Your Autumn 2011 Real Estate Report: Why Buyers Buy In Bernal Heights

Danielle Lazier is a realtor with Zephyr Real Estate, the author of SFHotlist, and Bernalwood’s official, unofficial real estate analyst. Here’s her autumn 2011 update on the residential real estate market in Bernal Heights:

Amid all of the economic uncertainty, real estate sales in our little village continue to thrive. Why is that?

I could talk about the inherent stability of the San Francisco real estate market, the concentration of single family homes in Bernal Heights…yada yada, but I’ve said that all before. Instead, I’ll just share my thoughts, as both a resident and real estate professional, as to why folks continue to choose Bernal Heights when shopping for a home.

Stereotyped as Noe Valley’s littler, less-expensive, “rougher-around-the-edges” sister, some perceive Bernal Heights to be a second choice neighborhood — if you want Noe but can’t afford it, look at Bernal. My experience suggests something different: Many, if not most, folks who buy a home in Bernal do so on purpose, because Bernal is their FIRST choice.

Just a couple of years ago (OK, maybe a few more) when I was a Wesleyan University student, I was often asked, “So, was Brown your first choice? You must not have gotten into Brown…Is that you chose Wesleyan?” Well, no, actually, I did not even apply to Brown! I wanted to go to Wesleyan. It was my first choice.

The cliche about Bernal being a haven for Noe rejects always reminds me of that experience. No offense to Noe Valley, which is a gorgeous, coveted neighborhood (and the location of my office and many of our home sales) but it’s kind of like comparing apples and oranges.

So, what do we like so much about Bernal? What makes it the first choice for so many home buyers? From my vantage point, it’s both Bernal’s diversity and “the urban village” vibe.

Bernal Heights is an old neighborhood, and you can feel that even today when you walk down Cortland Ave. And yet, it’s growing and changing. On my block, we have young families that are new to the ‘hood, as well as older residents who have been here for decades. The same is probably true on your street too. We have old homes, new homes, fancy homes, shabby-chic homes, and just shabby ones. All of us like the mix.

As for the “urban village;” Where else in San Francisco can you live in the middle of the City but still have that small-town feel? Bernal offers easy access to freeways and decent commute options, especially if you’re hearty and don’t mind walking or biking. On the north slope, BART and Caltrain access are very close by. The weather’s pretty nice by SF standards. We have parks and playgrounds for dogs and kiddies alike. We have a handful of cute shops and restaurants on our main drag, with enough to keep you fit, fed, cocktailed, and/or and caffeinated. (To use Todd’s lingo, let’s practice some YIMBYsm and continue to support our local merchants!)

A long time ago, Bernal Heights was a refuge — for the San Francisco residents after the 1906 earthquake — and I believe it remains so today. So, thank you very much, but no: We’re not Noe’ Vally’s less elegant, hippie sister. Bernal, in all its glory, is an urban hamlet, and the robust real estate market here proves it. See for yourself:

Bernal Heights Real Estate vs. San Francisco Citywide (past 90 days)

Single Family Homes
Bernal: (39 Sales) High – $1,275,000, Low – $380,000, Median – $675,000
All SF: (564 Sales) High – $8,500,000, Low – $120,000.00, Median – $725,000

Condos
Bernal: (8 Sales) High – $1,650,000, Low – $585,000, Median – $849,500
All SF: (473 Sales) High – $5,750,000, Low – $100,000.00, Median – $644,000

2-4 Unit Buildings
Bernal:
(10 Sales) High – $1,000,000, Low – $440,000, Median – $716,500
All SF: (104 Sales) High – $3,995,000, Low – $166,000, Median – $946,000

UPDATE:

The Downing and Company website just published some interesting stats on August sales of single-family homes in Bernalwood. Note the average sales price of $712,750:

Photos of each of these homes available on the Downing & Co. website.

PHOTO: giggie larue

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34 Responses to Your Autumn 2011 Real Estate Report: Why Buyers Buy In Bernal Heights

  1. Sarah Lefton says:

    Ugh, no thanks for talking up my rent. Sheesh.

  2. GG says:

    I don’t live in either, but I’d take Bernal Heights over Noe Valley any day. My impression of Noe is a bunch of yoga moms pushing their strollers to Starbucks on the way to Whole Foods. Bernal has much greater diversity, plus a great dog park with amazing views.

    • Nina says:

      I bristle at this description of Noe because I am a Bernal pilates mom who wears the baby to the corner coffee shop on the way to the park and then I drive to whole foods later. And yet, I do not feel I belong in Noe. So similar, yet so different.

      As the article mentions, I could afford to live in Noe, but I choose to live in Bernal.

      • Zouaf says:

        I think GG’s post epitomizes a certain kind of snobbery. There are lots of perfectly decent people who push babies in strollers, go to Starbucks and shop at Whole Foods (well, maybe not the latter). So let’s not turn up our noses all at once, ok?

  3. vizetelly says:

    nice foto, giggie

  4. Almostnative says:

    Noe has no public housing projects, much safer.

  5. Ian says:

    Almost every week, we’re getting those solicitations disguised as “reports” from all those real estate agents in the mail.

    One of these days, I’d like to find out what Ms. Lazier has offered Mr. Lapin that made him offer his blog as online real estate for her marketing. Sure, we can skip junk posts, but I’d like to know how juicy the deal is. That’s what neighborhood gossip is for, after all…

    • Todd_Lappin says:

      Ah yes. Very astute. You must have noticed the new Porsche in my driveway. And my recent vacation in Tahiti. And the fact that I’ve taken up yachting.

