Are The “Exceptions” (And Big Losses) Becoming A Palms Rule?June 15, 2009
What some are wont to characterize as San Francisco “exceptions” are quickly becoming the rule for two-bedroom condo re-sales at The Palms (555 4th Street).
While #401 closed escrow with a reported contract price of $599,900 in January (purchased for $779,000 in October 2006), and #313 is still seeking a short sale at $599,900 (purchased for $800,000 in January 2007), the list price for #731 has been reduced to a “bank approved price” of $619,000 (purchased for $925,000 in August 2006).
555 4th Street #823 is currently in contract having been listed at $605,000 (purchased for $815,000 in January 2007). And the only other two-bedroom currently listed at The Palms is #309, purchased for $842,500 in September 2006 and currently seeking $670,000.
Once again, all two-bedroom condos with declines in value ranging from 23% to 33% since late 2006/early 2007. Of course that’s assuming sales at list.
∙ Listing: 555 4th Street #309 (2/2) 1,113 sqft – $670,000 [MLS]
∙ Listing: 555 4th Street #313 (2/2) 1,111 sqft – $599,900 [MLS]
∙ Listing: 555 4th Street #731 (2/2) 1,052 sqft – $619,000 [MLS]
∙ Pushing Forward With Price Discovery At The Palms (555 4th Street) [SocketSite]
∙ A SoMa/Palms Wake Up Call (And Apple): 555 4th Street #401 [SocketSite]
Comments from Plugged-In Readers
71k for 2 extra square feet? That has to be a record $/sf price for san francisco!
Can you do the same analysis on more established buildings? i.e. Towers at one Embarcadero, the Brannan, etc?
I’m not convinced all buildings in South Beach are getting hit the same.
the established buildings have buyers who have been there are a long time and bought when prices were reasonable, whereas in the Palm era buildings nearly every buyer bought at the top.
Down 23-33% is fantastic news at this relatively early stage of the bubble unwind. People who waited to buy should be encouraged – I bet these ultimately go for 50% off peak.
I think the design and location doomed this building. Palms is located in the middle of a decent neighborhood but not close to any of the premier buildings. The Palms is across the street from a nightclub, next to the freeway and the other side is an empty parking lot. The building is hideous on the outside and the the interior courtyard (Palms Park) is a complete joke.
Socketsite should bring back an old post when a reader asked if she should buy at Infinity or Palms.
What happened to grrr? Is he still an owner or decided to walk?
“Can you do the same analysis on more established buildings?”
Had a quick look at the Brannan. Most of the info on 219 and 239 isn’t easy to find or wasn’t reported. But at 229, 9A is for sale for $1,695M. Previously sold for $1,825M in July of 2006. $130K loss in 3 years. Unit 14D is listed for $1,475. Previous sale was in July of 2001 for $1.4 million. So basically zero appreciation in 8 years – looks like they’re hoping to cover selling costs.
At 88 King, there are 7 listings, but I only saw info on floors 1-9 on PropertyShark.
#519, sold for $695K in December of 2000, now listed for $648K. A $50K loss after nearly a decade of holding.
#301, sold for $1,375M in December of 2005, now listed for $1,195M.
#117, sold for $1.2 million in September of 2004, sold again for $1.3 million in January of 2008. Now a short sale listed for $899K. A 33% hit in 18 months.
I thought this place, like the Beacon, was filled with hot party girls who spent their days sunning at the pool and their nights “entertaining” all the hipster owners?
Surely such a place couldn’t see 33% price declines?!
Wonder what happens when the HOA fes double as the foreclosures mount…
This place is a dump, pure and simple, and many of the units sold at the height of the bubble with exotic financing. I think you could see half the owners in the building eventually default/foreclose or walk away at some point in the next few years, HOA fees will rise, I could see this building going down to $250-300 a sq ft.
