Reason To Live Here (In SF) # 16: You Are Not “B & T”, And You Rarely Have To Deal With This

tollplaza1
[Photo Source: Noah Berger]

We received this email last night from the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District, and we’re sure you all heard about the Emergent Closure of the Bay Bridge yesterday due to a “cantilever section made over Labor Day weekend[,which] snapped and crashed onto the upper deck of the span late [yesterday] afternoon, striking three vehicles and forcing the indefinite closure of the region’s busiest bridge”, but in case you hadn’t, now you know.

If you live and work in the city, emails and events like this should have little impact on your daily life (like us), but if you’re B & T, you’re bumming…

Golden Gate Transit Bus, Golden Gate Ferry and Gate Golden Bridge Customers:

In light of the closure of the Bay Bridge [last night] Tuesday, October 27, and the unknown timing of its re-opening, we want to caution all our passengers to expect delays on our systems during the closure. At the Golden Gate Bridge, we will have all lanes in the Toll Plaza opened by 4 am in anticipation of heavy southbound traffic and the roadway will be configured with 4 lanes southbound into San Francisco for the morning commute. Golden Gate Ferry will be prepared to add a high-capacity Spaulding vessel to operate after 7 am from Larkspur to San Francisco, depending on the passenger demand. Golden Gate Transit buses will operate as close to schedule as they possibly can, given the traffic.

Oh…we often forget we have a lot of out of town readers that might not know what exactly “B & T” means. Maybe one of our readers can clarify, because we don’t dare go there. ;-)

Yet another one of the many “reasons we live here” in the city.

“Caliber” Sets The Bar For (San Francisco) Photography

With several local photographers coming together on one site, Caliber (calibersf.com) is hands down the best photo blog we’ve ever seen in San Francisco, quite possibly on all of the internets, and it’s worth bookmarking and checking everyday.

[We couldn't pick just one "favorite" photo to show you as example, so we grabbed three.]
Yes, You're Loud
["Exploding Psychology"]

calibersfshoeshine1
["Shoe shine on Market Street"]

calibersfsmoke1
["Smoke 'em if you got 'em"]

You’ve likely already seen Caliber mentioned on any of the multiple San Francisco blogs around town, but we wanted to give them a chance to prove what they got before doing our little plug. Well, they’ve exceeded expectations and it’s quite simply an awesome site with really, really amazing photos and we’re more than happy to send them a little love, and send you their way.

Go ahead, you’re not that busy. Check them out.

-Caliber Photo Blog

Close Encounters Of The Blogger/Realtor Kind

Yesterday, I had a client meeting, but didn’t actually get to meet the client (long story), but the boyfriend was there to fill in, and I got this email today (edited for flow) that just makes me feel all warm and fuzzy:

Hey Alex,

Thanks for stopping by yesterday! Sorry I couldn’t make it. Thought I’d share the conversation I had with my boyfriend when I got home:

Boyfriend said “Have you met him?”
Me: “No, not in person.”
BF: “He seems pretty cool for a Realtor.”
Me: “He’s pretty cool for a human.”

Thanks for that! We’ll get together soon!

Oh but wait! According to this D-Bag, my numbers aren’t where they should be, so I’ll have to come back today and get you to sign on the dotted line. Okay?

Crime, Toxic Sites, Plan Your San Francisco Halloween (Or Home Search) With These Fun Maps!

It’s no secret, we love Property Shark, and if you’re serious about your San Francisco house hunting or Halloween, you should too. They’ve just released a new Crime Map that is frighteningly detailed (click on maps for larger images):

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A little zoom goes a long way when you’re looking to score (Trick-or-treating in this area, the Tenderloin, not advised. Unless, of course, you like rock candy):

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Ahhh….it gets better. Pair that crime map with their Toxic Sites Map and you have the recipe for hours of jaw-dropping fun! (It’s not advised to accept apples or organic “treats” from homes with a red “+” when trick-or-treating.)

psharkcrimetoxic2.1

For all of you home seekers, consider yourself disclosed as to whether those drug dealers out front of your dream home are there often, and whether that funny looking steel pipe coming up from the sidewalk really carries any significance or not. ;-)

Thank you to PropertyShark, and an early Happy Halloween to you all.

