Archive for April 2014 | Monthly archive page

Buyer-Seller Dynamics in San Francisco

This April 2014 analysis was based upon a survey of Paragon Real Estate Group agents regarding their past 12 months of activity: Paragon agents close over 1000 San Francisco home transactions per year; Paragon’s Van Ness office represents more buyers in successful city home purchases than any other brokerage office.

All percentages are approximate: This was not a rigorously controlled survey and analysis, but more an informal poll; still we believe the data below does generally reflect market dynamics in San Francisco.

San Francisco Home Sellers 

60% are selling to relocate outside of San Francisco: The main reasons, in order of prevalence, are schools (and other family-raising reasons) — which ties in with the fact that SF has the lowest percentage of children of any major city in the country — affordability (the ability to buy more home for the money elsewhere), job-related reasons (relocation, commute) and retirement.

15% involve trust, probate or investor sales, or people moving into rentals or retirement homes, and no new home purchase is involved.

25% are selling in order to buy another property within the city, typically either upgrading to a more expensive home or downsizing to a smaller home, or a divorce is involved.

San Francisco Home Buyers 

50% are first-time buyers. This is a very high percentage: In the U.S. the percentage is about 30% (and, of course, the U.S. median price is under $200k, while the SF median is over $950,000).

Average age of SF home buyers is generally getting younger and is currently in the mid-thirties.

47% of SF home buyers are employed in high tech. This is a distinctly San Francisco phenomenon related to the first 2 points above: An influx of relatively young, often newly affluent, high-tech employed, often first-time buyers – who can afford SF home prices – is playing a decisive role in the market.

20% of prospective SF home buyers have become discouraged and given up on buying in the city, due to the competitive environment and rapidly appreciating prices. They’ve either given up for the time being or shifted their home searches elsewhere.

Less than 3% of SF home buyers are foreign – exposes the myth of foreign money playing a significant role in the SF market. What purchases/investments they are making seem to be mostly in new or newer, high-rise condo developments. (There are cities in the U.S. in which large numbers of foreign buyers are having a significant impact on the market – Miami may be the most dramatic example – but SF is not one of them at this time.)

26% of homes are being purchased via “all cash” offers, though many of these offers are structured this way solely for strategic reasons to get their offers accepted in an exceedingly competitive environment. That is, many of these buyers end up getting loans either before or immediately after close of escrow. (This is a different phenomenon than investors paying all cash for distressed homes in other parts of the country – San Francisco has had very few of these sales in the past 2 years.)

Approximately 10% of home sales occur outside of the multiple listing service, i.e. as so-called off-market/ off-MLS/ pocket listings. This agrees with other analyses Paragon and others have performed.

Conclusions: To a greater extent than is probably normal, there is an exchange process occurring in San Francisco, with existing residents moving out and new residents moving in. One of the biggest reasons for selling is to relocate for better public schools outside SF or to save money by enrolling children in suburban public instead of city private schools; high prices are motivating some city homeowners to cash out to buy bigger/better homes elsewhere; frenzied market conditions are discouraging homeowners who might otherwise sell to buy other (larger, better) homes within the city – many of these homeowners are staying put out of trepidation. This last situation is affecting/lowering the supply of homes for sale.

Population/ Employment Growth and Housing

According to the latest U.S. census data, the estimated increase in the city’s population since 2010 is 32,000; over the same period, the number of employed residents has jumped by over 55,000. Per the Planning Department, the approximate number of new housing units added since 2010 is 4200. With 38% of SF’s households consisting of 1 person, and an average household size of 2.3 persons, we’re looking at over 22,000 new residents who have been looking for homes that don’t exist. This is one of the biggest factors behind the huge upward pressure on rents and home prices.

With the market recovery that began in 2012, another 6000 housing units are currently under construction and most should be ready sometime in the next 2 years. Housing units include condos (sales), apartments (rentals), houses (a very few) and community housing projects.

South Beach: Part 1

southbeach2In 2010, when the San Francisco Association of Realtors re-drew their city district map, it split what had been one massive district (SoMa) into three more manageable ones (SoMa, Yerba Buena and South Beach). In the wake of this decision, some self-labeled “purists” cried “foul,” suggesting that the “new” neighborhoods were “made up.”

In the case of South Beach, they couldn’t have been more wrong. No one with a sense of local history would have blamed the SFAR if they’d take their task a step further, splitting the new District 9H into at least three separate mini-districts: the South End, South Park and Rincon. If these names sound familiar, they should; each played a role in early San Francisco history.

There was a time when a South Park or Rincon Hill address meant more than one on Nob Hill or Pacific Heights. Long before “little cable cars climb(ed) halfway to the stars” San Francisco’s elite built their mansions “south of the slot,” on Rincon Hill, located in the northeast quadrant of today’s South Beach and in South Park, a gated development located on Rincon’s southern slope, modeled after a neighborhood in London, England. South Park featured San Francisco’s first paved streets, along with mansions and elegant row homes.

