Real Estate Times or Angelina Jolie – Which is Skinnier?

In case you missed the Academy Awards last night, here’s what you need to know: A silent movie won the big prize and Angelina Jolie is ridiculously skinny.

Not to be out done, our own local print real estate magazine continues in its efforts to be skinnier than Angelina Jolie. As I’ve written about before, the San Francisco Real Estate Times continues on its skinny spiral towards non-existence.

Back in October 2010, the Real Estate Times was weighing in at a comparatively hefty 60 pages.

For some inexplicably dumb reason, I didn’t count the pages in the January 2011 issue, but compares photos and you’ll see it was definitely fatter!

The February 16 – 29, 2012 Real Estate Times ties the November 2011 issue for fewest number of pages – at least since I’ve started in the business – with just 44 pages.

Real Estate Times February 16 - 29 2012

What else can I say? Buyers and sellers use the internet for their real estate search, its pretty much that simple.

Will 2012 be the end of Real Estate Times? Will it continue on as a mere shadow of it’s hefty self? Did the Academy realize that The Artist doesn’t have any words?

These are the burning questions of our time!

Happy Monday everyone.

In Which Matt Does A Public Service…

750 Van Ness

Interested in buying a condo at 750 Van Ness? A REO (foreclosed) home is currently on the market in the building. Its being advertised by the listing agent as a regular condo, but after an inquiry from a client I did some research and determined that it is actually a BMR condo (below market rate).

This is, to be blunt, a really big deal and a really big difference.

In an effort to provide affordable housing, any new development must set aside a portion of their homes for what are known as BMR or below market rate homes. The homes have deed restrictions on them, and their initial sales price is set by the Mayor’s Office of Housing. Any future resales are governed by the deed restriction, which mandates a sales price based on bay area incomes. In addition, the homes can only be purchased by first time home buyers and must be owner occupied. There are some other restrictions as well, but these are the big ones: sales price based upon bay area income index, first time home buyers only, must be owner occupied.

The tax records list this home as a “Condominium BMR” and the last sales price was a goofy number (usually sales prices are round numbers like $399,000 but this one was something very exact like $254,376). Based on the past purchase price I put a call into the listing agent, who has yet to return my phone call (3 days and counting).

I then contacted the Mayor’s Office of Housing, and was able to verify that the condo is indeed a part of the BMR program. The Mayor’s Office said they were in touch with the listing agent to have the listing corrected, but as of this morning the property is still not advertised as a BMR condo. While a buyer would hopefully discover the deed restrictions during their due diligence, I say why waste your time making an offer…

I have not included information about the property address or listing agent as I do not want to run afoul of MLS or Code of Ethic violations for advertising another agent’s listing and/or appearing to make unsolicited remarks about another agent. So let’s be clear: I’m not trying to advertise their listing, and if you want to bring me up on code of ethics violations for protecting consumers, go for it!

If you’d like the address, please drop me an email or phone call and I’ll share the details with you.




San Francisco’s Latest Street Gang

The Chicken Gang

Yesterday, when dropping the kiddo off at camp I came across a gang of chickens on the loose. I know that when you think of San Francisco problems, you’re more likely to think about our challenges with homeless encampments in city parks, aggressive panhandling, or public spaces that aren’t very public.

Quite frankly, all of those issues are so 2011. As you can see from the above picture, San Francisco streets and sidewalks are in the process of being taken over by wild gangs of chickens, with the chickens intent on marking their turf, laying down their gang colors, and generally eating any random bit of food left on the sidewalk.

While they might be from the local food-shed, don’t let their quaint demeanor trick you into a false sense of security. While they appear to randomly cluck around San Francisco street corners, I’ve got it on good authority that they are behind the string of recent iPhone thefts across the city. If you see an iPhone on craigslist in exchange for a bag of dry corn feed, and the grammar and syntax appears to have been carelessly pecked-out, you might just be dealing with chicken-fenced electronic goods.

If you happen to see this gang of chickens, or any of the others currently infiltrating the otherwise peaceful and safe streets of San Francisco, use extreme caution. I’ve heard on good authority that these birds, while not armed, are heavily feathered and will use their innocuous and charming good looks to put your mind at ease while rifling through your messenger bag for any overlooked morsels of food from your last trip to dine at the food trucks.

Word on the street is that the raccoon and feral cat populations are not amused with the chickens elbowing in on the free pickings to be had across the city, and are in the process of organizing a coordinated response. As always, keep us in your feed reader and check back regularly for updates to this developing story!


Help Me – What’s This Window Style?

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Today is Tuesday Broker’s Tour, which means I will shortly be out and about looking at homes all over San Francisco. While I was out last week, though, I drove past the home pictured above.

I have never, ever seen a window like the one pictured above. While I suppose it is possible that some strange settling effect has bowed a flat window out, my hunch is that the effect was intentional. Do any of our awesome readers know anything about this window style? Does it have a name? I’ve looked the home up in the MLS, and it hasn’t been for sale for at least the past 10 years (in fact, according to the San Francisco tax records the last sale happened in 1981), so I can’t offer you any juicy tidbits from the MLS.

The home was built in 1940, and is in the Merced Manor neighborhood of San Francisco, not too far from 20th Ave. and Eucalyptus.

So what can you tell me about this window? Is gravity having an effect? Is the roof crushing it into a crazy shape? Or was it built this way on purpose? If this is your home, your neighbor’s home, or you just happen to be incredibly educated about window styles in San Francisco, please drop us a comment and let us know!


