Monday, December 19, 2005

SF Supervisors May Change Condo Lottery

Supervisors Expected to Approve Prioritizing Condo Conversion Lottery Based on Seniority and Increasing Eligibility Requirements for Conversion
-article provided by San Francisco Association of Realtors

Today, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors will be voting, on final reading, on legislation proposed by Supervisors Bevan Dufty and Jake MCGoldrick to prioritize the condominium conversion lottery based on seniority of participation in prior lotteries.

Pool A still would consist only of those participants that have failed in at least 3 prior lotteries; however, the selection process would group participants into classes based on the total number of years of participation in prior lotteries. If all the participants in the most senior class(es) constitute less than the 100 units allocated to Pool A, then all participants in the most senior class(es) are automatically selected. If the next most senior Pool A class would result in Pool A exceeding 100 total units, then DPW would conduct a random lottery among the participants in that class to reach a maximum of 100 total units. All applicants eligible for Pool A must certify that certain evictions of elderly, disabled, or catastrophically ill tenants have not taken place sine January 1, 2000. If an applicant cannot certify such information, the applicant is ineligible for Pool A and participates only in Pool B; however, these applicants are eligible for the entire allotment of units in Pool B.

After the entire Pool A selection process, DPW would conduct the Pool B lottery. As in the current lottery process, Pool B would consist of all Pool A participants that were not selected in that year’s Pool A lottery and all other participants. Pool B also includes all applicants that could not certify that certain evictions have not taken place since January 1, 2000. DPW would select the Pool B winners by random lottery with each participant having one ticket for the current year and an additional ticket for each year that the participant lost in a prior lottery. Unlike the current law, this legislation would not limit a participant to a 5-ticket maximum. DPW would draw Pool B tickets until it reaches the maximum 200-unit annual limit. Thereafter, DPW would select participants for the stand-by list by randomly drawing tickets among each remaining class based on class seniority. If a specified eviction, as defined in Section 1396.1(g)(1), occurred in a building and DPW does not select that building as part of the last 25 units remaining in Pool B, then DPW will randomly select such building(s) for the stand-by list but only after it has selected all other buildings for the stand-by list.

Pool A eligibility requires that each applicant for the lottery certify under penalty of perjury that since January 1, 2000, no eviction as defined in San Francisco Administrative Code Section 37.9(a) (8)-(14) of a senior, disabled person, or catastrophically ill tenant has occurred, or if an eviction has taken place under Administrative Code Section 37.0(a) (11) or (14), that the original tenant reoccupied the unit after a temporary eviction. If an applicant for Pool A cannot satisfy this certification requirement, the applicant shall participate in Pool B.

Have more questions about real estate? Contact me today for honest, experienced answers.
Amy Blakeley
(415)296-2173 Direct

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Cirlcle Bank Individual TIC Loan Details

For all of you anxiously awaiting news of if you qualify for this newest type of loan, which is poised to be more popular and less risky than the typical Tennancy in Common Loan, here are some details on the product recently launched by Circle Bank:

"Circle Bank has developed a new loan product that provides separate notes and deeds of trust to each TIC owner in a TIC complex. Historically, TIC owners have only been able to obtain loans where each TIC owner is jointly and severally liable for the entire loan. Individual TIC financing (also known as “Fractional Interest Lending”) overcomes this problem.

Not everyone will be able to qualify for a fractional loan from Circle Bank. First, the loan applicant must be able to prove his or her income. Second, housing costs plus other debts cannot exceed 45 percent of a person’s income. Third, a minimum down payment of 15 percent of the purchase price is required from each buyer. And, fourth, the maximum loan is limited to 75 percent of the purchase price.
The new loan product is available for both purchases and refinances on properties with up to eight owner-occupied residential units."

The article gives no indication of how many of these loans will initially be offered. (Information courtesy of San Francisco Association of Realtors).

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Change in Lighting Requirements for Californians

Below are important excerpts from today's SF Chronicle Article "State flips the Switch on Old Bulbs..." to see the complete article, click here.

Effective Oct. 1, anyone in California applying for a building permit, for new and remodeled homes, will have to comply with hard-hitting standards set by the revisions of Title 24 -- the state's bible on energy efficiency.... (For remodels, the new regulations only apply to the portions of the house being remodeled.)

You will soon see in house plans the installation of more fluorescent lights, more motion sensors and more dimmers -- both inside and out -- whether you like them or not. ..

...Since 1978, the state [via Title 24] has mandated energy-efficiency standards on materials and installations for all residential and commercial construction in California -- from flooring to roofing and a lot in between...

...Title 24, is not a static thing. Whenever the California Energy Commission believes there is more advanced technology on the market to raise the energy-savings bar, revisions are issued....
It is Section 150(k) that has been causing concern for designers and others who soon will have to deal with clients to explain, maybe even defend, the changes in the residential lighting laws....

...there is going to be a whole lot more [fluorescent lighting] in home design in order to meet codes -- and the fluorescent fixtures we're talking about have to be hard-wired as such, not just a screw-into-the-socket type.

Each light in the bathroom, laundry room, garage and even on the front porch -- if the fixture is attached to the house -- must be fluorescent. Under certain conditions a motion sensor is an option, but not the typical sensor we know from work and school. The Title 24 kind of sensor is called, more correctly, an "occupancy" or "vacancy" sensor. It has to be turned on by hand; if not switched off by hand, it goes off automatically after 30 minutes -- unless, of course, it senses motion in the room.