Flunkster — your name says it all. The palms is great and is in an ideal location, as I’ve explained previously. A few blocks from everything we need (yet not across from a train station or a stadium or top of a grocery store). Great restaurants across the steet (Coco500, Orson, Fringale, Zuppa, Bacar, etc. Close to work, union square, etc…..without behind in the midst of tourists, parades, traffic, etc. The Palms also has more than 300 homes. Not a small place. Courtyard and/or lower level units sold at the peak to people that likely couldn’t afford them…so what. yawn. It’s the market and they pay more their personal finanical condition (and the buyers benefit). The palms is 98% occupied. The Infinity, meanwhile, has had a fire sale for the past year. …all gearing up for the opening of the bus terminal across the street.
“I think the design and location doomed this building.”
That, or an outrageous bubble coupled with the availability of exotic financing to people who should never have bought anything.
The design here is certainly no worse than the Infinity, which in my opinion is far uglier.
Why not rent this penthouse instead, currently available for $3300, down from $3700/mo. The owner seems to be motivated enough to throw in the parking.
I love the attempt by a Palms owner to compare it with the Infinity like they are even remotely similar in scope, design, or quality. I’m sure it is a fine building, but the original prices were even more of a joke than those of other buildings. It never was and never will be considered a “premier” building in SF.
My Realtor dragged me into the Palms in 2007. They were offering some slick “buy down” and a 5 year ARM — and some other confusing “deals”. One look at the courtyard gave the the fortitude to just run.
50% is not far off at this point. But I think it could be lower when considering the hysteria surrounding those condo towers 2-3 years ago. Lines going around the block, people behaving like the next Star Wars movie was being shown. All of this for cheap cheap cheap 700/800 per foot or more. Seeing people/banks lose actual money is not funny (except maybe to a Millionaire in Marin) and who knows how much setback this represents to the poor specuvestors who were simply too late in the game.
Can someone explain why these places have conf rooms/business centers ie, a few comruters/printers etc. Everyone would have that in their condo. WTF are they for?
its a truly sad sports town when the Flunkster Dude reference fails to evoke even a glint of recognition…
unless grr meant that – nah…
The losses on just this one building are pretty staggering — perhaps $70 million in just two years. I don’t know if it is a dump, but I think there is a pretty good chance antonio’s prediction will come about — lots of foreclosures and far bigger price declines. There is just way too much SOMA condo inventory and way too much that was sold at bubble prices. I can’t see why anyone would buy there now. Just rent and save yourself thousands a month.
I work near this building, and can attest that it’s a pretty poor location.
It’s not that the Palms is far away from some good locales, it’s actually fairly central. But the IMMEDIATE LOCATION is really bad. Flunkster Dude hit the nail on the head.
I’m not trying to be mean, but the Palms is probably the biggest loser of all in terms of the bubble’s impact. It has lost 30% from peak, which is as high as we’ve seen in terms of the “real San Francisco,” and for the record, I don’t think it is going to get much worse.
At $599k, the buy/rent ratios start to make sense.
San FronziScheme wrote:
> 50% is not far off at this point. But I think it could be
> lower when considering the hysteria surrounding those
> condo towers 2-3 years ago. Lines going around the block,
> people behaving like the next Star Wars movie was being
I agree that we will probably see the average south of market condo selling for LESS that 50% of peak pricing at the bottom…
It is not just condos that are dropping. I was just down visiting a friend on the Peninsula and one of his neighbors (who has been following the market down for the past couple years) is now asking 49% of the price he paid in 2000…
Woodside is nice, but it’s too dependant on Tech windfall cash.
“and one of his neighbors (who has been following the market down for the past couple years) is now asking 49% of the price he paid in 2000…”
The high end is immune you know.
So I’ve been told many times.
A quick looks at the data shows that the Palms is only slightly higher than other buildings in the area when it comes to defaults. A quick count of the number of units in some stage of foreclosure (NOD’s and NOT’s) at the larger buildings in the SOMA area:
250 King = 12
Palms = 11
Met = 9
Watermark = 8
201 Harrison = 4
The Brannan = 4
Bridgeview = 3
88 King = 2
690 Market = 1
310 Townsend = 1
300 3rd = 1
188 Minna = 1
199 New Montgomery = 1
0 at Infinity and 1 Rincon, although 1 Rincon has had one successful Short Sale*
*** I did not include current bank owned properties in the numbers above.
The numbers are relatively low when you consider the overall size of each of these buildings.
