July 18, 2008

A Fixer With Big Views And The Requisite Bones: 140 St. Germain

140 St Germain: Interior Bones

It’s truly a fixer, but with the requisite bones, big city views, and two atriums (not to mention decks and parking). And in this case, we'll be fine if you don't save the stove.

140 St Germain: Stove

UPDATE: Or better yet, give the stove to Stu: "I'd replace the burners with turntables - DJ booth in my kitchen."

∙ Listing: 140 St. Germain Avenue (3/2.5) - $1,795,000 [MLS] [Map]

First Published: July 18, 2008 1:45 PM

Comments from "Plugged In" Readers

Are you kidding me? That stove is awesome! I'd replace the burners with turntables - DJ booth in my kitchen.

Posted by: Stu at July 18, 2008 2:09 PM

$1.795m for a fixer?

did i read that right

do people in this price range want fixers (not flippers, actual homeowners)

Posted by: enonymous at July 18, 2008 2:13 PM

This is the epitome of cool.

Posted by: flaneur at July 18, 2008 2:21 PM

It depends. An actual homeowner bought a comparable property, 28 Clarendon. The word was it was the nextdoor neighbor at like 30 Clarendon or whatever the neighboring address was. He bought 28 Clarendon because he was already undertaking a massive renovation and he wanted the second property too in order to have a pretty much amazing compound.

This is the sort of property that would appeal to flippers or end users. You just can't replicate these types of views. To an end user in no particular hurry, and with a keen design interest, I can see the appeal here. There are a finite number of such buyers out there, but I continue to be surprised.

Posted by: fluj at July 18, 2008 2:23 PM

Interesting that they actually chose to feature that kitchen stove in close-up...yet no good views of the exterior of the house. Obviously the beach party wallpaper is a keeper, no matter what else you do.

Posted by: pvc at July 18, 2008 2:31 PM

this is a great property. views are awesome..worth every penny.

I would say budget about $800k for a full remodel. what a deal.

Posted by: noearch at July 18, 2008 2:38 PM

The also featured the broken lattice, a keeper for sure.

Noearch, fully agree today $800k and that's a gem.

Posted by: sparky at July 18, 2008 2:41 PM

"3 bridge view", yet only one view pic (with one bridge)? The last 5 photos seem to be for amusement value only, or perhaps they're going for a "That's truly hideous" entry.

Posted by: Delancey at July 18, 2008 2:57 PM

put me down for a $1.35m estimate

Posted by: resp at July 18, 2008 3:10 PM

I'm with Delancey. Let's see those other two bridges, and less of the wallpaper that won't last 10 minutes past the close of escrow!

Posted by: Foolio at July 18, 2008 3:13 PM

resp,

no way, $1.35M it won't go that low to much value up there. The 1 bridge is plenty to keep the price up

Posted by: sparky at July 18, 2008 3:32 PM

Are you kidding, Foolio? The wall paper is awesome.

Posted by: kthnxybe at July 18, 2008 3:33 PM

You have got to be kidding. $1.8 for that piece of crap? Who in their right mind would pay $1.8 for a near-total gut and then put another $800k into a remodel?

For $1.8 you could move to the Berkeley hills, get an already fixed-up place twice as big AND still get your 3-bridge views. The commute into downtown SF would probably be shorter, too.

This isn't 2003 anymore folks.

Posted by: MattM at July 18, 2008 3:39 PM

It's in contract already.

Posted by: anonymous at July 18, 2008 3:44 PM

it can't be in contract, it's not 2003

Posted by: sparky at July 18, 2008 3:48 PM

People are idiots.

I can't imagine it being flipped. Most of the houses in the area are between $1.8 and $2.8. If you had to put 800k into the renovation, there's no profit in it.

Posted by: MattM at July 18, 2008 4:04 PM

Everybody is throwing around numbers on a property nobody has even seen in person. Too funny.

Posted by: fluj at July 18, 2008 4:06 PM

@kthnxbye:

I think the wallpaper's awesome in an "OMG, that's Awesome!" kind of way, but that gets old in about 15 seconds. Then again, there's no accounting for taste.