When it comes to kitchen lighting, there's really a big fluorescent punch. It's now a 50-50 wattage arrangement, not the first-switch-only rule that allowed a building inspector to pass the lighting plan as long as the first switch was to a fluorescent bulb. When you start calculating -- watt for watt -- the amount of "high efficacy (fluorescent)" with the less-efficient (incandescent) light fixtures, the recipe for lighting up a kitchen will depend largely on fluorescent.
Design concepts we've known and loved -- those with halogen and track lighting -- probably won't do anymore.

As for the recessed ceiling fixtures that have been providing many a kitchen with overall ambient light, don't count on them unless they are the fluorescent variety -- and meet the new requirements for airtight insulation, too...

Initially, more money may have to be allocated to buy good products. Maybe it will even be necessary to hire a lighting designer on an hourly basis in order to guarantee a pleasing -- and code-complying -- lighting plan. It is all money well-spent, says sales consultant Margit Yasukawa of Bay Lighting & Design of San Francisco. She'll itemize the long-term savings in both energy and cash when installing fluorescent fixtures and other devices.
"Dimming a light by merely 10 percent, for instance, doubles the bulb life," she says, "and also cuts down on utility bills."

Learn more:
Title 24 Information:;;
Products: (Look for Title 24, Energy or Energy Star section);; (dimmers); (bulbs);;; (under-cabinet lights); (vacancy sensors).
Places to see "boxes" for light comparisons: Bay Lighting & Design, 1140 Folsom St., San Francisco; Lamps Plus, 2745 S. El Camino Real, San Mateo; the Pacific Energy Center, 851 Howard St., San Francisco.
Lighting designer Randall Whitehead offers information on the new Title 24 regulations, as well as ideas on his Web site:

Have more questions about San Francisco housing trends? Questions about buying or selling a home? Contact me for honest, experienced answers. Amy Blakeley, Realtor ablakeley at (415)296-2173 Direct

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Octavia Boulevard Freeway Ramp Opening

The Octavia Boulevard/Central Freeway project is just about complete. An announcement I received today advises that the Central Freeway onramp will open Friday, September 9 at 11 a.m., while the Ocatvia offramp will open Satruday, September 10 at 12 p.m.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

SF Housing Prices Down 11% in July

Some of my clients are first time buyers and have been very wary of the heated of the San Francisco market. They have been sitting on the sidelines of a continually accelerating housing market, waiting for something adventageous to happen. In June I called these clients to advise a cooling trend in the market. Most of them were intrigued, but still relatively paralyzed by the fear of paying too much for a home.

The SF Chronicle today reported last month's sales, and, as predicted, that the market had softened a bit. Many Realtors claim summer vacationing lessened the demand, which would mean now that the school year has begun, the market will heat up again. You can read the article by clicking here.

However, with interest rates rising and housing prices still mind boggling to buyers, there is some indication in the low numbers that buyers are simply not willing to stretch financial limits in order to own a home. There are still going to be those properties that receive a sensational reception from the market and sell incredibly higher than their list price. But their numbers have been fewer in the past two months, and I think we can expect to see this trend continue.

Have more questions about San Francisco housing trends? Questions about buying or selling a home? Contact me for honest, experienced answers.
Amy Blakeley, Realtor
ablakeley at
(415)296-2173 Direct

Marin bank first to lend to individual owners in TICs - SF Chronicle

Tuesday's Chronicle announced the first offering of Individual TICs by Marin Bank. The most important paragraphs, detailing the specifics of who can benefit from the loan, are here:

"Bank of Marin decided to test the market because its customers asked for it.

Like other banks, it has been making loans to real estate investors and developers who buy apartment buildings, fix them up and convert them to TIC ownership.

Under its new program, it will make a limited number of fractional- interest loans to individuals who buy units from developers who got their acquisition/renovation financing from Bank of Marin. Its initial $20 million loan commitment includes acquisition/renovation loans as well as the new fractional-interest loans. All of the new loans already have been spoken for.

The fractional-interest loans are expected to be for about $300,000 to $400,000 each, says Bank of Marin's Keith Zimmerman. "We will close on the first ones in three to four weeks," he adds.

The loans will be structured like commercial real estate loans. They will be amortized over 30 years, but the balance will be due in 10 years. The interest rate will be 7 percent fixed for the first five years and will adjust once after five years. The average rate on a conventional 30-year, fixed-rate home mortgage is around 5.9 percent nationwide.

If the new loans perform well over the next three to four months, Bank of Marin will consider making more, Zimmerman says."

To read the entire article, click here.

Have more questions about trends in the housing market? Questions about selling or buying a home? Contact me today for honest, experienced answers. Amy Blakeley, Realtor® ~ ablakeley at ~ (415) 296-2173 Direct

Monday, July 18, 2005

E-Loan Launch Date Correction

A representative of E-Loan contacted me today to advise that the product is not slated to launch in August. The individual TIC loan product is still being finessed and may take 45 to 75 days to reach the market. News of the new products availablitity will be announced here.

Friday, July 15, 2005

E-Loan Individual TIC Interest Loans Announced

On July 13th, E-Loan announced that it will launch a new home financing product specifically targeted to the Tennancy In Common (TIC) niche.

The product, which is slated to launch August 2005, offers TIC partners individual financing for each separate interest in the property. This differs from the standard form of TIC financing, in which all partners must sign and be responsible for just one mortgage, and is met with both much excitement and many questions about how this will impact the San Francisco real estate market.

