Stump the Stammtisch: Bernal on Fuego or Hielo?

Being that it is the middle of summer, we’re curious to see what kind of replies we get to this post, but we hope the Stammtisch can come through nonetheless. If they can’t…readers!?


Over the past few weeks I’ve been seeing a Realtor post on Craig’s List that Bernal Heights is “on Fuego”. For those who’s Spanish isn’t up to par, that means “On fire” :-)

Anyhow, I thought to myself what is this person talking about? Especially after seeing that house at 463 Nevada (picture below) go well under asking.


But then I started seeing a trend with several homes selling for more than $100-150K over asking and even one for 200K over asking at 661 Moultrie (picture below).

Moultrie never even had a Sunday open house prior to going into contract. And from the pics it looked like a very run of the mill house in an okay part of Bernal. It essentially went for 300K more than the Nevada house and didn’t seem to have much more to offer, at least not for that price. What gives?”

Great question! Perhaps it was the purple kitchen?

661 Moultrie [MLS]

463 Nevada [MLS]

463 Nevada in Bernal on $950k, out $775k, yes, that’s under asking [theFrontSteps]

32 thoughts on “Stump the Stammtisch: Bernal on Fuego or Hielo?

  1. Reader,

    Unfortunately, I (alex) did not see both of these properties, so it is really difficult for me to speak as to why one sold quickly and the other didn’t. The only thing I can add is that it seems to me Nevada was listed too high (read: not competitive) and Moultrie listed right on the money. It could also have come down to timing. Getting the right people through the door at the right time when the market was feeling right. I know we have a lot of Bernal readers and Realtors, so hopefully they can shed some light on the situation.


  2. My two cents – from Home SF HQ’s on Cortland Ave in Bernal Ht’s:

    1. Not sure I’d ever actually advertise with the phrase” on fuego” … but that’s another conversation for another day and blog post– that said, the Bernal market in 07 has been very strong. Properly priced single family homes are selling in two weeks.

    2. The location of the Moultrie property is better than Nevada — 300K better — heck NO – but it’s significantly better today. Overall, Moultrie had a better flow and more updated systems — it was a better house. Again – 300K more – no but that is more indicative of something out of the ordinary regarding the sale of Nevada. It’s rare to see a seller accept an offer so far under asking in so short a time — AFTER a price reduction. My guess is the seller HAD to sell — could be a variety of reasons why — but there’s no reason to accept that offer in so short a time period unless you HAD to get out….. in my opinion of course.

    Overall, Bernal is an area that looks significantly different than it did 10 years ago. Cortland Ave is lined with destination cafes and restaurants. The average price for a single family house has risen from $261K in ’97 to $875K in ’07 and the area retains a true neighborhood feel and sense of community – add to that some of the best weather in the city, easy street parking, several dog friendly parks and single family houses with backyards and you can see why young families with kids are flocking to the neighborhood.

    The businesses on Cortland Ave continue to extend both east towards Bayshore and west towards Mission St – as the happens, streets on the fringe of the “perfect Bernal location” should see a nice rise in value. Given that – the new owner of Nevada St should be rather excited to see a “comp” at 1M within 5 blocks. I would say Nevada is one of the exceptions as opposed to rules, in the Bernal market this year.

    Nevada was purchased for 2-5% under market value given location and finishes – I think Moultrie was purchased for 7-10% over market value– people pay for decks and views!

  3. i saw the nevada house. the agent offered people coming through info about the seller’s situation. and if she was truthful, then the seller was not in a situation where he was forced to sell. i’ve been seeing more and more homes in bernal go well over asking lately – it’s reminding me of the 2004 market – totally ridiculous. did anyone see that 600 sq foot house on folsom several months back? that’s the most insane thing i’ve seen yet. asking in the high 600s if i remember correctly it sold for 800K and was barely livable for two people let alone a family.

    i’m astonished at the price people will pay to live in bernal. while it’s much nicer than back in the 1990s it still has a fairly decent way to go before it earns its name as “the next noe valley” that i keep hearing.

  4. I think there are several factors at play. Moultrie was properly priced. Nevada was not. Moultrie is slightly better located. And Moultrie is 250 feet larger, with better finishes than Nevada. In general, the further east and or south you go on the south side of Bernal, the worse the property performs.

  5. Bernal doesn’t have the infrastructure to be the next Noe. That bothers me too. The streets are too narrow and funky. Too many sewer issues. The neighborhood is too disjointed, with the north and east sides oriented to the Mission, and the south side toward Cortland st. It isn’t a very walkable neighborhood, really. Neither is Pacific Heights, I guess. But Noe sure is.

    On the other hand, while it isn’t gonna be Noe, it continues to improve as young DINK’s and young families move in. Even two or three years ago you’d see this on any given block in Bernal: nice house, nice house, decrepit falling down fixer, nice house, nice house, possible meth operation.

