Thursday, January 12, 2006

A New Yorker's Look at San Francisco.

Ok, so it's almost halfway through January and I haven't done my first post of the new year. I am still not giving up on my resolutions! I'm back from San Francisco so look forward to my new posts.

This New Year's I explored uncharted territory - for me at least. San Francisco and the surrounding bay/penninsula got my full attention for nearly two weeks. Well, not my full attention. Unfortunately about five days in I came down with a horrible 24-hour flu. After sweating it out in bed for 18 hours, I expected the usual head cold but instead got a pretty severe ear infection. Luckily I made the decision to seek medical attention more than two days before my flight home (wasn't sure if it was a cold manifesting itself) and therefore got enough antibiotics in me to prevent blowing out my eardrum and general misery flying home (not to mention infecting dozens of other people!).

While I was in San Francisco I did indulge in a tiny bit of real estate shopping. I was very excited to discover two four unit houses on Russian Hill (the bottom) for sale. The agent was Alex Mora, a very intelligent and helpful gentleman who didn't mind spending a few minutes on the phone with me even though I was probably not going to be very serious. I investigated them very seriously and discovered the San Francisco has made itself a horrible place to be a landlord. Among the rules are rent controls that extend to ALL buildings built in the early 1970s (in New York anything under 6 units is exempt), which makes it very difficult to get a building that carries itself. Furthermore, all of California has a law (Proposition something or other) that keeps all property taxes level for as long as you own a house. Then when you sell it, the taxes become a certain percentage of the new selling price. This would guarantee to sink you, even with the $7000 first year property tax exemption. My boyfriend explained that this was enacted to help people who were being taxed out of their houses. I'm not really thrilled with it - I think maybe there should be a tax break for you depending on how long you have lived in the house, not the other way around!!

So of course people are condoing their two and three family homes right and left in San Francisco. Because no one can afford to be a landlord there. So two or three parties will band together and buy a multi-unit house as "tenants in common" then apply for a license to convert to a true condo. And there's some strange kind of lottery that you have to apply to, but you get preference if you're a small owner-occupant, but not if you evicted someone else to move in, yadda, yadda, yadda. And I thought New York made things difficult!

Also, rents are very much less than I thought they would be! Obviously they are expensive but you can still find one-bedrooms for $800, and not in as bad a neighborhoods as they would be in New York. To me, that's cheap!

My favorite neighborhoods: Cow Hollow, although it was a tad posh. North Beach (although too litigious), South Beach (needs more commerce, but very bright and nice), SoMa - I am used to living in current/former Skid Rows, and SoMa seems no different. In fact, it seems downright interesting and a great deal.

My favorite part of the Bay Area: Berkeley! This lovely little town contains Univ. of California - Berkeley, (also known as Cal), the jewel in the crown of the U-C system. It also reminds me very much of Ann Arbor, the hometown of my alma mater University of Michigan (Go Blue!!). We drove up to the Science Institute and watched a stunning sunset, then down to have Indian food. Berkeley, as many know, is also the birthplace of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA), my beloved medieval recreational society (sewing, crafts, mead and fighting). While I didn't regard it as a pilgrimmage, I did happen to drive by the house where it happened. Funny to believe what things can grow to.

I know my boyfriend, having hung his heart in San Francisco for nearly 20 years, would dearly like me to start packing my bags, but unfortunately it just didn't grab me in that way. While I don't think I would mind eventually living there, I don't think I could ever settle down there, the way I could in Ann Arbor or even New Orleans (I'm confident it still holds the charms that gripped me before).

But now back to the grind. On the last day before I came home, a customer called me to make an offer on an apartment that I had shown him six weeks prior. There had already been one accepted offer that had fallen through, but he waited (even though it wasn't being shown for three weeks) until a new open house happened and then bang! Three offers. He is now third in line. I can see one offer falling through again, but two?? Why wait six weeks?? Buyers, please, if you really like a place, don't wait six weeks! Make a bid so you don't kick yourself. Especially if you are planning to offer low!

I'm in the office and scheduled for a one-on-one with my two managers tomorrow. I dearly dearly want to do better but I still feel paralyzed. Three weeks away did nothing for that, even though I have just gotten a new listing for a lovely one-bedroom in Grammercy Park. I feel groggy and tired. People are buzzing around me in full action. I feel so out of it.

My second colleague from Wenton Realty (my former agency) has decided to go part time. I want to and don't want to at the same time. I really really want to make this work. I'm seeing a hypnotherapist tonight. Maybe she can help me with my anxiety. It's just paralyzing me.

In other news, I have the chance to become an Americorps volunteer for a non-profit affordable housing developer. This would be my chance to work with a developer - something I've never really understood other than from the agent side of it. I need to make my decision by tomorrow. Always so many choices! Pros: I would get amazing experience, the moral good will that comes from being a volunteer, and a stipend that would cover many of my basic costs such as mortgage, transportation & health insurance. con: I need to work there an average of 35 hours/week to fulfill my obligation in the time allotted. That will really cut into my real estate time. If I felt that I could fit it all in, I wouldn't hesitate. However I doubt myself. That is my downfall. If anyone has some good books or ideas for me on this, I would really appreciate them!!!!

No comments: