Good news for subprime borrowers

More and more news is popping up about progress towards a "freeze" on ARM's (adjustable rate mortgages) for subprime borrowers. Until the official announcement comes out it's hard to say if this will effect you. After all, interest-only 5/1 ARMs were the most popular loan for nearly every class of borrower in 2004 and 2005 when they represented a significant savings over fixed rate loans. Today the rates are virtually the same on interest-only vs. fixed-rate, so you only choose interest-only to avoid paying down principal. In '04 and '05 you chose interest-only because your interest rate was as much as a full point cheaper too.

But in all the articles, like this one, they say the "relief" is for sub-prime borrowers. I don't know if that means only those who were originally sub-prime, or if it includes people who would now be sub prime due to a drop in their credit score, or a loss of a job or decrease in annual income? Since most '04 and '05 borrowers took on loans that are due to re-set in the next 1 to 3 years... there are going to be a lot of people wondering if they can keep their same low interest rate. Or, will the most well to do be forced to pay more, so that those with poor credit can pay less?


Antidote to the Real Estate naysayers

Wish I could take credit for this compilation of old headlines... but it comes from the COO of Intero Real Estate, Tom Tognoli, by way of an Escrow rep I know, Lili Seif at CornerStone Title Company:

“The prices of houses seem to have reached a plateau, and there is reasonable expectancy that prices will decline.”
– Time Magazine, 1947

“The goal of owning a home seems to be getting beyond the reach of more and more Americans.” (Average price at the time: $28,000)
– Business Week, 1969

“The era of easy profits in real estate may be drawing to a close.”
– Money Magazine, 1981

“If you are looking to buy, be careful. Rising home values are not a sure thing anymore.”
– Miami Herald, 1985

“Most economists agree...a home will become little more than a roof and a tax deduction, certainly mot the lucrative investment it was....”
– Money Magazine, 1986

“We’re starting to go back to the time when you bought a home not for its potential money-making abilities, but rather as a nesting spot.”
– Los Angeles Times, 1993 (Note: 1993 was the absolute low-point for real estate values in Los Angeles. Priced have sky-rocketed since.)

“Financial planners agree that houses will continue to be a poor investment.”
– Kiplinger’s Personal Financial Magazine, 1993

“A home is where the bad investment is.”
– San Francisco Examiner. 1996

I personally love the "Financial planners agree..." comment... Financial planners have a stake in your investing in stocks where they make a commission. The same jab we Realtors get. Sure there has been irrational exuberance in both, and it's smarter to buy at the bottom then at the top. But NOW that there are many more naysayers, that's is the bottom... the time to buy... simply because the "experts" are telling you not to. Just about all of the above headlines were published during downturns in the market... only to be followed by significantly improved markets.


Home prices up 6% year to date in San Francisco

Dataquest's October numbers are out... San Francisco's total homes sold did decrease by 8.2% but that is far less of a decrease than the 35.7% for the entire Bay Area. In addition prices have gone up by 3.9% over the same month in 2006.

For year to date figures, notice below that since Q1 prices are up 6%. That's extremely solid growth in what the media continues to call are terrible market.

On the other hand, even city-only numbers are far too broad to determine how your home has done in this market. Some segments of the market are very hot, like the $2 to $4 million range in neighborhoods like Pacific Heights and Cow Hollow. The higher end market may in fact be lifting overall figures because many homes priced under $1 million in some other neighborhoods are virtually not selling at all at any price. So take the following numbers, as with any generalized number, with a grain of salt, and feel free to email me for a free "CMA" or Comparative Market Analysis for your home.

Here are this year's stats per DataQuest:

Jan '07 - Median Price $750,000 - up 0.7% over Jan '06
Feb '07 - Median Price $757,500 - up 2.4% over Feb '06
Mar '07 - Median Price $753,000 - down 2.1% over Mar '06
Apr '07 - Median Price $790,000 - up 1.4% over Apr '06
May '07 - Median Price $835,000 - up 8.4% over May '06
June '07 - Median Price $825,000 - up 4.4% over June '06
July '07 - Median Price $799,000 - up 3.1% over July '06
Aug '07 - Median Price $822,000 - up 7.8% over Aug '06
Sept '07 - Median Price $773,500 - up 1.9% over Sept '06
Oct '07 - Median Price $795,000 - up 3.9% over Oct '06

So prices remain strong in San Francisco overall. On the other hand, a similar look at other counties will show that Solano, Sonoma, Napa, and Contra Costa counties are struggling mightily.


