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)?


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]

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: 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

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,

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

We Never Said Playing The (Condo) Lottery Would Produce A Win

2010 Condo Lottery: Previous participation may not yield additional tickets

Dear Plan C Member,

Ticket sales for the 2010 Condo Conversion Lottery have been announced by the city and will begin on Monday, November 23rd (additional information can be found here).

As you may be aware, it has been the practice of the City to issue additional tickets to buildings that can substantiate unsuccessful past participation. Specifically, the rules and instructions issued by the City’s Department of Public Works (“DPW”) for the 2009 lottery (ORDER NUMBER 177,881) stated, “Multiple tickets for any building will be sold based on the current 2009 lottery and proof provided for each year of past unsuccessful participation; that is one (1) ticket for the 2009 lottery, one (1) ticket for unsuccessful participation for any and all of the lotteries during the 1990-1994 period, and one (1) ticket for each year of unsuccessful participation in the 1995-2008 period.”

Recently we learned that the City may be denying additional lottery tickets to buildings that qualify with the minimum qualifications (summarized generally as: one owner-occupied unit for each of the last three years in 2-4 unit buildings, and three owner-occupied units for each of the last three years in 5-6 unit buildings). Historically, lottery priority and the issuance of additional tickets have required that one of the qualifying owner-occupants has been an owner (but not necessarily an occupant) during each of the previous lottery losses. The change for the last couple of years and for 2010 is that DPW appears to have a new interpretation of written law. To establish priority credit (additional tickets), DPW is requiring that each of the qualifying owner-occupants be the same original owner occupants that were unsuccessful in past lotteries.

Simply put, your building might qualify for the 2010 lottery and receive one ticket, but unlike in years past, may not be entitled to additional tickets based upon unsuccessful previous lottery participation.

We are reaching out the membership of Plan C to see if there are other TIC groups where this situation is likely to have an impact. If you’re facing the same issue, or would face this issue if one of your fellow TIC co-owners were to sell their interest, let us know and we will put you in contact with other similarly situated people. Send us an e-mail at,

Collective action by affected TIC groups (including possible litigation) is more likely to succeed than individual efforts.”

-DPW Condo Lottery Information Page

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.


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 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.


So It’s Been Awhile, but…

So Alex is leaving town for awhile, chasing the big waves instead of the big buyers, and I’m standing, inadequately and ill fittingly, in his shoes. You may — or just as likely, may not– recall I used to guest write here on these Front Steps some time ago. Alex was nice enough to invite me back.

Future story ideas: the sad tale of coming within 3 centimeters of buying a home and the deal going awry. Oh, Realtors! Other blogs to explore  new construction in Golden Gate Heights, which one can see out one’s very own window: yeah, right where the ocean used to be.  I’ll also revisit Arden Wood, a West Portal set o’ luxury homes that sparked some “they’ll sell!” “They won’t sell!” debate when they first began to rise from the ground.

Indeed, this posting is meant to function as my trailer, like a preview you see before a film that makes you want to see more. Hopefully now you’ll remain glued to the machine so as not to miss a thrilling installment. Or if you have a scoop for me, you’ll suggest it, keeping in mind I am a buyer, not an agent, and write from that perspective. In the meantime, in the words of L.L. Cool J., “Don’t call it a comeback. I’ve been here for years.”


SF: A City with Room to Grow-up Healthy?


The Where Blog, dedicated to intelligent discourse on urban life, recently posed the following question:

How do people stay sane in crowded cities?

Quoting E.M. Cioran,

Whenever I happen to be in a city of any size, I marvel that riots do not break out every day: massacres, unspeakable carnage, a doomsday chaos. How can so many human beings coexist in a space so confined without destroying each other, without hating each other to death?

We might ask such a question in Tokyo, or New Dehli; in the US, maybe New York. But San Francisco, despite being relatively short on open space for building and (as boon to past real estate transactions) higher in demand than in supply for housing, is not really that crowded. Sure, we’ve all made the dismal, never again mistake of trying to get on the I-80 at rush hour, or the MUNI on the day the Giants are playing (enough orange clothing and pre-game beer consumption to last a lifetime). We’ve been jostled in Union Square during the holidays, or crammed against the rails of the Wharf at the height of tourist season. But those are just poor choices, not evidence of an over-populated city. In fact, there’s a lot of space to live here.