Touring with a Poet

I’ve always thought it would be a cool experience to blog about a home purchase or sale with a client who was also blogging about it from their perspective. Being on the “Realtor” side of a purchase is a vastly different experience from being on the “Buyer” side. I’m excited to have found a blogger that’s up for the adventure.

Dogpoet, a blogger you should read if you aren’t already, is an all-around great guy that I’ve stalked, er read, for years. It just happens he’s half of a couple in the market for a house, and when I threw out my crazy idea about blogging he didn’t stop returning my emails or phone calls, and in fact seemed vaguely interested.

He’s a bit ahead of me, and if you want you can read about our first tour together from his perspective.

Dogpoet’s husband is a phenomenal barber (the best in the Castro, if not all of SF, I’d venture), and during a haircut we ended up talking about real estate (if I had a dollar for every place I’ve talked real estate I’d be retired). So most of my conversations about homes and neighborhoods had been with The Husband, and I really hadn’t had much of a chance to talk with the Dogpoet about what he was hoping for in a home, and what his biggest concerns might be about buying a home. I’d reached out to him to offer a chance to sit-down or go look at homes, and the timing worked out so that I could tour homes with the Dogpoet while the Barber was out-of-town.

I always get a bit neurotic (okay, maybe a lot) before meeting with a client for the first time in a professional context. Even if I know them really well, I still up my personal expectations of myself when venturing into the realm of professional services and I always assume my clients do also. Preparation for a tour usually starts with a trip to the car wash, which inevitably leaves my car 95% really clean and 5% not-quite-awesome, which is the 5% I inevitably notice. I suppose it’s a good thing when looking at homes…

Our first home tour had us looking at single-family homes on a Sunday afternoon in the Sunset, Parkside, and Ingleside Heights. Our tour was a combo of open houses and vacant homes on lockbox.

Here are a few impressions:

– One of the homes we visited already had two offers in on it, and it was hosted by an agent who wasn’t the listing agent. This is pretty common, the listing agent has other things to do and the agent holding it open is actively trying to solicit buyers to work with them. This particular house had an unfortunate layout and an aggressive agent, so I was ready to flee through the door sooner than the Dogpoet was. Or, we were equally ready to flee but kept our game faces on.

– One of the homes we visited was on lockbox, but the owner was home. Which is incredibly, extremely rare in San Francisco. He was gracious and polite, but it is still odd walking through someone else’s home, making internal judgments, while the owners (and their children!) are lounging about playing online games. I understand, logically, that sellers have their quirks, but at the end of the day I think sellers should leave their home during showings. Period, end of story. Call me old-school.

– One of the homes we visited was just plain unfortunate (the Ms. Martha home if you read his blog). Fortunately for us, it was the first home we saw and things improved on the next homes we visited (which isn’t always the case – I arrange tours in a geographic order that makes sense, and don’t put houses that I think clients will like or dislike at the front or end of the tour).

– One of the homes was as enormous as it was cosmetically challenged, but that didn’t stop several hundred people from descending on it like locusts while we took a look as well.

– No matter how well I prepare, I always end up answering at least five questions with “I don’t know – that’s a good question, let me find out.” While beginner’s mind is a great state to be in and an honest I-don’t-know is better than a fictional but authoritative answer, I sometimes wonder if clients find themselves thinking “WHY THE HELL DON”T YOU KNOW THAT?!”

In between homes we chatted a bit. It was important to me that the DogPoet felt as involved in this process as The Husband had been up to this point, particularly since this is his first home purchase. So we chatted a fair amount about the buying process in SF, the market, neighborhoods, and his concerns and worries about buying a home. I tried to throw in a little witty banter every now and again to keep things from being too intimidating. One man’s witty banter is another man’s fingers-on-chalkb0ard-annoyance though, so I won’t grade myself on whether I was witty or insufferable.

After a few hours of touring we had some definite “no way would I live in that” homes, a few maybes, and some that were of definite interest.

Which is always a good start.

January Sales

January is already a distant memory, and we are about to pass the 1/2 way mark for February. With a little bit of 2012 under our belt, how’s the year looking from a real estate perspective?

January 2012 Sales: Data Source SFARMLS

As you can see from the above chart, January 2012 sales are down slightly from 2011, but up significantly from the bottom in 2009, when only 180 homes were sold in January.

From 2002 – 2005, January sales averaged right around 400 sales per month, then it went down to about 350 sales per month during 2006 and 2007, continuing to fall during 2008 (247 sales) until it hit bottom in 2009.

January 2010 sales were back above the two hundred sales mark, with both January of 2011 and 2012 coming in with over three hundred sales.

The reported sales in the San Francisco don’t include any new construction sales (because they aren’t advertised in the MLS, they aren’t listed as sold in the MLS), so I would say you could easily add 20 sales to the number and still be on the conservative side, based on conversations I’ve had with sales offices about their January activity (this isn’t including The Madrone, which would push it even higher).

The stats accurately reflect what I’m feeling in the marketplace, which is plenty of buyers who want to buy but there isn’t inventory that they want to make offers on. I have a feeling that 2012 will be a busy year in San Francisco real estate, with volume picking up in the March – June timeframe.

Rates are low and buyers are out there, so if the homes come on the market (which they will) then I expect that 2012 will turn in a solid performance, and perhaps the best performance since 2008.

It should go without saying (but I’ll say it anyway), that when I’m gazing into my crystal ball the future is always a little hazy. We are in an election year, so who knows how the housing market will be tweaked and treated by politicians, but I’d say it is a safe bet that no candidate wants to be the person who upsets the slow recovery of the housing market.

The statistics used to create the chart are from the San Francisco MLS, the data is believed to be reliable but is not warranted and is not guaranteed. Your mileage may vary. Always buckle up.