2010 Decorator Showcase Will Be A 1929 Georgian Revival Mansion

From our reader:

The 1929 Georgian Revival mansion @ 3450 Washington is apparently set to be the site of the 2010 Designer Showcase.

Posthumously attributed to Architect Willis Polk (1867-1924) the 8,000+ sq.ft. Presidio Heights home was purchased by Peter Sperling in 2001 for a purported $18 million (story and other high end real estate gossip here), and has been on and off the market ever since.
Still listed on the Joel Goodrich Coldwell Banker website “price upon request”.

So let’s see, not on MLS, but still “available”? Sounds like something for PocketListings.net. Thanks for the tip and thanks for reading!

No Need To Be Subtle, Begging Works: “Clients Want Offer”

Whether it’s an “extremely motivated client”, or an extremely motivated agent, it’s the new age of real estate marketing…begging…and in San Francisco it’s here to stay.

It’s about time we quit being subtle and get to the point.

367 31st Ave, 3 bedroom, $1,195,000 [property website]
13 Ways To Say The Same Thing: Bring Me An Offer [theFrontSteps.com]

Bravo Infinity Towers…You’re Just About Sold Out, Eh?

Infinity Towers is the “fastest selling condominium complex in the United States”.

…and the penthouse, “7.3 Million Dollars”…(thoughts of Austin Powers)

[Update/Comment: One of our Friends/Readers commenting on this post via our Facebook Fan Page, “Maybe you should have titled this post – just shut up and fuck me!” Not exactly what we were thinking, but now that you said it, we are free to quote.]

CBS 5 News: Infinity Towers Success Story

“San Francisco Housing Market Continues To Strengthen”

This pulled directly from the San Francisco Association of Realtors Newsletter:

San Francisco’s Housing Market Continues to Strengthen Unlike Many Other Areas of the Country

Falling inventory levels and strong sales activity in December, 2009, helped to drive continued improvement in San Francisco’s housing market, according to the latest Market Focus report issued jointly by Rosen Consulting Group and the San Francisco Association of REALTORS®. The median single-family home sales price increased for a third consecutive month in December reaching $755,608. That represents a 7.9 percent increase from December, 2008. The report attributes the improved market conditions to a drop off in foreclosure sales and a growing proportion of sales in higher priced neighborhoods.

Median Condominium Sales Price Increases for First Time Since July 2008

The report observes that the condominium market also seems to have turned a corner, as the median sales price increased by 7.6 percent to $672,590 in December. It was the first year-over-year increase since July 2008.

According to John Lee, president of the San Francisco, “The reduction in asking prices, mortgage rates of less than or near 5 percent and federal tax incentives have increased housing affordability and attracted buyers to the condominium market.” But he notes that “sellers of higher-priced properties have benefitted less from incentives as sales are closed only after significant negotiations from original asking prices.”

Closed and Pending Sales Activity in December Remained Relatively Strong

As expected, closed and pending sales activity dipped during December as a result of seasonal patterns. But despite the slowdown, closed and pending single-family sales activity that month outpaced similar activity in December of both 2008 and 2007.

According to the report, the single-family months of supply inventory fell to 3 months in December 2009 from 5.8 months in December 2008. The condominium months of supply inventory fared less well dropping to 4 months from 7.2 months during the same period. With inventory levels falling, Lee anticipates that the price increases seen in recent months will continue and possibly intensify.

The Rosen Consulting Group sounds a note of caution in its report by saying that a number of factors could delay the further strengthening of San Francisco’s housing market. Principal among these would be an increase in distressed properties that would add to the for sale inventory and put downward pressure on prices and the anticipated increase in mortgage rates that could rein in home buying activity. But the Group’s outlook is increasingly positive and it believes that if these eventualities would happen, “it would only be a bump in the road to long term growth in the San Francisco market.”

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,

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…


The CRACK Real Estate Index (You Know You Want To Try It)

We’re always keen to post content provided by our readers and colleagues, so of course we’re glad to help out “The Registry” when the Publisher asks us for a favor:


I hope you are doing well. I am writing to ask a small favor. Rob Le Eace and I are working on the CRACK real estate index. It’s an index that measures the health of the [real estate] industry by looking at Cars, Real vacations, Advertising, Coffee expenditure and Knowledge of hot spots. The results will be collected through an online survey here:

CRACK Real Estate Survey

And we’ll incorporate it in an article that Rob is writing for the next month’s issue. I’m going to post a link to it on our web site, too, and we’ll do a small email blast asking folks to complete it, but I was wondering if you’d be OK with posting it on your site, as well.

Anyway, it’s totally light hearted, and I hope you can help out.

Thanks very much in advance. Chat soon.


As stated, we’re always glad to help and look forward to the results. We’ve long said our market (pre-bust) was like real estate on acid, but CRACK…we’re all ears.