Posted by: Foolio at July 18, 2008 4:08 PM

"two atriums"

wouldn't it be more efficient to have 1 atrium and 1 ventricle?

Posted by: ronald at July 18, 2008 4:10 PM

Very hot. For all you skeptics, remember 150 San Germain just next door that was listed at $1.795m and sold in a nanosecond for $2.287m, or 27% over asking. It was also a midcentury modern (designed by noted architect George Rockrise, FAIA) that had not had anything done to it since it was built in 1958. Like 150, 140 St. Germain's original condition is one of the big plusses - never remuddled in the 1980s when modern was out and post modern was in. And it has been superbly and respectfully updated at an unknown to me but obviously very high cost. As to price, people who want and can afford the best are doing just fine right now.

Posted by: Jim at July 18, 2008 5:11 PM

sure you could prob get something for the same price and bigger..in the Berkeley hills...but why would u want to?

it's NOT San Francisco. plus..those hills are gonna burn again someday.

great locations are all about great values.

Posted by: noearch at July 18, 2008 5:43 PM

Why would you want to?

Um...

Better weather. Easier parking. More house for your money. Actual yard space/land. Less crime. Better schools. Quieter. Easier/cheaper/faster permitting process. Just 20 minutes from downtown SF (which is probably about the same commute time as from Twin Peaks). Etc. Etc. Etc.

You're right. It's NOT San Francisco. Which for many people, is a bonus.

Posted by: MattM at July 18, 2008 6:42 PM

Sorry, it's much faster from Twin Peaks to downtown than from the Berkeley hills to downtown SF. If you are driving, there is a little something called the Bay Bridge (not to mention I-80, 24, University, and all of the other slow roads to Berkeley).

BART is convenient, but you have to get to BART.

Posted by: Dan at July 18, 2008 7:44 PM

How are you going to get from the Berkeley Hills to downtown SF in 20 minutes? A rocket ship? A very fast motorcycle, running every red light, might be able to do it at 2 AM. In rush hour, this an hour or more.

If you live on say, The Uplands, you can walk to Rockridge BART in 20 minutes, and then take a 20 minute BART ride to The City. Still double 20 minutes.

And anyone who thinks the permitting process is easier in Berkeley has obviously never tried to deal with Berkeley planning. Less crime is pretty dubious as well. I'll grant you the rest though.

Posted by: NoeValleyJim at July 18, 2008 9:45 PM

I live in the Berkeley Hills. I can BART into downtown SF in 30 minutes, and with the carpool lane I can get into downtown in 20 during morning rush hour (assuming there isn't an accident on the bridge, which admittedly does happen).

BART is more convenient because you don't have to worry about parking. But compare apples to apples - if you had to take public transportation from Twin Peaks, it'd take you a lot longer than 30 minutes to make it downtown.

Posted by: MattM at July 18, 2008 9:53 PM

Absolutely dreamy.

Posted by: hugh at July 18, 2008 10:34 PM

Is it a Eichler?

Posted by: JR at July 18, 2008 10:51 PM

Sorry Matt, you are just wrong. I lived in Berkeley for four years. You can't get from the Berkeley Hills to the freeway in 20 minutes during rush hour.

On top of that, you have to park, walk from your car, etc. It is pretty funny how often car drivers underestimate their commute. Next time you go downtown at rush hour, time yourself when you leave your house and time yourself when you get to your destination and get back to me. The Bay Bridge is 11 miles long all by itself. At legal speed limit (50 miles an hour) that takes over 13 minutes.

Posted by: NoeValleyJim at July 19, 2008 1:24 AM

And no, it will not take longer than 30 minutes to get downtown via transit. You walk to Stanyan and Cole - about 10 minutes, I haven't done the exact walk, so I might be off a bit here - and then you take the N downtown, which is about 20 minutes from here.

A car from here is probably 15 minutes max. Counting parking and walking from the parking lot to your office.

Posted by: NoeValleyJim at July 19, 2008 1:43 AM

Regarding all fo the "flip" talk on this property, does anyone think that we could possibly return to a time when people bought a property to live in as a HOME?! I really think "the city" is one of the last places left in the country where people still talk about flipping as a realistic business option, for this is no longer the case almost anywhere else.

