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Christmas Tree Regulations in San Francisco

What to do with that Christmas tree when you are done with it

Natural Christmas trees are regulated in San Francisco in many types of buildings-most notably in residential condo and apartment buildings of over 2 units.  Note that natural trees are only allowed in buildings with approved fire sprinkler systems.  Many multi-unit buildings do not have automatic sprinkler systems.  This excerpt from the San Francisco Apartment Association on-line newsletter. Ginger Bread at night

Make sure to give your tenants notice and be careful!  Make sure to contact the Bureau of Fire Prevention for complete guidelines or the SF Fire Department at 415.558.3300

Safe use of Christmas trees in regulated occupancies from the SF Fire Dept.
The San Francisco Fire Department reminds property owners and managers that there are clear regulations that must be observed regarding the use of Christmas trees in public spaces, including high-rise buildings and the public areas of apartment and condo buildings:
  • Natural cut trees are permitted in the following occupancies only when they are protected by an approved automatic sprinkler system: public assemblies, schools, retail stores, high-rise buildings, and common areas of hotels, motels, apartment and condo buildings with more than two units.
Any questions regarding Christmas tree regulations may be directed to the Bureau of Fire Prevention of the San Francisco Fire Department at 415.558.3300.

Keep your neighborhood vibrant

I have found that most people, in selecting the location of their homes, pick neighborhoods that they feel they can enjoy and be a part of.  In San Francisco, the majority want to be near conveniences such as shopping, grocery stores and restaurants.  As in the axiom, ‘location, location, location,’ the desirability of an area is directly proportional to the variety and success of the businesses in the community.  With that in mind, I contend that in becoming part of a neighborhood, it is our responsibility to visit and shop in our local businesses.

It’s a pretty easy concept; keep your neighborhood vibrant by shopping there.  A consumer society, our economy depends on all of us spending money; it’s the velocity of money that keeps us all employed, pay house and car payments, groceries, gas, doctor’s visits, etc… What you buy supports the workers in the area where you buy it.  If you need a light bulb and buy it at Home Depot, you won’t help the neighborhood hardware store.  Going out for dinner in the Marina, won’t help your neighbors in West Portal.  Ordering a cable you need for your printer on Amazon doesn’t pay the college kids working at the Radio Shack in your neighborhood.

In walking down West Portal Avenue the other day, I noticed quite a few empty storefronts.  It is disappointing to see a vibrant street with missing teeth.  All of us have shown up at a business that we liked or wanted to try, only to find it had gone out of business.

The current economy has certainly hurt.  Everyone is tightening their belts, but at some point, there isn’t anymore tightening that can be done; some fixed expenses don’t change.  The ease of the internet has been a big contributor to businesses closing as well.  Looking for the cheapest, fastest and easiest way to get something you want or need is compelling.  I am as guilty of that as anyone else.  Yet, by getting the cheapest price outside our community, we are hurting ourselves.

So, here is my challenge.  If you are new to the neighborhood, please visit and shop in your local businesses; they depend on you.  If you have been here awhile, reintroduce yourself; there are new opportunities everyday. Please don’t rely on others to buy in the neighborhood while you shop elsewhere-it is all OUR responsibilities.  If you don’t see something you need, ask the store owner, perhaps they can order it for you.  If you can buy an item somewhere else cheaper, ask them about it; maybe you can get a discount and they can get a sale.

If we want your neighborhood businesses to stay open, we have no choice to but to buy their goods and services-and to spread the word.  It isn’t realistic that you would buy everything in your neighborhood, but you might be able to get more than you think.  Know the saying ‘Charity begins at home’?  Your success depends on you.

2015 West Portal Property Values

The West Portal/Inner Parkside 2015 Year-End Real Estate Market Update

Values stayed strong on most properties throughout the year



WP street scene-2 2015 started out strong and I expect we will see that again in 2016 as a result of a continued lack of inventory and a flood of buyers coming back into the marketplace after the holidays. Although we had multiple and over asking offers throughout the year, the most aggressive and largest number of bidders occurred mainly before summer; looking back at 2015, I think our high point was July. Buyers tired out faster this year than they did in 2014. So 2015 only had one market bump; not the usual two.

