Noe Valley Voice November 2008

The Cost of Living in Noe

Slip-Sliding Away

By Corrie M. Anders

The pedestal that Noe Valley real estate has been sitting on for the past several years was wobbling again in September. Sales data showed that prices on neighborhood homes fell for the second month in a row.

According to numbers provided to the Voice by Zephyr Real Estate, buyers closed escrow on eight single-family homes during September. However, as the nation's worst financial crisis since the Great Depression loomed on the horizon, only one of those Noe Valley homes sold for over $1.5 million and two properties came in under $1 million.

It was the first time since December and only the second time since January 2007--nearly two years--that not a single home in the neighborhood topped the $2 million mark.

When all was said and done, buyers in September paid an average $1,140,000 to live in Noe Valley, down from $1,396,000 in August (and $1,366,000 in September a year ago). The average for the dozen Noe Valley homes sold in July was $1,847,000. (See last month's Cost of Living, at

Accompanying the lower prices was a longer wait to seal the deal. Homes lingered on the market in September for an average two months--64 days--before new owners started to load boxes into moving vans. That was in sharp contrast to a year earlier, when buyers picked up their keys in less than a month--29 days.

Zephyr general manager Randall Kostick cited two reasons for the lengthy escrow: more diligent lenders and more vigilant buyers taking time to allow professional inspectors to determine whether a property had hidden flaws.

Kostick said financial institutions, which are currently facing billions of dollars in loan defaults, "are being more detailed in their review" of buyers' financial worthiness. It now takes about three weeks to process a loan, compared with 7 to 10 days during the rush of the boom market, he said.

Back before the mortgage meltdown, many buyers, caught up in the frenzy of bidding in a hot market, made offers without getting their own inspectors to assess a property's condition, such as roof and foundation.

"There may have been 30 to 50 percent of transactions where a buyer may not have had their own inspection" and relied on a seller's inspection report, said Kostick. "Nowadays, I think people feel they have an opportunity to make their own inspections, which is what they should be doing anyway."

Even with the softer housing market, the typical Noe Valley home sold in September for slightly more than the seller's asking price. The homes getting top dollar were those with parking, on low-traffic streets, with fewer steps, and in great condition.

Buyers are "less inclined" to make offers on properties without such amenities because they now have a wider choice of homes that meet their criteria, Kostick said.

Kostick noted that one house with a $1.1 million price tag sold in September for $870,000 after 242 days on the market. "Everyone one else had parking," he said.

The most expensive home sold for $1,525,000--$75,000 over the asking price--and closed escrow in 13 days. The three-bedroom, 31/2-bath gem, with 2,000 square feet and two-car parking, is located in the 700 block of Diamond Street, between 23rd and 24th streets.

As for condos, their price tag in Noe Valley actually went up in September. The Zephyr data showed that six condominiums sold during the month, at an average price of $907,500. Buyers typically paid the seller's full asking price and closed escrow in an average 55 days.

The eight transactions in August 2008 had an average price of $780,000.

Still, readers should not bet the farm on these statistics. As with the single-family homes, the sample size for one month of condo sales in Noe Valley is pretty small.

For the record, September's most expensive condo, with 2,100 square feet of space, sold for $1,150,000. The three-bedroom, 21/2-bath unit, with one parking space, sits in the 200 block of Day Street, between Sanchez and Church streets.

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
September 2008 8 $870,000 $1,525,000 $1,140,313 64 101%
August 2008 15 $1,000,000 $2,195,000 $1,396,200 52 102%
September 2007 6 $875,000 $2,515,000 $1,365,500 29 109%
September 2008 6 $690,000 $1,150,000 $907,500 55 100%
August 2008 8 $399,000 $2,000,000 $780,375 57 96%
September 2007 7 $659,000 $1,625,000 $948,857 20 109%
2 to 4 unit buildings
September 2008 2 $1,475,000 $1,820,000 $1,647,500 79 102%
August 2008 3 $1,299,000 $2,100,000 $1,608,000 74 101%
September 2007 3 $1,250,000 $1,875,000 $1,473,333 60 98%
5+ unit buildings
September 2008 0 - - - - -
August 2008 0 - - - - -
September 2007 0 - - - - -

*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, September-October 2008 Average Rent, September-October 2008 Average Rent, September-October 2007
Studio 9 $1100-$2550 $1602 $1424
1 bedroom 29 $1000-$2750 $2070 $2042
2 bedrooms 28 $2200-$5500 $3269 $3069
3 bedrooms 13 $2795-$7400 $4495 $4579
4+ bedrooms 8 $3650-$15,000 $7850 $7560

**These rent averages are based on a sample of 87 Noe Valley rental listings appearing on from September 16 to October 15, 2008.