Spring Break!

Hello all,

My children are on Spring Break this week, and although I thought I’d have time to post, I really don’t. I’ll be back next week. In the meantime, I am still answering emails and phone calls should you have any questions about San Francisco real estate, or should you need to write an offer or list your home.

If you’re looking for something to browse while I’m away, you can always check out PocketListings.net.

What Makes A Room A Bedroom?

What is it exactly that makes that room a bedroom? The question has come across my email enough, and actually I think I even posted on it at some point. Well, it’s resurfaced and maybe time to hash it out, as the opinions on what makes a room a bedroom are anything but concrete.

The initial question:

A few months ago an email was circulated as to what defines a bedroom. There were several responses, but if I remember correctly a bedroom does not have to have a closet to be a bedroom…

And the varying replies from various real estate agents:

-My understanding is it technically must have a window – ideally with a means of egress
-My understanding is two methods of egress. A door, and another door or a window or some way to get out in the case of an emergency. No closet necessary.
-Operable window, that a person can fit through AND the minimum size is 70 square feet, where the minimum for one of the dimensions is 7 feet.
-I believe that HUD requires a closet in order to count it as a bedroom for financing purposes. A lender could probably clarify that.
-I’d suggest using the International Uniform Building code that refers to a specific size of window based on square footage of BR. It needs to have a door and a window and the window has to be the right proportion. Read More.
-The Building Code requires an operable egress window with minimum size requirements as [the other agent] indicated. In addition the window needs to be sized for light and air requirements. If I remember correctly it is 10% of the floor area. A closet is not a requirement to satisfy the building code, but it may be a HUD requirement for financing, as [another agent] mentioned.

Perhaps the most accurate answer?

1. The first bedroom must be at least 120 square feet.
2. If your first bedroom is at least 120 square feet, you get to call your second bedroom a bedroom if it’s at least 70 square feet with 7’ on a side.
3. Required natural light and air: 8% of floor area of natural light, and 4% of floor area of air (operable window). A traditional double-hung window can cover both bases, because when it is open, it provides half the air as natural light.
4. Minimum clear headroom of 7’-6”
5. You need two means of egress. One may be a window. If the second is the window, fire department requires minimum area for personnel access of width 20”, minimum height 24” with net clear opening minimum of 5.7 square feet.
6. A closet is required.

And the first comment from that thread:

What you’ve written here is not entirely correct – I believe you may be conflating Realtor’s rules-of-thumb with actual Code requirements.

1) Sort of. Any habitable room (Living Rm, Dining Rm, etc) can be larger than 120 SF (2007 CBC SEC 1208.3)
2) Correct. Minimum Habitable room size (includes bedrooms) is 70 SF, 7′ minimum width (2007 CBC SEC 1208.3 & 1208.1)
3) These are correct window areas for required natural light (8% floor area) and ventilation (4% floor area), but neither is required if sufficient artificial light and mechanical ventilation are supplied (2007 CBC 1203.4.1 & 1205.3).
4) Correct – Minimum ceiling height for Habitable rooms is 7′-6″, however it is 7′-0″ for bathrooms, storage, kitchen, laundry (2007 CBC 1208.2).
5) Sort of. Only one exit (Means of Egress) is required, the other is an Emergency Escape & Rescue requirement. This is not a Fire Department requirement, it is a California Building Code requirement (SEC 1026.1)
6) Wrong. No closet is required by any State or Local code (Building, Housing, Health or otherwise).

So there you have it…the jury is clearly still out on this one. My advice, get used to living in closets if you’re living in San Francisco.

Ask Us: My Property’s Value Decreased, How Can I Lower My Property Taxes?

I’ve been asked (variations of) this question countless times:

I am pretty sure the value of my home has reduced however the property taxes have not reduced. Can you help me with this process and if so what is your typical fee for this service. My home is in San Francisco.

My reply:

Hello,

Thank you for your email and contacting me. I have touched on this subject before on theFrontSteps.com. A quick search in the search bar on top right for “Property Taxes” will get you these results: CLICK HERE

Why don’t you start by looking through that information and then letting me know what else I can do.