Mortgage market alive and well

An Inman News article today quoted Damien Weldon, vice-president of collateral and prepayment analytics at LoanPerformance in San Francisco as saying "There is no credit crisis in mortgages for the average borrower." The key is the "average borrower". The subprime market are below average borrowers... so if you have good credit, a decent income, and 10% down or more, you're going to get just about any mortgage you want.

The article also references a research report from the Wharton School as saying that 30 year fixed rate mortgaged survived the "so-called mortgage meltdown"... in fact fixed rate mortgages have risen 30% during the past 12 months.

Inman News is a subscription service so this article is likely to be locked if you don't read it today... but here's the link if you do get to this post in time.

By the way, if you are thinking of Buying sometime soon, and need a loan, it's best to start now BEFORE you find your dream home. Step #1 is to buy the book "Mortgage Rip Offs and Money Savers" that I reviewed in an earlier post and can be found on the left side of this site. Step #2 is to get all three of your current Credit Reports and scores... see the myFico ad on your left. Step #3 is to follow the advice in the Mortgage Rip Off book by getting pre-qualified with 3 lenders, than choosing the one with the best rates and fees who you trust the most and get "pre-approved".

And at any time during this first state, call me to discuss your wants and needs in a home, and start searching for properties online at www.SF-MLS-Search.com


Things to do in San Francisco

We're an interesting town... but how do you find out about what's available to do and see when you're not in the "know"? Well, there are two places to get almost anything you need online... Google and Craigslist. In this case, check out Craigslist's "events" calendar.

This is the link for Sunday September 30th

From there you can click on the "next day" or "previous day" links, or re-write the date within the URL... "20070930" stands for the year 2007, the month of September, and the 30th day of the month. So if you're reading this on October 1st replace 20070930 with 20071001 (got it? 2007 then 10 then 01)

Some interesting things to do this Sunday include:
The Improv Alliance's list of comdedy and improv events found here
The Fort Mason Blue's Festival found here
The World Vegetarian Festival in Golden Gate Park found here
A post from the prisoners at San Quentin who have a Flag Football team - and they are looking for non-prisoner competition. Don't laugh, I've played baseball there against the prisoners... they are incredibly friendly and nice to you because they want you to come back. Here's that link.

And for those really not familiar with San Francisco, watch out tomorrow (Friday) during the evening commute for "Critical Mass". The unruly hooligan bicyclists who block traffic for several hours in and around downtown, North Beach, the Financial District, etc. Avoid the area at all costs if you have any hope of getting home to your children and loved ones after a long week at work. These folks don't care about you, because most don't appear to have jobs or kids. Critical Mass happens the last Friday of every month, so don't have a medical emergency or a pressing need then in the downtown area. You won't get out for a while, and if you try you're likely to be attacked as one woman with a car full of children recently was. We're a liberal town... but this is one that too often goes too far... so you're best bet is to stay away.

On a lighter note.... next weekend is Fleet Week. On Saturday there is a parade of ships followed by the Blue Angels air show, and a fuller air show on Sunday. Marina Blvd, Chrissy Field, and just about every roof top in the city will be packed for this annual event.

Subprime effect on San Francisco market?

I get at least one call or email a week from an interested Buyer asking about buying when the market "gets better" or assuming that it is already "better" here in the city of San Francisco. Yesterday the California Association of Realtors published an article (found here) about a 27.8 percent drop in sales (not prices) of existing homes, and a drop in prices for entry level homes of 5.1%. Of course, these are State-wide figures. And interestingly, overall, the price of the overall market is still up 2% from last August.

Here in San Francisco I had the mis-fortune of coming in 2nd place against 8 other offers when we bid $101,000 over the asking price of a small 2 bedroom Condo. My Buyer was going to skip getting a loan and pay all cash. Apparently the buyer who beat us out with the "best offer" offered about the same price, but had "non-contingent" financing which meant they were going to get a loan, but would be happy to pay whatever terms they got from the lender... and also "knew" they could get a loan... so obviously they were well qualified... certainly not any where near being a subprime borrower. The winning buyer also did not have any other contingencies... the key one is that they did not request an Inspection contingency... so they were accepting the home "as-is". We were going to inspect, but promised to get our due dilligence done within 5 days... so in 5 days the Seller could be confident we were going to go through with the Sale. Apparently that was too long to wait when he had 8 other offers to choose from.

