Home Buying in Mission Bay>Question Details

Joseph Newfi…, Home Buyer in San Francisco, CA

What cost per square foot range would expect for an 800/sf condo in SOMA?

Asked by Joseph Newfield, San Francisco, CA Sun Nov 8, 2009

I'm exploring buying a condo in SOMA. I'm trying to get a sense of typical prices. I'm thinking about the area southwest of 6th St., rather than the Southbeach area. The prices I see are all over the place. Is there a ballpark range for cost/sf in that area? Any thoughts much appreciated.

Help the community by answering this question:


Hi Joseph--You are absolutely correct in noting that pricing in SoMa is all over the place. If you run the averages from August 1-Nov 9th, here's what you get for SoMa:

1BR condos/lofts
26 sold
$541,615 avge selling price
$568 per sq ft avge
988 sq ft avge

20 sold
$892,909 avge selling price
$604 per sq ft avge
1401 sq ft avge

The best way to approach a purchase is to evaluate a property in terms of what it has to offer (space, location, outlook, HOA dues, pkg/storage/outdoor space availability). I happen to think that Michael Ackerman's unit at 638 Minna works on all those levels for the list price and averages. (In fact, I'm featuring it on my blog tomorrow under "What You Get For: $650,000).

I wouldn't get too bogged down by price per sq foot, though--often, that square footage can be inaccurate. If what you are getting in terms of the aforementioned criteria fall above or below the averages, you can pick your offer price accordingly.

Also, I recommend that you do your due diligence with respect to current HOA reserves; developer litigation; lender objections to a particular building. These are all important so you don't waste time putting an offer in on a building that will not offer reasonable long-term investment potential or will end up involving unexpected special assessments.

I cover SoMa on a regular basis on my blog; here is the link to the posts in that category:

I wouldn't advise hesitating too much if you are financially ready to go. Between now & December 31st, you'll be seeing a lot of motivated sellers out there who may be willing to be flexible on price.
Web Reference: http://insidesfre.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Nov 9, 2009
Hi Joseph!

Generally speaking, for an 800 square foot condo in that area, one should expect to pay upwards of $500K - $600K nowadays for something decent with parking, depending on the specfic street. There are places here-and-there that you can get in District 9 for under $500K, most of which are not published on the MLS. Those that are on the MLS in this range are often short sales. Some REO/bank-owned properties have been popping up in the sub-$500K range, but those tend to fly off the market now that things have picked up.

In general, a "good buy" for this area would be anywhere under ~$525/ft. Depending on the product/location, below $600/ft. For new construction, you also see values all over the place--generally speaking, you would be hitting the average at ~$700/ft for something brand new, depending on the building.

You are correct, the price/foot is all over the map... the answer to your question really depends on so many factors:

1) are you looking for new construction?
2) which part of southwest SOMA are you leaning towards?
3) Do you need to be on a quiet street or are you OK with a main drag such as Harrison, Howard or Folsom?
4) Are you leaning towards a loft or would you prefer more of a flat?
5) Condos only? Or are you open to TICs (Tenancy In Common) ownership?
6) Are you FHA financing (3.5% - 10% down) or do you have the full 20% down, which opens your options up to buildings that are not FHA qualified.
7) How soon do you need to buy? If soon, then short sales are not a good route.

Let me know if you have any additional questions. I am here to help!

Warm Regards
~Sara Werner Costa
Vanguard Properties
415.730.2604 (call anytime!)
1 vote Thank Flag Link Sun Nov 8, 2009
The SOMA (South of Market) Neighborhood is an interesting amalgamation of housing, from some single famiy homes, converted lofts, condos, residential new construction and warehouse/industrial business. Therefore the type of property that you are looking for will dictate the price per square foot.

Judging the cost of prperty on price per square foot is tricky in San Francisco, unless you are strictly dealing with new construction. Sometimes you can get "alot of house or condo" for a low square foot price, depending upon it's location, condition and type of housing. A unit in a TIC may be between $400-$600 per square foot. A Fixer may be $400 to $500 per square foot. Condos may be $500 per SF and above. Where new construction could be anywhere from $500 per SF to $800 per SF.