The excitement revolves in part around the fact that separate interest TIC loans will potentially lessen the risk involved in TIC ownership. TIC financing up to this point has been based on the collective financials of all parties combined, thus the risk has been that if one of the TIC partners’ financial situation changes, it would impact everyone involved in the partnership. Because TIC ownership has this high risk factor, in which some outside force may impact your ability to continue to finance and live in your home, TICs have typically sold at prices lower than other forms of housing.

Other excitement involves bypassing the strict and laborious process of the TIC-to-condominium conversion process. If the new individual loan option offered by E-Loan significantly reduces the risk factors involved in TIC ownership, then there will be little reason to bother with San Francisco’s condo conversion lottery (which allows only 200 TIC-to-condominium conversions per year). Additionally, with fewer buildings applying for the lottery, the pipeline for the condo conversion process, which at this point takes several years, could be reduced dramatically for those who still wish to convert.

There are concerns over the unknown, however. Tenant advocates are already worried about how this will impact the rental market. As the demand for housing continues to be stronger than supply, there are fears that large rental buildings will be sold for TIC conversion, forcing many tenants out of their homes but still unable to afford purchasing housing.

Concerns are also coming from interested homeowners, real estate professionals, and those in the mortgage market. Since Tenancys In Common by nature are interests in a percentage of a building, not a specific unit, many wonder how one partner’s failure to pay his or her individual mortgage will impact the remaining partners. Questions revolve around how E-Loan would handle foreclosing if one partner with individual financing were to default on a loan.

Obviously any person with interest in the San Francisco housing market will be watching with bated breath to see the new product’s impact. The entire City seems poised to take action in one direction or another based on how the first glimpse of individual TIC financing impacts the market. At Wednesday’s Homeownership Summit, sponsored by SFSOS, Plan C SF, Small Property Owner’s Association, the TIC Coalition and Coalition for Better Housing, Mayor Newsom and select members of the Board of Supervisors said they were watching developments with piqued interest.

Circle Bank has advised that it will have an individual interest TIC loan product, although it has not announced when the product will be available. A representative of Sterling Bank, present at Wednesday night’s Homeownership Summit, said the bank is weighing the option of individual TIC interest loans as well. We are sure to see other financial institutions working busily to present similar products.

Have more questions about trends in the housing market? Questions about selling or buying a home? Contact me today for honest, experienced answers.
Amy Blakeley, Realtor®
ablakeley at
(415) 296-2173 Direct

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Bubble Talk in the News

The following exerpts are provided by the National Association of Realtors®:

FDIC dismisses bubble fears
In its latest quarterly state banking profiles, the FDIC finds that worries about a housing bubble are mostly unfounded. In the 55 "boom" markets identified by the FDIC, housing prices are being sustained by strong growth in new jobs. Interest rates and mortgage delinquency rates are also both at historic lows, both of which are good signs. But the optimistic outlook also comes with some concerns: interest rates won't stay low forever, and affordability is becoming a problem as the gap between wages and home prices widens.

Bubble stories pop up on the newsstand
Bubble talk seems to be everywhere, at least as far as the newsstand goes. Housing prices have been the subject of cover stories in BusinessWeek, Money, The Economist, Time, and a host of other major publications in recent weeks. But with the housing market continuing to steam ahead, is the media going overboard on the topic? The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz explores the "cacophony of housing stories" in the July 4 edition.

What happens when interest rates go up?
Continuing the theme of housing prices vs. housing costs (see the previous entry, below), what might happen when mortgages rates inevitably go up? In a new report, Richard Rosen, senior economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, takes a look at the numbers and finds that housing prices would probably decline if interest rates go up: "Even if mortgage rates rise to 7.5%, well above their 5.8% average for 2004, housing prices in most markets are likely to remain at or above their 2000 levels." But as Rosen explains, there are many factors that could change the potential impact of an increase in rates.

Have more questions about trends in the housing market? Questions about selling or buying a home? Contact me today for honest, experienced answers. Amy Blakeley, Realtor®
ablakeley at
(415) 296-2173 Direct

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

San Francisco Homeownership Summit July 13th

If you have been frustrated by the real estate market, I encourage your attendance at The Homeownership Summit*.

What: An informative evening about different homeownership issues
When: Wednesday, July 13th 6-8pm
Where: St. Mary's Cathedral (1111 Geary at Gough)

This free Summit should prove valuable to attendees. Brought to you by Plan C SF, SFSOS, The Association of Small Property Owners, The TIC Coalition and the Coalition for Better Housing, the Homeowner Summit looks to inform the public not only on what is happening politically to support homeownership in San Francisco, but also what tools can be provided by Realtors and financial experts to help you get yourself into a home.

You must RSVP to this event, which you can do by e-mailing your information to

Have more questions about trends in the housing market? Questions about selling or buying a home? Contact me today for honest, experienced answers. Amy Blakeley, Realtor®
ablakeley at
(415) 296-2173 Direct

* I am not directly involved with this seminar nor affiliated with any of the listed organizations.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Octavia Boulevard to Get Updated Look

On June 13th, announced the Winner of an archetectual design competition that will dictate the look of 22 parcels of land slated for housing on the newly re-designed Octavia Boulevard.

