California lawmakers have voted to extend a $10,000 tax credit for first-time homebuyers.

The bill allocates $100 million for qualified first time home buyers of existing homes and $100 million for purchasers of new, or previously unoccupied, homes. The eligible taxpayer who closes escrow on a qualified principal residence between May 1, 2010 and December, 31, 2010, or who closes escrow on a qualified principal residence on and after December 31, 2010 and before August 1, 2011, pursuant to an enforceable contract executed on or before December 31, 2010, will be able to take the allowed tax credit. This credit is equal to the lesser of 5% of the purchase price or $10,000, taken in equal installments over three consecutive years. Under AB 183 purchasers will be required to live in the home as their principal residence for at least two years or forfeit the credit (i.e. repay it to the state).”

The bill received bipartisan support in the Assembly and Senate on Monday and was signed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on Thursday. California had recently passed a tax break that capped the total credit available at $100 million on new homes purchased between March 1, 2009, and March 1, 2010. This bill extended that coverage to include “used” homes and also doubled the funding.
To read more, click here.

First-Time Homebuyer
As long as you haven’t owned your primary residence in the last three years, you are considered a first-time homebuyer. If you did own your primary residence, but it was outside the United States, you still qualify. For married couples, each spouse must meet this criterion. For two unmarried individuals purchasing a home, only one need qualify (and that one should claim the credit). The credit is worth 10% of the purchase price, up to a maximum of $8,000.

Long-Time Homeowner
Because of changes to the homebuyer tax credit made in November 2009, long-time homeowners can now qualify for a tax credit as well. Homeowners who have lived in the same home as their principal residence for five consecutive years out of the last eight years can claim a tax credit of $6,500, if they choose to buy another home.

Some married couples are not eligible for the long-time homebuyer credit because the credit only applies to married couples where both spouses have lived in the same house together for five consecutive years out of the last eight years.

Long-time homeowners do not have to sell their current residence to qualify for the credit. They could buy a new home and keep the old home as long as the new home was used as their principal residence. They could then rent out the old home or use it as a second home.

Buy New Construction
Under both programs, as a first-time buyer or long-time owner you do not have to purchase an existing home to qualify for the credit. You can claim the credit on the purchase of a new home, as long as you have signed a legally binding construction contract by April 30, 2010, and occupy the home by June 30, 2010. The date of purchase for a new home is considered to be the date the homebuyer occupies the new home.

Make Sure You Qualify
Whether you’re a first-time homebuyer or long-time homeowner, you’ll have to meet the following criteria to claim the credit.

  • You must be at least 18 and you must not be claimed as a dependent on anyone else’s tax return to qualify for the credit.
  • You can’t purchase the home from a close relative, which the IRS defines as a parent, grandparent, spouse or child.
  • The home’s purchase price cannot be higher than $800,000.
  • Your income can’t be too high. This credit applies to single taxpayers with modified adjusted gross incomes (MAGI) up to $125,000 and married taxpayers with MAGI up to $225,000. Single taxpayers with income between $125,000 and $145,000 and married taxpayers with income between $225,000 and $245,000 are eligible for a reduced credit. (Just because you are in love doesn’t mean that a joint return is best for both of you. Check out Happily Married? File Separately!)
  • Houses, condos, townhomes, co-ops, house trailers and houseboats are eligible as long as they will be used as the buyer’s primary residence. Thus, vacation homes, second homes and investment properties are not eligible for the credit.
  • Some government employees serving overseas, such as members of the armed forces, have an additional year to qualify for the credit.

Claim the Credit
You’ll have to attach form 5405 to your return and you must file a paper return (no e-filing allowed). The IRS also requires you to attach your HUD-1 or other settlement statement (if one of these forms wasn’t involved in your purchase transaction, for mobile homes, a detailed retail sales agreement will suffice, and for new construction, a detailed certificate of occupancy will work). Make sure to sign whichever document you submit if it doesn’t already contain your signature.

Long-time homeowners must also attach their proof of long-term homeownership in the form of five consecutive years’ worth of property tax statements, mortgage interest statements or homeowner’s insurance statements.

For homes purchased in 2010 (before the 2010 deadline), homebuyers can claim the credit on either their 2009 or 2010 tax returns. Someone who purchased a home on April 30, 2010, would not have to wait until 2011 to claim the tax credit on her 2010 tax return; instead, she could file an amended 2009 tax return to get the credit sooner.

