Buying A Home In San Francisco – Step 2: Get New Listings Fed To You Automatically

Yesterday, we educated you on the first and most important step in the San Francisco home buying process, so today we’re moving on…

Step 2 – Get New Listings Fed To You Automatically (via Email or Text)

stuffing-his-face

Our market moves fast, and so must you. You might have thought the next step would be to contact a Realtor. You can certainly do this now, but it’s not necessary. You can preview all the property you want yourself, right here online, and very soon we’ll show you just how easy it is to get dialed in to seeing these homes on your own.

So how do you get these new listings “fed” to you?
a. Get dialed into MLS. Contact us with your criteria (desired # of beds, baths, parking spaces, size, price, location, and your email) and we can set you up with behind the scenes access to what we call our “Client Portal”. You’ll receive new listings to your inbox the second they hit MLS, you can save, reject, and track what properties are selling for (very important), and you can request showings from within the application. This way, you’ll also be on our radar for potential off market matches should any pop up.
b. A different variation of the same theme, but without the need to contact anyone. It’s called MyZephyr, and you can get alerts, save, search, and track property from the comfort of your own home. The only downfall to this, is that we have so many people in this system using this tool, we simply do not have time to track your activity (some might consider this a plus), and therefore we probably won’t know who you are should something great pop up “not on MLS”.
c. Browse MLS: Even less intrusive, and way more stealth, MLS is actually there and available to you 24/7. No really…it is.
d. Redfin. Hands down the best way to search property if you’re not searching with one of the tools provided above. It’s a great site, with a ton of great info, and incredibly accurate data. If you don’t choose a. or b. above, use this over option c. It’s better.
e. Trulia, Zillow, or Realtor.com. These three are crap, inaccurate, and not worth your time. The only saving grace is Trulia’s community or “Voices” area. There is some good info to be found there. Zillow Zestimates are awful, and when we’re sipping a Cerveza after we hand you the keys to your house, we’ll make sure the beers are on you if you mention one word about “but the Zestimate said it’s worth this.”

What about all of the “off market” listings that are becoming so popular, and how do you get clued in to them?
a. PocketListings.net: It’s growing, more agents are using it, and you (the buyer) can certainly browse it for “off market” opportunities. You can follow PocketListings on Twitter for instant notification of new listings, and you can even have your “buyer need” added to it…but for that you’ll need a Realtor.
b. A Realtor: At this stage, there is no way around it, and it’s the very reason Pocket Listings are growing in popularity…Realtors are taking back the control of their listings, and they’re doing this to keep themselves relevant. Listing aggregators like Zillow, Trulia, Redfin, and Realtor.com don’t always portray the most accurate data, agent contact info, pictures, and local information. The system needs to change, and Realtors are taking it back. And guess what? A human is actually a really useful tool in the home searching process and if you find the right one, said human can provide a wealth of accurate and opinionated information. If you want off market opportunities, and want to truly feel like you’re getting in the loop of what most people aren’t, you need a Realtor. If you want to just browse MLS, PocketListings.net, and go at your own pace, you can still get by without contacting one.

So now you’ve proven to all involved you have the money, you’re getting listings fed to you from all angles, and you’re ready to take the next step…Check back tomorrow, and we’ll let you know what to do.

Stump The Stammtisch, Where Readers Ask, Experts Answer: “If A Shooting Occurred Where The Victim Died…”

I used to do a thing a long time ago called “Stump the Stammtisch“, where readers could write in and my (then) panel of experts would share their answers in the comments below (Think Trulia Voices, before Trulia existed). I changed it up to “Ask Us“, and received considerable response to many a question. But then, I got busy with life.

Let’s see if the community out there would like to take a stab at answering this question, and see if I can get the Stammtisch going again. If you’d like to be in the Stammtisch, it’s simple. Just answer the question, link to your website (or remain anonymous) and continue to answer any questions we throw up in the future. Build a track record as an expert, someone that cares to answer questions for complete strangers, and you’re in.

That said, my colleague at Zephyr Real Estate would appreciate any feedback you could provide in the comments below…

If a shooting occurred where the victim died and it was 200m from the subject property would you expect to see, in this current market, a decrease in value, and if so what arbitrary number would you assign to the decrease.