My problem with most of the "professional" flipper's work here in San Francisco is that it is all so similar, so boring, and lately, so dated. I find better RE porn looking at homes in L.A. and NYC because these residences are furnished by the people who actually spent time living in the property, and have made choices based on their experience in that location. I like the idea of leaving some original parts of a home in place because it helps to create a more permenant archtitectural identity. As an architect, I get a lot of ideas by looking at properties, but have long since stopped looking to San Francisco listings for any sort of "inspiration". Let's hope this is bought and worked on by someone who actually wants to live here, and let's hope they consider not continuing the "aquaturd-chopped pillow-dwell-stainless-dwr-room&board" look currently in favor by flippers and RE industry.

IMAGINE someone making design choices on this property not based on what will "sell", but on what they would like to have as their own home?
That is the kind of client I like to work with!

Posted by: anonarch at July 19, 2008 6:17 AM

I won't hijack this thread by getting off topic more, but NoeValleyJim, the bridge isn't 11 miles long. Not even close. The bridge is 4.5 miles long.

From Tunnel Road in Berkeley to Fremont St - 11.69 miles total. Driving time 18 minutes. And if you're in the carpool lane during rush hour, you can easily do it in 18 minutes.

Plug it in on Yahoo Maps and see for yourself.

Posted by: MattM at July 19, 2008 9:06 AM

Why does the MLS feature the tacky wallpaper? Just bizarre...

Posted by: livinintheloin at July 19, 2008 9:36 AM

anonarch,

there wasn't any talk on hear about flipping this. More about the cost of remodel, which a homeowner would do; and if the purchase price made sense (for anyone) not really about flipping at all.

Now that being said, I "flip" houses, and I build them for clients. I build for clients exactly what you are describing as being done by flippers is being designed by architects for peoples homes. You don't see it on here or at open houses, but it remains the pre-dominant style for everyone not just flippers.

I have tried to avoid this trend, which I thought would be dead by now, and it has cost me lots of money. Everytime I've got a place on the market I'm told how it would sell high if I didn't have all this trim, color, rooms, you name it. Cookie cutter modern sells. When homebuyers start wanting, and buying other styles, then "flippers" will quickly follow. That would be great. I the mean time I am going to keep fighting the good fight. Your an architect, help. But currently Architectural Digest is running modern. They used to be the bastion of over fluffy interior design. They have caved. I think we are in for another 5 years of this.

Finally, the thing with flipping here is that most buyers would rather get a "flipped" house and then attempt to personalize it, than go through the time, energy, headaches and cost of bturning fixers into homes. This model will continue. And as I've said before, flipping for lack of a better word is good, if many areas of the country had remodeled it's existing housing stock and not built a new sub-division then there wouldn't be so much extra housing and people homes would have character and value, as well as there cities. Instead we see empty old downtowns with run-down empty houses, and for sale signs at the developments that are 3,4,5 years old because you can buy in the new one accross the street and closer the the Walmart.

Posted by: sparky at July 19, 2008 10:14 AM

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Francisco-Oakland_Bay_Bridge

"Total length: 8.4 miles"

So I guess we are both off. I don't know where I got 11 miles from, that was just memory, sorry for the error.

Your "commute time" isn't freeway on-ramp to freeway offramp and it is kind of silly to measure it that way. You have to go from the Fremont off-ramp to your parking space, park your car, then walk to your office. No one taking transit would only include the time spent on the bus as their total commute time.

So I guess it might be possible if you lived right next to the 24 freeway onramp and worked right off the Fremont St offramp to have some thing close to a 20 minute commute (though I still think that is an exaggeration), but the overwhelming majority of the Berkeley Hills is further away.

I am not entirely just being disputatious, since the one place I have looked at homes seriously that is not in San Francisco is in the Elmwood and Claremont neighborhoods, for precisely the reasons you mentioned. Next time instead of taking Ashby to the 80, I will try going out to Tunnel and take the 24.

I agree with anonarch on the boring quality of the remodeled homes here: it seems like every flipper is going for the same average home buyer. I can see why they do it, but they all kind of look the same. Your best bet if you want personality is to buy a fixer-upper and hire an architect.

