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We’re Under San Francisco’s Spell: Why It’s So Special (and Expensive) 

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Why San Francisco is Totally Different than the Rest of the World

And among the world’s top markets, San Francisco still stands heads and shoulders above. Various data demonstrate that people are — qute literally — buying into the idea of San Francisco and letting their pocketbooks talk for them. But what makes us so special?

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Those Workers Need a Place to Live

According to Colliers‘ during the fourth quarter of 2013, San Francisco’s overall commerical real estate marketwide weighted rents grew 6.6 percent to $55.74/sqft. and have experienced a rent growth of 30 percent since 2011. Financial District Class B rents, for example, rose 23.7 percent to $58.12/sqft.

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Noted Commerical Leases from Q4, 2013

  • 345 Spear Street Google 372,167 Renewal/Expansion Nov-13
  • 505 Howard Street Neustar 138,574 New Oct-13
  • One Market Plaza Visa 111,948 New Nov-13
  • 650 Townsend Street Practice Fusion, Inc. 101,825 New Dec-13
  • 155 5th Street Eventbrite, Inc. 97,624 New Dec-13
  • Golden Gate Commons Esurance, Inc 91,000 Renewal/Expansion Nov-13
  • 55 2nd Street KPMG 81,749 Renewal Dec-13
  • 425 Market Street Xoom Software Inc. 79,887 New Dec-13
  • 71 Stevenson Street Lending Club 63,325 Renewal/Expansion Dec-13

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Ten Ways San Francisco is International

Note that I said “among the world’s” top real estate markets. That wasn’t hyperbole as you’ve heard it before San Francisco truly is an international city. All you have to do is walk down Mission Street, Powell Street near Market Street, or stroll on the Embarcadero to see and hear it for yourself. So while you may hear of real estate growth in Raleigh, Phoenix or Houston, for example, would you really want to live there? Would the rest of the world want to?

No, I suspect you’d rather want to live in the Bay Area. And, I submit to you that San Francisco has all of the top 10 attributes of a truly global city:

A main urban hub with spokes that will accommodate different communities, price points, cultural and economic diversity. You’d agree we have that diversity of towns and cities in the Bay Area — compare Daly City with Fremont; Hayward with San Mateo; Napa with Santa Cruz and so on.

A place that people want to visit. San Francisco consistently ranks as one of the top 10 tourist destinations in the world. Anyone seen of the following? Full House, The Rock, Mrs. Doubtfire, Blue Jasmine? Vertigo? Bullitt

A city anchored by globally recognized educational institutions and universities. Cases in point: U.C. Berkeley, Stanford, and UCSF. Not to mention UC Santa Cruz, USF, the CIA (Culinary Institute), SF State….

Cultural diversity is a must. If you don’t believe we have that in spades in San Francisco, just walk down Mission Street or flip through our local tv networks or read any MUNI poster.

A city and area that has employment and financial diversity that relies on various industries to thrive instead of being too reliant on any single one like car manufacturing, government or building aircraft. Sorry Detroit, but you guys didn’t foster Google, Genentech and Tesla for example. Nor did you foster HP, Yahoo, Wells Fargo, twitter, Facebook, Pixar, or Lucas Film nor did you foster California wines, nor Lawrence Livermore.

An area that has dominant financial companies and resources, i.e., Silicon Valley venture capital, Wells Fargo and Charles Schwab anyone, the Haas Foundation, Hewlitt Foundation, etc.

A prominent industrial base. Our base is diverse but Silicon Valley anchors the global technology industry. In 2012, 1.3M sq ft of commercial space was rented with 53% to technology companies and, of that, 37% went to international companies; average commercial ranges now are $50/sq ft.

A place that is near nature and recreation, i.e., Tahoe, Napa & Sonoma, Yosemite, etc.

A place with unique character and spirit that cannot be replicated. Other places may have their tech incubator technology parks, but few have the cachet, mystique and name recognition as Silicon Valley; Napa Valley; Haight-Ashbury; Sproule Plaza & the Free Speech Movement, etc.

Capacity as a gateway to emerging markets, Um, yeah. Think the Pacific Rim and Latin America. Have you seen the departures board in the International Terminal at SFO?

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A Powerful Sustained Market vs. A Bubbling One that Pops

Okay, you get it: Residentrial real estate San Franisco and the Bay Area is worth it. But does it mean you’re paying too much? Is there froth? Yes, we’re seeing multiple offers again like 2007. And while the multiple-offer environment was precursor to a follow-on bust, this time growth is legitimate, sounder and more robust. This market is where both buyers and sellers have power.

Last time the growth was inflated by artificial (or non-existent) lending standards and adjusting or exploding mortgage rates. No one had skin in the game let alone buyers putting down 0%.  This time mortgage underwriting is invasive to say the very least if not just plain exhausting — or should I say exhaustive?

Starting in 2012, we have seen time and time again that we only have ready and willing buyers but we have able and sustainable ones at that. In fact, almost half of all area offers in 2013 were all cash. Qualified buyers financing their deals are especially qualified and will bring at least a 20% down payment to the table. This new gold standard is the price of admission and in many cases most people buying today are only getting loans because they can a better return on that money rather than keeping their excess cash in a bank account.

