How To Successfully Reduce Your Property Tax Basis In San Francisco?

From one agent, to their company, and we’re bringing it to you.

I have some clients who applied to the Tax Board to have their property tax basis reduced and the city rejected it, even though they presented valid comps indicating their property value has decreased (they live in Pacific Heights). I’m wondering if [any Realtors] or their clients have had a successful experience appealing this type of decision, and if they have any suggestions for the appeal.

We have no suggestions, but can tell you our Inbox currently has four “unread” emails asking us for assistance running comps to help some owners fight this very same battle. You are certainly not alone.

So…who has won, and what helped get you there? Who has lost, and why?

Any insight is appreciated. Please share your experiences (good or bad) in the comments below.

Palm Springs We Are Not, Shocking Information This Is

From a reader who’s email says, “The housing crisis summed up in one house in Palm Springs”:

Check this out – from NPR’s Plante Money exercises:
Twitter Tweet 1 for this info on one Palm Springs House:

Date           Event           Price            Appreciation            Source

Apr 30, 2009   Sold      $32,500    -87.1%/yr       Public Records
Feb 08, 2008    Sold      $399,479    -8.3%/yr        Public Records
Sep 22, 2006   Sold       $450,000    28.4%/yr     Public Records
Sep 20, 2005  Sold      $350,000    63.3%/yr      Public Records
Jul 30, 2004   Sold       $200,000     89.0%/yr     Public Records
Oct 06, 2003   Sold      $119,000     24.3%/yr      Public Records
Oct 11, 2002   Sold       $96,000    114.3%/yr      Public Records
Jun 28, 2001   Sold      $36,000    -26.2%/yr      Public Records
Apr 16, 2001   Sold      $38,250      –                        Public Records

and then this

Twitter Tweet 2 for this info on the house across the street:

Date          Event                 Price               Appreciation         Source

May 19, 2009    Sold      $47,500        -68.6%/yr       Public Records
Jan 15, 2008    Sold       $225,000       7.4%/yr         Public Records
Jan 31, 2005    Sold       $182,000       22.8%/yr        Public Records
Jul 09, 2003    Sold       $132,000       96.3%/yr        Public Records
May 08, 2002    Sold     $60,000        -12.3%/yr       Public Records
Oct 24, 2001    Sold       $64,392          -8.4%/yr       Public Records
Feb 01, 2000   Sold      $75,000         112.1%/yr       Public Records
Nov 13, 1998   Sold      $30,000         -79.0%/yr      Public Records
Apr 14, 1998   Sold       $74,598         -0.1%/yr         Public Records
Mar 03, 1992   Sold      $75,000          271.3%/yr   Public Records
Jun 01, 1990    Sold      $7,500             –                       Public Records

Apologies for the horrible formatting on the columns (working remotely), but the information is there nonetheless.  Thanks to the reader, and (raising glass of wine in the air), “Here’s to the end of the Recession, please!”

Google Goes Real Estate Search

To the untrained eye it might look as if our lovely city by the bay has the Chickenpox. Alas! ‘Tis not the case. It’s just Google getting into the game of real estate, and leave it up to them to do it right (

[Note: These below maps are embedded on this site and you can play around all you want right cool is that!?]

Not a fan of the Satellite image search, and need to know your streets? Go for the basic street map:

Wondering if your future home is on a hill and whether you can sell your Thigh Master? Zoom in and go Terrain:

[Note: You can even go Street View]

Wondering if you’re future home is close to public transportation and how the traffic in the area is? They have that too.

In fact, you can get photos, webcams, wikipedia and all sorts of information about the area you want to put down roots all by clicking around the maps.

Proximity to good coffee? It’s probably on there too.

It makes searching for a home by area so unbelievably simple (not as simple and effective as actually getting in the car or walking your future ‘hood…assuming you’re not relocating cross continent), but simple nonetheless. Contacting those with the listings and not getting shuffled to some third party site that is essentially rebroadcasting MLS data on their site (which Google is then able to “crawl” and display…we’re guessing) is a bit tricky. The information certainly has a time delay as to what is displayed, when you click on properties there is enough error that we’ve discovered to make us not entirely certain about the price or details of a property and whether it is, in fact, still available, and price reductions aren’t showing up all too real time either, but the data is there, and it’s cool. Really cool. It just needs to find its wings, and we have no doubt it will.

