Staying or Going?

About 10 days ago now I had a condo listed at 143 Albacore in Marina Green. It’s a very cute 2 bedroom place and was listed for $599,000. I had the usual amount of interest…in other words lots of people went through there and I eventually handed out 8 disclosures to interested parties. A gentleman came in the first hour of the first open house and expressed interest. Actually…a lot of interest. He was there for at least an hour. He told me he and his family have been renting in Foster City for years and he never could get around to making the plunge into a purchase. This was going to be the time, he said. This was the right property! He came back later and spent another 15 minutes or so there…then the next day he came back with his daughter. She liked it too. He asked a lot of detailed questions about offers and disclosures. he told me his agent would contact me and get the disclosures. During the week we marketed this place he called me 3 times to ask questions…his agent called a couple of times too. I’ll bet he told me 5 times he was going to write an offer. During the second weekend he came back with his wife and together they spent about a half hour in the condo. Offers were due on Monday by 1:00PM  and he called me himself at about 10AM to see how much competition he had. Keep in mind, his agent was doing the same thing.

I really liked this guy and was rooting for him! We ended up with 3 offers and his turned out to be lower than the other two. We countered him to help him out and he agreed. We ratified that evening! Yay!!

At 10AM the next morning his agent called and told me that he was backing out. I couldn’t believe it. After all that time and effort…he got cold feet. He didn’t want to use his savings on the down payment, the commitment was just too big, said his agent. He’s going to continue renting. OK, no problem…except I think that’s a mistake of course. We didn’t have any problem finding a buyer…we had two great backups. An hour later we ratified again. In 5 years this condo will be worth $750,000. In five years this gentleman will be paying $4000 a month to rent a similar size apartment. At least. OK, OK…I’m WAY invested in this real estate thing, but I think it’s crazy to rent instead of buying. Especially to choose to rent vs buy in a case like this. I see all those online comparisons too “RENT vs BUY” on Facebook or wherever. I’m never going to believe renting is better than buying. I don’t have to look any further than my own family. If it wasn’t for the fact that my parents and my Aunts and Uncles bought property way back when we would just flat out be screwed in our generation. That’s a fact. Real Estate investment was the best thing that ever happened to us..and will be the best thing that happens to my kids too for that matter. I’m going to expand on this in more posts going forward. I just feel bad for that nice guy who could have had Albacore.

Foster City 2013 Condo/Townhouse Statistics

Onward into the realm of the amazing and incredible. These numbers are actually pretty similar to the single family numbers. As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, condo/townhouses are a lot more difficult to draw conclusions about because there are problem projects and great projects and some are way up and others not so much. Thus that should be considered when thinking about the overall statistics about FC. Let’s get started…how about the total number of units sold. Here’s the history:








2013 had a healthy 169. Not as high as 2006, but inventory was horrid. Still we sold a lot more than in 2008. In 2006 it was 41, 2007 was 40, 2008 was 55, 2009 was 70, 2010 was 50, 2011 was 72 and 2012 was 41. Incredibly, just like houses,  2013 was 20! I guess that’s what happens when you have far less short sales!! Now how about the average prices:








In 2013 the average sale price was $657,000. Not quite all time high territory but pretty darn good. Again, if you break down values into specific projects you’ll find that many FC developments did indeed hit all time highs. These are just the averages. Regardless, the direction we’re heading in leads me to believe that that high will be hit across the board in 2014.

Highs and Lows 2013-Condo/Townhouses

OK, let’s see how these did.


740 Promontory Point #3206 You know the market has improved if this development is back over $1 million. This unit closed at $1,012,500.


Even though it only went for $470,000, this 1 bedroom unit at 700 sq ft came in at $671.00 a sq ft. Last years high…$566.000


There were a couple of these short sale condos that actually sold in the summer of 2012 but didn’t close until 2013. This one sold and closed in 2013 and went for $280,000. That more accurately reflects the year. Plus it’s a short sale at the Admiralty.


Well, I guess all the news from Promontory Point wasn’t good. This place sold for $790,000 and since it’s a 2264 sq ft unit it comes in at $348. Still, last years low was $250.


This train wreck of a listing, a short sale too, was on the market from September 19, 2011 until it closed on September 13, 2013. An amazing 653 days.


