Home of The Week

September 26, 2008

This is the 3rd floor landing of 2730 Fulton Street. The stairs go up to a fabulous pentroom with roofdeck overlooking Golden Gate Park. This home is situated in the middle of a row of truly elegant homes set back from busy Fulton Street and protected from the traffic by mature street trees. I find, out looking for homes with many of you, that San Francisco is rather short on full-sized family homes. This one has it all – 5 bedrooms and 4 1/2 baths on 4 levels, parking, huge kitchen and living spaces and a killer family location near the about to open Academy of Sciences, some of the best schools in town and all the activities the park has to offer. It is priced at 2.3MM, which is a bargain when you compare it to the same size house in, say, Noe Valley, or even Pacific Heights. To see more pictures, click here.



The following article was written by Eric Nelson, Broker/Owner of The Honte Group, a skilled and talented mortgage broker. Eric can be reached at enelson@thehontegroup.com or at 408-457-6052 if you have questions about getting a mortage today. This article was previously printed in the Almaden Times.

What goes up, must come down……

Sir Isaac Newton

If we didn’t know better, we would assume Mr. Newton was speaking about real estate and the volatile mortgage market. So, just what is happening and what does it all mean? Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac requiring a bailout, the investment banks also needing a bailout, perhaps you wonder when your turn will occur?

First, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are the agencies that oversee the purchasing of mortgages, and in turn these mortgages are sold as securities on Wall Street to investors. Investment banks such as Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley are companies who converted these mortgages into investment vehicles which were highly profitable for several years until the real estate market hit its peak in 2006.

While riskier loans were being made, the fact that home values continued to rise allowed investors to sell if they got into financial trouble and still make a profit.
When market values leveled and then began to drop, the house of cards also followed.

First, it was the Sub Prime market that fell. Sub Prime mortgages are done for clients who do not have above average qualifications, typically below average credit or income.

Second, it was the speculators’ turn, with values dropping many properties became over encumbered and in turn chose to walk from the property when the equity was gone.

This began a wave of unprecedented foreclosure activity, and in turn began to sink banks like Indy Mac. Most banks saw their stock value drop to dangerously low levels and in turn became vulnerable to takeovers and mergers.

At some point, the news became so grim that the financial markets both in the U.S. and internationally reacted, with dramatic drops in stock and cash positions. This has in turn led to government intervention, first with the bailouts of Fannie and Freddie and then in a low cost loan to AIG, a major insurer of mortgages.

Conforming loan limits were raised, and lending standards became stricter overnight. Loans that offered payment choices without covering all the interest due were eliminated, as were the no income verification loans over $417,000.

Last week President Bush announced a $700 billion bailout for mortgages that are failing. The creation of another Resolution Trust Corporation was recommended to oversee the servicing and handling of the failing mortgages. This would appear to be the end of the road for government involvement due to the extreme cost of cleaning up this mess.

This is not the first time that we have seen banks over commit themselves with risky loans. In 1989, many Savings and Loans paid the same price as today’s banks are, either losing liquidity or going away all together. It took 3 years then, and is likely to be the same story now.

So, what does it all mean? Are there any opportunities with mortgages that could benefit you? Not surprisingly, Almaden Valley has mostly held its market value and mostly avoided the foreclosure bug. Loan delinquencies are far lower, and in turn open up more opportunity in the market place.

The financial market upheaval has led to interest rate fluctuations that have been mostly lower. The safe harbor loan of a 30 year fixed is back in vogue and many clients are seeing great flexibility in interest rates if they have good quality qualifications.

Market values all over the county have dropped, meaning you can purchase much more today than 2 years ago. In Almaden, there are still many reasonably priced homes for sale.

What’s on the horizon? With the presidential election just weeks away, there will be an impact on the market regardless of the winner. There will be considerable pressure on the new president to stabilize both the stock market and the real estate market.

Market Update

September 24, 2008

This weeks shows the trend of condos selling under asking price at a greater rate than single family homes continuing. The volume of sales also remains fairly similar to our last report. This is probably the last batch of closings for properties that accepted offers during the summer. From now on we’ll start to see what the fall market is doing. Other statistics from our sales meeting show that 47.5% of homes that sold accepted an offer in less than 30 days and sold for an average of 103% of asking price.

My own experience with the market recently has shown that things that sit are going for less, but that well-priced properties are moving. It seems it’s never wise to wait after you decide you like something unless losing it is OK with you. One client bought a two-unit way under asking price that had been on the market for 60+ days; another snagged a TIC 10k under ask just after its offer date passed unnoticed; and two others were beaten to the punch by other buyers within days of the property being listed.

