Sunday, December 30, 2007

Look Back; Look Ahead

As the curtain gets ready to close on 2007, it is a good time to take one last look at what we have seen throughout the year. The year started out like any other, slow but steady. Only the naysayers were talking about the bubble bursting, but then again they had been predicting that for years. The typical housing market cycle was present as things picked up in the spring and summer. The end of the summer marks the most dramatic event; the fall of the sub prime market. We will continue to see these effects well into 2008, but in San Francisco the effects are much harder to see than in much of the rest of the country. Our number of sales is down, but in most neighborhoods prices are holding steady. Interest rates for a thirty year fixed jumbo mortgage have managed to stay under seven percent.

Over the course of the year many homes were bought and sold, and with each transaction comes a lesson learned. Buyers and sellers learn the ropes, and the agents come away with a new pearl of wisdom each time.

Right now the majority of the people we meet are waiting. Many of them have been waiting for some time now. What are they waiting for? They say they are "waiting to see what the market is doing". As you saw in the District Study, in San Francisco the market is simply plugging along. The wait will continue into January, and once people see that the bottom has not dropped out from under them, the wait will end.

Activity will start to pick up again mid January, and as people's confidence in the market is restored, that activity will continue to grow into the spring and summer. The moral of the story is, the sky is not falling. As San Francisco is a strong market, it will be the last to be affected by the national woes and the first to recover.

It has been a great year for us. The VanFenton team was born and is thriving. Our families are healthy, happy, and growing! Anja was fortunate enough to visit all of her sons and most of her grandchildren this year, and my family was blessed with a new addition.

Have a safe and happy new year. We are looking forward to working with all of you in 2008.

Friday, December 21, 2007

San Francisco District Study

As mentioned in the yesterday's post, we will be getting back to our district series. Before we dive in neighborhood by neighborhood, we thought we would give you an overview. With all of the news stories lately regarding the plunging home sale prices, we thought we would pass along these statistics specific to each San Francisco District. This is a year over year study comparing the sales for single family homes from November 2006 to November 2007.

District 1 November 2006/ November 2007
Number of Sales 13/ 22
Median Selling Price 899,000/ 1,260,000
Days on Market 30/ 35

District 2 November 2006/ November 2007
Number of Sales 39/ 23
Median Selling Price 775,000/ 839,300
Days on Market 33/ 28

District 3 November 2006/ November 2007
Number of Sales 23/ 15
Median Selling Price 690,000/ 680,000
Days on Market 51/ 43

District 4 November 2006/ November 2007
Number of Sales 38/ 18
Median Selling Price 1,002,500/ 858,000
Days on Market 36/ 41

District 5 November 2006/ November 2007
Number of Sales 31/ 33
Median Selling Price 1,335,000/ 1,390,000
Days on Market 37/ 30

District 6 November 2006/ November 2007
Number of Sales 2/ 7
Median Selling Price 1,113,750/ 1,825,000
Days on Market 43/ 32

District 7 November 2006/ November 2007
Number of Sales 9/ 10
Median Selling Price 2,100,000/ 2,762,500
Days on Market 48/ 33

District 8 November 2006/ November 2007
Number of Sales 1/ 0
Median Selling Price 12,000,000/
Days on Market 178/

District 9 November 2006/ November 2007
Number of Sales 20/ 23
Median Selling Price 845,000/ 850,000
Days on Market 36/ 35

District 10 November 2006/ November 2007
Number of Sales 57/ 24
Median Selling Price 690,000/ 608,600
Days on Market 47/ 63

In some cases, the number of sales is too small to come to any conclusions, but overall you can see that San Francisco is holding steady. Feel free to contact us if you have more specific questions about any one of the districts or neighborhoods. Also, let us know if you are interested in taking a Grand Tour of the city and getting to know more neighborhoods before you choose where you want to live.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Weekly Sales Report

Welcome to the final sales report of the year. As expected, activity this week was quite low. Not many escrows were opened, and those that were for the most part were single offer situations. Many buyers are hanging up their hunting caps for the remainder of the year and hoping that 2008 will bring more options. There have been almost no new listings for the past few weeks. There are buyers out there; many are casually looking and gearing up to get serious in the new year. I feel as if the engines are revving up and the crowds are just waiting for the flag to drop.

Even this past weekend open houses were well attended for mid December. We had fifteen to twenty parties come through both Saturday and Sunday, and this on a property that has been on the market for over a month. Normally many people wait until Spring to bring their house onto the market. We may see the buying season start early this year if sellers start taking advantage of the lack of inventory.

Of the properties that sold this past week, 67% sold under the asking price. As Joe Zilioli, one of our preferred housing inspectors, said, "It is the best time to buy in ten years!" The largest underbid went a whopping 28% under the asking price. It is shocking, we know, but much of that difference can be explained by overpricing and unreasonably high expectations. This home, a five bedroom fifty six hundred square foot fully detached corner home on Lake Street was priced at $3,600,000. Interestingly enough, the same home was on the market in 2003 for $4,200,000 with the same agent. They withdrew that listing after one hundred and eleven days with a little note on the listing that said, "withdrawn for now". It seems the agent figured she just needed to withdraw the listing long enough to talk the sellers down to a more reasonable price. It took her three years. The home finally sold at $2,580,000. It was marketed as having been "on the market for the first time in over 35 years" which is a nice way of saying that everything needed to be updated.

The other 33% of the properties that sold this past week did go over the asking price. The largest overbid was 739 12th Avenue in the inner Richmond which sold at $1,160,000, fourteen percent over the asking price.

Interest rates are still holding steady. At the end of 2006 people were predicting that interest rates might hit the eight mark by the end of 2007. A thirty year fixed jumbo loan is still only at 7.000% with no points. Paying three points will bring that down to 6.125%. It is time for buyers to negotiate and have the sellers help buy down their rate, thus lowering their monthly payments.

The next weekly sales report will be on January 9th. Stick with us, though, because in the meantime we will have lots of other things to share with you. We will be starting our neighborhood series back up, and there will be announcements of things to come in 2008 including our first time home buyer workshops. Just passing it along; 2008 is going to be great!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Agency Relationships

Real estate is a service oriented industry. It is also an industry that is based on relationships. The types of relationships are very clearly defined by our contracts, but it is not always clear to the average consumer. Making things clear to everyone is a part of our job that we take very seriously, and one of the reasons we enjoy working with first time home buyers and sellers. Anybody who does something on a daily basis becomes an expert in their field. It becomes so natural that it is easy to forget not everyone shares your expertise. That is something we have to remind ourselves of daily as we work with new clients. What has become obvious and routine to us is not obvious to everyone.

There are, in every real estate transaction, a buyer's agent and a seller's agent. It is also possible to have the same agent represent both the buyer and the seller in the same transaction. We will get back to that later.

As a seller, you will hire an agent and agree on their commission. The listing agent will market your home in hopes of finding a buyer. They will agree to share their commission with the agent who brings the buyer and an acceptable to offer to the property. In short, all commissions are paid by the seller and then split between the buyer's and seller's agents and their respective companies.

This means that if you are a buyer, you receive all of the services provided by your agent at no cost. You will pay escrow fees and lender fees at the close of escrow, but no agent commissions. Remember that when you are trying to decide if you want the help of an agent as you search for property.

Earlier it was mentioned that the same agent can represent both parties in one transaction. This can mean two things. The first is that an "Agency" can represent both sides. For example, Coldwell Banker is a huge company and has many agents. Chances are very high that they end up on both sides of a transaction. It is also possible for one agent, or salesperson, to "double end" a deal which means that they represent both the buyer and the seller of a transaction.

There are times representing both parties makes sense, but for the most part it is something that we prefer not to do. Our goal as a listing agent is to get the highest possible price for our seller. Our goal as a buyer's agent is to get the best deal possible for our clients. Is there a conflict here? We find it hard to do both simultaneously. Therefore if we meet an eligible and interested buyer for a property we are listing, we would refer them to a trusted colleague and hope for the best!

Other than walking into a real estate office, the place you are mostly likely to run into a Realtor is an open house. The host of that open house may or may not be the listing agent. If they are not the listing agent, don't assume they are "just babysitting" the house. They are there to represent buyers, possibly you, on the sale of that or any other house.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Escrow...what is it?

The actual definition of escrow as found in the glossary of terms in the Cornerstone Title Company website is: An independent third party, such as First American Title, who acts as the agent for buyer and seller, or for borrower and lender, carrying out instructions of both and disbursing documents and funds. Escrow closes and the transfer of property or document is completed upon fulfillment of certain conditions specified in the written instructions, whereupon the necessary deeds and other instruments are recorded.