So... is this going on in the rest of the State? Probably in some areas yes, but clearly NOT in the "entry-level" homes cited by the C.A.R. report since "entry-level" is the majority of the subprime market. Here in San Francisco, with a plethora of "all cash" buyers as well as "non-contingent financing" buyers, no one is worrying about the state of the mortgage market. With no one worrying about mortgages... there can be NO SUBPRIME MELTDOWN IN SAN FRANCISCO!!!

There are probably two reasons for this... one is that there are a lot of people with a lot of money in San Francisco... either their own, or a parent or relative helping them purchase the home. The second reason the subprime market is having little to no effect on San Francisco is that we continue to have far less inventory of homes for sale (supply) than we do Buyers (demand), including Buyers paying all cash.

Now, that's not to say that some segments of our market aren't down... there definitely are certain neighborhoods where homes are sitting on the market, and prices have gone down, but these are not the "quality" neighborhoods and homes that my all cash buyers are even bothering to visit. They want what they want, and they are willing to pay for it. The more expensive the neighborhood... the higher the prices have gone this year. The less expensive the neighborhood, the cheaper it's gotten. It's not weird when you think about it!!!

So.... if you want a "bargain" a "deal" or a "foreclosure" here in San Francisco, you will have to be open to ALL neighborhoods, not just your favorite ones. You can buy a cheap home in the cheapest neighborhoods. Or, better yet, I can direct you to places like Antioch where I just heard of one block where there are 7 foreclosures in a row.... so 1, if not all 7, will be great bargains... but then you have to live in Antioch... or fix and flip in an area where buyers have plenty of homes to choose from, and where apparently the tightening in the mortgage market is having a big effect on "demand".

I love your calls and emails... so please keep them coming... but I'm beginning to sound like a broken record when it comes to the "I'll wait for the market to get better" or "I'd like a foreclosure or a deal". I don't expect the market to go down, and I can only help you with a "deal" if you're very open to what and where you buy.


San Francisco listings up

Real Estate agents in San Francisco often vacation during our foggy summers and warn Seller's that they are better off selling in September when Buyers return to house hunt. Sure enough a lot of new listings began coming on the market on Tuesday after Labor Day, and this past Thursday and Friday the listings really shot up. City wide 110 new listings came on this past Thursday, and 73 more on Friday (single dwelling homes, TIC's, Condos, Lofts - doesn't include 2-unit buildings or more).

In the high end northern neighborhoods that I track the most (Presidio Heights, Pac Heights, Marina, Cow Hollow, Russian Hill and Telegraph Hill) 12 new listings were posted on Thursday and 14 more on Friday.

If you're considering Buying, check out www.SF-MLS-Search.com/welcome.html to find homes matching your criteria - or let me know your interests. But this is definitely a good time to buy since you will have more options. Of course if you are a Seller, it's also a good time for you since the Buyers are out in force this time of year after being pretty inactive for 2 months. So when you do list, while you'll have more competition, there is also pent up demand.

I just ran a "CMA" (Comparative Market Analysis) for a client for Condos with over 2500 SqFt (very large for San Francisco) and found that during 2007, in the northern neighborhoods, it's been a very hot and fast moving market. Average days on market is 3 weeks or less, and on average they are selling for 6% to 10% over the Listed price. That is very hot... so while there is a "bubble" debate elsewhere, the "luxury" part of the San Francisco market is going strong.

Listings are up... there are some great homes to look at... so check out my MLS site to begin your search.


"The present has not caught up to the future"

Interesting article from the SF Chronicle about Rincon Hill... the area near the Bay Bridge that is seeing a lot of new development... and will get a LOT more in years to come. But as the article says... it is currently no where near where it's expected to be.

Here's the article

If you're interested in the area... and I know many others who are as well... expect to live amongst traffic and homeless. Some pretty good restaurants and night spots have been popping up lately... and you're pretty close to a relatively new Safeway (across the street from AT&T Park) and a Whole Foods.

Another reason to live in the area is if you commute down South or over the Bay Bridge. You can't get any closer to the Bridge. And of course if high-rise views and brand new luxury condos are your thing this is nearly the only place you can go.

However, if you want a more traditional San Francisco feel... this isn't it... high rises in San Francisco were few and far in between until now, and the Rincon Hill area used to be home to an elevated freeway prior to the '89 earthquake which wasn't all that long ago. So it's still pretty urban... although I really love the Embarcadero now with palm trees, green areas, and art work.

Finally, unless your high-rise view is particularly high, and facing North West... you won't get a Golden Gate Bridge view... SF's most famous landmark. For that, you've got to come to the northern neighborhoods of Pac Heights, parts of Russian Hill and the Marina/Cow Hollow among others.


