CFAH

The Odeon: Living Area
Besides tips, this is the kind of reader email that we love to get:

[A]fter months of looking, getting initially hot about certain developments . . . and then being very thankful later on that we didn’t bite, we decided to take the plunge at OdeonSF . . . .
Our plan is to stay a minimum of five years, possibly as many as ten, so, we did buy in spite of the lackluster bathrooms and the odd use of cottage style plumbing fixtures in a decidedly warm-contemporary overall design scheme (the master bath tile, I fear must stay, but the plumbing fixtures…GONE!). That aside, we’re thrilled about OdeonSF, our unit, our plans for it and our future there.
As well, a huge debt of gratitude to SocketSite, for keeping us “plugged in” and truly being a valuable asset in our search and ultimate purchase.

Our pleasure, congratulations, and just don’t forget our invitation to the housewarming.
Oh, and our “plugged in” buyer also has a question: “Ads indicate that [The Odeon is] nearly sold out and we suspect that’s true, but wondered if you or your faithful have any further insight.” Unfortunately, we don’t. Readers?
The Odeon (181 O’Farrell): First Impressions And Pricing [SocketSite]
New Developments: Odeon (181 O’Farrell) [SocketSite]

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by Damion

    Congratulations! I think it’s a lovely, and rather chic, building in a lively area — it should be fun to live there. Good choice!

  2. Posted by Anonymous

    We visited the Odeon yesterday. There were 6 units out of 29 left. 1 unit with 1300+ sq ft. The thing that was a turn off is that there is no parking. The developer will pay for first two years parking at a lot down the street but after that you’re on your own at ~$420/month today. Nice place if you don’t need a car.

  3. Posted by Anonymous

    I’m surprised they have sold any considering the lack of parking, which is a deal breaker for me and most people I know. Who wants to park down the street in some random garage and pay extra for it?

  4. Posted by Anne

    Congrats as well for becoming a SF homeowner! I like hearing good news in a world of doom and gloom.
    The location sounds perfect for work in the financial district, shopping, and eating. The lack of parking is only an issue for those with cars which a lot of people I know don’t have. It is extremely attractive for those w/o cars since you are saving $$$ not paying for something you can’t use.

  5. Posted by Dan

    One option for someone living at the Odeon would be to use car share:
    http://www.citycarshare.org/sfmap.do
    There are several places to pick up a car near Union Square.
    [Editor’s Note Yep. And in fact, they’re opening a new “pod” just down the block at Ellis and Powell.]

  6. Posted by Telegraph Hill Homebody

    Just got the word: 5 left at Odeon.
    Parking is not at “some random garage”, it is right next door, there is a long term arrangement, and you get to park on the reserved lower level away from the day trippers.
    Believe it or not, there are some true urban creatures who do without daily and immediate access to a car (see dictionary under “New Yorker”). More than half the buyers, I am told, are not even taking the available leased parking next door. Hey, there is even a grocery store now in the neighborhood (Bristol Farms, thank you LA!) so enjoy!
    Looks like they were spot on marketing to true city dwellers.

  7. Posted by Anonymous

    It doesn’t matter if the garage is next door or down the street. It isn’t attached, and those who have cars have to pay extra each month for parking. Last I checked, parking related costs, like HOA dues, are not tax deductible, which makes it an expensive proposition for those who own cars. Are the prices of these homes less because the units don’t include a parking spot? I think not. I feel for those buyers because when they attempt to resell, their market is limited to those without cars or those who have cars and don’t mind parking in a separate parking lot.

  8. Posted by SeeHsee

    Oh, Anonymous at 12:34….welcome to big city living. The units are priced fairly for prime downtown living in a vibrant atmosphere, not for those wedded to their autos. Their marketability isn’t “limited” to those without cars, these homes simply aren’t the right choice for those unwilling to compromise quick access to an automobile for real inner-city living. Look for more developments like this in SF. It’s a much needed change and will appeal to those who want to own their home yet still enjoy a true urban lifestyle. This is progress!

