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This Weekend: “Mr. Burns”

If you’re a “Simpsons” fan, you’re in for a treat this weekend courtesy of the American Conservatory Theater. Billed as an outrageous and enthusiastically acclaimed new comedy by Anne Washburn, “Mr. Burns” revolves around a post-apocalyptic Bay Area and a group of strangers bound together through a recreation of the show’s infamous “Cape Feare” episode. In case you’ve forgotten, Bart grows paranoid after receiving death threats and ends up coming face to face with the nefarious Sideshow Bob, who is ultimately apprehended by the police.

In the play, the basis for shaping a new society grows from recollections of Marge as well as Homer as the play travels decades into the future. It is hailed as both a marvelous meta-tribute to the twenty-first century’s iconic first family of pop culture and a celebration to the power of generational storytelling. (San Francisco Chronicle.)

The New York Times applauded “Mr. Burns” as “a post-electric play (that) has arrived to leave you dizzy with the scope and dazzle of its ideas. Ms. Washburn makes us appreciate anew the profound value of storytelling in and of itself, and makes a case for theater as the most glorious and durable storyteller of all.” In addition, the Village Voice crowed: “Washburn reminds us of the ways stories survive and adapt with us, how their specifics and lessons change to the society that tells them, how their meaning is inconstant but our need for that meaning, whatever it happens to be at a given time, is pure and permanent. From hell, Mr. Burns sends us to heaven.”

How can you resist? “Mr. Burns” runs on Sunday, March 1 at 2 p.m. The ACT’s Geary Theater is located at 405 Geary Street in San Francisco.

Dreaming of San Francisco? Cece Blase offers local advice to San Francisco buyers, sellers and owners– and feeds the dreams of those who wish they could live in Tony Bennett’s ‘City by the Bay.’ Call 415-577-0809 or email cblase@paragon-re.com. www.ceceblase.com

From our NorCal network : The Artisan Group


6601 Elverton Drive
Oakland, CA 94611
Offered at $1,875,000

For more information about this property or a referral to other areas of Northern California, please contact me.

December Case-Shiller reflects plateauing home values … for now

Recently the December 2014 Case-Shiller Index was released, showing a general flattening of home values from the end of the 2014 spring market through year’s-end. We seem to be looking at another feverish spring market this year, which in turn typically translates to another burst of home-price appreciation.

The accompanying chart reflects the Bay Area house markets’ high-price tier, which is generally seen in most of the San Francisco, Marin and San Mateo markets. A few highlights from the notes on the chart:

· Spring has been the season of greatest appreciation for the last three years

· Bay Area homes in the upper third of the price range appreciated 9.3 percent in the past 12 months

· Prices have appreciated about 43 percent since the market recovery began in early 2012.

Meanwhile, home prices, as shown in the data released in the report, are on an uptick nationwide. Both the 10-City and 20-City Composites reflected year-over-year increases in December as compared to November, with the 20-City Composite jumping 4.5 percent year-over-year as compared to a 4.3 percent increase in November.

San Francisco saw the fastest year-over-year gain with its 9.3 percent rise, followed by Miami at 8.4 percent. Twelve cities, including Cleveland, Denver and Seattle, also saw faster price increases in December than in November.

As for declines, Las Vegas led the pack with 6.9 percent in increases, down from 7.7 percent annually.

“The softness in housing is despite favorable conditions elsewhere in the economy: strong job growth, a declining unemployment rate, continued low interest rates and positive consumer confidence,” S&P Dow Jones Indices managing director and index committee chairman David Blitzer said in a statement.

Dreaming of San Francisco? Cece Blase offers local advice to San Francisco buyers, sellers and owners– and feeds the dreams of those who wish they could live in Tony Bennett’s ‘City by the Bay.’ Call 415-577-0809 or email cblase@paragon-re.com. www.ceceblase.com

Renting vs Buying a Home in San Francisco

“Renting can make sense as a lifestyle choice or because of income constraints.
As a means to building wealth, however, there is no practical substitute for homeownership.”

