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For over 20 years I have worked in the real estate industry. By real estate industry standards I have done very well and have sold properties all over the bay area. I have been involved with real estate since 1981 when I purchased two investment properties in Redwood City. In 1985 I purchased the home where I live in Eureka Valley. For the past several years I have also been purchasing old homes fixing them and selling them for a profit. I know how much to pay for a property and how much it will take to fix it and how much it will sell for.
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"AL's TAKE" - Stories for The Newsletter
Al's take on purchasing an investment property.
One of the things I love best about being a Realtor is helping people get into a home or helping people sell their home so they can go to the next facet of their lives. Another thing I like about being a Realtor is buy properties for myself and either keeping them for the rent or flipping them for a profit. Being in the trenches of what is coming on the market some properties you can pick up before they hit the open market.
One of my goals for this year is to purchase another rental property for myself in Palm Springs California which is a city I have been going to since I was a young man and know it pretty well. Although most of my business is in San Francisco the properties have just gotten to expensive for me and even if had the money to purchase in San Francisco the rent control laws would probably land me in jail. Just kidding!.
I follow the advice I give to my clients "get something you can afford comfortably". In purchasing investment property I always want to make some money every month for my self after all the bills for the building are paid. Now, how much will I have to put down to get that done? How much do I want to get every month? How much will the rents go up in the next 5 years and how much will the building be worth in the next 5 years. When you own an investment property you also have to think about the management of it and who is going to do it. Can you as an investor manage the property even if its not where you live? Managing a property takes not only time but you have to be the type of person that can deal with the tenants. As a realtor I deal with lots of people and get along with 98%, there is always that 2% that I have problems with and I know them so well its always better to refer them out to another realtor. I can't do that with a tenant, he is mine, all mine and I have find a way to deal with them. This days usually Texting works well for me.
As I advice to clients, get a realtor in the area where you are going to buy. I have a realtor in palm springs his name is Thomas and I sold him his first home in San Francisco many years ago. Although he has been doing only 5 years and I have been doing it for 20 somewhat he know the in's and out's about that market in that area where is very useful me to make decisions, ie: .pools, zoning, land restrictions, casitas (which don't exist in SF), Indian owned land which again it does not exist in SF. So its essential to have a realtor where you purchase. Unless your buyer knows the area where he is purchasing refer then to someone in the area. In December I sold a property in San Diego California, the buyer knew the area we had done business before and he just told me to write the offer and get if for him. In San Francisco and the bay area I usually represent myself and save the commission or deducted of the purchase price.
I troll Realtor.com and look for investment property in Palm Springs and also Cathedral City (Cat City) which is next to Palm Springs. I already own a three unit building in Cat City and it has done very well for me not only in monthly income but in tax deduction savings.
Als take on Remodeling
Remodeling and renovating are very different. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines remodel as “to alter the structure or make over”. Renovate is defined as “to make like new again”, “put in good condition” to “restore to vigor or activity”. A building remodeled inside and out looks very different from the original structure. A renovated property looks as it did when constructed or as if it had been constructed in the present time.
Of the properties I’ve flipped so far all have been renovated. Remodeling is expensive and requires the passage through the gauntlet that is city hall’s permit process. Renovation can result in a trip to city hall but that jaunt is far easier than the marathon that ensues if a structure’s size is to be altered or if the interior undergoes major surgery.
Two modest houses in the Bayview neighborhood were fairly easy to fix up. Each, although old, kept the basic configuration the original builder planned and executed. While both were essentially uninhabitable due to kitchen and bathroom deterioration no plans had to be drawn up since no walls were demolished and the plumbing, which fortunately had been updated fairly recently, was not altered. Kitchens and bathrooms were gutted and new fixtures and cabinetry were installed. Although dating from the early 1900’s any charm from that more decorative era had been ruthlessly eliminated over the subsequent decades. All I had to do for the living rooms and bedrooms was patch walls, add floor and ceiling moldings and replace the doors. The exteriors required only a new paint job. When completed both were clean and attractive with modern kitchens and bathrooms, suitable for first-time home buyers, to whom both were sold very quickly.
After those two flips I moved on to something more interesting in the form of a two-flat Victorian in the Mission District. The Bayview houses were typical examples of San Francisco lower middle class housing while the Victorian was solidly middle class. Each flat contained a large living room with fireplace, a formal dining room and a large kitchen. The lower flat had one bedroom while the upper flat had originally two although sometime in the 1920’s a second floor had been added containing two bedrooms and a second bathroom. Much of the original woodwork was intact, although somewhat battered.
As with the Bayview house no interior alteration had to be done with the exception of combining the water closet with the bathroom. This time I did have to replace the old pipes with copper and had to remove the old pipes for the gas lights from all the ceilings. As before kitchens and the bathrooms were gutted and fixtures replaced. All the old woodwork was retained and missing ceiling, floor, door and window molding was replaced.