Don’t worry, people jump on and off the bandwagon depending how the team is doing. Sorta Sad in a great city like this.
I guess people gave up on sports and now read the MLS.
Back to Palms. As far as rentals, I heard people are leaving the building and going to other somewhat new condos in the area forcing the owners to lower their rent.
I’m surprised how many buyers dramatically overpaid for the Palms. It seemed pretty obvious that it was just a dorm.
It’s the Palms…I didn’t like it when it was built and I still don’t like it. I would not have put anyone in that building. Buy a neighborhood, it works.
Good news if the Infinity is at 0, hope it stays that way as it keeps people buying in what seems like a safer building, and renters moving there as they know they can get a newer unit for less rent than what they had prior. Of course nothing is immune so let’s see what happens.
I’ve been reading socketsite for a while, and just now pieced together that LMRiM stand for “Laughing Millionaire Renter in Marin” lol.
@ David Esler – excellent point, and one that I believe is almost ALWAYS overlooked when discussing SOMA – the people who buy here will be subject (eventually) to the same financial losses as those who bought in downtown San Diego, Miami and other bubble condo zones. SOMA is not a neighborhood – it’s a zip code full of dormitorys/apartments, nearly all of which are interchangeable from a functionality standpoint. And here’s the really bad news for these folks – as soon as the market turns up again (no guess as to when that’ll happen) they’ll starting building again and that will keep a lid on pricing and rents.
rabbits, good points, it still boggles my mind as to what all the bubbleonians were thinking when paying $800-$1,000 sq ft for cookie-cutter, high end dorms. I agree that SOMA will see the same kind of declines as Miami/San Diego, etc. In fact, I think in a worst case scenario you could see a building like the Beacon go to 0, I think you could see 2/3 or even more of the residents in that building either default or walk away in the next few years, and you could get to a point where HOA’s plus prop taxes equal what the apts could rent out for, thus driving prices to 0.
I’m just stunned that the listing for #313 refers to $525 HOAs as “low.” When compared to Ritz-Carlton Residences, I guess.
I like the descriptions for #313 .. not only the “low” HOA @ $525, but the “dinning” room and the stainless “steal” kitchen. Freudian slips anyone?
“At $599k, the buy/rent ratios start to make sense.”
Make sense for whom?
i can’t imagine renting these for more than $2K per month. Mortgage + HOAs + taxes, etc. are still double the rental costs.
At $399K, the buy/rent ratios start to make sense, but not at 599K
On Nightline last evening, Suze Orman took a woman to task for wanting to buy a condo priced at $610k. And her household income was $225k. “Girlfriend, you cannot afford this home that you are thinking of buying.” I would hate to think we are returning to a time where we think half a million dollars is a lot of money.
for you who are doing financial analyses of buy/rent ratios, would you consider giving any premium towards owning at all? (i.e. pride of ownership, inflation hedge, etc) i’m not asking facetiously. because if prices have to drop to exactly where rents are, it seems like a long way to go; not that i think it’s impossible, but was there a time (before the bubble) that buying was cheaper or equal to renting?
condoshopper, it kind of depends on a number of considerations. At this stage in my life (early 40s, married, two kids in school, stable job), yeah, I’d put a small premium on ownership. But 10 years ago (single, not sure where I would work), I would have actually put a premium on renting for the added flexibility and lower risk.
Note that the near-universal rule is that owning is less expensive than buying — that is how landlords all over the world make money. SF has been topsy-turvy for about the last 8 years in this respect. Before that, SF followed the usual rule and it was less expensive to own than rent in most circumstances.
