SF Real Estate Summer Stats Are In!

The San Francisco real estate market didn’t seem to slow down this summer. I was “on vacation” last week, but still reported for duty to prep my upcoming listing, manage my current seller escrow and write offers. Many of my colleagues continued to bring on new listings straight through to the end of August, despite the threat of Burning Man and Labor Day weekend thinning the buyer pool.

And in fact, the last week of August saw many listings coming up dry when offer dates arrived. But I don’t think that this was because the market is softening significantly.

How did buyers and sellers fare in July and August—and what’s on tap for the Fall? I think it’s useful to take a brief look at the single-family home and condo markets individually, as they’re two different animals that need separate analysis:

Summer & Single-Family Homes
The Upshot
The selling pattern for houses continues to see buyers paying more than the list price. Of the 400 houses sold, only 12% closed for under asking, and a meager 4% changed hands for the actual list price. (And when I say that buyers paid less than asking, the differential was only in the 3-7% range under list.)

The average house price was $1.4M, up 9% over July-August 2013. But sales volume decreased by 22%, meaning less buyers weren’t willing or able to pay market value for San Francisco houses this summer.

The average overbid for a house citywide was 10%. But the SF Overbidders Club welcomed 70 new members who paid 25% or more for their homes. These massive overbid hot spots were centered around Bernal Heights, Glen Park and, for some reason, Lake Shore.

Cash Sales
17% of the single-family homes sold in July and August were paid for in cash. The largest cash sale? 2602 Pacific in Pacific Heights, a 6BR/6.5BA property listed for $8,995,000 that closed for $8,250,000.

Luxury Market
A healthy number of houses (67) sold for between $2M-$9.5M.

What’s Up for Houses in the Fall?
Sellers will heed their real estate agents’ advice and continue to list their homes for less than market value to attract as many buyers as possible. Volume will pick up in September through mid November, when a new crop of buyers (and, of course, existing buyers who have been unsuccessful to date) get serious about making a purchase before the end of the year. Sellers will do a double take of the summer stats and take advantage of the market, particularly in the hot spots. (Lake Shore homeowners, get on the ball.) Contractors and developers will be out in full force in popular neighborhoods, picking up fixers to flip.

Summer & Condos
The Upshot
I realize I sound like a broken record, but condo selling patterns also saw homeowners listing their homes for less than what they actually wanted. The condo market was a little more hospitable to buyers than that of the house market. Of the 437 condos sold, only 16% sold for under list price, and 13% traded hands for the asking price.

The average condo price of $1.1M saw an uptick of 13% over last July/August, but similar to that of the house market, there was a 24% decrease in sales volume.

The gap between list and sale price was narrower, with buyers citywide bidding an average of 6.5% over the list price. And the SF Overbidders Club had fewer new condo buyer members. Only 7% of units sold in July and August sold for 25% or more over asking.

Hot spots for overbidders were the usual suspects—Noe/Eureka Valleys, Mission Dolores, NoPa and Hayes Valley.

But the big news was that certain neighborhood markets definitely experienced some softening. Areas like Downtown, Nob/Russian Hills, Civic Center, Mission Bay, SoMa/Yerba Buena, South Beach, Potrero, and Dogpatch all saw their share of less-than-asking prices.

Cash Sales
The condo cash sales didn’t slow down in July and August; 22% of sales were cash transactions. And these popped up most often in north-end enclaves like Pacific Heights, Russian Hill, and the North Waterfront (particularly in larger buildings like 101 Lombard). But Mission Bay and South Beach—most notably, in The Beacon and Arterra—saw a healthy share of cash sales, too. The largest cash sale was $3.5M for a 2BR view unit at the Four Seasons.

Luxury Market
Not too many high-end condos sold in July and August. A total of 8% closed for between $2M-$4.5M.

What’s Up for Condos in the Fall?
A slower market for larger buildings in the aforementioned neighborhoods means buyers may take advantage of stabilizing prices. Who doesn’t want to make an offer for less than asking when you have the chance? I also think buyers will move on from the overbidding hot spots and branch out to other neighborhoods they might not have considered. Sellers of quintessential Victorian/Edwardian flats with all the amenities will do well, as will developers of new construction condos with releases planned in September/October.

My Sweet Summer is (Almost) Gone

I’ve punched out for the week and will be back after Labor Day, in a last-ditch attempt to have a summer vacation.

Thanks for reading my blog, and I look forward to sharing more insights from the field when I return!

Story Behind Prop G, Noe Luxury, Latest Prices

The contentious Prop G will be on our November ballot this year. The proposition calls for a higher transfer tax on people who sell certain residential real estate within five years of purchase. The tax would increase to 24% in those first five years, and then would drop to 14% after five years.

As always, there are multiple sides to the issue, and this edition of the Zephyr Market Tracker looks at some of the different angles.

We also check out some luxurious Noe Valley properties, as well as feature the most recent citywide sales and averages.

It’s all here in the Zephyr Market Tracker.

