In the Spirit of Halloween and Election Season, Scary Technology that “Outs” Your Neighbors

Prop 8 is not one that encourages sedate emotion. People are either vehemently for it, or they are just as vehemently against it. The debate between the two camps, heated as it is, often erupts into full out fighting, which we all know from our rhetoric classes is actually the opposite effect civilized, fair debate is supposed to have. The fights themselves can even get violent, as seen in this article about a Bakersfield man who attacked, punched, and kicked a No on 8 proponent (article and disturbing video here). 
That’s why I wonder whether the Chronicle’s new technology that allows you to see who in your area has contributed to “yes” or “no” on 8 is a good idea. Here you can type in a city, a zip, or even a name to see who has contributed to which side, as well as the dollar amount contributed. I do see the logic of printing the names of corporations who donate to or against the proposition, as you can retaliate by ceasing to spend your money with those companies whose views differ from your own. But how do you retaliate against an individual person? Punching and kicking? And though candid information about campaign contributions helps us understand the actions of our elected leaders, in this case the revealed data seem akin to publicizing people’s ballots after they’ve voted, when by law our votes are supposed to be secret. 
Essentially: I’m happy enough to say I’m voting no on 8; but I’d like the freedom to keep that to myself if some frothing-at-the-mouth Bakersfield psycho is waving a blood spattered YES ON 8 sign in front of my face.

With the Bad Comes the More Bad: Foreclosure Scams on the Rise

Since we’re members of the California Association of Realtors and our goal is to educate the public as much as possible, we thought we’d share this article about how to protect yourself from the recent rise in foreclosure scams.  This article was written by the C.A.R.  All credit goes to them.


REALTORS® commonly consider the filing of a notice of default as the beginning of the foreclosure process.  However, it may also be the start of something sinister.  The public recording of a notice of default can act as a beacon to unscrupulous people who, under the guise of offering assistance, seek to take advantage of homeowners in distress.  To protect homeowners in foreclosure, California’s foreclosure consultant law strictly regulates the activities of people who perform foreclosure-related services, including real estate agents to a limited extent.

This legal article discusses the issues surrounding foreclosure-related scams, with special attention given to the ways that REALTORS® and their clients can distinguish between legitimate and illegal enterprises.  This article also provides REALTORS® with legal and practical guidelines for complying with the foreclosure consultant law.


Q 1.  What is a foreclosure-related scam?

A  A foreclosure-related scam is a loose term for fraud, deceit, or trickery perpetrated against homeowners facing foreclosure or others involved in the foreclosure process.  With the rise in foreclosures in the mid-2000s, foreclosure-related scams have exploded onto the real estate scene.  Some con artists offer to help homeowners in foreclosure, but in truth, merely intend to dupe the distressed homeowners out of their money or property (see, more specifically, Question 5).  Other scams target real estate agents, investors, buyers, lenders, tenants, or other people involved in the foreclosure process. Continue reading

Que Sera, Sera: One Rincon Hill’s 60th Floor Penthouse Residence ($14M)

We’ve all heard about the latest craze to talk about what buildings aren’t selling what, what price reductions happened where, what incentives are being offered here, and which penthouse condos are selling for what. If you’ve been reading up on your bay area blogs, you’ll likely already know that the entire 60th floor of One Rincon Hill is again available, but not presented as an opportunity to purchase yet another excellent slice of pie in the sky, rather a failure to close contracts due to the recent national recession (half full, half empty).

So, should you only be in the $2+ Million buying range, you could take your pic of one of the four residences on the 60th floor (at least one on the 59th too):

The views from up there are nothing short of extraordinary.

Or, should you be walking around with roughly $14 Million burning a hole in your pocket, you could chop down a few of those walls and take the entire 60th Floor (5900 square feet) all to yourself (okay, maybe you could share with your honey….or us).

Opportunity knocks, and we’re dying to come to the parties. We’re not sure if when you purchase the entire top floor you’d have exclusive access to swim in the seismic water tank on top, but it never hurts to ask.

Love Haight Relationship

By Arrian Binnings:

Heyyy mannn, what’s going on with your investment, mannn?

