $1,033,560

Percentage of Cash Sales
Q2: 25%
Q1: 24%

# Homes Sold for $1M or Less
Q2: 420
Q1: 321

Where to Buy for $1M or Less: Ingleside Heights; Diamond Heights; 1BRs in Eureka Valley and NoPa; Western Addition; Downtown; Van Ness Corridor; Bernal Heights; Mission; Mission Bay; Potrero; SoMa; South Beach; Dogpatch.

Numbers Up Across the Board: Volume and sales prices also increased in the condo market over the last quarter, though cash sales remained roughly the same. The one-bedroom market is particularly strong, with an average selling price of $720,505.

What’s On Tap for the Summer?
This time of year tends to be slower in terms of buyer activity and inventory. Blame it on vacations, as many buyers and sellers schedule trips and simply aren’t focused on real estate. However, I’m not expecting sellers to hold off until the Fall to list their properties. There are still more buyers out there than available properties, and the committed buyers don’t let vacations prevent them from writing offers.

Happy Independence Day!

fireworks
Thank you for continuing to read and support my blog! Best wishes for a Happy July 4th and great holiday weekend.

Please stop in on Monday 7/7 for my second quarter market update!

(Photo courtesy of Brandon Ku)

Just Sold: 3BR Bernal Condo

267a_anderson
My clients just purchased a spacious three-bedroom Victorian condo on a prime Bernal Heights street, just half a block from the popular Cortland Avenue neighborhood hub.

Featuring lovely period detailing, a living room with gas fireplace and an open kitchen/dining area, 267A Anderson also has three good-sized bedrooms. There’s a private deck, independent parking and storage. List price was $899,000.

5 Ways to Avoid Home-Buying Closing Delays

Contract timelines are always tight in the current San Francisco market. That means that buyers are typically removing appraisal and loan approval contingencies within days of having offers accepted. If you’re not prepared to jump on the fast track to completing your purchase, drama can ensue.

Here are five ways to avoid major closing delays, courtesy of my colleagues at Guarantee Mortgage who presented at our Zephyr sales meeting this week:
1. Be ready to pay for your appraisal. In order to meet a fast appraisal approval turnaround, the lender has to order the appraisal immediately. You should be sufficiently committed to the property to pay for your appraisal within the first day of offer acceptance.

2. Don’t switch your bank accounts around. The lender will typically require re-verification of all money you wire into escrow for your cash balance. If that money is suddenly coming from an account previously undisclosed during your preapproval period, the lender will demand that you provide documentation for that account. The statements will then have to be resubmitted and reviewed by underwriting while time is ticking.

3. Make sure your cash balance is liquid and ready to be transferred to the escrow account. The lender will want to see that the balance of your down payment and closing costs have been wired into the escrow account prior to funding the loan. Best strategy? Wire in that cash balance a few days prior to close of escrow to ensure that your loan funds on time.

4. Watch the AMEX charges. Lenders are picky about American Express credit card balances. If you have a high balance on your AMEX, a lender may want to see proof that you have the money to pay off that balance in full. This proof of funds should be separate from the funds you’ll need to pay your cash balance and any reserves required.

5. Lock in your homeowners insurance early. You should select your home insurance policy no later than a week prior to signing your loan documents. The latter are usually issued about a week ahead of the closing date.

SF Market Shows Signs of Stabilizing

334winfield
The San Francisco real estate market is actually showing signs of stabilizing. That means we’re starting to see fewer offers on properties, fewer extreme overbidding situations, and buyers having offers accepted that—dare we say it?—have contingencies.

For those of us working in the field, networking with our colleagues and representing buyers and sellers in very recent transactions, it’s pretty obvious that things are calming down a bit. Our sales meetings in the first few months of the year were filled with reports on eight, ten or 15+ offer situations. Now it’s more like three or four. My clients are purchasing a condo in Bernal Heights, and their contract had the full appraisal, loan and inspection contingencies.

A look at single-family home and condo sales through June 25th reveals sales prices of only 7.5% above list price on average for condos, and 12% for houses. Of course, there are the usual hotspots (Mission and NoPa condos, Bernal and Noe Valley houses) where buyers are still recklessly throwing money around (see 334 Winfield, pictured above, listed for $1,295,000 and just closed for $1,765,000 in an all-cash transaction). But in the rest of the city, properties are not selling for way, way over the list price.

