The SF Neighborhood Blog Roundup

Bay to Breakers was yesterday, which means that thousands of San Franciscans are just finally waking up, or have been spending the past few hours at the office with one hell of a sunburn and/or a hangover… What else has been happening across San Francisco? Let’s jump to the SF neighborhood blog roundup:

I didn’t read it… but I would like to know why.


  • Over on the Richmond SF blog there’s a post from last week’s police newsletter. If you’ve ever wondered which SF police district has responsibility for patrolling Golden Gate Park, you’ll find your answer right here.
  • Over at Bernalwood, there’s a look at some empty lots that the owner has been attempting to develop since… 1979. Which gives an entirely new meaning to Not In My Back Yard – and I’m not sure what’s more impressive: the neighborhood resistance for for 30+ years, or the developer’s tenacity for 30+ years. But regardless of who impresses you the most, this is why homes are more expensive in San Francisco than almost any place else.
  • D10 Watch gives a shout out to the Newcomb Model Block project. Which makes us want to immediately hop in the hybrid and go take pictures. But before we do, here’s what it is, “As one of the City’s first green street projects, the Newcomb Model Block project was designed by neighbors and the city working together to make the streets and sidewalks safer and cleaner while improving the environment. The project was funded by a grant from the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Since construction was completed in 2011, the EPA has funded a study to better understand how the Newcomb Model Block project is improving the environment by reducing storm water runoff. This study has helped the City better understand how to design storm water infrastructure that beautifies the streetscape.”
  • Courtesy of the Noe Valley watch blog, 456 27th St. goes before the planning commission. The neighbors in a 6-unit building aren’t too happy with the proposed development because they will be losing views or losing light and views, depending on who you ask… The existing house sold in 2012 and it was… quirky… to say the least. Hopefully we won’t still be debating this development 30 years from now….

Happy Monday everyone, get back to work (or at least, get back to pretending to work while you nurse that hungover sun-burn).

What you should know about Agency Disclosure

A disclosure package in San Francisco almost always starts with a “Disclosure Regarding Real Estate Agency Relationship” form like the one pictured in this article. It’s a document that is filled with small type and lots of legal language – in other words, it is a document that tends to make the eyes immediately gloss over, which is unfortunate because of the importance of the agency relationship.

A typical agency relationship in the purchase or sale of a home in San Francisco (or California) follows the three following steps:

  1. Disclosure – this consists of presenting a buyer or seller with information about the three types of agency relationships in California Real Estate – Seller Agency, Buyer Agency, and Dual Agency. It is important to note that disclosure does not create an agency relationship. When a buyer or seller signs this form, they aren’t agreeing to any particular type of agency relationship – they are simply acknowledging that they have been provided with the information about the various types of agency relationships and the differences in each of the three types of agency.
  2. Election – There isn’t usually a form for this, but I’m sure one exists somewhere. Election of agency is typically created through the actions of the parties. In other words, if I tell you I’m going to write an offer with you after you’ve disclosed the various types of agency to me, my actions demonstrate that I have elected to work with you as a (fill in the blank with the appropriate form of agency).
  3. Confirmation – In San Francisco, this final step typically happens in the purchase contract where there is a paragraph that spells out who the brokerages are that are involved in a transaction, and in what capacity they represent the buyer and seller.
Agency Disclosure Picture

A typical Agency Disclosure form in San Francisco

Agency is one of the most important topics in real estate that gets far less attention than it deserves. That said, we’ve written about agency in the past, including the following three articles:


Fewer All Cash Sales for Single Family Homes

Are cash sales in SF on the rise, on the decrease, or holding steady?

While we were out on tour last week, this discussion item popped up based on some observations at a recent sales meeting:

Which led us to do some digging in the MLS (but not that kind of digging) to see what the stats would say about cash sales over the past several months here in San Francisco. Last week over at SF Modern Condos, we wrote about how cash is holding steady in the SF condo market.

SF single family homes - All Cash sales in late 2013 and early 2014

SF single family homes – All Cash sales in late 2013 and early 2014

As you can see below, after spiking at close to 30% of the market earlier this year, the number of all cash deals does seem to be down more for single family homes when compared to condo sales.

