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 Match.com 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 mindspring.com 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.


How’s the market in St. Francis Wood?

St. Francis Wood is a part of District 4, and is known for its large lots and elegant, stately homes. One local survey (not us) named it the most kid-friendly neighborhood in San Francisco. It is perhaps the most elegant example in San Francisco of the “Residential Park” neighborhood concept that gained favor in the early 20th century. All of the information in this blog post can be found in our San Francisco Residential Real Estate Report, a free download with statistics on every SF neighborhood.

Days on Market in St. Francis Wood

St. Francis Wood Days on Market

Days on Market – 2009 to 2013

As you can see, the luxury market has made a dramatic recovery since 2009. In this particular neighborhood, days on market has dropped from 72 days in 2009 to 21 days in 2013.









Sales in St. Francis Wood

Home sales in St. Francis Wood

Home sales in St. Francis Wood

What makes the decrease in days on market so remarkable is that the average time a property was on the market decreased at the same time as the number of sales increased. In other words, supply couldn’t keep up with demand. Sales were abnormally low at 13 homes selling in 2009, while 25 exchanged hands in 2013 – a number much more in line with the prior three years when 22, 19, and 23 homes were sold.







Median Sale Price and Price per Square Foot in St. Francis Wood

Median Sale Price St. Francis Wood

Median Sale Price in St. Francis Wood

Both median sale price and price per square foot tell the same story – values have been rising in St. Francis wood over the past five years. Homes in 2013 sold for – on average – $250,000 more than they did in 2009.





Median Price per Square Foot - St. Francis Wood

Median Price per Square Foot – St. Francis Wood


When we look at Median price per Square Foot, the low was (again) in 2009, with a noticeable jump in 2010 (most likely we had some smaller homes changing hands in the neighborhood, which skewed this number higher in 2010). While the 2013 value of $776/sq.ft. isn’t as high as the value in 2010, it has shown a strong upward trend for the last three years.






Are homes in St. Francis Wood selling over or under asking?

Are homes in St. Francis Wood selling over or under asking price?

St. Francis Wood homes – final median sales price compared to median list price

From 2009 to 2011, homes in St. Francis Wood – on average – sold for less than their asking price. 2010 was the year in which homes went the most under the asking price, at almost 6%. That trend has been reversed for the past two years, with homes selling barely above the asking price in 2012 and homes selling for about 8% over asking in 2013.




What are your questions about the St. Francis Wood neighborhood? We’d love to hear them in the comments below.


Single Family Homes in San Francisco Appreciated 20% in 2013

2013 was a good year to be a single family home in San Francisco – or, at least, the seller of a single family home in San Francisco!

The top line data is below, and in the coming days and weeks you can expect us to drill much deeper into the data. But here are some highlights:

  • Sales of single family homes were essentially unchanged, with 2,618 sales being reported through the SFAR MLS in 2013, compared to 2,633 in 2012. Inventory was essentially unchanged, but the number of buyers in the market was up dramatically, which leads to…
  • The median list price in 2013 was $829,000 and the median sales price was $915,000.
  • The average (mean) list price in 2013 was $1,211,642 and the average (mean) sales price was $1,295,601.
  • Depending on if you think the median average or the mean average does a better job of representing home sales, the typical single family home sold for between 7 and 10% over asking in 2013.
2012 and 2013 Single Family Home Sales in San Francisco

2012 and 2013 Single Family Home Sales in San Francisco

If we look at year over year trends, the high level data says that:

  • Median sales price was up from $760,000 to $915,000 – a year over year increase of 20%.
  • Average (mean) sales price was up from $1,103,974 to $1,295,601, a year over year increase of 17%.
  • The typical single family home in San Francisco appreciated in value between 17% and 20%, depending on how you like to measure things.

For those who have been following the market, none of these numbers should come as much of a surprise. 2013 was an incredibly strong year for San Francisco real estate, and all signs seem to point to more of the same (although, with interest rates slowly rising and the Fed finally tapering, the general expectation is for the market to remain strong but not unsustainably so).

As usual, all of our data is from the SFAR MLS, using data for single family homes in MLS districts 1 – 10 (San Francisco proper). What are your thoughts?


Bernal Heights, Call the Fire Department

Bernal Heights, call the fire department! Your neighborhood appears to be one of San Francisco’s “hottest” neighborhoods for single family homes in 2013. This post is part of a continuing series that looks at 2013 single family home sales, and includes the The Number One Overbid for a Single Family in 2013 as well as 3 out of 4 homes sold for over asking in 2013.

I took all of the sales data for single family homes in San Francisco that were reported in the San Francisco Multiple Listing Service. I then calculated the percentage over asking the house sold for based on the original list price (not the most recent list price, in case  there was a reduction along the way). The sales are all plotted below:

  • Blue dots represent homes that sold at or near the asking price
  • Orange dots represent homes that sold over the asking price by 15%
  • Red dots represent homes that sold over the asking price by 30% or more

2013 single family home sales prices

You can click on the image above to go to the source map that I created on openheatmap.com.

One Very Important Reminder:

  • This data is for single family homes only! If you are looking at the north-east corner of San Francisco and wondering where the sales are, most of the homes in that area of town are condo/co-op/or tenancies in common. This data will be shared in another heat map to follow in the next few days.

I don’t know what stands out to you, but I’d say Bernal Heights seems to be the neighborhood that most consistently went over the asking price. The blue dots in other neighborhoods don’t mean that the overbids weren’t happening there – it just means that the overbids were a lot closer to the asking price. I may post another version that is slightly more granular – say in the 0% (at), 5%, and 10% over asking ranges.

What stands out to you about the data? Are you surprised to see so many red dots at the south end of the city? Were you expecting more (or less) in any particular neighborhood or area? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!