53 and 67

How’s that for a cryptic Thursday morning headline?

Any guesses about what those numbers represent?

They are the number of days until the deadline to register to vote (October 23) in the next election (November 7). To say the stakes are high in the November election is a monumental understatement, so I want to remind (or beg and cajole) everyone to register to vote if you haven’t already. The Secretary of State has made it amazingly easy — you can do the whole thing online. And while you’re clicking your way through the form, consider checking the box for becoming a permanent absentee voter, which is just about the handiest thing since pre-paid parking meter cards.

As a permanent absentee voter, you’ll receive your ballot a couple of weeks before the election, fill it out at your leisure and send it back or drop it off at a polling place on election day. No lines, no hassle finding your polling place, no fuss. And, most important, no excuse for not voting!

This concludes my soapbox speech for the day.

One year ago today

As you’ve no doubt seen in the news, today marks one year since Katrina pummeled the Gulf Coast and the levees broke in New Orleans. Here in the Bay Area a lot of us, many of whom didn’t live here in 1989 when the Loma Prieta earthquake occurred, thought for the first time about earthquake preparedness kits for ourselves. Remember the ads showing a plate of sushi with “nice to have” and canned tuna with “must have” written next to them? The same with wine and bottled water? (We can’t take things too seriously here!)

Here’s a reminder: check out 72hours.org, prepared by the San Francisco Office of Emergency Services, for a refresher course on what to have on hand …. just in case.

What's that chopping sound?

It won’t happen for a couple of years, but the Rec & Park plan is to save San Francisco’s native plants and trees by chopping down non-native species that are choking them out. Is your neighborhood park on the list? Check out the article in the Examiner for the names of the 29 parks that will be returned to their natural glory.

Size matters!

Anyone who’s been in the real estate business for awhile will tell you that quoting square footage can cause a whole heap o’ problems. With prices per square foot running at, say, $800, if you’re off by 100 square feet….well, do the math. So it’s pretty common for agents (including yours truly) to leave the square footage out of the marketing and advise buyers to investigate/verify/measure/pace off the space to their own satisfaction.

The dreaded square footage demon has reared its ugly head at the Beacon, one of the newer complexes near the ballpark (at King & 3rd St.): there has been a class-action suit filed against everyone and their dog who has been involved with building and operating the complex, alleging misrepresentation of square footage as well as construction defects.

And now I’ll state the obvious: Because the homeowners’ association has been named in the lawsuit, and because litigation against an HOA can sometimes affect lenders’ willingness to make loans at a particular property, it’ll be interesting to see if this affects sales at the Beacon. Stay tuned.

Big picture, little picture

Following up on my statistics from District 5 (see last post), I’d like to share some Bay Area numbers from DataQuick. The Chronicle has an article today that says that Bay Area sales fell 31 percent in July while prices rose 3.5%. For a comparison of the micro-market of D5 to the nine-county Bay Area, take a look at the full article. The gist of this one is that we’re in for a softening market. That’s not necessarily a bad thing! It makes for a more balanced market, making it more of a level playing field between buyers and sellers. After the super-heated market of the last couple of years, buyers should be excited about the change.

Where have we been? And what's up with the market?

We’ve been quiet lately, which usually means we’re crazy busy, which usually means that the market, contrary to the doomsayers, has not tanked in San Francisco. (Maybe in some other places, but not here!)

Here are some musings about the market:
Let’s look at the micro-market of District 5 (the area smack in the center of the City roughly from Duboce Park, west to Buena Vista Park, south to Glen Park, north to Noe Valley, Mission Dolores and the Castro). Year-to-date there have been 225 single-family homes sold in District 5 with a median list price of $1.249 million and a median sale price of $1.275 million after 26 days on market (DOM). Right now there are 63 active listings and 25 pending listings (all contingencies removed).

Compare that to the same period in 2005:
Number sold: 256
Median list price: $1.103 million
Median sale price: $$1.237 million
Median DOM: 22

Let’s do some math!
12.1% decrease in the number of sales
2.98% increase in median sale price

And here are the same numbers for condos in D5.
YTD 2006
Number sold: 221
Median list price: $799,000
Median sale price: $825,000
Median DOM: 28

And for the same period in 2005:
Number sold: 238
Median list price: $749,000
Median sale price: $810,000
Median DOM: 24

Same story: slightly fewer sales and a slight increase in sale prices. I know it’s just a snapshot of one part of the market, but I hope it’s useful to look at what’s happening in one of SF’s many desirable areas.

To sum up, the market has a decidedly different feel than it did last year (cooler, calmer, more balanced). Check out the numbers: the sky’s not falling!