House Passes Stimulus Bill, Senate What Next?

We pulled this directly from a C.A.R newsletter:

The U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 1, the Economic Recovery Package, by a 244 to 188 vote. Amid all the negative economic news we’re hearing on a daily basis, this is good news, as the bill contains a number of issues critical to REALTORS® and the industry, including extending all 2008 Metropolitan Statistical Areas’ (MSAs’) Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and FHA loan limits through the end of this year.

The extension prevents an MSA’s 2008 loan limit from being reduced in 2009 for Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the FHA. Language in the bill also specifies that if an MSA’s loan limit is set to change, it can increase, but is prohibited from declining.

The proposed legislation also will eliminate an existing payback requirement on the first-time home buyer tax credit for qualified buyers who purchase a home between Dec. 31, 2008, and July 1.

Congress included these provisions as a direct result of the grassroots efforts put forward by REALTORS®, and the advocacy efforts of both NAR and C.A.R. Congress elected not to include numerous housing provisions beyond those previously mentioned. It looks like Congress will begin to address other housing issues next week when the Financial Services Committee meets.

The legislation also contained a laundry list of appropriations for various affordable housing programs, neighborhood stabilization programs, and other housing and/or real estate-related issues, including:

Public Housing Capital Fund
Native American Housing Block Grant
Home Investment Partnership Program
Self-help & assisted homeownership
Elimination of lead paint in homes
Repairing leaking underground storage tanks
Low-income home energy assistance
Rural Housing Insurance Fund
In addition to tax credits for individuals and married couples, other provisions in the bill include funds for increasing access to high-speed and broadband Internet; highways and roads; railroads; alternative energy incentives; unemployment insurance; Medicaid insurance; health care technology upgrades; childcare; education; and low-income and affordable housing programs.

The Senate now is working on its version of the stimulus legislation, and is expected to vote on it next week. Congress would like to get a bill to the President’s desk by President’s Day, Feb. 16.

So what next? More importantly, what kind of impact will this have for San Francisco? Here’s your chance to go on record and compare the power of your crystal ball to that of other readers.

“LaidOffCamp” Taps theFrontSteps For Locations

If you’re a techie, you may have seen the recent article (“Unemployed Techies Hope To help Themselves At LaidOffCamp”) on TechCrunch regarding one particularly ambitious techie that was recently laid off and had an idea…throw a party, or like they say “an ad-hoc gathering of unemployed and self-employed people (including entrepreneurs and startups) who want to share knowledge and interact with each other.” That’s a party, let’s be honest. [Update: Okay, so maybe it's really not.]


We’re all about sharing, we’re all about interacting, and we’re certainly all about partying, so it is no surprise they contacted us to help secure a location. ;-) (Thanks to Kevin Boer for pointing them our way.)

Now we’re asking for a little help from our readers. Do you know of a location (hipper the better) that once housed an aspiring dot com, or business, that has recently failed? If so, either share in the comments below, or contact us, and let’s see if we can’t help put this party together.

-Tuesday March 3rd, Location TBD
-LaidOffCamp Website (Wiki)
-TechCrunch Article on LaidOffCamp
-Preferred Beverage

“This Is The One”, 565 Clipper Gets Into Contract

Right on the heels of our recent post a la Sophie, “A walk up the hill”, we learn that one of the little nugs she reported on went into contract as of yesterday, 565 Clipper being that little 4 bed, 3.5 bath, $2,149,000 single family nug (originally listed 10/08 for $2,599,000):

The deets, with a little RealSpeak for good measure:

Breathtaking, recently rebuilt home w/ hi ceilings & dramatic dark walnut floors. Enormous living room w/ FP & city vus. Top shelf kit w/ 6-burner Viking & CesarStone + huge bfast bar. Dramatic DR is surrounded by windows & adjacent outdoor living space. 3BD/2BA upper level includes a luxurious master suite w/ FP & vu deck + an add’l south facing deck adjacent to 3rd BD overlooking the garden.Ground level has huge family/media room w/ wet bar + 4th BD, full BA & 2 car sxs gar. This is the one!