Yes, there was such a time. I moved to East Cambridge in June 1998 and looked at buying a triple decker (3-unit) building there for $380k. The rent roll was around $4500/mo as I recall, which would have nicely serviced a 90% mortgage at 8% interest. Only problem was I ddn’t quite have the $50k or so needed to close the purchase …
Ironically, 5 years later, I could’ve bought the exact same building for around $850k with zero down and the rent wasn’t really much higher (maybe $5500/mo by then due to gentrification).
It wouldn’t surprise me to see the property in question (its on Hampshire St. if anyone cares) back at around $380k in 2013, 15 years (and 20% of a lifetime) later.
Just one personal anecdote, about a time, long long ago in a place far, far away, when owning was cheaper than buying.
Sorry — should read: “Note that the near-universal rule is that owning is less expensive than renting.”
RE can be a pretty poor hedge against inflation especially if you overpay. The maintenance costs and taxes will never go away.
Pride of ownership: You’re improving your self-worth but decreasing your net worth! Someone’s making a buck on your pride.
eh, that should read “Renting”
condoshopper: I remember a time when owning was comparable to renting – this was the early nineties. The theory that I always heard back then was that your out of pocket expenses (HOA, taxes, interest after taxes) were approximately the same as renting, but you were “building equity” and in addition might expect some appreciation over time. This had been the generally accepted wisdom for some time before that, too. The big problem for most people, in those golden days of my youth, was accumulating the down payment of 10-20%.
But to answer your first question, I think that for me, and for most people, it’s appropriate to apply some premium for ownership. Your neighbors might be of higher quality (or wealthier, at any rate), you have control over the place and what is done to it, you can’t be evicted, etc. Depending on your personal situation and temperament this amount can vary. I’ve thought about this a fair bit and concluded, simply from a gut level, that my number is $500 per month. It’s going to be a while before I can justify buying again…
As to premiums in owning vs. renting, again I’ll return to the type of property and it’s surroundings. Owning a building, a SFH, or even a condo in a mature area that one wanted to live in would command a reasonable premium over renting (maybe the exact amount of the tax benefits?). But owning in an area like SOMA which is going to see more and more development of the same type of property already available? That cannot be good for values, perceived or otherwise.
Thanks for the feedback…
I’m not very sophisticated with money except i work a decent job and try to save as much as i can, hoping to buy a condo (condo over SFD because convenient location is important due to personal circumstances, and otherwise could only afford SFD in iffy neighborhoods). The price distortions of the past few years has got me really, really confused on what a fair price on a condo (such as in SOMA) should be.
As a Palms owner, you have to mind the location of these units that are being featured on this site (on a sidenote, being a loyal reader and longtime fan of SS for a few years, Adam Koval seems to have a track record of being biased against The Palms for some reason). All the units on the third floor (e.g., Unit 309 and 313) of The Palms are located on or above common amenities (e.g, gym, yoga room, theatre, business centre, lounge, etc.). Units 309 and 313 are terrible locations because of the constant noise coming from those amenities, which makes them less desirable to most buyers and partly explains for the huge decline in value. Unit 823 is another victim of bad location within the building. 823 is located directly across from the common elevators for the 8th floor, making it bad location if you want peace and quiet. Like many buildings in SoBe/SoMa areas (e.g,. the Brannan, Watermark, Infinity, Rincon, Towers, etc.), The Palms have a number of units that are located in less desirable areas of the building; However, those poorly located units do not represent the overall market value of most of the units within the building. Unfortunately, some of the readers on SS would believe otherwise.
condoshopper — Landlording as a business (i.e. buying buildings then renting them out for more than the costs of owning + debt service + cost of money) can be a very good way to make money over the long term.
My wife’s grandparents (who were Okies, or is it Arkies, I forget) did so in San Francisco starting in the early 1950’s and built up a huge portfolio over about 40 years (alas all gone due to probate lawsuits between the siblings — my wife’s parent’s generation).
Its especially good in an environment where property prices AND rents are inflating rapidly (because you get “free money” to use to buy more properties). For the little guy, banks will generally loan you money to buy real estate which cannot be said for any other (income-producing) asset class.