Check it out, if you haven’t done so already.

Condominium Versus Single Family Homes (The Data)

Misha Weidman is back and he brings us this little nugget (also posted on his site):

Condos vs. SFDs All Districts Chart

…and this quote to go along with it:

Until June 2008, condo and home prices were in lock-step in terms of price appreciation and decline. Thereafter, homes fell first and further. In March 2009, the delta between condos and home prices was a whopping 13%. Since then, however, home prices have recovered smartly: as of June, homes are about 4.5% further off their all-time highs than condos.

What does this all mean? First of all, I wouldn’t take too much consolation just yet in the upward spike in both condo and home prices since the beginning of the year. If you take a look at the chart, this happens every Jan/Feb when people start buying out of the winter doldrums. I wouldn’t predict a bottom until we see what happens this winter.
Still, the current delta of only $100,000 between median condo and median home prices seems rather small. If people are just begging to know what the historical average is, let me know and I’ll find out.

Thank you! And we’d bet there are a few that would love a little historical average.

-Misha’s Blog and place for more data crunching

2185 Bush #307 At The Amelia Price Reduced (almost) $100,000!

Shameless plug is the name of the game here. Moments ago we chopped the price of 2185 Bush #307 from $869,000 (previously $899,000) down to $799,999. Are you kidding! This is a 3 bed, 2 bath, 1290 square foot condo with high ceilings, wood burning fireplace, patio, and so much more in one of the best locations around (we could almost call this Pacific Heights, but it is technically in Lower Pacific Heights), so please spread the word.

2185 Bush #307:

If you, or anybody you know, are interested in a great condo in a superb location, drop us a line or come visit the property Sunday 7/26 from 2-4pm for an Open House. This is a great unit and it (hopefully) won’t last long on the market at this new price.

-2185 Bush #307, $799,999 [listing detail]

San Francisco Property Sales And Prices Continued Rising In June, But Still Down From 2008

We’ve been getting a lot of requests lately to run comparable property reports for homeowners looking to reduce their property taxes, and having to fight an uphill battle against the city proving their case that our market has, in fact, declined on more levels than one. Here is a little bit of information for San Francisco that might help.

Sales of single-family, re-sale homes and condos continued rising last month [June] as we move through the Spring selling season. Home sales were up 16.9% from May, off 2.41% year-over-year. Year-to-date, home sales are down 17.1%.

Condo sales were up 20.5% month-over-month, but off 15% compared to June 2008. Year-to-date, condo sales are down 33.9%.

The median price for single-family homes rose for the third month in a row. The median price rose 3.2% from May, but was down 5.7% year-over-year. The average price also rose, gaining 9.5% month-over-month, but down 12.3% compared to last June.

The median price for loft/condos in San Francisco dipped 0.5% from May, and was down 15.1% year-over-year. The average price for condos fell 5.4% month-over-month, and was off 16.2% year-over-year.

The above information is from the Real Estate Report, a detailed version of which you can find by clicking that link.

Here’s the question. There are many different sources out there reporting on the data at hand and they all slice it differently. DataQuick looks at the big (Statewide, Bay Area picture), SocketSite takes their data and always finds a way to focus on the negative, and Realtors will always focus on the positive (we’ll get that data to you shortly), so the question is who to believe?

As for why the city continues to not see the obvious, maybe a good ophthalmologist recommendation is in order.

[Update: Right after putting this post live, we did another one with more data, that is still different than the other two data points we referred to above: Stats & Numbers San Francisco Home Sales June '08 Versus June '09.]

Quote Du Jour: Inner Richmond Is STweet (That’s Sweet In Twitter Speak)

Sometimes you just gotta go looking around the web for the information you need to draw a conclusion about where to plant your roots in San Francisco. Today, we turn your attention to Brittney G of Eye On Blogs, who had this to say about the Inner Richmond:


Hanging in the Inner Richmond. It’s great. Virtually hipster free and no waiting for drinks in crowded bars.

We could just ReTweet this, but thought it deserved a little more attention than that. Nice work Inner Richmond! You got props for not having to do a thing except be yourself.

…and it gets better, “The Inner Richmond, I enjoy your soundtrack very much.“-Brittney G.

In San Francisco It’s Ritual Coffee Roasters Versus Blue Bottle Coffee


Having just purchased our first bag of “Sweet Tooth Espresso” from Ritual Roasters after more than six years of dedicated grinding, tamping, and pouring exclusively of Blue Bottle Coffee, we’re a bit torn as to what to do. We’ve had Ritual on many different occasions, but allowing their beans to enter into the home, and thus the home espresso machine, is akin to having an affair right in front of your one true love.

Well, we’re giving it a go and Blue Bottle is going to have to be patient, but it got us thinking about which is “better” (or perhaps more popular is the real question), and why.

Our argument is for Blue Bottle, for what they have done to transform the landscape of coffee in San Francisco and the way a good espresso drink is poured and consumed. They’ve also transformed otherwise dumpy locales into hotbeds of activity (Linden Alley in Hayes Valley, and Mint Plaza in SOMA), and one could argue had a direct impact on property values (commercial and residential) in those areas. Blue Bottle knew how to draw a crowd at the Ferry Building and somehow keep people interested when the line stretched around the building. They’ve built a following, and continue to crank out excellent coffee in the same manner as when they began. Service at their Linden location is always with a smile (Mint Plaza staffers could use a little help in that regard), and although loaded with hipsters, you don’t get the feeling you’re just not hip enough to visit Blue Bottle Coffee.

We’re still warming up to Ritual, and don’t know enough about their flavors and their store to draw a completely honest opinion (first impressions have all been good), but as stated, they’re in our grinder and in our home now, so we ask…if YOU had to choose, would it be Ritual Roasters or Blue Bottle Coffee? At the very least, you have to admit it is just one of the many reasons we live here.

Oh…as for the logo competition, you gotta love Ritual’s.

[Editor's Note: Or is there someplace we're missing that we need to try? If you say Starbucks, you should be shot, and/or deported to a life in Strip Mall Suburbia Hell, because we got news for you, that ain't coffee, and how Starbucks made it past San Francisco's Anti Chain Store Law is beyond us.]

[Update: We'll definitely be trying De La Paz, and SightGlass soon enough!]

Father Of tFS Client Saved Michael Jackson From Flames During Pepsi Commercial Shoot

Click to hear audio of interview

How ’bout a little celebrity (postmortem) juice to take you to the weekend. As it turns out, my client’s Dad actually saved Michael Jackson during the hair catching on fire incident, when filming the Pepsi commercial. Certainly, many of you remember that. My client has been contacted by Access Hollywood and the list of (gossip) media sharks contacting his father goes on and on.

Rest assured, my client bought a modest house in a modest neighborhood and all fire code safety regulations have been met. I’ve also advised him not to stand too close to the BBQ on the patio when cooking with flames!

Have a good weekend. Here’s the dirt from TMZ:
Fire Capt. Blames Director For Jackson’s Burns

…and “the harrowing, never-before-seen footage of the singer’s 1984 Pepsi commercial accident” from US Weekly:
Click to be taken to video

Update: Pool Party On Broadway! Marco….Polo….Fish Outta Water! (And Now On The Market)

[Update: Our original tip ran in May of this year, and now as "Curbed SF" reports, it's on the market (in MLS)...with photos.]

From a connected reader:

Designed in 1922 by Frederick Meyer (think Bill Graham Auditorium) [2950 Broadway] is a serious presence on outer Broadway’s Gold Coast and I think the only one with a pool.



…and not yet on MLS, but we’d be glad to get you in early. ;-)


Asking $39,500,000.00.

Lifeguard not on duty, and Toyotas parked out front not included.