Rincon Hill was the Pacific Heights of its day. During the 1850s and 60s, says historian Charles Lockwood, “dozens of large, comfortable homes were built (on Rincon Hill) that reflected the era’s popular architectural styles: Greek Revival, Gothic Revival, Italianate and Second Empire.” Unfortunately, its reign atop the San Francisco class heap was short. In 1869, the neighborhood was literally cut in half by the Second Street cut (an effort to make it easier for wagons to get from downtown to the southern waterfront). By the 1880s, author Robert Louis Stevenson was referring to Rincon as “a new slum.” The transition of Rincon/South Beach from wealthy to working-class had begun.

It’s difficult now to imagine Rincon Hill not only as a residential neighborhood of free-standing mansions but also as an actual hill. In fact, it was once 120 feet tall. The Second Street cut started a process that eventually leveled it.

Following this, Rincon, South Beach and the South End (which was from conception a waterfront neighborhood of warehouses and docks) spent the next century as blue-collar places of work. The latter neighborhood, bounded by Harrison and Townsend Streets, The Embarcadero and Fourth Street, is now a Historic District boasting “an extraordinary concentration of buildings from almost every period of San Francisco maritime history.”

The Southern end of South Beach also contains a game-changer for the entire district: AT & T Park. After several years of flirting with other sites, including the railroad yards at Seventh and Townsend Streets, the San Francisco Giants broke ground for their new stadium at King and Third Streets in 1997, transforming sleepy South Beach into a vibrant neighborhood of middle- and high-end apartments and condos, restaurants, bars and shops. On game days, Second and Third Streets teem with baseball fans. Hot spots like MoMos and Pete’s Tavern overflow with patrons wearing black and orange.

This end of South Beach was created in a manageable scale, mixing mid- and high-rise blocks with The Embarcadero’s open space and breathtaking bay and bridge views. Not so the rebirth of Rincon Hill. The northern sector of South Beach, was developed after the southern end and chose a flashier approach more in keeping with its proximity to San Francisco’s Financial District. The new Rincon features spectacular residential towers, world-class restaurants, street-level buzz and a seemingly non-stop appetite for growth and action.

In some ways, Rincon seems an outgrowth of neighboring Yerba Buena, with an emphasis on full-service residential communities and a “live here/work here” ethos. It features high-end and boutique hotels and has a subtle ace up its sleeve – easy access to San Francisco’s ferry building and ferry docks. Other than Yerba Buena it’s difficult to imagine a more Manhattan-like neighborhood in San Francisco – or one presently showing more obvious signs of future growth. Two corners of the intersection at Folsom and Beale Streets, for example, sport large-scale construction efforts in their early stages.

But South Beach is more than Rincon, its towers and its cranes. South Beach is also South Park’s quiet central park, King Street’s exciting commercial strip, The Embarcadero and everything in-between. The signature One Rincon towers, visible from all over the city, make Rincon hard to ignore, though. To be certain, the San Francisco Association of Realtors knew what they were doing when they gave South Beach its own designation. The only question is if they went far enough.


Yerba Buena: Part 2



It’s not exaggerating to say that Yerba Buena has one of San Francisco’s most exciting, dynamic real estate markets. The district’s many rebirths have left it with housing options tailor-made for the city’s upwardly mobile – and those who’ve already reached the top.

After decades spent as a mirror image to SoMa – transient-oriented housing mixed in among light industry and warehouses – and a long and tortuous lead-up to redevelopment, Yerba Buena began its latest (and ongoing) period of evolution in the 1980s. Early development again mirrored that of SoMa: one- and two-bedroom apartments, condominiums and lofts, the difference being that Yerba Buena’s builders favored large-scale projects, like the string of mid-rise residential buildings on the 700 and 800 blocks of Folsom, including 737 Folsom Street and Museum Parc (both built in 1988) and the Yerba Buena Lofts (built in 2001).

Along with the SoMa Square apartments on Third Street, these early projects established Yerba Buena as a lively, high-density urban neighborhood offering spacious (if not enormous) living spaces and, in some cases, private outdoor living spaces in mid- to high-range buildings. All had one thing in common: proximity to the Moscone Center and Yerba Buena Gardens, landmarks that continue to act as the heart of the neighborhood.