I personally think that wallpaper is the most interesting thing about this house. Is it hand painted? I think so.

Posted by: NoeValleyJim at July 19, 2008 10:23 AM

Why is $790/sf (which is a little on the high end for the neighborhood) on a fixer that will require $800k to remodel a deal? The space is amazing and the house has fantastic potential, but I just don't see the value with this current list price. Seems like something that we may have seen a year ago, but is hard to believe in the current climate.

Posted by: Karf at July 19, 2008 10:38 AM

Karf,

I don't think anybody thinks it's a deal. But, if it is bought by a flipper then we will find out next year if this price+ construction+etc. would have been a deal for a home buyer or not. There are houses that sell up to $6M up in those hills. I think this would be better finished than the 17th street that sold last year for $3.9M.

Posted by: sparky at July 19, 2008 10:59 AM

Flippers hire architects to do there drawings and get there permits. Architects like to modern styles around here. Flipper or homeowner projects, doesn't matter. The Flippers are not driving the continued boring modern suck-a-duck movement.

Agent play a big part in this too. They like modern, because they can sell it easy. So, they push it to eachother.

In fact most of the time when one of those places comes on here, the style is not panned. It is generally liked, and the price is panned.

Posted by: sparky at July 19, 2008 11:07 AM

i agree with sparky-$800k for the remodel.

of course that gives the contractor about a 30%-40% margin.

good work if you can get it...

Posted by: paco at July 19, 2008 11:09 AM

True that, I will take this job for $800K if someone buys it. I am allowing for killer finishes and lots of Nanawall kind of window/door stuff, so the profit goes down. But still, if this is in contract, and the buyer is on the site, then call me.

Posted by: sparky at July 19, 2008 11:12 AM

To avoid confusion, I LOVE modern, and modernism, but this is not what I was writing about. What I have noticed with Los Angeles buyers buying mid-century homes is that they do not completely recreate the entire interior spaces (and exterior) to the latest Dwell issue (or whatever) on the newstands. I have seen some rather clever projects down there that still leave original aspects of the home intact. It makes the home feel a bit more "authentic" in that it is not the same house as the other ten your realtor has shown you, but instead a home built in 1961 that was cleaned up and refurbished by the new owners. Down in L.A., if too much of the original plan and design is destroyed, it can actually end up hurting the value at resale. Different cities have different trends in home design. I had clients who bought an amazing mid century home in Palm Springs who asked me to refurbish the entire property, but the one direction they gave me is not to "ruin" it by making it too "2006"(when they bought it), but instead a combination of original and new.

Posted by: anonarch at July 19, 2008 12:48 PM

Yeah, mid-century in LA is more authentic, but then you're looking at a daily 2 hour commute up I-5.

Posted by: Debtpocalypse at July 19, 2008 3:33 PM

That's a great idea, moving to the Berkeley Hills. It actually IS closer to San Francisco than San Francisco!

Posted by: Distances? at July 19, 2008 4:18 PM

Debtpocalypse, why whenever anything relating to Los Angeles is brought up, it has to be immedialty bashed? Why are San Franciscans so provincial and so afraid of looking outside their bubble to see what other urban areas are up to? The post was about how mid-century homes down there add value if some of the design details are preserved, not about whether or not San Francisco is a better place to live? The post was about flippers trying to consider a different way of rebuilding this house.

BTW- the biggest mid century home collection in L.A. is in Mar Vista, which is not even close to "I-5", but is near Santa Monica, Venice and Westwood. Check it out, and don't worry, San Francisco is still "world class", and the "Best Place on Earth".

Posted by: whatever at July 19, 2008 4:56 PM

"The Best Place on Earth" -- isn't that a TV station's slogan?

Anyway, what do you more preservation oriented folks think about things such as appliances? That range for example. I remember reading an article in Dwell and DJ Greyboy bought a really great mid century modern in Long Beach. He proceeded, over the course of a few years, to completely geek out and redo the property entirely in an authentic vintage manner:

http://www.dwell.com/peopleplaces/profiles/7985347.html
http://media.dwell.com/images/MAG_DW0807_GREY_03.jpg

But if I recall correctly, he even installed vintage appliances? That's going overboard IMO. Like, any cook or chef will want to cook with gas for example.