In evo-metropolitan fashion, the winning design, brought to us by Amit C. Price Patel of Dorchester, MA, is distinctly modern. It beat out second place winner, George Edwin Tolosa of Hayward, CA, who's architectual endeavor was particularly railroad boxcar in style.

To view photos of the winning entry and runner's up, go here. To read judge's comments on the winner and runner's up, go here.

Have more questions about trends in the housing market? Questions about selling or buying a home? Contact me today for honest, experienced answers. Amy Blakeley, Realtor®
ablakeley at
(415) 296-2173 Direct

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Realtors®: Most Are About More Than Making A Commission

The general population may or may not know that there is a difference between a "real estate agent" and a Realtor®. For those out there that do not know the difference, Realtors® belong to a local Association, a state Association and the National Association of Realtors®. This means that Realtors® are not only committed to seeing our clients through real estate transactions, but that we observe a high ethical standard in the way that we serve our clients. We also support our communities, be it by supporting change or the need to keep things the same. Additionally, Realtors® are a political force that continually fights for homeowner rights at the local, state, and national levels.
Recently, Realtors® from througout California went to Sacramento in support of California homeownership. The below article was provided by C.A.R., the California Association of Realtors®, which celebrates 100 years of service to communities this year.

California REALTORS® wrapped in red tape on steps of state Capitol to protest local, city and legislative barriers to homeownership

To view the photo taken on the steps of the state Capitol, go to

SACRAMENTO (June 8) – Nearly 2,000 members of the California Association of REALTORS® (C.A.R.) were wrapped in red tape on the steps of the California state Capitol this morning to protest local, city and legislative barriers to homeownership.
“With less than one in four households in California able to afford a median priced home, local governments and the legislature need to look at creative solutions to solving the state’s affordability crisis,” said C.A.R. President Jim Hamilton. “All Californians deserve an opportunity to step on the first rung of the homeownership ladder, but as long as overly burdensome or unnecessary constraints on the housing supply remain in place, families in California will remain locked out.
“Successful passage of C.A.R.-sponsored legislation will increase both the supply of housing in the state and provide affordable rental and homeownership opportunities for California families,” he said. “Our sponsored legislation for 2005, SB 326 (Dunn), “Local Government Accountability”; SB 435 (Hollingsworth), “Housing: Density Bonus”; and AB 712 (Canciamilla), “Attorney Fees”; will improve homeownership opportunities for renters and increase the supply of homes for sale by improving the flexibility and usefulness of density-bonus laws.”
Leading the Way...® in California real estate for 100 years, the California Association of REALTORS® ( is one of the largest state trade organizations in the United States, with more than 165,000 members dedicated to the advancement of professionalism in real estate. C.A.R. is headquartered in Los Angeles.

Have more questions about trends in the housing market? Questions about selling or buying a home? Contact me today for honest, experienced answers. Amy Blakeley, Realtor®
ablakeley at
(415) 296-2173 Direct

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

SF Real Estate Market Conditions for June 2005

Attention home shoppers, the housing market appears to be softening. Lending a hand in this softening is an increase in single-family homes and condominiums on the market. All of the double-parked construction and painting trucks we residents have endured lately was the tell-tale sign that the market was picking up. Those trucks are still around, so count on a continuing flow of new properties in the next month.

In the past 2 weeks there has been a slightly noticeable decline in interest in San Francisco's "hot neighborhoods". Or, in other words, new "hot neighborhoods" have emerged, as seen in the continuing popularity for, and over-bidding frenzies in Bernal Heights, Mission/Noe Valley and Potrero Hill. The Inner and Central Sunset have also seen record sales of single family homes.

This opens back up the playing field for those buyers who still say to themselves "I would only buy in.... neighborhood." Case in point: a starter 2 bedroom condo in desirable lower Pacific Heights handed out only 2 disclosure packets before reviewing offers today. With only 1 or 2 other comparable condos also on the market in that area, the fact that the open houses weren't swarming was a mystery.

It is clear that buyers putting in offers this month have more resistance to handing in offers that are excessively over the listing price. It seems as though buyers are more conscious of what type of value is important to them.

The fact that buyers are being more cautious shouldn't suggest that there is a complete cooling of the market. First of all, remember that interest rates are still historically low. Additionally, "hot properties" still exist: currently on the market is a spectacular 2 bedroom flat in Cole Valley. Brand new remodel, fabulous finishes, great light and space, for a mere... $899,000. What's my point? The property is done so well that, even with any parking or location challenges, it is sure to get multiple offers and go far beyond this price. If things are done right - remodels, marketing, staging, pricing - the demand will be there, no matter what the location or what the market is doing.

Have more questions about trends in the housing market? Questions about selling or buying a home? Contact me today for honest, experienced answers.

Amy Blakeley, Realtor®
ablakeley at
(415) 296-2173 Direct

Friday, May 27, 2005

Condos and Tenancys In Common (TICs) - Part I

A lot of you visiting this site have been looking for information on San Francisco condominiums and conversion from Tenancys In Common (TICs) to condos.

Therefore, I will be providing a series of posts that will help you understand the differences between TICs and condos, different rules pertaining to condo conversion, and other useful information about this type of market, including great resource links.

Please feel free to send me questions that you would like answered, as I am sure the answers I provide will be useful to many more readers.

Q: Tenancy In Common vs. Condominium – What’s The Difference?

A: The basic difference between a TIC and a condominium is the way that the particular unit is financed, and thus the degree of risk involved in ownership. From a physical perspective you cannot tell them apart. They are both one unit in a building that contains two or more units.

