Monthly Archives: March 2015


Why are so few homes for sale in the Bay Area?

(Posted from

Rain wasn’t the only thing in short supply over the winter. The Bay Area housing market has also been suffering from an inventory drought.
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Real estate activity always slows in winter, but the number of homes and condos sold in the Bay Area in January and February were the lowest in seven years for those two months, according to CoreLogic Dataquick.

The plunge in sales reflects a lack of supply, not a lack of demand.
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“On well-located remodeled homes (on the Peninsula), you could have eight to 12 offers and probably two will be at asking and the rest will be over asking. The numbers over asking could be hundreds of thousands of dollars,” said Jim Meader, a broker with Today Sotheby’s International Realty in San Carlos.

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The Arden, a 267-unit condo development in San Francisco’s Mission Bay, sold out last fall even though owners can’t start moving in until the third quarter of this year, said Alan Mark, president of the Mark Co.

At the current rate of sales, it would take roughly 1.3 months to sell all of the existing homes and condos on the market in San Francisco, according to the San Francisco Association of Realtors. In a normal market, more balanced between buyers and sellers, it takes three or four months.

Everyone knows the supply of new homes in the Bay Area is falling far short of job and population growth, but the number of existing homes being put up for sale is also near record lows in many areas.

In San Mateo County, only 329 single-family homes hit the market in February, the lowest number for that month since at least 1998, when MLSListings Inc. started keeping track. In Santa Clara County, the number was 934, also a record low.

Numbers from Realtor and MLS sources generally do not include new condos because most developers do not list new units on the Multiple Listing Service, or list just a few.

They also do not include homes that never enter an MLS. Realtors say these “off-market” listings are a growing part of the industry and could account for some of the apparent shortage.
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But DataQuick numbers include both new-condo sales and off-market listings because it pulls data from county recorders’ offices. And its sales numbers are still undeniably low.

So why is inventory so tight?

Fear of buying

The reason you hear most often is that people are afraid to put their homes on the market because they won’t be able to buy another one in the Bay Area.

“The move-up market is pretty much frozen,” said Matt Fuller, an agent with Zephyr. “Even if you can do great on the sale of your property, you are terrified to enter the market as a buyer.”

Sellers who accept all-cash offers, which accounted for about a quarter of all Bay Area sales last month, may find themselves scrambling to find a replacement home because cash deals close quickly.
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When that happens, “We negotiate very long rent backs, or they move into temporary housing,” said Ira Serkes, a Realtor in Berkeley.

Some owners are doing what what Dorothy and Michael Catangay did when they sold their home in Gilroy in May. The couple wanted to move to the Villages, a 55-and-older community in San Jose. When they started looking in the fall of 2013, “there were about 10 or so homes in our price range. By the beginning of 2014, we noticed it was down to maybe three or four,” Dorothy said.

Taking the advice of their broker, Quincy Virgilio, they made the sale of their Gilroy house contingent on their ability to get an offer accepted on a replacement home within 21 days. “We were fortunate,” Dorothy said. The couple found a new home at the Villages within two days of accepting an all-cash offer on their Gilroy home.

Foreclosures & TICs
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Inventory is also shrinking because post-foreclosure sales have dried up. “After the bubble burst, foreclosures added to the inventory, especially of affordable homes,” Trulia chief economist Jed Kolko said.

Foreclosure resales accounted for just 4.5 percent of all Bay Area resales in February, compared with a peak of 52 percent in February 2009, DataQuick said.

In San Francisco, the sale of tenancy-in-common units, another affordable option in which two or more parties share ownership, have also plummeted. “TIC sales are down from 724 in 2007 to 295 in 2014,” said Patrick Carlisle, chief market analyst with Paragon Real Estate. The sale of two- to four-unit buildings, which were frequently sold as TIC properties, have also fallen sharply. “I think a lot of this has to do with aggressive changes to tenant-eviction law and condo-conversion laws.”

An influx of foreign owners could also be holding back supply because many see their homes as long-term investments, or a way to get money out of their home country.