Yerba Buena’s next growth period came on the heels of the 1990s economic explosion, bringing with it demand for different – read “high-end” – living. The first decade of the 21st century was an evolutionary time for Yerba Buena, as high-rise developers began to target the neighborhood. This time they built on the blocks closest to San Francisco’s Financial District, mixing full-service luxury residential towers like Blu (631 Folsom Street), the Paramount (680 Mission) and the industry-leading Millennium Towers (301 Mission, named one of the top 10 residential buildings in the World by Worth Magazine) with ultra-chic combo hotels/fractional ownership concerns like the St. Regis (125 Third Street) and the Four Seasons (757 Market Street). These buildings include lavish penthouse units and amenities like 24-hour doormen and 24-hour concierge service, on-site fitness centers, conference rooms, swimming pools and rooftop decks.

The last tower built during this wave was One Hawthorne, which began selling units in 2010. At the time it seemed that high-profile development in Yerba Buena – in all of San Francisco, in fact – was on indefinite hiatus due to the economic downturn. Instead, the economy roared back to life, and with it growth in Yerba Buena.

There are presently a number of large-scale residential and commercial projects either proposed, pending or under construction in Yerba Buena, including a combination condo high rise/Mexican Heritage Museum at 706 Mission Street, a new 15-story Hampton hotel at 942 Mission and a significant expansion of the Moscone Center.

Despite the upscale character of Yerba Buena’s latest wave of growth, the neighborhood is of late sharing its ultra-high-end crown to its neighbor to the east, South Beach. The latter features a collection of San Francisco’s most luxurious towers including the One Rincon Hill complex, the Metropolitan and the Infinity. Yerba Buena definitely has its share of significant skyscrapers but also a number of mid-level living options (a recent check of the MLS showed available Yerba Buena units ranging in asking price from $499,000 to $3.85 million), creating a neighborhood of varying scales, where residents do more than simply drive into a garage, take an elevator up 30 stories and stare out at the streets below. There are many ways to “do” Yerba Buena, with its central green space, its museums, its restaurants, shopping and lively workweek presence. It is a true city neighborhood.

Source :

Yerba Buena: Part 1


When the San Francisco Association of Realtors redrew their city map in 2010, they split SoMa into two districts: one still known as SoMa and another, bounded by Fifth Street to the west, Second Street to the east, Market to the north and Harrison to the south. The new district was given the name “Yerba Buena” after its centerpiece, Yerba Buena Gardens.

While some bristled at the idea of giving a new name to what had been half of SoMa for decades, the reality is that Yerba Buena had been a distinct neighborhood since even before 1966, the year the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency (SFRA) designated it as an urban renewal area.

According to the book “Transforming Cities: New Spatial Divisions and Social Transformation,” the birth of modern Yerba Buena dates back to 1953, when developer Benjamin Swig “put forth his redevelopment proposal for the area in his plan entitled The San Francisco Prosperity Plan.” Swig’s specific vision did not ultimately come to light, but portions of it were adopted into the SFRA plan several years later.

Redevelopment did not come easily to Yerba Buena. The plan faced strong neighborhood opposition and went through a series of community-driven tweaks. It wasn’t until 1981 that the first sign of its first implementation, the Moscone Center, was realized and the early 1990s before Yerba Buena’s building boom was in full effect.

Now that it has been christened a “real” neighborhood, Yerba Buena seems determined to establish itself as one. In the past 20 years it has become perhaps the most urban of San Francisco’s urban neighborhoods, with high-rise office and residential towers, luxury hotels, large mid-rise condominium complexes and several of the city’s most dynamic museums, including SFMOMA, the Contemporary Jewish Museum, the Museum of the African Diaspora, the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and the Cartoon Art Museum.

Yerba Buena is a neighborhood with varied personalities. Close to Market Street it’s an extension of San Francisco’s Financial District. Weekday mornings find its sidewalks clogged with workers, conventioneers and visitors (the district contains a number of hotels including the W, the Westin, the St. Regis, the Intercontinental, the Marriott Marquis and the ultra-high-end Four Seasons). Further from Market it more closely resembles SoMa, with light industry and warehouses, some hiding ambitious restaurants and tech start-ups.

Despite its proximity to the city’s business core, Yerba Buena is a true “mixed-use” neighborhood, offering mid-level and high-end housing within steps of some of the city’s most significant office buildings. On sunny days, workers and residents gather in the district’s hub, Yerba Buena Gardens, for impromptu picnic lunches, brown-bagging it with something from the Whole Foods on Fourth and Harrison or perhaps grabbing something to go from a nearby restaurant, maybe at one of the newly-opened places in the rehabbed Metreon center. The more adventurous can stroll over to Fifth and Minna Streets, where food trucks set up for Off The Grid several times a week.

Yerba Buena Gardens is not only a playground for adults; it also adds a family-friendly element to this bustling urban district. It features a large playground, a bowling alley, ice-skating, an outdoor amphitheater and the Children’s Creativity Museum. The seasonal Yerba Buena Farmers Market and the annual Yerba Buena Festival promote community togetherness and add to the neighborhood’s personality… as if it needs it.