Percentage of all cash sales - Single family homes

What percentage of sales for single family homes in SF are being bought in all cash purchases?

While there could be (and probably are) a variety of explanations for this phenomena, one of the things I’m curious about is if overseas buyers actually have a preference for condo buildings? While this flies in the face of the “conventional thinking” that says single family homes are a more valuable property type than condos, it makes sense if you think about it: If you aren’t going to be living in the residence on a daily basis, it is preferable to have a home in a building where there are people around to keep an eye on it for you.

Another possibility has to do with location – since single families aren’t really built in SF anymore, will people go for location preference over property type preference?

We’d love to hear your comments below, on twitter, or on our Facebook page (give us a like if you haven’t already!).

Where’s the Inventory?

We aren’t the first (or the last) Realtors to wonder how this year will shape up in terms of inventory. Here are a few random thoughts about the current market and our lack of inventory we had while touring homes yesterday.

Post-wedding paperwork

Say you own a home by yourself. Then, OKCupid or or your sister or your roommate or your personal trainer hooks you up on a date that turns out really well, and time passes, and you get married. Yay! Congratulations to you and yours. (Shameless plug for happiness: I just got married at the beginning of March and am on my way through the paperwork to-do list that follows the nuptials.)

This is a real estate blog, so I’ll start with things to consider about your property now that you’re married. For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to assume that there’s only one property. If there are two: lather, rinse, repeat for home #2 (with a few modifications that I’ll mention later).

OK, you’re back from the honeymoon and it’s time to get busy. No, not like that — this is a G-rated blog! I mean it’s time to decide how you’d like to hold title to your property. If you live in California, which is a community property state, property acquired before marriage is considered separate property — i.e., it belongs to the spouse who owned it before getting hitched. If you want to own the property jointly with your spouse, you can add him or her to title by way of a grant deed that you will sign granting ownership to You & Your New Spouse, husband & wife (or wife & husband, or spouse & spouse) as community property with right of survivorship, if that’s what you choose. I’m not a tax advisor nor am I an attorney so I will say that you should seek the advice of a CPA or an attorney about how to hold title; there are some pretty significant tax implications that make this a very important decision.

How do you accomplish the change to title? Talk to your attorney or your favorite escrow officer to draw up the deed, then have it notarized and recorded in the public records in your county. A few caveats: Check with your lender to make sure that adding a spouse to title is acceptable (most lenders are OK with this but you don’t want to find out the hard way that your lender is not). Most jurisdictions do not consider adding a spouse to title as a taxable event and no transfer tax would be due, but again, it’s worth checking before you start deeding.

For the sake of discussion regarding insurance, let’s add a second property to the mix. Presumably you and spouse will live in one and rent the other. Be sure to convert the insurance for property #2 to the correct type of policy for a rental property. And it’s a good time to review the policy for the home that you’ll live in — make sure you have sufficient coverage for personal property (which might need to increase based on the belongings that Spouse moves in).

These are just a few tips for post-wedding paperwork. Let us know if the comments if you have any other property-related tips.

What Is A Bubble?

We’ve seen some rather substantial (staggering, s*****, ?) sales prices reported lately, which led to a conversation in the car today during a property tour:

The answer, of course, depends upon who you ask:

From How to Detect a Market Bubble by Gavyn Davies in the Financial Times on January 17, 2014:

Bubbles trigger fierce controversy among financial economists. Clifford Asness says that one of his “pet peeves” is that “an asset or a security is often declared to be in a bubble when it is more accurate to describe it as ‘expensive’ or possessing a ‘lower than normal expected return.’” Eugene Fama goes further, arguing that the word bubble is inherently meaningless because it implies nothing more than saying that risk appetite has changed. Robert Shiller disagrees, arguing that bubbles are caused by behavioural aberrations that can sometimes be identified in advance (see this blog for more on the Fama vs Shiller debate).

This disagreement among Nobel Prize winners shows that there is no universally accepted definition of a bubble in financial economics, but Justin Fox at the Harvard Business Review, in a perceptive post, supports the following New Palgrave definition, first coined by Markus Brunnermaier at Princeton:

Bubbles are typically associated with dramatic asset price increases followed by a collapse. Bubbles arise if the price exceeds the asset’s fundamental value. This can occur if investors hold the asset because they believe that they can sell it at a higher price to some other investor even though the asset’s price exceeds its fundamental value.

