Noe Valley Voice May 2009

The Cost of Living in Noe

By Corrie M. Anders

Noe Valley's housing market scored a few runs in March as buyers purchased nine residential properties, including a two-story, modern-style home that once was the fashionable address of a former baseball player for the San Francisco Giants.

Sales were down from the 11 homes buyers acquired in the neighborhood one year earlier, according to data supplied to the Voice by Zephyr Real Estate. But the March transactions represented a noticeable improvement over February, when buyers bought just six homes.

The one-time home of outfielder Moises Alou was among the most expensive properties to change hands during the month. The buyers didn't diddle over the $1,850,000 asking price and closed escrow in less than one month on the three-bedroom, 2.5-bath home on Noe Street.

The home's celebrity association did not sway the unidentified buyers into making an offer, said their real estate agent Janet Larson of Pacific Union GMAC Real Estate. "They liked the house and it fit their needs," said Larson.

The 2,300-square-foot home was remodeled in 2005 with a gourmet kitchen, wine cellar, and two-car garage. Located in the 1400 block of Noe Street between 27th and 28th streets, the home provides panoramic views from both a deck and a living room with a floor-to-ceiling glass wall.

Alou purchased the home in 2005 after signing a reported $13.5 million contract with the Giants. The popular fielder hit 22 home runs for San Francisco during the 2006 season. In 2007, he sold his Noe Valley home for $1,865,000--$10,000 less than he paid--and moved to the East Coast to join the New York Mets baseball team.

Falling Averages

The fast pace and firm selling price in March of the Noe Street home was an anomaly. The typical Noe Valley buyer that month paid 6 percent below the seller's asking price and took 77 days to close escrow on a home costing $1.2 million.

Contrast that with a year ago, when buyers paid an average $1.9 million and sealed their deals in less than a month and a half.

In April, Randall Kostick, Zephyr's general sales manager, said the housing market has "certainly picked up from the preceding two months"--the winter season when sales traditionally are slow.

Still, Kostick acknowledged that sellers are playing a waiting game, and "buyers are pickier and fussier and in a much better position to negotiate and get what they want" than they were in the spring of 2008.

Lenders Like 30% Down

Kostick also said transactions are taking longer to complete because mortgage lenders are tightening their loan criteria--sometimes from week to week.

"Lenders are still lending, but they're much stricter about guidelines and what they need before they'll process their loans," he said. "They ask for lots of documentation now."

To get a lender's best mortgage rates, buyers also must make larger down payments--in the 30 percent range instead of the more traditional 20 percent--and possess excellent credit with no dings.

"If you want their optimal rate," it's best to have a high credit score in the 800-point range. "A 790 credit score is a pretty darn good score, but it may not get you the best [mortgage] rate anymore," Kostick said.

Condo Prices in a Slump

In addition to the Noe Street home, a second property also sold in March for $1,850,000. Buyers paid 85 percent of the original asking price for the four-bedroom, 3.5-bath home in the 700 block of Douglass Street between 23rd and 24th streets. The deal took 48 days to complete.

Five condominiums were sold in March, compared with six in February and four in March a year ago. The average sales price was $634,000, a drop of 33 percent from the $950,000 average in the same month last year.

Buyers paid $859,000 for the costliest condo, a two-bedroom, two-bath unit in the 500 block of 28th Street between Castro and Diamond streets. It was only the second time since January 2007 that a condo sales price failed to reach the million-dollar mark.

Noe Valley Home Sales*
Total Sales Low Price ($) High Price ($) Average Price ($) Average Days
on Market
Sale Price as
% of List Price
Single-family homes
March 2009 9 $575,000 $1,850,000 $1,204,889 77 94%
February 2009 6 $770,000 $2,579,000 $1,494,833 50 99%
March 2008 11 $930,000 $3,038,000 $1,875,082 42 102%
March 2009 5 $435,000 $859,000 $634,600 43 99%
February 2009 6 $599,000 $1,575,000 $835,250 104 95%
March 2008 4 $595,000 $1,300,000 $950,000 27 103%
2 to 4 unit buildings
March 2009 1 $730,000 $730,000 $730,000 27 94%
February 2009 1 $1,500,000 $1,500,000 $1,500,000 1 100%
March 2008 0 - - - - -
5+ unit buildings
March 2009 0 - - - - -
February 2009 0 - - - - -
March 2008 1 $1,550,000 $1,550,000 $1,550,000 75 94%

*Sales figures include all Noe Valley home sales completed during the month. In this survey, Noe Valley is defined as the area bordered by Grand View, 22nd, Guerrero, and 30th streets. The Voice thanks Zephyr Real Estate ( for supplying the data.

Noe Valley Rents**
Type of Unit Number in Sample Range of Rents, April 2009 Average Rent, April 2009 Average Rent, March 2009 Average Rent, April 2008
Studio 8 $1150-$2300 $1494 $1347 $1375
1 bedroom 34 $1350-$3625 $1916 $1895 $2008
2 bedrooms 43 $1650-$5015 $2754 $2789 $3133
3 bedrooms 14 $2295-$7800 $4330 $3917 $4075
4+ bedrooms 3 $5200-$8700 $6800 $5628 $5449

**These rent averages are based on a sample of 102 Noe Valley rental listings appearing on from March 28 to April 9, 2009.