The 1870’s era Victorian at 837 South Van Ness Avenue has seen better days.
And while we do see the potential for a spectacular Mission District compound, calling it a “fixer” seems a bit gracious and it’s not a project for the faint of heart (nor pocketbook).
At least there is a working bathroom:

∙ Listing: 837 South Van Ness (5/1) 2,488 sqft – $1,395,000 [837SouthVanNess.com]

71 thoughts on “A “Fixer” That’s Not For The Faint Of Heart (Nor Pocketbook)”
  1. It’s going to take another 1.4 Million to make it livable. I thought the pictures of the apples and figs were a nice touch.

  2. “The 1870’s Victorian at 837 South Van Ness has definitely seen better days.”
    Wow, some understatement. It’s seen better weeks, months, years, centuries and milleniums, too…

  3. Truly an amazing diamond in the rough. The amount of space, the details, the scale of the rooms, the lot size. wow!
    Great potential, and a great price.

  4. whoever takes on this project is going to make stupid amounts of money. Van Ness may not be the ideal street, but a gigantic lot and a HUGE (as the Mission goes) SFH? It will take $500K to do up extremely nicely, and someone will pay and arm and a leg to have easy access to the freeways to get down to Facebook or the Goog, have a nice big “new” house, with an enormous yard.

  5. I’d love to know the story behind this. Looks like someone started something but just couldn’t finish, and that maybe there was a kid that maybe played around when the parent worked. Last recorded sale in 2004 for a very low price. What happened in between?
    Big job. At least a mil to do it “morally” (fix foundation, be to code, etc) and then more for finishes.

  6. “whoever takes on this project is going to make stupid amounts of money.”
    I would think much of what you said is well known by those who make a living doing this which is reflected in the very high asking price (and who knows what it gets bid up to). Those bidding may be making a ton of money lately on these remodels but I imagine some are going to overpay as well quite soon in the frenzy wouldn’t you think?

  7. Doesn’t 6,124 square feet of land with one house built attached on the south side sounds a lot like a split-able double lot? I don’t understand the arcana of the rules except 3K sf is a regular city lot…
    Two houses, one buildable from scratch… The other with most of the demo done already(!) I think it trades well over ask if there is any glimmer of hope on a split.

  8. I don’t get it. You’re telling me this thing is going to get overbid AND after a $500k renovation, is still going to turn a profit? Someone will have to pay upward of $2 millions to live in that particular spot? Has anyone ever paid more than $2M for a SFH on SVN?

  9. @Soccermom-
    The lot can be split, and is zoned for 3 units per lot. That’s 6 dwellings for at least $1M each.

  10. @mas, highest priced SFH on SVN showing up on MLS is 1348 SVN which sold for $2.3MM in Feb 2005. 4,100sqft home on a 5,737sqft lot. Not remodeled, but the listing claims new foundation and roof.

  11. I’d just like to say that I like the garage door– so much better than the typical faux-Victorian junk that every fancy house in Pacific Heights gets.

  12. I like Michael’s comment.
    Folsom and Van Ness may be the next Valencia/Liberty Hill, but its going to be a few years and the $$ to buy and rebuild you could just buy now in whatever neighborhood you wanted at the same final cost/sq ft.

  13. Jeremy: There’s no way the city would allow this historic house to be torn down for 6 condos. Can the lot be split while preserving the house?

  14. The lot is 50 feet wide. It appears (from the Sanborn map) that there is 27 feet from the edge of the house to the lot line. In theory (I’m definitely no expert) the lot could be split, preserving the old house, with both lots have approximately 25 feet of frontage on the street.

  15. AJ, the most recent comp would be 808 S. Van Ness. Single lot Victorian in the same shape sold in 2012 for 400K. gutted and flipped for 1.2mil six months later.
    I’ve been inside 808 SVN before and after the flip.
    A fair/good price for this double lot with one house is 1.2 Mil.