New York Times, “Homeownership & Affluence,” 11/30/14 op-ed article

Please Note: Rent vs. buy calculations can be performed a wide variety of ways, and results will depend on your own financial circumstances and economic projections, which you should review with your accountant. The below calculations represent simply one scenario.

This rent vs. buy analysis compares the monthly housing cost of buying a San Francisco home at the Q4 2014 median sales price of $1,050,000 – adjusting for tax deductions and principal pay-down of the mortgage – with the cost of renting a San Francisco 2-bedroom apartment at the Q4 2014 median asking rent of approximately $4500/month (per Rentbits.com). It also attempts to compare, while adjusting for inflation and other factors, projected asset appreciation between investing the downpayment monies (instead of buying a home) and using them in one’s home purchase.

Assumptions: 20% down-payment ($210,000); 30-year fixed-rate loan at an APR of 4%; and closing costs; property taxes; ongoing insurance and maintenance costs; annual inflation (2%), outside investment returns (3% after taxes) and home appreciation rates (5%) – all at what seem to us to be reasonable projections. We’ve used a combined income tax rate of 25% for the mortgage interest and property tax deduction. But especially when projecting variable economic factors over long periods of time, many of these figures will simply be best guesstimates. You may perform calculations based upon your own specific financial situation and future projections, and also see the definitions for all the terms used in this analysis here:

Rent vs. Buy Calculator

The New York Times also has a rent vs. buy calculator:

NYT Rent vs. Buy Calculator

2-15_Rent-vs-Buy_Medians-Comp_A 2-15_Rent-vs-Buy_Medians-Comp_A2

2-15_Rent-vs-Buy_Medians-Comp_B 2-15_Rent-vs-Buy_Medians-Comp_C

2-15_Rent-vs-Buy_Medians-Comp_C2 2-15_Rent-vs-Buy_Medians-Comp_D


If you wished to perform this analysis comparing a 1-bedroom apartment rental with a 1-bedroom condo purchase, the median San Francisco asking rent would be approximately $3300 to $3400 per month, and the median purchase price in Q4 2014 was about $740,000. Interestingly, the ratio of median asking rent to median purchase price is almost exactly the same as in the scenario used above. If you currently have an SF apartment under rent control, you can still use the calculator, plugging in your current rent – annual increases in rents allowed under SF rent control are typically about 60% of the CPI inflation rate.

Other articles you might find interesting:

When Is the Time to Buy?

Home Buying as an Investment

10 Factors behind the San Francisco Market

Updated S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index for San Francisco Metro Area

The Case-Shiller Index for the San Francisco Metro Area covers the house markets of 5 Bay Area counties, divided into 3 price tiers, each constituting one third of unit sales. Most of the San Francisco’s and Marin’s house sales are in the “high price tier”, so that is where we focus most of our attention.” The Index is published 2 months after the month in question and reflects a 3-month rolling average, so it will always reflect the market of some months ago. The Index for December was released on the last Tuesday of February.

The 5 counties in our Case-Shiller Metro Statistical Area are San Francisco, Marin, San Mateo, Alameda and Contra Costa. Needless to say, there are many different real estate markets found in such a broad region, and it’s probably fair to say that the city of San Francisco’s market has generally out-performed the general metro-area market.

The first two charts illustrate the price recovery of the Bay Area high-price-tier home market over the past year and since 2012 began, when the market recovery really started in earnest. In 2012, 2013 and 2014, home prices surged in the spring and then plateaued in the summer-autumn. The surge in prices that occurred in spring of 2013 was particularly dramatic, reflecting a frenzied market of huge buyer demand, historically low interest rates, increasing consumer confidence and extremely low inventory. In San Francisco itself, it was further exacerbated by an expanding population and the high-tech-fueled explosion of new wealth. The market then calmed down somewhat in the second half of 2013, but then heated up yet again in early 2014. In fact, the spring 2014 market was, if anything, even more ferocious than the previous year (at least in San Francisco).