  9. Posted by Anonymous

    If I may add to SeeHsee’s comment– if half of the buyers waived the developer’s two-year pre-payment of the parking fees, then, I think there is indeed a market for urban dwellers who wish to be homeowners but who aren’t tied down to automobiles (as SeeHsee says as well). Get over the lack of parking issue in a decidedly downtown location (less than two blocks to Powell St. Muni/Bart, hello easy SFO access, etc).
    (Besides, I bet if you’re parking in the lot next door you can still make it as quickly to your home –or vice versa– than if you’re parking in a subterranean lot and then having to catch an elevator up 10, 20, 30 floors.)

  10. Posted by Anonymous

    The whole point here is that one doesn’t have to compromise access to one’s automobile to experience real “inner-city living”. To the contrary, there are numerous available units in this price range, in vibrant areas of the city, where one can have both a parking spot and just as convenient access to multiple avenues of public transportation.

  11. Posted by SeeHsee

    Anonymous at 2:18…
    We’re not talking about other equally as vibrant areas of the city with access to public transit. We’re talking about the Odeon and its unique location right off Union Square. Many of the uniquely situated downtown developments that give new life to old buildings will not have parking, such at the Landmark on Grant, the Royal SF in the Financial District and one currently in development on New Montgomery. Having a car and great parking is wonderful, but it simply isn’t going to be possible with this style of living that seems to be on the rise downtown–and that doesn’t necessarily make it a less attractive option for many.
    And, to illustrate Anonymous at 1:14’s point, I live in a high rise with on-site parking but must take TWO elevators to get to my car.

  12. Posted by Anonymous

    SeeHsee, units in buildings without parking selling for the same price as units in buildings with parking is not what I would consider “progress”, unless you’re looking at it from an environmentally friendly perspective, and I don’t see anything in any of your posts suggesting that you are. Plus, what makes living around Union Square a “true urban lifestlye”? Some might consider living in the Tenderloin to be a more “true urban lifestyle.” I’d love to know the demographic of who is purchasing at the Odeon. Is it people purchasing second homes, or is it people purchasing primary residences?

  13. Posted by Former Lurker

    Add up depreciation, maintenance, insurance, etc., etc. and compare to renting cars. Some people don’t have to drive daily. They can rent a Z4, or a Prius, or a Mini, or a Jag, or some godawful SUV (all examples of what I’ve rented for a day or a weekend in recent years) etc., etc., on the days they want them from any number of chain and non-chain agencies in San Francisco. With that, and City Car Share and its competitors for those times you only want or need the mundane Scion or Bug, you can save thousands of dollars per year and drive much cooler cars than the gotta-have-a-garage crowd does.

  14. Posted by SeeHsee

    Anonymous at 3:19…
    I think we’re having different conversations. I’m not an environmentalist, and I’m not even that “hot” on the Odeon. What I am, however, is a big believer in more options for ownership downtown, where having a car or parking space can be more of a burden than a necessity. And since you mentioned the Tenderloin as a true urban experience; it is. I lived in and around the Tenderloin for a decade, most of that time without a car–and I never missed it. I agree that a parking space has a dollar value and should impact a property’s price. As is stands, however, the Odeon is among very few developments that are truly “downtown” (at least at the Odeon’s price-point), none of which I’m aware of offers parking for every unit. So until there is a true competitive marketplace for such units, a premium will be paid for the unique location and living experience, and parking takes second stage. If you can’t cite specific buildings that share the Odeon’s uncommon location and architecture, you’re comparing apples to oranges. And the “progress” comes from smart space conversion and inner-city planning that supports a quality of life where autos are purely a luxury.