I do not necessarily “help” beyond providing advice. You will have to go down the road on your own, but I am happy to help where I can, and as you can see I’ve been asked this question a few times.

My fee is asking you to tell your friends both about me and theFrontSteps.com, and remembering to give me the first opportunity to represent you, and your friends/family, in any real estate purchases in and around San Francisco.

Keep me posted and good luck!

-More questions answered [theFrontSteps]

Winner: The Best Coffee (House) In San Francisco, And The Rest

Congratulations to Philz Coffee! You have been voted Best Coffee (House) in San Francisco by the people of the internets. The competition was linked to around the world, and we have to say Philz not only got tons of nods during the first round of nominations, but they also swept the voting when thousands more hit the polls.

It’s all good stuff and we can’t wait to get a cup. We appreciate everyone’s participation and the countless links that sent people this way.

The Rankings:

1. Philz Coffee
2. Bernie’s
3. Blue Bottle Coffee
4. Four Barrel Coffee
5. Martha Bros Coffee
6. Contraband (Coffee Bar)
7. Ritual Coffee Roasters
8. Farley’s Coffee
9. Java Beach
10. Sightglass Coffee
11. Peet’s Coffee & Tea
12. Caffe Roma
13. the Beanery
14. Intelligentsia Bar (In Specialty’s)
15. Caffee Trieste
16. Stumptown (Ma’velous)
17. Henry’s House of Coffee
18. Simple Pleasures
19. Barefoot Coffee (Epicenter Cafe)
20. Café La Taza
21. Starbucks (Really?)
22. Caffe Puccini
23. Trouble Coffee (De La Paz)
24. Velo Rouge Cafe
25. Caffe Greco
26. Verve Coffee Roasters
27. De La Paz Coffee (Trouble)
28. Hearth Coffee Roasters (Brown Owl Cafe)
29. Graffeo
30. Bello Coffee and Tea
31. Quetzal Coffee
32. Jeremiah’s Pick Coffee
33. Coffee to the People
34. Piccino Cafe
35. 7-11 (Humoring you)
36. Progressive Grounds
37. Showplace Caffe
38. Castro Coffee House
39. La Boulange
40. Matching Half
41. Wicked Grounds
42. Farm:Table
43. Blue Danube
44. Cafe Reina
45. Toy Boat
46. The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf
47. The Summit SF
48. Curbside Coffee
49. Rancho Parnassus (Thanksgiving Coffee)
50. Tully’s
51. Capricorn Coffees
52. Cavalli Cafe
53. Equator Coffees & Teas
54. Muddy’s Coffee House
55. The Coffee Roastery
56. Cup of Blues
57. Cafe Encore
58. Ecco Caffe
59. Stella Pastry & Cafe
60. Coffee Roaster
61. Manning’s
62. Dash Cafe
63. Javalencia Cafe
64. Cafe La Stazione
65. The Grove

We’ll just go ahead and stop there. There were another 25-30 one vote coffee (houses) that came in, but we gotta stop somewhere. Thank you everyone!

Reason We Live Here #17: Getting Snowed In Lake Tahoe Way

Due to the large green/blue blob shown below, yours truly is snowed in. And isn’t it great that within a “short” (I put the quotes because when the snow is falling and the entire Bay Area is driving, it’s anything but short) drive from San Francisco you, and all of your closest friends and family, can be neck deep in a trademark Lake Tahoe walloping.

Too bad Interstate 80 was closed most of the day yesterday. Looks like another day of choke powder skiing for your editor. Damn.

“No Gross Stuff/Litter, Needless Honking, Speeding, or Menus!”

A resident’s plea to keep the sidewalk clean and free of stuff (like dog stuff?) , or as the owner/tenant put it, “No gross stuff/litter, needless honking, speeding, or menus!”

But wait…it gets better. Same owner/tenant and their sidewalk…


…and their entryway…

One has to think we might have a candidate here for A&E’s disturbing television show “Hoarders”.

But that’s not the point. The point is, the city could use a few more of these signs… billboard sized. Perhaps this resident could supply them? Red highlights and all?