    It isn’t really like that anymore. Heck, there’s a wine bar on Cortland! If Home Depot ever goes in on Bayshore, look out. It’ll be gentrified all the way down the south slope to the base of the Alemany projects.

  6. bernal may not be the next noe valley due to the reasons mentioned by kenny, but i don’t think noe is the end all, be all, of neighborhoods either. i LOVE noe valley, don’t get me wrong, but i’m also a big fan of cole valley, haight-ashbury, cow hollow, glen park, hayes valley, laurel village, potrero hill, SoMa, etc. each neighborhood has it’s own feel and attractions. it’s true, bernal heights is a bit fragmented with multiple slopes and sides. if you’re on the north slope, you can take advantage of views and the precita park stores. if you’re on the south, you take advantage of cortland. from the west, you take advantage of mission and if you’re on the south east side, well, you’re probably coming up to another part of the ‘hood for your coffee and cigarette’s. cortland is not THAT different than 24th street in noe valley (keep in mind, on 24th street you have an outdated bell market, a small grocer in a prime location that has been vacant for YEARS, a 5600 sq ft. empty retail spot (used to house rite-aid). conversely, on cortland (though not as big or dense as 24th) you have a large good life grocery, a new peruvian restaurant, a new deli and several other retail spots being fixed up for upcoming occupancy. bernal heights has changed quite a bit over the last decade in terms of homes, safety and retail choices. with the major pipe/sewer upgrades currently taking place and a few new retail leases in place, bernal heights is on the track to continue growing, changing and becoming more of a destination neighborhood.

  7. The house on Nevada was a pretty typical floor plan house that many houses have. However I think that colours that they used really could have been a deterrent when coupled with the location. The location was not terrible per se and was def not 300k less then the other house but the colour scheme I think did it in. That is nothing against the people living there previously but honestly a lot of people who are looking at a house here in Sf (and elsewhere) have about Zero creativity about colour and decoration. A lot of people could not look past that. If I recall almost every room had a different (and sometimes multiple) bright colour associated with it which creates a lot of visual ‘noise’ to many people. And the bathrooms had fairly bright tiling as well. Somebody was even asking the realtor at the open house about the colors and why they did not re-paint the house. I imagine the ‘marginal’ location coupled with the colours kind of scared people.

    As the author ‘lily’ noted, there was a recent house on folsom that was soooo small and sold for 800k (it was next to a school parking lot) which is astonishing. That house had a ‘bedroom’ in it that could barely fit a twin bed in there (I think the bed was assembled IN the room and I am not exaggerating. That amazes me because for the price and a coat of paint the nevada street house was a steal!

  8. Don’t get me wrong, Garrett. I actually live in Bernal, on the North Slope. Bernal is pretty cool. I do like it. It isn’t my fave (and we could sure use a pub over on this side) but it’s a good ‘hood, and the proof is in the pudding as far as appreciation is concerned.

  9. I live and own in Noe Valley…a very happy homeowner, having bought a gem fixer victorian back in 1984.. Well, yea. i’m happy:)

    But!!…Noe Valley is not the nirvana of all neighborhoods. here’s my take:

    1. 24th st shopping area is sort of dirty..crappy gum infested sidewalks. lots of ratty street trees barely surviving. pan handlers in front of Bell and tullys coffee.

    2. Those ridiculous hanging flower baskets should go. they look like something out of Mayberry RFD.

    3. Lots of run down properties in noe with paved in front yards, no landscaping at all. (one of my big pet peeves)

    4. It’s windy a LOT here, and can be cold. that damn fog.

    5. Graffitti is still around.

    6. Too much dog shit on the sidewalks. translation: too many lazy, irresponsible dog owners.

    But I still like Noe V. dont get me wrong. and I’m not complaining that my house has gone up prob 17 times in value since I bought. But Noe is not perfect.

  10. I live in Bernal and love it and do like Noe as well but agree with Duggo that it is not the end all be all in hoods. Every hood has its own pluses and minuses. Some bernal people probably would not want to move to noe and vice versa and some people in the marina would probably rather live in neither.

    The one thing about bernal is the trajectory is def up in terms of businesesses coming into town like the poster above said. We have a new peruvian resturant and the good life is well loved in the hood and new placed keep popping up. I believe they even tried to get the farmers market from bernal to move to noe and they refused because the business is so good.

    Overall both are really great neighborhoods but there are lot of other great hoods for each person in general.

    The people also define the hood. If enough ‘dinks’ move to bernal it will be the next noe. Even without infrastructure the people will define the neighborhood via the type of restaurants that move in, shoppes, etc.