  16. Splitting the lot might be something to strongly consider. Reno, make the basement into an apartment (City laws be damned), and really go to town on that backyard. Those fruit trees are lovely; with landscaping it could be amazing.

  17. City laws be damned?
    Yes, that’s one way to add new housing to SF: create more illegal and dangerous units with inadequate exiting, windows, natural ventilation, ceiling heights, safe and workable mechanical and electrical systems.
    Perfect solution.

  18. There are two kinds of people. People whose first impression is that it’s a wreck and people who see the high ceilings, the flood of light, the giant open kitchen and the endless possibility.
    The first group are probably employed in finance or coding. The second group are probably entrepreneurs, designers, artists, etc.

  19. The Planning Department survey identified the building as non-historic, and it’s certainly structurally deficient enough to tear down. Someone will be putting a lot of money into this.

  20. “There are two kinds of people. People whose first impression is that it’s a wreck and people who see the high ceilings, the flood of light, the giant open kitchen and the endless possibility.
    The first group are probably employed in finance or coding. The second group are probably entrepreneurs, designers, artists, etc.”
    Which of the two groups is more likely to hold stupid and false stereotypes about people based on their chosen profession?

  21. There is a third type of person. The type that sees this place and recognized that it should be demolished. I’m all for preservation but I’d love to see a well proportioned and appropriately / architecturally designed detatched SFH. Or more density in the form of condos.
    A fair/good price for this double lot with one house is 1.2 Mil.
    This means it will sell for 1.5 in this market.

  22. It doesn’t have to be about preservation. It could just be a fantastic house to enjoy.
    And you could sell the adjoining plot if you feel it’s your duty to the city.

  23. Sure looks like there is a back story here… like somebody was trying to reno it… while living there?
    My own sense is that when places are marketed like this, the owners want to scare away retail buyers because they don’t want to incur any liability for what they have done to the house — their best customer is a builder who will tear down the house and all liability with it.
    Still, the romantic in me desperately wants to talk the sellers down to 1M and then live in it, as is, and fix it up gradually. Not to the point of a generic Noe Valley Reno, but something a bit more airy and easy-going. A hipster palace.
    Oh well, time to stop dreaming and get back to coding.

  24. Even if the house has no historic designation by planning, it’s going to be hard and time consuming to demo it. And why? It can easily be renovated to be a $2mil final product.
    It’s not too hard to split this lot into two, and on the empty one build 2-3 high end condos.
    That’s the smart move here- not trying to demo it nor having a big ass side yard folks.

  25. I walked past this place today.
    The location isn’t really too great, being near a rather forlorn commercial corner and on a heavily trafficked street. The lot itself seems to be nice and large, and it’s currently piled high with what appears to be old torn-out lumber and junk. there’s a glorious palm tree on the street side.
    As for the house, it’s a disaster. It didn’t look like there was a whole lot to try and salvage, as romantic as the SS pictures kind of make it.
    I would agree with the post above that says whoever buys this is looking at a lot split and six 1 mil + units. That’s what I would do if I had the dough.

  26. I would definitely keep the “big ass yard” as part of a fabulous full renovation of the main house: restore the exterior to its’ original grandeur.
    Respect the interior details and character, but make it freshly white, modern and clean in the kitchen, baths, lighting.
    Such potential in a neighborhood that is changing fast.

  27. ^ Maybe a rich private screw-you-ROI type buyer would, but no developer would do that. Lot split = 2-3 new condos plus the grand Victorian SFH.

  28. Now tell us hipster, what is the connection between a “rich, private screw-you ROI type buyer”, your words not mine, have anything to do with keeping a nice open yard?
    The yard could become a fantastic urban garden for the new owners; by NOT building on it, it would also maintain more open space, sunlight and landscaping into adjacent properties to the side and rear.
    As an architect, I am not for developing ALL of our open space. It’s about balance, and here could be a great example of maintaining a nice open yard, owned and taken care of by a private owner.
    How is that a problem?