I’m a Realtor First, Blogger Second

I’ve received a handful of calls over the past year from home buyers and sellers looking for my opinion on their individual real estate situations. The buyers are either in contract on a property and a transaction issue has come up, or are negotiating a purchase agreement and seeking assurance about where the market is going. The sellers have accepted an offer but are looking for my input on whether or not they should grant a requested buyer credit or risk falling out of contract.

I’m always happy to hear from my extensive blog base, but I thought it might be a good time to remind everyone that I’m able to stay in business and write my blog because I’m selling real estate. And I do reserve a good portion of my strategies, market insights and advice for clients—meaning there’s way more you need to know beyond my blog post content when you’re transitioning from reader to being a home buyer or seller.

If you’ve already engaged the services of a Realtor you trust, it’s probably best for you to follow his or her advice. Because if you committed to working with your Realtor, it should mean that you value his or her counsel and have worked through many details together. You now have a track record with your agent, a professional who will also get paid a fee when your transaction closes. We work in a service-based industry, and our time, market knowledge, and negotiating expertise are a few of the services we offer that make us valuable.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a long time and are now planning to buy or sell a property, please remember that I am an experienced, knowledgeable, highly organized and down-to-earth agent who will work in your best interest (even if it means advising you to pass on a particular home or reject a certain offer). Many of my readers have become clients, and have gone on to refer their friends, co-workers, neighbors and family to me.

And every time that happens, it allows me to keep writing this blog and sharing my insights with you on a consistent basis.

Need further proof? Check out my Yelp reviews and video here.

Looking forward to working with more of you in 2014!

2BR Condo Market Explodes in Noe Valley

Buyers competing for two-bedroom condos in Noe Valley are apparently willing to pay whatever it takes to snag them a home near a tech shuttle stop and the freeways.

The average price for such a unit in the time period from June through mid August was $1,250,667. Only two of the nine condos sold were under $1M; the rest ranged from $1,250,000-$1,475,000. Average overbid? 27%.

Yes, there are some such condos selling for less, but they generally involve 1,000 square feet or less and don’t include parking—or have other quirks. (For example, a 2BR/2BA condo with parking on Dolores at 29th Street sold recently for $875,000. But the developer owns three of the 13 units, meaning any buyer needing a loan would have to use non-conforming financing.)

A good example of buyers’ insatiable appetite for Noe condos is 100 Day Street at Dolores (above), a 2BR/1.25BA first-floor condo in a four-unit building that’s not considered to be in a prime Noe location. Outdoor space for the building is limited to a small patio. A deeded, finished and unwarranted room down was possibly the factor that pushed this sale over the edge. Listed for $995,000, the unit sold last week for $1,450,000 with no contingencies. (Yes, that’s a whopping 46% over the list price.)

For owners of two-bedroom Noe condos, this market is probably about as good as it’s gonna get. Pricing today should definitely be a motivator for bringing more such homes on the market. But sellers need to heed value limitations; given that 3BR prices are in the $1.5M-$2M range, it’s likely the 2BR condos won’t go significantly higher than their current average.

And buyers, well, your budget should be in the $1,250,000-$1.5M range if you’re aiming to purchase a reasonably spacious two bedroom in Noe with parking.

No Car? No Problem!

San Francisco continues to head toward a transit-oriented environment, fueled by new construction residential developments that are providing one parking space for every two units (or no parking at all). Car-sharing services are also helping the anti-car ownership trend. Indeed, if you’re buying a condo in a central location near retail areas, rail or bus lines, there is not as much of a need to own a car these days.

I rounded up three great condos that are currently on the market and which don’t provide parking. A few years ago, these properties may have sat on the market due to the lack of parking. But in 2014, many people commute via bus, rail or shuttle (or on foot!). So having no parking lets you ride the no-parking trend, no pun intended. Here are my picks for centrally located units that also offer good space and charm:

7 Cottage Row
Lower Pacific Heights

I’ve always loved this historical street that runs between Bush and Sutter in Lower Pac Heights, half a block from Fillmore Street. Built in 1885, 7 Cottage Row has a remodeled kitchen and bath. The bedroom is on Cottage Row itself, but there are window coverings that can give you privacy. The layout makes a very efficient use of the 607 square feet. For Silicon Valley commuters who prefer the north end of town, Cottage Row is a straight shot down Bush to Van Ness to 101, and there are plenty of bus lines that will take you downtown.

333 Grant #603

333 Grant #603 is a no brainer when it comes to having a conveniently located condo in the heart of downtown and the Financial District, near Union Square and every transportation line in the city. Finishes are high-end throughout, and there’s also a den that would be a good office or guest space. Nice touches include soaring ceilings, exposed brick and open floor plan.

1525 Pacific #B
Nob Hill

1525 Pacific #B is situated in an actual Edwardian carriage house that’s part of a five-unit property. You enter from the street down the tradesmen’s alley and reach the courtyard, which is quite lovely and features a coi pond, flagstone path and seating area. The unit itself has two bedrooms, bath with shower over tub, living area and eat-in kitchen. From this location, you can hit the Polk corridor, reach 101 via Van Ness, or take the bus on Pacific downtown.