-SF Crime Maps [PropertyShark.com]
-Fun in the Tenderloin Map [Property Shark.com]
-Crime and Toxic Maps combined [PropertyShark.com]

Reader Reports: 1358 Cole Then ($800,000) And Now ($749,000)

1358cole1
The email:

Editor-

Take a look at this Cole Valley condo. Purchased in April 2005 for $800,000, relisted [11 days ago] for $749,000. No upgrades, no permit history, save for a new roof.

I would prefer to remain anonymous.

Thanks.

Anonymous you shall remain, thankful we shall be to all of the readers, including you, that send in tips.

We’d like to add, when it sold in 2005 for $800,000 it was listed at $749,000. Will history repeat itself? We can only hope.

-1358 Cole Street $800,000 Then

-1358 Cole Street, $749,000 Now

Price…Check, Dog Run…Check, Golf…Check, Triple 7 Truly Is A Lucky Address To Have All That

The price lured us in ($369,000 for a TIC at 77 7th Ave), but it’s the use of internet mapping technology to lure YOU in that earned a spot on our pages.

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Didn’t get it at first glance? Fret not, neither did we. Look again. It’s actually NOT a big green mass of something weird your eyes can’t make out, it’s an aerial shot of 7th Ave looking to the west with Mountain Lake Park, “one of the City’s favorite parks -right outside your back door! [And] a gate from the garden leads directly into the park! A dog owner’s dream!!”

But what if you love cats? Just don’t let them outside…

It is; however, a short “drive” away from Presidio Golf Course’s deceptively short par five second hole, for all you golf lovers out there.

presidiogolf1

Go ahead, we dare you to go driver from your roof. You’ve got the 777 on your side after all.

-77 7th Ave Unit B, $369,000

Things We Love About Real Estate: The Realtor Voicemail

Is it just us, or do Realtors always feel they have to let the world know they wouldn’t for a second think about doing anything but working? Case in point, the Realtor voicemail.

Try this for fun. Pick a Realtor, any Realtor (preferably a “top producer”…such a bogus title, but we won’t go there), and call their voicemail. Chances are really good you’ll hear something like this:

“Hi, this is so and so, and it’s Wednesday morning at 9:00 a.m., I’ll be in and out of the office on appointments all day and checking voicemail periodically.”
Translation: My tee time is at 9:30, so I’ll get back to you in about 5 hours after my 18 holes.

Here’s another:
“Hi, this is so and so and you’ve reached my voicemail. I’m either on the phone or out with clients, so please leave a message and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.”
Translation: I never go to the office, and I’m guaranteed to not be on the phone, but if I tell myself and you that I’m on the phone it makes me sound and feel busier, and I’m really not out with clients in my car in the age of the internet, I just wish I was. I think I’ll get a pedicure today.

One more:
“Hi, this is so and so, top producer 1999,2000, 2002-2009. For more information about my listings please check my website at http://www.aplusrealtor.com. If you’ve reached my voicemail I’m either on the phone or out with one of my many clients touring property, but I’m never too busy for you and your referrals. Please leave a message and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.”
Translation: Leave a message, and then read more about me and my awesomeness at http://www.imajackass.com, because I love stroking my ego. Not enough info there? Look for me plastered all over the shopping carts at your local supermarket. Aren’t my teeth so shiny and white? Never mind that my picture is 25 years old, I still got it! And how cute are my dogs!?

We just don’t get it. Do you?

Get Naked And Think About What You Could Do With Your Shower

Do you ever stand in your shower, let the water cascade down your naked body, and think about how you’d change it (your shower that is) if you could?

Here are a few interesting shower ideas I’ve run across recently in my speccing adventures. Porcelanosa has a bunch of elegant looking shower pans if you want to go the prefabricated route. They start at around $1200, more than twice the cost of something more generic, but so much nicer.

RAS shower pan from Porcelanosa
ras2

If you’re going the mortar & tile rout, there’s nothing cooler than a linear drain. Not only because the drain itself is so attractive; it allows for a much cleaner tile installation. It doesn’t have to be cut up into 4 triangles like with a common round drain. Just a clean, unbroken tile floor slanting toward one wall.

A linear drain from Quick Drain:

There are some other good options out there as well, like the “invisible” slot drain. I really like some of these solutions, because they can really add some interest, and make for a very clean installation. Sure these products are a little more expensive on their own, but in many cases are cheaper to install than a conventional round drain tile & mortar shower pan, and they look a helluva lot cooler.

So the next time you find yourself “standing in the shower thinkin’” about all the things you’d change in life, just think about how you could change your shower instead. And if you’re someone that prefers a nice hot bath and a cup o’ tea, lemme know and I’ll give you some options for that too.

-Sven Lavine, San Francisco architect.

And So Ends My Tenure…

Alex Clark, the true Frontsteps frontman, shall return from Indonesia tomorrow, barring travel problems. While he’s been among those islands, so have earthquakes and landslides and buried hotels, so let’s wish him a safe and happy return.

Thanks, everyone, for the excellent commentary on my visiting editor blogs. It’s been fun hanging with you on the ‘Steps.

 

Lands End trail, via Joe Jankovic, San Francisco Scenes

Another Reason to Love Living Here: The Heights

Seacliff in San Francisco

Fridays are for less serious real estate topic-age, so here is a meaningless poll and a tribute to another characteristic that makes SF unique.

Riding my bike through the Presidio last Saturday, I decided to cruise Presidio Heights. And oh my, the elevation-  in status, I mean. It’s dizzying. The homes are palatial, complete with giant grand pianos, harps, chandeliers,  all of which one can glimpse through elaborate stained glass windows. This got me wondering: why did I pick “teacher” as a career path?

But I digress. From a real estate standpoint, which Heights are really the highest (as in, highest class)? Where would you most desire to spend your halcyon days?

For my money, the top four are Presidio Heights, Pacific Heights, Telegraph Hill, and Sea Cliff.

No offense to any other Heights or Hills. Let’s be honest: SF is chock full of breath taking views from almost every corner (and I’d be thrilled to own a house in any of them), but if we include proximity to open space (like the Presidio or the ocean), the size of the homes and their lots, yards (front, back, side) and those cool carriage houses in back that are bigger than most people’s primary residences, then really, these four take the cake.

But I’m a sucker for parks and beaches, and if I have to pick from there, it’s sand and surf forever. My vote then is Sea Cliff.

Here are four ridiculously lush listings, one in each of my hypothetical contender’s neighborhoods. Study them, perhaps shedding a tear for your own career choice. From your own city explorer insight, which height is really the tops? Are certain areas more steady as investments? Are these places really worth all this dough? And are there really still enough buyers for places like this? After all, the four below are just four of myriad listings on the MLS for well over 3 million dollars, when the the San Francisco Census put the median income in our fair city at less than $70k.

2901 Broadway (Pacific Heights) (7 Bedroom mansion for $45 million.)

37 Presidio Ave (Presidio Heights)  (7 Bedroom single family for or $5, 395,000)

632 El Camino Del Mar (Sea Cliff) (5 Bedroom single family for $9,000,000)

 1454 Kearny St. (Telegraph Hill) (3 Bedroom single family for $3,500,000)

 

Sea Cliff shot via Panoramio

Success Story: A Buyer Finally Becomes an Owner

 

This blog is graciously donated by Missionite, long time reader of and writer for The Frontsteps, as well as writer of his own blog, Submedian.