Rent, don’t sell

Thanks to soaring rents and low interest rates, a growing percentage of people who buy a new home are renting out their old one instead of selling it.
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“If you bought a home in 2009 through 2011, at prices 35 to 50 percent below today’s, refinanced your mortgage at 3.5 to 4 percent, and the average asking rent in the city for a 2-bedroom is something like $4,500, it can make very compelling financial sense to rent your home out if you don’t have to sell, especially when CDs are paying 1 percent interest,” Carlisle said via e-mail. “The Airbnb phenomenon can only be adding to this.”


Taxes are also dissuading some owners from selling. When homeowners sell their primary residence, they can exclude up to $250,000 in profit ($500,000 if married) from capital gains tax. In pricier areas, “the capital gains exemption, at half a million, is just a drop in the bucket,” said Ken DeLeon of DeLeon Realty in Palo Alto.

Not only are more homes subject to the tax, but the tax itself has risen. In 2012, the maximum long-term capital gains tax rate was 15 percent federal and 9.3 percent in California. Today it’s 23.8 percent federal and 13.3 percent in California.

Rather than sell, some elderly homeowners have decided to stay in their homes until they die. When their heirs get the house, its cost basis will be “stepped up” to its value on their date of death, which essentially wipes out tax on the appreciation that occurred during the owner’s lifetime.

1978’s Proposition 13 also discourages some homeowners from selling, the same way rent control keeps tenants from moving.

In California, homes are reassessed for property taxes only when they are sold or when the owner makes a substantial improvement, which is added to their assessed value. As long as homeowners stay put, their property tax cannot go up by more than 2 percent a year (plus voter-approved local taxes).

Many longtime homeowners would face a steep property tax increase when they sell, unless they qualify for a Proposition 60 or 90 transfer. UnderProposition 58, they could give or leave it to their children (or parents) without triggering a property-tax increase.

Prop. 13 “is a huge disincentive toward selling,” DeLeon said.

For younger buyers, taxes are less of an issue. Although more of his clients are exceeding the capital gains exclusion, “in some cases, the price they are getting is so far above their expectations,” they don’t mind paying the tax. He does, however, think Prop. 13 is affecting the move-up market.

The future

Although sales and listings typically pick up in March, it probably won’t be enough to keep up with the Bay Area’s seemingly insatiable demand for housing.

At some point, prices will get so high that buyers give up or sellers cash in. “Every owner has a price at which they will sell. As prices go higher and higher, I think we will see people willing to sell,” Fuller said.

That could help in the short run, but if everyone who sells wants to stay in the Bay Area, “You still have the same number of households chasing after the same number of housing units,” Kolko said.

Absent an earthquake, stock market crash, recession or other demand-killing event, the only long-term solution is to build more housing. That’s hard to do in the Bay Area, where there’s so little available land and so much regulation.

San Francisco has seen a big jump in condo construction and an even bigger increase in apartment construction over the past few years.

Polaris Pacific expects to see roughly 800 condos completed this year, 1,500 next year and 1,500 in 2017. That’s about twice as many as were completed the previous three years combined.

Apartment completions between now and 2017 will total about 7,000, compared with about 4,700 over the past three years.

That will help, but it’s not enough to keep up with the city’s job growth.

The suburbs will also have to overcome their aversion to anything over three stories. “Tech companies seem to be making a permanent commitment to the area,” Meader said. “You can’t get much density at three stories.”

Nonprofit’s San Mateo County Land Purchase Completes Coastal Trail

A nonprofit has announced the purchase of 21 acres that will complete a segment of the Coastal California Trail in San Mateo County, nonprofit officials said.
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The Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) purchased the land along Pillar Point Bluff and the land will complete a section of the Coastal California Trail that travels along the bluff. The nonprofit previously purchased other land along the bluff and this most recent purchase is between two of the previously purchased parcels.

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“This is the fulfillment of a decade-long dream to preserve Pillar Point Bluff,” POST President Walter T. Moore said in a statement. “This is a spectacular piece of the California coast and we are thrilled that people can now take an uninterrupted hike on this property and enjoy the incredible scenic beauty of this place.”
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The bluff is known for its views of the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve reefs and the Pacific Ocean. The bluff provides habitat for the threatened California red-legged frog and the endangered San Francisco garter snake.