After the feverish spring market of 2014, home prices in the high-price tier flattened and then ticked down a little, while more affordable home segments   continued to tick up. It’s not unusual for the market to cool off and plateau during the summer months. The Case-Shiller Index reports released at the end of December, January and February reflect the autumn selling season, which starts after Labor Day. (Note that transactions negotiatedin September generally start closing in October.) According to the Index, Bay Area home prices ticked up in the 3 months at the end of 2014 by about 1%, plus or minus depending on price tier — i.e. prices remained basically flat. Note that small monthly fluctuations are not particularly meaningful until substantiated over a longer term.

We are currently waiting to see what the spring market of 2015 will be like, but initial indications point to another feverish market of extremely low supply against highly competitive buyer demand.

For more regarding how seasonality affects real estate: Seasonality & the Real Estate Market

Case-Shiller Index numbers all reflect home prices as compared to the home price of January 2000, which has been designated with a value of 100. Thus, a reading of 199 signifies home prices 99% above those of January 2000.

Short-Term Trends: 12 Months & Since Market Recovery Began in 2012



Longer-Term Trends & Cycles

The third and fourths charts below reflect what has occurred in the longer term (for the high-price tier that applies best to San Francisco and Marin counties), showing the cycle of recession, recovery, bubble, decline/recession since 1996, and since 1988. Note that, past cycle changes will always look smaller than more recent cycles because the prices are so much higher now; if the chart reflected only percentage changes between points, the difference in the scale of cycles would not look so dramatic.



Different Bubbles, Crashes & Recoveries

This next chart compares the 3 different price tiers since 2000. The low-price-tier’s bubble was much more inflated, fantastically inflated, by the subprime lending fiasco – an absurd 170% appreciation over 6 years – which led to a much greater crash (foreclosure crisis) than the other two price tiers. All 3 tiers have been undergoing dramatic recoveries, but because the bubbles of the low and middle tiers were greater, their recoveries leave them well below their artificially inflated peak values of 2006. It may be a long time before the low-price-tier of houses regains its previous peak values. The high-price-tier, with a much smaller bubble, and little affected by distressed property sales, has now exceeded its previous peak values of 2007. Most neighborhoods in the city of San Francisco itself have surpassed previous peak values by substantial margins.

It’s interesting to note that despite the different scales of their bubbles, crashes and recoveries, all three price tiers now have similar overall appreciation rates when compared to year 2000. As of October 2014 (not shown below), this range has narrowed to 98% to 99%. This suggests an equilibrium is being achieved across the general real estate market.

Different counties, cities and neighborhoods in the Bay Area are dominated by different price tiers. Bay Area counties such as Alameda, Contra Costa, Napa, Sonoma and Solano have large percentages of their markets dominated by low-price tier homes (though all tiers are represented to greater or lesser degrees). San Francisco, Marin, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties are generally mid and high-price tier markets, and sometimes very high priced indeed. Generally speaking, the higher the price, the smaller the bubble and crash, and the greater the recovery as compared to previous peak values.

Remember that if a price drops by 50%, then it must go up by 100% to make up the loss: loss percentages and gain percentages are not created equal.

The two “2014” readings for each tier in the chart below, refer to January 2014 and May 2014. We will update this chart in late March 2015 when the January 2015 Index is released.


And this chart compares home price appreciation since the recovery began in 2012 for the low-price and high-price tiers. As one can see the two tiers have come together in 2014.


San Francisco County

And then looking just at the city of San Francisco itself, which has, generally speaking, among the highest home prices in the 5-county metro area (and the country): many of its neighborhoods are now blowing past previous peak values. Note that this chart has more recent price appreciation data than available in the Case-Shiller Indices. This chart shows both house and condo values, while the C-S charts used above are for house sales only. Median prices are affected by other factors besides changes in values, including seasonality, new constructions, inventory available to purchase, and significant changes in the distressed and luxury home segments. Short-term fluctuations are less meaningful than longer term trends.


