Category Archives: Readers’ Reports

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]

137 Buelah Apple: Don’t Haight the Game….

[Written by "Eddy":]

One thirty seven Buelah is one of those homes that just screams San Francisco charm and it has all the makings for what many families are looking for in a home here in the city (e.g., curb appeal, close to shopping, parking, etc.)
It’s no wonder that this property closed escrow back in 2006 in only 26 days and over asking at $1.59M.   It’s a little more surprising, however, to see that this same home just closed escrow in 2011, again for over asking, and in only 33 days for $1.61M.  It goes without saying that buying a good property with highly desirable features is a good strategy. This is a classic example of a well appointed home, commanding tons of interest, and getting a good price in two different real estate markets (2006 & 2011).

A few more pics after the jump:

Continue reading

“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]

San Francisco Real Estate Numbers For Real

From a reader in the comments:

I looked at the MLS sales volume and median sales prices year over year today, and sales volume is up about 38% for SFRs and condo/TICs, from 1354 in 2009 to 1875 in 2010. Median price is also up across just about all price tiers I looked at, which were 650 – 800K, 800K to 1M, 1M to 2M, 2 to 3M, and 3M or higher. 3M or higher was the only one that showed a lower median, and it was down about 70K. But there have been 35, 2010 sales to 19, 2009 sales for that tier.

Thank you.

Immediate Need: A Place To Park, Wash & Dump Bus Toilets

Hey guys,
I’m looking for commercial property in or near SF to buy or lease. I have been working with a broker out of San Mateo for the past year. Still haven’t found the property. Immediate need is a place to park, wash, & dump bus toilets by June 1.
Long term want is same space with building for service. Budget is $2.5M. Problems to this point are: local city won’t permit our use, or price is way past $2.5M. We are prequlified with B of A & have a letter.
I’m looking for a space to lease before June 1. I’m writing you because I don’t know where to start.

Well, let’s see if you came to the right place. Anyone (thefrontsteps@gmail.com)?

The Grinch Who Stole Our [Reader's] Christmas Wreath (Caught On Tape)

From our reader:

Greetings,

I’m looking to enlist your support in some public shaming. You can also point-out the utility of installing a video camera system during a renovation :)

This Grinch stole the Christmas wreath from the front door of my house early Friday morning. She looks like a fairly put-together person, why is she out stealing in the middle of the night? Pacific Heights of course…

The Grinch comes then goes, and returns (cloaked/disguised) at 2:07.

Poor Pacific Heights. It gets such a bad rap…Maybe we need to put a little “Chopper” in Pacific Heights.

[Update: Some questions answered...

[Update #2: From the reader when we informed him/her of the # of links coming to our site for this post, "Good stuff indeed. Channel 7 wants to run a story on it tonight. And it seems the mystery lady has a name..." Guess you'll have to check Channel 7 (anybody got the link to a report) for the name, and apparently a friend of the owner has placed a new wreath on their door, with a lock hopefully. ;-) ]

More Fun Posts:
-Sexy, Sexy Realtors [theFrontSteps.com]
-Metallica’s Kirk Hammett Finds A Buyer For His Pacific Heights Monster Den [theFrontSteps.com]
-San Francisco Needs To Harden The F**k Up! [theFrontSteps.com]

5 Steps To Reduce Your Property Tax

If we had a penny for how many times we get asked to provide sales comps for clients/readers that are hoping to lower their property taxes, and how many times we get asked for tips on how to be successful doing so, we’d be millionaires! So, the “Financial Samurai” has come to our rescue by offering “5 steps to reduce your property tax“:

1) Google “[Your City’s Name] assessor’s office.” San Francisco’s site is here. It’s important you proactively find out what the city/county is assessing your property first before you get your bill. You need as much time to prepare for battle.

2) Go to their contact page and call and e-mail them every single day until you get a response. I’m not kidding here. They are sloooooow. Make sure all your v-mails and e-mails are polite, but stern saying you disagree with your assessment with proof.

3) After they respond, you must specifically ask how they came up with their ridiculous assessment value. Ask them to provide comps. Also, ask them what you need to do to make your case. There will undoubtedly be appeal forms to fill out. Fill them out and make copies for yourself (important as they like to tell people they never got it 2 months later, hoping you’ll give up and be too late!)

4) Like any good negotiator, you must highlight the lowest comps and negotiate accordingly. Let’s say your house is worth $1 million bucks. Go in with horrific comparables that look like bomb shelters in terrible locations, such as a house next to a firehouse that may be worth $500,000. Your comparables need to be similar in dimensions and as close to your home as possible. Set your anchor low. The more comps you can provide, the better. The assessor doesn’t usually have time to verify the comps physically, and just uses online comparisons.

5) After sending in the appeal forms and providing comps to your assessor, make sure you courteously follow up every month until you get confirmation of receipt. After reaching out this February, I failed to follow up with more comps until July (big mistake). By then, the assessor had moved to valuing a different district, and another person was recommended to me. Good thing the new person had the forms, and decided to e-mail and call me back. Otherwise, I would have wasted a lot of time. Therefore, don’t forget to back up all your data!

Most important is to “fight like hell”, then go get a cocktail, cuz you’ll need one!

Thank you Samurai.

-How to lower your property taxes. Adventures in property tax reassessment [Financial Samurai]

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

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