The property is made up of coastal scrubland and coastal terrace prairie and may be a site for nesting raptors.
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POST is a private, nonprofit land trust that protects and cares for open space, farms and parkland in and around Silicon Valley. Since its founding in 1977, POST has been responsible for saving more than 70,000 acres as permanent open space and parkland in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties.


Bay Area Home Prices Rise As Inventory Drops

“As long as there is very low supply, high-paying jobs and low interest rates, it will continue to go at this rate. Until the mechanics of something in the economy change, this is still going to be a bumpy ride for the next five or six months for buyers.”
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Buyers in San Mateo County are struggling to find homes on the market, as the local stock of available housing has shrunk precipitously in recent weeks, according to local experts.

As the lack of available options decrease, prices continue to surge, setting a market that is extremely difficult for those interested in purchasing a new home.
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The year started off with a bang in some regions of the Peninsula, but has ground to a halt recently, as fewer homes are coming onto the market.

This year touted the most new homes available in San Carlos in the month of January since 2012. But that momentum was not indicative of more good things to come, as February featured the fewest homes listed in that month since 2007.

The setback was so severe that the first two months of the year combined for the fewest homes becoming available San Carlos in eight years.
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Realtor Steven Hyman, who sells property along the coast in San Mateo County, echoed those sentiments.

He said there are 30 homes currently available for sale on the coastside, but normally there would be near 100.

“The inventory is just incredibly low,” he said.

According to data from the San Mateo County Association of Realtors, or SAMCAR, 181 single-family homes sold in the county last month, down from 202 during the February prior and 260 sold in February 2013.

It’s a culmination of factors has resulted in an unprecedented degree of difficulty for those currently searching for a new home.
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“It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen in this market,” he said. “It’s a combination of low inventory everywhere, and on top of that, there’s an unprecedented amount of wealth.”

The dearth of options is spread across the county, as there are 587 homes available on the market, down from 1,181 homes in February 2012, according to SAMCAR.

“It’s the perfect storm. There are very well qualified buyers, and nothing to choose from.”  Hyman said he attributed the lack of available homes to how promptly real estate is being purchased.

“Houses are just getting snapped up in days,” he said.
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It is common for home buyers to make offers well over the listing price, or offer much of their down payment in cash with hopes to improve their odds of striking a deal. He said some buyers may be overreacting out of frustration associated with possibly being turned down repeatedly in a highly-competitive market, which could result in some being willing to pay considerably more than market rates.

“There is a certain desperation in the mind of some buyers. They are getting fed up with being outbid, and when people get that emotional and that frustrated, they tend to write very strong offers,” he said.

Average sales price in San Mateo County has climbed to $1.4 million in February 2015, up nearly $500,000 from that same month in 2012, according to SAMCAR.

“The county has gone into hyper drive,” he said. “This year blew through previous high sale prices.” And there is likely little relief in sight for those hoping to see the market slow down.

While large technology companies such as Facebook and Google are present in the area and offering well-paying jobs to young residents, home buyers will be able to continue paying the prevailing exorbitant rates.
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As well, housing stock is not likely to increase drastically, because space is limited along the Peninsula. Expect to see more high-rise housing developments built, similar to recent projects in Redwood City, because there is such a significant demand for housing but not an abundance of space to build.

(Post from Daily Journal)


Screenshot 2015-03-18 10.16.59

Pacific Heights Penthouse Sale Smashes SF Real Estate Records

(Post from SocketSite)
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We’ve shared many stories about record breaking real estate all over the Bay Area, but this particular sale in San Francisco is jaw dropping: 5400 sq. ft for $30M.

The 10th floor of the überexclusive Pacific Heights building at 2006 Washington Street has traded hands in a hush-hush deal and at a price point never before seen in San Francisco.
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While the seller had been privately seeking as much as $35 million for the 5,400-square-foot, full-floor unit #10, according to a plugged-in source, the sale price was closer to $30 million.