-2950 Broadway [website]

A San Francisco Photo Blog Worth A Look


You might be wondering what the hell a picture of Heineken beer has to do with San Francisco. Nothing, but the blog this photo came from is pretty damn sweet, and the author/photographer (a fellow San Franciscan) has done a great job capturing San Francisco by photo (not the cheesy, touristy crap either).

“Plug 1″, the author, has been reading theFrontSteps, and contributing photos to us from time to time, for quite some time, but I just now had the time to sit down and really check out “What I’m Seeing”, and I’m seeing some good stuff. I invite you to check it out as well,


Photo Source: Duh! “What I’m Seeing

TRI/Coldwell Banker Of San Francisco Gets Robbed…Perp Caught On Tape

According to sources close to TRI/Coldwell Banker, this is the crook that broke into their offices. Word has spread to other local brokerages to beware, and we’re spreading the word to you.


And like Garrett of SF Schtuff pointed out in the comments below, “It’s so funny to me that they are wearing the burglar uniform—i mean, really, if you don’t cover your face, do you have to wear all black clothes and a beanie…”

But of course (said with a French accent).

In Real Estate, Size Does Matter

We have been a bit M.I.A, but our readers certainly haven’t lost their need to send us tips. Please keep them coming! (

I think the size of a dwelling is an important matter, especially in San Francisco. Would you start a thread? [We can try.]

‘I know my home is too small when ….’
and the twin post
‘I know my home is too big when …’


Okay, we’ll indulge first…I know my home is too small when I walk into a port-o-potty and think…”Wow! This is HUGE!”


On the other hand, I know my home is too large when I yell at my kids to “go to your room”, and they ask me where it is, and I can’t answer.

Your turn….

-Walkabout: Los Altos Edition, and a $7M price reduction [theFrontSteps]

To Save Money On Painting, Build Your Own Scaffolding!

There are several ways to save money when painting a home in San Francisco, the most common being to do the job yourself. But should your painter be building their own scaffolding to save costs on their end? It does provide for good entertainment watching them risk their lives painting though. Seems a ladder would be just as effective (dangerous).


In case you’re just not getting the magnitude of how rickety this structure (if you want to call it that) is, we have another picture for you.


What’s worse (we should have snapped a photo of this too), the base support consists of 4×4 blocks simply resting on the ground and the 2x4s you see holding this thing together are simply nailed into the sides of said blocks!

Crazy? Stupid? Common? Or all of the above? One thing’s for sure, you won’t find us up there…we’ll use the ladder, thanks.

Tenants Be Damned! Gavin Drops The Axe On Daly Et Al

Sent by way of tipster from SF Weekly:

[Gavin Newsom comes through] with his long-promised veto of a package of tenant-friendly laws that won Board of Supervisors approval last month. On Friday at around 4:50 p.m., Newsom fired up his veto pen; in order to beat the 5 p.m. deadline, we’re told that his aide actually had to break into a run to make the clerk’s office.

…Ted Gullicksen of the San Francisco Tenants Union told SF Weekly that he and other tenant advocates will push the supes to overturn the mayor’s veto — which, incidentally, is something the board has only managed to do only twice in both of Newsom’s terms. Failing that — and failing is a healthy possibility — they’ll try to get some of these measures on the ballot for a November election.

Wondering what the hell is all the fuss, here’s a recap of what Chris Insane in the Brain Daly proposed via City Insider/SFGate:

Supervisor Chris Daly plans to introduce a series of new laws that’s intended to help renters during these tough economic times — a proposal that is likely to anger landlords.
The proposals include the suspension of any rent increases that would cause a tenant’s rent to exceed one-third of their income; expansion of the rights of tenants who want to add roommates to help pay their rent; and limiting the amount of “banked” rent increases — where annual rent increases allowed under city laws are saved up and then imposed at one time — to 8 percent.
Ted Gullicksen, head of the San Francisco Tenants Union, said the package will help the large number of renters that are being laid off or having their pay cut.

Yippee Ki Yay! More future fun for property owners in San Francisco guaranteed!