After Labor Day, buyers were more fickle, largely because in other parts of the city, inventory jumped dramatically (mostly condominiums) and all of a sudden, buyers had options; sellers trying to get top dollar couldn’t get quite what they had planned. Properties that were already remodeled sold first, and list prices had to come down to get people in the door. Interestingly, at the end of the year, with most properties that didn’t sell going off the market til after the first, those that did come on, sold quickly at high prices. It’s all about supply and demand.

  • Single family homes in a constrained market kept West Portal/Inner Parkside humming.
  • The total number of sales for 2015 was 42, a big decrease from 60 in 2014 and 64 in 2013. In the old days (three years ago), the normal had been around 50 annual sales, so 2013 and 2014 were already higher than normal.
  • At the close of the fourth quarter of 2015, we had one active, 13 sold (closed) (18 at the same time in 2014) and no failed to sell properties. Of the 13 sold, 11 received multiple offers and 12 sold over their asking price. The amount of over bids ranged from as little as $10,000 to as much as $430,000.
  • Two of the 13 sales (15%), were reported as all cash (no loan); and we had 11 reported for the year (26%).
  • There were no short sales or bank owned properties on the market this year, although a few properties were in difficulties.
  • The best ‘apple’ on the market in the last quarter previously sold in 2005 for $900,000 and recently sold for $1.5m (a 67% increase). Also, a fixer that sold a year ago for $1.1m, that was gutted and beautifully remodeled, just sold for $2.325m.
  • Of note, five of the 13 sales (38%) had been owned by the same people for more than 20 years. Longer ownership means less movement and further tightening of the market; only those who have to sell, are.
  • Forgive me a little human interest. Digging around the tax record means you can find the most interesting things. One property that went quietly to foreclosure was most likely purchased on the courthouse steps and is now being resold. Another home was owned for many years by a World War II veteran, who took advantage of the GI Bill to buy his home.
  • In my analysis to determine market value, I do not use median price. Rather, I compare specific property types, sizes, conditions and locations, from quarter to quarter and year to year.
  • From the third quarter to the fourth, prices stayed even in West Portal/Inner Parkside core and went down as much as three percent North of Ulloa.
  • Year to year, homes that were either remodeled, or needed only cosmetics, went up in value between six and 15%. The upper end of that range seemed to be for less expensive properties, as the market is more competitive in lower price ranges. For properties on busy streets, or needed heavy remodeling, prices went down between seven and 12 percent.
  • Staging companies are telling me that they are booking up at the beginning of the year.
  • I expect the usual first quarter bump up in prices in 2016. Inventory dried up over the holidays and buyers will be back after their holiday nap.

Eric Castongia, Broker Associate at Zephyr Real Estate (BRE Lic. No. 01188380) provided this information. The content of this article is an interpretation of data from the San Francisco Multiple Listing Service, the County Tax Record, the internet and Eric’s observations in the marketplace. Eric can be reached by e-mail at, or via mobile phone at (415)307-1700.

West Portal Property Values Third Quarter 2015

Property Values in West Portal continue on the upswing

WP street scene-2 Half the real estate community thinks the market is still roaring, the other half think something is brewing. Given the number of listings we saw come on across the city after Labor Day, some sellers feel something coming too. You will soon see that West Portal/Inner Parkside has not been impacted by this as of yet.

We started seeing isolated instances of no offers on properties citywide at the end of the second quarter and that has lingered throughout the third quarter as well.

On the most premium of properties, the number of potential buyers bidding on a property generally remained high, while those properties with a negative ding or two may have received multiple, but fewer offers; overall prices stayed up. The problem for the isolated cases where no offers were received, seemed mainly to be a case where there was an issue that was difficult to resolve, was priced too aggressively, or buyers had choices of multiple properties. As for us:

