Northside SF
Real Estate Update
Not a spooky time to buy real estate
Pardon my Halloween reference, but I couldn’t resist. I admit there are lots of spooky things going on out there with Wall Street, jobs reports, and other unsettling economic news, but this really is one of the best times to buy property in years.

Don’t let the scary mortgage goblins and ghosts scare you off. We have all heard about difficult appraisals and tougher qualifying requirements. But if you are qualified there are some great properties at amazing prices available right now. We are virtually back to 2003 pricing, which is a nice discount in comparison to those crazy prices with multibids of just a few years ago.

When I started selling real estate, interest rates were 18–19 percent. Homes still sold then, but if rates went back up to those rates today imagine how little you would be qualified to buy. Now that’s a scary thought. Take advantage of today’s rates while you can – at 4–5 percent, they are the lowest they’ve been in decades.

Those buyers who are looking to move up are in an especially good position. Let’s say you have to take a 20 percent hit on your present home to sell it. Not great news of course, but keep in mind you’ll enjoy a 20 percent discount on the larger home you plan to purchase (based on values during the previous high market). Because you are buying up, you will have a bigger savings than the loss you sustain so you come out ahead. If you wait for the market to rebound you may make more on the sale of your home, but you will pay much more for the move-up home, and that will cost you a lot more money year after year.

What’s more, as a homeowner today you can enjoy the benefits of the mortgage interest tax deduction on loans up to $1 million. You can also write off your property taxes as well as any prepaid interest and nonrecurring closing costs. These latter two will be written off the year you buy, so if you need a write-off for 2011, be sure to buy and close escrow before the end of the year. As always, consult with your financial and tax advisors to see how this will impact you.

Back to Halloween: Be sure to add some of these places to your Halloween walk – they are reputed to be haunted: The San Francisco Art Institute on Russian Hill (there used to be a cemetery there); the Queen Anne Hotel at 1590 Sutter Street; the Nob Hill Inn at 1000 Pine Street; and of course, Alcatraz – fabled for loud clanging noises, voices, running footsteps and crashing sounds, cold temperatures and more, the iconic prison is sure to spook. If you would like information on these and other haunted properties in San Francisco, let me know, and I will be happy to send the stories to you.

Stephanie Saunders Ahlberg has been a real estate agent for over 30 years and joined Hill & Co. in 1983, where she has consistently been among the top 10 salespeople. She can be reached at

March 2012
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