Unlike the 2008 tax credit of up to $7,500, which has to be repaid in 15 equal installments starting with the taxpayer’s 2010 tax return, the 2009 and 2010 tax credits do not have to be repaid unless you sell the home within 36 months of purchase. In that case, you would have to repay the entire credit.

Be sure to check with your own specifics with yur tax preparer!

Provided by Susan Reber of Mission Hills Mortgage Bankers.

I was wowwed!  LEED Certified Platinum construction meticulously designed by Handel Architects.  The development is called NOVE and it contains nine homes, each with outdoor space, direct connect parking (not a common garage), bright white modern finishes, private outdoor spaces and views and lots of bright sunlight.

My favorite features were the shiny orange epoxy garage floors and the completely real looking artificial grass in the “backyards.”  That and the fact the solar panels are cleverly integrated into the curved roof design to catch more of that south sun.

These 3 and 4 bedroom homes are all designed on two levels and are well located on Guerrero between 21st and 22nd (where the Palm Broker used to be).  Just the right place for a low-carbon footprint pedestrian lifestyle.  Bargain priced at between 1.1MM and 1.6MM, but they seem to be going fast.  the two top corner townhomes are already sold.

Please let me know if you want to take a look!

In a quick survey of adults I have taken, it appears that most of you have forgotten all about the 1938 Shirley Temple classic “Little Miss Broadway.”  In this fine film, Miss Temple plays an orphan (of course) who is adopted by the manager of a hotel populated by show business people.  She lives on the top floor (or is it the wealthy villian who does?).  In any event, drama and tap dancing ensue before the predictable happy ending.  While I never wanted to be an orphan, I did covet the real estate.

The Hamilton reminds me of this film because it is a 1930, 21 story, Art-Deco hotel that now houses 185 gracious studio condos and one gigantic, fabulous, full-floor penthouse.  While showing a studio last summer, I was told by one of the residents that the penthouse had a lap pool on the east end.  Naturally, when it came on the market, I needed to go check!  As you can see from the picture of the atrium at right, there is no pool, but there is one heck of a 360-degree view.  Add to this original marble and parquet floors, tromp o’lei backdrops and “wallpaper,” his and hers master baths (with matching view bathtubs carved of a single piece of Carrera marble), antique fireplace mantles, an outdoor space with fountain, two car parking, and a wonderful gourmet kitchen and you have over 3,800 square feet of sophisticated urban living.  Any takers?

It’s a good news/bad news situation. If your home is worth more than you paid for it, most people would agree that that’s a good thing. And if your home is worth more than you paid for it, you are likely paying the right amount of tax and so are not eligible for the scenarios described below. However, if your current assessed value is more than the fair market value of your home minus $7,000, you may be eligible for a reduction in your assessed value for the purpose of property tax calculation.

If you believe your home may be eligible for a reduction in property taxes based upon a decline in value, there are two ways you might proceed: an Informal Review by the Assessor’s office and/or a Formal Appeal with Assessment Appeals Board. The Formal Appeal, in particular, can be a complicated and time consuming process. Generally speaking (it all depends on the neighborhood and other details of your purchase), homes purchased 2005 through mid-2008 have the best cases for a property tax reduction. Declines from Peak Value (whenever that occurred) typically run in the 15% to 25% range. If your appeal is successful, the reduction in assessed value only applies to the 7/1/10 – 6/30/11 tax year. A decline-in-market appeal is only good for 1 year, the year for which it is filed. The Assessor’s “valuation date” is January 1, 2010 and any sales comparables submitted must have closed before March 31, 2010.

Informal Review

The SF Assessor’s Office has announced that they will now accept “Requests for Informal Review of Assessed Value” for tax year 2010/2011. Such requests must be filed by March 31, 2010 and apply only to single-family dwellings, residential condominiums, townhouses, live-work lofts and cooperative units. Last year 3,432 requests for informal review resulted in 1,683 reductions of assessed values for SF properties in tax year 2009/2010.

One can email the Assessor’s office with questions (Assessor@SFGOV.ORG), as well as call or visit the Assessor’s office to speak with the appraisers that are on duty (415-554-5596). And the SF Assessor’s website offers information regarding Decline-in-Value Informal Reviews: 

FAQs as Posted by the SF Assessor’s Office


First, check your current assessed value at Second, if the assessed value is higher than the market value, you have the following options:

1. REQUEST AN INFORMAL REVIEW (single family dwellings, residential condominiums, townhouses, live-work lofts and cooperative units only) – From January 4, 2010 to March 31, 2010, the Assessor will accept requests to review the market value of your property. Your request must be in writing by completing an application or submitting your request online with supporting evidence of your opinion of value. If you were granted a reduction for the year 2009-2010, we will automatically review your assessment for the year 2010-2011 to determine whether a reduction is still warranted, Send your request to: Assessor-Recorder, ATTN: Prop. 8, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, City Hall – Room 190, San Francisco, CA 94102. Mail-in requests for an informal review must be U.S. postmarked by the March 31, 2010 deadline. By Fax: (415) 554-7915 or E-mail: Be sure to keep a copy for your records.