  29. Because any developer would want to build on that lot, once split, as it equals mucho profit. Some rich individual, who doesn’t care about an ROI, can choose to have a big ass side yard (in addition to an existing back yard) and forgo using it as a buildable lot. More a rich persons vanity pursuit than a practical decision…maybe they’ll raise a pack of chickens on it, keep bees and grow a micro-urban garden on it too, I dunno.

  30. @mas – yes, I think that this property will sell for over asking, and fully refurbished will weigh in over $2M, depending on the level of finish. If a developer grabs it, if they have cash, they can get the lot split, build the 3 condos for $1M+ a pop. That would put them in a position to ballpark break even on everything if they wanted to keep the renovated house, or sell the renovated house for $2M+.
    If you think that’s a crazy number, you need to look closer at what’s been going on in the Mission the last few months regarding SFH prices. Gutted stuff sells for over $750/sq. ft…

  31. LOL at people who don’t see things in person yet talk about “demolishing” things in this town. What’s the deal? Why don’t you learn things on here? People share their knowledge. So funny the same names making the same mistakes. Blah blah blah amateur blah read one thing on the internet two uears ago and misunderstood it blah.

  32. I know the people who used to live next door, the other side of the yard. The people I know fixed up their old house themselves, and sold years ago. They had lived there for 10 to maybe even 20 years, and the neighbors in this building were little more than squatters. Many big, angry dogs in the yard. Old military jeeps being parted in the yard, and on the street, too. You see how the front of the house is kind of boarded up? Well, it was like that the whole time people lived there. The people I know offered to buy it, researched the owner and tried to make an offer, anything to fix it up, but no interest. I’d say 30 years ago, this place was probably in near original condition and just got parted to the studs, destroyed.
    By the way, these few blocks of Van Ness have some of the most amazing old mansions in the city — many have been owned by the same people for 50 years. If they start to sell, the prices for this part of the Mission will explode.

  33. The market for inner mission mansions is about to be tested. When I walked by this afternoon, the stagers were unpacking their vans at 507 capp st., which according to the broker (standing out front) has been renovated into a nearly 5000 sqft home. (I don’t see how they got 5000 sqft of space into that house–probably much of it is compromised attic and basement space. But it’s still a gorgeous home, http://www.redfin.com/CA/San-Francisco/507-Capp-St-94110/home/1352344, on a block that many people would consider marginal.)

  34. I look at this house and the numbers start spinning in my head before I get out of the truck. To think I have a construction and finance background, the horror the horror.
    Thoughts of teardown vs down to the studs remodel. Time involved. City permitting and planning. Neighborhood problems. It is SF.
    When we were picking up building lots for $35,000 to $75,000 years ago people were laughing. In fact it was the late 1980’s we knew that pretty soon empty lots were going to be few and far between and the only way you can pick up a decent lot and build new was buy a tear down. People are doing that now but they are spending a cool mil or more. No this isn’t in SF. We can turn these building lots for about $350,000 to $400,000 now but do we sell nope.
    First lesson, never ask a realtor what repairs would cost. They are stuck back in 1940’s for labor and material costs. They think a bucket of paint and some elbow grease can fix anything like brand new.
    Lots of people do not even know how to correctly “pencil out” a project. I have seen subdivisions that get bank financing that never really penciled out. The builders and lenders closed their eyes and rolled the dice and hoped the market would bail them out. Sometimes this works sometimes well we seen it from 2006-2010.
    You also have to figure the 12 renters who are going to claim to have lived there have to be paid to leave. Even the 6 squatters who lived in the garage.

  35. I really just don’t see anyone paying $3M to live here, no matter how nice the place ends up. So it just doesn’t work as a SFH at this price, sorry.