San Francisco "neighborhoods" NOT

I've got a friend who works for RISMedia in Connecticut. He married a girl who lived in San Francisco for a number of years, and I know she'd know better than to call "Antioch, Oakley, Brentwood, Discovery Bay, Pittsburg and Bay Point" San Francisco neighborhoods as the article on the RISMedia site states here.

Most of these are 1 hour drive away without traffic, and Discovery Bay is about 1.5 hours. The article is about Short Sales (when you owe the bank more than your home is worth) and big drops in prices. An hour or more outside of San Francisco is where the pain in happening... so the article doesn't surprise me... just that TOWNS over an hour from the City could be called "neighborhoods". This type of reporting confuses people who are not familiar with the area... and even confuses some who are because they just hear "San Francisco short sales" and assume prices in the city are similarly effected.... which they are not. See my post from August 17th for the "real" story.


Single in San Francisco - #1 per Forbes

If you're an out of towner thinking of moving to San Francisco... Forbes Magazine is naming us the #1 "Best City for Singles". They are including Oakland as part of the San Francisco area, so instead of about 800,000 people they list a population of 2.5 million with 34% being single.

San Francisco Mayor, Gavin Newson, is newly divorced so Forbes lists him as the "Most Eligible Bachelor". With all of the "Google Millionaires" around here, they are ranking Marissa Mayer who is only 32 and a highly paid VP at the company.

San Francisco also ranks #2 in "Night Life" behind New York City, and #1 in "Culture". And while we're 20th in affordability, we're #1 in "starting salaries". If you're interested in searching for homes, you can contact me, or start your search via www.SF-MLS-Search.com - and wonderful Map-based service.


City Living - the Affordable Housing debate

Another good argument brewing over at SF Gate's comments section in response to an "Anti-gentrification" story. 98 comments at last count... wow!

My personal opinion... last time I looked, 70% of housing in SF were rentals. This is the exact opposite of the rest of the country. This explains why home prices keep going up... there is next to no supply. Meanwhile, as a Real Estate agents, I know tons and tons of would-be buyers, and few owners who want to sell. No supply, continued demand... and so only the ultra wealthy can afford to buy in San Francisco... not because of what the wealthy are doing... but because the affordable housing advocates are limiting supply.

This is a never ending cycle... by protecting rents and rentals, and by limiting for-sale homes, they are making the problem worse and worse, year over year. Frankly, it is so bad now, that I don't think there is a solution. So now what we are left with is a never ending argument as seen as this stories comments area. There probably is no solution... the ultra Left says "restrict even more housing" which will only make market-rate housing even more scarce... and the gap between rich and poor wider and wider.

To see where the majority is on the argument... take on look at the "Recommended" counts... those arguments in favor of letting the Market control rents and home prices are getting the thumbs up in a ration of about 5 to 1. Unfortunately.... this appears to be a problem that is here to stay. Yup - just "city living" in good old San Francisco.

City Living

I grew up in New York City... Upper West Side of Manhattan. These days that neighborhood is all the rage... most don't realize that's also the part of town that "West Side Story" and it's gangs lived in during the 1950's into the 1960's. When I took the subway to my high school in the 1980's they still looked like the ones in the gang movie "Warrior"... completely littered with graffiti, and never, ever feeling safe.

The above is my frame of reference... it's what I compare to San Francisco living. When someone says San Francisco has bad traffic... I just laugh and think about the 4 hours it took me to cross from the East Side to the West Side during the Puerto Rican Day Parade, or the drive from JFK to the Upper West Side now when I visit my family.... or I think of my business trips to LA... 2 hours to go 20 miles.

When someone complains it took them 20 minutes to find a parking spot... I recall the 2 and 3 hours waits I had in NYC to get "right side parking". When they complain of bad drivers... I think of NYC cabbies, town cars and deliver guys jockeying for position in a mad race to the next light... or the honking that begins 3 seconds before the light turns green to make sure no one delays even one second when it finally does turn green.

To me, San Francisco is a dream of a city. In total contrast, my fiancee is from a small town in Canada that is surrounded for miles and miles by farm land. She thinks San Francisco is crime ridden and dirty. I think it's Utopia. In other words, it depends on your background, and what you are comparing it too.

This past weekend there were too hit & run fatalities - one late Friday night (2am Sat) and the other late Saturday night (1:30am Sun). The comments section under the SFGate.com story will give you a clue as to the wide opinions a city like San Francisco can garner about how our streets are shared (or not shared).