Haight Money (Look Closely)
Haight Money (Look Closely)

Well let’s find out. We looked at condo sales prices in the nabe (Haight Ashbury) from 1995 to present, capping each year at October 29th. Condos are by and large the most popular property type in the area. We tried the same analysis for single family homes but there just weren’t enough data points to be reliable. So what’s groovin’? Continue reading

When is the Bottom, really the Bottom?

These days, when I am in my office, each corner I turn, each webpage I look at, each blog, each of my peers. . .it’s all the same. Doom and gloom, declining property values, steep increase/decrease in the markets, suspended construction, and utte

r fear. I get it, I really do, and I too am afraid.

So I throw out the question; When will we hit bottom? Are we close?

Stimulus packages sound good, but will they help? When will we get writing my essay back to normal?

What can we do to help?

Coming Soon! And, Coming Later!

Realtor Kevin Gueco writes a very sunny review for the coming soon Mosiaica 601 condo project (pictured above) in his SFNewDevelopments blog. There’s definitely some room for pleasant surprise in the announced price  (pleasant to me, anyway, since I selfishly find all condos I cannot afford to be unpleasant):

“Mosaica 601 announced last week that it plans to start pricing of its 3 bedroom / 2 bath condos in the low $600s!  This is an incredible value considering each home is around 1400 square feet.”

Of course, putting aside Gueco’s near-by  restaurant list, the area (where Mission meets Potrero) is a little rough, but the price still seems all right to me. Perhaps the developers see the price cuts so many other condo developers have had to make recently, and are starting lower to begin with?  

Also coming soon (but not as soon) are a more mysterious set of housing units. Just off West Portal and 16th Ave., in front of Arden Wood, you can see the pushed-up dirt, huge bulldozers, and thin wood skeletons that signal housing to come, and their sectioning looks multi-unit. Thus I suspect these are the long awaited condos that were subject of news and speculation in 2006. In fact, that’s still the only information I can find on this construction: 2 years old, via SFHomeBlog and J.K. Dineen. Someone has to have a more updated scoop here. Anyone?
Meanwhile, still a pipe-dream (ha ha! Really, Haight Street, how many pipe stores can one street support?), but with the supervisorial green light is the Whole Foods/condo complex, slated to replace long-dead Cala Foods at the corner of Stanyan and Haight. The Chronicle outlines the plan here:

 “The large, four-story project, which also includes some 60 high-end, market-rate housing units, was expected to be controversial, but the commission voted 6-0 to approve the conditional use permit – a result supporters think had a lot to do with their organized turnout.”

Right, agreed: Haight could use a face-lift and perhaps a gentle reminder that THE 60′S ARE OVER. Also, I like Whole Foods, but I’m saving for one of those condos, so I’ll stick to Trader Joe’s (with a new one also coming soon!). I’m curious what “market rate” will be when those units go up, since so many new developments are struggling to sell out units already. The Frontstep’s own banker/blogger, aptly known as “The Banker,” says: “We are overbuilt. . .and it is next to near impossible to get financing!”

What do you say?


Construction photo via SFNewDevelopments

East Bay: Mid-Mod Classic with Eyes on SF Buyers

By Home Girl (aka real-estate blogger Tracey Taylor, former Redfin Sweet Digs maven, making her first guest appearance on The Front Steps. Thank you Alex!):

It doesn’t surprise me that this 3bed/3bath, 1946 house (pictured above), which comes with the distinguished Bay Area architect Walter Ratcliff‘s moniker attached, should be listed on the San Francisco MLS as well as on its East Bay equivalent.

This is the type of home that might just tempt a city dweller to cross the pond and put urban living on the back burner for a while. Set on 36,000 sq ft of wooded land, it features a great room/kitchen that opens to a patio and hot tub and a dramatic fireplace. And, of course, spectacular views of San Francisco to assuage any homesickness for those that made the leap.

But — and there is a but — the interiors look like they need some serious attention. And the big question, and possibly the reason the house hasn’t had any takers after more than 40 days on the market, is why it hasn’t been better presented. This is a house crying out for some sleek retro staging  — as you will, I’m sure, agree when you check out the listing photos.