It “is the one” for someone, and is a good comparable for 469 Clipper (future version), which just so happens to still be available.

So what gives? Bad market, busy street, nothing but doom on the horizon, yet somebody pulled the trigger on a $2+Million property on Clipper? Let’s hope it closes.

Stay tuned for reports of multiple offers on multiple properties. No kidding.

[Update: Closed escrow for $2,090,000.]

Stats & Numbers: San Francisco Single Family, Condo, 2-4 Unit, January ’08 vs. January ’09

The numbers speak for themselves. Thanks to “SFAR Advantage Online” for the goods:

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NUMBER OF UNITS is the equivalent of number of sales/transactions. For condominiums, each unit is treated as a sale. For 2- to 4-unit buildings, the “building” is treated as a sale.

NUMBER SOLD is the number of properties in the market segment that closed escrow during the month.

NUMBER FOR SALE is the number of active properties on the market for one day or more during the month.

MEDIAN PRICE (SOLD) reflects the “middle” price point of a group of properties that have successfully closed escrow on a monthly basis, i.e. half sold for more and half sold for less than the median price. Tracking the movement of median prices over time provides a good indicator of the direction market forces are moving.

If the percentage change is positive between the two periods then there is upward pressure on prices in that market segment. If the percentage change is negative between the two periods then there is downward pressure on prices in that market segment.

AVERAGE DAYS ON MARKET (DOM) reflects how long it has been taking (on average) to draw an offer on a reasonably priced property exposed to the market. The AVERAGE DAYS ON MARKET is defined as: The average number of days it took all of the properties that went under contract during the period to accept a first position offer.

MONTH’S SUPPLY OF INVENTORY (MSI) is a measure of how long it would take, in months, to sell the existing inventory at the current sales rate for the specific neighborhood and property type. The MONTH’S SUPPLY OF INVENTORY is defined as: The number of active properties on the market for one day or more during the month, less the number of properties that have been withdrawn or expired, divided by the number of properties that have gone under contract during the month.

* * * * *

Data provided by Terradatum. For additional information about market statistics and/or additional information about Terradatum’s products and services, please call Terradatum at 1-888-212-4793 Ext. 2 or send e-mail to

-San Francisco Single Family Residence Inventory, Median, DOM, Listings Jan. ’08 v Jan. ’09 [SFAR, pdf]
-San Francisco Condominium Inventory, Median, DOM, Listings Jan. ’08 v Jan. ’09 [SFAR, pdf]
-San Francisco 2-4 Unit Inventory, Median, DOM, Listings Jan. ’08 v Jan. ’09 [SFAR, pdf]

Reader Reports: A Walk Up The Hill (Clipper)

We love our readers and we love when they report back to the mother ship. This from “Sophie” who decided to take a walk up the hill (slightly edited for flow, and links added to properties mentioned).

“Restless kids, so-so weather: A great day for a walk uphill!

532B Clipper – TIC – $499,999
This is a great unit in need of work: a simple knock down of all the crap (read “added american closets”) and it’s a great unit. tad bit high price (no parking, problematic deck etc) – but still something to look at.

490-492 clipper – RH2 – $1,300,000 (and 3.5% commission to selling agent), inlaw WITH tenant.
Tiny owner unit, but smart and practical. Work with NO permit! (duh! check the stair railing!) With no parking, the price is a bit high.

682 clipper – SHF – $1,475,000
floor plan is very odd. I dont like at all the top floor (master suite above living), but the lower floor 3 bedrooms are ok, with a great additional lowest level (storage, mudroom, position of laundry etc). I HATE the windows, like you pee in the face of the clipper street drivers. All the windows and window coverings and drapes need a rework/updates (soundproofing, light, sun, heat, views etc). However, a MUCH better deal and a sweeter property than 565 Clipper.

481 clipper – RH2 – $1,800,000
I guess I still hate everything about that one as much as before. However, I find not acceptable to keep that property on the market in the current condition of next door house. Many people walking with us were scared by the construction, and it would have needed a lot of courage to dare going in (I would have, but the wind started to pick up, and I didnt want to scare the kids). Property should either be off market for the 2 months to come, OR not have an open house – and be flagged as such in MLS. For once a property could have some legitimate excuse for having a larger DOM – use it (although this property is a recurring stalefish anyway.)