Many of our residential enclaves include rows and rows of homes that have backyards, if not also front yards and side yards. Unlike NY City, we don’t have to go out to Brooklyn to find a family style neighborhood: in our 7 X 7, we have plenty.

Add to that roof decks, public parks, and the beach — it’s a unique metropolis indeed.

But scientists do warn that city life can be hard on the brain.  From the Boston Globe:

Now scientists have begun to examine how the city affects the brain, and the results are chastening. Just being in an urban environment, they have found, impairs our basic mental processes. After spending a few minutes on a crowded city street, the brain is less able to hold things in memory, and suffers from reduced self-control. While it’s long been recognized that city life is exhausting — that’s why Picasso left Paris — this new research suggests that cities actually dull our thinking, sometimes dramatically so.

So… do San Francisco brains need more quiet space to function?

But isn’t living without culture, diversity, art, conflict, and intellectual stimulation in general, more obstructive than the chaos of urban life?

Coming Soon! And, Coming Later!

Realtor Kevin Gueco writes a very sunny review for the coming soon Mosiaica 601 condo project (pictured above) in his SFNewDevelopments blog. There’s definitely some room for pleasant surprise in the announced price  (pleasant to me, anyway, since I selfishly find all condos I cannot afford to be unpleasant):

“Mosaica 601 announced last week that it plans to start pricing of its 3 bedroom / 2 bath condos in the low $600s!  This is an incredible value considering each home is around 1400 square feet.”

Of course, putting aside Gueco’s near-by  restaurant list, the area (where Mission meets Potrero) is a little rough, but the price still seems all right to me. Perhaps the developers see the price cuts so many other condo developers have had to make recently, and are starting lower to begin with?  

Also coming soon (but not as soon) are a more mysterious set of housing units. Just off West Portal and 16th Ave., in front of Arden Wood, you can see the pushed-up dirt, huge bulldozers, and thin wood skeletons that signal housing to come, and their sectioning looks multi-unit. Thus I suspect these are the long awaited condos that were subject of news and speculation in 2006. In fact, that’s still the only information I can find on this construction: 2 years old, via SFHomeBlog and J.K. Dineen. Someone has to have a more updated scoop here. Anyone?
Meanwhile, still a pipe-dream (ha ha! Really, Haight Street, how many pipe stores can one street support?), but with the supervisorial green light is the Whole Foods/condo complex, slated to replace long-dead Cala Foods at the corner of Stanyan and Haight. The Chronicle outlines the plan here:

 “The large, four-story project, which also includes some 60 high-end, market-rate housing units, was expected to be controversial, but the commission voted 6-0 to approve the conditional use permit – a result supporters think had a lot to do with their organized turnout.”

Right, agreed: Haight could use a face-lift and perhaps a gentle reminder that THE 60′S ARE OVER. Also, I like Whole Foods, but I’m saving for one of those condos, so I’ll stick to Trader Joe’s (with a new one also coming soon!). I’m curious what “market rate” will be when those units go up, since so many new developments are struggling to sell out units already. The Frontstep’s own banker/blogger, aptly known as “The Banker,” says: “We are overbuilt. . .and it is next to near impossible to get financing!”

What do you say?


Construction photo via SFNewDevelopments

A Worse Punishment for Sisyphus: Policing Noise in a Metropolis

Hello out there, theFrontStep Readers! You may (or just as likely, may not) know my name from my blogs for Redfin. I’ve kindly been invited to write also for theFrontSteps, so here I am, on the steps, with my first blog.

So here’s the setting: last night, 2:00am, sultry night, people walking up from the bars, falling down, giggling. That noise doesn’t bother me much. I’d have to be a hypocrite if I tried to pretend I’ve never, after closing time, made too much noise under someone’s window as I staggered home. But another noise does bother me: some a-hole flooring his car and slamming on the breaks as he reaches the stop sign in front of my house. Then, from fully stationary, he floods the car again, tyring to go from zero to sixty instantaneously. Then he screeches off, circles the block, and comes back to do it again.