-Notice to Dog Owners [theFrontSteps]

A Dream Buyer Carrying $2,500,000 Cash, Looking For A Good Home

Are you a San Francisco Realtor with a Lake District or Sea Cliff home one of your clients would be willing to sell? Well…we just found your dream buyer:

Very motivated all cash buyers looking for a SFR that meets the following requirements:

-$2.5M or less
-3 Beds/2 Baths+
-Around 3000 sq. ft.
-Large bedrooms
-Good condition w / some original detail
- Lake Dist., Laurel Heights, Jordan Lake, Inner/Central Richmond, or Sea Cliff

We keep telling you, there is opportunity galore showing up on PocketListings.net all across the country. If you’re not on there yet, you’re missing out, and you’re going to miss the boat. Mark our words on that.

-Lake District Buyer Need around $2.5M [PocketListings.net]

Marina Has The Hotties, Inner Richmond…Apparently None

I was just clued in to a new startup website that is striving to allow you (people on the move from city to city, ‘hood to ‘hood, house to house) to learn about a neighborhood based on the reviews, comments, and opinions of locals. It’s a simple concept and easy to see the value. Hell, I tried going block by block to clue people in on the different San Francisco Neighborhoods in my Tour De San Francisco (real estate), but I only made it halfway through. Hence, the value I see in NabeWise.com.

It’s a startup, so the site is pretty lean with content at the moment, but I expect that will change over time. Regardless, how can you resist checking out a site that ranks where San Francisco’s Most Beautiful People hang out. Surprise, surprise! It’s the Marina! Sorry Inner Richmond (no really I am sorry cuz I live here), you are last on the list.

For the record, it is ABSOLUTELY imperative that you take such criteria into consideration when buying or selling a home in San Francisco, but you should not base whether you work with one particular Realtor over another on looks alone.

Speaking of hotties…check out the NabeWise Team.

-NabeWise.com [Website]

Mission District “Is Our Backyard”-Says Potrero Hill

[Image Source]

Every so often older posts get comments that are so good, I just can’t pass up posting them right front and center on the home page. This one came in on an old post we did about La Mission District and just how cool it is.

Sorry Mission District, according to this Potrero Hill reader you’re nothing more than their “backyard”.

Potrero Hill is SF’s best neighborhood TO LIVE IN for these reasons:

1) VIEWS – don’t have one? Step outside, you get one every time you head towards any of the other neighborhoods or just to get a cup of Farley’s coffee. Can’t do that? Watch a commercial or movie, it’s likely it includes a scene shot from here.

2) PARKING – every one of the other neighborhoods has you looking and wishing you could drink and drive while looking.

3) SUNSHINE – if we don’t have it, neither do you. If we do, you probably don’t.

4) PROXIMITY – 280, 101, 80 and trains and the #10 make getting up and down the peninsula or to the East Bay, or to the beach or along the Embarcadero or FiDi or the ballpark a snap. Bernal, Bayview, Glen Park, Mission, Noe, Castro, Soma – are all neighbors, in fact La Mission is our backyard. Every thing else is really minutes ‘cept for the Golden Gate Bridge or Golden Gate Park which really is meant for a lovely drive anyway.

5) COMMUNITY – it’s tight and effective and gets more and more inclusive vs. many of the other conformist, hands-off-the-merchandise ‘hoods. This means childless hipsters, muralist breeders, biogeneticists, game designers, street soldiers, old-timers, turistas, baristas and anything with paws come together for the Good Life. And it’s small enough that everyone knows your name, “my friend”.

Touché!

-San Francisco’s Coolest Neighborhood…La Mission, Hands Down [theFrontSteps]

Vote Now! Best Coffee (House) In San Francisco

WOW! The “best” coffee (house) in San Francisco nominees streamed in last week, thanks to a nice little link from Yahoo!, and it looks like we may now have the most comprehensive list of San Francisco Coffee (Houses) ever on one ballot. Needless to say, our tiny list was well shy of what is truly out there to enjoy, and it looks like we have some coffees to taste. But for now it’s time to vote.