  11. It is interesting to see both neighborhoods changing. I bought in the flat part of Noe Valley out past 25th in 2004 and have seen the area around Church street get much much better. I am amazed at what SFRs are selling for in both locations. When enough 1-3 million SFRs change hands eventually the trickle down starts to happen. The thing about Noe and Bernal is its one of the few places you can get an SFR in an established neighborhood and not be on the west side of SF. SFRs in Pac Heights, Russian Hill, Cow Hollow, Nob Hill (dont exist) are not really feasible. Even for the moneyed SF residents. Potrero is a possibilty but I am not crazy about that area…The other attraction to these two hoods is the freeway access and the fact that they mostly survived the 1906 fire (at least for Noe, I think Bernal as well).

  12. we moved from noe to bernal (north slope) in january 2007 and couldn’t be happier with the new neighborhood. the weather is so much better, the proximity to the freeway is incredible and the “community” feeling is amazing. for these factors alone, we would have gladly paid more to be in bernal than in noe. we also think this neighborhood is much more walkable than noe (more interesting, varied and fun), especially with all the secret gardens and stairways. we’re excited for the new retail shops on cortland and wonder if there’s potential for more retail along precita park as well.

  13. I have friends in Bernal and I like it a lot (in the daytime). Especially like the dog friendliness. But I have concerns about safety. I have read of lot of this blog:

    I hear plenty of stories about (for example) store owners on Courtland getting robbed at gunpoint, young men robbing homes/businesses in an unmarked van, etc. I love the fact that you can get an SFR in a sunny hood, but it’s surrounded on all four sides by rough areas (not to mention noisy freeways).

    Transportation is not terrible but not great for me (driving) and the two bus lines are pretty limiting.

  14. It is no longer a rough area to the West of Bernal Heights. It is all commerce, bars and restaurants (and heavy foot traffic) from Cesar Chavez all the way to where Mission begins to climb south. Just West of that area is “Baja” Noe, and Noe Valley. There are rough elements in the other three directions , sure. But only over a busy or major thoroughfare. The “problems,” as I see them, are the Mission gangs who still occasionally deal drugs in Precita Park, and the Alemany Projects.

  15. just because bernal residents are keeping each other informed doesn’t mean there is more crime happening in bernal than other parts of the city. i wouldn’t walk around alone at night in bernal, but i wouldn’t do that in any neighborhood in sf because in the city, there is no neighborhood that is truly safe – it’s the nature of living in a city.

    as far as walkability goes, to cortland, that is an issue depending on what side of the hill you live on. but people have a choice of which side of bernal they live on and whether it’s important for them to be walking distance from cortland.

    parts of noe valley are no more walkable to 24th as as someone who lives in precita park is to cortland. i’ve done the walk from precita park to cortland and it is as do-able as someone walking from diamond heights blvd to 24th.

    which do i like more, bernal or noe? probably noe, but not for the price difference. i think it’s a better deal to live in bernal and i love the quirkiness, diversity, and community feel bernal has that noe doesn’t.

  16. Dave – as a business owner and member of the Cortland Merchants Association, I can tell ya that the biz owners have done a great job of pushing for more of a police presence in and around the commercial district in Bernal. Pretty standard to see a few police officers walking Cortland Ave throughout the day. Earlier this year we did have a rash of cafe’s and restaurants hit with armed robbers — but it appears that’s under control now.

    Precita Park is coming around too — 10 years ago you wouldn’t catch a kid in that park — when i drive by now I see small soccer camps with tons of little kids. There’s still the occasional homeless and in any park in San Fran, if you stand there long enough you’ll catch someone slinging something – but it’s night and day compared to what it used to be.

  17. I mean, Diamond Heights boulevard isn’t Noe Valley, tho. That whole area up there doesn’t really feel like Noe Valley. Waaaay up on Diamond or Douglass between Clipper and and where Diamond jogs up to Diamond Heights Blvd? That is Noe Valley on real estate maps only. It’s Diamond Heights in all but name.

  18. you just said diamond heights blvd is noe valley according to real estate maps which i believe are derived from the city’s district maps. it may be your opinion that it should not be considered part of noe valley but it is. so are the prices.

  19. Greg, that’s good to hear. I was frankly a little shocked to hear about the dry cleaner being robbed at gunpoint pretty recently. That’s a very serious crime in my book; way beyond breaking into a car or even selling drugs.

    I lived in Noe (top of the hill on Duncan) and Glen Park for years and never felt concerned about walking around at night. In GP you do get a certain “element” that takes BART and then connects to somewhere else via the bus, and I have also seen a few car windows smashed out (happened daily when I lived in Soma too) but I can’t recall an armed robbery in either. Not to say it can’t or doesn’t happen.

