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.


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!


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.


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


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!


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.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Time to Sell

Although many buyers are waiting on the sidelines to see what will happen to home prices, others are acknowledging the fact that when the market is slow it is the best time to buy. The object of the game is to make sure you don't wait too long. It is a cycle really, is it not? The downward motion of that cycle seems to be somewhat of a self fulfilling prophecy. The media talks about prices falling, people get scared to buy so they wait, and because nobody is buying prices are actually affected negatively.

I am starting to hear about recovery in certain spots around the nation; people are finally seeing that the sky is not falling and there has been talk of 4 to 7 percent appreciation in the next year. Finally there has been a positive spin on news stories; it seems the media just had to get the doom and gloom out of their system.

Unfortunately when it is a good time buy, it is a bad time to sell. You cannot have it both ways. So even more than the buyers waiting on the sidelines, the sellers are holding out. Inventory will drop making it a sellers market again before we know it, and all of those buyers who were waiting will realize they waited just a bit too long. The funny thing is, there is another cycle here. If nobody is putting their house on the market, and there are no new listings for the buyers to look at, isn't that the best time to put your home on the market?

Anja and I have a long list of buyers who are waiting for new properties to hit the market in various neighborhoods. There was a lot of new inventory in September; some of which is still sitting on the market and some sold right away, but in the last couple of weeks there has been very little.

If there is nothing coming out in any given neighborhood, and there are buyers out there waiting for something in that neighborhood, isn't that the time to put your home on the market? Yours will be the only house available! If you are thinking of selling but are unsure of market conditions, take a look around your neighborhood. See what else is available and for what price. If there are five other homes in your price range in your neighborhood for sale, you may want to wait. On the other hand, if you find yourself with a unique product, the time to sell just might be now.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

South Of Market Area

The South Of Market Area (SoMa) is next on our neighborhood tour. As the name implies, SoMa spans the area between Market and Townsend. The western border is the 101 Freeway, and the eastern border was once the Embarcadero, but the few blocks closest to the water are now known as South Beach which will be the next neighborhood on our tour.

This once industrial district is now an eclectic mix of warehouses, nightclubs, restaurants, stores, and residences. This area has changed dramatically over the past fifteen years with the dot com industry and new developments seeming to pop up everywhere. The addition of the Metreon and more recently the new Bloomingdale's are a successful effort to get people to venture across Market Street. The new Federal Building at 7th and Mission is also expected to change the feel of SoMa.

At the moment there are 104 residential properties on the market in SoMa, 94 of which are condominiums or lofts. The other ten are 2-4 unit buildings. Single family homes are almost non existent here. The prices range from $295,000 for a small studio condo to $5,399,000 for a luxury condo in the 4 Seasons with 280 degree views. Don't worry, it does come with one parking space. I know, that is a ridiculous price span. The average sales price according to is $823,120.

What does the average price get you in SoMa? How about this new development designed by Stanley Saitowitz/Natoma Architects Inc. This building is located on Howard Street at Eighth. For $809,000 you can purchase a two bedroom, two bath, 1279 square foot unit with one car parking. This is a minimalist building with premium quality finishes. For public transportation, there are buses that run all through the neighborhood, and BART and MUNI Trains run all the way down Market to the Embarcadero. Also, if you are commuting to the peninsula, there is the CalTrain Station at 4th & Townsend.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Weekly Sales Report

Although the bulk of our meeting today was taken up with the lively words of a motivational speaker, we did manage to get in a few facts about how sales went this past week.

There were 21 Escrows opened this week, and only a quarter of them were multiple offer situations. This is down quite a bit from the last few weeks; it had been holding steady at about half.

14 Escrows closed this week; only two sold over the asking price. Three sold at asking price, and the other nine sold below asking price. This should be good news for you buyers.

As we enter October, a typically strong month for San Francisco real estate, it is starting to feel even more like a buyer's market. I was excitedly telling everyone in September that there were a lot of great properties to choose from. I am starting to change my tone a bit as the downpour of inventory that hit the market in September has lessened to a trickle. We are working with a lot of buyers who are just waiting patiently for the right property to hit the market. Get yourself ready, get your team together, and start looking! That way when the right house comes along you are ready to submit your offer.

The speaker in our meeting today talked a lot about belief systems. Believe it, and it will happen. Does that translate to home buying? Why not! Just believe that you will find the right house. Visualize yourself and your family living there. See yourself entertaining your friends in your new home. How does it look?

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Tuesday Tour

Anja and I hit the streets today for our weekly Tuesday Broker's Tour. It was a beautiful sunny day to look at houses, but about halfway through the day Anja mentioned how quiet it seemed. Thinking about it, I realized we had been the only agents at every house we'd seen so far. As the day went on, we did begin running into other agents, but the general feel of the tour was extremely light.

The amount of traffic on a tour day in any given house is always a good indication of how much interest there will be in that house. You will always hear people say, "If a house is priced right and presented well it will sell quickly". We did see one such house today. It had the most traffic of any house we had seen thus far on the tour. 365 Richland Ave is a four bedroom, two bath, 1800 square foot home in Bernal Heights priced at $999,000. It was full of agents and a few buyers when we arrived. Maybe some showed up because of the listing agent's promise of lottery tickets to all those who attended, but I think the majority were there to preview the house. We have yet to see if the price is right, but the turn out proves that there is a need for this size house in Bernal in this price range. It is vacant and staged nicely; has good curb appeal, and is freshly painted in festive and cheerful colors. These things will certainly help. The listing agent is trying the good old fashioned two week marketing period with a set offer date of October 15th. I will keep you posted.

Another property where the listing agent tried the same short marketing period with a set offer date is 257-259 Lexington Street, a two unit building in the Inner Mission. It was on tour today, but it's offer date was last Wednesday. This is a two unit Victorian on a great little street with original details and two car parking. Both flats will be delivered vacant. Sounds perfect, right? The one not so perfect part may be the price at $1,438,000 which is a bit steep for that neighborhood. Had it been priced right I think it would have sold right away.

Our last stop on today's tour was the Sunset Idea House which I wrote about on 8/30/07 in an entry called "Going Green in San Francisco". I was so excited to see this house as I live close by and have seen in built from the ground up. Also, it is exciting to have one of the first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified residential remodeled homes in the nation right in our backyard. The anticipation was killing me.

I have to say that I was extremely disappointed. It's not yet finished, so I'll give them that. Also, only the smaller of the two units is for sale, and that is the only one we were able to see. Maybe the larger unit is amazing. The smaller unit was just a bit confusing. I think the concept of it being an idea house is a great one. I'm all for giving the community ideas on how they can make their homes more energy efficient. 90% of the materials are recycled construction waste. The floors were taken from an old barn, the banisters are recycled steel, the counter tops are recycled glass and cement, and the list goes on. They also have a solar hot water system, a wind energy system, solar panels, energy star appliances, and again the list goes on.

All of that I loved. I also loved the deck right off of the kitchen which was a really wonderful outdoor space overlooking the garden. The rest of the unit was unfortunately dark and uninviting. It didn't seem to have a flow or much warmth. The unfortunate statement that this makes is that to go green you must go cold and modern. Hopefully the community sees past this, takes the ideas, and uses them in their own homes. I recommend waiting to see this house until it is finished. Maybe it will make more sense then. The Sunset magazine tours will happen towards the end of the year. Again, I will keep you posted.