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Do I really need a real estate agent? Why?

February 29th, 2012

We are real estate agents so we have a biased point of view! That said, you really do need a really good agent when buying in SF. There are things you just can’t do on your own (even with your iPad). Seeing and evaluating real estate is our job. We offer you expertise and access that you can’t get elsewhere, saving you time & money. Here are some of the things a good agent will do for you.



Some properties sell the day after the first open house. Some listing agents delay any offers until a specified date and some take offers “as they come.” Don’t get left out in the cold if you like a place well enough to buy it.  If necessary, connected agents are able to get you in to a property before the first open house.



When you tour a house with brand new appliances and a newly remodeled kitchen, it’s easy to picture yourself in that home – until you see the price tag. But why pay extra for someone else’s kitchen remodel? We help buyers visualize and estimate the cost of their dream house. Knocking down a wall to open up a floor plan is less expensive than you’d think. Real value can be found in fixer-uppers, not to mention the pleasure of getting exactly what you want from a remodel. Get our guide to remodeling projects for more information.



There is a lot of property to choose from and you don’t want to waste time on Sunday afternoons. You need to tour properties that fit your criteria. While online realty search sites can be good tools to help you create a quick list of properties you’d like to see, you don’t want to waste time visiting homes with problems that don’t show up in photos or that are inaccurately priced. A good agent has seen the properties and can assess & filter them for you to save you time. For instance, if your price range is up to 800K and a property is listed at 799K but we KNOW it will sell for at least 850K, then why frustrate yourself?



In multiple offer situations (of which there are many in SF), you need to think strategically to win the bid. Generally, the sales price is above the asking price. How much over? You don’t want to leave money on the table but you’d like your bid to be successful. A good agent will help you get to the price that is enough to win the property without overpaying.



Seeing a property online isn’t enough. You have to look at properties in person to know what it’s really like inside. That in person knowledge will help you put prices and possible issues in perspective.  When you look at a listing online, you are seeing an idealized version of the property. What’s it really like? Does it have some sort of a problem? Structural problem? Tenant problem? Homeowner’s Association problem? You need to get answers to these questions in order to understand the right price for a property. If problems are uncovered, a good agent will also be able to help you find contractors and estimate the costs to fix them so you’ll have a complete understanding of the total cost of your new home.



While you may see a couple open houses a week, an experienced agent has seen all the homes on the market for years. That adds up to hundreds or even thousands of properties. Not only does this enable us to filter properties to meet your criteria, but it also allows us to give you the big picture comparison that you simply wouldn’t have otherwise. Look for a real estate professional that will take the time to teach you the San Francisco real estate market so that you know that you’ve made a wise decision when it comes time to take the plunge and make an offer on a home. You need to be confident that you’ve gotten the most for your money and have found a property that fulfills most of the points on your wish list.



As we know, properties can be listed purposefully low. Because of this, it’s hard to gain a good understanding of the market by just looking at properties online.  What did they sell for? Knowing is part of your education process and waiting a month or so to find out doesn’t help you on an immediate basis. We can find out what something sold for through our good connections with other agents.


In short, if you want to save time & money, know you got a fair price, and get your dream house, then yes – you need an agent. Contact us to put our experience to work for you.


Will Cesar Chavez Street be the next Valencia Corridor?

February 24th, 2012

San Francisco’s Department of Public Works transformed Valencia and Divisadero Streets into beautiful, bustling hot spots. Is Cesar Chavez Street next?

It’s hard to remember the days before Valencia Street’s bike lanes and Divisadero’s parklets, but hearken back to them and you may recall similarities to the latest street to undergo redevelopment: Cesar Chavez. Like those before it, the DPW’s latest beautification project will replace unsafe streetscapes and drab design with a “safe, inviting, and ecologically sustainable” layout. Slated to complete by early 2013, the improvements could be just the thing to bring Cesar Chavez from down-and-out to up-and-coming.

Bordering Cesar Chavez to the south, the already popular north slope of Bernal Heights and Precita Park are sure to see even more growth if the project is successful. To its north, the project has the potential to expand the commercial borders of the Inner Mission, breathing new life into the blocks nestled between 24th Street and Cesar Chavez. With Cesar Chavez Street as a new destination, these blocks linking it to the Inner Mission could be transformed to create a walkable corridor, enhancing commerce – and real estate – in both areas.

Of course, the success of the project will also depend on local businesses’ faith in the neighborhood. Valencia and Divis enjoyed a perfect storm of beautification plus new business, creating a previously unthinkable level of popularity in these areas. It’s anyone’s guess as to whether local merchants will exhibit the same kind of confidence in Cesar Chavez Street. But given its prime location as a gateway between Silicon Valley and the city (and the current market conditions in SF), Cesar Chavez Street certainly has serious growth potential. For cutting-edge buyers, this could be a golden opportunity.