A rash of Walter Ratcliffs hit the Berkeley market at the tail-end of last year: 2 Somerset Place, a 1920s beauty near John Hinkel Park saw its price slashed from $3.2m to $2.6m before disappearing from the MLS, and 2957 Avalon Avenue and 22 Tanglewood Road sold for $3.1m and $2.3m respectively, near asking price and no quibbling involved. But that was then.

From Mid-Century to Modern, 3577 Pacific Returns (Almost)

The last recorded sale of 3577 Pacific (2 bed, 1.5 baths, on the Presidio wall right across from Julias Kahn Playground) was August 31, 2005 for $2,225,000 and she was definitely a mid-century diamond in the rough. Well…she’s back and she’s looking sweet. She did get a bit bigger, and more modern though.

She’s been developed by Mitch Menaged, designed by John Maniscalco Architecture, and Huang Iboshi Architecture and now has six bedrooms, four bathrooms, roof deck, waterfall, chef’s kitchen with Miele Double Ovens, Steam Oven, Espresso Machine, Dacor Microwave Drawer, Gaggenau Ceramic Cooktop, Liebherr Wine Cooler, an 800 bottle temperature controlled display wine cellar, Phase Four Home Automation System, Philippe Starck designed Duravit tub with ceiling water fill, custom cabinets, walnut flooring, Cat 5 wiring, Carrera Marble Fireplace, sculptural stone, iron & glass cantilevered staircase…(deep breath)…and of course a few “green” features like energy efficient radiant in-floor heating, wiring in place for photovoltaic panels, made with fly ash concrete, and a drought tolerant landscape, but we’ll stop there.

Pics, you ask?
You’ll have to settle for the old ones for now, the new ones are coming soon. This home should be on the market within the week, and don’t expect the price to be anywhere near what it sold for in 2005.

There is an invitation only preview on Thursday, so if this is the type of home you’d like to buy, we’d be happy to take you as our guest.

(For those that sometimes ask, the answer is yes. As is the case with most properties we feature on theFrontSteps, we have already been inside this one as well. So agents, keep those invites and tips coming.)

[Update: Price $7,700,000, still no pics.]
[Update: Price already reduced (one week on the market) to $6,950,000, still no pics.]
[Update: Brochure with pictures and floorplans now online.]

-3577 Pacific Avenue (before) [MLS]

Living High for a Little Less: 188 Minna #27D (St. Regis, San Francisco)

Stalefish at the St. Regis, San Francisco.
Originally listed at $3,495,000 for this 2 bedroom, 2.5 bath, 1792 square foot, luxury slice of pie in the sky, the price has been dropping, while the days on market have been climbing. Price now, $2,995,000. Days on market, 150. (That would actually be an interesting chart to see how as the DOM goes up, the price comes down.)

Since we’re talking about the St. Regis, you buyers out there might like to know of what else you can get in that building. You can get the penthouse for $70 Million (or a bit less), or, take your pick from this list. Just because it might be “expired” or “withdrawn”, or not on MLS, doesn’t mean it can’t be sold. And guess what? We know the scoop, so don’t hesitate to contact us if you’d like to learn more.

It also begs the question, “Is the addition of Millennium Tower to our market hurting sales at the St. Regis?”

-St. Regis Penthouse on sale for $70 Million []

Comment Du Jour: “The People in Noe Valley Have a Fully Realized Liberal Fantasy”

This comment du jour comes to us from “James” in our most recent Cole Valley vs. Noe Valley Battle Royale, where he provides his explanation of why Noe Valley is the way it is:

Noe Valley has the feeling of being a small suburban village unto itself and this has been the case for a long while. It feels very similar to places like Mill Valley and Palo Alto (which, i admit, some people consider quite different in themselves).

Having lived here [in Noe Valley] for years, I will admit that there is certainly more of a ‘car culture’ here. Obviously there are an endless number of families who made the very self-conscious decision to move here. The suburban quality is not primarily caused by Noe Valley’s feeling of being physically removed from the city, though. I think it is more caused by the feeling that everyone in Noe Valley is deeply focused on the practical going-ons of their individual every day life. For instance, you are more likely to see young people off on their own in Cole Valley, just sitting in a cafe with a book. In Noe Valley, on the other hand, one is more likely to see a group of women having coffee, with their local jogging group, with their babies, with their jogging strollers, on the way to a play dates, or shopping, and then yoga, etc.