My reply is that it’s going to have some type of an effect on the resale of the property, but “in this current market”, I’d be willing to bet for as many buyers that are out there that would be deeply bothered by such an event, there are just as many that will see this as an opportunity, which, in our assbackwards real estate market, could actually increase the number of potential buyers to a property and actually drive the price up! I would imagine if this is in an area where homicides are common (that would suck) it will effect the price less than if it were in an area that would normally be considered safer (Bayview Hunter’s Point versus Pacific Heights for example.) My arbitrary number on the decrease in value: $0, it would be a wash…it will bother some, and not bother others.

Crime is everywhere, especially in San Francisco.

[Update: Some replies sent inter-office]
Responses from Agents

-My clients and I bid on a house at shotwell and 24th a year and a half ago where three guys had been shot on Friday night, bids due Monday.
It had 17 offers, three all cash, and went $200k over asking (we bid $150k over)
-My first Zephyr sale was under similar circumstances. The house in question was located in the Excelsior, listed for $599K in Escrow for $619K, there was a shooting within a few feet of the house so the first buyers dropped out. My buyers jumped in at the $615K and did not care because they were from England, lived in the Mission and were thrilled to get the house.
-A few years ago we had a listing in the Mission where a guy died on the sidewalk right in front of the house next door after being shot around the corner on 24th St., running down the block and collapsing about six inches from the edge of our clients’ house. This all happened about two or three weeks (something like that) before we came on the market.We disclosed it and everyone who asked pretty much shrugged their shoulders, and said, “Well, it’s the Mission.” I don’t remember how many offers we got but it sold for over asking to a single mom with an elementary-school-age kid.If your listing is in a neighborhood where stuff like this doesn’t usually happen, you will probably get a different answer but if it’s the Mission or equivalent, it might not make a big difference.
-I don’t see that as a big value “decreaser”, depending on the area and especially if the victim and perp knew each other so it wasn’t a random act…..

Good luck to you either way mate!

-Trulia Crime Map
-Stump the Stammtisch

When San Francisco Shakes, People Search For Bedrock And Landfill

Check out the top search terms for theFrontSteps since this second Berkeley quake hit about one hour ago.

It appears there is a bit of concern out there given the recent one on top of the other quakes over there near Berkeley.

I believe this is the post y’all are looking for:
San Francisco Neighborhoods Prone To Liquefaction And Earthquake Induced Landslides (Bedrock vs. Landfill Take Two) [theFrontSteps]

Ask: I Want To Rent A Home Built On “Those Stilt Kind Of Things”…

This is one for the community:

I love your blog. I just moved here from NYC a week ago and it’s been an invaluable resource.

I just found a rental that I love, [removed]. Gorgeous views, built in 1939 or so. Problem is, a friend from SF pointed out that it’s a “downhill home.” (I’d never heard the term before.) It’s cut into the face of the hill, but it’s partly on those stilt kind of things. The landlord says the hill is safe and the place was “thoroughly inspected” when he bought it…but he owns the place and needs a tenant, after all. :)

I’d love to rent it but want some reassurance that the thing won’t fall down the hill at some point. Like, if there’s a quake. Do renters ever do seismic checks here? How can I find out if this place really is safe? I don’t mind paying myself if the inspector fee is reasonable.

Thanks a lot

Thanks for your email, and I’m glad you like theFrontSteps! Please tell your friends.

I don’t handle rentals, so I’m not one to speak with 100% certainty. I would imagine that you could do any kind of inspection you wanted as long as it doesn’t cost the owner anything.

The fact is, if a big quake hits SF, who the heck knows what will happen. A big rain might be more likely, and more of a concern….landslide.

My advice would be to go ahead and inspect if it will make you comfortable, the owner is okay with it, and you have the time to do so. But, don’t expect any person to tell you without a shadow of doubt that the home is 100% safe. You can thank the litigious society we live in for that.

When you’re ready to buy, let me know! If you have any money for down payment at all, I would HIGHLY recommend buying. Prices and interest rates are crazy low, and your payments would likely be less than rent.

Thanks for reading theFrontSteps!

Ask Us: Death “On” Property Or Not? Should You Disclose?

This just came to me by way of email.

Hypothetical question.

Assume a house burned down and a firefighter died a few days later from his injuries.
Same for a contractor falling from the roof or any other work related accident on the property.
What are the consequences regarding the disclosures of a subsequent sale?

Please do not discuss the specifics of a recent event/specific house, I’m only interested in the “what if that happens to my own house” – such as
does this qualify for a death in said property?
As a Realtor, would you advise to check or not the box?
How would you disclose this information?

