A Late Robust Spring Market

With the first half of the Spring market over, the story continues to be dominated by very low inventory and prices continuing a slow and steady march up. There has also been a remarkably slow start to the Spring selling season in terms of number of transactions, perhaps due to the unusually late wet weather we experienced in March and April. Others blame the continuing uncertainty with national politics. But San Francisco's economic position remains preeminent and the market remains strong by any measure; a downturn, if it ever occurs, seems to be nowhere near the horizon.

The median sale price in April for all properties for the entire city was down slightly from last April (-2.3%) to $1,250,000. But that number is the second highest ever and only $30,000 below the record high last year. Single family homes once again surged, up 1.6% to the highest price ever, $1,402,500. Condo/TIC/coop prices stalled after several months of appreciation; they were down 4.3% year over year to $1,100,000. And we should expect more appreciation because inventory levels (the number of properties for sale) are still way down. Last month there were 24% fewer properties available than last year, more than 400 fewer properties than were available last September. The upward appreciation pressure from this low inventory situation is undeniable. Of course, maybe sellers were waiting out the rain and will bring their homes out in May. We will see.

For 2-4 unit buildings, the median price shot up to $1,987,500, up 19% from a year ago. So, the down prices in March appear to be an anomaly and apartment buildings are as desirable as ever. The number of available properties and the length of time it takes to sell them remained the same. As always, small numbers of 2-4 unit sales skew these figures, as well as the fact that many sales of apartment buildings (and other commercial properties) are not reported through the MLS.

None of the districts saw dramatic losses or gains, with one exception. District 7 (Marina, Pac Hts) was down once again by 13% to $1,825,000. Although still the most expensive area, the differential with District 5 (Castro, Noe, Haight - up 5.8%) has narrowed to less than $100,000. District 2 (Sunset) and District 3 in the southwest corner of the city were the big winners in April; both surged 8.5% to $1,250,000 and $970,000 respectively.

District 1 (The Richmond) finally corrected down after several months of double digit increases; it stands at $1,440,000, 5.8% down from last year. District 8 (downtown, Russian/Nob HIll) and District 9 (SOMA, Mission, Potrero, Bernal) both also lost ground, the former down 4.3% to a median price of $1,009,000 and the latter down 3.4% to $1,120,000. 

District 4 (west of Twin Peaks) surged up 5.2% to $1,425,000 now essentially the same as the Richmond in the second most expensive tier geographically. District 10 in the southeast corner of the city was up again but still certainly the least expensive area, at a median price of $872,500. And District 6 (Hayes Valley, NOPA, Lower Pac Hts) was up a bit (1%) to $1,205,000.  (All district statistics are three month rolling averages, to mitigate for low numbers of sales.)

So the statistics indicate a very healthy market but not the intense appreciation that made pricing for buyers so difficult in the last few years. If you are thinking of making a move, or just curious about the market, give me a call so I can analyze your specific situation and use my experience and skills for you.

New Exciting Architecture

San Francisco's skyline is transforming before our eyes. While much has been written lately about the topping off of the Salesforce tower, now the tallest in the city, 181 Fremont, now the tallest (and most expensive) residential property, and SFMOMA's fantastic addition, there is much more to come. And some of it is quite interesting. My personal favorite is the Folsom Bay Tower at Folsom and Main, designed by Jean Gang and her studio. Using the bay windows that are so much a part of the venacular here, the project gently rotates them all the way up the building, providing generous light and air and a dynamic facade. Preliminary work began this month on the 400 foot building and surrounding smaller structures with a green roof. Runner-ups are Rem Koolhass' 400 Folsom with a staggered facade and imaginative street level, SOM's 500 Folsom with its shuffled panel exterior, and Sir Norman Foster's 905 foot Oceanwide Center with it's distinctive "crown" top. More details here and here.

Cocktail Culture

Our city has always had a lively bar culture. Dense and sometimes uncomfortable living situations encourage people to get out and meet each other. So cocktails are not just drinks, but also a way to socialize - an entire culture of engagement. Classic San Francisco cocktails include the Mai Tai, Pisco Punch and the Martini (derived from the Martinez, invented in that Contra Costa town). And of course the Irish Coffee at Buena Vista Café is a staple.

But my current favorites, both shaken over ice, are:

Aviation (1.25 oz gin, 3/4 oz. lemon juice, spoon of sugar, and dash Luxardo) 

Midnight Prayer (1.5 oz. gin, .75 oz St. Germain, .5 oz Creme de Violette and dash orange bitters)

Not recommended? The Prairie Oyster made from olive oil, ketchup, egg yolk and vinegar or lemon juice. Bottoms up!

Summer of Love

 This Summer is the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love that was centered in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco in 1967. It was not an event, but rather a social phenomenon that focused a number of different cultural movements that had already been brewing to create a "counterculture." As many as 100,000 mostly young people - hippies - converged on the Haight in the summer with most of them espousing ideals now clearly associated with that time including liberal politics, opposition to the Vietnam War (or war, in general), psychedelic art, anti-materialism and communal life. Timothy Leary popularized drug use with his famous phrase "turn on, tune in, drop out." The Broadway musical Hair was inspired by the events and opened off-broadway in October 1967. And, of course, numerous rock-and-roll groups played in the city as well as at the Monterey Pops festival in June 1967. The influx overwhelmed the Haight with crime, hunger, and homelessness all rampant despite some attempts to manage the crowds. Of course, remnants of that Summer and the counterculture remain in the Haight and in the city's and the nation's culture as a whole. Currently showing is an exhibit at the de Young museum that offers immersion in the feel of the time, and other events are planned to note the anniversary. Perhaps fittingly, the overcrowding issue also has been remembered; a bid to hold a music festival in Golden Gate Park this June has been denied a permit. Details herehere and here.