Community Doesn’t Just Happen, You Have To Build It

I was on the way to meet a stager at my upcoming listing in Cole Valley last week when I came upon this “lending library” on Woodland. Sheltered by a Far Niente wine box (and signalling immediately that one of these neighbors has good taste in wine), the library is used by neighbors who leave and borrow books on a regular basis. I’ve seen a few more of these lately in the Mission and in Noe Valley, and the libraries are a great way for neighbors to interact and build community.

Many San Francisco buyers tell me that one of the things they’re looking for—besides a suitable house, of course—is a sense of community and good neighbors. And one important factor to note is that a sense of community doesn’t just appear; you actually have to sometimes work to create it.

Case in point: I lived on my block in Noe/Mission for probably about five years before I really started getting to know the neighbors. It took a crazy naked man blocking traffic one late afternoon to trigger meeting one of my neighbors who lived two doors down. And when an unfortunate crime incident occurred around the block from us, that neighbor and I talked about starting a block watch. We kicked off a series of block meetings, and now we all know each other and socialize regularly, as well. And when it’s nice out, we sometimes assemble on someone’s front steps with a bottle of wine. It definitely brings me back to my days growing up in New York, where “hanging out on the stoop” was a common activity.

The good news is that you don’t have to wait until a naked man appears on your street or a crime incident occurs to reach out to your neighbors. Our next door neighbor had a school project that involved hanging colored flags in various places on the block several years ago, in a bid to get people talking. And that it did. Just last year, we spent New Year’s together with several other neighbors. That project played a role in bringing us together.

San Franciscans are generally friendly and appreciate the sense of community. So go ahead, start a lending library, or just have a BBQ in your yard on a Saturday afternoon. Over time, you’ll have the community that you want.

Just Sold: 250 Los Palmos in Miraloma Park

On the market for about three weeks, 250 Los Palmos was overlooked by many buyers. However, my clients seized the day and purchased this spacious single-family home in a great neighborhood. (They also avoided a multiple-offer situation, rare in San Francisco these days.)

250 Los Palmos is just up the hill from Monterey Boulevard and Sunnyside, and is conveniently located near Glen Park and 280 for the Silicon Valley commute. The property has three nice-sized bedrooms all on the same level, a remodeled kitchen with skylight, and an additional, unwarranted bedroom and bathroom downstairs which will be very useful as a family room or guest space.

The average price for a three-bedroom house in San Francisco is well above $1M, but my clients have managed to snag themselves a deal. Congrats to them, and I wish them much happiness in their new home!

Outside Lands Shines Spotlight on Richmond

The annual Outside Lands festival takes over Golden Gate Park this weekend, and the Richmond is one of the adjacent neighborhoods that’s very much in the mix. For better or worse, neighbors can hear the show from their very own residences, and compete with festival goers for street parking and public transportation.

But during the rest of the year, Richmond dwellers enjoy proximity to the park, various retail strips that pepper the area, and the ocean. Yes, you get fog in the Richmond, but from a real estate perspective, there’s a variety of architecture, and the houses and condos have more square footage. In the end, I believe there’s good value, particularly on a price-per-square-foot basis.

Open house access will be a bit challenging this weekend, but here are some listings worth noting. My advice? Skip the open house circuit and make a showing appointment in the morning, before the festival gets going.

607 7th Avenue
Cross street: Balboa
1 pkg
With four levels of living space, 607 7th Avenue could have probably hosted part of Outside Lands. Seriously, this is a big, renovated house with large bedrooms, high-end finishes and a cute garden. The house has been on the market a couple weeks with no bites, but I’m thinking it’s worth writing an offer at less than asking and seeing what you can negotiate.

795 14th Avenue
Cross street: Fulton
2BR/1BA, 1 pkg
795 14th Avenue is a top-floor condo with greenery outlooks from almost every room along the Park Presidio. The handsome building itself was built in 1921, so the unit has a fireplace and floor-to-ceiling curved windows. And the dining room overlooks Golden Gate Park, so you may be able to see who’s coming and going from the festival. The kitchen and bath could use an update, but the list price reflects that. A good deal for someone with vision who appreciates the unit’s good bones.

717 27th Avenue
Cross street: Balboa
4BR/3.5BA, 1 pkg
This newly renovated house at 717 27th Avenue has the advantage of featuring three bedrooms and two bathrooms on one level, which is a floor plan most families like. The parental set can enjoy the master suite and know that the kids are not too far away (vs on a different level). The list price is a sound one for the space and quality of the property, particularly in comparison to recent comparable sales in the area.

SF Construction Boom Boosts Tire Industry

Construction in San Francisco is going gangbusters these days. No matter where you walk, drive or bike, there’s a building rising or a home being extensively renovated.

One byproduct of all this construction is what I experienced last week. I headed to my garage en route to an appointment and discovered that I had a flat tire. An hour later, AAA diagnosed the cause of the flat—a nail.

The service guy said that he is seeing nails in tires “every day, because of all the construction.” Unfortunately for me, the tire wasn’t repairable.

Consider this a public service announcement of sorts. Part of my job requires me to go to new construction sites, but I’m also now making every attempt to avoid driving past work sites if I can. That’s no easy task, but at the very least, I don’t park near renovation areas.

So watch where you drive, and make sure you have a reliable roadside assistance plan in place—and a solid spare tire.