  15. Posted by tipster

    Their marketability isn’t “limited” to those without cars, these homes simply aren’t the right choice for those unwilling to compromise quick access to an automobile for real inner-city living.
    You’re my spinmeister hero! But wait, there’s more:
    What I am, however, is a big believer in more options for ownership downtown, where having a car or parking space can be more of a burden than a necessity
    I was hoping you’d go on to say that a unit WITHOUT a parking space should therefore go for MORE money than a unit with parking, because it didn’t come with this “burden”! Instead, you admitted that parking has value and then actually attempted a logical argument. You were on such a roll, I would have gone for the kill and insisted buyers should pay more for no parking.
    At least no one attempted the always funny “EZ street parking” “feature” I see in other units at other locations without parking.
    And the “progress” comes from smart space conversion and inner-city planning that supports a quality of life where autos are purely a luxury.
    Stop it. You’re killing me. You need to be working for an ad agency on Madison Avenue. This is too good.
    The ideal response to this last point would be for you to say: “I’d never work on Madison Avenue. I couldn’t give up my car!”

  16. Posted by SeeHsee

    Tipster: I’m happy to be your spinmeister. 🙂 I can see that my feelings about downtown living and the necessity (and value) of parking isn’t reaching you or “Anonymous.” But looking at it just from a price-comparison standpoint, where are these other comparable developments that are making the Odeon seemed overpriced because it lacks parking?

  17. Posted by Anonymous

    Hey, leave me out of this argument. I never said whether it was overpriced or not. Just appreciating the creative language, that’s all.
    In terms of pricing, they look reasonably priced today. But things can change in an instant. If a couple of new places open up with parking, I think you’ll see some fallout. If not, well, there are lots of public transportation options nearby. I think this is just the sort of place that parents will want to buy for their college student kids, who can take the bus to campuses everywhere in SF. And it’s right above H&M: they don’t need a car, they can just shop there.
    Of course resale values *will* be impacted by the lack of parking if other places provide it. It’s simple: you just do the math. Add $420 per month (or whatever spots are going for at the time), and make some adjustment for inflation and the inconvenience of having to walk in the rain, to obtain the net monthly payment and it’s easy to compare apples to apples. That’s what the buyers will do. Or the sellers will throw a couple of years of parking into the price and take a $12K hit.

  18. Posted by SeeHsee

    “If a couple of new places open up with parking, I think you’ll see some fallout.”
    I agree with you! See how we can get along? For now, I can only think of the Landmark on Grant that is a comparable type of development, and it doesn’t offer parking either. If more units are developed downtown that offer parking, the Landmark and Odeon may indeed be at a disadvantage.
    So, you weren’t interested in the pricing argument at all–you just wanted to make fun of me? I’m crushed…

  19. Posted by wayne

    we have a car and drive it one day a week. I would be perfectly fine without one, especially with the location that the Odeon has. As long as I am near a dry cleaners and a grocers than no problem, as the only reason we do drive is to get to the grocery store. I thought the pricing for the sq ft was very good, and it is a great area.

  20. Posted by pwb

    I live at 333 Grant and have to say that this area offers pretty good city living. After living in Cole Valley and Cow Hollow, it dawned on me: if you’re going to live in the City, live in the city.
    But, yes, the parking situation is unfortunate, and at lease at the Landmark, seems to have been priced accordingly.

  21. Posted by anonymous

    So just where in Union Square do people think places could be developed that include an onsite garage? At that, one that would get permitted by the Socialist Republic of the Board of SF Supervisors? Are you all insane? There will be no new garages in that area (unless you go South of Market–even then, unlikely).
    I think Odeon and Landmark are safe from any condos being built on their tails that include parking in an on-site garage for the very foreseeable future.
    And yes, Odeon’s square foot pricing is some of the best I’ve seen (in the upper $600. to lower $700. range).

  22. Posted by Anonymous

    Grocery store? Has anyone here ever bought anything at Bristol Farms? I didn’t think it was possible, but it actually makes Whole Foods seem affordable. Personally, I think the location leaves much to be desired, unless of course, you work at Macy’s, but then you probably can’t afford a car, let alone a place at the Odeon. I guess the one benefit of living there is that you get to experience that guy who plays the buckets around the corner from the comfort of your living room.

  23. Posted by anonymous

    All I can say is 24 out of 29 sold in less than two months while other new projects have resorted to renting their inventory means there’s some serious desire to live in that location. Even better is knowing that those folks wont have you for a neighbor. There. Everybody’s happy.

  24. Posted by Anonymous

    Big City living? No thanks.