Contact us for more information.

Is a Tenancy In Common (TIC) right for me?

February 23rd, 2012

Tenancy-in-common properties, in which owners buy a percentage or share of a building, are one of San Francisco’s real estate anomalies. TICs came about in response to high demand for homeownership amid low property supply, and they’ve been a unique option for buyers in San Francisco ever since. Traditionally requiring all owners to share one loan, new fractionalized loan products have made TICs seem more appealing – but are they the right choice for you?

TICs can be attractive because they are generally priced lower per square foot than their condominium counterparts. In addition, some TICs allow for the possibility to convert to condominiums eventually, providing the potential for a high return on investment.

Regarding condo conversion, all TICs are not treated equally. In San Francisco, the only buildings eligible to convert to condominiums are 2-6 unit buildings. 2-unit TICs are typically fast-tracked for conversion: after just one year of being owner-occupied, 2-unit TICs can bypass the lottery and begin the process to convert to condos. 3-4 unit TICs can be put into the condo conversion lottery when at least one unit has been owner-occupied for the three immediately preceding years. The number of units that must be owner-occupied increases to three for 5-6 unit buildings. Because of the lottery process and the occupancy requirements, conversion for these properties can be a very long and arduous process and we recommend our TIC clients to comfortable with the very real possibility that the building may never convert.

Potential TIC buyers must also consider loan options. Traditional group loans (where all owners share one loan and all its responsibilities) were popular and worked well when home values were rapidly increasing. Once the market stabilized, these loans presented serious obstacles that gave rise to the newer fractionalized loan options. Fractionalized loans are the TIC equivalent of a condo loan, but the interest rates are typically at least one point higher – and only a few lenders offer this product. These loans are often fixed for 3, 5 or 7 years and then can wickedly adjust. Our concern has always been that this small pool of lenders leads to limited future options when the loans start to adjust. What if fractionalized lending is no longer available or is no longer offered by the same number of lenders? If competition between lenders is reduced, it could severely impact interest rates for these loans. Again, a TIC buyer has to weigh the pros and cons of the risks involved.

TICs: Opportunity or Liability? It has been our experience that TICs really work for 2 kinds of buyers. The first are “nesters”: individuals who have lived in the same location for a long time, whose commitment to living in San Francisco is carved in stone, and who can fairly well predict their future incomes. Other good TIC candidates are the risk-takers: confident buyers who worry less than the rest of us, who just want to be homeowners and who trust that the San Francisco real estate market will always provide potential buyers.

All told, TIC purchases have lots of moving parts; many more than we can adequately summarize in a single blog entry. Please contact us if you have any questions.

Up, Up, and Away…. Mission Dolores House on the Move!

February 21st, 2012

The project involving the old parish building at the corner of Dolores and 15th looks to finally be on the move….  except it appears it’s the house that’s moving first?!

It’s been years since the lot where the old Baptist church once stood was sold along with the dilapidated old parish building (2002).  Since that time, developers have presented plans for a large condo complex with an underground parking structure.  The number of parking spaces was debated along with claims that the parish building was a historical building.  Then the parking issues were resolved and the developers agreed to incorporate the old structure into the plan (see below).

We drove by today and noticed that the old parish house is now up on crates and is adorned with signs for “Solares House Moving”.  So our question is — did the developers succeed in moving the house off the lot? Or are they scooting the house over to the property line to make room for the larger development that will be attached? Maybe they are just lifting the house to make way for a new foundation?  Perhaps the house is being moved off site while they build the parking garage underneath and then it will be set back down in place??!  Check out the photos below and let us know your thoughts on our Facebook page.

Below:  The original “First Southern Baptist Church” in 1953.  According to reports, the progressive Baptist church allegedly received a letter in 1993 from a member of the Aryan Brotherhood who disagreed with the church’s views.  The church was burned to the ground the next day by an arsonist.  Whether or not the two things are related or not seems to have never been made certain.

Below: Photos of the vacant lot and the building as it appeared for almost 10 years after the fire.  Signs at one time promised “Condos coming Fall 2010″.


Below: Plans that were distributed a couple years ago showing the parish house being preserved and the new complex sitting adjacent to the historical structure.

Below:  The house as it appears today, jacked up and ready for the house movers to do their thing, whatever that thing may be!

Hayes Valley is having a moment

February 18th, 2012

While everyone’s been fussing over the Valencia Corridor’s latest crown jewel, sleeper hit Hayes Valley has been blowing up.

