Bumper year for high-end home sales in S.F.

Andrew S. Ross

Updated 5:30 pm, Wednesday, January 8, 2014


In the San Francisco real estate world, size isn’t all that matters.

Measured one way, the six-bedroom, 6 1/2-bath, 9,000-square-foot mansion on Jackson Street in Presidio Heights qualified as the largest sale in San Francisco in the past 12 months at $18 million.

But then there’s the two-bedroom, 2 1/2-bath, 1,600-square-foot condo at the Millennium in South Beach. Sold for a comparatively mere $4.5 million, its price per square foot – at $2,500, the highest in the city – was more impressive to real estate insiders.

“Here we have a residential neighborhood that barely existed 15 years ago. Now it has some of the most expensive real estate in the country,” said Patrick Carlisle, chief market analyst at Paragon Real Estate, who compiled a report on luxury housing in San Francisco.

The city’s high-end home market had a bumper year in 2013, approximately doubling sales over its prerecession best in 2007. “Everywhere from SoMa to Pacific Heights, and buyers from Google engineers to bank vice presidents,” said Carlisle. “Often it’s their first home.”

Though being overtaken by luxury condos in South Beach and surrounding neighborhoods, the Presidio Heights-Pacific Heights area continues to do quite well, thank you.

Four homes, all on Jackson Street, sold for more than $10 million, while the average price per square foot in the area, at $1,100, was only slightly lower than the average in South Beach.

But then who would say no to a library, gymnasium, huge garden and wet bar, in addition to the half-dozen bedrooms in Presidio Heights’ biggest sale, which, by the way, went for $500,000 over the list price.

“There are still people who want giant houses in old prestige neighborhoods,” said Carlisle. And that includes old as well as new money. “I see people fresh from an IPO paying in cash,” he said.

However, for the first time, the number of luxury condos sold in San Francisco outpaced the sales of luxury houses. “It’s flipped, and it’s permanent,” he said.

“There’s a whole different concept of luxury and it’s taking a bigger and bigger share of the market.”

Like the $4.5 million condo at the Millennium, with its 11.5-foot-high windows “offering iconic views of the Bay Bridge, East Bay, Treasure Isle and the (Transamerica) Pyramid … world-class designs, custom fixtures, richly-layered textures, cabinetry installations of Fumed Eucalyptus & Macassar Ebony,” according to the listing.

The buyers down in South Beach are more likely singles, couples, empty nesters and foreign and out-of-state buyers looking for a pied a terre or rental property, says Carlisle.

“There’s a whole other group paying enormous sums to be on very high floors, with spectacular views, all amenities built-in, a hotel down below, a hipper neighborhood and walking distance to the ballpark,” he said. “A lot of it is high-style choice.”

“There’s a lot of money here, and it’s not just high tech. San Francisco is drawing a lot of wealthy people from all over.”

Free the buses! Seeing as the tech bus shuttle story continues to get play, here’s an idea Google and other Silicon Valley companies might consider to get the goodwill ball rolling. From reader Sandra Turnbull of Oakland:

“Maybe my new year’s wish is a little optimistic. But, after returning from Great Britain and comparing their practices concerning buses (free to persons over 60 or 65), it got me to thinking.

“The combined population in San Francisco and Oakland of our senior citizens (over 65) is roughly 150,000. Annual senior citizen bus passes for AC Transit are $240 a year. Muni passes are $276 a year. If the much maligned tech companies sponsored passes for all of these folks, it would cost them about $38 million.

“Considering that Google’s third quarter profit for this year was almost $3 billion, it would be a drop in their bucket. They would be doing a tremendous social good, not just serving their elders but also as a measure of safety by getting them out of their cars! And, they’d reap great positive publicity.”


Andrew S. Ross is a San Francisco Chronicle columnist. E-mail: bottomline@sfchronicle.com Blog: www.sfgate.com/blogs/bottomline Twitter: @andrewsross


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