But let me be clear: Prices are not declining in San Francisco. Single-family homes sold for an average of $1,648,329 in June, and the average condo price was $1,175,558. If you’ve made a purchase or will do so in 2014, it means you’re at peace with what the market demands right now. And if you’re planning to buy between now and the end of the year, I believe that the summer will be the sweet spot due to less competition among vacationing buyers.

What You Need To Know About Gift Funds

It’s no secret that the cost of real estate in San Francisco is high. Many first-time home buyers are turning to family—specifically, to their parents—for a little extra help. If you’re considering making a purchase that will partially rely on what are called “gift funds,” here’s what you need to know, courtesy of my colleague Gordon Friedman of Mortgage Service Professionals:

- The funds must be for a primary residence or second home (not for an investment property)
- The gift must be from a parent, relative, domestic partner, spouse or fiance
- A gift letter is required, which must state the gift amount, property address, date given/to be given, and donor address. The letter also must state that no repayment will be required
- Buyer must have 20% or more in down payment, though the entire down payment can be a gift
- If the buyer has less than 20% down, there will be a 5% borrower contribution required
- For a jumbo loan (more than $625,500), a 5% borrower contribution is required regardless of the down payment.

Parents may co-sign to help their child qualify for financing. Their role in the transaction is as a “non-occupant co-borrower.” They will be on the loan and title, but will not live in the property. Here are the ground rules:
- Parents’ income is combined with son or daughter (and spouse if married) for qualification
- Parents’ debts must be considered
- A loan will only be available from lenders that underwrite to Freddie Mac conforming loan guidelines (not Fannie Mae)
- There’s limited availability among jumbo lenders
- Parents’ contribution towards down payment is not a gift since they will be on the loan

If you’ll be using gift money in your purchase, it’s important to let your lender know during the preapproval stage so there are no surprises.

Inside Hayes Valley’s 8 Octavia

exterior_octavia
I previewed 8 Octavia, the new 47-unit condo development designed by iconic architect Stanley Saitowitz that sits at the corner of Octavia Boulevard and Market Street.

The distinctive feature of the property is the green-colored “curtain” that’s actually a louver system. Owners can press a button in their condo and open or close the louvers, so cancel those plans for window treatments. (No word yet on how expensive the louver system will be over time when it comes to maintaining and repairing it.) Saitowitz calls 8 Octavia a “breathable building,” and I’m sure the louvers are the reason for that.

Most of the condos will have one or two bedrooms, and there are a few junior one bedrooms, as well as larger three bedrooms. Finishes include concrete ceilings, Austrian-imported oak floors, Bosch ranges and dishwashers, Liebherr refrigerators, and corian counters.

#302 has been set up as the model. You open the door to the unit and there’s a walkway that leads to the actual front door of this two bedroom/two bath:
302_entrance

302_kitchen

The bathrooms are located all along the hall, opposite the bedrooms. You need to be ok with having closet-like bathrooms with translucent doors.
302_bathrooms

Potential starting price point for two bedrooms with parking is $1.2M (and around $1M without parking).

I also looked at #303, a junior one bedroom with about 726 square feet that will probably be priced in the high $700,000s:
303_kitchen
The sleeping area is just behind the kitchen, and doesn’t have any windows.

#806 is the largest of the two bedrooms, with about 1225 square feet on two levels. It has north and west exposure, and nice views. Pricing is tentatively in the $1.5M-$1.6M range:
806_northview

806_outlooks

I do like the way they’ve incorporated private “outdoor” patio space by placing it just outside the unit—there’s one door to get you into the patio and the next door provides access to the actual condo. Here’s a look at private space for #504, a two bedroom that may be priced at around $1.3M:
504_largepatio

Building features will include a rooftop terrace with city views, jewel-box viewing garden in the lobby, keyless entry system and yes, a virtual doorman. Let’s not forget the Nest Thermostats, as well as synchronous, 200 Mbps internet service.

8 Octavia is situated in a busy location, with cars running up and down multiple lanes of traffic to and from 101. But what I liked about the building was that you feel a bit removed from all the activity once you’re inside. In terms of convenience, the building scores a perfect 10, as it’s right near Muni on Market, and literally adjacent to the 101 on/off ramps. You can cross Octavia Boulevard—vastly improved over the past few years—and walk to Whole Foods and the Castro, or head in the other direction and be in Hayes Valley in minutes.

Feel free to contact me to schedule a showing if you’re interested! I’m at 415.823.4656 / ebermingham@zephyrsf.com