What?

To explain it step by step might clear it up a bit.

Step 1: Open Escrow

Once an offer has been accepted on a property, the buyers agent will open an account at the escrow company of the buyer's choice. It differs from county to county, but in San Francisco the buyer pays the escrow fees and is therefore entitled to choose the company. The buyer then places their initial deposit for the property into the escrow account at which time a preliminary title report is ordered.

Step 2: Contingency Period

Once the buyer's loan has been processed and they have satisfied themselves with inspections and appraisal of the property, the buyers will remove their contingencies and wait for the final loan documents to arrive at the escrow company.

Step 3: Signing

When the loan documents are ready, they are sent to the escrow company where they are prepared to be signed by the buyer. After preparing the documents, your escrow officer will send you a final closing statement which itemizes the closing costs and gives you an estimated total of funds due before closing. This total will include the remainder of your down payment along with your lender's fees, escrow fees, and title insurance.

Step 4: Recording

The seller will have a separate set of documents to sign such as authorizing their loan to be paid off and the seller's net sheet which itemizes their costs and profits from the sale. Once everyone has signed their documents and the remainder of the buyer's funds including closing costs and down payment have been deposited, the lender can fund the loan and the escrow company can record the new deed with the city marking the actual close of escrow. Escrow is closed once the deed has been recorded.

A typical escrow period in San Francisco is thirty days. This length of time needs to be agreed upon between the buyer and seller, as do all other terms involved in the transaction. It is our job as Realtors to walk you through this process; finding the right property is only the beginning. Then the real fun begins!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Weekly Sales Report

Another week goes by, the holidays are closer yet, and activity is slowing down almost to a halt. We are still fortunate in San Francisco to not be suffering the same way the surrounding areas seem to be. One of our clients signed his loan documents yesterday for a condominium he is purchasing in Pacific Heights. His loan consultant was from his credit union located on the peninsula, and she does loans for properties all around the bay area. She mentioned having trouble getting the appraisals approved by the lenders. The banks are wanting the appraisers to factor in the recent decline in price. They look at the comparables and then subtract whatever the drop has been in the area. Luckily in San Francisco we have not had that problem; most neighborhoods have not suffered in value.

Seventy percent of the properties that received offers last week in our office only received one offer. The other thirty percent received multiple offers; it still can happen! The most offers received on a property was five on a single family home in the outer Parkside neighborhood. It was priced at $698,000 and was on the market for about forty five days. It is quite rare to see five offers after a month and a half of being on the market with no price reduction. Times are changing, and we need to change with them! Things do not move as fast as they used to. Don't assume that because a property has been on the market for over a month that other people are not interested. It is just that nobody seems to be in a hurry. If you love the house, make an offer.

This week 100% of the properties sold were sold under the asking price. They all sold at four, five, and six percent below the asking price. The list of properties sold this week did not include any from the hot spots such as Noe Valley or Pacific Heights.

Another point that came out in the meeting is that sellers are not inclined to counter the offers they receive. When a buyer submits an offer, there are three possible responses. The first is acceptance, which all buyers hope for. The second is a counter offer, where the seller accepts the offer subject to a proposed change in the contract which could be either the price or terms. The third possible outcome is rejection. If you receive a counter offer and do not accept it, the seller has just lost you as a buyer, and in this market there may not be another one waiting in the wings. Sellers are realizing that, and are more inclined to just accept the offer they receive provided it is in the right ballpark.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The VanFenton Team

Whether you are thinking of buying, selling, or both, one of your first steps should be surrounding yourself with a group of professionals who can guide you through the process. Your team should include a Realtor, loan consultant, tax advisor, escrow and title representative, insurance agent, and property inspector just to name a few. Realtor is the first on the list not only because that is what we are, but also because your Realtor can help you build the team. You will always be in the drivers seat; we are here to help you navigate.

The VanFenton Team is a partnership between Anja van Ditmarsch and myself, Mary Fenton. We are both Realtors in the San Francisco Coldwell Banker Lakeside office. Coldwell Banker has a 20.5% market share in the bay area, and the Lakeside office is the top selling office in the city with over one hundred agents. The VanFenton Team comes to you with a powerful support system behind us.

Anja and I work well together because we share a value system. Integrity is at the top of our list, as is the interest of our clients. These come above closing a sale. We are hardworking and detail oriented; we will look over every aspect of your transaction and keep you comfortable and informed as you go.

We come from very different backgrounds, and each bring our own set of skills to the table; together we don't miss a beat! Anja is a retired Veterinarian; she also had a flower and events business here in San Francisco before she became a Realtor. She brings her wonderful business sense, her strong work ethic, her keen aesthetic eye, and her fighting spirit to the negotiating table. She has four sons, one foster daughter, and fourteen grandchildren spread all around the globe. She speaks Dutch, English, French, German, and conversational Spanish.

Before becoming a Realtor, I was a dancer and a dance teacher. Most recently I had been teaching partner dancing at the Metronome Ballroom in Potrero Hill. My teaching background gives me patience and the ability to explain each step of the transaction clearly. My knowledge of San Francisco and its real estate market is strong, and I love sharing it with people. I am dedicated and sensitive to the needs of our clients. My husband and I have two young sons; four years and six months old. I speak English (obviously) and Spanish.

As a team, we will go above and beyond for you. We especially like working with first time home buyers as we can really take the reins and guide them through. We enjoy working together and look forward to working with you.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Seller Credits

As you all know, December is a slow month for real estate. It is especially slow this year due to fall of the sub prime market and a general uncertainty about the future health of the economy. There are very few homes on the market this time of year. The new listing count each week is very disappointing, and even some listings that have been on the market are temporarily withdrawn until the new year when they come back on in hopes of finding a new audience.

Those who do put their homes on the market in December do so for only one reason. They need to sell! They know it is not the ideal time to market or sell their home, but sometime life's timing does not coincide with the ups and downs of the real estate market.

The pickings are slim, but if the right house for you should surface this time of year, your chance at negotiating a good deal are much higher now than they would be in the spring when you may have a handful of other buyers eyeing the same house.

There are many ways to negotiate as a buyer. The first point of negotiation is the purchase price. As we always say, the asking price is only a starting point. Take a close look at the comparables and the interest in the property. If it seems to be priced correctly and is in line with other solds in the neighborhood, you may want to offer the asking price. If the asking prices seems to be a bit inflated, definitely come in with a low bid. If it is a wonderful property in a popular neighborhood, you just may have to come in above asking as you read in Surprising Statistics.

Once you and the seller have come to an agreement on price and your offer has been accepted or "ratified", you will now have a contingency period in which you will have all of your inspections done to satisfy yourself as to the condition of the house. In the peak of the real estate market, people were waiving these inspections for fear of losing the house to the next bidder, but now that things have slowed down, people are able to make more rational decisions.

Once the inspections are completed, the second opportunity for negotiating has arrived. If the inspectors have found something in the house that concerns you or that will cost more money than you anticipated to fix, you can ask that the seller addresses the problem or leaves a credit in escrow. Again, a credit from the seller is something that you wouldn't dare to have asked for in years past, but we are starting to see it happen more and more.

Some clients of ours recently submitted an offer with a request for the seller to cover their closing costs. The seller agreed to pay closing costs equalling one half percent of the purchase price, which in their case would basically cover their costs. During the inspections, they also found that the old clay sewer would need to be replaced sometime in the next five years, and one of the retaining walls would also need to be replaced sometime in the near future. These were going to be unexpected costs, and the buyers were starting to be concerned with stretching beyond their financial limit. They asked for an additional credit of $16,000 to help them pay for the future repairs. The seller found their claims to be legitimate, and did not want to bring his home back on the market in the middle of December. He agreed to the additional credit, the buyers are happy, and they will be moving in to their new home first thing next year. Success!

In the end, they have a wonderful home in a very desirable neighborhood in San Francisco. There is only one other currently on the market, way above theirs in price. We believe they only got this deal because of the time of year.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Surprising Statistics

Last night Anja and I had a meeting with a new buyer client. We like to sit down with our buyers before we start taking them on tour. This way we can get to know each other and get a clear understanding for what they are looking for. Also, we get a chance to walk them through the buying process. There is a lot of information to cover, especially for a first time buyer.

This family in particular will be searching primarily in Bernal Heights, Glen Park, and Potrero Hill. They have been out and about on their own quite a bit, so they have seen most of what is currently on the market.

When you are thinking of buying and have narrowed it down to a specific type of property in a few neighborhoods, it is a good idea to look at the sold properties in those areas. You can get a feel for what the trend is in that neighborhood. Many people these days are assuming that prices are dropping, or that properties are selling for under the asking price.