This captures all of the main elements of a bubble, as commonly understood by investors. It also enables us to develop a way of measuring the likelihood that a bubble exists in actual market data at any given point of time. The Fulcrum research paper explains the methodology in detail…

So it all comes down to the market definition of:

“fundamental value”

and that, dear reader, is where we’d love to hear your thoughts. How do you define the fundamental value of a particular patch of San Francisco real estate?

5 Tips to Protect Your San Francisco Home from Rain

With the heavy rain we are expecting in the next few days, you’ll have a good chance to observe how water is interacting with the exterior of your home. The trick is to remember when you are both home and it is light outside. I find a location-based reminder on my phone to work well!

Photo copyright Matt Fuller, GRI. Please don't steal.

Photo copyright Matt Fuller, GRI. Please don’t steal.

Tip 1 – Paint:

One of my favorite home inspectors refers to paint as the most important water proofing substance that comes in a wide variety of colors! While many of us think of paint as something decorative, in reality is serves an incredibly important purpose – keeping the (most likely wood or stucco) exterior of your home from getting wet. The old saying “A stitch in time saves nine” is a concise summary of the value of keeping your home’s exterior paint in water-tight condition.

Tip 2 – Caulk:

Caulk works hand in hand with the above-mentioned paint at keeping your home’s exterior sealed from water. It’s particularly handy for crevices, corners, and other areas prone to small gaps. There are a wide variety of caulks available, so consult with your favorite local handy-person for advice on which caulk is best for your particular building type.

Tip 3 – Visible Foundation:

Walk around your property with your eyes on the foundation. If, like most homes in San Francisco, your home is not fully detached then depending on when your home was built you may be able to observe your foundation from both the interior and exterior at the front and rear of your property, as well as along the sides from the interior. Obviously, where walls are finished it is impractical to open them, in which case keep your eyes peeled for any stains or soft spots along the walls. For exposed foundation, look for cracks and holes. Larger cracks or holes probably warrant further inspection and repair to keep water away from the interior of your building.

Tip 4 – Gutters, Drains, & Drainpipes:

Leaves and blowing debris can easily clog the gutters if your home has them. If you aren’t comfortable checking them yourselves, there are plenty of professionals for hire that will do it for you.  Almost every San Francisco home has some type of drain and/or drain pipe and dirt and plastic bits that often accumulate over the dry season will build up and can block the drains. Sweep or hose them out. Then take a few moments to look at any drain pipes, making sure that they are connected in a flowing manner and that water will flow as intended and not become blocked, obstructed, or otherwise doing something that might allow rain water to backup in to your home.

Tip 5 –  Roof:

If your roof is accessible, give it a visual inspection for any missing or worn-out roofing materials, as well as any low areas that will create opportunities for pooling on a flat San Francisco roof. The job of a good roof is to keep water out and redirect water away and off of the building. If your home has an accessible attic, check for signs of water penetration under the roof after it rains.

What are your favorite tips for keeping your SF home warm and dry?

The View From Above San Francisco

All Photos copyright Bob Ecker Photography. Click any image for a larger version.

If you haven’t noticed, we love pictures of San Francisco. And after our helicopter ride last fall, we really have a thing for San Francisco aerial photos. Our love for great aerial shots of San Francisco led us to a chance meeting of Bob Ecker, who happens to be a photographer that does exactly that. Bob Ecker was kind enough to sit down with us and talk a little bit about how he ended up becoming a San Francisco photographer.

San Francisco New scans001

San Francisco from above, photo credit: Bob Ecker

How it All Began:

Bob was a still shooter for his whole life. His career brought him to owning a video production company in Berkeley and an existing client sent him over a request for bid for a project involving aerial photography – specific mission: photograph an aircraft carrier in Alameda for the Navy as it was leaving the naval base. His bid was just a shot in the dark, as he had never rented a helicopter and its pilot before, registered a flight plan, or even witnessed a professional aerial photo shoot.