The average time to sell a home in the Bay Area is much faster versus thenational average. We have more international buyers and better appreciaton over time than most places in the world and high sustained rents to match. Combine that with other factors such as Prop 13’s property tax cap and our climate then you can see what undergids this golden place.

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Tech giants like GoogleSalesforce andTwitter crown the top of the list, but the biggest 50 also features hot up-and-comers on the verge of IPOs like Square,Dropbox and Airbnb. In a city that counts roughly 50,000 tech employees overall, the top 50 represent some 28,000 workers.


And these companies are growing. The top 50 hired 3,400 employees in the past year, with plans to add at least 1,600 more jobs throughout 2014.

— San Francisco Business Times, Feb 21, 2014

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Some of Kevin’s Listings…

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(San Francisco Assn. of Realtors): The same factors that catalyzed widespread market recovery in 2012 and 2013 are likely to continue in 2014, though perhaps at a more moderate pace. That’s not a bad thing, since the market is returning to a stable, healthy state. Potential trends to watch for in 2014 include increased seller activity, more new construction and fewer foreclosures on the market. Inventory is another metric to watch this year.

  • New Listings were down 11.3 percent for single family homes and 7.8 percent for Condo/TIC/Coop properties


  • Pending Sales decreased 12.0 percent for single family homes but increased 0.6 percent for Condo/TIC/Coop properties


  • The Median Sales Price was up 24.6 percent to $928,000 for single family homes and 24.6 percent to $950,000 for Condo/TIC/Coop properties

  • Months Supply of Inventory decreased 20.0 percent for single family units and 31.6 percent for Condo/TIC/Coop units.

“Given how far the market has come, it’s a good time for folks to reassess their situation. Many who were hesitant to sell in recent years may find themselves in a completely different position. Getting a fresh comparative market analysis might be a good idea. Interest rates remain attractive and should remain below their long-term average, but they are expected to creep higher in 2014. Politicians are gearing up for midterm elections, so pay close attention to campaign messaging as relates to real estate or mortgage financing. Job growth is still fundamental and is likely to dominate this election cycle.”

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San Francisco is Worth the Price

You’ve heard it before San Francisco is a truly international city. And while you may hear of growth in Houston, for example, would you really want to live there? Would the rest of the world’s people want to visit? Instead, San Francisco stands out from most of the country (bar NYC) as being tops in real estate and the place to be for tourist and techie alike —18 of the top 25 tech companies are here for example. Our universities, proximity to emerging markets, financial base and diversity attracts the best and the brightest (although Berkeley and Stanford may have something to do with it). Plus our climate, while foggy sometimes, still beats cold vortexes and heat waves. And because land is scarce here … well, you get the picture.

Did I mention there’s wine here too?

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Sometimes you are lucky enough to connect with people who have the wherewithal and resources to make your dreams come true, and working with Kevin has been nothing but delightful destiny from the day we fatefully met at one of his open homes. With Kevin’s real estate and legal expertise combined with his infectious enthusiasm and strong client dedication, one couldn’t ask for better representation.

— Marie S.

Cloud Computing/Internet Startup QC/QA

Residential Buyer (Duboce Triangle/Lower Haight)

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This is my second time buying a home, and the experience this time around with Kevin as my agent was *night and day* compared to my first agent. I wouldn’t have changed anything Kevin helped me accomplish in the process.

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The Latest Development News from the Realtors

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San Francisco Real Estate Trends since 2012


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Starting in February 2012, the market changed in SF. Instead of a shortage of serious buyers, the tables turned toward a shortage of good homes that lasted long enough for people to see without other buyers making preemptive offers. So, prices have gone up —and up but are expected to hold steady for 2014 as interest rates scoot up and as the number of REO and short sales continue to shrink.

And while the strength in prices remains, agents are now generally pricing homes more accurately. But many are still using an offer-date system whereby the listing price may have little to do with the ultimate selling price because competitive bidding is encouraged. Balanced against that is that home borrowing, while still strenuous, is affordable because interest rates remain at historic lows but for how much longer?

In terms of pricing and how properties are presented, 2012 and 2013 has shown there’s no one right way to do things. Instead ascertaining pricing philosophy (some agents grossly under- or mis-price) comes down to a per agent, per property basis, which is leading too a lot of “wait and watch.”  Remember good things may not come to those who wait but do to the early birds.  There is a lot of cash on the market with people having to spend tax-deferred 1031 exchange monies from sales that would otherwise be subject to the 37% capital gains combined tax rate.

And if you think prices will go down, think about all the other folks who lost out in competitive bidding — they’re not going anywhere too. And with interest rates going up, buyers are rushing to lock rates in, even if it means making concessions like giving sellers longer rent-back periods. Another trend to watch is the city’s housing crunch, which will be felt evermore in 2014 with more drama, more emotions, and now, promised tinkering with rent control and eviction control laws.

Remember, I’m here to help you, your family and friends succeed.

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San Francisco Demographics

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Keeping Tabs

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We asked Kevin Ho to help us and he did an amazing job of sealing the deal for us considering there were so many other people interested in the place. We highly recommend Kevin Ho.  He is an amazing realtor and we are lucky we found him.

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