2. FILE AN ASSESSMENT APPEAL (All property types) – From July 2, 2010 to September 15, 2010 you may file an Application for Changed Assessment with the Assessment Appeals Board (AAB), an independent body established to hear and resolve valuation disputes between the Assessor and taxpayer. A $30.00 filing fee due at the time of application and the AAB will schedule a hearing for you at a later date. Applications may be obtained by contacting the Assessment Appeals Board – Clerk of the Board at 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, City Hall – Room 405, San Francisco, CA 94102, by phone: (415) 554-6778 or directly from their website:


Yes. If upon the receipt of your annual Notice of Assessed Value, which will be mailed at the end of July 2010, you disagree with the assessed value, you .can file an assessment appeal with the Assessment Appeals Board. Please see instructions above.


Market value is the price a property would sell for when the property is put up for sale in a competitive and open market.


The Assessor is required to enroll the lesser of your factored base year value (assessment) or the market value. For example, if the market value (what you could sell your house for) of your property as of January 1, 2010 is $500,000 and your assessed value is $200,000 the Assessor would enroll the $200,000 as your taxable value. You would not qualify for a lowered assessment.


The assessed value being appealed will cover the fiscal year from July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2011.


You will need to submit sales information and/or an appraisal performed by a licensed real estate appraiser to support your claim. The sales information or appraisal’s date of valuation should be near the January 1, 2010 lien date but no later than March 31, 2010.


No. The reduction is temporary and only applies to the tax year being appealed. Once a reduction is made, the assessor is required by law to annually reappraise the property until its fair market value exceeds the factored base year value.


Unlike residential condominiums and cooperative units, TICs do not have separate parcel numbers. A review of a single TIC unit is more complex. TIC owners can appeal their taxes by filing an Application for Changed Assessment with the Assessment Appeals Board beginning July 2, 2010 thru September 15, 2010.


Homeowners will be notified of the results of their informal review in the annual Notice of Assessed Value which will be mailed at the end of July 2010.

Making a Formal Appeal

The next open formal appeal filing period for San Francisco will be July 2, 2010 to September 15, 2010 — to appeal the 2010/2011 assessed value of your property. A formal appeal can be made for multi-unit and commercial properties, as well as for houses, condos & cooperative units.
It is possible to attend assessment appeals board hearings for other people to see how they work. They are open to the public. These 3 online resources offer important details regarding the filing of a formal appeal:

1. SF Assessment Appeals Board:

2. Publication 30: “Residential Property Assessment Appeals”:

3. Informational Videos on Property Tax Appeals:

Warning on Scams

There are a number of property-tax-appeal service companies, who have been sending out their solicitations on stationery that suggests a government agency affiliation. SF Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting has stated the following:

“We’ve received reports from dozens of taxpayers who have received a letter from companies offering to facilitate the property tax reassessment for $179 [or more]. This is unnecessary and deceptive. Taxpayers can fill out a simple, one-page application for a review of their property in my office, free of charge… There is no need to pay for this service.”
All information is from sources deemed reliable but subject to error and omission, and not warranted. Interested parties should contact the appropriate government agency to confirm all pertinent guidelines and procedures.

We have a lot to be thankful for in San Francisco. We have largely survived this real estate downturn without the enormous declines we are seeing on the news. However, they have been significant. Anyone in the market today on the seller side certainly can tell you that.

I thought it was a good time to check in and update the article from earlier this year “How Much Have San Francisco Home Values Declined Since their Peak?” Thankfully, many neighborhoods have not had a change since April, when values were even lower than in February, and some have even climbed a percent or two.

Below is an analysis of San Francisco neighborhoods comparing Average Dollar per Square Foot ($/sqft) at what is estimated to be peak value, to the average for sales occurring 10/15/08 – 4/1/09 (the market period right after the 9/15/08 financial markets meltdown), and then to the average for more recent sales occurring 5/1/09 – 10/30/09 (as home sales volume – and financial markets – surged again).