849 Columba. This townhouse at Isle Cove was listed for $749,000 and closed at $900,000. $151,000 over asking.


1151 Compass #202. This condo at Marina Green sold for $615,000…$20,000 under asking. It was one of the VERY FEW units that went under.



I can clearly remember when some folks listed a house in San Mateo Village on the corner of Pasadena and Santa Clara for $305,000 and I thought they had gone completely out of their minds. Certainly nobody would be dumb enough to pay such an outlandish price for a house in that neighborhood! It’s ridiculous, I thought. Right now, today, there’s a 3 bedroom, 1 bath house on E. 40th Ave in San Mateo Village that was listed for $735,000 and should close any day now over $800,000. I also remember a conversation I had with a young lady who told me she wasn’t going to make an offer on a 3 bedroom, 2.5 bath townhouse in Redwood Shores that was listed fro $350,000 because her father told her that those prices were too high and they surely were going to go back under $300,000. She should wait, he advised.

Guess what, those prices are HISTORY. in fact those price ranges are as extinct as the dinosaur up there. Obviously, right? Does anybody reading this seriously think you’re going to see 3 bedroom, 2.5 bath townhouses in Redwood Shores or Foster City sell for $350,000 again? Even if one was listed it would get 50 offers and sell for $750,000. You know what else, 3 bedroom 2 bath houses in Foster City are never going to sell for under $750,000 ever again. You could probably make the case that they aren’t going to sell under $850,000 just as easily! Those ranges are extinct too.

Having said that here’s a really amazing statement…I think 2 bedroom condos under $500,000 are almost extinct right now. Can you believe that? A week or so ago I wrote an offer on a short sale at 815 Sea Spray listed for $459,000. 10 offers came in on it, 4 of them all cash and almost all of them were over $500,000. I noticed a 1 bedroom condo at 15 Pelican in Redwood Shores listed for $375,000 close at $440,000. See what I’m saying? As unbelieveable as it is, in the very near future you won’t be able to buy a 2 bedroom condo for under $500,000. That’s truly astonishing, it doesn’t seem like that long ago that you could buy a waterfront house for $500,000! Just for fun I checked…a 4 bedroom, 3 bath waterfront house at 1040 Flying Fish sold for $528,950 in April of 1998. It had been on the market for 43 days, apparently it had some difficulty selling! That was only 15 years ago and now, outside of the Admiralty, it’s almost impossible to buy a 2 bedroom condo for under $500,000. Maybe if it’s only got 1 bath? Ooops, then were back to the Admiralty again.

Island J

You know that place, right? It’s sort of the signature townhouse community in Foster City located across the water from Leo Ryan Park and the Metro Center. To say it’s had some travails in the last few years would be putting it mildly…it’s been borderline disastrous. Lot’s of needed maintenance resulted in lots of arguing about what to do about it and this arguing has lasted for years. So much so that, surprise, surprise, the needed maintenance has increased causing an even bigger argument over how to pay for these fixes. It got so bad that the City stepped in and forced scaffolding under several questionably safe decks in the project. Theoretically to keep them from collapsing I guess. Well, the arguing has come to a head and the parties there have agreed to a two tier approach to a resolution. First, the proposed assessment has come in at $20,000…a wholoe bunch less than the $40,000 that was spoken of a few months ago. Second, the monthly HOA dues are going up to $811.00 a month. That’s right, Eight Hundred and Eleven Dollars a month.

One thing that’s worth mentioning here is that this issue DOES NOT effect the units on Lido Isle. That is NOT Island J and has a different HOA.

Let’s see, $811.00 a month is the equivalent of $165,000 on a mortgage at 4.25%. Would that have an influence on your purchase decision? How about if you compare that to other units that have half of that a month and you’re still on the water? I’m thinking the problem of value erosion at Island J hasn’t stopped. It is good news, however, that the issues there are going to be addressed. That will certainly help. There’s an article in today’s San Mateo Daily Journal about this topic today. The debate will go on I suppose

Condo Owners Get Hefty Bill For Renovations


Low Dues

I’ve harped alot about the high HOA dues around Foster City over the years and for sure, I think it’s a big issue. I’m not sure I’ve mentioned that those projects in Foster City with low HOA dues have some items of concern as well. Well, maybe not concern…but certainly something that should be understood before buying one of them.

