Best investment/ neighborhood/ building at a reasonable price (under 500K) in a central neighborhood for young professional?

Asked by Calbgirl, SoMa, San Francisco, CA Tue Dec 1, 2009

I'm a 28yo female professional relocating from NYC looking for a 1 bd condo in a safe and accessible neighborhood to invest in and live in for 3-5 years-- saw several properties this weekend and i'm feeling uninformed- debating between Opera Plaza and the Palms but i think i could get something better? My range is around 400K to 500K and would rather not pay exorbitant HOA... please lend me your insight! thanks

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Paul Hwang, Agent, San francisco, CA
Tue Jan 5, 2010

The buyer is the boss right now! I can instantly think of at least 5 better choices in SoMa / South Beach. In fact you will be just fine between $350k-$450K, although not all these listing are on MLS.

I looked for 2 years before I bought my first place, so there is no need to rush. I considered Opera Plaza when I was first looking also. In the end I just loved walking around SoMa, and have been there ever since.

I have represented a lot of buyers / sellers (40+ Infintiy, 20+ One Rincon Hill, Metropolitan, Watermark, etc.) in SoMa / South Beach and hope I will have the opporutnity to show you what SoMa has to offer. I'm not representing the selller on this one, and am definitely on the Buyer's team, your team. If you give me 2 hours of your time I will give you back a personal tour of SoMa

Paul Hwang
Your SoMa / South Beach Super Broker
Skybox Realty
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Misha Weidman, Agent, San Francisco, CA
Wed Dec 9, 2009
Calbgirl: there are a lot of good answers here from other brokers. The few observations that I'd add or highlight are these.

I do NOT recommend that you view your purchase as an investment opportunity. By that I mean that I generally counsel my clients not to consider buying anything unless they are fairly comfortable that they are not going to need to move within a 5 - 7 year period. It's true that some savvy investors are beginning to view the current market as a buying opportunity, but these are people who can afford to lose money if they're wrong. By the time you get done with transaction costs, and with no one predicting a rapid turnaround in prices, it's anybody's guess as to whether you'd be getting a good return on your investment in 3 to 5 years.

Secondly, there still isn't much you can find that's worth buying for $400k. I've been working with a client for over a year who's wanted to get something safe and for around $400k. She's finally upped her price range to $500k because she's seeing the difference.

I'd be very careful with TIC's. I have a series of posts about them on my blog. The first post is here:…

Finally, in terms of areas for someone with your profile, Southbeach/Embarcadero could be a safe and fun urban environment and there are plenty of high rise condos available, though you may find the HOA dues on the high side. Other areas you might like are Noe Valley, Cole Valley, and Potrero Hill.

I'd be happy to meet with you to discuss if you'd like. I'm an independent broker -- not affiliated with a major company -- and I work with a small group of clients at one time. You can check out my website for a lot of info on condo values and my view of the market, below.
Web Reference:  http://www.realdata.sf
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Michael Young, Agent, San Francisco, CA
Wed Dec 2, 2009
We just closed escrow on a big 1 bedroom in a brand new 50-unit building. I believe there is only one unit left. Unlike other developments, the entire building sold within about 3 months. This particular unit is 850 square feet with all the nice upgrades that were included....granite, hardwood, cherry, stainless, berber, etc. They have their own sales office, so I would not be representing you, but I would be happy to introduce you to them, including the actual owners/developers. They are still on site working on final items and are very helpful and nice. You can tell they take pride in their work.

Michael Young
415.286.0831 mobile
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Michael Robe…, Agent, Rancho Santa Fe, CA
Wed Dec 2, 2009

there are some great buys in the SOMA area as well as the Central Waterfront and in todays enviroment you are able to negotiate not only the price but also one or even two years of HOA dues.

It would be a great idea to rent prior to buying so that you get a feel for the area but the downside to doing this is that almost all the experts are predicting that interest rates will be going up next year and i feel they are correct. If that does happen then it will take a lot of people out of the market and it won't necessarily mean that prices will come down as well.

SOMA and the Central Waterfront has a lot of inventory currently on the market and there are plans for new buildings to be built in that area so that will more than likely keep the prices down on the existing inventory.

If i can help in anyway please feel free to call me or email and i would be happy to give you some recommendations and guidence.

Good luck on the move and welcome to San Francisco.