It’s got a new name, new buildings and an optimistic vibe but Yerba Buena still allows peeks into its past. Pre-war buildings dot the landscape, some containing long-time local businesses like Adolph Gasser Photography (181 Second Street since 1950), others high-profile tech concerns like Yelp (the 1925 Art Deco Pacific Telephone Building – once the tallest in San Francisco — at 140 New Montgomery). Small businesses still have their place in Yerba Buena.

It’s appropriate that Yerba Buena, in reality a longtime established neighborhood, now wears a shiny new name. It is growing as fast as any other district in San Francisco, its persona changing a little with each new project. As a center for culture, business and a buzz-worthy lifestyle, there’s not much in San Francisco that can compete.

Source :

Ranking San Francisco


Taking a break from our usual real estate analytics (which can still be found using the links above), below is a half-serious, semi-whimsical look at how San Francisco is ranked by a number of objective and subjective criteria, according to a wide (and not necessarily reliable) variety of authorities. Typically, these rankings were made within the last 2 or 3 years. Many should be taken with a large grain of salt.

Generally speaking, rankings are against other major U.S. cities or greater metropolitan areas. Note that both “San Francisco Metro Area” and “Bay Area” are often used to describe different groupings of counties.

San Francisco has an estimated population of 837,442 (per U.S. Census)
within 47 square miles on 43 – 50 “named” hills.

So, according to the source cited, San Francisco is ranked as: 

