Some savvy buyers and their agents were obviously paying attention during December and were rewarded with some pretty good deals in Noe Valley. After about 90 days of what appeared to be a frozen market, a few listings unthawed with hard negotiations from the Buyer’s agents.

1360 Dolores was originally listed back in August for $1.885m, was reduced to $1.795m after the Seller moved out and then was reduced again to $1.675m just as the market was grinding to a halt in October. The listing agent pulled the listing in early December, but two weeks later an offer emerged and was ultimately ratified for $1.5m — a mighty sweet deal for the nearly 2,700 sq ft 4BR/4BA home on an oversized lot.

545 Jersey closed a couple of weeks ago after almost 3 months on the market. The 3BR/1BA home sold for $1.210m. It was originally listed at $1.295m – back in October when things weren’t looking too pretty – and the successful offer came in about 30 days after the Seller dropped the price to $1.229m. Interestingly, the Seller’s had purchased it back in 2004 for $1,000 more than they sold it for 2009. Yet, this time around, the house came complete with an approved set of plans for a major expansion / renovation.

The market in which we find ourselves is even more complex than usual. The buyer’s agents who represented these successful buyers rewarded their clients’ loyalty with smoking good deals and (no doubt) sage advice on how to spot and snag great value. Well done!

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228-230 Liberty is a good case study!

As we all see today, San Francisco real estate values and prices are changing at record speeds. An interesting example of this is 228-230 Liberty Street. This property was on the market last year at $1,380,000 with tenants in each unit. The sellers bought out the occupants and put the property back on the market with an offer date. Offers were due February 17th at 5pm.

We had clients who were interested in the property and decided to present an offer. What is interesting here is that even in this market the value of certain real estate is holding. The value of Liberty Hill is there as evident by a total of 6 offers on the property. Some offers were on the low side and some were several hundred thousand over the asking price.

This is a good example of how the market sets the sales price, not the seller. There are examples of properties out there whose values and prices are not in balance. You see this in short sales, where previous purchase prices do not match today‚Äôs market. You also see and hear about the ‚Äúdeal‚ÄĚ that someone got by writing the low ball offer. As agent, it is our job to help educate our clients as to the market value of property based on comparable sales.

If we can beat the market value with a low offer I have succeeded for my buyer. If I can out perform the market with a sales price, then I have succeeded for my seller. I know there are lots of theories out there and different ways of looking at things. But I think the best thing we can all do in the market is to choose property that has value to you! That way, whatever the market does you will be happy.

After months and months of very low levels of inventory, buyers focused on northern neighorhoods such as Pacific Heights finally have some homes from which to choose. But is it too little for too much, too late?¬† A couple of recent listings caught this Realtor’s eye.

2219 Pacific Avenue – this grand three-story home sold most recently in 2007 for $4.25m — all cash. At that time, the home was in move-in condition and touted approved plans for a 3rd story expansion. Since then, the home has been completely gutted down to the studs and relisted at $3.495m¬†($755K less than the Seller paid for it) with estimates as high as $2 million to complete the renovation of this ~4,900 sq ft home.

But where’s the beef? Why would someone take on this project¬†when in all likelihood it will be worth less than what it cost to complete?¬†2542 Fillmore, a 5BR/4.5BA, exquisitely remodeled home just around the corner sold in September 2008 for $5,000,000 — $250K less than it’s asking price. It’s probably the closest comp that’s sold in the last six months. 2219 Pacific will be a somewhat bigger home and on a more prestigious street. But even so — the idea of even “breaking even” when all is said and done (in the current market) doesn’t seem to¬†ring true. Will it really cost $2m to finish it? Maybe or maybe not given the myriad of trades now available to work on projects like this. But up until just recently, $400/sq ft for high-end renovation in San Francisco¬†was considered reasonable.

2712 Broadway – A couple of years ago, there’s no doubt this “Gold Coast” charmer with spectacular views would be snapped up, gutted and reborn as a trophy home worthy of its trophy location.¬†It was originally listed at $9.45m, but before the first Broker Tour, the price was reduced to $7.75m. Is this a buying opportunity for someone who covets the Outer Broadway location? Perhaps so since the only other two¬†homes for sale on Broadway west of Divisadero¬†are last year’s Decorator Showhouse at $45,000,000 and the yet-to-be-completed Sperling mansion at $65,000,000.

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Condo conversion is a hot topic in San Francisco.¬† It almost always comes up with new clients and those browsing through open houses.¬† It’s a rhetoric so typical, I can sometimes¬†forget not everyone knows how it works.¬† Here are some of the basics:

  • two unit buildings (with a clean eviction history)¬†by-pass the condo lottery and may start the condo conversion process after one year of owner occupancy¬†of each¬†unit.
  • buildings with three – six units (over six units will never condo convert) must enter the condo lottery.¬† Eligiblility to enter the lottery is after 3 years if one unit is owner occupied in a 3-4 unit building or if 2 units are owner occupied in a 5-6 unit building.
  • How long does it take and what are the chances?
  • What are the costs?
  • What is the anticpated time frame for a 3+ building to condo convert?

Whether or not you know all the in’s and out’s of the process, condo conversion is a complicated undertaking with The City.¬† Is there the possiblity of a one-time free for all to convert buildings upon us?¬†¬†Click here to read an interesting Opinion article in the Examiner on Monday. The information about condo conversion is in the latter half of the article, so stick with it.