And this chart for the Noe and Eureka Valleys neighborhoods of San Francisco shows the explosive recovery seen in many of the city’s neighborhoods, pushing home values far above those of 2007. San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties are most effected by the high-tech wealth effect on home prices. Noe and Eureka Valleys are particularly prized by this buyer segment and the effect on prices has been astonishing.


What are the Bay Area median house prices?

We at Paragon have updated our Bay Area median house price map to reflect the last six months of sales reported to the Multiple Listing Service. The map, which accompanies this article, covers everything from Healdsburg and Santa Rosa to the north to Atherton and Woodside at points south and even touches on New York City, which, in case you were wondering, boasts a $1.22 million median price for houses, condos and co-ops.

Here are a few local highlights from the map:

· San Francisco (all): $1.1 million

· Pacific Heights: $4.1 million

· Noe Valley: $1.9 million

· Central Sunset: $1 million

· Tiburon: $2.36 million

· Belvedere: $3.5 million

· Sausalito: $1.41 million

· Berkeley: $918,000

· Oakland (all): $520,000

· Piedmont: $1.8 million

· Daly City: $700,000

· Hayward: $431,000

· San Mateo: $1.09 million

· Redwood City: $1.18 million

· Menlo Park: $1.94 million

However, according to DataQuick, Bay Area January home sales were the slowest in seven years. While this is seasonally appropriate, it’s still a statistic that’s worth noting. A total of 4,439 new and resale houses and condos were sold in the Bay Area’s central nine counties in January, down month over month by 40.5 percent from 7,456 sales in December 2014 and also down year over year by 5.5 percent from 4,696 sales in January 2014. This has become a trend – Bay Area sales have averaged a nearly 30 percent (specifically, 28.5 percent drop between the months of December and January since 1988, which is when DataQuick began tracking.

The lowest prior to this January was in 2008, at the time of the recession. The peak for January home sales took place three years earlier with the sale of just under 8,300 homes.

Dreaming of San Francisco? Cece Blase offers local advice to San Francisco buyers, sellers and owners– and feeds the dreams of those who wish they could live in Tony Bennett’s ‘City by the Bay.’ Call 415-577-0809 or email cblase@paragon-re.com. www.ceceblase.com

How high? How far?

Recently I said that a shortage of inventory was driving prices up again. This week, I want to actually show you sample properties that sold well above their listing price.

This sampling represents a variety of locations and property styles. To make this topic appealing to all, we are generally sticking with better-known neighborhoods. If you would like information on selling versus list prices in parts of the city such as west of Twin Peaks or over by Ocean Avenue, email me and I’ll be happy to send you information on how property is selling in those neighborhoods.

The address links take you to online presentations from our local MLS. I’m afraid it’s not the sexiest format out there, but it seems only fair to create a level playing field for how the homes show up on your computer screen. You also avoid getting seduced by fancy moving images or weird music that comes on at inappropriate times.

Examples of selling prices far exceeding listing prices this year are:

707 3rd Avenue

A gracious 3BR/1.5 Edwardian house with a fancy remodeled kitchen, lots of period detail and expansion potential.This Inner Richmond location is a popular alternative for buyers wanting a larger single family but are priced out of neighborhoods like Noe Valley. On a great, close-in block, this home is also walking distance to Golden Gate Park.

Listed for $1,495,000

Sold for $1,827,000

40 Joost Avenue

A smaller 2BR/1.5BA single family home that is characteristic of the Sunnyside neighborhood. Buyers are discovering Sunnyside as it offers smaller, more affordable houses and good proximity to the Glen Park BART and the freeways. This home was owned for many years by a well-known cabinet maker, but he also seemed to be a fan of tile work as well. . .

Listed for $899,000

Sold for $1,110,000

763 Chenery

This single family 3BR/2BA “checked all the boxes” on a home-shopper’s list. It had the look of a quintessential, San Francisco peaked-roof Victorian with the added boost of being just steps away from Glen Park Village shops, BART and the on-ramp to the 280 Freeway. The combination kitchen-family room communicated directly with the back yard. The only small downside is a division of bedrooms between the top and lower levels.