  36. NV Jim- I think I’d be more like $2mil, which is doable for “the new (new) mission.”
    inclinejj- nice rant.
    But one thing is for sure: flipper’s back and (s)he’s temporarily doing well in the mish.
    Personally, flipping is beneath me. All the hassle and risk (listen to inclinejj) only to pay max income tax on your flip. And then what, you only have after tax cash to show for it.
    Me? I prefer to leverage equity and buy and hold decent bldgs in decent/upcoming locations in SF. With the bout of inflation we will be experiencing in the next several years, owing hard assets like RE (especially with cheap long term financing in place) will be the winning hand IMO. But I welcome challenges to that theory for people.

  37. 49yo – Assuming you mean 1.4 for buying it (w/o getting bid up) and 600k for fixing= 2 mil?
    Just drive by this place. 600k won’t get you far on renovations – it’s a disaster.

  38. Demolitions, haul away: $40k
    New foundations, temp shoring: $150k
    Complete new kitchen: $80k
    3 complete new baths: $110k
    All new copper plumbing: $40k
    All new electrical, wiring, 300 amp box: $80k
    All new wood, double hung, etc. quality windows:$50k
    New historic style interior doors: $50k
    New and/or repair interior classic trim/stairs: &75k
    New roof: $35k
    Interior framing/gypsum board: $85k
    Interior painting/finishing: $60k
    Exterior trim repair/full painting, front stair and trim: $75k
    Landscaping, front/rear: $50k
    Design/engineering fees: $75k
    Permits: planning/building:$35k
    Refinish and/or new hardwood floors: $75k
    My total rough guess: $1,005,000
    I’m probably being generous, but realistic, I feel.

  39. Addendum: I forgot to add a new heating system: about $40-50k, 3-4 zones, fully ducted.
    Also, with all new foundations, makes sense to add 2 car garage space below the house.
    In all the numbers I proposed I included in them a 10-15% contingency with all trades.

  40. ^ I agree the renov on the Vic will be expensive (probably not $1mil, but a lot.) this project only makes sense with having the second lot developable.

  41. @Futurist:
    Having completely gutted a ~2000 sq ft SFH (in the same ‘hood) within the last year and a half, I can tell you that your estimates are on the very high side. Rather than going through each line item, I’d say that you’re about $400k over what it would actually cost you, more if you were someone that was going to do some of the work yourself (who doesn’t love them some demo?)…

  42. Agree, futurists costs are way high – you could spend that but I could do it for half… If not less. I wouldn’t have a fancy architect helping me pick out paint colors though:

  43. My understanding is that the lot is only 45 feet wide so splitting would be difficult. It’s zoned RH-3 so unless you can split – it limits you to 3 units.
    Would a developer of 6 units need to put an affordable housing unit in the condo complex? What are the build costs for a teardown (leaving the facade) and building out 6 units?
    If I were to buy it – I would leave the yard open and keep the light hitting the side of the house.
    The other major issue is that the house is rather narrow. It may be as narrow as 20 feet in the front of the house. With the 2 stairways – the existing rooms are very small. Layout is difficult in this type of house.

  44. @ CW,
    RH3 zoning permits on large lots (with a conditional use permit) 1 unit per 1000 sqft of lot area. So in principle you could put up to six units on this lot. That said, I don’t know how the planning commission has handled requests for such CUPs, i.e., whether they are regularly approved or treated as extraordinary exceptions. I’d be interested in hearing from anyone who has experience with this process.

  45. Oh, I hear you guys with regard to my rough estimates. You may be right. No problem with that. there will always be lower costs by someone else. Fact.
    But I did complete a full renovation on a similar Victorian in Noe; foundation to roof, high end remodel and the final construction cost was just about $950k.
    Without getting into a pissing contest, yes, it could be cheaper and it could be more.
    And, even though I’m not a “fancy” architect, whatever that means, I did assist in full color and finish selection.

  46. So, for 2.4 million, 1000/sf, you can get a really nice place, but at 19th and South Van Ness? If the price were exactly cut in half, I might think about it for about 10 seconds, then would still conclude nah, not worth it, life is too short to live there.

