Tech shuttles inject life into SF housing market

Almost four years ago, the Bay Area’s once red-hot housing market froze and fell into what looked like a nuclear winter. But something unexpected is aiding a turn-around.

In one of San Francisco’s trendiest neighborhoods, the point where Noe Valley and the Mission District meet, a group of 20- and 30-year-olds emerge from the early morning darkness, standing silently at street corners. They hardly talk to one another; their ears plugged with headphones.

Then it arrives: The unmarked bus that drives the hour-long ride to Silicon Valley and transports the group to companies such as Apple, Google and Facebook.

These largely unpublished bus stops may be the single biggest reason behind a sudden and huge turnaround for the housing market in San Francisco, and perhaps the ignition for a real estate revival across the bay area.

Amanda Jones sells real estate in San Francisco and right now, she’s selling just about anything that doesn’t move.

“I would say for the regions that were harder hit, we’re seeing a rebound,” Jones said. “We’re actually seeing five, six, seven or eight offers on a house where there might have been just one offer before.”

“When I go and meet with a client and we’re thinking about listing their home, I ask if there’s any gray, white or black unmarked buses that meet on corners and do they see people who have, you know, iPhones and computers and look like a tech bunch.” Jones said.

Jones and Kathleen Gervertz recently prepared a Noe Valley home for sale that’s across from a park and has a nice view of the city.

But that’s not the major selling point.

It’s about three blocks from a Google stop.

“I’ve seen houses that I felt were worth maybe a $1.5 going closer to $2 million because we find it’s literally two blocks from a shuttle stop for Google,” Jones said.

Matt Woebcke, a realtor, is also profiting from the big turnaround.

“I have a lot of buyers that work in the tech industry that get huge bonuses.”

Independent DataQuick numbers show the once almost 50-percent drop in year-to-year prices have slowed to less than 5 percent.

“They’re going to go to other places like San Mateo, Palo Alto, Marin County,” Woebcke said. “The trend will really be for those areas to increase.”

And that’s exactly what happened to Nikole Neugebauer Buret.

Buret said she looked at more than 100 houses. She is certain they looked for a place to buy every weekend for eight solid months and made eight solid offers.

“We were looking for so long,” she said. But, she finally ended up getting a house in San Mateo.

More than a few people told KTVU the prospect of Facebook going public is also helping drive a buying frenzy, out of fear that the stock market will make overnight millionaires of even more competing home buyers.

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