Bob was awarded the bid, but he had no idea how to actually proceed having never been in a helicopter. He outlined what he knew and didn’t know. He had no idea of the physical logistics of shooting. He could research the  temperature  changes at likely altitudes. But had no concept about  the variations in how his equipment would perform at these heights. He was unsure of requirements for safety and photography from a helicopter. He would need to identify what security and clearance permission documents would be required. There was much to consider; he would learn as he went.

San Francisco New scans003

Another View from Above. Photo courtesy of Bob Ecker

The First Shoot:

He went the first time having muddled through procuring of aircraft and pilot, and submitting a flight plan – when they reached the desired altitude, he flung the door open and the freezing cold rain began stinging his skin and his camera. The cold drizzle gained momentum and the grey sky engulfed the aircraft as only San Francisco clouds can. As Bob perched at the edge of the opening, straining to see the port and shuffling thoughts about angles and lack of light, Bob’s camera shutter had frozen closed. No pictures would be taken today, but Bob is “sort of a lucky guy” you might say, and due to the inclement weather the Navy had radioed that the shoot would be rescheduled for three weeks later when the ship returned to port.

This ship he was photographing had been repaired in the SF dry dock, which is the deepest dry dock in North & South America, and remains part of SF Pier 70The rescheduled ship shoot went off without a hitch later than month. A thoroughly prepared photographer armed with back-up equipment, safety gear, and a clear plan made it all work. He captured and delivered spectacular shots, which ensured that he secured more aerial work. That shoot was more than a decade ago and he has come to be known for his talents on the ground and in the air, recording the best sides of many, many ships for the Navy and cruise lines.

What makes a successful shoot:

Making the most of every air moment. As aerial photography ship jobs continued Bob began to shoot things things beyond the ship – the beginning of another photographic niche. Shooting San Francisco, the buildings parks, bridges, ball parks, towers, ports, infrastructure soon became just as interesting.

Tips from Bob:

Know as much about the area as possible and:

  • Keep in constant communication with the pilot & never assume that they see the bird, balloon or building
  • Prepare, plan & organize the shoot, air time is expensive in time & resources
  • Look around, take it all in and capture what you can


Working With Pilots:

They’re “low blood pressure people,” which translates to calm, cool, collected people, who don’t get excited too quickly. Bob’s shoots are ‘fun’ for the pilots and Bob has established a wonderful relationship with a handful who he frequently partners with. Bob says a key to safety and success is to always communicating with them about what they see and what is going to happen next. Verifying a building’s antenna, a single balloon coming near the aircraft or a plane in the vicinity is safest.

What it’s Like Up There:

Everything appears vastly different from the air he says. Neighborhoods look much different; they are a series of patterns, shapes, dimensions and colors that are all interconnected. For example, a view or picture of Mission Bay pre-1999 was f-l-a-t, empty, dilapidated, dim. Then AT&T park came in on April 4, 2000 and the area changed dramatically. The shapes grew and still grow, dimensions and angles continue to expand, colors became diverse and bright, the patterns become complex and amazing. SOMA (South of Market) and Dogpatch have undergone amazing changes in the past decade as well with immense changes in the horizon, shapes and the comparisons are simply stunning, tall, 3 dimensional, alive and beautiful.

What was His Scariest Photo Shoot:

An engineering firm hired him to shoot an aerial of the SF area that require the helicopter be about 6,500 feet (nearly the same height as the South Rim of the Grand Canyon), which is the highest he has flown in shooting position. Shooting position requires that he be half in and half out of the ‘copter, leaning & hanging out to get the shots without the obstruction of the craft in the pictures.  In the early days one pilot had brought a big, fat rope with him, secured it to the base of the seat and asked Bob to tie it around his waist. Since then they have added more adapted seat belting with rock-climbing harness & clips (although some helicopters still use a simple seat belt to hold him in!) to ensure that there is more than centripetal force keeping him from falling out of the helicopter or airplane.

His Favorite Photo Shoot:

In 2012 Bob took his wife up with him on a shoot. The pilot had become a friend over the years and he also invited his wife to accompany them on the flight. It was a beautiful San Francisco afternoon for a shoot ~ warm, clear and calm. It was Bob’s wife’s first time in a helicopter and her first time to see her husband in action as an aerial photographer. When the helicopter neared the target for the shoot, and Bob donned his harness and opened the side door and stepped out to begin working, his wife was taken aback by his balancing on the edge of the aircraft. The shoot went well and everyone enjoyed the flight, but his wife has not yet returned to his workplace.