  47. @anon
    Why’s that? You can easily walk to all of the stuff on Valencia, 24th street has tons of places to eat, too. Easy freeway access to get down the peninsula or east bay, and a short walk to BART station on 16th. Super fast and easy to downtown as well.
    Now, the house itself… it looks freaking enormous from the outside. I’m guessing that when all was said and done you would be closer to 3500 sq ft with a 600 sq ft in law init, and room for 2 cars in the garage. Oh, and a wonderfully large yard for entertaining?
    If my money wasn’t currently tied up, I would be on this like white on rice – not to sell, but to live in.

  48. Lot split people, lot split! Keep/pimp out the vic, and add a few condos next door. Moneymaker here (for those who like flips. Personally I can’t be bothered; prefer to buy and hold SF RE, thanks.)

  49. This whole insistence on lot split is wearing on me. As if it’s the ONLY solution, or the only reasonable one.
    Guess what 49yoh? There are potential buyers out there who could easily buy this project up with all cash, renovate the house completely high end with my proposed budget AND WANT to have an amazing side yard to enjoy.
    And anon: think forward as in the future. I do a lot. The Mission is changing, evolving and gentrifying day by day. Great weather, walkable to 24th. I don’t get your “life is too short” comment at all.

  50. ^ bro, no one in their right mind is gonna lay out north of $2.5 mil for a SFH on SVN. You’d have the most expensive house on the block by close to $1mil. NOT a smart move, even for a wealthy hipster. Now if it were on Shotwell or Alabama st., maybe. But still a stretch. A high end home in the mish is stretching it at $2mil (one on Folsom and 21st comes to mind.). Guess that’s why architects aren’t realtors. (I ain’t one either btw but I know mish values.)

  51. “life is too short”
    Because that is a sh**ty area! You argue that maybe, possibly, this area will gentrify, and if and when that happens then this price point would make sense. Great. Wait and see if that happens and THEN pay that kind of price. In the meantime, you can live in one of about 20 far superior neighborhoods for these prices or less. Castro, Noe, Duboce, Lower Haight, Hayes Valley, etc. are all sunny great neighborhhods NOW and you can buy a fantastic place for this price. I like the inner mission, but 49YOH is spot on that nobody in their right mind would may this kind of price to live there. For an up and coming neighborhood, the smart money pays up and coming prices, not already there prices.

  52. “Duboce Lower Haight Hayes Valley” — all have blocks comparable to this one. another poster made the comment that SVN has some epic houses, which is true. The notion that someone wouldn’t pay 2.5m or more on SVN is pretty 2007-ish IMO. This one, fixed up, could be very large. Not as big as some of the mansions on SVN, but probably well over 3000 sqft. If and when one of the true Vic beauties hits the market? Easy.

  53. “Duboce Lower Haight Hayes Valley — all have blocks comparable to this one”
    Not true about Duboce Triangle; nothing nearly as lousy as this part of SVN. Regardless, the blocks to which you refer fetch far lower prices! The smart money does not pay above-par prices for a sub-par area like this one.

  54. For the record, I don’t think that area and SVN is a shitty area at all. But SVN is a busy street. So if I was gonna pay north of $2.5 for an inner mission manch, I’d like it on a prime street like shotwell or Alabama. FYI- I live an Alabama st and although I’m 1-2 blocks from all the fun stuff, my place (BR’s, back yard, etc.) are dead ass quiet, day and night, just the way I like it.

  55. 49 yo hipster you are clearly not following the current market and keep on talking about yourself in every thread.
    And just off or on 14th toward Church, that part of duboce triangle is similar to this part of svn.

  56. A- I do know the market well. What proof do you have otherwise?
    B- don’t like my posts, don’t f*cking read them.

  57. “:::: gets popcorn :::”
    Exactly. In addition to having an informed opinion, I’m merely trying to inject a bit of life into these rather sedate posts, but some sour pusses are quick to get bent out of shape.

Leave a Reply

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