469 clipper – empty lot. $939,000 [Editor's Note: Careful what you say Sophie...;-) ]
The proposed plan being totally ugly, I have to say that the lot is large, garage access is easy because no parking spot in front and above the house.
Alex – nice talking to Mike. Nice guy. (I still think it’s a tiny bit high. price drop should have been to $899,000 to spark some new interest).
Marketing-wise – I would be scared by buying a lemon – ie: the previous owner bought the lot, spend the money in architect – then DROPPED the plan to build its dream house? WHY? neighbors? If the plan is not approved, then it’s not only worth zero, but it has some negative value as being a “doomed” project. Marketing as a empty lot with no string attached should be considered at this point. OR I’d have someone draw 4-5 projective plans for that lot to show the richness and variety of options. If facade is protected by historic crap, state that in marketing, if not, market as empty lot with 2 garage access. Continue reading

Comment Du Jour: “Why Wait?”

Every so often, we pull comments we think you should know about, because as we always say, this site is nothing without the reader interaction. So today, we take from “brokerism” and his recent comment from our recent post “The Appraisal Conundrum“. Hats off to ya “brokerism”. Enjoy your home:

Well, we had our reasons for jumping in now. My wife wants to change jobs for example, and she has a really strong bonus history with her current firm which we can use to qualify for the loan. This may not be the case if she changes jobs.

We are taking advantage of the (temporary) higher conforming loan limit for 2 unit buildings ($800k). The limit for SFHs (625k?) is also temporary.
Home prices are starting to come down significantly and quickly in SF itself so it will be harder to pass the appraisal in six months to a year as compared to now.

So, the first two reasons [for buying now] are personal, but the third applies to everyone. Why wait and wait and wait and risk (in our case) missing out on a rate decrease from 6.5% to 4.875?

Thanks for doing your part and thanks for reading and commenting on theFrontSteps. Cocktails at your house or ours? We make a killer margarita.

SF: A City with Room to Grow-up Healthy?


The Where Blog, dedicated to intelligent discourse on urban life, recently posed the following question:

How do people stay sane in crowded cities?

Quoting E.M. Cioran,

Whenever I happen to be in a city of any size, I marvel that riots do not break out every day: massacres, unspeakable carnage, a doomsday chaos. How can so many human beings coexist in a space so confined without destroying each other, without hating each other to death?

We might ask such a question in Tokyo, or New Dehli; in the US, maybe New York. But San Francisco, despite being relatively short on open space for building and (as boon to past real estate transactions) higher in demand than in supply for housing, is not really that crowded. Sure, we’ve all made the dismal, never again mistake of trying to get on the I-80 at rush hour, or the MUNI on the day the Giants are playing (enough orange clothing and pre-game beer consumption to last a lifetime). We’ve been jostled in Union Square during the holidays, or crammed against the rails of the Wharf at the height of tourist season. But those are just poor choices, not evidence of an over-populated city. In fact, there’s a lot of space to live here.

Many of our residential enclaves include rows and rows of homes that have backyards, if not also front yards and side yards. Unlike NY City, we don’t have to go out to Brooklyn to find a family style neighborhood: in our 7 X 7, we have plenty.

Add to that roof decks, public parks, and the beach — it’s a unique metropolis indeed.

But scientists do warn that city life can be hard on the brain.  From the Boston Globe:

Now scientists have begun to examine how the city affects the brain, and the results are chastening. Just being in an urban environment, they have found, impairs our basic mental processes. After spending a few minutes on a crowded city street, the brain is less able to hold things in memory, and suffers from reduced self-control. While it’s long been recognized that city life is exhausting — that’s why Picasso left Paris — this new research suggests that cities actually dull our thinking, sometimes dramatically so.

So… do San Francisco brains need more quiet space to function?

But isn’t living without culture, diversity, art, conflict, and intellectual stimulation in general, more obstructive than the chaos of urban life?

