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Divisadero’s Bi-Rite: Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

May 23rd, 2012

Like many of you, we are pretty excited for Bi-Rite to open on Divisadero Street. Between adding a gourmet food outpost & recently completing a restoration project, the Divisadero Corridor neighborhood is reminding us of the successful rise of another Corridor (ahem, Valencia). According to local blog Haighteration, however, Bi-Rite & its famed Creamery recently pushed back opening until October 2012. While this is probably good news for our waistlines (did you know you can get Salted Caramel by the pint?), our tastebuds are not taking the news well.

Waistlines aside, the delay could also be good news for potential homebuyers. If the Divisadero Corridor’s popularity rises further after Bi-Rite arrives, so could home values and prices. Dream of living within walking distance of Bi-Rite? Call us to check out listings in that area.


Facebook’s IPO: Should Buyers Worry?

May 18th, 2012

Mark Zuckerberg rang the stock market bell this morning, and buyers who aren’t Facebook employees may be feeling pressure to snap up SF real estate before the IPO lockup period ends in November and the Facebook cash floods the market.

Stressed? Don’t be. Sure, we’ve seen some crazy things happening lately, but the reality for many buyers might not be so scary. The current ‘boom’ is being fueled by a lack of inventory as many sellers wait for these techies to become liquid. When they do, the increased supply of homes may balance out any high demand created by the IPOs. And keep in mind that Facebook is a pretty small company, with just over 3,500 employees – some of whom might want to save their money, and some of whom may choose to settle in the South Bay. Finally, given the stock’s mediocre performance today, there may be fewer millionaires than anticipated.

Need a little more reassurance? Prices still are not where they were at the peak of the market in 2006. Rates are historically low making this a good time to buy. Multiple offers in San Francisco are a way or real estate life. Even in 1985 there were multiple offers. A good piece of property will always attract attention. Today’s difference is that prices are set purposefully low. You need to be educated as to prices and comparable sales so that you know what a property that fits your parameters is worth in today’s market. Only a good real estate agent who has seen lots of property and followed sales prices can help you know that you are paying the right price for the property you buy. IPOs aside, a well located property with a modicum of charm will always hold its value in SF and will, don’t forget, always attract more than one offer.

Certainly there are more factors influencing the local and national real estate markets than Facebook’s IPO. Despite the hype, talk, and excitement surrounding Facebook this week, there is always more to consider when it comes to real estate valuation in this complex city. We don’t have a crystal ball but we do have a lot of experience navigating through markets just like this. We invite you to call us with your questions and concerns.

New App Helps You Find Sun in SF

May 16th, 2012

The answer to every SF resident’s prayer, a free new iPhone app called SF Climates offers a weather forecast for each SF neighborhood. Besides helping you figure out what to wear, it’s a fun tool for prospective homebuyers to learn about SF’s microclimates. If you want to live in a sunny neighborhood, for example, you might consider the Financial District in addition to the Mission!

How to Win In Today’s Competitive Marketplace

May 10th, 2012
When we saw a 20th Street fixer-upper list for $849,000 and sell for $1.4 million last week, our suspicions were confirmed: SF real estate is in the early stages of another boom. We saw it again with a Dolores Street property selling for $400k over asking, despite a difficult floor plan. Last Sunday, about one-third of the open homes we visited were already in contract! All this competition in the marketplace can seem scary and disheartening to first-time buyers, but you CAN still succeed in this climate, and we’re here to help you do just that. 

Find the right home, pay the right price
The 20th Street home that sold for $550k over asking? It was severely under-priced. We know because we toured the property, analyzed comps, and have the experience necessary to anticipate true home values. In this marketplace, you simply can’t rely on online search tools or listing prices for accurate valuation. You need a good agent to set expectations so you don’t waste your time seeing properties that will sell outside of your price range or get discouraged when that happens. We didn’t send our $850k clients to tour this home because we knew it would sell for what it was worth (in fact, we had estimated a sales price of $1.3m).

Of course, you don’t want to overpay, either. Regardless of its tony address, the Dolores Street house will need a solid $500k of work to make it livable. This is going to be an expensive and arduous project for the new owners, and in our opinion they overpaid for this hassle. The true value of the property is well under the $2m they’ll have spent when all is said & done.

Keep calm & carry on
As a new homebuyer, it’s very easy to get caught up in the excitement of house hunting. We’re here to temper that emotion so you can make smart decisions. We’ve been doing this for 30 years, and we’ve seen boom markets crazier than this one. We’ll help you find the right home and pay the right price so you get the home without overbidding. Contact us at any time to ask any of your SF real estate questions – we’re here to help!

