Archive for April, 2010

Earth Day celebrated in SF by new Greening Legislation

04/22/10 – Mayor Newsom today signed legislation requiring developers to use landscaping and permeable paving to beautify the city and keep excess rainwater out of the sewers. The Green Landscaping Ordinance will primarily affect new development, but also will apply to property owners who make significant alterations to their properties.

The Green Landscaping Ordinance, proposed by Mayor Gavin Newsom and co-sponsored by Supervisors Carmen Chu, Eric Mar, Bevan Dufty, and Sophie Maxwell, was approved unanimously by the Board of Supervisors.

“The Green Landscaping Ordinance is a positive piece of legislation that will help San Francisco move forward with our environmental and aesthetic goals,” said Supervisor Chu. “Having additional permeable areas helps our city to absorb more rainwater and to address some of the problems that we have with our sewer system.”

The legislation requires that 50 percent of the surface area in new front yards be permeable, either with in-ground plantings, porous asphalt or interlocking bricks or pavers that will allow more rainwater to soak into the ground. The goal is to divert rainwater from the storm drains and reduce the burden on San Francisco’s aging sewer system.

In addition, the legislation calls for parking lots, gas stations, car washes and other vehicular uses to be landscaped with more plantings. The bioretention provided by improved landscaping, benefits the city in many ways, including taking the burden off the sewer system, improving streetscape aesthetic, and increasing watershed function. The legislation also requires responsible water use in landscaping by using climate-appropriate plantings.

The San Francisco ordinance was modeled on initiatives under way in Chicago, New York City, and other urban areas as part of a movement to green public spaces.

The new landscaping ordinance builds on efforts over the last couple of years in San Francisco to improve neighborhood streets across the city, by demonstrating best practices in design, landscaping, lighting and pedestrian safety. Examples include turning hardscapes into new planting areas and community gardens, pedestrian refuges at medians, the recently announced urban forest map which is a new online tool to catalogue trees in the city, and the creation of ‘parklets’ which reclaim underutilized pavements and quickly and inexpensively turn them into new public plazas and parks.

To download the San Francisco Green Landscaping Ordinance use guide, go to:

[Mayor Signs Landmark Environmental Legislation on Earth Day]


Rule of Thumb: When is it Better to Rent than to Buy?

It’s true, I’m a real estate agent and I make my money helping people buy and sell homes.  However, I’ve been known on more than one occasion to talk people out of making a purchase if I didn’t think their reasons for buying were sound.   Here’s one example of where I didn’t think it made sense.  A young married couple with a baby are looking to capitalize on the fact that interest rates are at their all time low, and the fact that the market – particularly South of Market where they were looking, took a sizable hit.  Why didn’t it make sense to me?  1.  Their price range, even with the market where it is, it put them in a one bedroom, or in a rough part of SOMA that may be fine when you’re inside but not so much fun walking with a stroller.   2.  They have family come visit often  3.  And most importantly they were looking at moving overseas in a few years and renting their place out.

For first time homebuyers to live in a place too small, or a neighborhood that is going to have ‘quality of life’ issues, who think they will become landlords in a couple years managing that from overseas, where they almost certainly wont break even on their carrying costs, didn’t make sense to me.  Yes, they may lose a window to become homeowners with some very favorable perks for Buyers that we may not see again for some time to come, but I promise you they will thank me from not having the stress related with trying to manage all of that on a bet.   One bad tenant takes all the fun out of any potential appreciation anyway, assuming they manage to deal with living in a too small space in the interim.

Planet Money, one of my all time favorite money blogs from the team at NPR posted this the other day, and I felt it was well worth passing on:

If you’re trying to decide whether to rent a home or buy one, here’s a useful back-of-the-envelope calculation:

Of course, the rent ratio is just one factor, and there are (obviously) all kinds of variables to consider — how long you’re going to stay in a place, what’s going to happen in the real estate market, and all the intangibles associated with both renting and owning. Still, I’m a sucker for a rule of thumb.

1. Take the price of a home you’d be likely to buy.

2. Divide the price by 20.

3. Compare the result to the annual rent on a comparable home.

If the result is higher than the annual rent, renting is probably a better deal.

A quick example: Take a $500,000 home. If you divide the price by 20, you get $25,000. So if the annual rent is less than $25,000 — that’s a monthly rent of roughly $2,100 — there’s a good chance you’re better off renting.

A story published on Tuesday, in NYT notes, the ratio was higher than 20 in much of the country during the past decade — during the bubble, the price of buying rose a lot faster than the price of renting.

But now, the ratio has fallen below 20 in many places, suggesting that buying is now often a better deal. (Here’s a useful graph of how the cost of renting-versus-owning has changed.)

[When is it Better to Rent than to Buy]-Planet Money NPR

For the record I also see examples where the rule of thumb does not work.  I have a friend who makes very good money, although that income can be spotty, so she’s always careful and saving for a rainy day.   She rents in a fabulous part of town, in rent control, and by far would double her monthly rent were she to buy a comparable place. However she’s lived in San Francisco for well over 10 years, has no plans to leave, and really really could use the tax deduction.  Had she used just a portion of her rainy day fund, and bought 10 years ago when I purchased my first home, she would have doubled her money in appreciation and likely be close to paying her place off in 20 years, instead of having a fantastic wardrobe of clothes – which she does!


San Francisco’s Upcoming Listings

Upcoming listings:

$1,800,000//Sutro Heights // Sutro Hghts Blvd BR/BA: 3/2 PKG: 2 Brief Description: Art deco view units of beach & hills. 2 are vacant, poss. 3.