You Changed Your DOM But Were Never BOM, 4148 23rd St Returns

You know that feeling you get when you meet someone and you just know you’ve seen them before, but you just can’t figure out where? Well, fortunately for us folks in the biz of real estate, we have this little feature called “property history” that is becoming all too necessary to check religiously. As it turns out, we have seen 4148 23rd St (4 bed, 2.5 bath, Renovated Noe Valley Edwardian) before.


We saw her first in 1998 when she sold for $435,000. Then we saw her again (with a face-lift) in April of 2008 for $1,799,000 when she was on the market for 140 days and pulled off the market in August. She resurfaced (very briefly) in December of 2008 with the same look, only different price ($1,599,000 or 11% less than before) and a fresh new DOM (days on market) of zero. Come to think of it, we never did see her BOM (back on market).


Now we see her again in January 2009 with the same price, but new DOM, and still no BOM. This can only mean she never did find a suitor. So why the new DOM? It’s a trick we agents play, and the public is on to us.

We knew we saw her before, and it almost slipped passed us. Now we’re left to wonder what she’ll look like when we see her again…SOLD, BOM, or with yet another new DOM?

-4148 23rd St, $1,599,000 [listing detail page by sfnewsletter]
-Resetting DOM, Buyers Speak Up, ABC News Nightline Is Listening [theFrontSteps]

The Movers: Homes Recently In Contract In San Francisco

There has been some recent talk/discussion on this site and certainly around town and all over the blogosphere about what homes, if any, have actually received offers. We thought we’d shed some light on the matter.

Below is a jpeg of the pdf we have attached to this post for the properties that have either gone into contract or removed contingencies as of 1/1/2009. From what we can tell, there were 231 properties that met this criteria. Click the image for the full monty.
(If there are any wizards of Excel out there, we’d love to hear from you ( as to how we can make the presentation of said data much nicer now, and in the future.)

In contract or pending as of 1/1/2009

One of our readers had made reference to searching this type of thing on the basic MLS. As far as we know, you cannot do so. However, we provide a service that allows you to do just that, and more. The only catch, you must agree to work with us in the future. Click Here if you’re interested in enhanced access to MLS listings.

P.S. Consider the source of this data, and don’t abuse the redistribution of it.

-Recently into contract and/or removed contingencies as of 1/1/2009 [MLS]

Starting Off 2009 With A Bang…Or Not

You might be wondering what’s up with the lack of new content on the site since 2009 began. We’ll just say we’re not only busy with the biz of real estate, but also working on some things that could change tFS for the foreseeable future (in a good way…hopefully). Please bear with us and continue to spread the word and check the site, because even though content is down, traffic is actually up. How cool is that! And don’t forget, your tips greatly improve the content on the site, so don’t be shy sending them in. (Email to

One Partner In A TIC Defaults, The Other Paid Cash: What Happens

Pulled from the intertubes:

“Does anyone have experience with a client who bought into a 2 unit TIC and paid all cash and the partner had a loan? In particular, what type of legal protection did they get in case of loan default by the mortgaged TIC partner.



It should be covered under the TIC agreement, allowing one partner to force a sale in the case of default.


I have no experience with this exactly but have been through quite a bit on the TIC front.

My thoughts are as follows:

If the loan is fractional and the all cash buyer’s name is not on it .. then, of course, there is no liability. The buyer becomes a co-tenant with the bank.

If the all cash buyer is on the loan then his/her credit will get slammed .. and a foreclosure would be on the whole property (including their interest). That is why the TIC agreement enables the all cash buyer to use reserve fund to pay the mortgage, then foreclose on the co-tenant and sell the interest. The bank may or may not allow them to assume the loan during this bridge period .. the bank may (perhaps) not find out for a while.

Again, this is my opinion .. no experience in the matter and I have, no doubt missed a few things.


There would have to be a default fund, which is usually 6 months worth of payments. The TIC agreement by Sirkin has that built in as well as remedy for default by a partner.