FINALLY GOT ONE

Well we finally got one. We just got the keys and haven’t moved in yet. Despite the market conditions we didn’t get a steal, paid over asking, and in fact the home didn’t appraise so we had to bring some extra money to close as well as convince the sellers to come down a little. On the other hand the home needs only a paint job and a chimney sweep, is big enough for our family of four, is close to things that are important (school, shopping, park, friends, backyard), far from things we don’t like (noise, crime) and is as good a fit for our needs as we could hope for. Most of our new neighbors have lived in the neighborhood for ten years or more so we have a nice stable piece of San Francisco to call home.
With two little ones in desparate need of a yard we weren’t in a position to wait anymore and frankly we were just out of patience. Our criteria was what can we afford right now that we can bear to live in for the next ten years. And on that front we are satisfied. The big lesson I have walked away with here (which will make the realtors happy) is that what you pay for a house has no correlation to it’s actual value. As some of you probably know we have spent literally years bidding on foreclosures, fixers, probates, stale fish, etc trying to get a bargain and have come up empty handed every time (I haven’t blogged about the last couple misadventures but there have been a few and one in particular just about broke our heart). But the times we were denied did give us more time and eventually our savings caught up to the point that we could actually compete and in the end we wound up buying in a normal deal with normal sellers putting our well-over-asking offer in the day it listed and even then apparently not having the highest offer, but winning because we offered a damn fast close.
The asking price, the comps, everything you think you know about a property is meaningless when it comes to the final price. It all boils down to whether you are in a class that has a lot of other buyers. As a family looking for a family home in a city that isn’t exactly loaded with quality inventory for families, we eventually learned we were going to have to either pay more than we would like, or not have anything at all. If you are in the market for a condo, or something on the top end of the market I think it’s a different experience, but reasonably priced homes appropiate for a family with young children are tough nuts to crack.
Anyway, I’m happy to start worrying about lawn care now. Home depot has new meaning to me and I can’t wait to make my first visit there with serious intent.

_________________________________________________________

Congrats to you, and thanks to you, for sharing your win, Missionite. Your advice will be of help to buyers, as will your fabulous rent vs.buy calculator, a resource so good it’s been co-opted by Apple and will soon appear as an app for the I-phone! Check it out here.

Photo: homeownershipu.com

Inner-Sunset Sprouting Condos

Inner-Sunset, home to much good food, a few good bars, a few bad bars, the prohibitively expensive Andronico’s, and UCSF, will soon be home to new condos. On my block alone (9th Ave., past Moraga St.) there are two sites going up or planned to go up. One is adjacent to my deck, where I once saw the Bay, and now see the back of someone’s bedroom to be. I have no idea if this very tall building will be apartments for rent or condos for sale, but it will have several units, a garage, and a penthouse. On the other side of the street, where a long defunt Moraga Market has been little more than place to try out graffiti tags and dump unwanted sofas, construction is also in the works. The lot has sold, a hearing has taken place. All that’s left is to break ground.

Finally, quite done are the condos on 7th Ave., near Irving St. The photo above is from before the facades were placed. Now they are gorgeous Art Deco looking things with burnished copper and huge windows. The agent, Gary Small of Zephyr, tells me that the units are luxury one and two bedroom condos with underground parking, and that the two free-standing cottages that stood in a lot behind the building that sits on the street have been revamped. Some lucky millionare can thus own a little house all his or her own!

It’s the most action the Inner-Sunset has seen since a bunch of drunks from the Mucky Duck tried to scale a MUNI train. Sadly for we middle income buyers, the luxury condo lable means these new homes, exciting though they are, will not be ours.

Oh well. Drinking at the Mucky Duck is always an alternative.

PHOTO: Socketsite

Another Reason to Love Living Here

The FrontSteps likes to remind us of the reasons why we live in this fine city. Sometimes it is easy to forget: for instance, the third say in a week you find a ticket under your windshield wiper. I overheard a gentleman on the N-Judah the other day who, in response to a friend asking if he wouldn’t miss the city once he moved away, said “If ever I miss San Francisco, I will take a dump on my own doorstep and write myself a parking ticket.”

Such anger. No, we need to step away from the DPT and look around at our sparkling water views and ridiculously gorgeous architecture. And we need to visit the Academy of Sciences museum– for free.

If you’ve been scared off by the lines which have still not dwindled, let me assure you, a visit is worth the wait. Not only is the building spectacular, but the exhibits are as well. Plus, the roof is alive! And the planetarium is like an I-MAX theater. There’s even a rain forest!

The below is completely lifted from the California Academy of Sciences “Plan a Visit” page. It’s worth looking into this free day since general admission is pretty steep ($24.95). I’ve enjoyed some of the boozy Thursday night “Nightlife” $10 affairs, but these are exceedingly crowded and perhaps less scholarly than a day visit would be.