Listed for $1,749,000

Sold for $2,250,019

353 Park Street

Another classic 2BR/1.5BA peaked roof Victorian house, just steps away from Holly Park on Bernal Heights’ south slope.

If you’ve never been to Holly Park, it’s time for a visit. This is a magical little spot close by Mission Street and not too far from Cortland. Like many Bernal homes, this one had a slightly awkward floor plan, but it was easy to see what needed to be corrected and how.

Listed for $1,025,000

Sold for $1,400,000

355 Buena Vista Avenue #701W

1BR condo in the Park Hill complex. Park Hill is another place worth visiting if you’ve never been, with beautiful, gracious architecture in a stunning setting directly across from Buena Vista Park and just up the hill from the Haight Ashbury. This particular unit was on the top floor, extensively redone and showed like a dream. Even so, the selling price one was jaw-dropping since sales in the building over the past six months have been in the $640,000-730,000 range.

Listed for $899,000

Sold for $1,100,000

942 Treat Avenue

Victorian 1BR/1.5BA condo-flat that was “dripping with period character” (not my words). The lower bedroom/bath count is compensated by 1000+ square feet with a formal dining room, large eat-in kitchen, back deck and common yard hot tub. This home has parking but it’s tandem, which means you have to have your neighbors keys and park end-to-end. If you look at the photos, make sure to go all the way to the last one to see some exterior “misguided improvements” made by former owners years ago. This property is in the heart of the Mission District.

Listed for $779,000

Sold for $940,000

138-140 Eureka

Classic 4U Edwardian building with one-bedroom Romeo style flats. We call this particular style of building “Romeo,” perhaps because windows in the central stairway offer some romance as they overlook the street. Inside each front door, you are greeted by a long hall feeding into a series of rooms. This layout holds appeal for some because there is depth to the floor plan and you can’t see all of the living space at one time. Great Castro Village location within walking distance to everything. All tenant-occupied with monthly rents ranging from about $1,250 to just north of $2,950.

Listed for $1,499,000

Sold for $1,808,625

342-A Hayes Street
2BR/2.5BA townhome with a stellar WalkScore location in the heart of Hayes Valley.
Built in 1996, it had a crisp, contemporary feel with pleasant treetop outlooks. Smaller square footage was overcome by extra tall ceilings and a two-level floor plan. Separate master suites broadened the home’s appeal to Millennials who might want a roommate. Having restaurants and coffee shops like Arlequin, Absinthe, Sugar Lounge and Blue Bottle Coffee just outside the front door didn’t hurt either.

Listed for $1,050,000

Sold for $1,310,000

2931-A Fillmore
Unique 2BR/2BA condo in a superb Cow Hollow location just half-a-block above Union Street.
The building also has some distinctive architectural features with an unusual double-arched façade. Inside, the home’s vaulted ceilings, skylights and a loft level must have made it seem like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Extra perks were parking and an outdoor deck with views to the Golden Gate. This home wins our prize for going furthest over at 139% of list price.

Listed for $1,385,000

Sold for $1,925,000

I have chosen extreme examples, but overbidding is happening nearly every time in this market. To give it some statistical context, only six out of the last 31 properties to sell over the past two weeks sold at or below asking, with the biggest “bargain” selling for 93% of its listing price.

So what can we learn?

Two conclusions to draw:

  1. If you’re a buyer, do your online searches at listing prices below your price range. Roughly half of all houses sell within the first thirty days for an average 140%over asking. The median is less frightening- about 120% for single families and 110% for condos. But this still means that if your price range is up to $1,200,000 for a single family you might want to look at new listings priced no higher than $999,000.
  2. If you’re a seller and have a “make-me-move” price, you might want to call us to see if the market can match it. Keep in mind that your Zillow estimate may be inaccurate, especially in neighborhoods like Potrero Hill, where prices can vary dramatically block-to-block (I’ve seen them Zillow estimate too low as often as I have too high). Your property’s “hotness” will also depend on its rarity. Certain neighborhoods, like Hayes Valley, have a dearth of inventory right now and anything near Dolores Park remains highly coveted. We are also seeing a resurgence of interest in condos in the City’s classic Northern District, like Pacific Heights and Russian Hill. All of San Francisco is a hot commodity right now, however, regardless of location. So if you want to know what your home is worth today, please feel free to get in touch.