  • America’s best city, per Bloomberg Businessweek
  • 2nd best metro area in the country for resident “well-being” (after San Jose-Santa Clara), per 2014 Gallup/Healthways survey
  • America’s most pretentious city (followed by NYC, Boston & Minneapolis), per Travel + Leisure reader survey
  • 1st in college degrees per square mile: 7031, per U.S. Census; 3rd in graduate degrees per capita (after DC and Seattle), per Forbes
  • 3rd worst metro area commute (after DC and LA): average of 61 hours of delay in traffic per year, per Texas A&M Transportation Institute
  • 5th best city for dogs, per PawNation; est. 120,000 dogs live in SF, per City Govt.
  • Last in children per capita (14%); approx. 113,000 children under 18, per U.S. Census
  • 3rd in lawyers per capita by metro area (after DC & NYC); 2nd highest mean wage for lawyers, $169,000 (after San Jose), per Bureau of Labor Statistics
  • 3rd in number of billionaires (i.e. the Bay Area, after Moscow and New York): 65 billionaires (25 in SF), though it fluctuates depending on stock prices, per SFLuxe
  • 1st in homeless residents per capita, per Philanthropedia; percentage living below poverty level, 13.2%, per U.S. Census
  • 14th largest city in the U.S.; 2nd most densely populated city in the U.S. (after NYC)
  • Misc. Fact – Estimated change in population since 2010: 32,000, per U.S. Census; new housing units added since 2010: approx. 4200, per SF Planning Dept.
  • Highest median asking residential rent in U.S.: $3256/month, per; 4th least affordable city by median-rent-to-median-income ratio – 40.7%, per Zillow
  • 186th on Best Drivers List, per Allstate
  • 11th most gay friendly city, per The Advocate 2014 ranking; 1st in LGBT percentage of residents, 15.4%, and 4th by total population, per Census Bureau
  • 6th highest rate of vehicle theft, per Natl. Insurance Crime Bureau; 5400/year stolen in SF & 28,500 in Bay Area, with 85-90% recovered, per Bay Area News Group
  • Misc. Fact – Every year, approx. 70,000 cars are towed ($500+ fee) & 1,529,000 tickets issued in San Francisco, perTowing & Recovery & SFMTA
  • 2nd in “walkability” (after NYC), per WalkScore
  • 8th most bike-friendly city (Portland is 1st), per Bicycling Magazine
  • 3rd best city to visit in the U.S. (after NYC and Chicago), per Traveler’s Choice Destination Awards and Condé Nast Readers’ Choice
  • Greenest city in North America, per The Economist; 2nd greenest city in the world (after Reykjavik), per Green Uptown
  • Bay Area is 1st in hybrid and electric car sales: 9.4% of all sales are hybrid; .52% of sales are electric, per R.L. Polk & Co.
  • 2nd fittest city in the U.S. (after Portland), per Men’s Fitness
  • 1st in women’s life expectancy: 84.5 years; 2nd in women’s well-being (after DC), per Measure of America
  • 2nd smartest city in the U.S. (after Seattle; tied with Boston), per Co.Exist; approx. 35 Nobel Prize winners live in the Bay Area, per SF Business Times
  • 4th most liberal major city in the U.S. (Oakland is #3), per Center for Voting Research. If smaller cities are included, Berkeley comes in 3rd, Oakland 5th and SF 9th
  • Best city for dining out, per Bon Appétit readers’ poll; best for ethnic food dining, per Travel + Leisure; most restaurants per capita, per Frommer’s
  • 10th on the Global Financial Centres Index; 3rd in U.S. (after NYC and Boston)
  • 15th best city for hippies (Eugene is #1 and Berkeley is #8), per Estately Blog
  • 2nd in Fortune 500 companies: 31, with recent addition of Facebook (ranking refers to Bay Area; NYC metro area is 1st with 66), per Fortune
  • 194th in cost of doing business, per Forbes
  • Misc. Fact – Avg. SF internet download speed: 22.2 Mbps vs. U.S. average of 22.9; Kansas City is at 86.3 Mbps; Provo at 84.9; NYC at 31; Austin at 27.2, per Ookla
  • Population breakdown: 42% non-Hispanic white (vs. 64% U.S.), 34% Asian (vs. 5% U.S.), 15% Hispanic/Latino (vs. 16%), 6% black (vs. 13%), 1% Native American (n/c), .5% Pacific Islander (.2%), per U.S. Census
  • 4th in percentage of foreign-born residents: 30% for SF-Oakland metro area; 36% for SF alone (behind Miami, San Jose-Santa Clara and LA), per U.S. Census
  • Misc. Fact – Highest minimum wage in the country: $10.74/hour as of January 2014 (with a ballot measure to raise it to $15 expected in November)
  • 21st highest office rent in the world & 4th highest in U.S. (after NY Midtown, DC East End, Boston Back Bay): SF Financial District, $70/sq.ft./year, per Cushman Wakefield
  • 8th best city for drinking, per Forbes
  • 13th highest rate of consumer cell phone loss or theft (35%), per Symantec; more than 50% of SF robberies involve the theft of a mobile device, per SF Police Dept.
  • 3rd most inventive city in the world by patent applications per capita (after Eindhoven in the Netherlands and San Diego), per the OECD
  • 3rd best city for parks in U.S. (after Minneapolis and NYC), 5384 acres equaling 18% of the city’s area, per Trust for Public Land
  • 3rd in U.S. for number of “ultra-high-net-worth” individuals worth $30m+ (after NYC and LA), per Wealth-X; 10% of wealthiest Americans live in Bay Area, per SFLuxe
  • Highest median home price, per National Association of Realtors: $960,000, 1st quarter 2014, per SFARMLS; homeownership rate is 37% vs. 65% for U.S., per Census Bureau
  • 33rd most visited city in the world, per Euromonitor Intl.; 16.9 million visitors in 2013 (or 20 visitors per resident)
  • Misc. Fact – the Bay Area has 2 universities in the top-ranked 6 of the world: Stanford, UC Berkeley; 3 in the top 31 (add UCSF), per Times Higher Education Ranking report
  • 1st in the U.S. for real estate investment/development opportunity, per Urban Land Inst.
  • 2nd most charitable city (after Seattle), per Daily Beast; 8th most generous in online giving, per Convio; as a multi-county metro area, 310th in percentage of adjusted gross income donated (2.8%), per National Center for Charitable Statistics
  • 9th “coolest” city in the U.S., per Forbes (Houston, DC and LA were 1, 2 & 3)
  • SF brokerage Paragon Real Estate Group ranks 3rd in sales per agent & 4th for average sales price of the 500 largest U.S. brokerages, per RealTrends 500, March 2014
  • Misc. Fact – Average number of foggy days per year: 108, per Current Results
  • Best city for Halloween trick or treating, per Zillow

Since opening our doors in 2004, the Paragon Community Fund has donated over $500,000 to local charities and social services. The San Francisco Bay Area isn’t just where we do business; it’s our home and our community.

SoMa Real Estate

soma22Despite its reputation as the epicenter of the 1990s loft universe, the South of Market neighborhood offers an impressive variety of living options – with more to come. Construction is brisk at the neighborhood’s western and northern edges, adding a slew of impressive high-rise buildings to what so far has been a low- and mid-rise neighborhood, but that doesn’t mean SoMa’s fate is to be overrun by towers like neighboring Yerba Buena. Living in SoMa can mean almost anything.

Back in its post-earthquake “South of the Slot” days, SoMa was defined by low-cost, simple housing like SROs and multi-unit Edwardian buildings, along with commercial structures — warehouses and small factories. The neighborhood was this way for decades, until long-delayed redevelopment began in the 1980s. With it came the familiar SoMa condo and loft buildings, entry-level alternatives that in spirit paid homage to the neighborhood’s democratic past. These one- and two-bedroom units remain a viable option for new homebuyers, though they now fetch anywhere from $550,000 to $1 million on the open market.