  25. Posted by Anonymous

    Out of curiousity I checked the crime statistics for this area, and unless I’m pulling the report incorrectly, 273 INCIDENCES were reported in the last 31 days alone. I know it was mentioned that crime can occur in any neightborhood, but 273 is a lot! Why wouldn’t you want a car? I certainly would not feel comfortable walking around by myself in the evening.

  26. Posted by pwb

    I just got mail that indicates condos + parking are planned for 300 Grant.

  27. Posted by Anonymous

    Yikes! I have heard about the 300 Grant Project also, and if I were an Odeon buyer I would be loosing sleep now. The thing to keep in mind regarding all of these new projects is to expect that something newer will come along nearby, and if it is in the same neighborhood, but a better location, WITH parking, you could be in for real trouble. With regard to “City Living”, what makes this neighborhood more “urban” than another part of town? The 24 hour noise, the street characters, the nightly trash pick-up at 2am? If this is “city living” I will stick to the countryside on Russian Hill!

  28. Posted by anonymous

    WOW. Somebody sends Socketsite an encouraging email thanking them for their help. The poster seems excited about their new home and what they get is a bunch of naysayers slamming their choice of neighborhood and the parking situation at that building (which obviously mustn’t have been a concern for them).
    Whoever they are I wish them well and personally find their enthusiasm for their new home refreshing. I think they’ll be happy and will probably sleep quite well.

  29. Posted by SeeHsee

    “Whoever they are I wish them well and personally find their enthusiasm for their new home refreshing.”
    I’m with you. Good luck to the new owners and congratulations on being somewhat adventuresome in giving true downtown living a try.
    (PS: And if you hadn’t considered it, safeway.com is great. One less reason to rely on a car.)

  30. Posted by CameronRex

    Odeon is a very cool, unique, building in a great location. If I can make do living in the Inner Sunset without a car (and I have a deeded parking space…just nothing to put in it) someone can certainly live on Odeon’s corner and not have a parking space in the building. The garage is right there!

  31. Posted by tipster

    The poster seems excited about their new home and what they get is a bunch of naysayers slamming their choice of neighborhood and the parking situation at that building (which obviously mustn’t have been a concern for them).
    If you believe this, then you missed the point of the person who sent the letter. That person said they appreciate the information they get here, and that information is sometimes positive, sometimes negative, in the end you add it all up and decide what’s best for you.
    I doubt the sender of that letter sent any such letter to the “every day is sunny” developer of the website for the project, because that glowing, BS is just not that helpful.
    Information like the multifaceted information one receives here is helpful to even recent purchasers, because they are always going to plan what they are going to do: stay long term, plan on selling before the new project goes up, rent it out, etc.
    So sorry to play the other side, but people want information, not just sunny platitudes: “hey great job for buying that dot com stock: I’m sure you’ll be a millionare in no time.” That sort of information just isn’t that helpful.
    Bring it all on. If I as a buyer screwed up, let me know it now before it gets any worse.
    Will the 300 Grant project make this one worse? Depends on the pricing. If they price about the same psf, it’s bad. If higher, to the tune of $450 per month or more, it isn’t.

  32. Posted by Anonymous

    Have to agree with Tipster. You are making the biggest economic decision of your life and you need to hear the bad as well as the good. If all I wanted to do is look at pretty interior pictures I would just pick up a copy of Architectural Digest or one of the slick sales brochures from one of the new projects that are sometimes picked apart on this board. These new projects try to sell you on “feelings”, “moods” and sizzle, but in the end they are really this city’s new commodity (along with restaurants, tourism and porn) that you may someday have to sell, and hopefully for a profit.

  33. Posted by SeeHsee

    Tipster (and the subsequent Anonymous)…
    You’re not offering anyone brilliant insight into the home purchasing process by suggesting that buyers should do adequate research and consider the pros and cons before making a decision. The letter from the Odeon purchaser that sparked this thread acknowledged having done just that. Although we are in a challenging and uncertain market, it is still possible to make a smart purchase. Simply criticizing every property for sale and arguing that nothing is “worth it” only works for those who need validation for their decision to stay out of the market altogether.