VOTING CLOSED: WE HAVE A WINNER!!! CLICK HERE TO SEE RESULTS

Which San Francisco Coffee (House) is THE BEST by majority vote?

We leave it to you. Please vote, please tell your friends, Tweet it, “Like” it, share the link (http://thefrontsteps.com/2011/03/14/bestcoffeesf/), then print the list and visit each and every one of these places. Whatever you do, don’t let your favorite coffee (house) lose!

Good luck!

[POLL IS CLOSED. WE HAVE A WINNER, AND WILL PUT UP RESULTS SHORTLY. THANKS TO THE 2,250 PEOPLE THAT VOTED!]

If your fav coffee (house) didn’t make the ballot, feel free to mention them in the comments or add them in “other”. As always, thanks for hanging out on theFrontSteps, and thanks for telling your friends.

Once again, the direct link to this post: http://thefrontsteps.com/2011/03/14/bestcoffeesf/.

[Update: Word is spreading on multiple sites, including SFGate, so we may actually get a "People's Choice" here....and a few thousand votes.]

Other Popular Polls:
-San Francisco or New York City, If You Had To Choose [theFrontSteps]
-San Francisco’s Sexiest Realtors 2009 [theFrontSteps]
-Cole Valley Versus Noe Valley [theFrontSteps]
-San Francisco’s “coolest” Neighborhood, La Mission…Hands Down [theFrontSteps]

Wanderlust: A Little Lake Tahoe Getaway For $100,000,000

It’s Friday, and dammit if I don’t have a bit of Wanderlust. The snow is falling (very lightly), and the base is deep up Tahoe way, so I thought I’d do a little searching for a home big enough to house my ski bootens. This $100,000,000 home in Zephyr Cove ought to fit the bill.

Anyone care to join me? You might have to sleep on the couch, but you should have plenty of room to stretch out.

The only problem…skiing at Heavenly (the closest resort) is less than stellar (in fact it’s awful). Guess I’ll just have to cross country ski around my 200 acres, or maybe ice fish my own private lake.

-525 Highway 50, Zephyr Cove, Nevada (Lake Tahoe) [Chase International Lake Tahoe]
-Walkabout [theFrontSteps]

The Best Coffee (House) In San Francisco…Let’s Vote!

Voting is taking place. FOLLOW THIS LINK.

Not too long ago (okay maybe it was back in July of 2009), we did a little post about what seemed to be dominant turf run by Blue Bottle Coffee and Ritual Roasters, and which one we thought was better. Being a little bit ignorant (but more in tune than most), we were under the impression those were THE ONES, but we were wrong. Very wrong.

The post gained in popularity, was linked to from all over, and a few comments came in showing us the light and urging us to try some of the other great coffee (houses) here in San Francisco. Since then we have tried just about all of them, and it’s hard to conclude a favorite, but we thought there must be a way to solve this riddle once and for all, because tastes change and what was “best of” in one magazine yesterday, certainly doesn’t mean it’s “best of” today, right here, right now.

So….it’s time for a definitive online vote: “Best Coffee (house) in San Francisco“. By “best” we leave that up to you, because we know there are a million variables to consider. For example: espresso or drip; wi-fi or print only; cappuccino or quadruple nonfat venti macchiato. We just want to know what makes you drool.

Voting will begin on Monday (3/14/11), until then we’re accepting nominees. So whether it’s the coffee that is actually being poured or the name and location on the label (think Trouble Coffee pouring De La Paz), we want to hear from you and your friends.

The nominees so far [NOTE: These are just nominees. Voting starts 3/14/11, so please come back.]
[Update: Voting started. FOLLOW THIS LINK TO VOTE.]

-Philz Coffee
-Four Barrel Coffee
-Ritual Coffee Roasters
-Sightglass Coffee
-De La Paz Coffee (Trouble)
-Blue Bottle Coffee
-Peet’s
-Barefoot Coffee (Epicenter Cafe)
-Contraband (Coffee Bar)
-Hearth Coffee Roasters (Brown Owl Cafe)
-Verve Coffee Roasters
-Bello Coffee and Tea
-Ecco Caffe
-Capricorn Coffees
-Equator Coffees & Teas
-Starbucks (Really?)
-Caffee Trieste
-Bernie’s
-Farley’s Coffee
-Quetzal Coffee

On Monday we’ll begin the Battle Royale, and the winner of “Best Coffee (House) In San Francisco” will be crowned soon after.