    Primarily, I have to ask myself if I would be ok having my wife walk home from a bus stop to our house at 7 or 8pm. If the answer is ‘no’ then I have to keep looking. I think the answer is ‘no’ for Bernal but maybe I’m being too paranoid. I had no similar concerns in Noe or GP…

  20. No, I didn’t say that. Diamond Heights Blvd itself cannot in any way be construed as being within Noe Valley.

  21. kenny, i don’t know what you are arguing about. you yourself said diamond heights blvd is considered to be part of noe valley. just look at a district map. there is no opinion about it. it’s a fact. it’s part of noe valley. i don’t consider precita park to be part of bernal but it is. what i consider part of bernal or not does not matter. there’s a real answer out there. and the real answer to diamond heights blvd being part of noe valley is yes.

  22. No, it isn’t. And if you read what I said, I didn’t say that. Maybe you’re confusing “Diamond” and “Diamond Heights Blvd.” Read what I said closely. And on the real estate map Diamond Heights Blvd falls squarely in area 4-B, Diamond Heights district. That’s not debatable.

    My point was that upper Diamond street, and upper Douglass, in some ways feel more like Diamond Heights than Noe Valley. And perhaps that’s why upper Diamond street listings often lag behind in value. That’s sort of debatable.

  23. kenny, i posted some links of sf district maps a few hours ago but someone removed them despite the out of office auto reply. [Editor’s note: They were, in fact, trapped in comment purgatory. There was nobody in office. Your comment is up. Sorry. :-( ]the maps show clearly that diamond heights blvd is part of district 5 noe valley and follows in district 5 glen park. i looked on 4b and there was no mention of diamond heights blvd on the map. i guess we will have to just agree to disagree. maybe this post will actually stay up. i’m not going to bother putting in the energy to find the links again in case it doesn’t though.

  24. i don’t want to get in the middle of the argument regarding diamond heights, but i thought i’d offer my two cents after taking a good look at the district map provided by the san francisco association of realtors. diamond heights blvd is actually the street that boarders noe valley (district 5c), glen park (district 5a) and diamond heights (district 4b)–so everybody is right??? to the north, diamond heights blvd converges with portola and twin peaks blvd. on the southern tip, it ends at about bosworth. determining what district you are in if you’re actually ON diamond heights blvd would depend if you were east or west of the street.

  25. Look, apologies to everybody for taking this thread in a different direction. But I know my neighborhoods. If any map seems to show that Diamond Heights Blvd is in Noe, it is flat wrong.

    That’s probably due to the following. The correct depiction would be a relief map, because the steep (and rather wide, I might add) green space east of Diamond Heights Blvd is actually the border. Not the street . Properties on Diamond Heights Blvd are in 4B. A sold properties search will verify this. It does not matter which side of the street the property is on. Diamond Heights Blvd is the main thoroughfare of 4-B, and its namesake.

  26. thank you for your apologizing kenny. i don’t know why it became such a heated issue. but frankly i’m done perusing this website. it’s turning into the Craigslist housing forum as i noted somewhere else and that’s just not my thing. Bye all!

    [Editor’s note: Sorry to see you go, if you must, but our suggestion would be to brush it off, and we hope to see you back here soon. :-( ]

  27. back to Noe vs Bernal.

    to be honest, we are owners and lovers of Noe BUT what WE love TODAY depends on WE and on TODAY. So I’m not sure which ‘hood should be called “better”.

    With a minivan full of kids, Noe might be easier to go around – however it may change street by street, block by block.

    With a stroller, some curbsides are simply out of question – in Noe (steep streets) or in Bernal (no or narrow curbside).

    For a single bachelor – or for a family – or for a couple of working adults – or for a long time SF resident, the answer will be different.

    The SFUSD map changes nearly every year, so even that or the ZIP codes might not be an argument either way.

    My only advise is to VISIT, VISIT, VISIT. And if you consider buying in any ‘hood, please park 5 blocks from the house, and walk there. You might instantly feel some negative points such as noise, and such – something you miss so much on the MLS square cut flavorless listings. And please, end your open house day by a coffee at the closest coffee shop to feel your potential neighbors.

    That’s my answer on how to choose a ‘hood: hoods are different because PEOPLE are differents and their taste and priorities are different.

    (now our decision on NoeValley.

    We dont love NoeValley, we love OUR block. it’s flat, but not as flat as creating some flood/sewage problem in our house. it’s next to a J-church stop. it’s close enough from 24th to make the outing a pleasure, but far enough to avoid double-parking. the view FROM our house is beautiful… rows and rows of victorian houses in any direction.

    that set – it was a challenge to find a house there matching our needs and our budget – but we found it – and bought it. Just keep looking. Everything comes on the market eventually!)

    [Editor’s note: …thank you for your insight.]

  28. the word on the street is that bernal heights has become baby heights. that’s where all the families are moving. won’t be long before everything is gutted and remodeled over there. good riddance. so many shit holes still to buy and fix, i wouldn’t pay these prices for the one’s already done. do it yourself with the one across the street.

  29. I sure wish Noe V had at least one gay bar…I get tired of going to the castro to meet my friends for a drink.

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