Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Here we are at Thanksgiving eve.  Even more so than in previous years, so much of the emphasis seems to be focused almost entirely on shopping.  Target's ads provide some of the best worst examples.

Thanksgiving itself has become just the starter's gun to a huge shopping spree.  This year the stores can barely restrain themselves to the day after Thanksgiving with many chains planning to open Thursday at midnight,  Some Target employees are making an effort (likely to be futile) to fight back against such an early opening time.  Many of them will barely be able to finish their Thanksgiving dinner before they have to leave for work!

Every year at the holiday season many of us dish out, in addition to bountiful banquets of food, a full serving of platitudes about the true meaning of the season.  This year we have the Occupy movement pointing out the vast disparities between the 99% and 1% emphasizing some of the most glaring inequities in our society.  Many more in the country believe they have much less to be thankful for than they did a year or two or three ago and, no doubt, that's true -- especially if we're measuring wealth and income.

But I was reminded of how much we have to be thankful for (and the value of perspective) when listening to one of NPR's weekly Science Friday broadcast items last week.  The topic was "Building a Better Toilet".  Did you know that more than one-third of the earth's population does not have a toilet.  That's more than 2.3 billion people.  Think about that!  Think about what your life would be like if you didn't have a toilet.  And then think again about what we have to be thankful for.

Higher Loan Limits Approved

At the end of last week Congress passed and the President signed legislation to restore higher Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and FHA conforming loan limits of $729,750.  Those limits had been reduced  expired Oct. 1, when it was reduced to $625,500 on October 1st and, at that time, the restoration of the higher limits which particularly effect our market area seemed very much in doubt.  The higher limits are good through December 2013.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Where do they come from? Where did they go?

Forbes has published a fascinating interactive map that shows domestic migration trends by county for the past several years. 

Poking around the data, a few things struck me:
  • More people left San Francisco each of the last five years than arrived.  Since the Census Bureau figures (upper left) show an overall increase in population, that growth is fueled by international immigration.
  • The largest number of people leaving San Francisco head for the nearby counties (San Mateo, Alameda, Contra Costa, and Marin).
  • Santa Clara, Los Angeles and San Diego counties are the largest source of arrivals.
  • The largest source of incoming folks from outside California seem to be from Cook County (Chicago, IL), Middlesex County (Cambridge, MA), and Maricopa County (Phoenix, AR).
  • The most popular destinations outside the state were Multnomah County (Portland, OR), Travis County (Austin, TX) and Harris County (Houston, TX).
  • Marin County gets most of its incoming folks from San Francisco followed by Alameda, Contra Costa, Los Angeles and Vallejo.
  • Most of Marin's departures seem to go one county north to Sonoma.
Take a few minutes to play with it.  Suggestion:  click on "hide lines".  They make for a pretty graphic but get in the way when you're trying to see detail.  Plus, they give something of a false impression.  Just looking at the San Francisco graphic above you could easily conclude that we import more folks than we export.

Also, try clicking through the years.  For San Francisco, you can see that from 2005-2007 more people were heading to the Seattle area than were coming into the City.  By 2009 and 2009 that trend had completely reversed.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Update (2) on Potrero Hill Listings

It's been a month since we took a look at the four high-end listings on Potrero Hill that all hit the market at approximately the same time.  This group includes two single family homes and two condos.  Here's the current status:

The two single family homes include:

746 Kansas which has been completely remodeled from a seriously deteriorated state was originally listed for $1,675,000 or $744/sq. ft.   Six weeks later it was reduced by 5% ($80,000) to $1,595,000.  Two weeks later it went into contract.  Current status is "Active/Contingent" which would suggest that at least one of the contingencies (finance, inspection) have yet to be cleared.

531 Kansas which went through a major remodel and 3rd floor addition about 10 years ago.  Listed in the middle of September, the list price has remained at $1,799,000 or $766/sq. ft.  There has been no price reduction and, as noted in our earlier post, is $100,000 higher than it was when the house was previously listed and then withdrawn in 2009.

The two condos are:

730 Vermont St., the lower unit in a two-unit in a 10-year old building.  It was  listed in mid-September at $1,195.000 or $665/sq. ft.  and then reduced in two steps by 8% ($95,000) to $1,100,000.  After two months on the market the listing has been withdrawn.  According to the listing agent, the owner plans to rent it although it has not been posted in Craigslist.

2101 18th St., the lower unit in another two-unit building that was built just three years ago, is listed for $1,299,000 or $764/sq. ft.  After 7 days on the market the property went into contract.  It closed escrow six weeks after listing with a final sales price of $1,266,525 -- 2.5% below the list price.  However, according to a notation in the MLS, the buyers paid their agent's share of the commission which amounts to 2.5% so, effectively, the buyers paid list price.  Structuring the deal this way will save the buyers a few hundred dollars in annual real estate taxes.

Monday, November 14, 2011

October Sales Statistics

We've just posted our monthly reports on sales San Francisco and Marin counties for October.  As a reminder, we survey several specific configurations of single family homes and condos that represent the majority (this month, 55% in San Francisco and 72% in Marin) of sales in the county.  Here are some highlights:

  • inventory and number of sales has begun its normal, seasonal decline;
  • average sales price is up compared to a year ago

San Francisco
  • inventory is down slightly from last month and down approximately 30% from a year ago;
  • the total number of sales of residential properties in October was the lowest of any October in more than seven years although we are still on track to sell more units for the full year than we did in 2010;
  • of the configurations of single family homes and condos we survey, the number of properties sold in October is mixed with single family homes down slightly, condos down compared to last month but up compared to the same month last year, and 2-4 unit buildings up compared to both last month and last year

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Twice a year -- like "clockwork"

Saturday, November 5
Don't forget to "fall back"
(Offically, at 2am Sunday morning)

Otherwise, you'll be early for your Sunday Open House!

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