  • At the close of the second quarter of 2015, we had no active listings, seven pending, nine sold and two that failed to sell. Of the nine sold, seven received multiple offers and all nine sold over their asking price. In cases where an offer was over asking, but there was one offer, may indicate a ‘pre-emptive’ offer, which means an early offer before an anticipated offer date.
  • The amount of overbids ranged, from as little as $110,000 to as much as $505,000.
  • Comparing the same quarter of multiple years indicated that we are below the expected target for the average number of sales. I went back as far as 2005 and in the third quarter, we have typically had 13 or 14 sales. Our high in 2014 was 17 and right after the financial melt down in 2007 and 2008, we had 10 and 11 sales respectively in the third quarter. Interesting that we have fewer sales than in the depths of the financial melt down. That, I suspect, is largely why we have not seen pauses in the market yet.
  • Of the nine sales, five were reported as all cash (no loan on the property).
  • Looking at average appreciation from the second to the thirds quarters, I estimate an increase between four and eight percent; looking at year to year appreciation, it is closer to 20 percent.
  • Once again, West Portal and Inner Parkside are in their own bubble within a bubble.
  • A word of caution before listing your property, look at comparable sales and trends to establish a price in line with the marketplace and take citywide competition into consideration. Once we start seeing price reductions and withdrawn properties being more common place, that is the start of a market change.

Eric Castongia, Broker Associate at Zephyr Real Estate (BRE Lic. No. 01188380) provided the information in this article. The content of this article is an interpretation of data from the San Francisco Multiple Listing Service and Eric’s observations in the marketplace; he is available to discuss your situation or any questions you may have. He can be reached by e-mail at, or via mobile phone at (415)307-1700.

OceanView Village Property Values

Third Quarter 2015 Real Estate Update for OceanView Terrace; one of the last deals in San Francisco

427491-24_0 Luckily for residents of OceanView Village, there simply aren’t many places out there that offer the price range and accessibility that it enjoys. Contrast that with instances of no offers on properties citywide at the end of the second quarter, that has lingered throughout the third quarter-further complicated by an infusion of properties on the market after Labor Day. For those properties that received no offers, it seemed to be one of several things: an issue that was difficult to resolve; it was priced too aggressively; or buyers had choices of multiple properties.  At OceanView Village:

  • At the close of the third quarter of 2015, we had one active, four pending and nine sold. Of the nine, all sold over their asking price. Compare that to the second quarter, which had five sales; four of them over asking.
  • Overbids ranged from $3,000 to $60,000. The amount of overbids has come down since the second quarter; I think in large part because of higher list prices.
  • Across the board, values remained constant between the second and third quarter.
  • Appreciation from the same time last year seems to be between 16 and 20 percent.
  • If you should decide to sell, be sure to establish your list price by looking strategically at comparable sales and trends in the marketplace and taking geographical competition into consideration-in this case Daly City and South San Francisco. Once we start seeing price reductions and withdrawn properties commonly in the marketplace, historically, that has been the start of a market change.

Eric Castongia, Broker Associate at Zephyr Real Estate (BRE Lic. No. 01188380) provided the information in this article. The content of this article is an interpretation of data from the San Francisco Multiple Listing Service and Eric’s observations in the marketplace; he is available to discuss your situation or any questions you may have. He can be reached by e-mail at, or via mobile phone at (415)307-1700.

What to do in a power outage

 You may remember the days of rolling black outs; geographic areas where the power is cut temporarily to give relief to the electric grid when there isn’t enough power.

There’s a cool website where you can be notified in advance of a burdening on the system so you can take action, turning down the power usage to help avoid the rolling black outs.

Go to to sign up for feeds AND get information on energy saving programs, appliances and rebates.

Get your home ready to sell with this property prep checklist


Download & Print

Property Exterior

  • Property painted, repaired
  • Front door & door area freshly painted, polish the door knob and house numbers.
  • Put a seasonal wreath on the front door.
  • Porches, stairs, and walkways swept at all times
  • Nice door matt at front and back doors
  • Trim freshly painted
  • Doors work easily and silently
  • Doorbells operate
  • Windows in good repair; clean
  • Consider a new mail box or slot


  • Fence in good repair
  • Walkways and driveways in good repair; swept
  • Clear leaves, newspapers, litter
  • Hedges trimmed-at windows, trim so windows are exposed
  • Trim low hanging tree branches
  • Eliminate dead branches, stalks and blooms
  • Add colorful flowers around the home
  • Weed flower pots and beds
  • Lawn cut & green
  • Plantings have been watered and look healthy
  • Put away toys, bikes, lawn tools, etc…
  • Upgrade or add exterior lighting for the property to sparkle at night showings
  • Clean gutters
  • Fences, gates and hardware in good repair

