Archive for November, 2010

How Home Pricing Works

Meredith Martin is a life long resident of the bay area and a real estate professional with over 15 years experience. She can be reached at

Building an Arts Community in Portola District

Plano de San Francisco

Plano de San Francisco

Actually I think the couple profiled, Kate Connell and Oscar Melara,  in this SF Chronicle Article did much more than build an arts community in the Portola, I think they helped build community in the area and awareness create of the district through their efforts:

First they offered their house as a polling place, by way of a “community engagement installation,” as Connell describes it. Then they collected oral histories from voters they met while staffing the polls. Those led to a board game, two graphic novels, an interactive diorama with black-and-white postcards, a coloring book for kids and a neighborhood atlas for adults.

It all amounts to a nine-station installation on display through Feb. 25 at the sunny new Portola branch of the San Francisco Public Library. “Crossing the Street” is a portrait in mixed media that can all be held in your hands. Pieces of the portrait, in the form of rolled-up poster-size art maps, can even be held in your hands as you walk out the door.

If you don’t know where the Portola is or much about it, you’re not alone.  I’m surprised by how few people have explored the area, eaten on San Bruno Avenue or walked in vast wilds of McLaren Park.

The show represents “layers and layers of perspective on one neighborhood,” says Connell, while walking through the library’s reading room on a recent afternoon. “We’re invisible out here. If you live in North Beach, you see it represented all the time. Here there is nothing.”

The Portola (accent on the first syllable) is a triangular district on the southeast side of town, bordered by Highway 101 and Interstate 280 to the east and north, and McLaren Park to the west and south. [More…]

Perhaps this is your opportunity to go see the artwork, and meet another neighborhood in this amazing and diverse city of ours.  Consider going to see Crossing the Street: Artwork about the Portola district. Through Feb. 25. Portola Branch Library, 380 Bacon St., S.F. Closed Mondays.

Rita Roti is a broker / assistant manager at Zephyr and can be reached at

Metreon scores big-box Target

Shoppers could be finding the deal on Aisle 4 of a Target store in the Metreon as soon as early 2012 now that the project has gained approval.

On Tuesday, the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency unanimously approved the plans Target needed to build its 100,000-square-foot store on the first and second floors of the Metreon, which has been plagued by vacancies the past year.

The latest approval means the Metreon sign will be replaced with Target’s signature bull’s-eye signage.

Metreon scores big-box Target [San Francisco Examiner]

Meredith Martin is a life long resident of the bay area and a real estate professional with over 15 years experience. She can be reached at

Still another weekend to hit the Elle Decor’s Designer Showcase

I enjoy hitting the design showcase homes every year, and it’s always interesting to see a new one show up in surprising neighborhoods. The current showcase is by Elle Decor and located in St. Francis Wood, rather than in or near Pacific Heights where so many past showcases have appeared.  They also tried to create a story:

But the Elle Decor Designer Showhouse, which opened to the public last weekend, took a different approach, asking the 11 design firms that transformed the 1911 Mediterranean home to consider the same fictional client: a young family, fifth-generation San Franciscans, who enjoy traveling as well as entertaining.

“The challenge is: How do you make all the rooms feel like one, but also make an impact as a designer?” said Kendall Wilkinson, who was responsible for the entry, hallways and office. [More…]

So take designers like Jay JeffersGrant K. Gibson (Go Team Edward!),    Gary Spain, Kendall Wilkinson, Elizabeth Martin, Suzanne Tucker, Erin Martin, Surface Design, Steven Volpe, Palmer Weis and Will Wick, give them a story and see what happens.  It’s a lot of fun!

I was lucky enough to attend the evening showing that was also a benefit for San Francisco PAWS (Pets are Wonderful Support) an organization that I can’t say enough good things about!  But the showcase is also a benefit for the San Francisco Junior League so I encourage you to go this weekend and enjoy the design talent that we are lucky to enjoy here in San Francisco!

Oh, wait, I almost forgot that the event I attended was also sponsored by The Urban Electric Company whose many wonderful light fixtures were featured in the showcase home.  Below is a photo of a fixture I couldn’t resist, but I guess I’ll have to address the crazy energy loss from Edison bulbs in another post….

Rita Roti is a broker / assistant manager at Zephyr and can be reached at

Lenders resist the work of a pre-approval… what’s the difference?

From a November 12th NYT article

FOR some people, an important first step in buying a house is getting a mortgage preapproval.

That’s so true, my sellers and I want to see your preapproval letter with your offer.

But prevetting has become more difficult and confusing these days, for borrowers as well as lenders, as a result of lending rules that took effect in January.

The rules from the Department of Housing and Urban Development require lenders to issue a binding good-faith estimate of total closing costs within three days of submission of a formal loan application. The formal application is usually made when a preapproval is written.

Lenders are barred, before issuing this binding estimate, from requesting tax returns, bank statements and the like from a borrower. (In addition to the loan amount, the applicant is asked to provide only a Social Security number, gross monthly income, the value and often the address of the property.)

Many lenders are reluctant to be locked into closing costs amid declining property values, and therefore fewer of them, especially the big banks, are providing preapproval letters for a certain loan amount on a property that often has yet to be formally appraised. The problem is particularly acute for buyers who have not yet decided which property they want.

I get the system is miserable right now, but I know that if I see  a letter from a lender that references anything other than a ratified contract, a pre-liminary title report and satisfactory appraisal, that’s a pre-qual letter, not a pre-approval.  Yes, I always need to pick up the phone and speak with the mortgage broker about the clients, but I expect credit to have been pulled, tax returns to have been requested, the application and the file to be up to date and complete.

If the letter mentions anything about the client needing to submit paperwork, the letter isn’t worth tying up a property with…

Mortgage experts say that borrowers should ask lenders, early on, exactly what their preapproval process entails, and push for a preapproval — not prequalification — especially if the lender is running a credit check for a prequalification.

Ms. Smith says many banks are now issuing prequalifications no different from preapprovals, in that they contain hard credit checks and the like. But by not calling them preapprovals, she said, banks can delay taking a loan application and having to issue a good-faith estimate of closing costs. [More…]

Yes, it’s a catch 22.  But sorry, but I’m not willing to have my sellers tie up a property because the mortgage bankers don’t want to do another step they are now required to complete.  Hey, the escrow officers have to do a lot more work under the new rules too… And it’s not as if the rules are so new, that the good mortgage brokers haven’t found a way to make it work! In the end, sellers need to know that a buyer can finish the deal, not get held up.

On the other hand, if I have a buyer and I get a prequalification letter from their lender, I’ll be on the phone.  First, I’ll be talking to the lender to make sure I understand why it’s a prequalification and not a preapproval letter.  Where is the file at in terms of completeness?

If  I end up having to present a prequalification letter with the offer, you can be sure that I am discussing it with the listing agent first.  A big part of my job is managing expectations and communication, so I prefer to address it directly.

Rita Roti is a broker / assistant manager at Zephyr and can be reached at