The major difference between the Victorian and the Bayview houses involved the rear stairway. The back stairs had decayed and were unsafe. Rather than just replace them I elected to give each flat a small rear deck along with the new stairs. Somewhat naively I had entered the remodel zone. The new decks and stairs were considered an addition so to get the permit I needed to hire an architect and engineer. While I still don’t understand why a complete rendering of the entire building had to be done obtaining the proper permit was relatively painless although a bit costly.
When completed the Victorian was beautiful and looked, except for the kitchens and bathrooms, has it looked when constructed over a century ago. Like the Bayview houses it was purchased fast. During the open house the most common question was whether the wall between the kitchen and dining room could be removed. Most likely, I said but check with an architect and engineer first and be sure to get the proper permit.
Als take on the crazy SF Real Estate Market
The economic concept of supply and demand is in full view in San Francisco and on steroids in the neighborhoods beloved by the young, hip and affluent. On the market now is one single family home in Eureka Valley, seven in Noe Valley and none in Dubose Triangle and Corona Heights. There are, of course, always some condominiums and Tenancies in Common (TICs) available but even they are scarce in these areas.
The thirty-something crowd isn’t keen on Pacific Heights, Russian Hill, St. Francis Wood and other tony neighborhoods. They prefer Dolores Heights, Noe Valley, Eureka Valley, Bernal Heights, Potrero Hill and parts of the Mission. Many work in the IT profession, which continues to offer high salaries, and who, even if employed by Silicon Valley firms, prefer to live in San Francisco rather than Santa Clara County.
So, as you can imagine, with inventory so low the prices have soared through the roof. What cost $130,000 in 1985 and $400,000 in 1992 is now a million and a half. Clients who bought their houses 15 to 20 years ago are thrilled how their properties have appreciated in value and how much they could get if they sold but then wonder what the hell they can buy in today’s market.
Ten years ago realtors operating in the northern part of the city would never venture South of Market, turning their noses up at anything under $500k. These days they are all over the southern neighborhoods from Bernal Heights to the Bayview.
In the meanwhile 10 to 15 offers on a single property is the norm, each upping the listed price, often by hundreds of thousands of dollars. One recent new listing saw my client offering almost a quarter of a million dollars more than the asking price and we still didn’t get it, falling in the middle of the 15 offers. That means there are 14 people augmenting the growing crowd of home buyers frantic to buy something in a market where scarcity has sadly become the norm.
Als take on purchasing a second home
As a fulltime active realtor in one of the most exiting cities in the world I can be busy almost 24/7. To relax I need to escape the city and just chill. Trips to Utah, Palm Springs and Las Vegas can work however they are too far from the Bay Area. If something goes wrong with a transaction I want to be able to hop in my car and get back to San Francisco in less than two hours. The solution: a vacation home in the Northern California wine county.
I have been concentrating on the Russian River community of Guerneville, which is an hour from the Golden Gate Bridge if you step on it. It is also 20 minutes way from the Santa Rosa Coldwell Banker office if I need anything that involves an office. Perfect!
After my last circuit to Palm Springs, Las Vegas and Utah in May I felt the time had come to make the decision to find a vacation home, no matter what.
The problem is scarcity. Once the medium price of a home in San Francisco hit one million dollars the real estate market became very heated throughout the Bay Area. Even Guerneville is suffering from inventory shortages. Two years ago when I was toying with the idea of purchasing a country home in the Russian River area there were over 60 homes on the market, many of them very affordable. Now there are less than 20 and prices are rising.
With that in mind Casper, my faithful mutt, and I jumped in the car and drove to Guerneville to re-examine some of the properties I had turned down in the past as too quirky or too dilapidated. I was that determined to get something.
Some of the homes we saw that Friday were nice. One of them has a live redwood tree in the middle of the bathroom, which I though was interesting if a bit over rusticated. My problem, however, was that all I saw were very close to other homes. I wanted something in the middle of the redwoods with few neighbors.
Casper and I had lunch at Armstrong Woods after which, on a whim, I traversed the streets in the areas I liked, hoping to encounter a “For Sale” sign. We drove this way then that, up and down the hills, through the flats and next to the river. I decided to ascend Summit Rd. where one of my pals once had a cabin. Returning down the steep road I turned onto Old Monte Rio Road, which skirts the mountain and is parallel to Highway 116 for several miles. No chance of flooding here.
We had gone about 1 1/2 miles on this tiny, winding road when out of the corner of my eye I saw "For Sale by Owner." In 100 feet the house appeared and I parked in front. This could be it, I thought. Just one house to the left and then nothing to the rear the side and in front. A real fixer-upper. I walked up the stairs, viewed the second floor balcony and the ground floor deck before realizing someone lived there so I descended the stairs grabbed my cell and called the number on the sign. A week later I was in contract to purchase the property.
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