A “SoMa loft” can mean a number of things. Some are converted original warehouses; others were built in the late 1990s or early 2000s. Some have an open living area and an upstairs sleeping loft, less than 1,000 total square feet of space and one bathroom; others can have as much as 5,000 square feet of interior space (like the converted warehouse at 721 Tehama Street, which sold in late February for $3.1 million), multiple bedrooms, three or more living levels, parking, outdoor space… “loft” has a flexible definition.

Likewise can SoMa’s condos – added to the neighborhood during the 1990s and 2000s – be many things. Some are spartan; others are luxurious. Some share space on major streets with warehouses, lofts and factories; others nestle into SoMa’s quiet side streets. Some were designed by noted local architects like Stanley Saitowitz. Most have one, two or three bedrooms but some are studios.

SoMa’s latest building spree will change the neighborhood, if only because the new buildings are so different than those already extant. As usual, SoMa continues to push the boundaries of San Francisco housing – if there’s a new trend, you can bet it’s happening in SoMa.

Interested in micro-apartments? Builder Patrick Kennedy is at the forefront of the sub-400 square-foot apartment trend. He chose SoMa for two projects, 23 295 square-foot studios at 38 Harriet Street and 1321 Mission, which when complete will offer 120 (out of 160 total) micro-units. 80 of these small living spaces and all of 38 Harriet (not originally planned but how it turned out) will be set aside for student housing.

What if your tastes tend more toward luxury high-rise leasing? For you, the “new” SoMa offers a number of under-construction options, most clustered along the reborn Mid-Market area. This deep roster includes the rebuilt Trinity Plaza complex (when completed, approximately 1,900 living units in four towers), NEMA (700 apartments at 1401 Market), 1400 Mission, which offers 190 below-market-rate units and 1415 Mission (121 studios, one- and two-bedroom apartments and street-level retail).

These monster complexes are the highest-profile projects presently under construction in SoMa but they are not the neighborhood’s only new developments. Ava (55 Ninth Street) and Mosso (900 Folsom) are two other splashy new neighborhood arrivals. Nor are they its first luxury high-rises. That title was claimed by the SOMA Grand in 2008.

All of this activity makes it clear that SoMa has left its “skid row” persona far in the rearview. It’s still a place where entry-level buyers and renters can find options, either with existing or new (all of the new developments include BMR units; two of them, 1400 Mission and the Rene Casenave Apartments, at 530 Folsom, are 100 percent BMR or supportive) housing, but its latest wave of construction makes very clear that SoMa is poised to join neighboring Yerba Buena as a preferred address for San Francisco movers and shakers as well.

Source :

199 Tiffany Avenue, No.210

Seller Represented

Prices Jumping Across San Francisco

April 2014 Real Estate Market Report
The San Francisco real estate market grew increasingly frenzied as the first quarter of 2014 progressed, leading to another surge in home prices in virtually every neighborhood in the city. The high-demand/ extremely-low-inventory/ competitive-bidding situation is similar to what occurred first in spring 2012 and then, to an even higher degree, in spring 2013. After the market seemed to stabilize in the second half of last year, we didn’t expect to see it turn this fierce in early 2014, but right now it appears to be every bit as ferocious as last spring’s.

Of major metro areas, the new Gallup-Healthways survey ranked SF-Oakland second in the nation (behind San Jose-Santa Clara) on their index for “well-being.” Though already the second most densely populated city in the country (after NYC), San Francisco simply has many more people wanting to live here than there are homes available to rent or buy.

Sales over Asking Price
The heated competition for new listings coming on market has resulted in an astounding percentage of sales occurring above, and often far above, list price.
This chart below breaks down, by neighborhood, the average sales price to list price percentage for the 90% of homes selling without price reductions. Of the areas assessed, Bernal Heights came out on top with sales prices averaging an incredible 21% over list prices over the past 2 months. 
Median Sales Price Spikes
Typically, the first quarter of the year does not show a dramatic increase in median sales prices over the previous quarter – in fact, a decline in not unusual due to holiday market dynamics. But the first quarter of 2014 saw large spikes in median prices for both houses and, especially, condos in San Francisco.

This next chart is a look at quarterly median price appreciation over the past 3 years.

Longer-term trends: While virtually the whole country has been experiencing a large market rebound, San Francisco, because of our particular economic circumstances, is generally outperforming almost every other market area. The big exception is Silicon Valley, whose high home appreciation rate is being driven by many of the same employment and demographic causes as here in the city.
Far Too Little Inventory

When the market recovery began in earnest in early 2012, there were complaints of a shortage in inventory. In 2013, the market grew even more heated and supply declined further to what felt like desperately low levels. Now in 2014, amid no lessening of demand that we perceive, the supply of SF homes available to purchase has dropped again.
There are increasing numbers of new-construction housing units coming on market – and many more being planned and built – but so far they’re being snapped up, at very high prices, without noticeably altering the supply and demand dynamic.
Listings Selling Faster than Ever
San Francisco Neighborhood Snapshots
We updated analyses for a number of city neighborhoods with enough sales for quarterly data to be meaningful. In every district we looked at, there were significant spikes in median sales prices and/or average dollar per square foot values in the quarter just ended.