Duboce Triangle Developments In Full Swing

May 7th, 2012

The Duboce Triangle Neighborhood Association’s latest newsletter detailed the whopping 900+ soon-to-be-built housing units in the Upper Market corridor. Construction has already begun at several of the twelve sites, and more is on the way.

Given its prime location in the city and its easy access to Silicon Valley, Duboce Triangle’s popularity is on the rise. The demand for houses in this neighborhood is up, and our sellers are receiving well over their asking price as the new tech crowd moves in, making it a good time to buy or sell here.

We certainly love being in Duboce Triangle! Come visit and we’ll tell you more about this charming and coveted neighborhood.

What Kind Of Mortgage Should You Get?

May 3rd, 2012

With all the different products on the market, this question can be downright confusing. While there’s no substitute for talking to a reputable mortgage broker (contact us for referrals), it’s helpful to know your options. This article does a pretty good job explaining the various offerings so you can familiarize yourself with them.

Good News For The Dogpatch

May 1st, 2012

Home to our Hot Property of the week (the gorgeous new Millwheel development), the Dogpatch neighborhood is about to see improvements made to its Pier 70 area. Concepts for the long-awaited renovations are scheduled to be presented this summer. The plans will attempt to “create a hub of innovation on the city’s central waterfront,” according to the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR), who will be hosting a lunchtime forum on May 23rd to discuss the project.

The San Francisco Port Department claims that, pending the updates, “Crane Cove is set to be one of the most celebrated new parks in the City … The completed park would include a variety of landscape and plaza areas, 1,000 feet of Bay shoreline opened, and views of the dry dock, skyline and Bay.”

The SF Chronicle envisioned an even more ambitious use of the space, suggesting it to George Lucas for his new digital media production facilities. “One of the buildings, originally occupied by Bethlehem Steel, was the location of a scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo” and still has a theater on its upper level,” claims the Chron.

If you’d like more information about the Dogpatch neighborhood or would like to tour the brand new Millwheel properties, contact us!

Before & After: The Power of Good “Vision”

April 26th, 2012

One of our strengths as an agency is the capability to visualize every home’s potential. A simple remodel, paint job or design tweak can make a huge difference in a home’s ambiance (not to mention its perceived value). We help our clients understand what design changes (simple or complex) can be made to create their ideal home. Our expertise will help you assess the potential each home has (or doesn’t have) and estimate the true cost to getting your dream house (or kitchen, or bathroom).

When we work as listing agents, we use this skill to stage the home in a modern, stylish, and authentic way so potential buyers can envision themselves living there. We want the home to show its absolute best so buyers can see its potential. We’ve captured some before/after photos that do a great job conveying the power of good “vision.” (We’ll admit – using a good camera with a wide-angle lens gives the “After” photos that much more of a punch!)

Style is cyclical and fortunately the white cabinets and white counters that were installed in 1982 have come back around in 2012. While we would choose a different white material now, these counters were in good shape. In order to make the cabinets pop we painted them a super white semi-gloss. Light gray kitchen walls really tied together the newly painted cabinets, tidy white counters and original Mexican tile floors and completed the fresh, contemporary feel that we wanted to create. It was not our goal to hide the need for some modern cosmetic upgrades but to mitigate the need for a potential buyer to have engage in a remodel project right away. We did change out the stove because it was very worn.

Dining area:
We painted the dark green wall a deep charcoal gray, which lent a more formal and modern edge to the dining area and also segued and complimented the light gray color of the kitchen walls. The solarium windows in the dining area flooded the dining room with natural light and we wanted to take advantage of that light. So we changed the dining table to light wood, Bertolli and white leather chairs and switched out to a more narrow side table to lend spaciousness to the area.

Master bedroom:
Changing out the carpet would have been too costly, so we changed the color of walls to mitigate the purple hue of the carpet. We painted the walls a cement color that really played up the beautiful plantation shutters. The cement color on the walls brought out the neutral tones in the carpet, which we felt was more compelling for a potential buyer.

Guest bedroom:
Our goal was to reinforce the modern, contemporary feel of the rest of the condo by painting this room a light blue/gray color. We also wanted to reprioritize the room from office to guest room. To do this we added a queen size bed with side tables but kept a small discreet desk.