While The City needs, no doubt and like many people and organizations, more revenue; the likelihood of a condo conversion bonanza is a long shot.¬†¬†It will be met so heavily with protest from¬†tenant’s advocates (and there are many)¬†that ‘the discussion’ is likely to quickly disolve.¬† But, you never know.

I am always working with several buyers in Bernal Heights and it never ceases to amaze me just how different their budgets are and what they are looking for in a home. Bernal Heights is an amazing neighborhood that may be a great choice for more people than you might think.

For example, where did a home on a triple lot just sell? Or a home on a double lot with an outdoor swimming pool? Bernal Heights of course! And every year there seems to be something similar that pops up. Want a spectacular down town view, no problem, perhaps Bernal’s North or Northwest slope is for you. Many of these homes can be modern and quite large. Take that modern masterpiece that sold last year on Mullen for over¬†$2.0M! Typically the price range is a little less stratospheric for these¬†kind of homes, say between¬†$1.25M and $1.75M.

How about convenient City living where you can walk to a vibrant commercial street with great restaurants, coffee shops, services, and a fabulous local grocery store? Maybe owning a charming Victorian home just off Cortland Avenue is for you! The homes¬†nestled in the 3 blocks above Cortland and below the top of Bernal Hill - what a great park – can be purchased between about $800,000 and $1.3M. Two good¬†examples¬†are the property I listed and sold on Bennington Street, and my current listing on Anderson Street. Condos are few and far between, as this is mostly a neighborhood of medium and smaller sized single family homes, but I did recently sell a wonderful Victorian one on Wool Street for¬†under $700,000! I’ve sold vacant lots too! Read the rest of this entry »

While you may believe that because you live in the middle of the block (so no access to yard except after hopping three fences), that you have an inner and outer locking front doors (see Part 2 for more info on locks), you are religious (approaching fanatical) about locking your windows and doors and have someone moving your mail in while you are out-of-town, YOU CAN STILL BE THE VICTIM OF A HOME BURGLARY!

I would strongly recommend having a home burglary alarm installed–even if the police don’t get to the scene for 4-5 minutes, the screeching noise will at least deter the burglar from taking his time stealing your belongings.¬† The benefits dramatically outweigh the costs (be aware of special discounts, such as USAA membership, or AAA membership), which can start as low as $500 (for do-it-yourself type kits) and go on up.¬† There are likely several companies in your area that offer these services, but by far the largest is ADT.¬† Do a little research, choose the best one that fits your budget, and don’t dilly-dally!

Just the facts:

Here is data for December 2008 of Single Family Homes and Condos.¬† You may ask:¬† ‘Why the lag time in seeing December data this far into January’?¬† The MLS is, for the greater part, data input by its subscribers and agents.¬† While the listing date or closing date is specific, the data is not reflected until the information is updated into the MLS by the agents (who are sometimes onto the next deal, on vacation or out celebrating a closing!).¬† Check out the data…and then come back for a few further thoughts after the jump:

Condos 2008:

Single Family Homes:

Read the rest of this entry »

Word on the street from agents in several different San Francisco real estate agencies is that agents are not changing the status of their listings from ACTIVE to ACTIVE CONTINGENT. Why?¬†¬† Fear it will fall out of escrow then be tarnished with a “Back on Market Status”¬† inviting a lesser of an offer from the next buyer.¬† Based on the number of units actually showing “active contingent” on a daily basis mixed in with the seemingly stronger activity in the market since the beginning of the year it seems this might be true.¬† This week I sold two lingering condominiums that I quickly put in as contingent.¬† The thought never even crossed my mind as to whether or not to keep as active.¬† I wonder what the impact could mean if one or both did fall out?¬† Two years ago buyers dashed for the “Back on Market” listings, now they wait for them.

If this trend is real, the result is a continuing hesitation from agents, sellers and buyers.  However, the proof will be  in the sold that should emerge in the upcoming 2-4 weeks.

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What’s TOD?

January 15th, 2009 posted by Alex Kolovyansky · Email the author

TOD is the acronym for Transit Oriented Development. The Urban Land Institute published a book on the San Francisco Bay Area TOD Market Place. They provided recommendations for areas around the Bay that have potential for TOD development. They also touched on best practices for successful TOD projects. San Francisco is home to one of those areas. Catellus developed Mission Bay with the notion that TOD is more than just proximity to transit.

Project success included:

  • proximity to transit stations and transit-loading
  • walkability
  • lasting value
  • access to jobs
  • culture
  • useful amenities

The project in Mission Bay carefully placed homes, jobs, civic uses, shopping, entertainment, parks, and other amenities mostly within a 1/4 mile of a transit stop. Developers as well as individuals looking for future appreciation of their real estate investment should think about the listed best practices when evaluating land or an individual unit. Several tools that could be of use are:

  • Metrobot (provides map view of businesses near an address)
  • Walkscore (provides a score of how close an address is to amenities)

Real estate, especially San Francisco real estate, is still about “Location, Location, Location” but there are increasing factors in what makes one location better than another for both residential and commercial investment, on any scale. If you have other useful links or sites please feel free to comment. Thank you.

As you may remember from my post last week, I was recently the victim of a home burglary. The topic of this weeks post is home door locks‚ÄĒbelieve it or not, ANYONE can pick your locks if you have a standard run-of-the-mill door lock. If you are curious to know how, there are countless that can teach you!

Having done extensive research on this topic now, I recommend the Abloy Protect–it is the only unpickable lock in the world!¬† Despite what you may think, the well-known Medeco has been picked and is no longer the gold standard (YouTube Video).