Find a good agent who can ask the right questions, help you identify what YOUR needs are and then find the best value in the price range you are willing to purchase in. If one of the reasons you are asking is you plan to buy low and sell high, or you are looking to gain equity quicly, then make sure your agent knows that too.

San Francisco is one the great cities, where your home improvements will likely result in a return on that improvement investment, which can be a way for you to increase your price per SF or the equity and resale value of your property.

A comparative market anlaysis can give you a median price per square foot - but it may not be an accurate depiction of that figure given all of the above explanations. You can sign up for a property search engine like the Vanguard Insider on my website, and track the market yourself - which can also help you determine values in a given area.
Web Reference: http://ErikaBurkeSF.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Jan 4, 2010
500-700 / foot

Gregory Garver - Commercial Real Estate Broker
Broker License# 01716531
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Dec 3, 2009
Hi Joseph,

The price per square foot will vary depending mostly on the unit and its amenities. For example, higher floors generally cost more. New construction varies significantly from listed prices to actual selling price. (lower) SOMA is generally less expensive than South Beach. I don't think price per square foot is helpful in determining whether something is over or under priced unless its a huge variant from the norm, which in SOMA seems to be in the $600-$800 dollar range.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Nov 15, 2009
<i>interest rates on ARMS have gone down</i>
Amen to that. Can you imagine the trouble we'd be in if we had to worry about resets as well as recasts. And I was relieved to see this in an old NYTimes article: <i>HSBC resisted some of the worst innovations, sticking mostly to fixed-rate mortgages rather than negative amortization loans with exploding interest rates.</i> So I'm guessing you seller is okay (unless he went crazy on the 'cash out' portion of his refi). The price discovery (and I'm willing to bet it will be more than $400/sq.ft.) provided by this sale may be just the shot in the arm (no pun intended) that this market needs. RE agents don't make commissions if no one is buying and selling; this comp will, hopefully, help some seller's agents beat their clients into submission (err, help agents adjust sellers expectations). Yikes, I'm feeling for that poor fellow in 638 Minna that bought Unit 5 at more than $700/sq.ft. at the peak (in 2007).
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Nov 12, 2009

RE: 638Minna#8

Thank you for pointing out the HOA lawsuit has been settled and interest rates on ARMS have gone down. Interested in making an offer? }:-)

Michael Ackerman
Building Trust for Life
Zephyr Real Estate
4040 24th Street
San Francisco, CA 94114
415.307.5850 cell
415.695.2715 direct/pager
415.277.3742 fax
sfmike@comcast.net http://www.Zephyr-RealEstate.com

Noe Valley Office Top Producer 2008
Top Producer 2000 - 2008
Working hard to be a Top Producer in 2009
Web Reference: http://www.638Minna.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Nov 11, 2009
RE: 638 Minna Street #8
Michael, Still trying to figure out your seller (HSBC 7 year ARM?). At any rate, watch out, here comes the Coalition of the Willing. Party like its 1999 (or like a seller who bought then...)
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Nov 11, 2009
Hi Joseph,

You have received some excellent advice from my colleagues and you are certainly asking a good question.

I'm not sure if you are a first time home buyer or not and I know this sounds simplistic but I would suggest that you have fun with the process and not worry to much about the ppsf until you find something you like. You can then compare that unit to other similar units to see how the puzzle piece fits.

You are far better off spending your time discovering what building types, locations, appointments and amenities are most important to you. From there you can drill it down to specific buildings etc.

You may find my newsletter helpful. I send it out every Friday - it contains all of the sold prices plus new listings and price reductions for SoMa for the week. I post it on my blog every Monday - it's there now.

Good luck and please contact me when you are ready to speak with an agent. I can be a valuable resource for SoMa home buyers.
Web Reference: http://somahomesearch.com/
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Nov 9, 2009
Joseph - I agree with my two colleagues and would add that you are probably looking only at For Sale prices. On one extreme you have many Sellers who are still dramatically over pricing their homes, and on the other extreme many Short Sales are purposely under cutting the market to generate multiple offers within days because they know the Bank won't start the decision making process of whether to allow a short sale unless there's at least one offer.