I sold a 2unit bldg recently where there was a big discrepancy in the loan amounts for each partner, maybe the situation is analogous to yours, and I think the TIC agreement itself (Sirkin) spelled out that any default on the loan payments by one partner which might jeopardize the bldg or put at risk of foreclosure, etc., triggers a sequence of options including buy-out, forced sale, etc, which protects the other partner. I think those protections would apply even if the all-cash partner was not on the loan at all.”

Open House Traffic Only Visited By Those Sensing Foreclosure

Making a long story short:

We had lunch recently with an individual that has a very real interest in today’s San Francisco real estate market (he’s selling a home, but no he’s not our client). We talked about the kids, we talked about the weather, then of course the inevitable “how’s the market”. After getting through how we thought the market was, he informed us that he recently had lunch with a “business friend” of his that kindly informed him the only people looking at open houses at the moment are those people looking to preview homes that will soon be sold at foreclosure! And apparently this “friend” had the data to back it up. Are you f*ing kidding!

That is quite possibly the most ridiculous thing we’ve heard in a while and you can rest assured we’ve heard our share of silly real estate tales.

So who’s got the data to back that ridiculous statement up? Something like that might apply to places in the greater Bay Area, but San Francisco proper? Come on!

The Appraisal Conundrum

With the recent dip in interest rates many homeowners are rushing to refinance only to come upon a very large obstacle, appraised values of their homes are coming in low…very low. The biggest reason being that there are not enough comparable property sales in the past 3 months to set lenders nerves at ease. Perhaps you are having better luck than this, but we personally have had clients call and ask how this little problem might be alleviated.

So what can you do? Hopefully “the banker” will chime in with a little insight from that of the lender, otherwise, we’d suggest contacting your Realtor, asking for as many comparable sales as they can come up with, talking to your appraiser, taking them golfing or to lunch, buying them nice bottles of wine, and getting them backstage. If that doesn’t work, the most simple advice we can give is an old saying, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” There are many appraisers out there, and there are many mortgage brokers (okay, not as many as there were) that will do what they can to earn your business. Shop around, find the broker that will not only get you the best rate, but also get the deal done. Keep in mind, sales that happened as little as six to nine months ago may really not apply depending on your property. Yes, the market has changed that much, that fast, in some parts of San Francisco. Others…not so much.

Do you, the reader, have a recommendation for a broker that you recently used? Did you have this same problem and how did you get around it, if at all? We’d love to hear your stories and thoughts, because we’re all in this together and we can all learn from each others mistakes and triumphs, so share the goods. You know we’d do the same.

The Data, Quotes, And Fine Print On San Francisco’s Foreclosure Activity


Some clarification on the median price drop and the value of your home:

Every Bay Area county experienced double-digit declines in the median price. The annual drops for existing homes ranged from 11.8 percent in San Francisco to 48.4 percent in Contra Costa County.

The median marks the point at which half the homes sold for more, half for less. It reflects the composition of homes sold rather than an across-the-board change in all home values.

It would be wrong to say that Bay Area home values are half of what they were a year and a half ago,” John Walsh, MDA DataQuick president, said in a statement. “Maybe half of the decline in median is a market mix issue and the rest a drop in value.”

And like we’ve said before, It’s a great time to be a buyer:

Chanthapak [person interviewed in article] bought another Richmond property with two homes on one lot for $90,000. He spent $30,000 on rehab, and now expects that property will have positive cash flow of $1,400 a month. He said renting out one of the homes will cover his mortgage, taxes and insurance, so rent from the other will be all profit.

…and the fine print:

Conversely, areas with few foreclosures, such as San Francisco, also had far fewer sales. The 180 existing homes sold in the city was down about 20 percent from last year; only 12.4 percent of those homes were foreclosures. Marin and San Mateo counties also saw sales volume decline and had relatively low foreclosure activity.

We’re happy to help with your real estate endeavors, but please don’t assume everything on the market is in, or close to, foreclosure.

-Home sales soar as foreclosures drive down prices [SFGate]

Cause Celeb: “The Monty” Drops Prices, Offers Dim Sum

Did we miss something? Has the Montgomery always been referred to as “the Monty”? And what’s up with Realtors’ ability to take any holiday and spin it into a reason to buy a piece of property?

The email subject: “The Monty celebrates Chinese New Year with New Pricing”.

