While we grow here in the Bay Area the rest of the country slowly inches forward, meaning continued lowered interest rates….

From the Wall Street Journal: The latest quarterly results of home builders Toll Brothers Inc. and Hovnanian Enterprises Inc. provide minimal optimism for the new-home market going into 2015, as consumers remain reticent and builders use more incentives to bolster sales.

From Curbed SF: Tishman Speyer, the developer behind Lumina and the Infinity, wants to build a pair of residential towers near Caltrain at Fourth and Townsend Streets. One tower, at 655 Fourth Street, would replace what is now the Creamery and Iron Cactus Mexican restaurant, confirming a rumor that’s been swirling at least since the summer. The other tower would go on land that Tishman Speyer doesn’t own yet, according to the San Francisco Business Times. One of the buildings would include 449 units and rise to 41 stories, or about 400 feet—roughly the same height as Lumina.

Changes are afoot that can speed up new construction in San Francisco. Changes at the Department of Building and Inspection (the Building Department) and Planning Department geared to process permit applications and project approvals faster are underway according to comments Planning Director John Rahim. Rahim, in speaking to last week’s Residential Builders’ Association meeting. While we could have all used these changes two years ago, any progress is good! If you read In the Know regularly or talk to us about renovation, remodeling and development, you’ll know that a project approval can take anywhere from 2-4 years to gain approval as the current process makes applicants get Planning clearance before submitting an application to the Building Department.

The Planning process with the potential of lengthy historic review, environmental impact study and community input usually takes 6 to 8 months. Meanwhile, the Building Department permit application can take just as long. The new initiative of having City staff focus on ‘smaller’ projects is attempting to fast-track the Planning process down to 4 months and the Building Department process to 60 days with both processes running simultaneously!  This change would be dramatic **as it means more new projects faster and reduces carrying costs for builders and developers while also reducing community blight faster. The changes are long in coming and are being done despite the fact that the the departments have too few staff members who are nevertheless overwhelmed and never paid overtime! Also coming: online permit tracking in early 2015.

Recent rains remind us that we actually do get wet in our climate. Hopefully you’ve cleared out rain gutters and sewer culverts. Water leaks tend to manifest themselves in relatively new construction at this point in time so remember that in condominium buildings built since 2004 that you will have certain statutory-based warranties from the developer (or their legacy insurers) guarding against water leaks or other related issues. Also, if you’re a buyer where we have purchased a home warranty for you, don’t hesitate to contact us or to contact your home warranty program if you have any issues to see if they’re covered under your warranty.

Keep in mind that during the downtime of the year it’s also a good chance for you to familiarize yourself with neighborhoods you may never have considered previously.