We prepared a comparative property analysis for each of the three neighborhoods, and used three bedroom two bathroom homes as the subject of the study. I have to say that we were all quite surprised by the result.

Glen Park: 39 single family homes sold in the past six months
10 of those were 3 bed/2 bath homes
Average list price = $950,090
Average sold price = $1,004,600.
On average, these properties sold 5% over the asking price

Bernal Heights: 84 single family homes sold in the past six months
26 of those were 3 bed/2 bath homes
Average list price = $938,615
Average sold price = $1,039,462
The average overbid for these properties is 10%

Potrero Hill: 27 single family homes sold in the past six months
3 of those were 3 bed/2 bath
Average list price = $1,004,333
Average sale price = $1,163,000
The average overbid for these properties was 14%

There are a few things to point out about these statistics. The first is obvious. In certain centrally located and desirable neighborhoods, properties are still selling above asking price, especially in those neighborhoods that have a very limited supply such as Potrero Hill.

Another thing is that the average value in Bernal Heights is higher than that in Glen Park. Glen Park has always been a step above Bernal Heights in price, but as far as this study is concerned, the opposite proved to be true.

The last detail that really stands out is the difference in number of houses sold. There is much more available at any given time in Bernal Heights. You would think that the average overbid would be lower in the neighborhood with the most options. This shows that the larger home, the 3 bed/2 bath, is a very popular item and people are willing to pay top dollar.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Weekly Sales Report

Coldwell Banker got together again this morning to discuss the past week's activity. While many people are looking forward to 2008 and creating their business plans, setting their goals, and thinking about new year resolutions, other people are still working on wrapping things up for 2007. Real estate continues to be bought and sold in San Francisco.

The majority of the properties that received offers this past week were single offer situations. Only 25% received multiple offers. This house on 39th Avenue did receive 5 offers, but only after a price reduction. It was listed at $749,000 originally and sat on the market for a month and a half with no activity. They reduced the price to $699,000 and received five offers within the week. Doesn't it always come down to price!

We have just lowered the price on our loft at 1605 18th Street; hopefully we will get a similar response! It is now $669,000 and will be open both Saturday and Sunday this weekend. Come, enjoy the view, and make us an offer!

As far as the sold properties go this week, a majority of them (56%) sold under asking price. Only 33% sold over asking, and the remaining 11% sold at asking price. The largest overbid for the week was 1921 Page Street in the Haight/Ashbury neighborhood. It is a three bedroom two bath fifteen hundred square foot condominium in a three unit building. The systems were upgraded and the kitchen and bathrooms were nicely remodeled. It also came with two parking spaces which is a rare find, and a large shared landscaped garden. It was listed at $949,000 and sold for $1,075,000. That is 12% over the asking price which we don't see nearly as often as we used to. I believe it was also a cash offer.

It is interesting to see that even in this market, you do still have to bid up on certain properties. Whether you are trying to outbid competitors or meet the seller's expectations which may be above their asking price, offering above the asking price is sometimes the only way to get a property. It is hard for buyers to understand this as everyone wants to feel like they've gotten a great deal. The important thing to know is that the asking price is no more than a seller's strategy; a means to an end. Don't compare your offer price with the asking price. Instead, use the recent sold properties in the neighborhood as comparables. If your offer price is in line with those, you are paying the right price.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Lending Options

After the fall of the sub prime market this past August, home buyers have growing concerns about their own financing. Initially people thought they wouldn't be able to get a loan at all. That is definitely not the case. We have asked all of our clients, old and new, to get a new pre-approval letter if the original had been done before August as some restrictions have changed.

Being approved by a lender is one of the first necessary steps in the home buying process. It will give you a clear idea of what you can, and want to afford. Many people don't know where to begin when looking for a lender. It is wonderful if you know somebody in the mortgage business or can get a referral from a friend, but if not here are some basics.

There are different types of lenders, each with their own set of restrictions and loan programs. The three most common types are banks, mortgage brokers, and credit unions. Credit unions are known to offer the lowest rates but have the strictest guidelines, and you must already be a member. Banks are second in line in terms of guidelines, and mortgage brokers have the most leniency as they can shop around with different lenders to find one that fits your needs.

We recommend doing some comparison shopping. Have a conversation with your bank and a mortgage broker. Make sure to compare with your own numbers. Don't compare your scenario with the loan your friend got as there are many factors that go into it.

Get as much information up front as possible. Ask to see different loan scenarios based on the same purchase price. Make sure they include property tax and insurance in the equation. Don't let them make any assumptions; tell them you want to see all of the possibilities based on your purchase price, down payment, and income to debt ratio. There are many options from a two year fixed to a thirty year fixed and everything in between.

The shorter the fixed period of the loan is, the lower your interest rate will be. A thirty year fixed loan is the most conservative and safe, but also the most expensive with the highest interest rate. If you are on the conservative side, the thirty year fixed loan is your best bet. If your goal is to keep your monthly payments as low as possible, you might want to go with a five year adjustable rate mortgage which is fixed for the first five years and then adjusts according to a predetermined schedule.

Once you submit a loan application, you should receive a good faith estimate from your lender which itemizes your closing costs. You don't want there to be any surprises at the end.

One more piece of advice. Monitor your credit score to make sure there aren't any mistakes or surprises. Make your payments on time, especially from the time you applied for the loan to the time you close escrow on your home. The lender will pull your credit report a second time at the end, and if there are changes they may reject the loan in the eleventh hour. Don't make any big purchases in this time.

Everybody is extremely busy, especially this time of year. If you are in the home buying process make sure you take the time to inform yourself. There are many options available to you, but if you wait until the last minute you may be stuck with whatever you get.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Open Homes

Over the last couple of months, the number of Sunday opens has remained fairly steady. The San Francisco Chronicle was reporting them to be in the eight hundred range pretty consistently. This Sunday there are only 532 open homes, and only 75 on Saturday. This goes along with what we have been saying; inventory is limited these days.

Generally speaking, a seller who puts their home on the market in December, and this year especially, needs to sell their home. On the flip side, the buyers this time of year are serious; all of this leads up to serious negotiations.

Some clients of ours submitted an offer today at asking price, but requested that the seller pay closing costs. They are still waiting for the response, but a year ago I never would have felt confident nor would I have advised a client to do that. The first broker I worked with told me that to ask for seller's credits was "like shooting your offer in the foot". We shall see. Another agent in our office reported success at getting the credits for their buyers just this past week.

The offer our clients submitted was for a house that had just come back on the market. Luckily, the listing agent happens to be in our office. He let us know in the Wednesday morning meeting that his listing would be coming back on the market. This information had not been released publicly...we had insider information! We needed to get our clients in immediately, as they had expressed interest in the house before. Also, we wanted to get them in before the open house this Sunday. This is one of only two listings in its neighborhood; the less expensive one at that.

We sent them the open house schedule for the weekend just in case their offer doesn't go through. Unfortunately there isn't much out there for them at this time. Today's market requires patience. Homes aren't selling as quickly as they used to, and buyers are having to wait longer for the right property to come along.

Don't forget to stop by at 1605 18th Street Saturday or Sunday from 1-4pm. It is a wonderful and unique one bedroom loft with panoramic downtown views located on the north slope of Potrero Hill. The seller is ready to go! Come by...make an offer!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Weekly Sales Report

Along with the regular weekly statistics, we would like to elaborate a bit on the information given in The Final Stretch. The President of San Francisco/Peninsula Coldwell Banker spoke this morning in our office meeting. He gave more statistics regarding what is actually happening in the market as opposed to what we are hearing in the media. As mentioned in The Final Stretch, San Francisco as a whole has shown appreciation over the past year. This morning, we looked at each neighborhood's numbers.

As an example, the average price of home in the Central Sunset has gone up 2%. The inventory in that same neighborhood has gone down 31% since last year.

In Bernal Heights, the average price has gone up 6.5% since last year, and the inventory has gone down 10%. Again, people are being scared into inaction based on "falling prices" but the statistics show us otherwise.

It is true that the numbers are not in the positive range in all neighborhoods. The south eastern part of the city specifically has been hit the hardest. Having said that, the Mission Terrace neighborhood has gone down but only by .7%. The Westlake District in Daly City has gone down as well, but only by .5%. Less than one percent seems to be holding steady in the bigger picture.

Another statistic we learned this morning and are very proud to pass along is that Coldwell Banker holds 20.5% of the market share in the Bay Area which is more than double that of our closest competitor. Our office, the Lakeside office, is the leading office in the city.