  34. Posted by tipster

    No one is critical of every property for sale and in the case of this property in particular, I myself pointed out that it was fairly priced, so I’m not sure why you keep belaboring this point about me. I’ve *never* said it was overpriced.
    But what I *have* pointed out is the helpfulness in people bringing up specific points that can be checked for factual accuracy and used in a well-reasoned decision. Most people did not know there would soon be a nearby property that has parking, and that’s a useful fact to learn about. Probably doesn’t make any Realtor very happy and I am wiling to admit that.
    I’ve also never suggested something so obvious that people do research. My only point is that it is helpful on this site when people post facts that can then be explored.
    The whole thread a few weeks ago about how Google moving into an office building was a slam dunk for business in the neighborhood was then countered by another post discussing the fact that google provides a lot of free services and so business in the neighborhood could be adversely affected. There’s no right or wrong answer: it’s just helpful for people to post information and let others make up their own minds.
    I realize that some realtors would prefer to spin everything their way and not make it any easier for people to obtain facts that affect them, but me thinks the Internet genie is out of the bottle, and won’t go back in, no matter how hard anyone tries or wants it to. Socketsite is one of a long string of events that will continue to make the world a better place.

  35. Posted by anonymous

    My advice to these buyers is not to sweat the 300 Grant project. Over twelve stories and over 100 units. The Odeon is under 30 units and there are a lot of buyers who really prefer smaller, “boutique” buildings as opposed to “apartment-y” dwellings.
    Congratulations on your purchase coming from an envious Glen Park resident who works near Union Square and has often thought about how great it would be to dump the car and to be able to walk a few blocks to the office.
    Other than the Grant St. project I couldn’t find anything on development that close to Union Square, so I’d say Odeon is a pretty unique building and I’d personally be optimistic about it.

  36. Posted by Anonymous

    “Simply criticizing every property for sale and arguing that nothing is “worth it” only works for those who need validation for their decision to stay out of the market altogether.” Please.
    I was one of the original “anonymous” posters in this thread who was critical of this particular project due to the lack of attached parking. I happen to own and don’t need validation to stay out of the market (or to justify my own personal investment decisions in the market). I just believe that anyone who purchases at the Odeon (or any other building that doesn’t offer parking) may be in for a rude awakening when they attempt to sell. Anyone who has watched the market for the past few years can tell you that units without parking are much more difficult to sell, period. I also happen to think the location is mediocre, even though you seem to think it is “vibrant” and more “urban” than the rest of the city. Each to his or her own, I suppose.

  37. Posted by Anonymous

    I hope this post does not seem too critical, but I am currently looking to purchase myself, and when I was looking through listings with my realtor for units to view, she would not show me any units without parking claiming they would be “impossible” to sell in a slow market. How would one show this unit 5 years from now for resale? Clients coming to view a million dollar unit would take MUNI, or park two blocks away and walk through what can be at time some tricky situations. As for “vibrant” city life, San Francisco is not Chicago or NYC, it is a smaller city of neighborhoods and that is where the life is. If I wanted to save money and choose a more unique location than Pacific Heights or the Marina I would head towards the Mission which is vibrant and is on the upswing.

  38. Posted by anonymous

    If you personally need parking, then your realtor is right not to show you a building that doesn’t include parking. But remember, as has been laid out in this post but continually lost, NOT ALL BUYERS HAVE OR WANT A CAR. And if the Odeon is only 29 units, the parking will be a potential issue for some, but it won’t be for everyone and there will still be a formidable resale market for this property. Especially when you consider the cost per square foot and the proximity to dining, shopping, transit, etc. that some buyers crave.
    Sure, it’s just a handful of blocks from the Tenderloin, but the Mission has the lovely, crime free (insert sarcasm here) Capp and Shotwell Streets. Residents at the Odeon will benefit from the fact that it is within the blocks surrounding Union Square that are patrolled by the private security that the Union Square Merchants Assoc. uses to protect them against vandalism, etc. A cure all for crime? Hardly, but still, I’d be glad knowing it’s in place.
    Finally, your right, SF is not Chicago or New York– for which I’m personally eternally grateful– but to suggest that SF is nothing more than a city of peripheral neighborhoods is shortsighted, many people live near Union Square. Besides, do you really believe that Chicago and New York are comprised of just one big urbane neighborhood?