Off the Grid just began a Wednesday night food truck meetup at Proxy, the urban shipping container project that has revitalized the area with gems like Smitten Ice Cream and Suppenkuche’s Biergarten. 7×7 touted Nojo, Boxing Room, and Schulzie’s Bread Pudding in their article about the new reasons to hit up SF’s artsiest ‘hood. Building on the hallowed pre-Symphony options like Absinthe and Jardiniere, these new restaurants mark Hayes Valley as an everyday destination. And the hits keep coming – rising star chefs Sarah & Evan Rich plan to open a new restaurant on Gough, adding yet another feather to Hayes Valley’s culinary cap.

Besides the food, Hayes Valley is a haven for haute design, showcasing local designers, clothing boutiques and interior decor. Couple that with the cultural richness supplied by the nearby Opera, Ballet and Symphony – not to mention its walk score of 93 – and it emerges as an iconic San Francisco nabe you’d never need to leave.

SF real estate market heating up in anticipation of Facebook millionaires

February 16th, 2012

San Francisco is already one of the most expensive housing markets in the country (and one that has stayed relatively stable throughout the national crisis). The Facebook IPO, however, will generate a veritable army of millionaires, many of whose first order of business will be staking their claim in San Francisco real estate.

While the IPO is probably a few months away, and employees must endure a lockup period before they can cash in on their newfound wealth (typically 180 days), we’re already seeing a significant surge in energy in the real estate market. Without a crystal ball, we can’t know if this is just momentary or if it’s truly a sign of an improving market in light of recent tech news. What we do know is that inventory is currently low and there are a lot of buyers in the wings. This has certainly created more energy in the market than we’ve seen in quite a while.


New app promises to find you the best handyman

February 13th, 2012

Bay Area start-up company Redbeacon offers an innovative new way to pair homeowners with service contractors like plumbers, painters or carpenters.

Post your need on (or use their iPhone app) and within 48 hours you’ll receive 4 bids detailing not only a price comparison, but also reviews so you can be confident in the quality of the work done. Even better, Redbeacon increases efficiency by allowing you to upload a video of what needs fixing, eliminating the contractor’s need to make a site visit first.

Of course, if you prefer to choose a provider the old-fashioned way – by referral – don’t hesitate to contact us. We have a long list of contractors with whom we’ve worked and can highly recommend, and we’d be happy to share it with you.

READ MORE about Redbeacon

Love the Giants? Live like one: Tim Lincecum’s apartment is on the market

February 11th, 2012

Timmy’s old apartment is a two-story, 3BR/3BA, 2,790 square foot bachelor pad between the Mission & Potrero. In true baseball star style, it has panoramic views of the ballpark and a private roof deck – not a bad way to watch the Blue Angels buzz the stadium on Opening Day. The apartment has made the news several times thanks to Lincecum’s notorious parties, and there are rumors of damages to the residence inflicted by the pitcher, but perhaps the right buyer might just consider that to be “World Series memorabilia.”


Potrero Hill, Western Addition may benefit from SF’s “Green Connections” project

February 7th, 2012

Several agencies have partnered together to launch San Francisco’s Green Connections initiative. Its mission: “Green Connections will increase access to parks, open space and the waterfront … [creating] sustainable corridors that enhance mobility, green neighborhood streets, and improve pedestrian and bicycle access to community amenities and recreational opportunities. Green Connections will result in a Citywide network of green streets that can be built over time, improving pedestrian and bicycle access to parks, open space and the waterfront.”

Lucky neighborhoods Potrero Hill and Western Addition are among the 6 areas projected to benefit from this project. If the recommendations are implemented, it could have a significant positive impact on real estate values in those neighborhoods.

Want to learn more? The Green Connections kick-off event takes place Wednesday, February 15 from 5:30 to 7:30 PM @ the LGBTCommunity Center, Rainbow Room, 1800 Market Street, San Francisco.


S_LD!: Zynga founder Mark Pincus’ Cole Valley home

February 3rd, 2012

While it’s true that the Words With Friends & FarmVille founder’s Shrader Street home has sold for $1,890,000, it appears that his Washington Street home in the Presidio is still on the market. With the interior design done by his wife, One Kings Lane founder Alison Pincus, both houses are exercises in modern simplicity. The 2,875-square foot Cole Valley 3BR/3BA property is a 1940′s house that was opened up and fully remodeled.  It started out with a listing price of $2,189,000 before being reduced to $1,970,000 and finally selling at $1,890,000.  While the location is great and the wide open floor plan on the main level is appealing, the design aesthetic was very taste specific (perhaps even trendy) and may have affected the buyer pool.