A sale at $30 million would not only make it the most expensive apartment (condo/co-op) in San Francisco, surpassingthe $28 million paid for the nearly 17,000-square-foot penthouse atop the San Francisco St. Regis, but it would shatter the price per square foot record for all residences in the city, both current and anticipated, at over $5,500 per square foot.
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And we’re told the buyers, who are not in tech nor from overseas, are working on plans to gut and remodel the unit.

The sellers of 2006 Washington #10 paid $14 million, or roughly $2,600 per square foot, for the unit in August 2000.  Zillow’s current “Zestimate” for the property is $6,461,232.
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Designed by Conrad Alfred Meussdorffer, overlooking the Spreckels Mansion with unobstructed views of the San Francisco Bay, there is a much smaller unit on the “11th” floor of the building, but the 10th floor of 2006 Washington was the original penthouse unit and many still refer to it as such.
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Foreign Investors Eyeing San Mateo

(Posted from The Daily Journal)
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With the Bay Area’s economic boom resonating across the globe, a foreign investment firm picked up a newly constructed San Mateo apartment complex for $73.6 million this week.

Mode Apartments, an 111-unit multifamily complex on 2 acres at 2089 Pacific Blvd., was sold by developer Wood Partners LLC to Land and Houses USA Inc., a small subsidiary of the Thailand-based, publicly traded Land and Houses Public Company Limited.

The new site comprised of two three-story buildings housing a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom units and boasting a fitness room, resident lounge, clubroom, fire pits and more, was completed late last year.
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The luxury apartments rent for an increasingly standard steep range between $2,800 a month for a less than 800-square-foot one-bedroom unit and almost $5,000 per month for 1,500-square-foot three-bedroom unit.

The purchase sets the average apartment value at around $663,000 per unit and, according to San Mateo’s Finance Director Dave Culver, the sale will extend $368,000 in one-time property transfer taxes to the city.
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While offshore investments are nothing new, interest is trending and there has been a shift in purchasing methods, said Phil Saglimbeni, first vice president of investments at Institutional Property Advisors, who brokered the sale.

“We are seeing an uptick, but it’s a very specific type of asset these foreign investors are looking for. They like class A assets,” Saglimbeni said. “The brand-new stuff like Mode is not very complicated. They buy it, hire a management company and put it on the shelf. Their motivations are multifold — a lot of it has to do with hedging or risk diversification out of their home country. And it also has to do with the Bay Area and how explosive the economy has been. Whether it’s foreign or domestic, people just want to be in this market.”
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Until a few years ago, it was more common for foreign investors to create a joint venture with a U.S.-based firm to acquire properties and the public wouldn’t typically know of the offshore involvement, Saglimbeni said. However, foreign companies are increasingly starting to directly source real estate deals on their own, Saglimbeni said.
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Mode was the second deal Saglimbeni said he’s conducted with Land and Houses and he’s also in the middle of a transaction for a Redwood City property with a Singapore-based group.

Wood Partners’ completion of Mode is the second luxury apartment community it’s finished in the Bay Area having sold an Oakland development for $103.2 million in 2013, according to a Wood Partners press release.

The San Mateo apartments sit on the site of a former commercial printing facility and are close to Caltrain as well as major employers such as Oracle, Visa, Gilead and Franklin Templeton Investments, according to Wood Partners.
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The area is proving to be popular for large-scale sales. A few blocks north, the site of the proposed 599-unit mixed-use residential Station Park Green project next to the Hayward Park Caltrain Station sold to Essex Property and Trust for $67 million Tuesday. Last month, DivcoWest spent more than $130 million to buy the fully-leased 210,000 square-foot office complex at 700-900 Concar Drive that’s home to Salesforce and four other tenants.

With job growth booming, rental prices skyrocketing and inventory selling at a premium, Saglimbeni said companies around the world are looking to buy in.

“Whether it’s commercial or residential, we are over the last three, four, five years seeing more interest from offshore capital than we had historically,” Saglimbeni said. “[Demand] for well-located U.S. real estate has been on the rise.”
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