What I mean to say is that while Noe Valley feels removed from city life, that such a feeling may be just a manifestation of this suburban mindset on the neighborhood’s residents’ parts. They may not want to live entirely ‘in the city’ in every sense of the term. They want to be near a lot of things (which Noe Valley certainly is, and not at all far away from great things as some posts here have stated), without sacrificing the feeling that their neighborhood is ‘more home’ in a certain sense than the rest of the city.

So, the people in Noe Valley simply have a fully realized liberal fantasy. The ‘charm’ of a tightly controlled social environment, while being near all of those other parts of the city that they can’t quite bear to give up…

Well said James! Thanks for the comment, and thanks for reading theFrontSteps.

New Developments Face a New Reality in SF


I’ve heard from multiple sources that SF real estate is, for the most part, immune to the havoc wreaked on other parts of the US. But sales at our most recent condo complexes show that happy-smile-don’t-worry line of rhetoric is about as reliable as the clown’s was in Poltergeist (Happy Halloween!).


Socketsite reports that Symphony Towers, with only 55% of its units sold, has recently reduced prices 30%. The “Tower One Close Out,” advertised on the building’s webpage, demonstrates:
T-907 Penthouse studio w/built in Murphy bed & views $515,000 $419,000
T-602 1-br, Quiet courtyard location $565,000 $449,000
You have to wonder if those buyers among the 55% sold group are perhaps a wee bit upset. You might also wonder if you can’t, given the hint of desperation (“close out”= we really, really want to sell these goddamn condos!), get one of these units for even less than the advertised price.
Plus, Symphony Towers is not the only recent development cutting prices. The Hayes is also making cuts, despite its central location and uber-hip marketing (including requisite “ambient” track playing over your web tour of the property, a photo from which appears below). #610, for example, is a 1 bed/1 bath down now from $599K to $499K.  
inside "The Hayes," life is fabulously vogue


The Arterra, our newish “green” building at 300 Berry St. is also offering reduced prices, (such as #904, a 1 bed/1bath down from $649K to $599K), as is The Potrero.  
More good news for people who love bad news is that, according to the San Francisco Business Times, construction has been suspended at 535 Mission St: “The $100 million HOK-designed tower was put on hold earlier this month in response to worsening market conditions.”   
Well then. Seems like if one wants to buy right now, one should take these worsening conditions to the negotiating table. Don’t invite the clown.
Photo credits, respectively: Scary ass clown: Brain; The Hayes staged unit: The

A Worse Punishment for Sisyphus: Policing Noise in a Metropolis

Hello out there, theFrontStep Readers! You may (or just as likely, may not) know my name from my blogs for Redfin. I’ve kindly been invited to write also for theFrontSteps, so here I am, on the steps, with my first blog.

So here’s the setting: last night, 2:00am, sultry night, people walking up from the bars, falling down, giggling. That noise doesn’t bother me much. I’d have to be a hypocrite if I tried to pretend I’ve never, after closing time, made too much noise under someone’s window as I staggered home. But another noise does bother me: some a-hole flooring his car and slamming on the breaks as he reaches the stop sign in front of my house. Then, from fully stationary, he floods the car again, tyring to go from zero to sixty instantaneously. Then he screeches off, circles the block, and comes back to do it again.

But we all live in a city. We can’t really expect quiet, can we? We can hope for it, and maybe in some areas, get it most of the time. But in the end, we’re sharing with a lot of people, some of them loud and possibly crazy. That’s why this new law aiming to curb SF noise interests me. Continue reading

What a shame. . .

I recently inquired with Alex if I could post on theFrontSteps. I have written in the past, actually have a degree in writing, but more than that, I think this site is well thought, well done, and has gathered a nice following. My

name, TheBanker,

says it all. I hope to provide insight, a different twist, and perhaps a bit of truth and reason. Alex has warned me, so, my disclaimer, these are just my opinions, period. Now, on to it. . .enough with the intro.

Now the Shame of it all. . .