Over Ask Under Ask At Ask

SFD 36 20 6

Condo 14 39 12

2-4 Units 9 3 1

Upcoming Listings

September 24, 2008

Paragon has lots of new listings – the fall inventory is here!
$2,225,000 /Telegraph Hill / BR/BA: 3/2.5 PKG: 1 Brief Description: Spectacularly located 2000 sq’+ 2-level condo in a 1930’s Mediterranean style building features unobstructed water views from Sausalito to the Bay Bridge, an enormous terrace and a deck.
$1,799,000 / Russian Hill / BR/BA: 3/2 PKG: 2 Brief Description: Located at the top of Russian Hill. A wrought iron gate leads up brick steps onto Terraced gardens and the entrance to a lovely main home and legal au pair with its own separate garden entrance
$1,649,000 / Noe Valley / BR/BA: 3/3 PKG: 2 Tandem Brief Description: Gracious 2-level Marina style home with master suite at garden level in heart of Noe
$1,649,000 /Forest Hill Extension / BR/BA: 3+/3 PKG: 1+ Brief Description: Gracious Spanish Mediterranean home on 4 levels, deck, hot tub, garden, quiet cul de sac, lower level home office/family room
$1,449,000 / Hayes Valley / BR/BA: 3/2 PKG: 1 Brief Description: Gorgeous Italianate Victorian home, meticulous remodel, quality finishes/fixtures, beautiful period detail.
$1,050,000 /Noe/ BR/BA: 3/1 PKG: Brief Description: Beautiful, classic Vic in great location. New kit/ba. Gar poss. Expansion down.
$1,059,000/ Ashbury Heights/ BR/BA: 2/ 2 PKG:1 tandem parking. Brief: Description: open market in decades, this full floor condo in a 2 unit building is a unique opportunity. Recently converted to condos, the main level features 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, living room with fireplace, dining room, kitchen, and deck with views to the ocean. Additionally, there are two bonus bedrooms, full bath, and laundry downstairs. This space is legal but not directly connected to the unit.
$1,000,000/ Bernal/ BR/BA: 3/2 PKG: 5 Brief Description: spect Span Med fully hm det w/ beautiful grounds and an outdoor kit. Great details,Views,inlaw/’edia rm 1st op next Tues-catered lunch by owner-pls try to stop by.
$998,000/ Central Sunset/ BR/BA: 2/2 PKG:2 Brief Description: Fully Detached home w/ 1875 orig. sq. ft. Lots of arch. detail, fireplace, woodwork, a big remodeled kitchen, formal living/dining, and importantly a great in-law that has two rooms (currently used as bdrms), kit and sep entrances. Yard is nicely landscaped and garage provides for poss. expansion. GGBridge views from living room.
$969,000 / North Beach / BR/BA: 2/2 PKG: 1 Brief Description: Sophisticated modernist flat built in 2007 with Coit Tower views and super-convenient location.
$875,000 / Corona Heights/BR/BA: 2 / 1 PKG: 2 Brief Description: Magical 2 bedroom Victorian farm house condo that feels like a single family home. Property is completely detached with windows on all sides with wonderful verdant outlooks. Features include remodeled kitchen, updated systems, wood floors, high ceilings, in unit laundry, shared patio and garden, and 2 separate deeded garages. Truly unique!
$849,000/Central Richmond/BR/BA: 3/1.5 PKG: 1+ Brief Description: Charming Edwardian Home Just off of GG Park. Extra deep lot with an Artist’s Studio at the back of the property. Breakfast nook, office, large deck, FP, hardwood floors. First Open 9/28.
$730,000/ Central Waterfront /BR/BA: 2/2 PKG: 1 Brief Description: Tri level loft in Stanley Saitowitz building 1400 + sq. ft. Two patios. Nice top floor loft on 3rd St light rail. Seller needs to sell in order to buy something. Will be on market soon but will show now.
$729,000 / Marina / BR/BA: 2/1 PKG: 1 Brief Description: Spacious 2bd/split bath TIC with period detail, hardwood floors, moldings and bay windows. Shared yard, roof deck, parking, and in-unit W/D! Attractive seller financing available.
$725,000/ Pacific Heights/ BR/BA: 1/1.5 PKG: 1 Brief Description: Large one-bedroom unit (almost 1,200SF) with a balcony in a full-service building with heated rooftop pool.
$699,000/Mission Bay/ BR/BA: 1/1 PKG: o Brief Description: Parking is available at $105 / month; HOA dues are $644 / month. Spacious corner unit with partial Bay and ballpark views. Pony wall in kitchen has been removed for better flow; walnut hardwood floors. Laundry in-unit. First Sunday Open September 28th.
$619,000/ Excelsior / BR/BA: 3/1 PKG: 0 Brief Description: Huge downtown views in a beautiful cottage style single family home.
$589,000 / Buena Vista/ BR/BA: 1/ 1 PKG: 1 Brief Description: Not the typical layout for this building! 750(ish) sq/ft – 3 large closets, opposite the chapel. PRESELL! Or comes to market end of month.
$589,000/Haight Ashbury/ BR/BA: 1/1 PKG: 0 Brief Description: Adorable, remodeled, Victorian condo in a 6 unit building. It has tons of detail and SF charm with 4 rooms + a small sun room and has been used as a 2-bedroom condo in the past. Great condo for the price.
$499,000/ Western Addition/ BR/BA: 2/2 PKG: 1 Brief Description: Top floor sky-lit condo w/ open floor plan and updated kitchen and baths near Fillmore Jazz District.
$309,000/ Daly City/ 381 Half Moon Lane #302 BR/BA: 2/2 PKG:1 Brief Description: 1,054 sq. feet – Crown Colony in Daly City – free shuttle to bart, 2 pools, tennis courts, easy freeway access – we want quick sale – not a short sale or reo. 1st open 9/28 Sunday 2-4. Wellington will do contractors inspection next Tues—what a deal!!Pocket Listing:
$749,000 /Nob Hill /BR/BA: 1/1 PKG:1 leased Brief Description: Very large (1159 s.f.), beautiful Edwardian flat on one of the very best streets at the top of Nob Hill. Beautiful original detail, remodeled kitchen, big formal DR, home office space. Nice 4-unit bldg. 1 block to Huntington Park, Grace Cathedral. Perfect pied-a-terre!
$1,049,000 / Hayes Valley/ 560 Haight #201 BR/BA: 2/2 PKG: 2 Brief Description: NY Style double corner loft with three outdoor spaces. About to enter the rental market.

