New BART trains

The Bay Citizen gives a sneak peak of what the new (hopefully soon) BART trains will look like.

From ‘Bay Citizen’ Proposed new BART car

The exterior design is pretty nice looking, albiet MUNI like, but the interior has a bit to be desired.  I’m all for getting rid of the comfortable, but terribly dirty and unsanitary seats.  The problem seems to be in the amount (and comfort) of seating on the proposed trains.  The majority of BART passengers will be on the car for a longish period of time, so making sure there is ample seating should be a priority.

Then of course, there’s this whole budget mess, which is likely to slow down getting the new cars for a while.

Property taxes too high?

Deadline coming up March 29, 2013 for informal review of property tax value


Although we have seen property values go up in the last year, there may be some people out there with valuations on their property taxes that are higher than what the property would currently be worth on the open market.  If you find yourself in this position, it may be possible to appeal your property tax valuation.

When values are going up, it is possible for your property value to increase much faster than your property tax value.  The flip side, is that if you bought at the height of the market, it’s possible, with the annual increases, to find yourself in the position of paying more in property taxes than you need to.

The amount of your property is based on the value of which you acquire the property, plus direct assessments such as Mello Roos or bond issues, plus allowable annual increases of two percent.  California Proposition 13 set this up system in 1978 to limit how much property taxes could increase.  Property values were rapidly rising at that time and there was fear that people would not be able to afford to stay in their homes as a result of increased property taxes.

There are two processes through the assessor’s office that would allow you to go through either an informal appeal process with a staff appraiser, or go through an assessment appeal with the Assessment Appeal Board.  The processes favor those people who had purchased property after 2003, since most properties acquired prior to that time would more than likely be properly assessed.

The deadline for going through the informal appeal is coming up (March 29, 2013), so you need to get cracking.  The appeal for the March deadline would be for the 2013-2014 tax year.  In this scenario, you would fill out an application and provide comparable sales (your real estate agent can help you with this) and/or an appraisal by a licensed real estate appraiser (I can give you some referrals-but an appraiser will probably cost you about $600).  Decisions for the informal review are supposed to be reached by the end of July.

It is possible to go through a dual appeal-doing both informal and formal processes.  The dates to appeal through the formal process through the appeals board  is July 2 to September 15th, 2013.  It’s important to realize that it the successful appeal is not a permanent reduction, so you will need to go through this process every year until the property value surpasses the value of your basis plus allowable increases.

To get the informal appeal process going, contact:

Assessor-Recorder, Attn: Informal Review, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Pl., City Hall, Room 190, SF, CA 94102 .  phone number (415)554-5596; fax number (415)554-7915; email-

For the full Appeal Review Board, contact:

Assessment Appeals Board-Clerk of the Board, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Pl., City Hall, Room 405, SF, CA 94102.  Phone number (415)554-6778, website Note there is a $60 filing fee.

The form the informal review I found on line was outdated.  I was able to get an updated form; here 2013-2014 Informal review


Side bar:

I realize that some people may not like or appreciate proposition 13, which limits the property tax valuation on California real estate.   This article is intended to give help to those who are paying MORE in tax than the value of their home, not to undervalue the home given it’s current value.

I know that an article, even those intended to give advise or direction, can be interpreted in a different way, or hit a sore spot if one has a contrary belief.  Please feel free to contact me  if you find yourself in this position; I am open to healthy discussion about a topic that you may find objectionable.

A really nice remodel shapes up in the Castro

I’m a construction geek; I can’t help it.  Here’s some beautiful concrete work.

Most people won’t appreciate this, but I am posting it anyway.  I visited a client at he and his wife’s home the other day to check on the progress of their huge remodel.  I’ll post some progress pictures as they go.  What struck me today was the beautiful concrete work on this retaining wall.

Eric Castongia To fully appreciate it, you really need to see it.  If you look closely at the picture, you’ll see that not only is the new retaining wall tall (probably 12 or so feet), so is the one right above it!  These walls support a very steep hill and a large two unit building right above! Congratulations Bea and Will on a great project!

Activity in West Portal Second Quarter 2012

The West Portal/Inner Parkside Real Estate Market Update


As I reported in the First Quarter Market report, buyers are out in the marketplace in full force.  Low interest rates and confidence in the real estate market have brought them out.  Low inventory has pushed prices higher with demand higher than supply.  We have seen a pretty dramatic increase of property values so far in 2012.

This analysis covers both Inner Parkside and West Portal.  I see these two districts as three neighborhoods-Inner Parkside is split into two pieces in terms of property values (South of Ulloa and North of Ulloa).  The majority of neighborhood market activity typically shows itself in the area North of Ulloa.  This area is also more susceptible to market changes and has more fluctuation in property values.