Different areas reached peak values at different times – in 2006, 2007 or 2008 – and the asterisked notes denote the estimated peak value period that pertains. The price ranges of the sales included were chosen to be in a standard range of value for the area and property type specified – thus attempting to eliminate both the ultra high end and the ultra low end, which often distort averages.

Dollar per square foot is based upon the home’s interior living space and does not include garages, unfinished attics and basements, rooms built without permit, or exterior spaces. These figures are usually derived from appraisals, tax records or condo maps, but are sometimes unreliable (especially for older homes) or unreported altogether. There are often surprisingly wide variations of value within neighborhoods, and averages may be distorted by one or two sales substantially higher or lower than the norm. They may also be distorted by confidential sales, which are not uncommon at the upper end of the market. (For confidential sales, the list price, and not the sales price, is used for the calculation.)

Key to Estimated Peak-Value Period for the Chart Below:
*             Peak values estimated to have been reached 1/1/06 – 6/30/06
**           Peak values estimated to have been reached 1/1/07 – 6/30/07
***        Peak values estimated to have been reached 1/1/08 – 6/30/08

Changes in Average Dollar per Square Foot Values
for Selected San Francisco Neighborhoods & Property Types

or District
Property Type
Price Range
Avg $/sq.ft. at Peak Value 10/15/08 – 4/01/09 5/1/09 –
Change from 4/1/09 Total Change from
Est. Peak Value
Bayview* House
$300k – 800k
$507/sq.ft. $294/sq.ft. $280/sq.ft. – 5% – 45%
Ingleside/ Hghts / Oceanview* House
$400k – 800k
$580 $449 $444 – 1% – 23%
Excelsior/Portola* House
$400k – 800k
$600 $457 $450 – 1.5% – 25%
Central/Outer Richmond ** House
$700k – 1.4m
$569 $488 – 14%
Inner Mission** Condo
$500k – $800k
$621 $496 – 20%
Central/ Outer   Sunset** House
$500k –  900k
$626 $533 $501 – 6% – 20%
Miraloma/ Sunnyside** House
$500k – 1m
$677 $598 $550 – 8% – 19%
Hayes Valley/ Alamo/ NOPA*** Condo
$500k – 900k
$684 $602 $559 – 7% – 18%
SOMA** Condo
$500k – 900k
$689 $553 $562

+ 2%

– 18%
or District
Property Type
Price Range
Avg $/sq.ft. at Peak Value 10/15/08 – 4/01/09 5/1/09 –
Change from 4/1/09 Total Change from
Est. Peak Value
Bernal Hghts*** House
$500k – 1m
$651/sq.ft. $556/sq.ft. $567/sq.ft. + 2% – 13%
St Francis Wd/W.
Portal/Forest H **
$800k – 2.5m
$687 $585 – 15%
Noe & Eureka Valleys*** Condo
$500k – 1m
$751 $675 $613 – 9% – 18%
South Beach*** Condo
$500k – 1m
$785 $681 $640 – 6% – 18%
Potrero Hill** House
$700k – 1.4m
$753 $648 – 14%
Telegraph Hills***
$600k – 1.2m
$798 $692 – 13%
Noe & Eureka Valleys*** House
$800k – 1.5m
$891 $755 $707 – 6% – 21%
Pacific Hghts/  Marina (Dist 7)*** Condo
$600k – 1.2m
$809 $763 $733 – 4% – 9%
Most Expensive North SF Areas*** House
$1.5m – $4m
$975 $797 – 18%

Averages are generalities and cannot account for the varieties in location, condition and amenities found in SF homes. Averages may be affected by unusual events or short-term trends, and do not necessarily reflect values for specific properties.  Average dollar per square foot values fluctuate even in a stable price market as they are impacted by individual sales, and changes of less than 3-4% should probably be ignored. All data from sources deemed reliable, but not guaranteed and may contain errors and omissions. Sales not reported to MLS – such as many new condo-development sales – are not included in this analysis.

In every category, even luxury, the number of homes sold is trending upwards. The charts below are not reflective of the price they are trading at, but generally higher market activity starts to put upward pressure on prices. The charts below show a two year period ending August 30, 2009.  Overall, my reading of these charts is that if you were waiting for the market to bottom out, it has already done so.  Also, it’s still a very good time to buy between 500k and $2MM as those curves have only just started to gently edge up.

Home Sales $500,000 & Under (It must be noted here that one of the reasons the growth in sales is so high is because there were fewer homes as a proportion of the market under $500,000 back in 2007.)


Home Sales $501,000 – $999,000


 Home Sales $1,000,000 – $1,999,999


Home Sales $2,000,000 and Above