What are the others aspects that you’d like you warn home owners (such as hiring only fully insured roof workers)?

Thanks

My advice: Disclose, Disclose, Disclose. If I know about anything pertaining to a property, I’m going to disclose that. The last thing anybody needs is someone to move into a home, decide to Google their address and find all kinds of information they never knew existed on the property.

I think this opens up the forum to a larger debate as to whether a death that came later from an accident on the property could be classified as a death “on” the property. I leave that to attorneys, but would certainly disclose any and all pertinent information. You see the pattern here? Disclose, disclose, disclose!

-If There Is S&M And Leather Sex One Unit Below, You Might Want To Let Buyers Know [theFrontSteps]

About That $8000 Tax Credit, What If I Foreclose Before 3 Years Occupancy?

Remember that fun little $8000 tax credit the government was handing out to boost our economy? Well, what if you can’t stay in your home long enough to avoid paying it back?

If you were a first time homeowner in California, and received the $8,000 credit. To keep from having to pay it back, one is supposed to live in that home for three years. What if that house goes into foreclosure? (Loss of job, injury that prevents work, etc.) If one is not able to make the payments, how is one expected to repay $8,000?

My suggestion would be to talk to a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), and try to sell the property. If you don’t want to put it on MLS, you can try PocketListings.net. Hopefully the property value hasn’t decreased too much and you wouldn’t have to do a short sale or foreclose on it, but it sounds unlikely.

This reader is located in Clear Lake, California, as is the property. Why is that important? As I said to the reader, “It’s a lot easier to sell a home in San Francisco than it is in Clear Lake.”

The reader’s reply,

“Tell me about it. When I first moved here I had a lady come up to me and say, why would I move here! I told her I liked it at first, but now I want out. She said “Once you move here, you don’t never leave.” It made the hair stand up on my arms. What a scary thought! Yikes!

Any help/advice from any readers is always appreciated.

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]

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!

Sutro Tower “Radiation” & “Not On MLS” Opportunity On Palo Alto Ave

Being a Realtor here at Zephyr Real Estate, we are constantly hit up with questions from colleagues trying to find answers for their clients. (Funny how we’re expected to know everything and have all the answers outside of what a quick Google, Yahoo!, or Bing search might turn up for you (just sayin’)). Since we continue to get every question under the sun, some more intriguing than others, we’re going to start sharing some of them with you in hopes that you might be able to provide some additional “local” insight. This one came across the intranet today, and maybe someone out there has the answer:

I have clients who are interested in a property in Midtown Terrace but are concerned about the “radiation” from the towers on Twin Peaks. Is there a professional resource to whom I can direct her so that someone with some credentials can speak to her about this issue?

It took all but 30 seconds to find this “most comprehensive guide to Sutro Tower and Mount Sutro on the Internet”, and we’d bet there might be some answers on there, but what we really want to know is if any of you residents living near Sutro Tower have noticed any extra appendages or vivid hallucinogenic episodes as of late.

Something interesting that we noticed….The original address of the tower was 250 Palo Alto Ave, so perhaps you’d also like to know that 206 Palo Alto Avenue is currently for sale, but “not on MLS“.

Just a reminder, that although we tend to know everything, it’s real estate that we really know, and I personally would be happy to get you a private tour of 206 Palo Alto Ave…just ask. ;-)

Ask Us/Poll: Should I Put Music “On” A Property Website

We just got this question moments ago and a link to a couple different sites…all the same really, just playing different cheezy music. The question:

I’m signing up a listing for a new property you’ll want to take a look at. The photos turned out great, and the property is awesome! My question is do you think I should put music on the site? Some people say they like it, some hate it. What do you think? You guys seem to have a big audience so maybe you could get more answers than what I’m getting.

Our answer…Hell NO! Music on websites, especially property websites is so unbelievably annoying (to us) we browse with our computer on mute. But that’s just us…let’s put it in a poll, shall we?

Should There Be Music On Property Listing/Rental Websitescustomer surveys

Ask Us: To Remodel The Bathroom, Or Not

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

Hi Alex,

A friend turned me on to your sfnewsletter, which is first rate, as is theFrontSteps. I eagerly await the upcoming pocketlistings.net.