After looking at projects with whopping dues (The Islands comes to mind…$706.00 a month) it seems like a drink of cold water on a blistering hot day to find Winston Square at $175.00 a month. The thing is though, when you live at Winston Square you’ll need to be aware that many of the things that are paid for by other more costly HOAs are not covered at that project. For example, last month I had some buyers interested in a unit on Cortez that had a $10,000 plus pest report featuring damage to the exterior siding as well as dry rot on the roof eaves. These exterior fixes are not covered by the HOA. The seller, or buyer, would need to resolve a situation like that. In this case, this project is really more like a single family house that a traditional townhouse.

While the low dues are certainly attractive, it pays to thoroughly examine the HOA documents to amke sure you know what responsibilities you have as a homeowner. It may not hurt to call the HOA as well just to be safe.

The Truth…Media Style

OK, this is sort of a light rant. Not a really big one mind you, but a bit of a rant none the less. It’s a small rant because it’s about large print media and what they do, but since large print media is so seriously in decline that I’m not as fired up as I once would have been. I think that the pounding that newspapers have taken in the last few years has made them junkies for any kind of sensational or fear driven stories that they can create so that somebody (anybody…please!) buys a newspaper. This particular story actually involves the San Francisco Chronicle, but it could certainly and easily involved any of it’s competitors or any other newspaper anywhere else in the country.

Today, actually, the Chron published a story entitled:

Bay Area Condominium Sales, Prices Tanking

Call me zany, but what I was expecting to see when I read this was a story about how Bay Area condo sales and prices were tanking. Silly me! Instead we have a story about one couple and their agent who’ve had a problem purchasing a condo in one specific project in Emeryville. Somehow, relating their experience to the whole “Bay Area” seems a tad overzealous to me. The gist of this story is that because of high foreclosure rates too many HOA dues are being left unpaid and that fact, along with the problems occurring when many projects have a larger percentage of non owner occupied units, lenders are refusing to loan on condos. The result, says the Chron, is that you need all cash to close on them and thus prices are falling through the floor.

Currently, there are 38 active condo/townhouses for sale in Foster City…and 24pending sales. That’s a pretty darn good ratio if you ask me. Of course, none of these properties are experiencing the catastrophe today’s Chron is advocating. I have a condo in escrow myself at Pointe Pacific in Daly City. That project is a wasteland compared to anything in Foster City. It’s a nice project but there’s been an abundance of short sales and foreclosures there in the last few years. The buyer on my listing has 3% down, is getting an FHA loan, is approved and we’re closing next week.

I have no doubt that the experience of these folks in today’s Chron story is true, particularly in the East Bay, but it certainly does not represent the totality of the Bay Area experience. Never mind that the story over reaches just a tad…it’s still worth placement on the sfgate home page with a photo just under their banner. Yikes!

Day On Market

There’s sort of a strange thing going on within the Condo/Townhouse market in Foster City right now. Actually…maybe it’s not really that strange if you think about it? It’s the fact that there are so many units that have been listed for SO long. Of the 41 active units in FC, 14 of them have been on the market for at least 100 days. That fact alone probably identifies, more than anything else, just how different the market is right now vs the boom years. Between 1999 and 2006 everything sold quickly. Now it’s harder.

Of the 14 units mentioned above we’re looking at days on market of 245, 320, 137, 336, 115, 271, 108, 146, 100, 250, 129, 118, 193 and 112. That’s a long time folks. Interestingly, only one of these listings is a short sale. (Short sales naturally tend to be on the market longer that other sales). The short sale in question is at Promontory Point where the monthly dues are a whopping $772.00 a month. Call me zany, but I think those dues are a bigger reason for it’s lengthy DOM than the short sale is. While we’re on this topic, (one that I’ve harped on before here on the blog), no fewer than 10 of the 14 listings have monthly dues higher than $430.00 a month. Actually, the dues on those 10 are $772.00 (we know which one that is!) $435.00 on 3 of them, 2 at $454.00, one at $451.00, one at $488.00, one at $603.00 and one at $717.00. If that wasn’t bad enough, large lump sum assessments are factors on 5 of them as well. Three of the fourteen units are 1 bedroom condos which tend to take awhile to sell in any market.