What does this mean to you? For buyers, it means that each week when we meet with the other hundred agents in the office, we hear about many listings before they hit the market. For a seller, one of those listings pitched in the meeting could be yours.

In terms of this week's activity, we are again looking at a huge majority of single offers; over 90%. What I thought was interesting about the sold properties was that everything sold within $15,000 of the asking price. It looks like sellers are starting to put their properties on at a price they are willing to accept. There was only one exception this week which sold at just under 5% over the asking price.

What is the profile of a property that sells for over the asking price in this market?. This is a top floor condominium in a beautiful Victorian two unit building located at 71 Douglass in Corona Heights. It is a spacious and bright three bedroom, 1.5 bath with great outdoor space. As no property is perfect, this did not come with a parking space, and if it had, it would have sold for closer to a million and possibly over. It was listed at $879,000 and sold for $925,000 after just 22 days on the market. You see...it can still happen!

Nothing at ALL

The title of this post was in the subject line of an email I received from Anja yesterday. She had been reviewing the properties that were scheduled to be on the Tuesday tour with some specific clients in mind. Nothing at ALL! These poor clients are ready to move yesterday and there is simply nothing out there for them to buy. At this point they have seen everything that is currently available in their price range and neighborhoods of preference. Now they are just waiting for new properties to hit the market and they are ready to jump.

Just before I logged on to write this article, I checked the MLS once again for these same clients. I saw something that looks promising; zero days on the market! We will get them in tomorrow and make an offer straight away if they like it. Doesn't that sound like the old days? If inventory stays this low, we will start seeing the good properties sell in a matter of days.

According to the MLS, just over 70 single family homes were listed this month, and only 40 condominiums. Those numbers are for all of San Francisco! There are thousands of buyers out there, and with only 120 properties a month, many of those buyers will be left out in the cold.

Why, then, are so many properties having trouble selling? Buyers are cautious and more demanding than they used to be. They will hold out for the right property.

What makes a home the right one? Neighborhood is very important. Is it on the right side of the hill? Is it close to public transportation? Parking is huge; homes with no parking are sitting on the market unless it is otherwise spectacular and sometimes even then. Does it have usable outdoor space? All of these "extras" are key right now.

If you are thinking of selling but afraid because you are hearing it is not a good time to sell, check the MLS to see if there are any other homes like yours in the neighborhood for sale. If not (and there are probably not) then you might want to consider putting yours on the market. Somebody out there has a client waiting for it.

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Final Stretch

Your nice long and hopefully restful weekend has come to an end, and it is time to get back to work...work on finding your new home that is! The end of the year is finally here, and to be in by the holidays or enjoy the 2007 tax break, you really must act now. You need to find the right home in the next two weeks and have an offer accepted in order to leave enough time for escrow and close by the end of the year.

In our open house yesterday, which was surprisingly busy by the way, there were still many people saying that they were just trying to figure out what the market is doing. Why is that so hard for people to figure out? The first reason is, of course, that we cannot see into the future. The second reason is that people are listening to the media. We're not saying you shouldn't listen to it, just to take it with a grain of salt.

DataQuick is a research service which gathers data and statistics for the real estate market. They produce many different types of reports. One such report gives the number of properties sold, and another reports the average price of the properties. This past October was the slowest October in terms of number of sales in Dataquick's history which goes back to 1988. Before that, the slowest October was in 1990, and the busiest was in 2003.

On the flip side, also according to DataQuick, the average price for a home in San Francisco has gone up 3.9% from October 2006 to October 2007. In the Bay Area as a whole, it is up 2.4%.

To listen to the media, you would assume that prices have fallen, and they have in some spots, but not all, and certainly not in San Francisco as a whole. Consumers are being scared away from buying, thus the "We are trying to figure out what the market is doing". The best way to figure it out is to look at statistics; not turn on the six o'clock news. The news will never talk specifically about Noe Valley, Potrero Hill, Glen Park, Pacific Heights, or any other neighborhood you are thinking of purchasing in. Trulia is a great source for year to year neighborhood statistics. We are not saying the number will always be positive; just that you should have all of the correct data when making this kind of decision.

I received an email from a friend at a title company that chronicled real estate headlines over the years. Where would we be if we had listened? Here are a few examples:

“Financial planners agree that houses will continue to be a poor investment.”
– Kiplinger’s Personal Financial Magazine, 1993

“We’re starting to go back to the time when you bought a home not for its potential money-making abilities, but rather as a nesting spot.”
– Los Angeles Times, 1993 (Note: 1993 was the absolute low-point for real estate values in Los Angeles. Priced have sky-rocketed since.)

“Most economists agree...a home will become little more than a roof and a tax deduction, certainly mot the lucrative investment it was....”
– Money Magazine, 1986

“If you are looking to buy, be careful. Rising home values are not a sure thing anymore.”
– Miami Herald, 1985

“The era of easy profits in real estate may be drawing to a close.” (Average price at the time: $28,000)
– Money Magazine, 1981

Of course there are no guarantees in life and being cautious is absolutely commendable. If you buy real estate as a home first and an investment second there is no losing.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

It's Turkey Day! Whether you celebrate Thanksgiving with a turkey and all the trimmings, or you just sit down with a friend and have a nice glass of wine, this is a great day to reflect on what we are thankful for. It is so easy to get caught up in the day to day madness, that having this long weekend to spend with family and friends is much needed. So imagine, my faithful readers, that we are all sitting down together to enjoy a fancy feast. Shall we go around the table and announce what we are thankful for? I will start.

I am thankful for my family; my two adorable and healthy little boys, my loving husband, caring parents, my three artistic brothers, and my beautiful sister.

I am thankful for my hard working business partner Anja. I enjoy your company, your wisdom, your stories, and your opinions. Your family and friends are privileged.

We are thankful for our past, present, and future clients. We thank you for your trust and loyalty. We enjoy working for you and with you.

What are you thankful for?

If you are a home buyer you might be thankful that the market here in San Francisco has slowed down enough for you to not have to outbid ten other people! There are some great properties out there just sitting around waiting for you. If you think it is priced too high, try submitting a low offer; the worst the seller can say is "no".

If you are a home owner you might be thankful that amidst the nation's real estate crisis, the home values in San Francisco have remained steady in most areas and some have even enjoyed appreciation.

And you thought Thanksgiving was all about family!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Weekly Sales Report

Due to various viruses, both in children and computers, last week's sales report is just reaching you now. The information is important so we wanted to make sure and get it out. As many of you know, as we head into the holiday season, the market begins to slow down. People are busy with family plans and holiday shopping, and the home shopping is often times put on the back burner until the new year. Inventory is lower, and there are fewer buyers ready to jump into action.

If you are a buyer who is ready, it is as Anja says "a buyer's paradise"! It is true that there isn't as much to choose from, but should the right property come along, you will also have less competition than you might in the spring.

As an example, some clients of ours just had an offer accepted on a wonderful condo in Pacific Heights. It had been on the market for almost four months, and in that time the price had been reduced by ten percent. Knowing that there was no competition, and that the unit needed some work, our clients were comfortable offering below the already reduced price. After a couple of counter offers, our clients' offer was accepted at twenty five thousand dollars below asking. Success! They are so excited and feel like they are making a smart investment. This story is a sign of the times; maybe it can happen to you!

In terms of our office statistics, the story is similar. A huge majority (about 80%) of the properties that received offers only received one. The twenty percent that received multiple offers only received two offers.

Of the closed escrows (sold properties), 44% sold under asking. 33% sold over asking, and the remaining 23% closed at asking price. The highest overbid was only 4% above asking. Again, if you are a buyer, the chances of you negotiating a smart deal for yourself (or of us negotiating a smart deal for you) are pretty high.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Is now a good time?

In sitting down to write today's entry, I realized it was Friday and time for the Weekend Events series. I was excited to see what the weekend would bring as I started to gather the info and choose the events to be featured. I first went to sfgate as they have a good entertainment section. Of course I got distracted with the real estate section, and I clicked on Carol Lloyd's Surreal Estate article titled, "What's happening now in the reportedly stormy San Francisco housing market?". Quite a title, isn't it?

She goes on to talk about how she was confused by the contradictory information she was receiving from the media versus that from real estate agents. The media was telling her that home prices are falling, but agents will talk about multiple offers and overbidding. Which is it? She concludes that San Francisco is unique and even backs it up with a statistic showing a small rise in median home prices in San Francisco as a whole over the past year.

Don't be confused. When you hear California or Bay Area statistics, they are not San Francisco specific. San Francisco is unique; the housing market here is unique. Of course the country's financial health overall will have an impact on San Francisco; we are not immune to that, but housing prices and market trends are specific to this city, and specific to each neighborhood within the city.