I could use your help. There could possibly be a listing in it for you. My dilemma is whether to put my one-bedroom SF condo up for sale as is, or remodel the bathroom first, since it is rather outdated.

The question is: in these uncertain times, would I have a better chance of selling at a lower price without changing the bath, or would I have a better chance of selling with the remodeled bath while also recouping some of the money spent on the upgrade?

In your recent experience, are buyers in SF more likely to want a place that’s move-in ready, or are they willing to put in some work for a bargain?

Of course, I realize you may not be able to answer this question without seeing the condo, in which case I would be happy to show it to you at your earliest convenience. At the same time, it would be helpful to get an appraisal.

I would appreciate any information that you can provide.

Thank you,
[reader]

First of all, thanks for contacting me. In my experience for 1br condo buyers, they are looking to move right in. That said, “dated” is a very relative term. What you think is dated might be perfectly fine for someone else. How is the kitchen? That’s the biggie! Continue reading

Ask Us: Type Of License Needed To Be A Property Manager In California?

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

To folks reading this blog:
In California, do you need a real estate broker’s license in order to be property manager? Or just a real estate agent’s license? Or no license needed?
Thanks.
David

David,

As far as we know, and you’ll want to consult CAR.org, if you plan on having your own office and essentially starting a new business you will need a Broker’s license. If you plan on “hanging” your license at a Brokerage and working for a company that already exists and that company has a Broker’s license already, you will only need an Agent’s license. You definitely need one or the other, so why not get both!

Hope this helps….

Can I Get Some Comps To Support My Fight To Lower My Assessed Value (& Property Taxes)

The pennies keep piling up for reader requests to us for help on reducing property taxes and providing comps to support such claims, so we’ll go ahead and print a couple of the latest and the new boiler plate reply we’ll be sending along:

Hi – I was wondering you could point me in the right direction…I am considering submitting an “informal review request” to the SF Assessor-Recorder’s office to lower the assessed valuation of my condo. I need to support my application with sales data on comparables from the period around 1/1/10 to 3/31/10. [We're good, but can't predict the future. ;-) ] Can you tell me if there is a website or other source where I could find this data?

Thank you.

Or something like this:

Hello Alex,

Thanks for your sfnewsletter [One of these days I (Alex) will get back to writing one!]. I really enjoy reading it. I got a letter from Phil Ting to have our house re-assessed. They need comps in the neighborhood. Although your newsletter has the recently sold report, I was looking for something more extensive, say for the entire 2009 calendar year. Do you know how I can get this?

I live in Forest Hill, and I would like to find information on this area.

Thanks very much,
D

Thank you both (and the countless others that have received this same boiler plate reply) for your emails, and thank you for reading. I’ve done this before and I know how it goes. I send comps, you take to the city, they say they want different comps from different times. So do me a favor and ask them EXACTLY what types of properties they want to see and EXACT dates and I’d be happy to pull them for you.

I’ll get them back to you as soon as I can. All I ask in return is that you consider working with me when the time comes for you (or your friends) to buy or sell real estate in San Francisco…

Cool?

Ask Us: Does Blogging Work For Real Estate?

Where readers ask, and we try to answer:

Hello Alex,

I came across theFrontSteps today while researching local real estate blogs. My mother is an agent in NJ and she came to me about advice on creating a blog and testing other social media channels to help her business. I figured I’d research what others are doing and your blog is one of the best I’ve come across so far. Well done!

I’ve got a lot of experience in creating blogs and online marketing, so have a pretty good idea of the direction I’d suggest she take. Just thought I’d go straight to a source to see if anyone is having success with real estate blogs. My one question is – does it work? Are you gaining (great) leads from the search engines and your blog? I certainly understand if you’d rather not divulge.

Feel free to reach out to me with any questions you might have on blogging and online marketing. I’ve been in the industry for 12 years now.

Cheers,
-T

Dear T,

Thanks for the kind words and writing in. Glad you were able to find us and glad you like what you see. Your question couldn’t have been more timely as we were preparing a post on this very topic. The long and short of it…YES! This site is a tremendous source of quality leads, and if we chose to chase every lead down I’d certainly be one of the Top Producing agents in the city, but somehow leisurely activities like surfing, skiing, and golf seem to continually get in the way. ;-)

Some examples of what kind of business this blog brings in: We received a lead to price (and eventually sell) a $2.4M condo at the St. Regis, which led us to meet a buyer at the open house, who then went on to purchase a $1.6M home on a hill; A lead came in because of the Tour de San Francisco I used to write and just yesterday we closed on a $3+M pad in Palo Alto, and those clients are dear friends now; To put icing on the cake, a deal was closed last year based off a lead that came as a result of this blog and a few Tweets on Twitter.