      FULL DISCLOSURE: Ms. Lazier offered Mr Lappin (Note: two Ps — he is not a French bunny wabbit) absolutely nothing, other than volunteering to provide insidery insight and analytics that might actually be useful and/or interesting to Bernal homeowners. Mr. Lappin retains full editorial control over her posts. However, if you feel that this post is neither interesting nor useful, then responsibility for that lies entirely with Mr. Lappin.

      • Lauri says:

        Bernalwood is a lovely concept but having an official realtor does end up making it commercial. One gets the sense there could be underlying motives to starting the site, right or wrong. Furthermore, if it is a business idea then really what can anyone say except it is very American of you and perhaps even patriotic. (full disclosure: I have a realtor friend who helped us buy our Bernal house 16 years ago).

      • Todd_Lappin says:

        Noted, Lauri, but she is not an official realtor. In the context of Bernalqwood, she is a real estate columnist. And, as you’ll notice in this very post, I welcome market analysis from any and all comers who have useful insight to share. That has always been the case, and not just for real estate.

        Business idea? What are you referring to?

  6. Nina says:

    3318 Folsom must have been a wreck inside. I missed the open house (was there one?) Can’t wait to see what that sells for after it is flipped. I’m just assuming a contractor bought it. Anyone know details on that sale?

  7. 425 Bosworth = Bernal? That’s generous. Wouldn’t that be Glen Park?

  8. bernalcoyete says:

    the article states the Bernal in changing, its gentrifying going from one of the most diverse to a not to a neighborhood that looks like a white suburb. class and ethnic families and people are pushed out, with them goes much more diverse politics, contributions and spirit, replaced by young mostly affluent white couples who look down on the natives from this hill, and bring with them a much more conservative view on the world which translates into more right leaning (ib the context of SF) politics, soon Bernal will be just another affluent community ran by those with economic power, and with that, its character goes,

    • Todd_Lappin says:

      Actually, the article doesn’t say any of this. In fact, it says the exact opposite:

      “Bernal Heights is an old neighborhood, and you can feel that even today when you walk down Cortland Ave. And yet, it’s growing and changing. On my block, we have young families that are new to the ‘hood, as well as older residents who have been here for decades. The same is probably true on your street too. We have old homes, new homes, fancy homes, shabby-chic homes, and just shabby ones. All of us like the mix.”

      But hey, you hear what you want to hear, I suppose…

      • Lauri says:

        “I did not even apply to Brown! I wanted to go to Wesleyan.” Sorry Todd, i couldn’t resist. I’m sure Danielle must be a lovely person but well it does read like an ad for the well heeled elitists.

      • Todd_Lappin says:

        Coincidentally, I went to Brown. Does that make me de facto elitist?

  9. SER says:

    Man, it’s hard to be Bernal Heights! Not many neighborhoods can pull off being both a cesspool of those crime-lovin’ public-housing residents AND a bastion for the omnipotent, conservative, all-white forces of economic elitism/gentrification.

    • SeanD says:

      Well said sir.

      • Danielle says:

        Great comment, SER! In general, it’s great to see so much feedback on the post. Not surprising! It’s true that I make my main living selling real estate but I was the Editor of my high school newspaper… That should count for something, no?

  10. Brillo says:

    As to “Where else in San Francisco can you live in the middle of the City but still have that small-town feel?” I would say Inner Sunset, Inner Richmond, Cole Valley, the Castro, Potrero Hill, and yes, Noe Valley. Probably half of the City’s neighborhoods provide that small-town feel. My friends from China even say Chinatown reminds them of “how China used to be.”

    • Almostnative says:

      Exactly. There are many great neighborhoods that have a small town feel. Bernal is just one of them. I feel that too many Bernal “boosters” are getting pretty arrogant and defensive about other opinions said about their ‘hood. Lighten up. Get the chip off your shoulder.
      For some, Bernal is great. For others it’s Noe or other ‘hoods.

      And, btw: it is not racist at all to simply state a fact that Bernal has public housing projects and Noe doe not. It’s a FACT. And it’s also a fact, that, unfortunately, more
      crime occurs around public housing than otherwise would. Sad, but true.

      • j says:

        crankypants, this is a bernal blog, the readers are boosting their neighborhood because they like it. it is sort of childish for you to be annoyed by that.

        you are using the term not safe in a negative way, and for you to be surprised that people are going to be defensive about it is pretty passive aggressive on your part.

        also, your comment about public housing may not be racist but it is ignorant.

    • Danielle says:

      Good point! I should have added…where else…on the less foggier side and (slightly) more affordable side of the spectrum….

  11. Almostnative says:

    Hmmm, getting a little touchy are we? You need to VERY carefully re-read what I said.

    “great neighborhoods, Bernal is just one of them…”

    “for some Bernal is great..”

    and, pray tell: What is “ignorant” about commenting about public housing and the unsafe environment around them? Seriously. It’s a fact, and a sad one. In any neighborhood with public housing.

  12. Lauri says:

    Please, I meant no offense, despite what it may seem. I think your site is really lovely. Having gone to a university that that one worked hard to get into and one is proud of, does not make one an elitist. I think, sometimes, when one manages to include that bit of information in every topic of conversation it might give that appearance. I have not noticed you slather every topic with mention of any sort of pedigree (eg: I did my laundry last night and it reminded me of my dorm at Harvard). I have not met your realtor columnist and really for all I know she’s a hoot, i did have a response to her column that was less than probably desired. Yes, and sorry it did read like an ad.

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