So take your proof or residency and enjoy your reward for being a San Franciscan!

Amazing musuem roof picture via California Academy of Sciences

Disclose or Dissemble?

My recent almost first time buyer identity was shattered by a disturbing disclosure. Or rather, by a failure to to disclose the disclosures. A Realtor, who shall remain nameless (and is in Portland, OR, anyway), had us almost in contract before I ever lay eyes on the disclosures, at which time I discovered

1. Lead paint

2. Mold in basement

3. Leak in basement (only in “heavy rains.” Mind you, this home is in Portland, OR. Heavy rain is as expected as death and taxes. Let’s call it a leak then, yes?)

4. Electrical panel had been recalled. “Some” repairs were made.

5. “Slight” leak in upstairs bath.

6. Entire basement, including a bath, constructed without permits.

7. Warp in foundation, assured to be a “non-issue” since seller had been told this 10 years ago when he bought the home.

8. No evidence available the oil tank had been decomissioned.

Upshot? We were advised to not only have the home inspected ($350), but to have a structural engineer look at the foundation ($350), have the soil tested for evidence of oil tank ($50-$225), hire an expert electrician to examine the re-done electrical ($200 or more), and to ignore the lead paint as it’s part of old houses, or to plan to strip down hundreds of years of paint layers to get it out. Further, we were told that the mold and leaks were not really problems and that the inspector who’d noted them was incompetent, and that his report contained many “grammar and spelling errors”; thus, his opinion mattered nil.

Well! I’m a first time buyer, maybe I mentioned. I’m shy and timid around things like mold, even if they are spelled mollllld. And I don’t feel like spending over a $1000 to inspect a house I might not even buy.

Is this normal? Is it part of due dilligence to basically inspect and reinspect every inch of the home to discover what really is a “small” non-issue and what is going to cost me my retirement savings to repair? I remember looking at homes in SF wherein the disclosures were sitting on the counter, next to all the Realtor business cards. Is it par for the course that these essential documents might not turn up until the potential buyer is one minute away from signing her earnest money away?

You all are the experts here. Comments welcome, as long as they don’t come with the $350 price-tag.

 

Drawing: i.ehow

Readers Ask: Readers Know (Usually)

The Frontsteps is littered with experts, so when a reader asks a question, seems like the highest form of logic is to simply pose that question to the aforementioned experts.

Yesterday I asked if any, any, any reduction in price could make being a landlord for a full occupied, multi-unit property worthwhile. One reader, in response, asked:

By deliadelia on Oct 1, 2009 |

Hey all, is any reader on here a landlord? Is it really as bad as all I hear? I am thinking of trying to leverage a tenant as income to buy a 2 unit building (1 empty, 1 occupied). I’m not sure what I’m getting into.

I’m nowhere near a landlord, not even in my dreams, so I can’t say much here. Anyone else able to help Delia?

BFD Price Reductions

A post wherin I look at price reductions that seem to be pointless.

1. Courtesy of SF Schtuff, 1001 California St., #3 is a super lux condo in the old Hitchcockian San Francisco splendor. (MLS gallery offers house porn to die for, here.)

The original price here was $7,250,000. Now it’s $6,950,000. Indeed, one could argue a $300K price break is nothing to sneeze at. But really, the person who can afford the new price could also afford the old price, especially since this home includes an HOA of $5886 per month. So, $300,000? Big  ****ing deal. The monthly payments are still going to top the GNP of certain third world countries.

Here’s another reduction I don’t think makes any difference. 2421 Clement St. This is a 10 unit building, “fully rented,” originally priced at $1,435,888. More than 50 days later, it’s reduced to $1,398,000.

In this case,  it’s not so much the amount of the reduction. I just wonder who would ever want to buy a 10-unit building in SF when every other day a law here makes being a landlord a bigger headache than it already was. In fact, this Examiner article highlights the dubious joys of landlords who are currently suing the city to block such laws. Good luck.

So I wonder, in the world of real estate, if price reductions aren’t sometimes just not that much of an incentive after all.

—————

Photo of 1001 California, #3 via listing agent Betty Brachman, Brachman Group.