In the past few years, micro apartments have been talked about in the media as a solution to the housing crisis. Everything from living in a converted shipping container to stacked sleeping compartments has been discussed as possibilities for alternative living. Until Yahoo News reported a 747 Boeing jet airliner for sale on eBay, it had not occurred to me to think of the other end of the economic spectrum.
The idea of converting a retired jet plane to a single-family home or possibly condos intrigued me. Before you get too excited, I want you to know that at this moment this is purely a fantasy, because the listing has been removed from eBay. Still, I think the idea is worth consideration.
All buyers ask about price per square foot (PPSF) at some point in their search for a home. When I meet new buyers, I make it clear that if they are fixated on price per square foot as their number one criteria in buying a home, it is unlikely they will ever be a homeowner in San Francisco. Imagination is key to success in buying a home here.
Converting a 747 jet into a home definitely needs a buyer with imagination as well as money. Because a 747 jetliner is a different animal when it comes to imagining a living space, I do feel it is worth looking at PPSF. The average PPSF for single-family homes in Cow Hollow, the Marina, Noe Valley, and the Mission combined was $1,164 in the timeframe of Sept. 1, 2015, to Aug. 31, 2016. The PPSF for condominiums in the same period was $1,026.
Yahoo News reported the 747 Boeing jetliner was listed on eBay for $900,000, with bids starting at $299,000. Yahoo also reported 200 hits an hour on the site before the seller removed the listing from eBay. It is interesting to know that the plane was for sale in pieces or as a whole plane, and some parts had already been sold. What remained of the 747 jet could not be flown away. Think auto wreckers, and imagine how parts of a plane could be sold off. There was still enough left to use for housing when I first heard of the sale.
What I am concerned with here is the potential living and storage space. My long-time friend Richard Hart, who is a licensed pilot and for many years was an executive producer at CBS Interactive, calculated the available floor space for me. I was hoping that Richard would tell me the interior square footage and easily calculate the PPSF. He found there is 1,600 square feet of floor space, but a plane has a rounded ceiling, and useable living space is the issue.
At this point I contacted Harvey Hacker of Harvey Hacker Architect for help. Harvey has been working in San Francisco for more than 40 years, and he had an answer for me. “In sloped-ceiling spaces, building code counts floor area where floor-to-ceiling height is 5 feet or greater,” Harvey said. “Applying this rule based on the diagram you sent, gross area of 1,600 feet would translate to about 1,160 square feet.”
Calculating the PPSF for the jet plane once it is actually a home will take a bit of addition. I will use the eBay asking price of $900,000 for the 747 jet. The cost of a San Francisco lot will be $1 million or more. Then there is the rehab to consider — that will be $1 million or higher. Add another $200,000 as a guesstimate for the cost of moving the jet to San Francisco. We now have a total of around $3 million, a pittance in the world of San Francisco real estate. The PPSF now is approximately $2,600, but what a special home the jet would be. If you are one of those buyers who wants your friends’ mouths to drop open when they walk through your door, this jet may be just the ticket.
There is a black cloud to the silver lining in terms of buying a jet and turning it into housing. There are building codes and zoning regulations that exist in every community. I have a client who wanted to build a micro house on a lot on the Sonoma Coast, only to find that micro homes were not allowed there. There were minimum square foot requirements for living space.
Taking a different turn, the shell of the jet could be purchased by someone like Mark Zuckerberg or another local billionaire and donated to San Francisco or the GGNRA. Once the jet found a home on public property it could be turned into a magical playground or museum. Only the imagination and money limits the possibilities.
Back in real life, San Francisco buyers are faced with continually escalating home prices on the one hand, and on the other there are economists talking about the impending financial slowdown. This is a stressful time for buying a home. It is important to keep in mind that this is nothing new. In a down market, buyers worry about prices going further down. In a boom market buyers worry about escalating prices and being priced out of the market or a crash in the market.
If there is one thing everyone needs to keep in mind whether buying or selling a home it is that real estate is a long-term investment. If you are thinking of moving, think in terms of a minimum of 5 years — and better yet 10 years or more. Over a 10-year period, PPSF is bound to go up and down, but during this period you will have a place to live and be building equity in your home, however it might be shaped.