Posted by: fluj at July 19, 2008 5:16 PM

Bashed? Why would I bash the city of my birth?

I grew up in a lovely little modern mid-century bungalow in Manhattan Beach that stands in defiance of the McMasionization around it. Very "authentic," with my aging parents holding fast for over 30 years: its gray-haired architect showed up on their doorstep 40 years after he built it and asked if he could just walk sentimentally through it.

Anyway, I thought the thread was about temporal vehicular proximity to the FiDi?

I like the atrium house - wish I had millions & millions.

Posted by: Debtpocalypse at July 19, 2008 5:29 PM

Fluj, the home you highlighted is actually worth the effort of even saving appliances. Not every mid-century is a masterpiece, but Killingsworth and Brady were one of the iconic firms of their time. I would at least try to save some of the fixtures and finishes when possible. Thanks for the link. I didn't know I graduated from the same architecture school as these two gentlemen.

By the way, the Kapalua Bay Hotel, designed by the same firm as the home in Naples, has been destroyed for a new building of timeshares, was a place I used to visit yearly as a pilgrimage for both surfing, and the chance to stay in a great piece of architecture. Part of the "charm" of staying there was the original furniture and murals in the lobby. It was a mid century masterpiece, and I miss it terribly.

http://travel.nytimes.com/2006/04/07/travel/escapes/07rituals.html

I have not seen this home but I would myself be interested in trying to save original fixtures, and perhaps trying to be sensative to what was a better period for design. The firm of Marmol Radziner is probably the best currently at outstanding restorations of mid-century homes.
Their website is worth a visit.

http://www.marmol-radziner.com/

Debtpocalypse, I apologize, I misunderstood the joke regarding travel distances. Your parent's home sounds great btw.

Posted by: anonarch at July 19, 2008 6:00 PM

Boy, I would much rather live in San Francisco than the Berkeley Hills, personally.

I lived in Berkeley for five years (and commuted daily into the city) and found the crime and noise much worse than living in San Francisco, but I live in the Marina and not this area.

Posted by: thamsenman at July 19, 2008 8:24 PM

If I am going to pay 1.8 m for a mid century fixer, I would go for a listed mid century home that is truly worth trying to save.

The Lloyd Wright "Bird of Paradise" house is for sale for about the same price. If someone ruins this home with an insensitive restoration it would be a true crime.

http://www.homes4hipsters.com/?p=42

(I know, it is down in L.A. though. But it is a good comparison for what fixers go for down there)

Posted by: anonarch at July 20, 2008 7:09 AM

That house is 1.89M ($100K more) and if it was in SF it would be AS rated, and you couldn't do the remodel they recommend on the blurb without a long wait and a big fight.

Posted by: sparky at July 20, 2008 7:33 AM

I toured this house and it needs work. Many potential buyers will be influenced by the nostalgia of the mid-century design and the original appliances and fittings none of which is usable or practical by todays standards.

I must say, I was not impressed.

Posted by: anan at July 20, 2008 8:30 AM

While we're talking mid-century modern, commutes, and the Berkeley Hills, we pondered a bid at asking for this, but it sold in under a week of its first open:
http://www.elmwoodrealty.com/singlefamily_detail.php?id=276

Went for +$1.3m, $200K over asking, about 2 months ago.

The ACTransit H bus stops within 25 yards of its front door, offering convenient direct, rush hour 35 minute SF Transbay Terminal access.

Posted by: Debtpocalypse at July 20, 2008 12:00 PM

901 Arlington - wow. Beautiful and conscientious renovation and landscaping. Easy location. What was price/sq.ft?

Posted by: michiko at July 20, 2008 12:14 PM

Double wow! For those of use who work most of the time from home, the commute is not the issue. 901 Arlington is fantastic! I am coming to the opinion that a lot of what I like about the Bay Area is really over in Rockridge, Claremont and Berkeley. The gourmet ghetto, Chez Panisse, Rockridge Market Hall, the lack of chain stores, sunshine and trees, great bookstores, and coffee houses, it reminds me of San Francisco in 1991.
I can see why 901 Arlington sold 200k over asking.