[Update: To provide more insight to the CRACK method, here’s something from Rob La Eace:

The Men’s Underwear Index (MUI) has proven itself accurate enough to be regarded by even former Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan as an index worthy of note. How does it work? Although most consider underwear a necessity, being that only you (and a few lucky others) can see your undies, imminent replacement upon recognizing that they are a bit tattered is not always priority one. This sentiment is magnified when the going gets tough. Thus, men buy less underwear during recessions and more underwear in good economic times. I guess you could say that undies were not the kind of “change” that Obama was speaking of. I couldn’t resist. I digress. By tracking the sales of men’s underwear, trends can be seen. In summer of 2009, one industry analyst forecasted that underwear sales would be down 2.3 percent for 2009—the first negative year of sales since data collection began in 2003. The good news is that it is predicted that sales will only be down .5 percent in 2010. Less bad. We like that.
In brainstorming with my editor, we came up with a semi-scientific way to have some fun, and maybe get a gauge of our market status and agent/broker confidence. As we know, actions speak louder than words. Rather than simply asking for opinion regarding the market let’s peer into the discretionary spending of our ranks to see if we can see any trends or signals. Calling upon our crack team of Registry Statisticians (and, NO “crack team” does not mean that they smoke it), we have created the C.R.A.C.K Index. This highly sensitive market gauge measures Cars, Regular vacations, Advertising budget, Coffee expenditures, and Knowledge of hot spots. For our, and hopefully your amusement, we have hit the pavement to survey as many managing brokers and agents as possible. We hope as a local real estate professional, that you can help by participating. The results of our survey will be in the February issue of The Registry.]

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.


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


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

I Am A Top Producer! ~ B…F…D…!


It’s that time of year again…the time for the announcements and excitement amongst brokerages across the land of their “Top Producers”. Those two words send shudders down the spine of many Realtors as they conjure up thoughts of, “I’m good enough, I’m strong enough, and gosh darn it, people like me.” Given last year’s real estate environment, “Top Producer” status is being touted even more now as a reason to work with one Realtor over another, because if you made it in 2009, you must be a rock star.

We’ve always had a bit of an issue with the whole “Top Producer” thing. First of all, every real estate company has different thresholds that put their real estate agents on that pedestal. For example, a brokerage with two agents that each sell one property per year could call those agents “Top Producers”. Some brokerages determine “Top Producers” on the amount of commission earned (could be $50k, could be $150k). Still others determine their “Top Producers” on the dollar volume sold (could be $2 million, could be $20 million.) There is no industry standard, and the criteria change every year. Certainly a “Top Producer” in Kansas is selling less (or maybe more) real estate than a “Top Producer” in California. So you see, it’s a bit misleading if you ask us, and frankly we don’t think it carries much weight with buyers and sellers. We would be happy doing away with the whole thing altogether.

So why then is it such a big deal amongst agents and their brokerages? We tend to think it’s that old competitor in every agent that is striving to outdo their colleagues, and it’s just another way to say, “I kick more ass than you, because I sell more real estate than you.” Reality is, the buying and selling decisions aren’t up to the real estate agent, and if you’re being pushed into a deal in this environment by a “Top Producer”, especially if you’re buying, there might be some ulterior motives to “getting you in the home of your dreams”.

Bottom line, “Top Producer” in our eyes isn’t something that should carry as much weight as it does and you (the buyer and seller) certainly shouldn’t base your decision on working with an agent on whether they’re a “Top Producer” or not. You’re going to need to like the person first and foremost, because you just might be in that relationship for quite some time before you “close the deal”. ;-)

Just sayin’…..

[Editor’s Note: I am a Top Producer.]

A “Villa” At Ocean Beach? Tisk Tisk. But A Pizza Place On Noriega…Brilliant!

The email to our office read, “Stunning Ocean Beach Villa”, and a link to 2006 47th Ave was included. We were expecting…well….a surprise, you know…a “villa”. Instead, we got your typical Outer Parkside “gem”.


We’re gonna go out on a limb and say that when 99% of Outer Parkside home buyers (and their Realtors) are shopping for homes at or near Ocean Beach, they’re not looking for “villas”. Maybe “Junior 5s” or “Center Patios”, but “villas”? Seems like a little bit of…shall we say…interesting marketing.

But a Pizza Place On Noriega? Now that’s marketing…it’s a pizza place…on Noriega. Genius!

(Yes, the Pizza Place is nearby this listing.)

2006 47th Ave, Outer Parkside, $849,000.

Ask Us: Got Stagers Or Designers (In One Place/On One Site)

Welcome 2010, and welcome the first reader question of the year.

How about an open thread for local designers / stagers to publicize their services with links to works in SF? Maybe you could even pimp for some paid adverts as well. I recently had the need to look for a stager / designer and I couldn’t find a localized SF site. So if anyone knows of one, please let me know! Yelp was surprisingly unhelpful here. Could be interesting.

As a reminder theFrontSteps is on somewhat of a hiatus due to life and the construction of a new service for Realtors (PocketListings.net), but we’re always glad to post your questions, and appreciate all of the reader responses, so keep them coming (thefrontsteps@gmail.com).

Happy New Year!

Stagers/designers feel free to link to your site in the comments below.