But the caveat is: if your holding costs exceed the rents obtained for any prolonged period of time, you will inevitably go bankrupt and have to start all over again… and the banks will hate you.
I’m not sure that was really the question but anyway. I think that scenario is the boring, old way that people built up little landlording empires. The downside is that is takes an entire lifetime to get ahead of the game and pay down all the debts … its probably the slowest way to make money out there.
On a side note: I have an appointment to see some units at the Millennium this weekend. Does anyone think that the condo market in SoMa has stabalized? Or should I wait until 6 months or so?
Why would you ask that question on a site full of real estate bears? Of course we’re going to say no, but the prevailing opinion of some posters here (bottom in 2011-2012) won’t work for you because you’re looking to buy Right Now.
Wharton, you can try to defend the Palms all you want, bottom line is it’s a cookie-cutter, dorm style, hideous looking building that was sold to bubbleonians at the top of the biggest bubble and ponzi scheme in history. You are going to see a massive wave of people either default (many at palms got exotic financing)or walk away because their condo has been cut in half from whee they bought it, over the next years. It’s a vicious cycle that will lead to increased HOA’s, reluctance on part of the banks to provide financing, and prices in the $250-$300 sq ft range eventually.
Condoshopper: How long have you been “looking into” buying a condo? I could be wrong but I suspect you’re not genuinely going to buy anything any time soon given some of your questions on SS over the past several months. (Which is a good thing cosidering the direction of the market.) Anyway, it’s really not difficult to figure out where the market is headed and which buildings in SOMA are better than others. No harm in looking but why consider yourself a buyer if that’s genuinely not the case. Perhaps condo-fencesitter may be a better handle! Sorry if this comes across as harsh it’s not meant to be…
What’s wrong with shopping without intent to immediately buy ? Every time I’ve gone into property shopping mode I have to withhold the urge to put in a bid for the first couple of months at least. The reason is that in those early months I am too stupid to tell the difference between a good deal and a waste of money. Unless I already live where I’m looking then it also takes some time to tell the good blocks from the bad. It takes time to educate yourself and attain the competence required to sign a million dollar commitment.
Wharton. Totally agree. Adam is trying to stir things up to get the regulars out during a slow news period, but this posting is, per usual, lacking any perspective. Compare it to the fawning over Blu (which advertises on sicketsite) and seemingly isn’t able to give away homes. With the Palms, we’re taling about a handful of units in a 98%-occupied building. And yes, I’ll defend it to the hilt. We love our home and think its plenty “neighborhood” for us (David Elser: is North Beach considered a “neighborhood” to you? really. Hmmm. To me it’s just one big sinking rose swarming with a bunch of tourists and Peskin-ites. To each his own. Meanwhile, Antonio is simply pulling crystal ball BS out of his a**
[Adam’s Note: No stirring or bias intended, the listings are what they are (as are the trends). And a bit of our “fawning” over BLU: BLU Cuts Pre-Sale Required Green To $575,000 (And Up To 26%).]
@Willow. Yes. Over the last couple of months I have been more active in my investigation of a condo and scope out local/regional real estate websites. Not to get into any details with my personal situation, but it is a difficult time to buy for someone who has a fair credit score and <30% down. In addition, this is going to be the home I will stay in for the next 30+ years. So the trend is important to me both on depreciation/appreciation and financing trends. I sometimes post or ask questions hoping that one out of the twenty of you regulars would provide a little bit of insight to actually help others rather than do your general bashing of others or the real estate market in San Francisco. Not everyone has $1M + in the bank and have the luxury of waiting until the perfect time to buy in cash.
Maybe someone else wil post something positive. Thanks.
Hi Jim. I’m genuinely sorry…my original post in retrospect is off base and somewhat judgmental. Good luck with your continued search.
Seeing the comments above regarding cookie-cutter buildings, I got to be honest. I was recently in SF looking at condos. Saw a blue million of them (or at least so it seems). Except for the old Saint Joseph’s hospital, they all just blurred. Another staged set of West Elm furniture in a neutral-colored box. The only thing that stood out to me was the seeming safety and cleanliness (or lack thereof) of the neighborhoods.