To those who don't like what San Francisco has become... I say try living in New York or LA or nearly any other large city... and then compare it to San Francisco. As unfortunate as these fatalities are... and as heinous as hit & runs are... as a city boy through and through I know that late Friday or Saturday nights are the times to be most cautious... the worst of the worst are out then... drunk drivers, drunk pedestrians... plus that is when robbers are out in force too. If you live in San Francisco... you must realize, it is a city. When my fiancee left her bag in her car for several hours and returned to a smashed window... I call that city living.

Yes, San Francisco could be better... but it's still the best city in the country. Physical beauty, access to the outdoors, great restaurants, shopping and culture... you simply can't find the best of all worlds meshed together so well any where else.

To those so angry at cars, or at pedestrians, or at bicycles or at noise, traffic, crime and congestion... I say if you can't handle San Francisco, then all cities are not for you. You do need to lock your door at night and take many other precautions that you don't need to take in the burbs or the country... but that is just City Living.


Sales & Prices up

Dataquest's July numbers are out... San Francisco's sales increased 4.1% over last July (the other 8 Bay Area counties had fewer sales) and prices are up as well... 3.1% over last July.

So here are this year's stats:

Jan '07 - Median Price $750,000 - up 0.7% over Jan '06
Feb '07 - Median Price $757,500 - up 2.4% over Feb '06
Mar '07 - Median Price $753,000 - down 2.1% over Mar '06
Apr '07 - Median Price $790,000 - up 1.4% over Apr '06
May '07 - Median Price $835,000 - up 8.4% over May '06
June '07 - Median Price $825,000 - up 4.4% over June '06
July '07 - Median Price $799,000 - up 3.1% over July '06

Prices tend to peak in April/May when the market is at it's hottest... then cool a tad over the summer, and pick up a bit again in September/October. The bottom line though is that San Francisco remains unaffected by sub-prime woes.

A similar look at other counties will show that Solano, Sonoma, Napa, and Contra Costa counties are struggling. San Francisco... onward and upward.

Blue Angels survive the Chris Daly ban

Controversial City Supervisor Chris Daly apparently has nothing better to do that to try to ban the Blue Angels from their annual fly0ver event in San Francisco. Fortunately for fans of fun, the public and media backlash, and lack of support from fellow Supervisors squashed the proposal.

Daly's reasons for his proposal are several... safety being one since there was a recent crash and death of a Blue Angel pilot. However, as someone who is on the Bay nearly every year to watch the show, I know that most of their trickiest stunts happen over the Bay in the center where the Coast Guard keeps all boats away from. And why should Daly care... he seems to hate what he calls the "privileged class"... which would describe every boat owner most likely to be injured if there were a crash... since we are not his constituents... is this just a publicity stunt on his part?

While accidents are always possible... and I'm not a fan of most other air shows because there seems to be little in terms of safety precaution... these pilots are the best of the best, and take nearly every safety precaution. And if city wide safety is such an issue for Mr. Daly, I've got several suggestion for him:

1. Put up Stop signs at all intersections that only have two... you see this throughout the city, and even locals can be totally surprised to see a car barreling down on them at an intersection we haven't been to before.

2. Stop playing Police Chief or Police Captain. The Board of Supervisors dictates to the Police where patrols should go. Are you kidding me??? Who better than those with feet on the street to position themselves to stop crime. A recent decision to move more patrols into the Western Addition has spawned a rash of armed robberies in the North side of town. One man was shot in Russian Hill after refusing to give up his wallet and last I heard was still in Intensive Care. Crime is clearly a problem throughout the city... but having civilians with no public safety background making decisions about where and how Police should be distributed is ridiculous. They Supervisors actually fight each other over distribution of cops to their districts. HOW can something like this be politicized?

3. Ban bikes... one article cited a California HIghway Patrol database that 60% of bike-car accidents were caused by bicycles. And there is an average of 2 deaths per year of bicycles. A bicyclist nearly killed a friend of mine who was jogging two months ago when the biker ran a stop sign racing down a hill. Oddly stats say that bicyclists are 3 times more likely to be under the influence in accidents compared to car accidents. So.... lets ban all bikes... it's safer for them, for cars and pedestrians.

4. Ban buses... a blogger over at Venture Chronicles says there have been 1200 injuries and 7 deaths from bus accidents in San Francisco. Nearly every day you see a bus running a red light, not pulling into the bus stop causing cars in a hurry to jump into the oncoming lane to get around them, etc. So... let's get rid of buses too - clearly they are a public safety issue.

