CFAH

3959-3961 Washington Street

Billed as “a rare opportunity in one San Francisco’s most sought after neighborhoods to build the ideal family dwelling,” with “tremendous potential to be reconfigured for use as a single family home,” the vacant two-unit Presidio Heights building at 3959-3961 Washington Street hit the market listed for $5.3 million in May, having been purchased for $4.98 million a year (and one day) before.

While high transaction costs typically make for poor financial returns when dealing with short-term holds of unimproved properties (unless, of course, the market is rapidly appreciating), said apples-to-apples sales are great measures of how the market is actually moving, absent the effects of mix.

And while 3959-61 Washington Street was delisted from the MLS a few weeks ago, the sale of the property quietly closed escrow yesterday with a contract price of $4.995 million, for apples-to-apples appreciation of 0.3 percent for the property over the past 16 months or 0.23 percent per year.

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by garrett

    and of course, that tiny appreciation doesn’t even cover the commission, holding costs or taxes. yowza.

  2. Posted by Philip

    Well, maybe the seller got a little rental income during the holding period to offset some of those expenses. Still, not exactly a red-hot investment…

  3. Posted by Metroliner

    Aside from the dated (but functionally ok) appliances, I don’t see any need to remodel this house. The details are nice and the quality is far beyond new units.

  4. Posted by North-Sidey

    @Metroliner…. Um, no. I’ve visiting this building four times as I live right near by. The upper unit needs a full blown gut – as in doors are falling off and there’s literally fire damage. The lower is livable – certainly at the level of a rental – but by no means quality.

  5. Posted by eddy

    It’s amazing to me these homes trading for $5m. In case there was any question, that’s a lot of money for an average home in need of some updating. No views and not pacific heights. And 2 mark to market transactions pretty much solidifies the market.

    Does anyone have any history on these chunky brick facades we see all over SF? What is the historical significance and does anyone actually think this is a good look?

    • Posted by Dave

      Yes – and very little yard space. Its a boatload of money for an “average” home but in terms of the physical home one gets in SF it is what it is. 5 million will get one lots more home in many other Bay Area cities.

      I don’t know the historic significance of the look, but it beats the Sunset district look. Honestly, with 25 foot lots there is not a whole lot that can be done architecturally. Aside from mix-up the materials on the exterior façade of the structure and do Bay windows or knockoffs. Plus play with the roofline. All that was done here.

    • Posted by Notcom

      It’s called “clinker brick” if by “chunky” you mean the type of brick, and was considered vary stylish w/ craftsman or art nouveau homes at the turn-of-the-century (which is logical since the modes emphasized either rugged, hand-hewn looks or surreal shapes).

      Whether/not someone likes it is , of course, a matter of personal opinion.

      • Posted by Denis

        Yes. These are painted clinker brinks. Basically, bricks that were too close to the kiln fire that were misshapen, discolored and usually discarded. I notice that in SF they became popular post-earthquake. Usually you see them on structures built from say 1900-1920ish when they fell out of style. I’m guessing that they seemed more fire-resistant than the wood/stucco structures that burned so quickly in 1906. I have some on my house and have sort of a love-hate relationship with them.

        My two cents: Short-term holds are usually bad news. There may be another one coming up that could prove really unpleasant for the sellers. Also, yes, this is Presidio Heights, but it’s south-side on the last block before Arguello and smack in the middle of the fog belt which, weirdly, peters out closer to Maple. Location wise, this is not my favorite block. This still could be a good project for a developer. Merging units in this type of property isn’t hard if you have the right connections, clearly. It’s done constantly. That said, if you’re a normal person who wants to do a nice reno and merge units, this type of project will be a total nightmare and unless the buyers are experienced with this type of scenario, they are smart for cutting their losses and running far, far away. Good luck to the new owner.

    • Posted by SocketSite

      “not pacific heights”

      Keep in mind that everything else being equal, Presidio is actually more expensive than Pacific (Heights).

    • Posted by Stop Driving

      Actually, most of those clunky brick facades were from reclaimed brick after the 1906 earthquake. The city was a pile of clunky bricks and people helped themselves to the bricks and used them to rebuild.

  6. Posted by Harvey

    This two-unit property was billed as a “single-family home opportunity”. Did they go thru the pain of merging units, namely the conditional use permit required to remove a unit from the rental market which will end up before the board of supes before its all done, before listing it as such an opportunity? If not, this seems like incredibly deceptive advertising; hopefully whoever ended up with it did their research!

    • Posted by soccermom

      I would venture that at least a third of two-unit buildings in my outer Richmond ‘hood are presently occupied by single families. And merging them officially? Most families don’t care – the point is to have 30% more space than they would get in a SFR, for about the same price (Call it $1.8mm in the avenues for 2,500sf in a 2 unit vs. same price for 1,700sf in a SFR).

      Of that third of two unit buildings (anecdotal, of course) I would guess half (one sixth of the total) are semi-seriously Air BnB’ing.

      Probably less likely anyone in Presidio Heights is hosting, but plenty of (SF version of) upper-middle-class families augmenting incomes in 2 unit buildings with off-radar BnB listings where I live…. The “square footage discount” is there either way.

      Is it sub-optimal to have two kitchens? Yeah, but not if grandma is going to stay for a month in August.

      • Posted by soccermom

        It’s tough to find a prime Presidio Heights home this big for “only” $1,100psf, (what was paid here). I say decent trade by the buyers in the context of the neighborhood.

        Probably more than 2 kids if it’s a family purchase. Or two kids and a live-in nanny.

  7. Posted by Harvey

    good commment on the math – seems like a bargin!

  8. Posted by Denis

    Speaking of short holds, 2244 Steiner sold in May for 6MM (had been asking 5.25) and is now back for 6.5. Weird.

  9. Posted by Mark

    Great looking house.

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