Living room:
We painted the walls to match the light gray in the kitchen, which really took advantage of the light and made a terrific contrast to the wood beamed cathedral ceilings. We selected furniture that was light, eclectic and minimalistic. The light gray walls also brought drama to the wood-burning fireplace.

We re-painted the bathrooms with colors that would add freshness to each.

The terrific and infinitely usable floor plan, cathedral ceilings, solarium windows, small deck, and wonderfully desirable neighborhood gave this condo a head start, but what attracted 300 potential buyers, 24 disclosure packages, 12 offers and a selling price $240,000 over asking was the vision and polish generated by a modern paint palette and thoughtful, creative staging.

Do Your Homework: A guide to public schools & property in SF

April 5th, 2012

Several weeks have passed now since the notorious San Francisco Unified School District placement lottery so I feel like I can now take a step back and put this all in perspective without having a minor emotional breakdown.  My partner and I have a five year old son that just survived the crazy process of getting into kindergarten in San Francisco.  It’s a process that I didn’t think would impact me in the way it did, but when it came right down to it, it was a nerve-wracking and downright emotional experience!
If you’re new to San Francisco or don’t have a young child and haven’t a clue what I’m talking about, I’ll give you a quick summary of how the new (started in 2011) public school placement process works:

1) In the fall prior to your child entering kindergarten, parents are expected to tour as many elementary schools as they’d like to consider.  Usually these are guided tours led by current families attending the school.  Some schools have self guided tour booklets and others even have iPod audio tours!  The tours usually last about 1 hour and often end with the principal answering questions about the school.  You usually get to visit a handful of classrooms.  Your mission is to get as much of a feel for that school in that hour to help guide you in your next step, the application.

2) In January, it’s application time.  You can list as many schools as you’d like in the order that prefer.  We listed six.  Some parents only list two or three and others list 21.  There are all sorts of tips out there about how many you should list in order to have the best chance of receiving one of your top choices. If you really want to drive yourself crazy, the school district publishes statistics from previous years so your can determine which schools have the highest ratio of applicants to placements.  I have a friend who did a full on statistical analysis of the schools in which they were interested. They used that info to inform their application process.  Side note, they got their first choice. I can’t say for sure, but the pessimist in me tends to think that was just pure luck!

3) Inevitably, there are way more requests for many schools than there are seats available.  This is where the true confusion begins.  The district employs a computerized system that places students based on a series of tie-breakers.  For elementary schools, this includes factors such as younger siblings, pre-K attendance area, test score area, attendance area, then all others.  So, to overly simplify, siblings beat out all.  Then students who attended a SFUSD pre-K program in a particular attendance area get the next dibs.  Following that, students who live in areas that have historically low test scores get the next spots, and finally students who live in the designated “attendance area” for the school get dibs on any remaining spots.  After all the tiebreakers, any other students may be placed in the school.  If you don’t get one of your choices, the computer then assigns you to the closest school that has openings.

4)  Decision letters are mailed out in mid-March.  On the day they were set to arrive, I sat for 2 hours staring out my bay window looking for the mail truck.  When the mailman finally arrived, I nearly yanked the mail from his hand.  We sat down on the couch and slowly opened the letter that was set to define a large portion of our lives for the next six years.  We breathed a heavy sigh of relief as we were one of the 60% that received our first-choice school.  It helped that our first choice was our neighborhood (attendance area) school.

5) If you’re not happy with your choice, there is an appeal process that can help place you in to another school.

So, how does this affect real estate?  In short, somewhat. Because living in a particular attendance area gives you a better shot at getting into that neighborhood school (based on the tiebreaker system explained above), there are some buyers who will seek to buy in a particular attendance area.  More often, they will try to avoid the attendance areas of schools that currently are underperforming (at least per test scores).  We certainly don’t see the kind of relationship between schools and real estate that most of the rest of the country sees, but it can certainly play a role in some buyer’s choices.

Want to see how the attendance areas are currently defined?  Download this map from SFUSD.

For more information about the “nitty gritty” of the school assignment process, feel free to contact us for more info!


To buy or to rent? SF’s eternal conundrum

April 4th, 2012

Is it financially smarter to rent or to own? New data from Trulia’s recently released Winter 2012 Rent vs. Buy index indicates that it’s still a toss-up in San Francisco. That said, that headlines overshadowed a fascinating data point: the price-to-rent ratio in SF dropped more than 3 points in the past year alone! This reflects a great opportunity for first-time buyers in the current marketplace. If you are ready to make the leap, we’re here to help you. Get our first-time buyers’ guide here or contact us directly with any questions about the SF real estate landscape.