 $828,000 //Central Richmond // 22nd Ave BR/BA: 4/2.5 PKG: 1 Brief Description: Large top-floor, sun-filled condo w/great open layout, fireplace, excellent location and shared yard. Skylights, western-facing windows, and spacious closets.

 $799,000 //Inner Sunset //7th Avenue BR/BA: 3/2.5 PKG: 1 Brief Description: Top-floor 1500+ sqft Victorian condo with great space, deeded deck off kitchen, great light, abundant storage space, shared yard—On market mid-May.

$765,500 // Potrero Hill // 18th St BR/BA: 2/2.5 PKG: 1 Brief Description: Loft just steps from Media Gulch restaurants, night spots & central to the city. Front corner. 3-level unit with separate entrances one with direct street access, fireplace, private balcony, excellent light with windows UV protected, high ceilings, live/work space on a tree-lined street. Common view roof deck and gym.

 $739,000 //SOMA // Lucerne BR/BA: 2/2 PKG: 1 Brief Description: Townhouse loft featuring a private entrance from the sidewalk of a pleasant cul de sac. Spacious three level residence with modern zest and the finest amenities. Floor to ceiling windows and afternoons gardening and grilling on the roof deck with breathtaking 360 degree views of the city.

 $699,000 // Castro // Market St. BR/BA: 2/2 PKG: 1 Brief Description: Urban chic town-house style condo on 2 levels at the Castro Commons. This updated contemporary home is located in the heart of the Castro and has a vaulted ceiling, open floor plan, spacious bedrooms and distinct dining and living areas. Private deeded yard, storage, convenient access to parking garage complete this fantastic home.

$579,000 //Pacific Heights // California BR/BA: 1/1 PKG: 1 Brief Description: Centrally located, this charming top floor condo offers original detailing and an abundance of light. Living room includes a wood-burning fireplace. Additional storage and laundry included with leased parking Perfect starter home or pied-a-terre Property Website (if any):

 $499,000 // Lower Pacific Hts // Pine St. BR/BA: 1/1 PKG: 1 Brief Description: Lovely condo in a newly converted 4 unit building Leased parking

Pocket Listings:

$2,995,000// St. Francis Wood // Santa Paula Ave BR/BA: 5/6 PKG: 2+ Brief Description: 4,325+/- Sq.Ft. estate, featuring a Three bedroom kids compound, and care-taker quarters. Located on Terrace Park & Playground Property Website (if any):

 $1,950,000 // Noe Valley // 24th St Brief Description: 3 story Victorian commercial building with a great yard.

$980,000 //Corona Heights // States St BR/BA: 3/2PKG: 1 Brief Description: Top-floor condo with dramatic views. It will be fully remodeled with new appliances by end of March. It includes a block-deep Private Park deeded to the HOA. Building consists of 3 units

$799,000 // Civic Center // Alice B. Toklas BR/BA: 2/1.5PKG: 1 Brief Description: Luxurious dwelling in the historic Marquee Lofts, with a view of city hall Property Website (if any)

$TBD //Duboce Triangle // Belcher Street BR/BA: 3/2.5 PKG: 1 Brief Description: Huge contemporary condo with great storage, private deck off bedrooms and shared roof deck w/pano views.


San Francisco Condos on the Rebound?

829 Folsom St. Rooftop View


The big-boy developers may be out of the line-up, but the San Francisco condo sector is showing some surprising bench strength.

With a scarcity of major condo towers for sale — and little in the pipeline — smaller projects scattered around town are seeing traffic reminiscent of days when Lehman Brothers was still in business and “bank owned” was not a household euphemism for a foreclosed property.

To be sure a few busy sales offices does not a bubble make. Pricing of these projects is a good 25 to 30 percent below the peak of the last cycle with prices hovering in the $600 to $750 a square foot range now. Buyers are bargaining hard while developers are lucky to recoup their equity or eke out a slim profit.

Hayes Valley Village Properties has written contracts on 21 out of 31 units in its LindenHayes project — before the model units are built or the sales office open. Out in the Mission district along gritty Cesar Chavez, Seven Hills Properties has put 31 units into contract out of the 46 homes after less than a month of sales. And on the sunny flats where the Mission bleeds into Potrero Hill, Palisades Development has sold 64 units out of 76 in its Union project. After opening without a single sale in 2009, another project, 829 Folsom St., has 19 units in contract, about 30 percent sold.

[San Francisco condos rebound — in a small way]  San Francisco Business Times


California Tax Credit Monies May Go Fast

The $100 million allocated for California’s first-time homebuyer tax credits may be depleted in about 10 to 20 days or sooner, according to C.A.R.’s Economics team. California’s Franchise Tax Board (FTB) plans to begin accepting applications on May 1, 2010 for tax credits up to $10,000 for first-time homebuyers and for homes that have never been previously occupied. However, the total tax credit allocation for all taxpayers is $100 million for first-time homebuyers and $100 million for new homes, both on a first-come, first-served basis.

Applications for the California tax credit must be faxed to the FTB after escrow closes. The FTB will update its website when the 2010 application form and other information become available.

C.A.R.’s forecast of 10 to 20 days to deplete the $100 million allocation for first-time home buyers is based on estimated May sales figures and other parameters. It does not take into account the possibility that buyers scheduled to close escrow in April may delay closing until May to take advantage of the tax credit. If a shift in closings from April to May occurs, the first-time homebuyer tax credits may be depleted even more quickly than indicated above.