5. Never leave your house again... it's dangerous on our streets... if you're so concerned about safety, avoids cars, food you yourself haven't prepared, any and all city streets and intersections... and the way your mouth goes... you ought to avoid City Hall because as I hear it, you've got a lot of enemies.

Or... you can go on living your life realizing that risk is unavoidable... and the Blue Angels are no more of a risk than getting into your car... and much less risky that crossing an intersection with only 2 stop signs instead of 4.


Avoid Mortgage Rip offs

A new book Mortgage Ripoffs and Money Saverswill be a must read for every home Buyer, Seller and Realtor in the country... and it may be one Lenders and Mortgage Brokers should read too.

As a Realtor I've been confounded and confused by the numerous and odd charges listed on my clients Closing Statements... if I'm confused, imagine how my clients felt. I even had one client who got "ripped off" by a "friend" when they bought, and due to the massive pre-payment penalty they also got ripped off when they sold. This Broker was so bad his negligence probably cost my clients a home that they were the highest bidder on, then stuck them with a terrible loan. I'm convinced this "friend" was a rookie who didn't know any better... but imagine if a "friend" could cost you that much, how much an unscruplous lender could get away with?

After reading Bob Bruss' review of Carolyn Warren's book... and then seeing on Amazon.com that 21 out of 21 reviewers gave the book a 5-star rating (I've never seen a 100% rating and I order and review tons of books on Amazon) I had to get it myself.

For $12.21 on Amazon (cheaper if you buy used)... this is a MUST READ whether you're Buying or Selling today or 10 years from now.

Order it by clicking here: Mortgage Ripoffs and Money Savers: An Industry Insider Explains How to Save Thousands on Your Mortgage or Re-Fi or I'll provide another link at the end. In fact... if you know anyone thinking of Buying or Selling... order extras... this book as a gift will make you a friend for life!!!

As Bob Bruss states... "this (book) is vastly different because it reveals the insider secrets even many mortgage professionals don't know." This will be required reading for everyone of my clients from now on... I'll be ordering in bulk and handing out free copies whenever they let me know they are "getting ready" or "getting serious". Finally... my clients and I can rest easy... saving hundreds... and YES... THOUSANDS of dollars if not tens of thousands of dollars in rip offs.
Order it now... or please do contact me if you're thinking of Buying or Selling... and I'll hand deliver a copy when we meet.


Stale listings report - Single Family's over 90 days

"Deals" are rare in San Francisco... even our slow markets would be consider "Seller's Markets" in most of the rest of the country... but there are ways to find deals. The simplest one is to focus on "stale" listings... those properties that have been on the market for at least 60 days...

This report is for Single Family Homes of any size and price range throughout San Francisco that have been on the market since at least April 10th... roughly 90 days.

SFR Report - 90 Days

Since there are 78 homes listed I can't provide the "Detail" report which has extra photos. So I have two recommendations for getting full details. First - visit the #1 MLS search site... SF-MLS-Search.com and enter the Listing Numer or find it using the Map. Or, feel free to email me with the Listing Number or the property address and I'll reply back with the "Detail" report. Please track down my email at www.RobRegan.com(I'm trying to avoid spam by not spelling out my address).


"Stale" Condo report

These are all the "Condos" they have been listed for sale since April 10th... roughly 90 days.

Condos - 90 days

Again, please use SF-MLS-Search.com to find more details... and for tax info or past sales you might find more info at PropertyShark.com or Zillow.com.

Of course I'm also happy to receive an email from you (if you don't have another Agent who can do the same for you) with the Listing number or the property address, and I'll reply back with the "Detail" report and as much other information as I can find.

Don't forget, you can set up an Email Alert service to get NEW listings sent to you that match your criteria. There are 3 services that do that - exclusively in San Francisco. These three are:

CleanOffer.com (you must enter my name to get access: Rob Regan)

Each has it's own unique benefits.... and all are FREE!!!!


San Francisco prices up

According to DataQuest home prices were up 8.4% over this time last year in San Francisco. The Bay Area as a whole was up 3.4%. Solano and Sonoma Counties continue to suffer... if you're looking for "deals" those are the counties to visit. In San Francisco these statistics are "old news" to those of us with feet on the street. In fact, we're now in the summer slow down. In April & May the market was very hot with a lot of multiple offers and fast sales.

If you read my older posts you'll see I had been predicting this market for the past year or so. With interest rates remaining low, and still many all-cash or high-cash offers here, and virtually no such thing as a San Francisco foreclosure, the San Francisco market is strong and steady.