In TIC ownership, each person owns a percentage of the building as a whole. It is a partnership in investment, and ownership is broken down by the percent value of the each person’s investment – which is represented by the particular unit they will occupy or rent out to others. Therefore, as a buyer you are paying for that unit’s worth overall, depending on its size, location and amenities in relation to the rest of units in the building.

From a financing perspective then, every “partner” in the building is accounted for on the same mortgage, for the investment as a whole. One mortgage, several accountable partners for its timely payment. If one partner is unable to pay, it affects all of the other partners in the investment. This risk factor, along with other issues I will address later, is why TICs have historically been less expensive to purchase than condominiums.

TIC partners must come up with their own rules about how to share common areas in the building, as well as the burden of maintenance, upkeep, and security issues.

When an owner TIC unit decides to sell, he or she is really making the decision to opt out of the investment and find a replacement for the “partnership.” The value of the unit, and its relation to the building’s value, are re-assessed. A new person purchases that interest in the building, and either assumes the previous owner’s mortgage, or a new mortgage with the new partnership (all other investors plus the new investor) is created.

Condominiums, as I said, look and feel just like TICs. The difference is that a condominium is a separate and divided interest in a building with two or more units. Each buyer is purchasing one unit free and clear of the others, with exception of having joint responsibility to maintain common areas. Condo owners therefore have a mortgage for only the unit they own, lowering the risk of default. Because the degree of risk is lower, condominiums historically have been more expensive to purchase than TICs.

In addition to financing one’s own separate unit in a multi-unit building, condo owners pay Home Owner’s Association (HOA) dues on a monthly basis. These dues vary per building, according to the needs and desires of all residents of each particular building.

Condominiums also have outlined standard Conditions, Covenants, and Restrictions (CC&Rs) that prescribe the rules and regulations of all occupants. CC&Rs are official legally binding rules, and can only be altered by a unanimous decision from the HOA board. CC&Rs are designed to help protect each owner’s right to quiet enjoyment of their space.

When the owner of a condominium decides to sell, he or she sells the interest in that single unit. That unit’s value is re-assessed and sold to another individual purchaser, who will find his or her own financing option.

Have more questions about trends in the housing market? Questions about selling or buying a home? Contact me today for honest, experienced answers. Amy Blakeley, Realtor®
ablakeley at
(415) 296-2173 Direct

Monday, May 23, 2005

SF Real Estate Market Conditions for May 2005

If you're confused by the current state of the San Francisco real estate market, you're not alone. Even we Realtors are a bit confused about the unpredictability of what a property will sell for.

A few posts ago I provided my insights on where the market would be for Spring 2005. To recap, I mentioned that Spring would continue to be a Seller's market, but that there would be more opportunities for buyers in the super-hot $600,000-$850,000 price range. These predictions were based on an expected influx of housing inventory as well as an increase in mortgage rates, which would push out some buyers on the demand side.

So here we are in the height of the season, and the housing inventory is only a little above flat. Additionally, mediocre job growth, high oil prices, and fears of inflation have kept interest rates low even though the Fed raised national rates to 3% - so the buyers I expected to be pushed out are still in the game. Overall, there has been very little change in the market conditions since March.

The major difference between March and current market conditions, is that I don't know one person who can figure why certain properties in this $600,000 - $850,000 range are selling the way they are selling. To give some examples, a 2 bedroom condo on Steiner at Alamo Square, listed for $599,000 sold for $625,000 after only receiving 2 offers. Yet a 3 bedroom home at 17th and Kirkham, listed at $839,000 received 3 pre-emptive offers after just 2 days on the market and closed at a cool $1,000,000. Examples like these can be found all over the City, and occasionally with properties that are similar and only blocks away from one another.

The point for sellers: don't let a real estate professional aggressively underprice your home and hope that the offers come flying in; you just might not get what you were expecting. Ascertain your absolute lowest acceptable number and clearly communicate this with your Realtor.

The point for buyers: don't get discouraged when you see 15 other groups looking at the same property as you; it isn't an indication of how many offers will be presented. Also, if you've been looking and writing offers for a while, it's easy to want to take a break from it all. It is better to simply slow down your pace but let your Realtor continue to alert you of new opportunities once he or she is familiar with your needs.

Finally, whether you are buying or selling, make sure your Realtor knows exactly what is going on in your neighborhood, and be able to show supporting evidence for the strategies he or she presents.

Have more questions about trends in the housing market? Questions about selling or buying a home? Contact me today for honest, experienced answers.

Amy Blakeley, Realtor®
ablakeley at
(415) 296-2173 Direct

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Proposed SF TIC -Condo Conversion Legislation Loses

In a 6-4 vote, the Alioto-Pier/Dufty TIC legislation has been shot down. For more details, see this article from today's SF Chronicle.

Have more questions about trends in the housing market? Questions about selling or buying a home? Contact me today for honest, experienced answers.

Amy Blakeley, Realtor®
ablakeley at
(415) 296-2173 Direct

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Proposed SF TIC -Condo Conversion Legislation

A proposal to make a one-time allowance to San Francisco's condominium conversion regulation has finally made headlines, although home-ownership advocates and renter's advocates alike have known about it for months.