  39. Posted by anonymous

    BTW– I hope my comment at 6pm didn’t come off as mean-spirited to the poster before me. Genuinely sorry if it did.

  40. Posted by Anon

    Fully agreed that there are a small percentage of buyers who do not need a car and also foresee NEVER needing a car. No problems there.
    But what if a lot more units go up without parking. Those appear to be the easiest to get through the city planning department and easiest to retrofit office or other nonredsidential buildings into. You could find that there are far more places for sale without parking than people willing to make that kind of commitment.
    So on one hand the places that DO have parking act as a ceiling on your resale value, but depending on the number of places nearby without parking, there may be no floor. This place may be a wonderful place to live, but whether it is a good investment will depend on so many factors outside of your control, it’s a risky purchase. If people can’t get their money out when they try to sell, they could end up renting them out to their maximum rental allowance, further harming the value.
    I think that Realtor who won’t show places with parking is a keeper.

  41. Posted by Anonymous

    “If you personally need parking, then your realtor is right not to show you a building that doesn’t include parking. But remember, as has been laid out in this post but continually lost, NOT ALL BUYERS HAVE OR WANT A CAR. And if the Odeon is only 29 units, the parking will be a potential issue for some, but it won’t be for everyone and there will still be a formidable resale market for this property. Especially when you consider the cost per square foot and the proximity to dining, shopping, transit, etc. that some buyers crave.”
    You missed the most relevant point. I believe most of us know and recognize that different buyers have different preferences and needs. all fine and dandy. However, good luck selling these units down the road. Do the research and you’ll see for yourself that units without parking can take much, much longer to sell and your resale value will be lower. I don’t think the point is to wish ill will on any buyers in this development, it’s just the truth of the matter.

  42. Posted by SeeHsee

    Aside from the Odeon, I can think of six downtown-area condo or coop buildings that don’t offer parking, or only have a few leased spaces in the entire building. I’m not aware that any of them is handicapped by that from a market-value perspective. In areas where parking is commonplace and properties that don’t offer it are the exception, I agree that lack of parking is going to hinder resale. But, with so few properties in the Union Square/Downtown area now available (and so many without parking), I would guess that prospective buyers in this neighborhood are prepared to consider properties without parking and see an acceptable trade-off in location and style of living. Although the new development on Grant offers parking, there is at least one other nearby development in the works that doesn’t. I simply think units without parking are likely to be commonplace in this area of the city and therefore won’t be as large a comparison factor as it might be in other areas of the city. That said, I was recently poised to make an offer on a North Beach/Russian Hill area flat without parking, and it was snatched up in a flash, at over the asking price.

  43. Posted by Anonymous

    Does anyone have an idea why the HOA’s are comparable to the high rise tower condos or condo buildings with many amenities (ie. pool, gym, community room w/ theater, etc.)

  44. Posted by anon

    Does anyone have an idea why the HOA’s are comparable to the high rise tower condos or condo buildings with many amenities (ie. pool, gym, community room w/ theater, etc.)
    Great question. Come back in three years when the HOA fees double or triple at the high rises because they were set artificially low to entice the buyers to pay more. Then ask that question again. All that Valet parking, building maintenance, including window washing right next to a freeway, etc. is not going to come cheap.
    So while we’re on the subject of resale, good luck reselling at a high rise with astronomical HOA fees. Anyone buying a property at one of those high rises needs to ask themselves why the fees have been initially set at that level and whether or not they are sustainable. The developer is never asked “how many window washings per year there will be”. Whatever they answer, you need to ask, “next to a freeway”? Ahh, but nobody will ask that because the effect of the glamorous PR lingers on.
    I suspect the fees on this place are where they are because that’s what they are really going to cost.