The most memorable shoot:

On September 6, 2001 Bob was shooting over the bay when looking around he could see the game at Pac Bell Park. The SF Giants vs. Pittsburgh Pirates game.  Bob and the pilot heard Jon Miller, the announcer, speaking over the in-park system make a comment about the “guy hanging out in the helicopter having the best view of Barry Bond’s 60th home run.” It was a monumental day for Barry and Bob as it was the last time that private flights were allowed over the stadium due to 9/11.

How do you connect still and aerial photography?

He provides “beauty shots”/ editorial photos of bridges, ports, ships, skylines, infrastructure. Bob’s expertise and artistic talent makes it pretty; he often says “it isn’t more expensive to make it pretty.” Helicopter/aerial photos are shot at very slow speeds, nearly standing still, which allows for the artist to deliver the amazing images.

Who Are Some of Your Clients?

Bob Ecker photography has an esteemed client list of U.S. Military, many government agencies, the City of San Francisco, the County of San Francisco, the Port of San Francisco, the city of San francisco Department of emergency services, various government agencies, private individuals, companies/corporations of all sizes,  travel and tourism companies and organizations. Bob welcomes new clients [and a challenge].

What places are on your bucket-list for an aerial shoot and why?

Paris or New York City. He has traveled to both cities often and enjoys them both, but would love to experience and capture them from the air.

What do you shoot with?

Bob is a Pentaxian because it is extremely weatherproof and that is critical. He shoots 6 x 7 cm photos and then went digital with an adapter to keep his SLR lenses. He’s claims he isn’t a camera geek, because the “most important part of photography is between the ears”. He strives to look for ‘more’ than the clients expect to see.

More about Bob’s shooting business:

Bob continues shooting useful images to tell a story {even if it isn’t always a beautiful one}; once in a lifetime shots. From the land and air, Bob captures people and events, but not weddings. His successful photography and videography business recording  travel, sports, engineering, infrastructure, and industrial subjects for communities, municipalities, tourism, corporations and individuals on the ground and in the air.  At the time of our interview Bob was wrapping a big project capturing Sonoma’s beauty shots.

To reach Bob for any upcoming event, except a wedding, you can email him at  eckerbob AT or his phone is (707) 421-1701.San Francisco HIGH View

Noe Valley Condo or Noe Valley Single Family Home?

Our San Francisco Real Estate Report is a statistical extravaganza – and also really useful! But don’t just take our word for it – here’s an example of the types of questions it can answer. Noe Valley in District 5 has been one of San Francisco’s hottest neighborhoods for quite a while. It’s excellent weather and easy access to the peninsula for Silicon Valley commuters has made it a destination neighborhood

Median Sales Price for Noe Valley condos

Median Sales Price for Noe Valley condos, 2009 to 2013

The chart to the left shows the median sale price for condo homes in Noe Valley over the past five years. Data is from the SFAR MLS, and we do not include tenancy-in-common properties in the condo category.

In 2009, the median sale price for a condo in Noe Valley was $765,000. The price has gone up for each of the past five years, and in 2013 the median sale price for a condo broke the $1,000,000 mark, with the median sale price being $1,002,000.

The average Noe Valley condo has appreciated 5.55% a year for each of the past five years.

Median Sale Price for Noe Valley Single Family Home

Median Sale Price for Noe Valley Single Family Home, 2009 – 2013



The chart to the right shows the median sale price for single family homes in Noe Valley over the past five years.

As you can see, in 2009 the median sale price was $1,117,500 and in 2013 that value had dramatically appreciated to $1,700,000.

If you calculate out the annual appreciation rate, it comes out to almost 9% – 8.75% – for each of the past five years!

Single Family homes have appreciated an average of 9% per year for each of the past five years.



Noe Valley property values have been on the rise, and both condos and single family homes have done incredibly well. What are your thoughts about property values in Noe Valley, or any other part of San Francisco? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.