Brought forth by city Superviors Alioto-Pier and Dufty, the proposal would move hundreds of Tenancy-in Commons (TICs) through the condo conversion pipeline. As it currently stands, city regulation allows only 200 combined TIC-to-condo and apartment-to-condo conversions a year, allocated via an annual curved lottery (those buildings that have previously applied for the lottery and failed gain more priority to entry in forth-coming years).

Sunday's Chronicle has an
article that is sure to fire up both sides of the dispute, pro-homeownership and pro-renter. But here's a quick breakdown of what the new proposal would do:

1. In a one-time deal, 2-6 unit TIC buildings that are 100% owned and occupied by TIC owners would bypass the condo conversion lottery and move immediately to the process of conversion. The TIC buildings in question would still have to meet all other requirements of conversion legislation, such as period of ownership, to be eligible.

2. Renters would not be displaced or evicted due to the passing of this proposal. That does not guarantee, however, that some TIC owners who rent out units will not assume a future proposal of a similar sort, and then act in anticipation of it. I don't agree with this tactic, I am just sharing the pro-renter concerns in regard to this "renter safeguard."

3. Once the conversion of some 370 TICs is completed, it will be a boon to the City's tightly-belted coffers, as it will mean a significant amount of funding from home purchase transfer taxes. Condominiums, more desirable than TICs due to the reduced risk of a single rather than combined mortgage, will prompt ownership turnover.

4. The 23 year-old condominium conversion legislation would resume its normal shape and scope immediately after the new proposal is passed.

So far, the remaining Supervisors are keeping quiet about which direction they are leaning. While 67% of San Francisco residents are renters, it is difficult to know what percentage of them are hoping this initiative will enable them to become homeowners. Going against the desires of one's constituents on this one could mean the end of a career. But then again, going the wrong direction for future shape of San Francisco could reap years of further housing frustration.

Have more questions about trends in the housing market? Questions about selling or buying a home? Contact me today for honest, experienced answers.

Amy Blakeley, Realtor®
ablakeley at
(415) 296-2173 Direct

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Octavia Boulevard Development Project

Often times in City development projects, it is difficult to come across the finer details of projects, the details that determine how these projects impact neighborhoods. I am providing all of the information I have located on the Octavia Street Boulevard project.

The most extensive information about the project is available at the
City’s official website. This site shares the extensive reasoning that led to the final project’s design plan.

Octavia Street Boulevard website offers a brief summary of the history of the project, which is all one really needs. The site shows nice pictures of the before and after if the project (don’t bother if you have dial-up), and pats itself on the back for offering traffic delay information and community outreach programs during construction.

San Francisco Transportation Authority website also relates the entire history of the project, but nothing beyond that.

It was through local bloggers
SFist that I came across the housing portion of the plan. Their diligence uncovered the fact that several city groups have come together to create a design competition for the housing that will be constructed along Octavia Boulevard. By devouring all of the information provided at, the competitions official website, one is finally able to get down to some interesting facts about the Boulevard that is to come:

1. No high-rises. Competing architects are called upon to design housing that blends with established neighborhood architecture. Buildings can not be higher than 4 stories.

2. This project calls for a combination of market rate, affordable, rental and senior housing, as well as mixed use (commercial/residential) buildings on 22 parcels of land. No exact number of housing units has been identified.

3. The goal of the project is to create a pedestrian-biking-public transportation focused neighborhood. What does this mean? LIMITED PARKING. In fact, the competition clearly and repeatedly states that parking is NOT a design requirement, and if parking is planned into the design, it must meet the parking ratio guidelines outlined in the competition rules.

4. In June 2005 a winner will be selected. A jury made up of a variety of local historic and planning experts will pick the winning architectural design. However, the winning concept may ultimately be altered to the city’s liking.

If you are interested in getting continuous tidbits on the direction of the Octavia Boulevard project, I’ve found that occasionally checking’s Questions/Answers section, where architects competing ask for more specific information, is a good place. Also look in the menu bar for any briefing notes the organizer’s provide.

Have more questions about trends in the housing market? Questions about selling or buying a home? Contact me today for honest, experienced answers.

Amy Blakeley, Realtor®
ablakeley at
(415) 296-2173 Direct

The Dirt: New Homesteaders

It seems that there is a nationwide renaissance of land acquisition. This doesn’t have anything to do with the San Francisco real estate market. Or does it?

Astronomical housing prices are forcing many Bay Area residents to reconsider the location of their primary residences. We all know a few friends or neighbors who have packed up in search of the more affordable. Conversely, we also know a few people who won’t budge as they continue to see the value of their property climb.

So isn’t it a wonder that some states are
giving away land? That’s right, it’s free. Centuries after the cry of "Free Land!" and the induction of the Homestead Act of 1862, small towns in Kansas and North Dakota are looking to increase town population. It is hard to believe, as we continuously see new strip malls and towns dotting our road trips to Tahoe and L.A., that the Great Plains area isn’t developing as quickly. But hey, if you can take your business with you, you might as well get yourself some free land to build a nice home on (complete with home office, of course), and earn few tax incentives while you’re at it.

On the investment side of real estate, a recently published
article in the L.A. Times discusses the growing trend in ditching stocks and buying “dirt.” As more people hear real estate investment success stories, they are diving in for their piece of the pie. Unfortunately, investment newcomers discover that hot markets appreciate so fast that by the time they find out about the “new hot market,” housing prices there are already out of reach. Instead they are buying up land in hopes that development will eventually strike.