So the answer is a resounding YES! It works, and it works well. Almost too well. I feel badly for the readers and potential clients that contact us and we let slip through the cracks. Sorry all…it’s not personal.

Oh, and by the way. I came across the below blog while researching. Looks like they have good content and a decent readership. They just closed shop. Might be worth looking into acquiring.??

San Francisco Schtuff

Best,
T

Thanks for the tip…we like, but can’t afford, their Schtuff. ;-)

Ask Us: St. Regis Wealth, The Question From Left Field…or Maybe Afghanistan

In this little “Ask Us” segment we typically field the standard, “I’m buying a house, I need your help” type question, but this one that came across our email recently is quite extraordinary, if not bordering on spam, but somehow, we think it’s legit:

StRegis

Good afternoon,

I know you are probably busy but it would be nice to receive a message back in regards to my question.
I am an Infantry soldier from the San Francisco Bay Area currently deployed. I am looking at going back to active duty and working on college when I return from this combat deployment.
I have always been a hard worker and believe strongly in being paid for my hard work. My question for you is what types of people purchase these units and other units like them. More or less how do they generally go about assuming such wealth where they can afford prices like these. I am not appalled or discouraged just curious as to where they are coming from so that one day I might be able to provide for my family in such a similar manner.
Thank you in advance for your time and assistance.

When you say “deployed”…care to elaborate a little on where you might be? Wherever you are, Hi to your fellow soldiers from all of us here. Happy Holidays to you as well.
(This all assumes your email is legitimate, and we didn’t just get spammed. [See Update Below.]

We aren’t that busy, and we’ll gladly send a message back, but we thought we could do better and post it, so maybe, just maybe, some other readers can shed some light.

Some people you might have heard of that take residence at the St. Regis: Former Vice President of the United States, Al Gore; and Former Mayor of San Francisco, Willie Brown. Our post on the buyer of one of the penthouses at Millennium Tower might help shed some light as well. Of course, these buyers are a bit extraordinary, and there are also savvy business men and women, day traders, bankers, venture capitalists, real estate developers, and the like that buy these homes as well, so don’t go thinking you need to get into politics to buy a home at the St. Regis or any other high rise luxury condominium. ;-)

[Update: The reader is legit, and had this to say in response, "Yes, I am forward deployed to a combat zone, due to the nature of the situation I can not give too much information tho. When the weather clears, hopefully soon, and we have increased bandwidth I look forward to finishing the story of Tom Perkins."
Okay then, when the weather clears and you need some comic relief, have a look at this too. Here's another one. Make sure to get to 2:00, so as not to miss Osama bin Manicure, and 2:39 for extra laughs. Good luck, and Happy Holidays!]

Ask Us: Income Property, Foreclosures, Short Sales, Rent Control & Impatient Realtors All In One!

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

Dear tFS,

I have been following your newsletters for awhile, now that my husband and I are considering investing in an income property, we are coming to you for advice. A friend of ours has referred an real estate agent and we have worked with him for about a month. The area which we have visited are Ingleside Heights, Oceanview, Excelsior, Geneva or Alemany ( got a bit confuse after awhile) along 3rd St., and original Daly City.

Our original intention was to look at foreclosures and short sales since we thought we might find something closer to our budget, but our agent explained that the process would take a very long time and the price difference is minimal so it is not really worth the hassle.

We are in our 40′s and will sell this income property when we reach retirement age so this will more or less be our retirement nest. We have a pre-approval letter already but we are not sure which locations would make the best option with the following considerations:

Rent control & Tenants rights
Monthly Rental Income
Future prospective of the property

Your insight would be most appreciated.

Yours truly,
L

We have to say that ALL of your questions generally depend on each individual property in each different location. There is really no “blanket” answer we can provide, especially in regards to rent control, monthly rent, and future prospects of the property. We can; however, comment that it is true a short sale takes much longer to sell, if at all, but the price difference can be substantial, so you might want to corner your agent on that topic and find out where the hassle really lies…with them not getting paid soon enough? ;-) They are a hassle though…no doubt, but it is to your advantage to have an agent with sticktoitiveness (you need a lot of it as well).