Buyers have come to discover that there are few places as beautiful as San Francisco, and within the city, there are some neighborhoods that are more desirable than others. And in those areas, you pay a premium if you want to own your home. If you'd like to know more about what makes one area more desirable over another, give me a call or drop me and email. I can explain fog lines, which neighborhoods have the best restaurants and shopping, the best views, and so on.


How much can you save with a Discount broker?

I just got an Evite to a charity event from an acquaintance who recently bought a San Francisco condo through a new discount brokerage. One of her co-hosts Sold his Loft using the same discount brokerage. They mention in the Evite that the discount firm will donate $1,000 to the charity for any business they drum up at their event.

So obviously the two hosts are happy - right? After all, the Buyer got a 20% refund on her Buying commission - at a $1,650,000 purchase price that's an $8,250 rebate. Not too bad - right?

The co-host Seller was able to list his Loft for 1.5% instead of 2.5% and is happy because he got his $589,000 Asking Price so he "saved" almost $6,000.

However, I know better. San Francisco is a complex and difficult real estate market to navigate. You have to be careful in analysing each property, and the market, before figuring out your offer price or your Listing price. So choosing the right agent and brokerage can end up saving or costing you a lot of money. Knowing this, I did some research to see how these two "really" did.

As it turns out, my quick "CMA" (Comparative Market Analysis) which indicates "fair market value" seems to indicate that the $1,650,000 was probably at least $50,000 too high - if not $100,000. So her $8,250 rebate may have cost her at least $40,000.... $40,000 that went directly into the pocket of the Seller of that condo who used a well known and respected Brokerage... the Seller is probably still laughing all the way to the bank since they bought the property for $150,000 less just 9 months earlier. Ouch! That's 10% in appreciation. According to the DataQuick numbers I've used in previous posts appreciation was less than 2% during that time frame. That's why I say they over paid by "at least" $40,000. It may be as much as $100,000 even after factoring in the so-called "savings" or rebate.

Then I looked at the Loft Seller's situation. Six weeks before his Loft sold, another Loft in his building on the floor below that was 141 SqFt smaller sold for $599,000. In fact, within a 1/2 mile radius of these 2 Lofts, 19 Lofts sold in the previous 7 months and only two sold for cheaper than the co-host "saver" of commissions. So what does the math work out to be? The 1.5% commission cost him $8,835 to net $580,165 before other costs. The $599,000 seller paid $14,975 netting $584,025 before other costs. So... the Seller with the smaller condo netted about $4,000 more. And that doesn't take into account the other 15 Lofts that sold for a lot more... his "savings" looks to me to be about negative $15,000 to $30,000.

Another discount broker was the subject of a 60 Minutes piece a few weeks ago. The NAR is up in arms because they felt their voice wasn't heard. One full service agent was interviewed, and didn't know how to answer the "savings" question. Unfortunately for the TV segment she's probably just too busy making her clients "real" money or savings, not phantom ones. This is a pet-peave of mine.... general media pieces written or produced by people who have no expertise and don't even bother to scratch the surface, let alone sniff out the reality of complex issues.

The truth is that if these were "real" savings, then Discount Brokers would rule the day. Buyers are smart - they determined they didn't need Travel Agents years ago... but they still rely on experienced professionals when it comes to the largest financial decision in their lives.

And why - with these kinds of "savings" that non-real estate professionals think they are getting - haven't discount brokers gained much of a foot hold after years and years of trying?

My personal opinion is simple.... why would a Realtor who was an expert, who had a lot of happy customers, decide to earn less and move to a Discount Brokerage? The answer is that they don't. The only types of real estate agents that these firms can attract are either those who failed elsewhere, or just got their licenses. So they don't know what they don't know. They don't know how to Sell a Loft for over $600,000 and not $589,000. And they don't look at a $1.65 million property, and realize it's a simple check of past sales to discover only 9 months earlier it was only worth $1.5 million to a buyer represented by an experience agent.

The analysis I did, and do every day, looking at "fair market" values takes some time and expertise. Then it requires Sales & Negotiation skills to get my Seller's the highest possible price, and my Buyers the home of their dreams for the lowest possible price. Unfortunately for the two people who are so nobly contributing their time to a charity, ended up contributing a lot more to the people on the other side of their transactions.

If you are considering Buyer or Selling, please call an agent like myself, and interview at least 3 Realtors before making a final decision. Hopefully we can help you see the difference during the interview process... not after you've lost thousands and thousands of dollars thanks to un-skilled or inexperienced advisers.