Below are two samples, but our full collection of long-term neighborhood analyses can be found here (some updated through the first quarter, others through the end of 2013):
San Francisco Neighborhood Values

Affordability by Neighborhood
We broke the city down by neighborhood according to the number of house and condo sales in each price segment. Below are 3 analyses from our 11-chart report, which can be found in its entirety here:
Where Can I Afford to Buy in San Francisco
Paragon Featured in New Ranking Report
The new RealTrends 500 report ranking the sales statistics of the 500 largest residential brokerages in the country for 2013 sales was just published. After 10 years in business, Paragon came in #3 in average sales per agent and #4 in average sales price in the national ranking.

SoMa: An evolution in progress…


Change is afoot in San Francisco’s South of Market (SoMa) district, but then, isn’t it always? Since it was first platted in 1847, SoMa’s only constant has been change. During its long life it’s been an exclusive residential neighborhood, a district of light industry and warehouses, a convenient landing spot for transient workers, a hub of nightlife activity, a place where local artists set themselves up in inexpensive warehouse space and early tech workers powwowed in brand-new live-work spaces…

The latest change to hit SoMa came during the last decade. In 2010, the San Francisco Association of Realtors made official what had been obvious to savvy observers for years: that what we’d been calling SoMa had actually become three distinct neighborhoods, one wedged between downtown and Mission Bay called South Beach (Third Street to San Francisco Bay), one boasting a critical mass of luxury high-rise buildings called Yerba Buena (Fifth Street to Third) and funky, quirky SoMa (Fifth Street to the 101 Freeway).

SoMa’s rich history is long and unique. It spent its earliest years as a residential neighborhood – one of the city’s finest – until the introduction of reliable streetcars pushed the district’s wealthy residents to the top of Nob Hill. In their place came working-class residents, dock and shipyard workers whose presence in SoMa dominated the next several decades.

Whatever growth SoMa was undergoing 100 years ago was abruptly interrupted by the total devastation of the 1906 earthquake. The ‘quake and ensuing fire leveled the entire neighborhood. When it came time to rebuild, city leaders decided to emphasize light industry and simple housing. They widened SoMa’s main streets and lined them with multi-unit low-rise Edwardian buildings, which attracted the aforementioned transient workers. Many of these buildings remain and now stand cheek-to-jowl with converted warehouses, lofts from the 1990s and mid-rise condo buildings from the last decade.

Modern SoMa is defined by its industrial past (from the exterior, the warehouses and apartment buildings on Howard, Folsom and Harrison Streets seem unchanged from the early 20th century) and by its forward-looking present (anything you can imagine fitting into a warehouse is inside these buildings: bars, restaurants, non-profit charities, art studios, tech start-ups). Its transition from “skid row” to the present was long and controversial, beginning with Benjamin Swig’s failed “San Francisco Prosperity Plan” in 1954. Swig’s hope was to make SoMa an extension of downtown, with high-rise office and residential buildings, but it was ultimately defeated by neighborhood resistance. Eventually, redevelopment came in a more organic, piecemeal fashion. Rather than start over, the neighborhood simply continued to evolve.

As a result, despite its wide streets and commercial buildings, modern SOMA is a colorful functioning city neighborhood, with rec centers, parks, schools, grocery stores (Harvest Urban Market, at 191 8th Street, is a stellar new addition), bars and some of San Francisco’s most notable restaurants, along with decades-old mom and pop businesses and younger ones, like the combination Laundromat/café/performance space Brain Wash, which, after almost 30 years in business has become a decades-old mom and pop business.

SoMa wears its past and present simultaneously. Whether it’s the constantly changing roster of night spots radiating out from the intersection of 11th Street and Folsom, the latter street’s scattered leather emporia (evidence of its 1960s and 70s run as the center of San Francisco’s nascent gay community) or in the gleaming steel barrels of the Cellar Maker Brewing on Howard Street, SoMa keeps parts of its past alive while simultaneously forging ahead.

But what makes the neighborhood so special is that hidden just around the corner from its busy main thoroughfares are SoMa’s treasured alleyways, one-lane residential streets offering warm contrast to wide, noisy streets like Howard and Harrison. It’s here that you’ll find so many of the small, two- to 10-unit residential buildings that eventually became SoMa’s 1990s and after redevelopment. They’re pressed in among small warehouses (most of them converted into artists’ studios or live-work lofts but some still actively commercial) and Edwardian flats, creating small, quiet pockets of intimacy in the midst of arguably San Francisco’s most urban neighborhood.