Lloyd also talks about hearing stories from buyers and sellers that seem to be in line with what Realtors are telling her. I clicked on the comments below the article because I was curious to see what peoples' reactions were to the article. That was a mistake. People's comments about Realtors were all but friendly. The general consensus was that the Realtors will always tell you that it is a good time to buy, so don't listen to them.

That sure makes me feel good! Here is the bottom line as we see it. The time to buy is when you need a home or want to move. The fact is that when the market was at it's peak and prices were soaring, it was a terrible time to buy. People were writing an average of six offers before they got one accepted, and they were paying 20% over asking with no contingencies to finally get it. It wasn't a good time to buy, but people were buying; enough people to generate that type of insane competition.

It is not that way anymore. Things have slowed down. People are able to negotiate decent and smart deals. Yes, some properties generate multiple bids and sell over asking, but the numbers are smaller. Now is a much better time to buy. I can't tell you what it will be like in six months.

There are always people sitting on the sidelines and asking the question, "Is now a good time?" I can finally say without a doubt that it is. What a surprise, the Realtor is telling you that now is a good time. More important than what I tell you or what the market tells you is what your family needs. Do you need a bigger home? Do you need a garden for the children to play in? Do you need to move to a safer neighborhood? Are you simply tired of paying your landlord's mortgage?

When you decide it is time, look specifically at the neighborhoods where you want to live. Look at the prices and the trends of that specific neighborhood. Even beyond that, you need to look specifically at each property's situation. Averages, medians, and trends will only help to a certain point. Each situation is different, and it takes the highs and the lows to create an average.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Weekly Sales Report

It is time for your mid week market update! It seems to be an undisputed fact that now is a good time to buy. We are hearing it over and over again from the buyers coming through the open houses. Just this weekend, out of over seventy parties who came through our loft, a majority of them were just starting to put their feelers out. It evokes a funny image of a bear who has been hibernating for the winter just poking its nose out to see if it is safe to emerge. They are careful and timid at first, but here they come!

It seems that now as we near the holiday season and the end of the year, many sellers will wait until the new year to put their property on the market, and the buyers will certainly be waiting anxiously. I believe 2008 will start off with a bang!

Let's try not to get ahead of ourselves here. We are still in 2007 and have plenty of time left. We have an offer date set today for the loft; we had given five disclosure packages out and have yet to see if any of them will result in an offer. The interest is definitely there.

As for the rest of the office and their activity:

Statistics

There were 13 opened escrows this week. One two bedroom condo in Potrero Hill received 8 offers, and a TIC in Pacific Heights received 5.

There were 16 closed escrows. Four of those sold at asking price, 9 sold over asking, and the remaining three sold under asking price. I must add that the three that sold under asking are all in the south eastern part of the city: one in Visitacion Valley, one in Silver Terrace, and one in Ingleside. The largest overbid was a condo on Dolores which closed at 9% over asking price. Location is key; certain streets and neighborhoods are not at all affected by poor market conditions.

Monday, November 5, 2007

South Beach

Getting back on track with the neighborhood series, South Beach is next on the list. South Beach is another one of San Francisco's newer neighborhoods; it is a section of San Francisco that had been at one time forgotten about. What was once undeveloped land, dilapidated warehouses, storage yards, and old piers is now a collection of luxury condominium buildings, local businesses, and parks. The area is bordered by the Embarcadero and the bay on the east side, the Bay Bridge on the north side, 2nd Street to the West, and King Street to the south. As you can imagine, some of these buildings offer the best views of the San Francisco Bay and the Bay Bridge.

This neighborhood is best known for AT&T Park, the home of the San Francisco Giants. The ballpark has brought in many new businesses to the area including restaurants, bars, and retail stores. South Beach was the focus of one of San Francisco's redevelopment projects which began in 1981. The focus of the project was to transform this area into a new mixed-use waterfront development. That is exactly what stands there today.

Another wonderful feature of this neighborhood is the Ferry Building. It is filled with wonderful shops and restaurants, not to mention all of the local vendors who set up their stands on Saturdays for the farmer's market. You'd just better get there early; many things are sold out by the afternoon.

There are currently 57 residential properties for sale in South Beach; they are all condominiums. They range in price from a studio for $389,000 to a penthouse with incredible views listed at $2,400,000. The average sales price for poperties sold in the last six months is just under $850,000. What will the average price get you?

There is a new listing in a building called the Portside II. This is a "rarely available corner unit" which consists of 2 bedrooms, 2 baths, gorgeous views, a terrace, parking, storage, and earthquake insurance. It is listed for $849,000 and is just over 1100 square feet. Speaking of luxury living, this building also includes an outdoor heated swimming pool, an outdoor spa, and two gyms.

There are plenty of transportation options in South Beach. If you are commuting to the East Bay, bridge access is right at your doorstep. For an easy commute to the peninsula, there is the CalTrain Station at 4th and Townsend. The muni trains run up and down the Embarcadero, BART is close by at Embarcadero and Market, and buses run all throughout.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Weekend Events

Can you believe it's November already? It is time to get serious if you are hoping to be in a new home for the holidays or even by the end of the year. There is still time! It is also important to note that even the skeptics are saying that a price correction will not occur until 2008. That is only months away, so the window for catching the market at a low point is starting to close. That is good news for the sellers who are waiting for the upswing, but the buyers who wait too long will be left in the dust.

Interest rates this week for a 30 year fixed on a jumbo loan were 6.875%. They have been over seven for the last couple of months, so we are headed in the right direction!

Get out your map, a bottle of water and an energy bar, a clipboard and a pen, and go find a home! Take a break along the way and enjoy some of these activities.

If it is excitement you are looking for, AT&T Park is hosting Icer Air 2007; an extreme winter sports competition including skating, snowboarding, motocross, and live music. You can wind down by seeing these open houses in South Beach.

Far on the other end of the spectrum, if you want to keep it mellow and cuddle up with a good book, you have a couple of options. CELLspace in the Mission is having a book exchange on Saturday. Have a coffee, beer or wine, and enjoy the DJ's mellow tunes. This is a wonderful 10,000 square foot space and is worth visiting for one of their special events. They also have flea markets called the Mission Village Market every Sunday from 12:00pm to 4:00pm. Have a look at these open homes in the Mission while you are in the neighborhood.

The other option for you book lovers is the SF Jewish Bookfest at the JCC on Sunday from 12:00 to 6:30pm. This is free and open to the public. Stop by these open homes in the Lake District.

The Asian Art Museum is having their Fall Family Festival on Sunday November 4th. There will be activities for the whole family focusing on the textile traditions of Asia. Have a look at these open homes in the Van Ness/Civic Center District.

The are so many things going on, it's hard to include them all. If anyone out there wants to add to the list or have an event featured, just let us know!

The last one featured for today will be the launching of the 11th Internaltional Latino Film Festival. It goes from November 2 through the 18th. Tonight is opening night at the W San Francisco at 9:00pm. The opening film will be "El viaje de la Nonna", and after the film there will be food, drink, and dancing!

The most important event of the weekend is resetting your clocks! That's right, Daylight Savings Time officially ends on Sunday at 2:00am, so at that time you need to set your clocks back one hour. Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Weekly Sales Report

Happy Halloween! Understandably most of us adults do not do much celebrating on this day, but if you have children it is a whole other story. You'd better believe that I will be out there trick or treating with my four year old who chose to be Elvis Presley and made his grandmother very proud. He is the only boy not dressing up as a super hero in his preschool. My four month old son will be a tootsie roll; the most ridiculously cute thing you have ever seen! I'm only mentioning this because there are certain spots in San Francisco that go all out for Halloween. It shows a sense of community and pride in the neighborhood which some people look for when trying to choose where they want to settle. Some of those spots are:

Fair Oaks in Noe Valley: they close of this street from 21st to 26th Street and it is packed with little princesses and superheros before long.

Westwood Park: This neighborhood is bordered by Ocean Ave and Monterrey Street. It feels like a suburb in that the houses are detached and have front yards. All through this neighborhood you will find homes decorated to the max and people sitting on their porches watching the crowds of trick or treaters pass by.

Belvedere Street in Cole Valley is another popular spot. I've this is where I've heard that the best candy can be found!

29th Ave in the Sunset at Golden Gate Park is the last on this list. It is a wonderful block of beautiful houses and families who know each other and love to celebrate.

There may be others, but how much candy can one person eat? The point is that if it is community you are looking for, learning about the events in the area may give you an idea of the level of involvement.

In spite of the holiday, there are still houses to be sold! The Fed announced another rate cut today bringing the federal funds rate to 4.5%, the lowest since January of 2006.

