Fire-Gutted Bernal Heights Home Asks $799,000, and America Asks WTF?!

121 Gates Street on the day of the fire in July, 2016. Photo via @SFFFLocal798

Remember the sad tale of 121 Gates Street, the small house that was gutted by fire back in July, 2016? The house was never rebuilt after the fire, but the property was recently put up for sale, with the ruined, 1746 sq. ft. structure remaining more or less unchanged since firefighters left the scene — and an asking price of $799,000.

At a time when the median price of a California home stands at $550,000, the idea of asking almost $800K for a fire-gutted house in Bernal Heights has attracted a predictable flurry of attention since the listing surfaced on Reddit over the weekend. The photos included in the listing capture the devastation of the fire:

Unsurprisingly, the media latched on to the listing for 121 Gates as a bellwether indication of San Francisco’s utterly bonkers, scarcity-fueled housing market.

Curbed SF, a housing news site, looked at the listing for 121 Gates and concluded:

It doesn’t appear to matter what condition a San Francisco house is in these days. So long as the property rests squarely within the city boundaries, the potential value of the mere dirt under the foundations will drive buyer interest.

Indeed, despite the fire, the dirt under that foundation is very well situated.

To start, 121 Gates is located in Bernal Heights, which has a very fixed and highly coveted supply of single-family homes, which currently sell for a median price of about $1.5 million. Also, 121 Gates is a block from Cortland Ave., and the property has a swell view of the waterfront to the east. On top of all that, 121 Gates comes with RH-1 zoning and an existing residential structure, which means the renovation rebuild of the house will allow the new owners to bypass the expensive morass of San Francisco’s permitting process for new construction.

For all those reasons, the realtor for the property told Business Insider, a national news site, that the teardown, fire-gutted house at 121 Gates may actually be under-priced:

The home was “completely gutted” in a fire in 2016, and the new owners will need to demolish what’s left, according to realtor Jim Laufenberg.

“I suspect it will sell for more than what I’m asking,” Laufenberg told Business Insider, adding that the seller listed the property below market value to incite interest in the first few weeks.

12 thoughts on “Fire-Gutted Bernal Heights Home Asks $799,000, and America Asks WTF?!

  1. What’s the largest home that can be built on that property, taking into a count local zoning and setback rules? If we’re talking 2000+ sqft then the math easily works out: $800K for the property, another $800K to build (rough estimate -> 2000sqft * $400 per sqft), so a developer would be in ~$1.6M. A new 2000 sqft home in Bernal could easily sell for $2.5-$3.0M. So maximum upside could be as high as $1.4M… given this, my guess is this property will go for more. $1.2M? $1.5M?

    • ^^^Exactly! Building a new house on an undeveloped lot is a nightmare – see Powhattan developments. This is, by SF standards, practically a blank canvas. GLWS.

  2. When people stop bidding up real estate prices they will come down. So many people have this notion of a “once in a lifetime” deal, so they figure they’ve got to beat everybody else out of the deal. I’ve lived long enough to know there are no “once in a lifetime” deals. There are always plenty of good deals. You just have to look for them.

  3. There’s something both magnetic and repellent about this little cottage as it is right now. Something compellingly beautiful in it’s vibe of loss, and promise; it’s redolent with history and humanity and the permanence/fleetingness of place and home.
    I’d much rather see someone buy this and spend a few tens of thousands encasing the entire thing in a cube with a glass front and top. It would become another legendary “only in San Francisco” perpetual art installation, like nothing else on the planet; a touchstone, and a mirror that would reflect as many different, potent messages as people who view it.

  4. Bernal Heights: Where the only non-million dollar listing is a burned out shack and you have to dodge bullets from nearby Airbnbs. Oh, and pooping stalkers are abound! So charming! I hope the New York Times does another feature on our precious hamlet.

    • If you own would you eventually sell at the current price or at a price from 20 years ago? You’d sell at the current price, and therefore you’d be part of the problem, too, wouldn’t you?

  5. The redfin listing leads with the burned out interior – is this dutifully following the real estate agent process for any new listing, a form of disclosure or a clever social media strategy?
    Someone even trimmed the bougainvilla – maybe it should be transplanted to the powhattan – gates park

    • It’s likely a marketing strategy. After all, how do you distinguish your cute cottage listing from all the other cute cottage listings? Needless to say, this listing as gotten a LOT more views than it would have gotten had there been no pic or has the home been torn down.

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