Captain Kirk, Welcome Home

Two of the things I love about San Francisco real estate are the interesting people I meet and the interesting homes I see. A while ago I drove past this phenomenally modern home in the Westwood Highlands neighborhood, part of San Francisco’s district 4 on a MLS map.

Captain Kirk's house
This particular home isn’t currently on the market, but it did sell a few years back – 2010 to be exact.

According to public tax records, this home has:

  • Three bedrooms
  • Four bathrooms
  • 3,233 square feet of living space
  • Was built in 1991

While I haven’t seen the inside of the home personally, from prior MLS listings the interior looks to be as modern and open as the outside lines would suggest.

What do you think of this Westwood Highlands home? Is it too modern for the surrounding neighborhood? Or do you love the extensive use of glass and angular lines, regardless of the surrounding homes?

The first time I saw it, I immediately thought of Star Trek, and that it would make a perfect SF crash pad for Captain Kirk, or perhaps Spock. Which isn’t intended to be derogatory, I think it is a beautiful home. It is built in a neighborhood where most of the homes were constructed long ago, so it does stand out – this isn’t a home for wallflowers!

Note: This home is not currently for sale, but it’s the kind of home we love to sell. If you have to have it, drop us a line and we’re happy to see what we can make happen. And if this is your home, and you prefer we don’t admire it on the internet, just let us know. We will gladly remove the post. But we’ll still love the house!

It’s all about the Land…

San Francisco real estate doesn’t really have much in common with Florida real estate. But the contrasts between the two markets is an interesting one, and goes a long way towards explaining why places like Florida have seen home values plunge while SF home priced gently dipped.

Home Sites in Florida
Home Sites in Florida

Take a look at home prices in Florida, and you’ll either be depressed or fascinated to discover that you could own a home free and clear in Florida for roughly the equivalent of your San Francisco down payment. The good news is that you wouldn’t have a mortgage. The bad news is that you’d be in Florida.

While San Francisco prices dipped by between 10 – 20% depending on property type, neighborhood, and size, homes in FL were decimated. By 50% at least, sometimes by a lot more.

The sign above sells the promise of Florida. Sunny skies, warm weather, and lots of land to build your dream home. I have no idea how old the sign is, but this next picture tells you pretty much everything you need to know about why San Francisco homes held their value much better than in other areas of the country.

Too much land in Paradise
Too much land in Paradise

Too much Land in Paradise

In one word, the answer is: Land.

Unlike other areas of the world, San Francisco has no place to build. Our most desolate areas look downright crowded when you compare it to pictures of the street above, where the streets have been built, the utilities have been strung, and everything is ready to go except… there aren’t any houses!

San Francisco can build up, but any one that has followed new developments in San Francisco knows that getting land entitled and permitted in SF is a laborious and time consuming process.

So yes, our homes may be old. They might lack insulation or be covered in asbestos shingling. The decks might be filled with dry-rot and the weather might be foggy. But all of that becomes almost irrelevant in the calculus of value because San Francisco will never be able to sprawl like Las Vegas, Florida, or most of the rest of America.

Lombard St: Cow Hollow or Marina?

Boundaries are arbitrary, but does it make sense for two different sides of the same street to belong to different neighborhoods?

District 7 SFAR Map
District 7 SFAR Map

For example, in District 7 of San Francisco, there are four neighborhoods (according to SFAR):

The north/south diving line between The Marina and Cow Hollow is Lombard St., which makes perfect sense. Does it make sense, though, that homes on the north side of Lombard are in the Marina while homes on the south side are in Cow Hollow? Given what a busy street Lombard is, I kind of have to agree with the boundary.

What about the north/south dividing line between Cow Hollow and Pacific Heights, though? The north/south boundary between the two neighborhoods is Green St., which means that homes on the north side of Green St. have a Cow Hollow MLS designation, while homes on the south side of the street have a Pacific Heights designation in the MLS. This one seems a little less obvious to me, since Green St. isn’t a particularly busy or commercial St. (that would belong to Union St., one to the north).

California St.
California St. serves as the north/south boundary between Pacific Heights (District 7) and Lower Pacific Heights (District 6). However, when the boundary line was drawn they (they being SFAR) put both sides of California St. in Pacific Heights, which means on the south side of the street the boundary runs along the fences in the backyard, not the street out front.

However, as soon as we get west of Presidio St., the north/south boundary goes back to the front side of California St., with homes on the north side belonging to Presidio Heights and homes on the south side belonging to Laurel Village/Jordan Park.

Clear as mud, right?