Statistics

14 Escrow opened this week; only 3 were multiple offer situations. The most offers on a property were 4 on one of the mural building units on 24th Street in the Mission.

13 Escrows closed this week. 5 sold over asking, 7 sold under asking, and one at asking. The lowest underbid was a single family home in Jordan Park listed for 2,095,000. It finally sold for $1,875,000 after being on the market for about a month.

Monday, October 29, 2007

No Pressure

There is one thing that stops us from doing the things in life that are important to us...FEAR! We think about things for a long time; think about doing them, how it will be, what will happen, how it will all play out. Thinking about it seems to be much safer than doing it. Thinking is the first stage. Next comes talking about it. Once you've decided, after thinking about it for awhile, that you actually want to do it, you first need to talk about it with everyone you know. That makes it more real. Now you have talked about it with your friends and family, maybe you can put the wheels in motion.

The point is, making major changes in life is scary, and sometimes our fear takes over. In terms of real estate, whether you are a buying or selling, there are certain action steps you can and should take preliminarily that will put you on the road and may help ease your fears.

Buyer Fear: Committing to a Realtor

It seems that buyers have decided that you don't need a Realtor until the eleventh hour. The fear, I believe, is that you will feel pressured. Our motto is that we would never push you to buy; we will push you to be ready should the right house come along. Being ready means obtaining your pre approval from a lender and staying informed by a Realtor. In the end it means that you have professional and informed people in your corner; that shouldn't be scary!

Seller Fear: Not getting the price I need

Again, being informed by a Realtor is your best weapon. Invite us over to look at the comparables in the neighborhood. That will give you a realistic idea of the value of your home. Also, you may be overwhelmed by improvements you want to make before putting the house on the market. We would be happy to walk through your home with you and prioratize work. Tell us what your fix-it budget is, and we will tell you what will give you the most bang for your buck. If you take these things one step at a time, it is not nearly as overwhelming. Lastly and most importantly, once you've done the work and looked at the data and put your house on the market, you have the right to accept, reject, or counter any offer. You are the boss; we are only there to advise. We are willing to walk away from an offer if it is not what you are looking for. Are you?

Friday, October 26, 2007

Weekend Events

Welcome to the weekend, people! It seems that you have successfully made it through another week. Most of the time we just chug on through, but every once in a while an unexpected obstacle makes the week feel unnecessarily difficult. Have you ever heard the saying that if someone does a good job you will pass the word along to one person, but if they do a bad job the word quickly passes to ten people? I suppose it speaks to our nature to "vent". It somehow makes us feel better.

This past week was made difficult for us due to a lighting store called City Lights in SoMa. If you need lighting of any kind, and are looking for even a small amount of customer service, this is not the place to go.

It started at the beginning of the week when we were trying to brighten up the kitchen in our client's loft. Anja went down to City Lights on Folsom in the SoMa district and picked out the perfect one. She placed it on hold and sent the seller to pick it up the next day. He went, and unbeknown to him, was given the wrong lamp. He took it home and hung it; Anja went by to see it and saw that it was the wrong lamp; she took it back for the original choice as the one he was given did not solve the lighting problem.

Can you believe they did not want to do the exchange! Not only that, they told her she couldn't have her original choice as it was new and they needed it on the floor. Why didn't they tell her that to begin with? She had to choose another lamp, which in the end didn't work either, and that was just the beginning of a long chain of events that ended with Anja being the not so proud owner of a $400 lamp she does not want. They were extremely unpleasant from the beginning, even though the whole sting of events stemmed from their misake.

What ever happened to customer service? OK, see, I feel better! In the end, we purchased a light and supplies from Universal Electric Supply just around the corner, where the prices are better and the cusomer service is brighter!

Let's move on to the weekend! There are 120 open houses scheduled for today (Saturday October 27th) and 873 open houses scheduled for tomorrow. Those numbers have been pretty consistent this month. If you are in the Potrero Hill neighborhood, stop by 1605 18th Street. It was featured in yesterday's post.

If you are a fan of the regular Saturday afternoon farmer's market at the Ferry Building, this weekend is the weekend to go. All weekend long the Ferry Building Marketplace will be hosting the fifth annual Harvest Festival. It actually began on Friday with wine and beer tasting, and goes through Sunday with wonderful local vendors, book signings, cooking demonstrations, and on Sunday Barn Yard by the Bay for the children. Have a look at these South Beach properties while you are in the neighborhood.

Going from the Bay to the Pacific, another event for those of you with kids is the annual "Boo at the Zoo" at our very own San Francisco Zoo. Along with all of the regular zoo attractions, there will be trick or treating, live entertainment, arts and crafts, and special presentations. Just be sure to leave your masks at home; you don't want to scare the animals! While you're in the neighborhood, stop by these Outer Parkside and Lakeshore open houses.

Just one more thought on the "venting" idea. The idea is that we are upset when we are not treated right, so everybody and their mother hears about it. Maybe we should try to pass the word along as aggresively when we are treated right. When somebody does a good job, let's try to pass it along to ten people. They deserve it!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Award Winning Loft


Amidst the Victorians and the views in Potrero Hill, you will find the wonderfully unique g2 Lofts. This award winning condominium complex sits on Arkansas and 18th Street in Potrero Hill, just blocks away from the wonderful shops and restaraunts this neighborhood has to offer. Architect David Baker combines a single-family home, a variety of flats, townhouses, artist lofts, and several flexible shared spaces into the g2 community. This development includes a wonderful park like common area, and many of the units have gorgeous panoramic downtown views for which the neighborhood is famous.

Lucky for you, there just happens to be a unit available! Welcome home to 1605 18th Street! This unit has a unique three level floor plan with a nice open feel. It is a large one bedroom and comparable in size to the two bedroom units. Walk in and immediately you will see the fabulous downtown views from the floor to ceiling windows in the living room. Upstairs you will find the huge master bedroom with a full bath and a wall of closets. The live in kitchen on the lower level is spacious and modern with beautiful Italian marble tile floors. Completing this floor is another full bath and a cleverly designed laundry area.The parking space is in the garage directly below the unit.
1605 18th Street is listed at $699,000.
It is easy to see, just give us a call for a private showing or come to one of our many open houses. The schedule is:

Oct. 26th Friday Twilight 5-7pm
Oct. 27th Saturday Open House 1-5pm
Oct. 28th Sunday Open House 1-5pm
Oct. 30th Broker's Tour 1-4pm (public welcome)
Nov. 1st Thursday Twilight 5-7pm
Nov. 3rd Saturday Open House 1-5pm
Nov. 4th Sunday Open House 1-5pm
Nov. 6th Final Broker's Tour and Final Showing 1-4pm (public welcome)
Nov. 7th Offers Due at 2:00pm

See you there!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Weekly Sales Report

It is time for a market update! The general consensus at our weekly sales meeting this morning was that San Francisco is now in a balanced market. That is what we have been reporting; it's just good to know that everyone agrees. In a balanced market, it really becomes property specific as to who holds the cards.

Another nice thing to report is that interest rates seemed to have gone down a bit. This morning a thirty year fixed jumbo loan was at 7% and in some places a bit lower at 6.875%. The gap between conforming and jumbo loans is closing, and once the dust settles we will probably see a half percent difference between jumbo and conforming instead of the full percent difference we have had lately. The reason for that difference has been because the jumbo loans are not guaranteed a buyer on the secondary market as conforming loans are with Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac. This makes the jumbo loans riskier for the lenders; thus they have been more expensive since the August credit crisis. As mentioned before, the dust will settle and we will see the pricing fall into place. The Federal Reserve is scheduled to meet again next Wednesday; let's hope for another decrease!

Statistics

There were 12 opened escrows this week. Six were multiple offer situations; that brings the multiple offers back up to 50% of all sales. The largest number of offers was received by the fixer featured in Beautiful Grand Edwardian on Monday, October 8th. They received 12 offers and the price went more than 10% over asking. The runner up was a two bedroom condominium in Potrero Hill listed at $699,000. They received 8 offers. The final price will be posted when it closes.