Rates are strong. Company earnings this week have forced money out of the stock market and into treasuries causing a drop in the 10 year yield, thus affecting mortgage rates. These days, there is no rhyme or reason in pricing loans, or what we call around here; RISK! So, rates are strong and a slim number of the population can afford to buy(down payments), refinance(income,etc), or eat dinner out. We have been completely stalled by the current state of the market and all the while interest rates are still at fantastic levels and we are running out of time for the Jumbo Conforming Loan changes. . .this is currently $729ish and will be reduced to $625ish.

One last blow. . .E loan is now gone and Downey Savings, one of the negative amortization kings, is also gone. Lastly, Gateway Bank wholesale has also left the building.

My point; rates are good, property is moving at so called “deals,” and we are running out of time!

Comment du Jour: Things aren’t so bad (relatively speaking)

From “44yo Hipster” in yesterday’s Stats & Numbers for Single Family Homes [edited for flow]:

Di’cha [Did you] check out the DQ #’s for sept…ouch!

And the #’s on this chart don’t paint a much better picture, especially with the financial/stock market/oil price melt down. Man, a lot (most) investors are taking a big hit on their portfolios. Even Kerkorian got his ass handed to him on his activist investment forays with Ford Motor Co. and just wait, the shit is going to hit the fan big time for oil rich nations (think: Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran.)

So…I guess taking a 10% hit on SF investment property values (while the rents have continued going up) is *really* minor. I have friends who lost 30% of their stock portfolio in 3 weeks. and others I know who lost > 30% in RE investments in Southern California in the last 2 yrs. Those who own in SF should thank their lucky stars, methinketh.

We’d have to agree.

Pacific Heights in the Spotlight

As always, theFrontSteps is open to new contributors and writers joining us, so if you think you have what it takes to blog (doesn’t take much), give us a shout and let us know. This comes to us from Arrian Binnings, via his new blog Inside SF Real Estate. We found it quite good (void of most Realtor spin, and generally informative) and have asked him to write a column for us (hence the full content version, rather than just a link). What say you, the readers? Good stuff?

Pacific Heights. Mmmmm, what an incredible part of our City. Just imagining it conjures up images of huge mansions, gloriously landscaped yards, jaw-dropping views, and:

Standard Pac Heights TP Roll
Standard Pac Heights TP Roll

Seriously though, we wanted to take out our San Francisco micro-market magnifying glass and see what condo prices are doing in the area. Are they up? Down? Major bubble burst (aka, Bubblicious)??

Well that’s exactly what we set out to do, and here’s how we did it.

First, we looked at Median Sales Prices for condos in Pacific Heights, dating back to the year 1995. All sales are per MLS. We capped each year at October 20th, so we could include 2008 and get an even comparison (something about saying apples to apples just drives me crazy). As you might expect, we left out Single Family Homes, TICs, Lofts, and Stock Co-Ops.


Here’s the tale of the tape: Continue reading

London Falling?

Uh oh!

(European) property values fell to their lowest level in 30 years in September, according to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. According to another report, home sales fell to 17,000 in June 2008 from 105,000 in June of 2007, and that was before the financial collapse of late summer and fall.

Prices have fallen 15 percent in the last year with some local experts predicting a 50 percent drop before the bottom is reached. As many as 60,000 homeowners are dipping into “negative equity” per month. The U.S. market began to fall in late 2005. The U.K. market stayed strong until last year, but now it is falling fast.

Perhaps the best quote:

Estate agents (the equivalent of a Realtor in the U.K.), unlike the U.S., do not have their pictures on their business cards and do not market themselves or their properties like the go-go Realtors in America.

We vote for no more Realtor pictures on anything anywhere, except where beauty contests are involved.

-Brits get thumped like U.S. [Inman News]

Quick Flip at 733 Front Street

[Update 10/20/08: Sold, $1,725,000]

On the other side of the equation, let’s take a look at 733 Front #605.

One of the first resales at this conversion building down in the Financial District, #605 was sold through the sales office for $1,600,000 only about three months ago. The unit directly below it #505 was sold for around $1.7M and received three offers (floor plan was a bit different, but not by much). Unit 605 recently listed at $1,695,000 and boasts one of the few corner views, (not to mention 4 storage spaces), it is now in contract a mere 6 days after hitting the market.