Interestingly though, 3 other units have low monthly dues. In one case as low as $175.00 a month. I honestly don’t know why they haven’t sold.  Here’s the thing though, there’s still 18 pending sales on condo/townhouses in Foster City. It’s not like the market is totally dead. There’s even a pending sale at The Islands (dues-$603.00), but the list price on this short sale is $499,000. Anything will sell at the right price! All these long listed homes will sell too…eventually. In the meantime, patience is a virtue?

New News

Well, you learn something new everyday. At least I do! Sometimes. Anyway I heard this story about an issue that’s currently transpired in one of Foster City’s larger townhouse communities and I thought of it as new news. I won’t mention specifically where this place so as not to start World War III, but suffice it to say that it’s a two story townhouse built on a slab foundation. Just in case you’re thinking that narrows it down a tad…you’re wrong. That out’s just about all of the two story townhouses in town.

The townhouse in question was listed for sale and in the inspection it was disclosed that the place has a 4 inch crack on the slab foundation that’s noticeable on the floor downstairs. Obviously, the foundation crack is a structural problem. Here’s my discovery…the HOA takes no responsibility for this type of issue. It’s entirely up to the homeowner to resolve this on their own. In this case, unfortunately, the crack not only effects the unit in question but at least one other unit adjacent to this one. When a contractor looked at the issue it was suggested that if this crack was going to be repaired it would need to be repaired in the adjoining townhouse(s) as well to insure the job was done right. The adjoining homeowner wouldn’t allow access to his place even for an investigation by the contractor. As a result the home had to be sold at a significant discount since there doesn’t seem to be an opportunity to fix the problem and the new buyer is going to have to live with a 4 inch crack on his/her floor until there’s some kind of agreement.

Seems sort of like a huge pain to me. Also seems like a marketing nightmare that I hope I never have to endure! I guess the thing that most surprised me was the fact that the HOA isn’t taking responsibility for this structural problem. If there’s a problem with other exterior structural elements they certainly do. Maybe none of the local HOA’s include foundations in their coverage…I intend to look pretty hard at the fine print in the homeowners docs in the future, that’s for sure. I also wouldn’t hesitate to have an engineer look at any floor element that looks out of level or seems irregular. If a townhouse has a foundation problem, particularly one who’s fix would include another neighboring unit’s cooperation, I sure want to know that going in.

Paying Your Dues


One of the pitfalls about being a realtor and blogging about this business is the fear of getting into trouble by badmouthing somebody’s property or project. I really have tried hard not to do that…and sometimes that hasn’t been easy! At the outset here I want to sincerely say that I think Foster City has the best condo/townhouse projects on the Peninsula. They’re well designed, have great amenities and they’re in a town that has substance.

Here’s the problem, I’ve been concerned for a long time about the impact some of these projects association dues would have on their values. I’m really concerned what will happen when some of these projects begin to incorporate flood insurance into their monthly HOA dues. For the uninitiated, Foster City has projects like Winston Square that has dues of $175.00 a month. Treasure Isle at $255.00 a month, Shell Cove at $299.00 a month and Marina Green at $340.00 a month. There’s a bunch of others in this same category and they’re pretty normal if you ask me.

Then you have Bayfront Court at $435.00, Nantucket Cove at $488.00 and Marina Point at $483.00. You also have Meridian Bay at $546.00, The Islands at $603.00 and Promontory Point at $772.00. In 2005 a unit at Promontory Point sold for $1,551,400. No fewer than 16 units sold for more than $1,049,000 in those years. The most money spent at Promontory Point since 2007 was $880,000 in January of 2009. There’s a unit on the market there right now for $749,947.  I can’t think of a project, community or neighborhood in the Mid Peninsula that’s taken the type of pounding that Promontory Point has taken when it comes to value erosion. Call me zany…but do you suppose those dues have had a negative impact?

How does that translate in the real world? At 4.75% interest $772.00 a month is the equivalent of  $148,000 on a mortgage. It’s $116,000 for the Islands and their $603.00 a month dues. I’ve had many, many clients reject these projects when they found out about these dues. I think it’s understandable.

Again, the question is…what happens when they have to absorb mandatory flood insurance? How much will they go up? I know there are really great people living at these projects and I’m sure there are significant reasons for these dues being this high…it’s just a fact that they’re having a large impact on the project’s overall value.