There were 8 closed escrows reported this week, six of which sold over the asking price. One sold under and the other sold at asking price. Not one of the properties that sold over asking went more than 5% over. It is intersting to note that even in multiple offer situations we are still not seeing a lot of the 20% over asking that we saw in past years. This is a good think to note for the sellers out there who are trying to price their homes. Stay closer to the range you are willing to accept. One of the properties that did sell at 5% over the asking price is this beautiful French Country Forest Hill home. The asking price was $1,295,000 and it sold for $1,361,000. It is a two bedroom two and a half bath home with over 2000 square feet of living space. I'm sure it helped that it had this wonderful garden designed by our very own Anja van Ditmarsch!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Meant To Be

It seems that life generally has its way of working things out. It is not always easy to see in the moment, but sometimes you just have to trudge on through and trust that clarity will find you. A bit too much for a simple thing like buying and selling houses? I don't think so. We talk a lot about the numbers; averages now versus then, when the market will bottom out, and when the best time to buy will be. The truth is, none of that matters in the end. Numbers only matter if you are buying and selling only for investment purposes. If you are looking for a home it is a completely different ballgame.

Buying a home is a very emotional process. There is a lot of money on the line, and you are looking for that unexplainable connection that makes you want to make a house your home. It is tough to find and once you do you can't always have it, especially in a market like San Francisco. You may be outbid, or somebody else gets there first, or you may simply not have a meeting of the minds with the seller.

Anja was hosting an open house earlier this year in Potrero Hill when a wonderful couple walked in and really seemed to fall in love with the house. Well, maybe one of them liked it a bit more than the other, but they spent quite a long time in the house and were so serious about it that they called in an architect to see if they could make a few changes without too much of a problem. They thought that with a few simple changes they could really turn the home into their dream house.

After talking to the architect, it seemed that the simple changes were not so simple, and not so cheap. Making the change would have thrown them way over budget, and buying it without making the changes would have sacrificed their vision for their home. Anja agonized over what to tell them because they did love the home; she was worried to tell them to pass it up for fear they wouldn't find another they liked as much.

In the end, Anja always tells it like she sees it, which is why our clients love her. She told them not to buy it, and she assured them that we would find something even better. She hung up the phone and we crossed our fingers. Timing was on our side. Just weeks later the perfect listing came up. I mean perfect! It was in the right neighborhood, the right size, the right floor plan, the perfect view! Did I mention the right price?! It was only a tiny step above the first one, and they would not have to change a thing. They were ready, and they jumped in head first. They had to compete with one other party, and after a day or two of negotiating they finally got it! We sat with them the other day on their wonderful sun drenched deck that overlooks the bay and had a coffee.Wow! It was really meant to be, and they couldn't be happier. You have to go with your instincts. Even more importantly, you have to trust ours!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Weekend Events

It really is nice to look ahead to the weekend and see all of the wonderful things San Francisco has to offer us. I will be featuring three separate events this weekend and will of course include an open house guide. I hope all you buyers were watching the news last night (doesn't matter which channel; they all seem to feature the same stories). They actually said it was a good time to buy! They even said that the bubble had finally burst, and the time to buy is now. They were talking about the bay area as a whole; I would venture to say that in San Francisco the bubble may have only deflated slightly, but the conclusion is the same; the time to buy is now! So get out there this weekend; have a great time, and look at some houses!

This weekend is the third weekend of San Francisco's Open Studios. They begin the first weekend in October and will end this year on the first weekend in November. Open Studios is a chance for the community to get to know the local artists; it is a chance to meet the artist and see their work in its own environment. This weekend, studios in Bernal Heights, Castro, Duboce, Eureka Valley, Glen Park, Mission, Noe Valley, and Portola will be open. This is a perfect opportunity to see houses and art in one day!

On Sunday, Bernal Heights will be hosting the 19th Annual Fiesta on the Hill! It takes place between 11:00am and 6:00pm on Cortland Ave and benefits the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center. They expect 15,000 people who will be enjoying live music and dancing in the streets, a petting zoo and pony rides for the children, and lots more fun activities. If you are in the neighborhood, stop by these open homes on your way.

Also on Sunday, Portola will be hosting their fifth annual Portola Festival. It will take place between 11:00pm and 4:00pm on San Bruno Ave. They expect a crowd of 5,000 people who will enjoy live entertainment, bistro style dining, children's activities including bounce houses and petting zoos, and booths of local merchants. Portola is a neighborhood that you may not be quite as familiar with; it neighbors the Excelsior District on the west side and spans to Bayshore on the east side. It's northern border is Bernal Heights and Visitacion Valley lies directly south. It is mainly residential and is known among its residents for being sunny and quiet. Stop by the festival and have a look at these open homes to get a feel for the neighborhood.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Creative Financing

The phrase "creative financing" may scare people these days, but I encourage you to look at different scenarios when shopping around for a loan. Two general loan categories are fixed and adjustable, but within those two categories there are many different options.

A fixed loan is a safer option for the more conservative buyers as the interest rate stays the same throughout the life of the loan which is most commonly thirty years. Some lenders are offering forty year fixed loans as well. Another variation in this category is a fixed loan that offers interest only payments for the first ten years. That would make your monthly payments slightly lower for the first ten years as you would not be paying towards the principle. Fixed loans are the more expensive option meaning they come with a higher interest rate which makes your monthly payments higher.

Adjustable loans are loans that are fixed for a period of time and then adjust according to a preselected index. The most common are those that are fixed for 15 years, 10 years, or five years and then adjust yearly after that. The shorter the fixed period is, the lower the interest rate will be. People will use these loans if they are only planning to be in the home a short time, or if they want to increase their buying power; a lower interest rate will allow you to increase your purchase price.

There are other things to think about even within those two categories. One is a rate buy down, or paying points. Points are prepaid interest and are a percentage point of the loan amount. Let's say you have a loan amount of $800,000. One point would be $8,000. If you have an interest rate on a thirty year fixed loan of 7%, you can pay one point and bring that down to 6.5%. (each point does not reflect one percentage on the interest rate, only the loan amount) If you were to pay two points ($16,000), your interest rate would be 6.250%, and three points ($24,000) will bring you down to an interest rate of 6%.

The difference of paying no points and having an interest rate of 7% and paying three points and having an interest rate of 6% translates to about $500 less in monthly payments. If your savings is stronger than your income, this would be a perfect option for you. Check with your lender and see how this would work with your numbers. Also be sure and ask how long the buy down stays in place; it may be five or ten years; then the loan is re amortized over the remaining term.

With the market being at a balanced point and buyers having more room to negotiate, you can also request that the seller pays for the buy down. Also, if you are a seller and your home is sitting on the market, this could be something you offer to potential buyers.

This is why it is important to talk to a lender before you begin your search. They may have options you hadn't thought of which could affect your purchasing power. Also, you don't want to fall in love with homes you can't afford. Figuring out the financing is definitely the first step, and it is much easier to do with a professional. Let me know if you need referrals.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Weekly Sales Report

The subject of last Thursday's entry was staging, and in our meeting this morning staging seemed to be the theme as well. It is something I have been hearing a lot about lately. The reason is that properties, for the most part, are not selling themselves anymore. As Anja says, "A year or two ago you could have put crates in the house and it would have sold straight away!" That's no longer the case. At the moment, as you will see in the statistics, the majority of the properties that are selling are only receiving one offer, and the average days on the market is longer. True, it only takes one offer, but that one offer does not always come easily, nor does it give the sellers a good position for negotiating. We had gotten used to the sellers having the upper hand, but we are in a very balanced market right now. It is an equal playing field for buyers and sellers. Yes, the market has changed and softened. It has gone from completely out of control to balanced.

In the midst of the craze, you could put a sign up in front of a house and expect 5-10 offers. Now we must work to get it sold. Yes, folks, life is hard. It must be price correctly and marketed aggressively. It also needs to be presented in the best possible way which is where staging comes in. I am only following up on the story because we heard some pretty great success stories in our meeting this morning and I thought I would share one with you.

The best example was a condo on Clayton that had been on the market for seventy eight days. It came out at $1,080,000 and after a month on the market with no activity they lowered the price to $995,000. It sat at that price for another month with no activity, and the sellers realized they needed to make another change. They did not want to lower the price again, so they decided to pull the property off the market temporarily, have the place professionally staged, and put it back on at the same price. Guess what. It sold within five days. What the staging really did for the place was lighten it up and gave it a more spacious feeling. Also, the consensus was that it helped the condo appeal to a younger crowd; the owners had larger pieces of furniture with a more antique feel, and the staging made the place feel young and fresh.

When putting your property on the market in a time like this, you want to leave no stone unturned. Like I said, price it right, make sure everybody knows about it, make sure everybody sees it, and make it look great. Pricing it is something we help you do, making sure everybody knows about it and sees it is our job, and let's leave making it look great to the staging companies.

Statistics

There were 11 open escrows this week. Three of those received multiple offers. The most offers were received by a home on Morningside in the Lakeshore District. I know, you've never heard of it. It was priced at $1,035,000 and received five offers so it seems at least a few others are familiar with the neighborhood.

