Is investing in a unit in Grand Soma Condos a good investment?

Asked by Isabel, San Francisco, CA Sun Nov 9, 2008

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The Binnings…, , San Francisco, CA
Mon Nov 10, 2008
Hi Isabel,

I think Soma Grand is a good LONG term investment, which to me is 10+ years of ownership. If you are only looking to own a place for 5-7 years, then I would look at other options. If you are looking to own for 1-3 years, then I might not buy anything at all.

I've written about these topics recently. You can check out detailed advice at:

Location, Location, Location? Not Anymore.…

Is now a good time to buy? Maybe, Maybe Not.…

Hope this helps!
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Sally Rosenm…, Agent, San Francisco, CA
Tue Nov 11, 2008
Dear Isabel,

Lots of good and interesting answers. I think the answer is yes if you are planning to live there for 5-7 years minimum or plan to rent the unit if you live there a shorter period of time. The area is being gentrified slowly but surely and it is always good to get in at the "bottom."

Be sure to ask for many different credits in the way of price, upgrades, storage and HOA dues. Remember HOA dues are not tax-deductible so other types of credits are better for you. If you feel you would be better off, take a realtor to negotiate for you.

Good luck,
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Lance King, Agent, San Francisco, CA
Mon Nov 10, 2008

I'm not a fan of "investing" in large complexes, especially ones with high HOA fees. The HOA fees aren't tax deductible, and whenever you try to sell there are likely going to be at least a few similar units for sale because of the large number of units in the building. This makes selling your unit much more difficult.

Also, when economic times are tough, or perceived as being tough, buyers tend to shy away from buildings with high HOA fees. Our recent experience with our own listings bears this out. A loft condo in SOMA we listed sold in two weeks. A condo we listed at the Palms at the same time which was literally around the corner got almost no action at all.

As to whether it's a good time to buy or not, that depends on the specific property, your finances, and your plans for the unit or the building. From our perspective, if you can get a loan and are willing to wait for the right property, now is a very good time to buy. I can back that up with action because I just went into contract on a 4 unit building for myself.

What I think makes sense is to sit down with several knowledgeable Real Estate professionals, and see if there is a consensus on if it makes sense for YOU to buy now or not. Of course we'd be happy to give you some no-strings advice.

Best Regards,

Lance King/Managing Broker
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Chris Word, , San Francisco, CA
Mon Nov 10, 2008
Soma Grand is a good property. If you're looking at it from the standpoint of an investment, right now that could be good. Most prices for condos south of Market street are competitive. My question to you, Isabel, is whether or not you are actually an "investor" or if you're looking to live in a home in San Francisco (which is different in how you view buying)? As an investor, you probably will want to put more than 20% down on your loan so that if you rent it out you have a better chance for cash flow, and you'll probably want to sell it in about 2-3 years at some sort of profit - hopefully the most profit possible. As a homebuyer, you'll probably have just about 20% down, and you'll think about living in the home for about 5-7 years - or until you need to move (for work, or building a family, or into something bigger etc.).

The next 2-3 years don't quite seem to have too much strength in being able to predict what will happen. No one can forsee what (and if) kind of profit you'd see in that short of time with this difficult economy. Appreciation on many properties right now is in question.

The next 5-7 years are equally as tough, but past experience shows that homeowners that live in their properties for this amount of time see some sort of good appreciation.

Soma Grand is in a neighborhood that is still developing. Trinity towers is being built right next door, and most of those units will be low income and market rental homes with shops and a mall on the main floor. The area is looking to improve over the next few years, but even then I feel it will lack a "walking" neighborhood feel. If you cross market street to Hayes Valley and the Civic Center area, there are other developments that have been built in well developed "walking" neighborhoods, which some think are safer.

Good luck out there, and remember to take your agent with you when you visit the new developments.
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David Tapper, Agent, Burlingame, CA
Mon Nov 10, 2008
Almost everything you purchase now will be a stroke of genius is 5-10 years. The bigger question is will it produce income or be a debt right now?

For the first time in years you can buy income properties and actually produce cash flow or at the very least break even.

If you are going to live in the unit, that's one thing. But, If you are going to buy a investment property, buy something that produces income.

Dave Tap Tapper
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Shaban Shako…, Agent, San Francisco, CA
Sun Nov 9, 2008
I agree with Nancy's answer about getting an agent instead of using the sales office of new developments. I also agree that SOMA is improving, but I think there are other areas that will improve faster for the same investment.

Shaban Shakoori
Broker/Attorney/Developer/Property Manager
Top 2% in San Francisco
TRI Coldwell Banker
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Nancy Corsaut, Agent, San Francisco, CA
Sun Nov 9, 2008
I think the bigger question is, "does it make sense to invest in San Francisco real estate?" I can answer a definite yes to that, even during this financial crisis and doom and gloom. In my professional opinion, I see the area surrounding SOMA Grand only improving. It is a nice development and the prices seem very competitive. A word of advice, please find a reputable agent to represent you if you do decide to purchase new construction. Many buyers seem to think that they can get a better deal if they go straight to the developer/sales office and it simply isn't true. Buyer's agents, if they are worth their salt, will negotiate a great deal for you, especially, in this market. The sales people in the office work for the DEVELOPER and will most likely not push the envelope in your favor. Good luck!
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