On San Francisco Preschools

September 19, 2008

A client wrote to ask about preschools, concerned she hadn’t started the application process soon enough for her 1 1/2 year old, and here is what I had to say:

This is an intimidating process because there are so many choices. See this link for what I think is the most complete listing of preschools:


I encourage you to not be so taken with the pedigree of some of these places that you think you just have to have it or your like a bad mom or something. There are a lot of wonderful preschools and I encourage you to just find the right one for you – not just the one with the buzz. Now PP would be perfect because of the location and it is a really good program, but it’s not the only thing out there that’s pretty close by either.

Also, I can’t see how you are late. Pacific Primary won’t take anyone that’s not potty trained, so you should be a ways off 🙂 I think they start at 3. It is a very good program, but very oversubscribed. The people I know who have gotten their kids in are either just lucky or have some demographic qualities that the school is looking for. Two of the families I know have been bilingual. One of them was also a gay couple. The other one was a moderate-income mexican & american couple. This is true with lots of schools in SF as the kids get older – the diversity thing can play a big role.

You have a much better chance of getting in to Pacific Primary, though, now that they have expanded. The school is doubling in size and I doubt applications will double right away, so get one in there!

I sent my son to Stepping Stones on 7th Avenue in the Inner Sunset. Their number is 665-4189. It worked for me b/c it was an all day program and they also take kids starting at about 2, so they don’t require potty training and they even help with that. I liked the program because they go to Golden Gate Park everyday and I liked the idea that my son was going out and about and not in what I would call “baby jail” like some preschools. I would mention that I referred you. Not sure if it will make a difference, but we were well liked and it would be a plus if anything.

Another program in the neighborhood that I really liked, but did not get in to, is Belvedere Montessory, which is over on Belvedere street @ about Frederick. The woman who runs it is also responsible for the Kevin Collins garden project over at our playground. Her name is Barbara Alexander and her number is (415) 564-3173. Check her out on Yelp.

I have a number of friends who have sent their kids to Laurel Hill, which is definitely one of the best known preschools in the city. It is part-time and cooperative, which I couldn’t deal with being a working mom. Cooperative meaning that you have to work there one day a week.

I also have friends who have really loved Rocky Mountain cooperative preschool (415) 552-2929. I think they are still on the board, so if you check it out and want me to put you in touch with them, just let me know.

I also have friends who have been VERY happy with the JCC program and with Marin Day School programs.

Home of the Week

September 5, 2008

When I was a little girl growing up in Westlake, my mother often took the opportunity to drive through St. Francis Wood “on our way” places. I always dreamed that one day one of these stately homes would be mine…  I turned out a bit more urban, but I still detour all the time to look, just like my mom. 

This superb example of country living in town, designed by Henry Gutterson and built in 1924, is as elegant as it gets. It is listed by Paragon, and will be shown by appointment only. If the pictures make you really hot to see it, just let me know and we’ll go . . .See more about the house by clicking here.  To see detailed floor plans, click here.

Greening Your Home

September 5, 2008

Did you know it’s not hard? When I think of greening my home, I think I need special equipment, like solar panels or a windmill…but according to this video, you can reduce your home’s energy consumption by 40 to 50% with simple changes like:

1. Testing the envelope of the home
2. Testing the ducts (the average home loses 30% of its heated air to leaks)
3. Adding insulation
4. Lighting: switching to CFL bulbs
5. Updating the furnace

Watch the PG&E Expert explain it here.