There were 7 closed escrows. Four of those sold under asking, one sold at asking, and two sold over asking price. The scale has tipped slightly in the buyers direction.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Avoid the Salesperson

When you walk into a retail store, you are often greeted with a smile and a hello from the salesperson. Quite often, the next thing you hear is, "Is there anything I can help you with" or "Let me know if you need anything". If you are like me, you avoid eye contact, head the other way, and flash the "I'm just looking" smile. This is all fine if you don't have a goal and you are in fact simply browsing for fun, but I've learned something lately.

If you are looking for something specific, even if you don't quite know what that is yet, the salespeople are actually there to help you. Maybe you are looking for a gift for somebody; you describe that person and some ideas you have, and they can help narrow down your options. At the very least they can steer you to the section of the store where you can find what you are looking for.

It works for anything: clothes, jewelry, even cheese! Next time you step up to the cheese counter and don't know what you want ask the person standing behind the counter what he/she would recommend. They will blow you away with their knowledge of cheese.

You'd better believe the same thing goes for house hunting. When you walk into an open house, the salesperson standing there is not only an expert on that house; they are an expert in the San Francisco real estate market. They know the neighborhoods and what it costs to live in each one. They are a resource for you and have the ability to help you find what you are looking for; even if you don't quite know what that is yet.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Weekend Events

Each weekend I talk about the open house schedule, because that is generally the way I spend my weekend. Last weekend I threw in a few other events that were going on around the city and I got a positive response. I think I may start a new series; The Weekend Events series. I will, of course, still report on open houses, but having an idea of what is going on in the city may help you in a coule of different ways. First of all it will give you an idea of what each neighborhood has to offer. Secondly, it will tell you what areas to avoid if you just want to look at open houses and don't want to bother with crowds and trouble parking. Thirdly, you could combine activites.

First for the real estate side. I was happy to see more properties hit the market this week; finally our buyers have new things to see. Hopefully that will continue through the next couple of months. The Chronicle lists 149 Open Homes for Saturday the 13th, and 941 Open Homes for Sunday, October 14th. Those are good numbers; they are up from last month. If at any time you want me to narrow that number down to fit your criteria, send me an email and I will get you a personlized open house list that includes only your neighborhoods of interest, price range, etc.

One neighborhood that will be extra busy today, Saturday the 13th, is Noe Valley as they will be hosting their annual harvest festival. This festival features costume contests, live music, activities for children, and a hayride down 24th Street! That's also a warning! If you want to do both, harvest festival and open homes, here is a list of what will be open in Noe Valley.

If you're up for a nice cold beer, you may want to find your way to Oktoberfest By The Bay! Head over to Fort Mason for your fix of German food, music, and dancing. Have a look at these properties that will be open in the Marina. Have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Staging

When you are out house hunting, you might notice that some of the homes, although furnished, don't look lived in. That's probably because they are vacant, but have been staged. This is interior design specifically for the purpose of getting a house sold. Come on, you've all seen the shows on HGTV (Home and Garden Television).

The idea of staging is so that people can imagine themselves living in the space. It is a way of raising the value of a property by reducing the home's flaws, depersonalizing, decluttering, cleaning, decorating to create a pleasant flow, and landscaping.

You don't want the buyers to walk into your home and see you and family represented in all of your things. You want them to walk in and see themselves there. Step one is always to remove your clutter and personal items. We all have clutter, don't be offended.

Why is staging so expensive? You are paying an insured design company to come in, create a plan, bring in a house full of furniture, artwork, and knick knacks, and rent it to you for what is usually two months. They will even sometimes do some painting, replace hardware, or do small repairs. The lowest end is a partial staging for $2,000; you won't get anyone to come out for any less, and you can easily go up to $5,000 or $10,000 for a full staging.

Is it worth it? I believe it depends on the property. If you are selling a fixer, staging may look a bit ridiculous. But in general, it can be proven that a property that is staged and well presented will sell faster and for a higher price. In that case, your money comes right back to you. Think of it as saving another month's mortgage. I believe that you do have to spend money to make money, even though it may hurt.

Let me give you an example. At the beginning of the year, Anja and I had a listing for a two bedroom condo on the north side of town. The sellers moved out, and Anja got busy heading up a team to clean the place up, paint, replace hardware and lights, and finally to stage the place. It looked amazing; I was afraid the sellers would want to move back in! They received two very good offers in the first two weeks; both were over asking. Because of that fast initial response, the sellers thought they could get more so they did not accept either offer. Just a side note, the first offer is often the best!

The condo then proceeded to sit on the market for quite some time. The sellers decided to remove the staging because they didn't want to pay for it anymore, and the condo continued to sit on the market. The listing expired. We went to put it back on the market and finally convinced the sellers to have the place staged again. Within the first two weeks, we again received two strong offers. The sellers accepted one of them.

There are two lessons here. Don't pass up a good offer because you think you can get more. Secondly, don't underestimate the power of staging. Both times around the only offers received were in the initial two week period after hitting the market, and it was only after bringing back the staging that we finally got it sold.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Weekly Sales Report

There is strength in numbers. Coldwell Banker is a strong company. Every Wednesday in our standing room only office meetings, the strength of our network is evident. If feels very much like one of those Verizon Wireless commercials where you turn around and the whole network is following you.

Our Wednesday meeting is the time where we come together and try to help each other sell our listings. New listings all get pitched, we are reminded of offer dates, price adjustments are announced, and if we have a specific buyer need or concern we may ask the group for help. This is important when choosing a company to represent you in the sale of your home. Just like when choosing a cell phone company, you want the real estate company with the largest network.

It is because of this networking that 20% of our opened escrows this week were sold within our office as were 50% of the closed escrows. That happens because we get the opportunity each week to pitch our listings to over one hundred agents, each of whom has a list of active buyers they are working with. There is something more powerful about a face to face presentation than seeing an advertisement on the Internet. Don't get me wrong, Internet advertising is extremely important. Did you know that 70-80% of all home buyers start their search on the Internet? Of course you did, you're on the Internet!

Statistics

There were 10 escrows opened this week. Three were multiple offer situations. Two of the properties had fallen out of escrow once, came back on the market, and opened escrow again. Many buyers look favorably on a property that has come back on the market as they believe the seller will be that much more motivated to sell the second time around.

There were only four closed escrows this week. One sold at asking price, one sold over asking, and the other two sold for under asking price.

Our office alone had ten properties on tour this week, which is a good number. I hope to see that continue.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Beautiful Grand Edwardian

Yesterday was quite a festive day in San Francisco. If you were out enjoying Fleet Week, the Castro Street Fair, or the music festival in Golden Gate Park, I may have missed you. But if you were one of the many people house hunting in the Inner Richmond, you were probably at 739 12th Ave at one point or another. I had more than seventy groups of people come through yesterday, most were serious buyers, and many were serious about that house particularly.

It is a grand Edwardian in a wonderful neighborhood just blocks from Golden Gate Park. It is also a fixer. Some of you may remember that in my weekly sales report on September 19th, the house with the most offers for the week was another grand Edwardian. It was priced at $799,000 and labeled a "major cosmetic fixer". It received 22 offers, and I can now report that it sold at $950,000.

That is now sounding like a bargain; 739 12th Ave is priced at $999,000 and will no doubt be in a multiple bid situation thus driving the price even higher.
This house is also a heavy cosmetic fixer but will be an amazing house when finished. It has two levels of living space; downstairs is the living room, formal dining room, kitchen, breakfast room, and a half bath. Upstairs you will find the three bedrooms and the only full bathroom in the house. The master suite has a really cute vanity/closet area leading into the bathroom. There are many wonderful details about the house: wood floors, huge windows, wainscoting, and a huge backyard with a wonderful apple tree. There is also a full garage/basement with two car tandem parking. It has approximately 2400 square feet of living space.

The questions people were asking are serious buying questions such as, "How long has it been on the market", "Do you have disclosures", and of course "Is there an offer date". I asked questions myself, and was amazed at the answer I got for one question in particular. I often ask people how long they have been looking and of course get all sorts of responses from, "Oh, I'm not really looking" to "It seems like forever".

I noticed a pattern in that answer yesterday. It seemed that the majority of the buyers I met had been looking for a year to a year and a half! That supports the theory that there are many buyers out there who have been waiting on the sidelines. Some are waiting for the right house. Others are waiting for prices to drop. In either case, it seems like it's time to buy a house and move on so you can enjoy everything else San Francisco has to offer on Sundays. Don't get stuck in the "looking" mode for too long. The perfect house isn't out there, and the Blue Angels are the only ones doing the nose diving, San Francisco home prices are not.