Your best bet is to take Michael's advice and trust your gut - if you visit enough homes, after a while you'll be an expert, and you'll know when you see a good value and a good fit. Then I would strongly suggest you let your agent get "analysis paralysis" during a thorough search and evaluation of all recently SOLD comparable condos. Those that have Sold are far better guides for what a fair price per SqFt is than those that haven't sold yet. When I run a "CMA" (comparative market analysis) report of past sales for my buyer clients I enter it into Excel so you can crunch the numbers easily yourself too.

If you're interviewing agents, I recommend asking to review some of their past CMA's so you get a feel for what type of report you'll get, and whether or not it will help with your price per SqFt question.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Nov 9, 2009

Oh did I mention? 638 Minna Street #8 is priced at $400 per square foot. 1,622 sq tt (per tax records).

Top Floor - Tri-Level Loft with moderate dues and NO new HOA assessments - centrally located a "stones's throw" from the architecturally reknown Federal Building, the feature rich SOMA Grand and walking distance to most everything San Francisco has to offer!

That's a full $100 per square foot CHEAPER than the what my colleague is quoting for the area... Multiply that by 1,622 sq. ft. and tell me what YOU'D save! };-)
Web Reference: http://www.638Minna.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Nov 8, 2009


You have already noted prices are all over the map - especially if you are trying to equate apples to oranges and oranges to apples. New construction vs. resale, bank owned vs. short sale, motivated seller vs. a seller who is testing the market. A concierge property w/ amenities vs. properties w/ lesser amenities. Unique one of a kind homes to cookie cutter spec properties. There is no universal price per square foot in San Francisco unless you are comparing the same floor plan with the same amenities and you'll only find that in the 'burbs of a 'new development' or the 'stacks' of a high-rise condo development.

Simply put, the 'holy grail' of price per square foot is a fantasy. Go find your island!

Many buyers in an attempt to be 'scientific' or analytical about their purchase look to the first 'logical' metric, PRICE PER SQUARE FOOT. Analytical buyers begin by creating some sort of spreadsheet comparing the properties they are interested in and suddenly they find themselves in "ANALYSIS PARALYSIS." From your question this may be where you're at now.

Oftentimes buyers continue down the path of paralysis, trying to hone and refine their analysis... continuously grasping at the square footage metric as if it is some absolute number like the PI (3.14 etc.) What it doesn't account for is that many people place different values on different attributes, e.g. light, floor plan, position in building, flow, Feng Shui, intuition, superstition* etc. Therefore PRICE PER SQUARE FOOT IS ONLY A GUIDELINE.

In short you're trying to make sense of this wicked brew; market, emotions and real property, I tell my clients - go with your gut! If it feels good, makes sense financially and has all the 'check boxes' you are looking for - then GO FOR IT. - A good real estate agent may help you negotiate the trauma of purchasing your first, second or portfolio of properties. A great real estate agent will show you the difference between bargain basement and luxury at any cost allowing you to navigate towards your comfort zone.

In all cases - when it comes to trying to make sense of home prices, please stop trying to look for the Holy Grail - many before and many after you will bang their heads against the wall in search of it and will never find it. Take solace in the fact, once you have found a home you are happy with at a price you can afford, YOU have ACHIEVED your own NIRVANA - a home of your own.

Now I must pitch my http://www.638Minna.com - Better price per square foot than many condos with amenities of a concierge, restaurant, meeting and media rooms. Southern light and views towards Potrero Hill. Three skylights, beautiful maple floors (refinished), gas fireplaces and a kitchen that boasts a gas range, granite counter tops and stainless appliances.

All my best and if you're not working with an agent already, please give my team and Zephyr Real Estate consideration in representing you.

Mike Ackerman, CRS, e-Pro
Zephyr Real Estate
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Nov 8, 2009
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