Best of luck to you. Thanks for reading, and thanks for writing in!

Ask Us: Do Lenders REALLY Need All That PRIVATE Information?

Where readers ask, and we (the community) try to answer (in the comments below, so don’t be shy):

“For the past 12 months, all our attempts to refi to lower the rate to 5.25 or better have fallen short. Many times, it starts great – then stops short when reaching the line that says I don’t work regardless of any other financial info. (2 borrowers = 2 jobs for more than 24 months each)

We have found a broker that is ok to attempt a refi – but he’s asking for “Copies of 2007 and 2008 W2’s and 1040 Federal Tax Returns (all pages and schedules)”

Although I understand where this request comes from (and I agree that lax practices created the current mess) I’m extremely concerned about giving our most intimate and private information away.

From my point of view, there is absolutely no justification for disclosing to a loan officer:
- all details of all the medical bills.
- all details of fertility treatment, adoption, abortion and other family expenses and whatever items that can be listed.
- all details about your nanny and other children care expenses.
- all details about your religious life – who you gave to, and how much
- all details about your political life – who you supported and how much
- all details about your off shore bank accounts, details about your children college accounts, and other private stashes of money,
- a complete copy of your foreign tax returns
-etc.

The broker was adamant that banks are not accepting 1040 with ANY data missing, pages missing, lines blacked out….

If I understood correctly, an application including the authorization for the release of the Feds records (4506-T) – but missing OUR voluntary copy of the tax return won’t be accepted either (something we would have – somehow – agreed to).
The broker wouldn’t even understand why I agree to disclose this info to our accountant and to the Feds – and refuse to give it to several banks/lenders.

And so we get to my questions….

1. What is the legal ground for such a request – and is there a way to work with that type of requirement?
2. What are the legal protections against misuse of information – like personal retaliation (someone [posting] your info online or somewhere else?) – or even plain discrimination (loan officer doesn’t appreciate your political support on prop 8, or refuses to loan to an HIV positive couple?)
3. How much is my information worth? Where is the threshold when the savings is more important than my privacy?

Any information you or your readers can provide would be much appreciated.

Sincerely,

[A Regular Reader]“

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?

Ask Us: 815 Alvarado Just Doesn’t Jibe

Have a look at the front of 815 Alvarado (4 bed, 3.5 bath, 3 car parking, “Single Family Residence” asking $2,965,000) :

815alvaradofront1

Now have a look at our reader’s question:

So whats the story on 815 Alvarado, SF…..listed as a House…but really has a Legal Inlaw, and only 2 bedrooms upstairs. One can be divided….but you have no hallway in between. Property tax records still have it based on original purchase price with no improvements in the structure base. All work performed under permit???

So what do the tax records say? Well, for starters, 688 square feet! (To further confuse you, we pulled tax records via MLS, which shows the new property photos that clearly don’t jive with the data.)

815alvaradotax1

Sounds a little bit more like this doesn’t it? Record of sale in 1997 for $325,000 from $279,000 asking:

815alvaradoold1

It really doesn’t jibe, and this is all too common and one big reason tax records in San Francisco should be taken with a grain of salt. But to answer your main question, “all work performed under permit”, we’d have to assume yes. If not, that is a monumental oversight on the part of the city…which of course wouldn’t surprise us. As to the the story on 815 Alvarado, we’ll have to defer to some of our other readers to help with that question, as we do not have the answer. There is also a good thread on this house on SocketSite. You might want to lob your question in there too.

[Update: Sophie digs up the permit dirt and adds her "$.02 to the buyers… have EVERYTHING checked and rechecked … so you don’t end up paying top dollars for the house AND top dollars for cleaning/clearing the messed up permits."]

Thanks for reading theFrontSteps!

-815 Alvarado [property website]
-Tax Records 815 Alvarado

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.

Factoring Weather When Buying A Home In San Francisco Is Anything But Simple

avgtemp1

We get these kind of inquiries all the time, and it’s certainly something up for debate, as we all have our own comfort levels as to what is considered warm or “nice”. Heck, Dave Navarro of Jane’s Addiction lives in Sunny warm L.A., but by following his Twitter feed, you’d think he’s better suited for living in foggy Outer Sunset of San Francisco. So a reader brings up the question and maybe this time we’ll get some definitive answers as to just how different one district’s weather is from the other. (We’re going to ask for a little link help from our friends at Curbed Sf and SFist to help spread the word.):

I’m looking to buy and comparing districts, everyone says : Mission and Noe are much warmer, get more sun,…

Is there a good resource that shows sun-hours and temperature (average/per month) like this below would, but by district:
Climate in San Francisco County

It would be quite interesting to many buyers I think!

