Real Estate Today

Cookie butter is to Trader Joe’s as San Francisco is to real estate

photo: starsapart / flickr

The Trader’s Joe’s Fearless Flyer arrived in my mail, and I was captured by the “Cookie Butter” article. What on earth was cookie butter? Just think about “classic Belgian cookies with great crunch, and a slightly caramelized, almost-but-not-quite-gingerbread flavor, crushed and mixed with vegetable oils and turned into a spread.” Think peanut butter, but no peanuts, just spreadable cookies. It is decadent, that is for sure.

How is San Francisco like cookie butter? One thing for sure: We are doing plenty of crunching here. Old buildings are being crunched to powder and new elegant, expensive buildings are replacing them. I hear a lot of “OMG, I can’t believe how fast the city is changing.” It is difficult to keep up with checking out the new buildings as they are completed, with condos selling in record time.

San Francisco has reached a new era where owning a piece of real estate here is a “must have” for local and international buyers not only as a place to live, but as a statement of your status in life.

Cookie Butter and San Francisco real estate part courses here. Once the Cookie Butter is eaten it’s gone forever (or at least we hope so), but with real estate here the value keeps going up. We all wondered where the prices of homes would go in the spring. Now anyone who thought they had paid too much for their home six months ago is celebrating their good fortune. What felt like an insane indulgence has turned into a wise investment.

At the end of April, there was another jaw-dropping sale in Glen Park at 2608 Diamond Street, where a 937-square-foot home had an asking price of $859,000 and sold for $1,372,608. There is no question this home was under-priced for the market, but even people who follow the Glen Park sales closely were stunned by the sale price. Because it closed escrow in 13 days, we can safely assume this was a cash sale.

And anyone who was not in a deep coma could not have missed hearing about the sale in Sea Cliff at 420 El Camino Del Mar at $1.4 million over the $5.1 million asking price. Considering this mid-century home is 4,498 square feet and has a stunning view of the Golden Gate Bridge, dollar for dollar this may look like a bargain this time next year.

These over-asking sales are not limited to a few neighborhoods, but can be found throughout the city. Single-family homes are in demand in all parts of San Francisco and are bringing premium prices. Reading yet another article about a home selling more than $1 million over asking, I sent out a Tweet that we should keep our mouths permanently open since the over-asking sales keep on coming.

Here we are beginning July and everyone is wondering what the summer real estate doldrums will bring. If the summer is anything like the winter, there may be no doldrums. Around mid-May, anytime I found two real estate agents in a room, I heard one say, “Things seemed to have slowed down a bit. What do you think?” The other replied, “I think so, but there are still some crazy high over-asking bids. There is so little on the market and so many buyers.” At a recent sales meeting at my company, McGuire Real Estate, an agent reported that he felt a definite slowdown in the market, and instead of 10 or 15 offers on a home he was getting 3 to 5. This is small consolation for the buyers who are still confronted with multiple offers.

How does a buyer get a jump on the competition? Take a staycation and take day trips around the Bay Area. Forgo the trip to Hawaii, Europe or Asia. The serious smart buyers will keep their focus over the summer. Normally there is less competition for homes because people with families take a break for vacations and are preoccupied with leisure activities.

I researched the sale prices of homes in the Marina, Cow Hollow, North Beach, Telegraph Hill, Pacific Heights, and Russian Hill for the first five months of the year. There were a total of 210 homes and condos sold during this period; 61 percent sold over asking, 12 percent at asking, and 27 percent under asking.

Many agents knowingly underprice their listings. This is a tried-and-true way of getting people in the door and creating excitement in the open house. It is important to keep this in mind, as well as the fact that 39 percent of homes did not sell over asking. The market does feel crazy if you just listen to news reports. Looking at the numbers, prices have obviously gone up and it is a challenge to buy a home in San Francisco. There are opportunities, and if you can remain calm, flexible and patient, there are homes and condos for sale that are not selling at incredible prices over market value in San Francisco.

If you need a break from your home search and all else fails, go out and buy a jar of Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter. Find out for yourself if Cookie Butter is as good as Trader Joe’s says.

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Carole Isaacs is a Realtor with McGuire Real Estate. Visit her online at or call 415-608-1267.