Property Search service

If you've yet to try the service that allows you to search by Map - it's got a new and improved look. This screen shot is of San Francisco, and the mouse is hovering over one property so that you see it's basic details. If you then click it takes you to the Full Detail page.

You can use the criteria selectors on the bottom of the page to choose property types and price ranges. And then select portions of the map for area specific searches. Finally, you can Save Searches and set up auto-email alerts for those searches, and you can save specific properties to return to see what's happened with them. Try is out at www.SF-MLS-Search.com/welcome.html


Pricing trends in San Francisco - ALL TIME HIGH

March numbers appeared to be off in San Francisco, but then April went up quite a bit.

In March 2006 median prices were $769,500 and dropped to $753,000 this March.
Then April shot up to $790,000.

$790,000 is actually the highest Median Price for San Francisco EVER!

That is - at least according to DataQuick. Originally it was believed that the market peaked in the Summer & Fall of 2005. In fact, October 2005's $778,000 Median price remained tied for the highest with April 2006 and June 2006. Now, April 2007 is 1.5% higher than all previous peaks.

What does this mean for the market? Well, this is not a significant over all price appreciation, so this isn't necessarily an "investors" market. I personally know several investors who do quite well within San Francisco. But they focus on multi-unit fix and flips. For residential real estate - it simply means that San Francisco is on what appears to be a never ending upward climb.

San Francisco is a unique city. There is virtually no foreclosure activity, and the sub-prime mess is a blip on San Francisco's radar. All-cash buyers, and wealthy buyers abound. New York City with price per square foot well into the $1,000's with HOA dues nearly 2 to 3 times higher than San Francisco continues, in my opinion, to be the my measurement for where San Francisco prices are likely to go.

Today in San Francisco buyers are beginning to see $1,000 per SqFt prices and complain. Soon, it may be that anything below that number is considered a bargain, not the norm.

Where to find the Bay Area real estate bargains

If anyone is looking for a Wine Country home... this year appears to be the year. Prices keep falling off and For-Sale signs seem to be everywhere. Median prices in Napa and Sonoma are $563,000 and $519,000 respectively compared to well into the $600's in Napa and the high $500's for Sonoma last year. And for those looking for Foreclosures and sheer investment properties Solono Country appears to be suffering the most with Contra Costa finally seeing some signs of strengthening.

Scroll down to the bottom of this page to see the numbers for yourself: http://www.dqnews.com/RRBay0507.shtm


Latest Real Estate Statistics

San Francisco prices are up 2.4% in February from a Median of $740,000 to $757,500. One reason - in addition to continued low interest rates - is that there just isn't much for sale. The number of homes that have sold dropped dramatically - down 12.6% from last year.

As usual, the overall Bay Area figures from DataQuick (which includes "inferior" areas - or rather non-"Super Star" areas) show a flat market with 0.3% price growth and the lowest number of homes sales since 1996.

San Francisco too has "super star" areas and neighborhoods - anything in the Northern parts of the city. So the Marina, Cow Hollow, Pacific Heights, Russian Hill, North Beach, Telegraph Hill, Presidio Heights - all remain strong markets. Other neighborhoods with plenty of sun shine and retail shopping like Noe Valley and Cole Valley remain strong. And Single Family homes as well as Condos remain strong.

However, TIC's are off sharply, as are neighborhoods with lots of fog and little San Francisco-specific character.

Cash buyers remain plentiful in the most sought after parts of town and most desirable properties. Yet, few Sellers seem to want to give up their cherished properties at any price. So the "stand off" that DataQuick refers to is of a different sort in these areas.


Spring: "Moderate Increase" expected

DataQuick's November homes sales report for the Bay Area and San Francisco came out. You can read it here.

Once again the Bay Area's prices were down (1.4%), while San Francisco was up (0.7%) from November of last year. The quote from the report that jumps out at me is from DataQuick President Marshall Prentice who said "As prices stabilize and sellers get real about asking prices, a lot of the fence-sitters will jump in. We could see a moderate increase in sales counts".

In fact interest rates are incredibly low, and given that his comments are about the Bay Area in general, San Francisco is likely to see an even bigger boost in sales counts and price appreciation. In this "slow" market San Francisco has held up and even increased. As "fence-sitters" jump in, San Francisco may well see a decent run up in prices.

If I were a buyer I'd try to get in before March or April when sales heat up. And if I were a Seller I'd prepare my house for a March or April listing. Sellers - click on the "Free Home Value Service" link for a price evaluation report. Buyers, search for homes at either the "MLS Property Search" service, or "Auto Email Home Search" or at "CleanOffer".