So get the word out, Tweet this post, share it on Facebook, and don’t let your fave coffee house lose!

[Update: Thanks to Yahoo! for putting us on their homepage. Feel free to put your nominee in the comments below or email us. We'll add them all to the list and poll for Monday. While we have your attention, have a look at Yahoo!'s new local page for San Francisco.]

-In San Francisco It’s Ritual Roasters Versus Blue Bottle Coffee
-Reasons We Live Here

Fifty Percent Of Bay Area Water Heaters Not Properly Braced!

In a recent report sent to me via way of email I’ve learned that more than HALF of the Bay Area is living with improperly strapped/braced water heaters!

A recent survey of water heater seismic bracing conducted by members of the Golden Gate Chapter of the American Society of Home Inspectors throughout the Bay Area found that more than half of the water heaters observed during the survey period were not adequately braced.

That’s just insane! If we get a big quake and your water heater falls over, ruptures some pipes, busts a gas line, and ignites from the pilot light, you’re going to wish you paid a few bucks and had the thing properly strapped/braced.

If you’re going to sell your home, it has to be done, but if you’re living life on the edge, you might want to take that aversion to risk and put some money on the closest roulette table instead. Keep in mind it’s likely not just your ass you’ll have to cover in the event of a catastrophe…think about all of your neighbors that will very quickly point their fingers at you if it is determined your water heater was the cause of a major fire or other disaster.

Not sure what to do? Check out these guidelines for properly bracing your water heater (pdf)

-Water Heater Report (PDF)
-Water Heater Bracing Guidelines (PDF)

Cleaning House On theFrontSteps

Hello all (those of you that are left),

I’m going to be doing some house cleaning on this here blog. I’ve already said my goodbyes to the handful of other writers that contributed content here, so the “we” is gone…it’s all me, all the time.

theFrontSteps apparently doesn’t display on iPhones or iPads, and that is not cool. So, if you, or anyone you know, is a wizard with WordPress and can easily fix my theme or create an entirely new one, I’m all ears.

So let’s see if I can keep this thing going on a regular basis on my own. Just because I’m writing it myself, doesn’t mean I’m not open to all of your tips, insight, and topics to discuss. I want to hear your questions, and I’d love to help all of your friends/family with their real estate endeavors, as it’s my experiences in the field that give me 90% of the content you see on this site.

I’m going to try to keep it all about real estate, but that tends to get a bit boring in my world, so don’t be surprised if you see totally “off topic” posts and things that have nothing to do with anything you’ve ever seen on this blog before.

Thanks! Let’s blog.

Alex Clark

Can I Buy A Sub $400,000 Home In San Francisco? Suprisingly…Yes!

Where readers ask, and we (the community) try to answer…

I found your blog while researching San Francisco. My husband and I presently live in Texas, but want to move to San Francisco.
We have two dogs (bulldog, and Labradoodle). We would love to have a fireplace, great view, outside balcony, and a place for one vehicle. Please don’t laugh but we would like to spend 250K to a max of 400K.
Now that you have hopefully gotten up off the floor, is this possible?
We will arrive in San Francisco April 7th -10th, to view property.
We are also open to areas that surround San Francisco, (Sausalito, Oakland, Berkeley).
I hope you are someone you know could help us.

This email came to me just the other day, and I’ve combed the MLS, PocketListings, and all other sources of property listing information since, and gotta say…I’m surprised there are so many choices! It used to be laughable to search in this range, but not anymore. Now, you might not get that great view, outside balcony (is there such thing as an inside one ;-) ), and parking, but you can get something! That’s for sure.

So if you, or anybody you know, is in the market for a sub $400,000 property in the greater San Francisco Bay Area, you might want to give your mortgage broker a call, because your day may have finally come!