Posted by: anon94123 at July 20, 2008 2:07 PM

Matt,

The hills above Tunnel Road are part of the city of Oakland, not Berkeley. There is a small area adjcence to Tunnel Road which is part of Berkeley, but it isn't high up the hill, and won't have views like the subject property. Oakland schools anyone?

Posted by: flaneur at July 20, 2008 3:48 PM

I saw the place on St. Germain today. As far as I can see, it's a glorified run-down shed on telephone-pole stilts. I am no engineer - but I could not imagine it being that stable in a major earthquake - definitely get a thorough engineers inspection. No yard. No insulation. A total wreck. Great view though...

Posted by: marketwatcher at July 20, 2008 4:28 PM

Toured this house and it needs extensive renovation, but definitely worth every penny just for the views alone.

Posted by: sf_housedude at July 21, 2008 9:23 AM

"How are you going to get from the Berkeley Hills to downtown SF in 20 minutes? A rocket ship? A very fast motorcycle, running every red light, might be able to do it at 2 AM. In rush hour, this an hour or more.

If you live on say, The Uplands, you can walk to Rockridge BART in 20 minutes, and then take a 20 minute BART ride to The City. Still double 20 minutes.

And anyone who thinks the permitting process is easier in Berkeley has obviously never tried to deal with Berkeley planning. Less crime is pretty dubious as well. I'll grant you the rest though."

It can be done.

Posted by: ANON at July 21, 2008 10:12 AM

Whatever time you spend from Berkeley or other East Bay, this can't beat the fact that you can cycle from St Germain. It's almost all downhill and approx 25-minutes. And you'll do your evening workout coming back. Great cardio 5 times a week. You can't do that from Berkeley.

Posted by: San FronziScheme at July 21, 2008 10:19 AM

I don't think the Clarendon heights area is really a Burning Man, bicycle commuter type of neighborhood. It's potrero hill or maybe Bernal Heights that you are looking for.

Posted by: anon at July 21, 2008 10:37 AM

anon,

Burning Man? That's just silly. You're way off. Never been to these.

I see a lot of bicycle commuters coming from many walks of life.

My own commute takes 40 minutes with a bus and then a streetcar, or 15 minutes down, 20 minutes up by bike. I sweat a bit when I go back up, but SF is a great city to enjoy by bike. It's never too hot or too cold and the views are fantastic if you're willing to make the effort.

Posted by: San FronziScheme at July 21, 2008 10:45 AM

Matt,
The hills above Tunnel Road are part of the city of Oakland, not Berkeley. There is a small area adjcence to Tunnel Road which is part of Berkeley, but it isn't high up the hill, and won't have views like the subject property. Oakland schools anyone?

There are Berkeley parts and Oakland parts up there. So you can choose the better schools in Berkeley, or the lower taxes in Oakland.

But either way, you can get to the city in 20 minutes. I got from my house to the Giants game this weekend in exactly that amount of time. And I never went over 70.

And I think that 901 Arlington house proves my point - you can get much, much more for your money on this side of the bay. There are always trade-offs, but personally, I'd rather make them than pay $500k more for a crappy house that needs a ton of renovation.

Posted by: MattM at July 21, 2008 11:29 AM

Toured the house. It needs a ton of work, but if structure is OK, it is a steal and will go way over asking. With $6mm for a house on Palo Alto (one block up) and $5.2 for a house on Mtn Spring (one block below), people are paying up for those views. And this house is very interesting. Definitely not cookie cutter.

Posted by: roger rainey at July 22, 2008 11:28 AM

I must say I'm intrigued by the house. If I had the money for the house + the renovations and I was happy with its bones, I would buy it in a heartbeat. This would not be a flipper for me. I would leave feet first with a sheet over my head.

I guess I'll be adding it to my open house tour list just for the thrill.

Posted by: Lori at July 22, 2008 6:29 PM

Checked out this house and the views alone are worth the $. My feeling is that it will go for just shy of 2.

Posted by: ANON at July 23, 2008 9:17 AM

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