Dreaming of San Francisco? Cece Blase offers local advice to San Francisco buyers, sellers and owners– and feeds the dreams of those who wish they could live in Tony Bennett’s ‘City by the Bay.’ Call 415-577-0809 or email cblase@paragon-re.com. www.ceceblase.com

From our NorCal network : The Artisan Group


620 Gravatt Drive
Berkeley, CA 94705
Offered at $1,750,000

For more information about this property or a referral to other areas of Northern California, please contact me.

This Weekend: Remodeling workshop in Sebastopol

If you’re looking for an excuse for a day trip this weekend, you’ve found it. On Saturday, Feb. 21, the Leff Design Center at 2661 Gravenstein Highway South, Suite B, in Sebastopol is hosting a workshop entitled “Guide to a Successful Remodeling Project: Navigating Design and Selections”. Located just three miles south of quirky downtown Sebastopol, the Leff Design Center is known for its always-free, always-fun workshops complete with snacks.

Saturday’s workshop tackles the difficult issue of remodeling your home, an endeavor that entails literally hundreds of decisions before the project is complete. Rather than let the process be daunting, come to the Leff Design Center at 10 a.m. to learn how to make the best decisions possible while planning your project along with gaining a more complete understanding of the different ways to approach the remodeling process as a whole rather than becoming intimidated by the parts.

So what will you learn? Here are a few bits of knowledge with which you can expect to walk away after the workshop:

· The careful planning involved in a beautiful remodeling and the most effective steps that will get you there

· The design process from the beginning part of developing a concept to the end stage of selecting finish materials

· The confidence to know that you too can do it – and survive!

Since space is limited, advance registration is required. You can register online or by calling Leff Design Center at (707) 823-4899. The Leffs have been in business since 1978, so they speak from experience. Don’t miss this unique opportunity.

Dreaming of San Francisco? Cece Blase offers local advice to San Francisco buyers, sellers and owners– and feeds the dreams of those who wish they could live in Tony Bennett’s ‘City by the Bay.’ Call 415-577-0809 or email cblase@paragon-re.com. www.ceceblase.com

SoMa-South Beach-Yerba Buena-Mission Bay

Many more condos are sold in the South Beach/ Yerba Buena/ South of Market (SoMa)/ Mission Bay neighborhoods of San Francisco than any other area of the city, and since new construction is surging here, that trajectory will only continue. The market here is quite hot pursuant to the same trends as the city as a whole: high demand, low inventory, rapidly appreciating prices. The great majority of condos that are sold have been selling without any price reductions and averaging a sales price over asking price.

Since opening our doors in 2004, Paragon has transacted over $800 million in business in these neighborhoods, acting as agent in over 950 sales and leases.





South of Market (SoMa District) Condo Values



Luxury Condo Sales in Greater SoMa-South Beach Area

Sales of luxury condos in this area have been soaring and often sell for among the highest dollar per square values in the city, especially upper units with spectacular views in buildings such as the Millennium and Four Seasons.


San Francisco Luxury Condo Sales, $1,500,000 & Above

As one can see in this chart, the greater South Beach-SoMa area has a large and growing footprint in the luxury condo market segment in San Francisco.




Sales reported to MLS 6/1/14 – 2/15/15. When identified, outlier sales that distort the average $/sq.ft. value were deleted. Below Market Rate (BMR) units were excluded from this analysis. Median and average statistics often conceal wide varieties of values in the underlying individual sales – and how they apply to any particular property is unknown without a specific comparative market analysis. Data from sources deemed reliable, but may contain errors and subject to revision.

* When only a small number of sales report square footage, the average dollar per square foot value is less reliable.

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