Michael W Robertson
McGuire Real Estate
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Lance King, Agent, San Francisco, CA
Tue Dec 1, 2009
BTW - we have a 1 BR Condo coming on the market later this week in a GREAT location - Clay Street between Jones & Taylor in Nob Hill - with parking for $499K. First open will be a week from Sunday but we can get you in earlier if you want.
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Jed Lane, Agent, Petaluma, CA
Tue Dec 1, 2009
Having just worked with a couple moving here from Brooklyn I can relate to your search. This is a good time to buy in the City but you won't find lots of inventory if $400,000 is the top end.
I just finished my monthly analysis of the market and there were three districts in November that had median condo/TIC prices in the $400,000 range. They are D 3 at $490,000, D 5 at $459,000 and D 10 at $483,000. (The local Realtors use a district / sub district map to designate neighborhoods I've placed the link below). If you are working with an agent ask for a paper copy of the map and place it up on your wall at home next to the computer so you can get an idea of where each neighborhood is. I always send one to my out of town clients at the beginning. San Francisco is a very walkable City so learning where a place is in proximity to other places is helpful.
Once you have a map, have your agent set you up with a "Client Portal" from out MLS. It’s a service that we can give you that will list all properties in your criteria and then allow you to review and save or reject each one. It’s invaluable in learning about the market and what properties sell for. We have listing prices above, below and at market value so things sell for more, less or even sometimes at the listing price.
Next have a discussion with your agent about TIC properties. It’s a unique ownership opportunity in SF. It might be for you and then again it might not.
It takes a bit of time to climb the learning curve since the City’s market is different than many others. But working with a good agent who knows the City and its legal ins and outs, you will be fine.
Oh, in my experience as a native and lifelong resident most people stay once they come here, so you might be here longer than 5 years.
Best of luck and let me know if you need anything.
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Anna M Brocco, Agent, Williston Park, NY
Tue Dec 1, 2009
Why not consider a short term rental before purchasing--that will give you time to explore all that is of importance to you--check out more than one area then decide on what best suits your lifestyle; interview a couple of Realtors and choose the one you're most comfortable with, after all you will be spending some time together.

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Lance King, Agent, San Francisco, CA
Tue Dec 1, 2009

I agree with some of the others that you need good representation and there are definitely 1BR's available in your price range. Additionally there are places over $500K that could be negotiated down into your price range. However, "safe" is a relative term. If we were representing you we'd want to sit down and talk to you about specifics that you need in a unit and neighborhood to get a better sense of that, and then pick out a number of places in different neighborhoods to help you get a feel for things.

Since you are not from here you may want to rent in a neighborhood that feels good to you where there are properties available, then decide if it really is the right area after living there for a little while. You may find as you get to know the city better your ideas about where you want to be will change - we have had many clients who already lived here that started out looking in one area and ended up in a completely different part of town.

I will also add I am not in favor of buying into an amenity building like the Palms with high HOA's as an investment strategy as resale can be very difficult when you're competing against other units in your own building. And given your price range you could put the extra money from lower HOA fees toward a mortgqage for a better place.

If you don't have an agent yet we are always available for a no strings consultation to see if our services meet your needs.

Best of Luck,

Lance King/Managing Broker
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Patrick Lowe…, Agent, San Francisco, CA
Tue Dec 1, 2009
As a former-NY'er I can relate. I have been in SF for years but still love both cities.
As my colleagues have mentioned here, it is critical that you have an agent working for you. Like NYC, San Francisco is a very unique real estate environment and one that should not be entered without proper representation.
If you are not currently working with a Realtor, please let me know if I may be of assistance.
My best-
Patrick Lowell, Realtor
Certified Residential Specialist
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Eileen Bermi…, Agent, San Francisco, CA
Tue Dec 1, 2009
Hi--Good questions. I also relocated from NY (but about 12 years ago), and I think the transition is easier if you select a neighborhood that offers the amenities you're used to having in NY. These would include a walkable location with proximity to public transportation and restaurants, bars, etc.

Your timeframe for living in your unit is reasonable, even more so if you are planning to potentially renting out the property once you leave. You are looking in a very popular price range; over the past three weeks, I have been contacted on a regular basis by Trulia visitors seeking the same type of home.

There are 75 1BR+ units on the market right now for up to $500,000. Some of these are senior housing, so that narrows down the field a bit. :) The Palms is a good South of Market location, but it has been hit hard by short sales & foreclosures, and I am a little hesitant to recommend it as a good investment. Opera Plaza is not bad, but the crowd is not quite young & hip, and the HOA dues are high. (My office is in one of the commercial spaces in Opera Plaza.)

Without knowing where you will be commuting, etc., I recommend focusing on the South of Market area. You'll get the most space for your money, but just watch the HOA dues amounts. Those are usually included in listing information. Also, something like 38 Landers might work for you--this is a 1BR cottage condo in Mission Dolores listed at $469,000. Parking is leased, but HOA dues are $235.

Feel free to message me if you'd like further info, and check out my blog, which has good info for first-time home buyers.
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Don Stamps, , San Francisco, CA
Tue Dec 1, 2009
Hi there,

I trust that you will enjoy San Francisco. I'm a native, and always enjoy welcoming new people to our great city. Unfortunately, under $500K for a one bedroom is going to be difficult. Even condos that are in short sale or foreclosure status, the closing prices are more around the $600K mark, give or take $15K. Four years ago these same condos sold for around $650K or better.

I'd be happy to discuss this with you directly.

Please feel free to contact me.



Don Stamps, MBA, e-PRO
DRE License #01867637

Zephyr Real Estate
4040 24th Street
San Francisco, CA 94114
415.378.1378 - c
415.695.7707 - o
415.277.3974 - f
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Greg Corvi, Agent, San Ramon, CA
Tue Dec 1, 2009
Hi Calbgirl,

First, are you working with a Realtor who is helping you find the properties and educating you on the neighborhoods, buildings etc.? If you are, then it would not be prudent for another Realtor to correspond with you. If you are not working with a Realtor, than you really should be so that you don't feel "uninformed" and you have as much information to make an informed decision. I have several ideas and thoughts if you wish to contact me, as long as you are not currently working with an agent. Best of luck to you either way.
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