Wharton: The units you cite as being in poor locations (309, 313, 823) were in the same location when they were originally purchased. It doesn’t seem unrealistic to assume the value of other units is declining proportionately… or can we make an argument about location here? I know from what I read on here that D10 has fallen farther than the other neighborhoods. Maybe within a building is analogous.
Jim: I’m also waiting to find that ideal time to buy. I’m worried about the inventory overhang of SOMA condos, increasingly tight financing (in availability, desirability of terms, and restrictions), and the likelihood that many more condos will be foreclosed on soon. My own timeframe is 2011…
Jim & Condoshopper –
I too often wonder what the SS regulars club has against condos in SOMA. I live in a condo in SOMA and quite like the area and the convenience. I would suggest, from a layman’s perspective, sticking with a building 5 yrs old or older (Met, Bridgeview, Portside, Museum Parc) and reviewing the finances of the association closely. There are going to be foreclosures in every building – but look at them as your opportunity to find a home – not the doomsday scenario so often projected here that we’re months away from all these buildings being converted back to warehouses.
Thanks to everyone again who took time to provide feedbacks.
Willow i’ve been actively looking and putting in offers for a while now, and i find the advice and knowledge from you posters very valuable which is why i’m asking questions along the way. Luckily, as you pointed out, the past offers were not accepted or i’d be out at least the whole down payment by now.
That’s a bit over the top, isn’t it? Nobody here is saying SOMA condos will/should revert to warehouses!
On the contrary, this area needs development and it’s a great place to increase density overall.
The only issue is with prices. Because we’ve got ourselves a nice little Miami bubble which is currently popping. Just like bubble prices were a huge incentive to build density, the current meltdown might unjustly serve as a cautionary tale to potential developers. Because of that we run the risk of seeing nothing much new built in SOMA in the next 5 years. This crash/burn will sadly delay its current rebirth.
In short, too much thrust on the way up. The rocket burned through its fuel too quickly and is now crashing hard.
Because of that we run the risk of seeing nothing much new built in SOMA in the next 5 years. This crash/burn will sadly delay its current rebirth.
A client and myself drove around western SOMA today and it seemed like development is still ongoing.
Didn’t all districts of SF zoom at about the same rate? I was in Vegas during the irrational real estate exuberance and HR condo pricing was completely out of whack on a sf basis with the rest of the inventory types. Here it seems there’s a much tighter range between different locations and building types. There are some less than great buildings in SOMA (Beacon, Palms)and there is a greater concentration of new buildings. I think these are contributing factors in the SOMA slippage. But, IMHO a lot of the SOMA slamming on this site ignores the underlying value of the area as a great place to live.
I am not a SOMA slammer, on the contrary. I think it’s a great central location under-utilized in terms of housing. Now that a lot of the industry/distribution has closed/relocated, it just needs extensive development. But pricing will always be an issue. Sure, it Nob Hill goes to 1000, I understand why someone would want to pay 800 on the opposite side of Market. But neither the 1000 or the 800 were realistic/sustainable and these prices are quickly crumbling at the edges.
Agreed on the unsustainability of those kinds of numbers. What I really don’t understand is how those kinds of numbers were thought to be comps for what should be paid in Mission Bay.
The bigger question is why would anyone pay $1000 for 600 – 700 sq. ft. in ANY neighborhood.
“wont to characterize”, not “want”! (Better yet: “wont to portray”)
[Editor’s Note: Cheers.]
The listing for 555 4th Street #309 at $670,000 has been withdrawn without a sale.
And now 555 4th Street #823 has fallen out of escrow and is once again available and listed at $605,000. Purchased for $815,000 in January of 2007.
The sale of 555 4th Street #823 closed escrow today with what appears to be a “bank approved” sale price of $605,000, 20% under original asking and 26% under its previous sale in January of 2007.
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