  45. Posted by Anonymous

    “Come back in three years when the HOA fees double or triple at the high rises because they were set artificially low to entice the buyers to pay more.”
    “So while we’re on the subject of resale, good luck reselling at a high rise with astronomical HOA fees. Anyone buying a property at one of those high rises needs to ask themselves why the fees have been initially set at that level and whether or not they are sustainable.”
    It’s purely speculation as to whether the fees are set artifically low to entice buyers. I am not aware of that happening to date with any of the more recent developments. My guess is that most people buying in the new One Rincon or Infinity type projects are fully aware of their fees and were not swayed from buying because their fees are higher than they would be at a smaller development. Personally, when I bought my three years ago, I avoided buildings where the dues seemed very high, however, many people are okay with paying slightly more.
    To answer the question regarding what seem to be high HOA dues in comparison to high rises with more amenities, my understanding is that it is pure economics. Typically, low rise, low volume buildings have less units contributing to the building related costs, whereas high rise, high volume buildings have more units contributing to the same costs. Therefore, fees may be higher on a per unit basis for smaller buildings.

  46. Posted by Anne

    With respect to HOA fees, I agree that $600 per month is high for limited amenities. HOA fees at Gateview highrise condos in Albany (city next to Berkeley) is about $400 for a 2/2 unit: 24 hr. security, pool, gym, jacuzzi, sauna, cable, water and garbage. Window washing 2x a year. 🙂
    Still HOA fees are a drawback for all condo living, and will affect resale value.

  47. Posted by SeeHsee

    “Does anyone have an idea why the HOA’s are comparable to the high rise tower condos or condo buildings with many amenities (ie. pool, gym, community room w/ theater, etc.)”
    It’s natural to assume that the fees are closely tied to amenities. The reality, though, is that they are often most influenced by things you don’t notice first. Utilities are a huge component of HOA fees, as is insurance and maintaining security and fire safety systems, and elevators. Staffing costs are, too (property management, lobby and maintenance staff, and the associated workers insurance, taxes etc.) Maintaining reserves at the adequate levels based on the cost of operating the building and providing needed component replacements over the longterm requires a healthy monthly contribution from each owner. California has very strict regulation and oversight over how condominium associations are run and handle their finances. I don’t think developers could get away with artificially underestimating HOAs (without risk of legal recourse). However, dues are based on studies and projections. And nothing gives you a better idea of what to really expect than a building’s history, which is where buyers of new construction run a risk. I live in a building with pretty high dues, so I did a lot of research into the history of the association and building maintenance before buying. I wanted to see how the dues had increased over the years. In the end, I felt confident about how the association was handling dues and maintaining the building. I left a condominium where the dues were comparatively low, but the building was poorly maintained, at risk of imposing a special assessment, and where the association was frantically looking for cuts to avoid the inevitable. You really have to do some research to understand why a building’s dues at a particular amount. I would be questioning of excessively high dues and very skeptical of too-good-to-be true low dues.
    (BTW: Albany off-the-freeway versus downtown SF is an apples-to-oranges comparison, and in a city like SF, with condos making up so much of the ownership marketplace, the presence of HOA dues doesn’t make them inherently disadvantaged in value.)

  48. Posted by Anonymous

    It would be very interesting to create a list of current HOA dues in projects throughout the city. $600 seems high for a building like the Odeon. My brother pays $380 a month and his building has parking, doormen, pool and gym.

  49. Posted by SeeHsee

    “It would be very interesting to create a list of current HOA dues in projects throughout the city.”
    Last year I was involved with my building’s association in a study of nearby buildings of similar type (150+ unit high rises), based on a dollar per square footage amount, which is how dues are generally calculated. Again, it’s important to chose similarly sized and constructed buildings (as an earlier poster mentioned with regard to large vs. small buildings). For District 8 in SF, we came up with an average of just under $600 for a 700-750 square foot unit. The biggest factor affecting dues?…whether or not a building had earthquake insurance. Again, the state of the building from a maintenance and reserves-level standpoint will tell you more than looking at surface amenities.