But we all live in a city. We can’t really expect quiet, can we? We can hope for it, and maybe in some areas, get it most of the time. But in the end, we’re sharing with a lot of people, some of them loud and possibly crazy. That’s why this new law aiming to curb SF noise interests me. Continue reading

Ask Us: How sound is our building as it relates to earthquakes

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


I own a building with 4 other people here in San Francisco and we need to get good advice on how structurally sound our building is re: earthquakes. I want to be able to trust the opinion and not be concerned with getting an opinion skewed to make them money in the retrofit. I’m hoping you can suggest a few names/companies. Basically I’m looking for an inspection (willing to pay for it) like a contractors inspection, only exclusively as it relates to earthquake soundness and we would like a report with specific suggestions on how to move forward.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.



Let’s see if the community can shed some light. If not, you’ll see an answer from us shortly both here online and in your inbox. Thanks for the email.

Why San Francisco Real Estate is so strong, the things you can’t measure on a calculator

There are some unquantifiable measures of value that nobody seems to consider when pondering the future of San Francisco real estate. So many of us stay within the confines of San Francisco, sit at our computers and debate the strength of San Francisco real estate, and whether it will rise or fall, but rarely do we venture outside the city walls to see just what we’re up against.

Recently (as in for the 4th of July) we went walkabout outside of the Bay Area (if you consider Sacramento and beyond the Bay Area, Lord help you), and again noticed countless reasons why San Francisco is so great. Next time you take a trip East (not Back East, to the Far East, or Middle East, and not in an airplane) keep your eyes open for these things.

1. Everything gets bigger: roads; cars (and they complain about $4.25/gal. gas); restaurant portions; and yes…the people (we’re not talking the occasional extra order of fries, and we’re not talking a little spare tire, we’re talking something in the water…or the bags of Doritos as main course…and it appears to be out of control.)

2. It’s f*cking HOT! Ninety (90) degrees at 9pm is no fun.

3. Thick eye shadow is still in, as are perms and the occasional mullet accompanied by sleeveless shirts, cut-off shorts, and white high tops with white socks.

4. Trash is everywhere (we’re not talking garbage), and their toys (ATVs, snowmobiles, motorcyles, boats, Wave-Runners, Hummers) fit nicely in the parking spots directly out your front door.

5. Twelve hundred (1200) square feet is considered average…for a garage.

6. No car, no love. Public transportation is absolutely sad outside the confines of a major U.S. metropolis, and with gas prices soaring, a million dollar two bed, one bath home with no parking (even if you have to rent it) near MUNI (even though MUNI has issues) is still better than a two hundred thousand dollar three bed, three bath home with three car parking in the burbs.

7. Wrangler and Guess, are more popular than Levi, Ernest Sewn, or Nudie.

8. George W. Bush is considered a smart man, and “doing a good job for America.”

9. Good coffee….PULEASE!

10. Coors Light, narrowly edges out Bud Lite for most cans found on the shoulder of the roads.

11. We could go on, but will stop here….okay, one more…Lee Press On is still in, and hot pink nails still looks good (apparently).

Does this make us any better than the people that live outside San Francisco? No. Does this mean we’re making generalizations about a group of people based on observations of a few (thousand)? Yes. Does it make us sound totally un-”P.C.” and possibly a bit ignorant/arrogant? Yes, but who cares, because it helps us realize just how great we have it here in this bubble we call San Francisco, and just how great diversity and living in an international city really is, and it’s something “YoY” and “Median” can’t define. Man it’s good to be home!

Crime on the rise in Bernal Heights?

It seems to be the week of getting edumucated on theFrontSteps. First chickens, now rising crime in Bernal Heights? We have no factual evidence to support what we’re saying, but the information has come to us from a very reliable and trustworthy source. We’re hoping you (the reader) can shed some light on the matter. We know some of you in particular might have better knowledge on the matter than we, so please share.

It also begs the question, could this make Bernal go bust? (And it reminds us, we’re about due for another Battle Royale.)

Ped vs. Muni…again!

File this under absolutely nothing to do with real estate, but everything to do with living in San Francisco. This is such a common problem that the only trauma hospital in San Francisco has its own classification for accidents like this, they call it “Ped vs. Muni”.

You’ve seen it before, you’re sitting at a light, yours turns green, the Muni bus driver toots his/her horn and just rolls right through the red that has been red for a good 20 seconds. Same goes for the street cars. The drivers are for the most part rude, lack basic social skills, and are generally really horrible drivers. What’s the deal? Who hires these people?