It’s a good thing nothing happens quickly in San Francisco politics, because the recession will be over and tenants back to work before they reach an agreement on any of this, and maybe they’ll just forget about it.

Oceanfront Property For San Francisco…Just Over The Bridge On Sacramento Patio

Believe it or not, San Francisco has a couple beaches that actually have a beach scene, but if you want to really feel the beachy vibe, head on over the Golden Gate Bridge to Stinson Beach. (Make sure to pack a sweater, and ignore the bone chilling water and gigantic man-eating sharks that frequent the waters.)


As it turns out, it seems there is a bit of a “discount” on property up there and the agents holding many of the listings want you to know about it:

Fellow Agents

There are some incredible homes available in STINSON BEACH and BOLINAS. From Oceanfront to “almost Oceanfront”.

As for California Oceanfront, it has been one of the best investments in the world, and one you get to enjoy while it is an investment!

True it is, and there are in fact some great homes for sale up there, one of which includes this nice little shack to stash the children (or surfboards, wetsuits, umbrella, keg, bong, and other beach paraphernalia).


For more on how you can obtain the $2,450,000 home that comes with this shack, check the website. For an even more complete list of oceanfront property that could very well send you to nirvana, give us a shout and we’ll gladly show you what else is out there, and call you our friend and come visit…that is the point right? “REMEMBER: IF YOUR FRIENDS BUY BEACH HOUSES, YOU DON’T HAVE TO!!!”

-4 Sacramento Patio, Stinson Beach, CA [Property Website]

If You Must Leave San Francisco, Chew On This

Every time we leave San Francisco we’re reminded just how great this city is, and sometimes we write posts about it. We often have our words taken out of context and are continually blasted for being selfish, sleazy Realtors, and we must always aim to please everyone all the time, because anyone is a potential client. Not so any more. We don’t care if we don’t see eye to eye with you. So here goes…

Aside from property values plunging and being able to snatch up homes for pennies on the dollar (albeit in ghost developments where every home looks alike), there is limited cultural life to speak of outside of San Francisco, and no compelling reason to leave the city (by choice). Do what it takes to stay here, life is not better out there! Cars, people, portions, roads, stores, EVERYTHING grows in size exponentially, and we are 100% convinced America is still primarily Ford F-150 country. If we San Franciscans think we have this global warming, let’s all be greener than thou, thing in the bag and the tide is turning…think again. The rest of the country is so far behind it is not even funny, and most of them (bet they voted for McCain/Palin) just don’t seem to care. It’s saddening and maddening all at the same time.

We are convinced if you move out of a city center, or urban area, your chances of getting overweight, lazy, uncultured, and bored grow with every day you spend driving your car to the store, shopping at Sam’s Club, eating at less than stellar restaurants (did we mention the huge portions), and generally living the American dream of excess. Are there exceptions? Sure, there always are, and we applaud those people living in “Red” America that are trying to make a difference and live a good, healthy life full of culture, stimulation, exercise, and education. We also applaud those people that have helped build and protect our country as many of them live outside of our Urban hotbeds.

Are we perfect? Absolutely not. Are the residents “out there” any less of a person than we are? Absolutely not? Are we better than them? No. But you can’t help notice these things when you leave San Francisco (pick a highway and drive East), and it reminds us, every time, how nice it is to be in the San Francisco Bay Area. So, if you or your friends are thinking of leaving this city to have a “better life” outside of San Francisco, have them give us a shout. We’ll set them straight. It’s not all roses on the other side of the grass.

Of course it is a lot cheaper and easier (not to mention the land is available) to take this


and make it this,


so perhaps we stand corrected.

If you must leave, we hope some of you departing San Franciscans can take some of the things you’ve learned here, and transplant them “out there”, so Americans can learn a little style, shrink in size, and realize this global warming thing is for real and it is no longer cool to consume, consume, consume.

If you live “out there”, and have proof to prove us otherwise, feel free to share in the comments below, or send us the proof via email. We’ll gladly hear your side of the story too.

With that, it’s on with the show….

[Editor's Update: Chew on this too.]