What are your thoughts about the SFAR map boundaries? I’ve only highlighted a few neighborhoods, but the list could go on and on…

San Francisco, I Love You

Oh, San Francisco, you wacky goof ball of a town. I found myself eating dinner last night at the Ferry Building, and while we were eating dinner we saw all of these people coming in to order dinner that were carrying pillows and had feathers and fluff in their hair.

Pillow Fight!!!

Pillow Fight at Justin Herman Plaza
Pillow Fight at Justin Herman Plaza

I think the crowd had peaked and we were down to the hardcore pillow fighters by the time I finished dinner and crossed the street to share this awesome San Francisco tradition with my family. But as you can see from the pictures above and below, the pillow fight was a huge success, and while plenty of people whapped other people with pillows, I’m not aware of any injuries or other destructive behavior taking place last night.

2013-02-14 19.33.30
While Fight Club has its own rules, Pillow Fight Club has a different set, and they are:

  1. Tell everyone you know about the pillow fight
  2. Tell everyone you know about the pillow fight
  3. Arrive with pillow hidden in a bag
  4. When the Ferry Building clock strikes 6:00, begin
  5. Do not hit anyone without a pillow unless they ask.

Given all of the smiles I saw last night, I think the rules are working quite well and keeping people safe while having a great time.

Have you been to a pillow fight at Justin Herman Plaza? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts about it! How did you find out about it? Did you take your regular pillow or did you go out and buy a special pillow for Pillow Fight Club? Did you take a date, or did you go solo? And if you have any scoop on who or how this event got started, I’d love to hear the back story. Leave a comment below and have a great day!


Your 2013 Party Schedule

Party Time! One of the great things about living in San Francisco is being able to so easily take advantage of all that our fair city has to offer, including street fairs, festivals, and tons of other interesting and fun cultural events, parties, and celebrations!

To help you most efficiently plan your party schedule, below are some dates for the bigger festivals and events that take place in San Francisco.

Coming up starting this Saturday February 16 is Tulipmania @ Pier 39. April 21 is the Cherry Blossom Parade, but given how warm it is today (and how bad my allergies are), I think the organizers for this festival might want to think about bumping the date up a little bit.

Those of you that live in South Beach will want to prepare yourselves for the opening day of Giants season, which is on Friday, April 15.

This year, Bay to Breakers falls on May 19, while SF Pride is – as always – the last weekend in June, which this year is the 29th and 30th.

July 4 sees the start of America’s Cup racing, and the Outside Lands music festival is scheduled for August 9 – 11 in Golden Gate Park. Dress warm and don’t forget fleece layers!

September 29 is Folsom Street Fair, followed by Castro Street Fair the following weekend (October 6), while Bernal’s festival on the hill is October 20.

November 8 – 10 is the “official” Star Trek convention, and since trekkies are known across the world for their athletic prowess and enjoyment of sports, they should be thrilled that the ice skating rink in Union Square opens two days before their convention. Trekkies on ice skates in Union Square. Thats a reality show for you, right there!


2013 festival calendar Screen Shot 2013-02-13 at 1.02.55 PM

What San Francisco street fairs and festivals are you looking forward to this year? And what are your favorite SF festival memories? Keep it clean in the comments!

1 Bedroom or 2 Bedrooms?

Condos are the red-headed step-child of real estate in many areas of the country. Not so here in San Francisco, where some buyers actually prefer condominiums because they don’t have to worry about yard or building maintenance and they enjoy the sense of community or building amenities, especially if it happens to be in a luxury condo building where the owners aren’t home very often.

One question we’ve been asked over the years is whether a one bedroom condo is a better investment than a two bedroom condo, or vice versa? Actually, what the question really boils down to is, “Are one bedroom condos a good investment?” with the concern being that most home buyers are couples, and will therefore want at least two bedrooms.

Screen Shot 2013-02-11 at 2.25.08 PM
1 Bedroom Condo Appreciation in San Francisco, 2009 – 2012

An excellent question deserves an excellent answer, and as you can see from the two graphs, both one and two bedroom condos are very good investments in San Francisco. Looking back at the last three years, a one bedroom condo appreciated about 18% while a two bedroom condo appreciated about 14%. If we look at all residential property types across San Francisco, the appreciation over the last three years was about 12% (not pictured), so either type of condo would have done better than the market as a whole.

Most people expect that the two bedroom condo would appreciate more quickly, but as you can see that isn’t the case.

Screen Shot 2013-02-11 at 2.24.50 PM
2 Bedroom Condo Appreciation in San Francisco, 2009 – 2012

One bedroom condos are solid performers in San Francisco, a city where plenty of very well-paid individuals that only need one bedroom live.

What are your thoughts on the 1 bedroom vs. 2 bedroom debate? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Data source: San Francisco Multiple Listing Service.