Human migration is a complex and interesting thing. It involves a blend of human desire, economic necessity, real estate trends, nature, and sometimes government involvement. Whether you’re searching for the perfect new homestead for yourself or the next best real estate investment, you might want to look from the ground up.

Have more questions about trends in the housing market? Questions about selling or buying a home? Contact me today for honest, experienced answers.

Amy Blakeley, Realtor®
ablakeley at
(415) 296-2173 Direct

Friday, March 18, 2005

Megan's Law Database Now Online

Website access to California's sex offender registry is now available to the public. In response to a legislative mandate, the California Department of Justice recently started providing online information about registered sex offenders at

Thursday, March 17, 2005

SF Resale Housing Prices Hit Record High

In my last post post, I advised that all those in the housing market, whether buying or selling, should expect a slight balancing of the market in the months to come. Typically, spring and summer are the most active real estate transaction seasons, and impending mortgage rate hikes will push sellers onto the market now, and buyers out later on.

Newspapers today assaulted readers with stories of record sales in the resale home market all over the Bay Area. The SF Chronicle notes that the threat of mortgage rate increases is pushing buyers into the market now, before it happens. also has an article on the record hitting phenomenon, with a complete Bay Area breakdown in a table at the end of the piece.

So, what should you do?
Sellers: If you're a seller that has been considering taking advantage of the market, do it now. The hyper-activity of the market you see now will subside within 2 months.
Buyers: If you're a buyer with a lean budget and think the increase in mortgage rates will knock you out of the market, it's time to start aggressively putting those offers in. If you're a buyer with a little more wiggle room, it's best to wait until the market balances out a little more. If you are working with a good real estate agent, they will be experienced enough to know which way to advise you.

Have more questions about trends in the housing market? Questions about selling or buying a home? Contact me today for honest, experienced answers.
Amy Blakeley, Realtor®
ablakeley at
(415) 296-2173 Direct

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Will Spring Still be a Seller's Market?

With the growing concern that mortgage rates are about to climb, more sellers are putting their property on the market. There is a typical increase in homes and condominiums for sale as the summer season approaches and families begin to consider their vacation plans. Add to that the fear of increasing mortgage rates, and you begin to see a slight balancing in the market place.

This is good news for first time buyers, who have of late been in a highly competitive market. It in no terms means an end to the multiple-offer situation that has continued to frustrate entry level home buyers for several months. What it does mean, however, is that there will be a decline in the number of offers submitted per property. Additionally, there is the possibility that the list price-to-actual sale price ratio may become tighter, meaning that the percentage over asking price will be lower, and more in line with actual market value.

The upcoming months will not be all roses, however. As the inventory expands and the number of competitive offers per property decline, it is likely that sellers will insist on slightly higher asking prices. Since sellers won't be able to rely on buyers to push the sales price from affordable to barely reasonable, they will most likely set list prices where they truly expect to land at the end of the sale.

Buyer's tip: Make sure you're Realtor does an extensive comparable analysis to any property you are considering putting an offer in on. Finally, always arrive at an offer price after doing your homework: factor in information revealed in the disclosure packet, and always make an offer based on what price YOU think is reasonable for the property in question.

Have more questions about trends in the housing market? Questions about selling or buying a home? Contact me today for honest, experienced answers.

Amy Blakeley, Realtor®
ablakeley at
(415) 296-2173 Direct

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Bay Area Real Estate Bubble Heading for Burst?

A UCLA economist today predicted that the Bay Area "housing bubble" is about to burst. Click here to read the SF Chronicle's story.

Although the article cites that economist Edward Leamer's 2001 recession prediction was spot-on, I don't think home owners in San Francisco need to worry about the value of their property just yet.

The trend of multiple offers and "sold way over asking" continues hold strong, particulartly in the $599,000 to $850,000 range of the market. Despite the Fed's increase in interest rates to 6.25%, last Friday's disappointing employment report and the recent volatility in oil prices have caused interest rates for some home financing solutions to be as low this week as they were in March of 2004. In fact, if you purchased your home in the last 2 years, it might be the perfect time to consult your loan specialist to see if now is the right time to re-finance your loan for better terms.

Have more questions about trends in the housing market? Questions about selling or buying a home? Contact me today for honest, experienced answers.

Amy Blakeley, Realtor®
ablakeley at
(415) 296-2173 Direct

Thursday, February 03, 2005

3rd Street's Light Rail Presents Opportunities

Click here to read the in depth article from the San Francisco Business Times.

Have questions about the San Francisco real estate market? Ready to buy or sell a home? Contact me today!

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Are You Up to The Task of For Sale By Owner?

Whether you are considering selling your home yourself, or are looking to purchase a home specifically marketed as For Sale By Owner (FSBO), you may have a rough ride ahead.

In San Francisco, there is no denying that it continues to be a seller's market. Within certain price points, some properties are on the market less than 30 days. Considering this, how hard would it be to sell the home yourself and save the commission money that would otherwise go to your agent? Let's look at the challenges facing the seller.

First of all, prepare to be annoyed. Once you have advertised your home as For Sale By Owner, interested buyers will not be the only ones calling you. Some real estate agents prey on FSBO's as their life blood; your phone will most likely ring off the hook with the hundreds of this type of agent attempting to represent you.

The second challenge to FSBOs comes in the details of working through an offer. Never accept a verbal offer. When you receive a written offer, is it presented on a viable contract that will stand up in the court of law? Do you understand what contingencies are set into place, do you know how to properly work through a counter offer? Can you verify the finances of the other party?