Thanks

J

Our answer, take a look at the San Francisco Districts Map (as it pertains to real estate). Take a ruler, draw a straight line from District 7a (Marina) to district 3J (Oceanview). Anything to the left (west), cold(er) and windy most of the year. Anything to the right (east), warm(er) and windy most of the year.
Simple as that?

microclimate1

We’re thinking there should be a lot more little red lines running all over this map, but the simpleton in us said to do it this way…

[Update: So I had a little extra time on my hands while child #2 napped. Basic, rudimentary mockup here:
Yellow circles are generally where it is warmer. Arrows indicate wind. The larger the arrow, the stronger the wind. The white line down the middle is generally the fog line.]
googleearthsf1

Battle Royale: San Francisco’s Infinity Towers Versus Some Peninsula Townhouse

We haven’t done a Battle Royale in a while, but we thought this recent email could not only shed some light on the steals and deals being thrown out by The Infinity to get their Towers sold, but also a bit of debate as to whether it’s better to put your money in San Francisco, or Peninsula real estate.
infinityt21
From the reader (edited slightly for syntax):

Hi,

Love your blog!

I would like your opinion…

I’m looking to purchase either a new 2 bedroom townhouse in the peninsula or else a 1-2 bedroom condo at The Infinity. I will be purchasing with 4-6 other people for The Infinity (volume discount, we each get our own place, 3 people will be in the $800K -1.4mil range so i think we will have a lot of bargaining power), or trying to find a good discount for a new townhouse in the peninsula. Which would be the better investment?

I’m [f*cking young!], make $110K a year, first time home buyer, would probably rent out a room at either the condo or the townhouse, and prefer not to do any remodeling.

Thanks!

Go Giants or go home! San Francisco all the way. Way better investment in our eyes (we are biased), way better location, and at your age, you’ll likely have a helluva lot more fun. Just make sure we get an invite to the housewarming party (have you heard about our fresh lime margaritas), and there is no lifeguard on duty when we cause a ruckus in the pool! Marco…Polo…Fish Outta Water!.

Thanks for the email, glad you like the blog. We like you.

Ask Us: What’s The Real Estate Forecast For Bernal Heights

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

We pulled this from Lily on Why the Fuss About Noe Valley. The question is pretty simple, the answer, however, is very complex:

What’s the real estate forecast for Bernal [Heights]?

The Fluj has already taken the bait and provided some answers on the thread, anybody else care to chime in here on Bernal Heights?

Our answer…it’s headed down along with the rest of the city and will bounce around the bottom for quite some time. We’d say the free-fall appears to be over, but the feeling of panic is definitely out there amongst buyers that the bottom is here, and there are buyers making offers across the entire city feeling the deals won’t get much better. Our advice to our buying clients, buy if you feel comfortable, then tune out for the next 5 years and enjoy your home. This applies to every nano-market the city has to offer.

Ask Us: Why The Fuss About Noe Valley?

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

The Front Steps really concentrates on Noe. I live in Noe and understand the attraction and the desirability of neighborhood but I’m not exactly sure why it is the barometer for everywhere else. Can you shed any light on this?

Good question. It’s not that we set out to focus on Noe, in fact we think focusing on an area that is much more hip (like Mission, Dog Patch, or NoPa) would serve our readers better and certainly be a helluva lot more fun, but looking at the real estate in Noe Valley is a very good barometer for the well being of the entire city’s real estate market, because it is considered an A+ location with generally financially and employment secure residents. Noe Valley is one of the most desirable and popular areas to live in San Francisco, and if the market in Noe Valley crashes, the rest of the city should watch out. SOMA is tanking as we speak, but it has nothing to do with Noe Valley. It is a totally different market.

As you’ve also likely noticed, a lot of the content we post comes in as “tips” from readers and our readers that send tips must be a bit more concerned with Noe. So feel free to tell your friends that live in other nabes to check us out and send in tips about their hood as well. It doesn’t have to be about real estate, but it does have to be about San Francisco (or at least the greater Bay Area.)

Thanks for reading!