-Man killed in gruesome Muni streetcar dragging [sfgate]

Real Estate, Sex, our Top Posts and Last Thoughts of 2007

No surprise here…sex sells…very well, and it even helps sell real estate, or at least Realtors. Our most popular post of 2007 was …and the Nominees for Sexiest Realtor in San Francisco are….

Second up was obviously the the results of said contest.

Third up was our Battle Royale: San Francisco or New York City…if you had to choose.

Fourth place was Nothing Special, just $421,000 Over Asking, That’s All.

Fifth were some of our Picture Medley posts.

This year (2007) was a very good year for theFrontSteps, and we thank you all for it. We’ve seen average monthly “unique readers” go from less than 200/month when we started (February 2007) to over 21,000/month currently. Not bad for a hobby. We hope to continue growing and bringing the real estate insight in 2008.

If you feel like passing the time until we ramp up again in 2008, feel free to join “James” and “Resort at Squaw Creek” in a totally off-topic discussion on whether Sugar Bowl is a better ski resort than Squaw Valley USA (we pick Squaw).  Since it’s so off topic, you might as well just discuss all things Lake Tahoe.

If you absolutely must see some real estate porn, check out this $3,000,000 House for sale in the Central Sunset. Yes, that is Central Sunset on Lincoln, and that is $3,000,000.


“John” sent us his take along with the link:

I went to the open house. Well, I was expecting a completely remodeled mansion. Don’t be fooled by the new exterior paint job. Instead, it is a fixer. Yes, it is large (4000+ sqft on main and upper floors). However, the kitchen and bathrooms are from the 50′s, floors are crappy and have water damage (maybe the roof has problems too?), windows are original single pane, next to a busy street (Lincoln), The in-law apartment in the basement is useless. The agent said the in-law had the permit, but I really doubt it.

What do I want to say? Well, it will be interesting to see how much this one sells for at the end of the day. Personally, I wouldn’t pay 1.5M for it, but who knows.

I love its colorful roof tiles though. It has some nice wood panels inside too.

If that isn’t enough to pass the time until your NYE celebrations, you could always send us a tip or letter.

Pray for snow, go buy a Tahoe house (it’s a great time for that), save up for a San Francisco home (our market is balancing out), and have a Happy New Year!

-2645 Lincoln Way [Redfin Listing Detail page...not a Redfin listing]

-Send us a tip [theFrontSteps]

-We Live in a Bubble Here in San Francisco (This is where you’ll find the Tahoe discussion.) [theFrontSteps]

Real Estate Bubbles and California’s Economic Growth, Part 1

by Alexander Clark via YouTube and Humboldt State University School of Economics

Amongst the sea of utterly useless bits of crappy real estate videos on YouTube, I was able to find this very informational piece that made me wish I was back in Santa Barbara attending a lecture. (Okay, maybe it was the carefree lifestyle of UCSB that made me feel that way, but it sounded good.) Either way, it’s fine time we all get schooled on the California Economy and Real Estate Bubbles:

Part two…tomorrow.

The first step to remodeling

by Rik Goodell:

Before calling contractors for a remodel project or an addition, do your homework so you’re ready when they get there. Talk it over with your partner (husband, wife, lover, live-in, significant other…these things were easier to write when I still thought “PC” meant personal computer). Make a list of what each of you wants the outcome of the project to be and look like (“look-like” is important!). Make a list of the “must haves” and another of the “would_be_nice_if_we_can_afford_it” items. Make copies of these lists so you can give them to the various contractors when they arrive to discuss your project (Yes, you will be calling several contractors). The better you do your job of documenting your wants and your vision, the better the contractor will be able to understand your dream. Also, with this list, all bidding contractors will be working off the same set of ideas so, when you get their proposals back, you will be getting bids on apples, instead of apples, oranges and eggplant.

For projects exceeding a thousand dollars, get at least three bids. I know it’s a lot of work, but it is not nearly as much trouble as the potential problems you can avoid by doing so. This will ensure you can see that at least two of the bids fall within a close price range. Be very wary of a bid that is significantly less than the other two (more than 20%).