Montgomery Slashing Prices

Clarification or lessons in history are appreciated…and as always, we’ll give 50% of our commission back to any buyers that register us as their agent. Just treat us to dim sum when all is said and done, and maybe a Tsingtao or 12.

“Arts and Crafts” house in Noe Valley

4207 26th street

4207 26th street

I started reading this listing for this 2 br 1 ba 998K 1252 feet per tax records listing, and I saw “arts and crafts.” Suddenly and I was like when a cartoon character does a triple take. You know that “uddity uddity uditty” sound accompanied by Fred Flintstone or Porky Pig or equivalent jerking his head side to front three or four times in a row? “Arts and Crafts” ? Simply because it has that faux rock on it? Arts and Crafts used real rock from local sources. Speaking of ole Fred Flintstone, that’s what I like to call the style house pictured above: “Town of Bedrock” style. Not Arts and Crafts.

Here’s the real deal:

Still Hip To Be Green In A Sea Of Gray

From Green Building via Green Key Real Estate:

Several studies affirmed the appeal of smart green buildings and their benefits. Among the more widely hailed was McGraw-Hill Construction’s report in November saying that the potential for continued growth in the green building market is huge. The study projected a possible tripling in the value of eco-friendly construction starts to reach as much as $140 billion in the next five years.

-Greener Buildings Top Stories 2008 [Greener Buildings]

Lembi’s List: The 51 Properties They’ve Given Back

We’ve had a fair bit of interest for the exact list of 51 properties Lembis have “deeded” back to the bank (deeds in lieu of foreclosure), so we did a little digging and are pleased to say we found it. If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments below, or better yet, drop us a line ( We’ll help where we can.

1. 1890 Clay 
  2. 1008 Larkin/982 Post
  3. 500 Hyde
  4. 500 Leavenworth St.
  5. 512 Van Ness 
  6. 750 O’Farrell
  7. 734 Bush Street
  8. 2001 Pierce
  9. 1735 Van Ness
  10. 510 26th Avenue
  11. 600 Stanyan
  12. 2265 Larkin
  13. 1082 Post St.
  14. 2100 Post
  15. 3299 Washington
  16. 1750 Franklin
  17. 2345 Larkin
  18. 2845 Pierce
  19. 1330 Mason
  20. 1300 Grant
  21. 825 Post
  22. Ben Franklin Hotel
  23. 642 Jones 
  24. 4130-4140 Cesar Chavez
  25. 837 Geary
  26. 3649 Market
  27. 808 Leavenworth
  28. 2400 Van Ness
  29. 1440 Washington
  30. 765 Sutter
  31. 72 Gough
  32. 625 Taylor 
  33. 300 Hyde
  34. 830 Sutter
  35. 655 Hyde
  36. 525 Hyde
  37. 1067 Washington
  38. 3015 Van Ness
  39. 1449 Washington
  40. 1616 Golden Gate
  41. 3755 Filmore
  42. 3124 Octavia
  43. 1837 Oak St.
  44. 1267 Filbert
  45. 943 Jackson
  46. 328 Hyde
  47. 60 Dearborn 
  48. 215 Guerrero
  49. 3947 18th Street
  50. 24 Belcher
  51. 1945 Hyde

-Lembi’s New Year’s Resolution: Give Back [theFrontSteps]

Lembi’s New Year’s Resolution: Give Back

San Francisco’s largest residential landlord, a voracious acquirer of properties during the boom, has deeded 51 of its apartment buildings back to lender UBS.

On Dec. 29, Trophy Properties, one of the limited liability corporations the Lembi Group operates, filed a “deed in lieu of foreclosure” on 20 properties. On Jan. 12, another 31 properties were given back to REF SF Properties, a company UBS set up to hold the assets. The portfolio the Lembi Group gave back included about 1,500 apartments, most of which are located in Lower Pacific Heights, Nob Hill, Russian Hill, the Marina, the Tenderloin and the Western Addition.

[Update: You can find the list of 51 properties by Clicking Here.]

-Lembi gives 51 buildings back to UBS [SF Business Times]