  50. Posted by Anne

    My Albany condo comparision wasn’t a strict “apples to apples” comparison with SF condos. The only way to make an appropriate comparison is by looking at condos in SF. If a buyer must live in a SF condo, then he/she may be stuck with relatively high HOA fees. At the end of the day, it is the surface amenities that count for me since that directly affect my quality of life.

  51. Posted by SeeHsee

    Anne: Apologies if I seemed argumentative. I understand what you’re saying. I simply wanted to point out that amenities are only a fraction of the picture when it comes to HOA fees. For example, in my former condo building, the association was eating a huge cost (which is of course passed onto owners) for swimming pool and spa operation, which were both in sore need of major overhaul (and would require a special assessment). At the same time, they were cutting back on general cleaning, and tackling more life-critical items such as updating the life-safety system, addressing a water-intrusion problem, and replacing outdated gym equipment of questionable safety–all while desperately trying to avoid dues increases. So, on the surface it appeared that the building offered a full range of amenities for reasonable dues. With a little scratching under the surface, however, the real picture was quite different. I love amenities, but as a condo owner, my quality of life would be equally impacted by a badly maintained property or whopping assessment due to mismanagement or too-low fees that didn’t adequately cover the real needs of the building. Because condos so often resemble apartments, I sometimes think owners have a hard time understanding the concept that there’s no overreaching entity to pass off costs to. Once the original developer is out of the picture, the buck stops with each and every owner.

  52. Posted by Anne

    SeeHsee: no apologies necessary. Your insights (having thoroughly researched HOA assessments) are truly invaluable to the discussion. As a homeowner and a condo owner, my HOA fees have doubled in the past 10 yrs. Fortunately, the building is well-managed and public areas have been renovated so property values have increased.
    So I see your frustration with a poorly managed condo.

  53. Posted by anonymous

    in general, as someone who’s not originally from the US, i’m amazed by the level of HOAs (current, forget the argument about whether they are artifically set or not). i mean, i can rent a (great) 1 bedroom apartment in russian hill/nob hill/etc for around $2k a month OR I can buy a condo for $700k and still pay $500 a month in HOAs.
    insane. would much rather have almost no ammenities and keep hoa costs down to basic shared maintainance, etc.
    incidently, in comparison, why are ‘hoa’ fees of TICs generally SO much lower than condos of a similar size/location?

  54. Posted by JC

    Does anyone know exactly what the HOA fees cover at the Odeon?

  55. Posted by kc

    If HOA is a factor of costs of amenities, utilities, etc., then why does HOA rise, for example, the farther North you go in SOMA? Seems like buildings are pegging HOA to the prestige/desireability of the neighborhood, and in that case, it seems like something that should properly be reflected in the price of the condo rather than the HOA.

  56. Posted by SeeHsee

    “Seems like buildings are pegging HOA to the prestige/desireability of the neighborhood, and in that case, it seems like something that should properly be reflected in the price of the condo rather than the HOA.”
    No, fees are based solely on studies and projections of maintenance, cost of operation, and expected life and needed replacement of a building’s equipment and other elements (such as hallway carpet or roofing). First, there are fewer existing full-service buildings in SOMA like the ones on Nob and Russian Hill. Second, as a building becomes older, maintenance becomes more costly. Eventually, even those buildings in SOMA will see comparative increases as they age.
    As for the comment about TICs–totally different animal, and much higher personal risk to owners if an unexpected cost arises with the property.

  57. Posted by kc

    But I’m not talking about SOMA compared to Nob and Russian Hill, I’m talking about within SOMA itself. The closer you get to being able to call yourself South Beach, the higher the HOA. Similar building ages and amenities, but higher rates.

  58. Posted by SeeHsee

    KC: All I can tell you is that you’d have to get your hands on the operating budgets of each building or other some other information on the costs that make up the dues. Home owners associations are non-profit and subject to strict state regulations. No one can just say, “we’re in a nice neighborhood, so let’s jack up our dues.” As earlier posts have indicated and is explained in the newer, similar post about HOA fees, the answers usually lie in what you don’t see, not what’s on the surface. Can you cite an examples of the buildings you have in mind? One that seems more reasonably priced and another more expensive one?

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Articles