Lastly, get everything in writing. This means written detailed plans, specifications, start date, completion date, cost, change order rules, who will haul away debris, who will clean up the site, who is paying for what, what is included, how are payments to be made and when, who is the insurance carrier for the contractor??!! Get it all in writing. Discuss, depending on the size of the project, how often the two of you should meet to talk about progress and workmanship. It will protect the both of you and help you to remain friends… and help you get the desired outcome.

Next: How to select the right contractor.

“A new way to tap equity without going into debt”

If ever there was a headline that caught our attention, this was it, “A new way to tap equity without going into debt”. On Friday, Carolyn Said of the SF Chronicle did an article about a new company, Rex & Co. that “bills itself as the first company offering a way to make home equity liquid without incurring debt.” Good God that sounds fantastic! Where do we sign up? And how does it work?

“[Rex & Co.] essentially buys a share of a home’s future appreciation. Rex gives homeowners a large up-front cash payment — up to 15 percent of a home’s value, topping out at $300,000 — in exchange for a share of the home’s future change in value — up to 50 percent of its appreciation or depreciation.

No payments, no interest

When the home is sold, the homeowner returns the original investment to Rex plus the agreed-upon share of appreciation. The homeowner does not pay interest and does not make any payments until the sale.”

One of our contributors got super excited about this one thinking he could use it to stop some of the bleeding on one of his rentals in Arizona he purchased last year at the height of the market, but it is not available to use on rental property. Damn! Guess he’ll have to figure something else out, but selling is not an option…always remembering real estate is a long term investment, and letting you know that even though we report on the market, we’re actually in it too….making mistakes and victories just like all of you

Okay…back to the topic at hand.  We invite you to read the article, and let us know what you think.

-A new way to tap equity without going into debt [san francisco chronicle]

Re-run: NYTimes Interactive Graph, rent vs. buy

It seems we have many, many new readers who may or may not have seen our original post as to whether it is better to rent or buy. In some of your comments regarding the “California Real Estate Crisis” , the topic has come up again, so we thought we’d give you another shot at playing with the graph.


You can change almost all the fields you see on that graph and many, many more. If you are at all interested in figuring out if you should buy a house, or continue to rent, (or sell your house and start to rent) you owe it to yourself to follow the link. 

Maybe it’s time to buy some rental property?

-Interactive Graph [New York Times]

-What a buzz-kill, but does it apply to San Francisco [theFrontSteps]

What a buzz-kill, but does it apply to San Francisco?

Thanks to our Reader DL for sending this in. We we were not going to post it, because we really don’t feel it has any bearing on the current San Francisco market (things could always change), but it is another point of reference for you.  What do you think?

“California’s Real Estate Crisis Will Be Worse Than Most Analysts Realize, With Home Prices Falling 15 To 30 Percent During The Next 36 To 42 Months

Source: PRNewswire

Publication date: 2007-06-21

SAN FRANCISCO, June 21 /PRNewswire/ — California’s real estate downturn will be deep and long lasting, with home prices falling 15 to 30 percent during the next 36 to 42 months, according to a prominent real estate expert.

Bruce Norris, who correctly forecast both the real estate boom that began in 1997 and the subsequent doubling of home prices, said the downturn will reflect a perfect storm that includes record numbers of foreclosures, a sharp decline in migration to California, substantial increases in unsold inventory, and, of course, falling prices.

“We are in for a very rough ride in California’s real estate market, which is likely to be far more severe than analysts, state officials and real estate industry associations have acknowledged,” Norris said, adding, “Foreclosures alone are likely to be more numerous than anything we’ve ever experienced, with bank repossessions ultimately accounting for as high or as many as 25-30 percent of all homes sold during the next three years. But like any storm, this, too, shall pass.” Continue reading

Learning Something about BMRs for Infinity and 888 Seventh


Recently, we reported about the brisk selling of the BMR (Below Market Rate) units at 888 Seventh Street, and how they were snatched up in a matter of seconds. Thanks to a reader’s inquiry in the comments of that post, we dug a little deeper and learned that of those 170 BMR units, only 27 are the BMRs for 888 Seventh, the other 143 are the BMRs for the The Infinity. Translation: The Infinity has put all it’s BMR’s off site in 888 Seventh Street. Certainly didn’t know this, but now we do, and so do you.