One of the best of these is the block of Harriet Street between Howard and Folsom. Here you’ll see contrasting architectural styles coming together not in chaos but in complement, all overlooking the playground and park of the Gene Friend Recreation Center. This street was described in Tom Wolfe’s 1968 book,  “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test,” as a “poor, forgotten block.” It is forgotten no more.

What comes next for SoMa? Part of the answer lies in the construction going on at its northwest corner. Here, emboldened by the success of Mission Street’s SOMA Grand building and the arrival of tech firms like Twitter, is a riot of new residential construction, four high-rise buildings hugging the Market Street border and boasting of amenities equal to those found in Yerba Buena’s standard-bearers. 37 stories at its tallest, just-opened NEMA adds 754 for lease residential units to SOMA, joining the massive Trinity Place complex one block away to emphatically declare that SoMa’s next step is directly up.

NEMA and Trinity may be the future, but there will always be room in SoMa for the quirky, the small-scale and the past. That these can live side-by-side is what makes SoMa one of San Francisco’s most vibrant and interesting neighborhoods.

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Mission Bay Residential Developments

Prior to 1998, there was no residential neighborhood in Mission Bay; no Victorian farmhouses, no worker cottages ordered out of a Sears catalog in 1910, no ticky-tacky little boxes constructed en masse by Henry Doelger before World War II, no apartments, no condominiums, no townhouses. There were rail yards, warehouses and parking lots. The Mission Bay we see now was invented by Board of Supervisors decree in 1998.

It is unlike any other neighborhood in San Francisco, a fully-planned, 21st-century district featuring the latest in residential design and a growing population cutting edge commercial interests. In one important way, though, Mission Bay is the embodiment of a classic urban neighborhood: its residential makeup. Like Manhattan’s Upper West Side, Mission Bay has condos, townhouses and apartments and zero single-family homes.

Way back in 1998 Mission Bay was divided into two Redevelopment areas: “Mission Bay North” and “Mission Bay South.” The project’s ultimate goal was to build 6,000 residential units in the new neighborhood. Half of those were completed between 1998 and 2010. The rest, as anyone who’s recently strolled down Fourth Street knows, are either under construction, just finished or waiting to break ground.

Early building focused on Mission Bay North and consisted of several mid-rise condominium buildings, communities like Arterra, Park Terrace and The Edgewater on Berry Street and The Beacon and Signature on King Street, along with a few large apartment complexes (notably Avalon I and II and 355 Berry). It wasn’t until 2006 that 417-unit Radiance became the first Mission Bay residential complex built south of Mission Creek.

In August, 2012, Madrone, located adjacent to Pier 52 on Terry Francois Boulevard, kicked off the second phase of building in Mission Bay. Madrone debuted to great fanfare, preselling 200 of its 329 units then selling 97 more during its first month of “official” sales. From Madrone development moved to a few blocks inland, to Fourth Street. Long-range plans here are to create a mixed-use urban core for Mission Bay, with retail, restaurants, commercial space and hundreds of apartment and condominium homes.

On and around Fourth Street today you’ll find new or almost-complete buildings at 1155 Fourth (Venue), 1180 Fourth (Mercy Housing, with 175 Below Market Rate units), 1201 Fourth (Strata) and 185 Channel Street (Channel Mission Bay). When complete these five complexes will add approximately 1,200 residential units, the majority of them for lease, to the neighborhood. Channel Mission Bay, which opened for business in February, has already leased 35 percent of its 315 apartments.

Mission Bay’s new residential communities are luxurious, with generous living spaces, of-the-moment style and amenities like on-site fitness and business centers, barbecue areas, movie theaters and concierge service. Venue, at 1155 Fourth, adds some additional, somewhat quirky perks like a waterfall, an on-site car wash and an on-site dog wash.

The present phase of construction is hardly Mission Bay’s last gasp. With the 2008-2010 market downturn firmly in the rearview, ambitious development has roared back to life. Under construction at Fourth and Channel is Sol, a 21-story, 273-unit condominium building due for completion in early 2015.  One block away at Third and Channel a proposal featuring a 250-room luxury hotel and 350 residential units is moving forward, and the impressively-named “Mission Rock Megaproject,” currently in its planning stages, aims to create a mini-neighborhood, with commercial and retail spaces, restaurants, hotels and residential buildings out of a series of parking lots located across McCovey Cove from AT & T Park. The project has already inked its first tenant, iconic San Francisco business Anchor Brewing.

Other Mission Bay projects underway include a new Public Safety Building, a children’s park and a massive park at Mission Bay Boulevard South and San Francisco Bicycle Route 5. Though it may seem that an entire neighborhood has appeared and matured in only 15 years, Mission Bay’s future plans suggest that we haven’t seen anything yet.

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