At the close of the second quarter of 2012, we had five active listings; which is great-we didn’t have any at the end of the first quarter.  Sellers are coming out of the woods slowly but surely.

For the second quarter, we had 10 sold listings, which is light for this time of year. Historically, Spring and Fall are our two busiest seasons.

Of the 10 sold properties, seven received multiple offers and five of them sold over their asking price.

You can tell the market is hot when there are no expired or withdrawn listings (failed to sell); there are none this quarter-everything has sold.

Total transactions for the current quarter, which is active, pending, sold and failed to sell, totaled 21.  This number is down 30 percent measured against the same quarter every year over the last 5 years.  The last time this quarter’s inventory was worse was in 2007 after the financial crisis came to light.

Two of the second quarter’s 10 sold properties had a price reduction and then sold (compared to the first quarter’s one).  Pricing the property correctly at the start is crucial-testing the market doesn’t work to get the most value out of a property.

There are a few currently active listings which I feel are pushing the envelope of value-I predict they will have either a price reduction, or get withdrawn in the third quarter.

The amount of over bids ranged from as little as $21,000 to as much as $207,000 (that’s not a typo).  There are larger increases in the amount of overbids from the previous quarter-particularly for three bedroom homes.  Two other overbids were $100,000.

None of the 10 sold properties were a short sale or foreclosure.  In the third quarter we will have at least three, as they are pending now.

Since the beginning of the year, I estimate we have seen increases in value as much as10 percent. List prices are starting to slide up a bit, but are (and should be) still kept below neighborhood expectation to drive activity.

The same rules apply now as before; if it doesn’t sell within the first two weeks, sellers need to consider a price reduction to keep the marketing momentum going.

I do not think we should assume that all is well and we are on the way to recovery.  We are beginning to see a few more listings coming on; that combined with buyer fatigue could slow things down and generate lower overbids (and maybe fewer multiple offers).  The market changed for the better very quickly; we should assume it could go in the other direction just as quickly.

The content of this article is Eric’s interpretation of data from the San Francisco Multiple Listing Service and Eric’s observations in the marketplace.

Painted Gentlemen progress

 A few weeks ago, driving on Steiner Street, I saw that there was progress where the ‘Painted Gentlemen’ are proposed.  The Painted Gentlemen are the companions to the Painted Ladies famously pictured in San Francisco post cards across from Alamo Square.  The old buildings are gone and ready for development.

Then today when looking through Multiple Listings, I see that the three lots and the large home on the corner are all for sale.  They are entitled, meaning you can buy the lots and take over the plans and build them yourself.

FYI, the right to build, won’t come cheap.  The lots range in price from $1,250,000 to $1,500,000 and the house at 940 Grove is $3,000,000.

San Francisco Crime Statistics

There’s a new spot you can check out crime statistics; Trulia.  Trulia is a real estate website that caters to real estate consumers; giving them the chance to search listings, get real estate information and ask real estate agents questions.

As for the crime statistics, they pull that from the San Francisco Police Department, so it is updated whenever the police department does it.  Each map looks a little different.  The Trulia map is pretty well done on a citywide level-set up like a heat map that you can click on and drill down into specific areas.  The other two, CrimeMapping and CrimeReports give information based on your input of an address onto the site.  And then there is Megan’s Law where you can see if your neighbors are offenders.

Here are some sites to check out crime statistics;

AT&T U-Verse Boxes given go ahead

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors has ok’d AT&Ts proposed U-Verse Box installation without the requirement of an Environmental Impact Study.  The boxes are plain ugly and graffiti magnets.    Shame that AT&T was given the green light without much restriction.  Permits are still necessary, so there is likely to be some neighborhood fights left.  I imagine ultimately AT&T will get their way and install all they originally planned.

Best Places to buy real estate in 2011

SFGate reports on the best places to buy real estate in 2011. The data collected from Trulia, puts San Francisco at the top.  Amongst the reason, employment is higher here, job growth over the decade is expected to be good and venture capital dollars are here.

Seems to me there must be something to the job growth.  I have several friends who have historically had jobs out of SF and are now able to work in SF.

The article from SFGate.

Transbay Terminal Demolition underway

This is a little bittersweet, probably from a romantic perspective.  The old transbay terminal is under demolition.  The area has been tightly scheduled for the demo planning to make way for the new transit hub, which is quite exciting.  I saw a presentation on it a few months ago and it will be fantastic.  I’m not excited about the HUGE tower, but the concept of bringing the various public transit authorities together (which the old TB terminal did in it’s time) is the right thing to do.

The Old Transbay Terminal in it’s time-From

The Wrecking Ball goes to Work on San Francisco’s Transbay Terminal-Socketsite

Proposed Transbay Terminal-from

Here’s the proposed terminal