-Mayor’s Office of Housing [website]

-1 Part Infinity, 1 Part Dwell, 2 Parts You! [sfn BLOG]

A Very Simple Explanation of the Complex 1031 Tax-Deferred Exchange

We recently received a few questions about 1031 Exchanges, and the short answer…they’re pretty simple, but also complicated. ;-) How’s that for a politician’s answer? Joking aside, we thought this brief description from The Money Alert was pretty good.

“Established for real estate barons and tycoons, 1031 exchanges have been around since the 1920s. Named for the IRS code which refers to them, the tax-saving tool also known as “flipping” or a “like-kind” exchange has been gaining traction as a way for Americans to save money on taxes from property, by
deferring them to another, newly-purchased property.

1031 exchanges are a simple concept surrounded by not-so-simple details. If you own a piece of property, and you wish to sell it and buy another piece of property of equal or greater value, you can defer your capital gains taxes by performing a “like-kind” exchange. Continue reading

The Potrero: Developer’s Specials


Our friends at The Potrero, Potrero Hill’s newest development with prices starting at $404,880 for a studio, and working their way up from there for one and two bedroom condos, and two and three bedroom townhomes, have decided to release a few “developer’s specials”, and you’re hearing it here first. [Update: they just hit MLS.]

If you are interested in these developer’s specials (we were), you simply need to go to the sales office and “tell them sfnewsletter sent you.” They’ll be happy to give you all the details and show you around. Here’s what we can tell:

#475- $569,800

1 bedroom/1 bathroom

661 SF

Located on North Courtyard

* Includes Fischer Paykel Refrigerator & GE Super Capacity Washer & Dryer

#382- $739,880

2 Bedrooms/2 Bathrooms

932 SF

Located on Rhode Island St.

* Includes Fischer Paykel Refrigerator & GE Super Capacity Washer & Dryer

#442- $785,880

2 Bedrooms/ 2.5 Bathroom Townhome

1047 SF

Located on Mariposa St.

Gas Stove

* Includes Fischer Paykel Refrigerator & GE Super Capacity Washer & Dryer

#492- $769,880

2 Bedrooms/ 2.5 Bathrooms

964 SF

Top Floor Corner Home

* Includes Fischer Paykel Refrigerator & GE Super Capacity Washer & Dryer

So what’s the big deal? You save a minimum of $25,000, these units were not offered for sale previously, include appliances, and unit #442 is in the South Building and not yet available to the general public.

So head on down to 444 De Haro, tell them sfnewsletter sent you and make yourself at home.


The Potrero [website]

[images taken from The Potrero Website]

Ask an Expert (Elaine Larkin), Comparing Condo to SFR in NOPA

“My wife and I live in NOPA and I look forward to hearing your take on the area in your Tour de SF. One question – when comps are listed for condos v. single family homes, do you think it’s fair to ascribe additional value to condos that are housed in a former single family home (e.g. ours, with just one other condo above us)? At 1300 sf, our $810,000 flat with parking is definitely above the average condo price per sf in the area…”
A.W.-San Francisco, North Panhandle

As answered by Elaine Larkin, Hill & Co. Real Estate
Smaller buildings have more appeal to some people because you have the extra amenity of your own private entrance versus a common entry hall. And flats tend to be larger square footage as well. I assume you are talking about a 2 unit building rather than a single family dwelling.
Elaine Larkin

Ask an Expert (Alexander Clark), Investment Property in Mission Bay?

“Can I ask what your opinion is about buying an investment property
down at the mission bay area now? You know, the ones like on King or
Berry street. Do you think those prices are coming down and do you
think they will come down? I saw on your last “sold” list, they were
all under asking. I would think of an investment property for 5-10
years down the line.”
D.C.-San Francisco


As answered by Alexander Clark, sfnewsletter
Are you asking specifically about the ones on King or Berry, or that area in general? If you’re buying 5-10 year holds, I’d buy. Prices have dipped and may do so a bit more with all the inventory available down there, but I still think for the time frame you are talking it is a very solid investment. One building I checked out and really like is 170 Off third (not necessarily Mission Bay). There are studio and 1br units under $500k there, that are a Giants lovers dream “pied a terre”. That place has the location nailed as well as the amenities. Wasn’t excited about the granite counters, but those can be switched out.
Thanks for writing in,
alex clark