Living Room

  • Walls and ceiling freshly painted; clean; free of smudges, fingerprints and dents.
  • Window coverings clean and in good condition
  • Furniture aesthetically arranged
  • Fireplace clean; consider a fire in the fireplace for open houses
  • Appropriate temperature

Eating Areas

  • Set the table with pretty dishes, placemats, flatware and candles 


  • Range and oven clean and in working order
  • Clean kitchen hood
  • Fix slow drains
  • Kitchen cabinet faces clean and in good condition.  If they appear worn, painting them is a cost effective to make them look fresh and new.  New chrome hardware makes them sparkle.
  • Walls and ceiling freshly painted and/or clean
  • Sink and counters clear of dishes and kitchen appliances
  • Cupboards neat
  • Floors clean and in good condition-repair or replace if necessary-I can help you pick finishes if necessary.
  • Clean seals at oven, refrigerator and dishwasher doors


  • Walls and ceilings freshly painted; clean
  • Beds made-curtains and bedspreads neat and attractive
  • Clothing put away and hung neatly
  • Closets neatly arranged-remove extra items, make closets look like there is room for additional items
  • Toys, belongings put away
  • Window coverings clean and in good condition


  • Walls and ceilings freshly painted; clean
  • Floors/tile clean and in good condition
  • Replace or repair grout and caulk as necessary
  • Curtains/window treatments clean and in good condition
  • Shower or tub tile clean
  • Shower glass clean or new shower curtain
  • Faucets in good condition; no leaks
  • Fix slow drains
  • Toilet lids down
  • Vanities, sinks, and shelves cleared of personal items
  • Your best guest towels out
  • New soap in the soap dish


  • Stairways clear, painted and with handrail
  • Windows in good repair; clean
  • Floor clean, clear of obstacles
  • Area neatly arranged


  • Door(s) open easily and quietly
  • Paint fresh and/or in good condition
  • Workbench and tools neatly arranged
  • Floor clear of debris and free of grease

In addition:

  • Have presale inspections such as structural pest inspections, roof
  • inspections, and sewer inspections.  Get estimates of repair costs to present to the prospective buyer as part of your disclosures.  This will be a good way to pre-negotiate with buyers, making sure they are serious at the start of your contract.  I can help you coordinate this.
  • Pull together all warranties, appliance, and operating manuals to remain with the property to pass along to the new purchaser.
  • Tighten loose door knobs and hardware
  • Clean mirrors, picture frames and glass.
  • Electrical items, such as lamps, are plugged in and usable
  • Fix warped drawers
  • Tighten loose banisters
  • Turn on lights; make sure burned out light bulbs are replaced
  • Lamp shades in good condition
  • Make sure light switches and outlets work; replace damaged or discolored covers
  • Lubricate squeaky or sticky doors
  • Consider hiring a cleaning service; this will relieve pressure and have a more professional look.  Keep everything extra clean; for example, clean fingerprints from switch plates, mop and wax floors, clean the stove and refrigerator.  A clean property looks like a well-care for property.
  • Wash all windows, clean window sills, wash blinds
  • Have carpets cleaned
  • Consider replacing out of date light fixtures
  • Get rid of all items you will not be moving-reduce clutter, have a garage sale, donate to charity or hire a hauler to take unusable items to the dump.  Store seasonal closing, pre-move-consider a storage facility.
  • Remove some furniture to make spaces look bigger
  • Remove damaged or badly worn furniture
  • Consider taking on minor repairs that can make a bad impression.  Sticky doors, torn screens, cracked, or moldy caulking, or dripping faucets.  These are easy items that when not done, make the property look uncared for.


Preparing for showings

  • Heat or cool the property appropriately
  • Remove or isolate pets-they may be a problem for visitors
  • Air out the home; if there are any offending odors, like litter boxes, or pet stains, eliminate them
  • Hide valuables such as cash, jewelry, or other small valuable objects; it is not possible to watch everyone in the property.  If there are tenants, please notify them of this as well.
  • In general, consider how you would perceive your home if you were a prospective buyer
  • Open shades and blinds.  Consider changing to shear window coverings that allow more light into the property.
  • It is best to show your property if you are not present.  Buyers will feel more at ease to check out your property completely if you are not there.
  • At night, please light property appropriately for viewing and safety
  • Additional touches such as a fire in your fireplace or quiet music are always nice
  • Neatly arrange, or stack magazines and newspapers
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