This market is anybody’s guess, because it sure is making my head spin.

-733 Front #605 [MLS listing detail]

Texting + Driving = NO

The land of the free keeps getting a bit less free doesn’t it?

Beginning January 1, 2009, a person driving a motor vehicle is prohibited from writing, sending, or reading a text message, instant message, or e-mail from an electronic wireless communication device. However, a person may read, select, or enter a name or phone number in a wireless device to make or receive a phone call. A violation of this law is an infraction punishable by a base fine of $20 for the first offense and $50 for each subsequent offense. Senate Bill 1613.

Awesome! More freedom! (This is one of those cases where an I.S. is necessary, which stands for Insert Sarcasm.)

Is it New Hampshire where one can “Live Free or Die”? I’m moving there.

Mervyns out, Trader Joe’s (should go) in

With the recent news of Mervyns going out of business, we’re left wondering, who’s going to fill the shoes of their location on Masonic (@ Geary)?

Our vote is for the Trader Joe’s that is pretty much kitty corner, always packed, parking lot always full, to pull up their roots, push the shopping carts across the street, and truck the German beer to the bigger space.


-Mervyns plans liquidation [SF Business Times]

Comment du Jour: WTF! Sellers Living in 2007?

Ahhh, we love our readers, especially when they come up with money quotes a lot of you are missing. So, we often take it upon ourselves to bring them front and center. This from “MichelleL” on “Getting Twisted in Cole Valley“:

WTF? Are people still paying 3-million to live in Cole Valley sans view? There is an interesting ‘compflip’ in Eureka Valley on 19th and Douglass for ‘gasp’ 4-million plus…what are your thoughts, are sellers still living in 2007?

We’re going to assume you’re talking about the property we found (we can’t tell you how often we get the question about “that house on the corner”) and linked to above. If not, please correct us.

To begin, let’s help some less than up-on-the-lingo readers with translating your question. WTF means “what the f*ck”. Sans is the french word for “without”. Now that we got that out of the way, on to answering your question.

Yes, some sellers are still living in 2007, which is exactly why many of the buyers we’re working with have been advised to not panic, be patient, and watch properties of interest very closely. Keep in mind many “flips” started a long time ago, and the developers may not have calculated a declining market in their build costs, so they’re hoping for that un-educated Realtor/buyer combo to walk through the door and say, “We’ll take it!”, and save their asses, pop the champagne and make their car payment. However, like everything in SF, it comes down to the property in question, and not necessarily the market as a whole. We don’t know the exact scoop on this property on 19th, so unfortunately can’t provide many more details, beyond a very vague answer of “yes”…some sellers are living in 2007.

We do know first hand of some other very awesome developments that the builder “just wants off their books”, should you be so inclined to get in touch.

Thanks for your comment! We hope to hear from you more, MichelleL.

-4552 19th Street, $4,299,000, 6 bed, 4.5 bath [listing details]
-Getting Twisted in Cole Valley (1342 Shrader) [theFrontSteps]

Vote for Barack Obama

As many of you know, I try to steer clear of political posts, but this time, I can’t. If I didn’t at least announce who I am voting for and do my part getting the word out, and that second coming of the idiots McCain and Joe Sixpack Palin make it to office, I will seriously cash in my chips and move to Mexico, Italy, France, Spain, Hell…anywhere would be better than another 4 years of this crap! The choice is clear….


Get in line with the “squiggly area” way of thinking. After all, “culture is attracted to squiggles”.

Go to 4:46 into the video and you’ll know what I mean…

Super-conforming 729.5K to expire? Really? Gone forever?

Are we to believe that the Democrat led super conforming limit is going to be allowed to fizzle? To hear him speak, Obama is continually pledging new stimulus package. Right now it appears as if he’ll win. It appears as if it will be a Dem congress and a dem White House. Would anyone be surprised if super conforming finds legs? We’re talking about loans with real vetting nowadays. The credit market’s chief problems include liquidity in markets, and credit worthiness. Well, these are worthy borrowers injecting 20% down.

What do you guys think?