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 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 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:


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!