The final challenge of FSBO comes when you plan to work through an escrow. Escrow officers require instructions, documents, releases, approval from both parties to move forward to closing a transaction. Being in unfamiliar territory here will stall the deal, if not kill it all together.

On the seller side of a FSBO, one last caution: working without an experienced real estate agent leaves you open to liability. Buyers who think they didn’t get what they paid for will be quick to sue for damages. If you end up liable for damages, the payout could far exceed the amount you would have given to a licensed real estate agent to market your home in the first place.

If you are a buyer considering purchasing a For Sale By Owner, you have an equal amount of diligence and hard work to own on your side:

1. Never extend a verbal offer; use a Contract for Purchase that will be recognized in a court of law to protect yourself;

2. Require the owner/seller to provide you with a Transfer Disclosure Statement (TDS). This alerts you to all the known defaults in the property;
3. Inspections, inspections, inspections! Know what you’re getting into and how much any repairs will cost, and used certified licensed inspectors;
4. Make sure the title is free and clear;
5. Keep a log of all your conversations and get all agreements in writing.

More questions about For Sale By Owner? Questions about selling or buying a home? Contact me today for honest, experienced answers.

Amy Blakeley, Realtor®
ablakeley at
(415)296-2173 Direct

Saturday, January 29, 2005

What Defines "Full Service" from an Agent?

The following is an excerpt from a recent Robert Bruss article in the San Francisco Chronicle. Click here to view the entire article.

Q: When we listed our home for sale, we followed your advice to interview three successful local agents. I'm sure glad we did.
The agent recommended by a neighbor turned out to be a part-time agent and full-time schoolteacher. We selected another excellent agent who gave very professional service. Our listing went into the local multiple listing service and on the Internet at
The first weekend our agent advertised an open house, she sold our home for $7,500 more than the asking price. There were multiple offers. Because she had our listing less than a week and sold it at the open house without having to split the fee with a buyer's agent, we asked her to reduce the 6 percent sales commission.
She refused and became very indignant. Except for that, we were very pleased with her service. Do you think she should have cut her commission for an easy quick sale?
Reneta H.
San Francisco

A: No. When you listed your home for sale with that agent, you signed up for full service, and you received it. Just because your agent was quickly successful and able to earn a full commission by obtaining a purchase offer from an open house prospect doesn't mean you should cut her fee.
But I don't blame you for asking. If I were in your shoes, I also would have asked for a commission reduction.
Depending on the amount of the commission, if I were in the agent's shoes. I might have agreed to adjust the fee a bit to make you a very happy seller who would refer her to your friends.
Experienced agents know their best source of buyers and sellers is happy past clients. If that agent had cut her commission by $500 or $1,000, you probably would have been satisfied, and she would get your referrals.

More questions about what defines "full service" from an agent? Questions about buying or selling a home? Contact me today for honest, experienced answers.

Amy Blakeley, Realtor®
ablakeley at

(415)296-2173 Direct

Friday, January 21, 2005

The Benefit of Working With Newer Agents

Ask most people who have recently sold or purchased a home how they found their agents, and they will advise that the agents were recommendations from friends or family. Although this is common practice, working with someone who you've been told is "the best" will not necessarily mean it is going to be the best agent for you.

There is no single definition of the "fanstastic agent." What your friend or family member found to be an asset in his or her agent, you may find devastating to the whole process. Additionally tenure, designations such as "top producer," or number of transactions do not dictate that you will have a smooth or happy real estate experience. If you ask the right questions of your real estate agent candidates (and you should interview more than one), you may just find that the newer agents will offer you the best service.

Here's why: new agents have fewer clients, and therefore are able to dedicate more time to assisting you with your real estate transaction. Make sure you are working with a Realtor®, not simply a real estate agent. New agents are eager to get their careers off the ground, and excited about exploring neighborhoods and available inventory. New Realtors® are also usually less financially secure than their more experienced colleagues, so every transaction has meaning and importance. That is not to say that all Realtors® are about the money; but when you have little money coming in and a lot of expenses, you can bet that missing an opportunity for income is not acceptable. Therefore, new agents want to service you beyond your expectations, and often do.

Regardless of whether you work with a new or experienced Realtor®, do your homework. Ask questions about how the agents like to communicate, and in turn let them know how and when you expect to hear from them. If the agent is new, ask what his or her previous work experience was. The best advice is to listen to your gut; having in-person interviews with prospective agents should reveal their demeanor and level of interest in helping you.

More questions about getting what you need from a real estate agent? Questions about buying or selling a home? Contact me today for honest, experienced answers.

Amy Blakeley, Realtor®
ablakeley at
(415)296-2173 Direct

Sunday, January 16, 2005

~ Welcome ~

Welcome to San Francisco Real Estate, a real estate blog offering imperative market information and advice for those investing in today's hot San Francisco market!

Whether you are a considering selling or buying a home, or investing in property, I provide this site as a resource to make educated decisions for your family, your sanity in a high-anxiety market, and your financial growth.

I am a full-service licensed Realtor® with McGuire Real Estate, a premiere real estate firm in San Francisco since 1919. I can assist you in all of your real estate needs.

Have more questions about trends in the housing market? Questions about selling or buying a home? Contact me today for honest, experienced answers.
Amy Blakeley, Realtor®
ablakeley at
(415) 296-2173 Direct