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Primary Residence?

In an article titled Paying Top Dollar for Condos, and Leaving Them Empty the NYTimes takes a look at some of the high-end luxury buildings in New York City only to discover that many of the buildings aren’t very full because many of the owners use the homes as secondary residences or purchased the property for reasons not related to living there.

It’s a phenomena that I’ve encountered on many occasions when working with buyers looking at luxury condominiums in San Francisco. Inspired by the New York Times, I took a few minutes this morning to look at two buildings in San Francisco – Millennium Tower and the St. Regis Residences – to see how their occupancy statistics compare to NYC.

Residency at the St. Regis Residences in San Francisco, CA

Residency by type at the St. Regis Residences in San Francisco, CA

As you can see above, at the St. Regis Residences, just a little more than 1/3 of the homes appear to be the owner’s primary residence.

Millennium Tower Occupancy

Occupancy by type at the Millennium Tower

At the Millennium Tower, the tax records still reflect the developer as the owner of about 100 homes (although they are down to 10). For the residences that have been sold, the number of owners using their residence as their primary residence is about the same as at The St. Regis Residences.

Overseas vs Domestic mailing addresses for tax bills

Luxury Condo Developments are Popular with Overseas Buyers

Finally, just for fun, I took a look at the mailing addresses for tax bills not being sent directly to the home, and almost 25% of them were overseas addresses, with addresses for Asia being by far the most common geographic area.

My stats aren’t foolproof – what I’m looking at in the tax records is where the tax bill is being sent. If it is being sent directly to the home, I am considering that a home that is someone’s primary residence. If the tax bill is sent elsewhere, I count that as a secondary residence. There are a few reasons someone might have a primary residence yet have their tax bill sent elsewhere, but as a general rule it is a good way of determining how many people are checking their mail in the building on a regular basis.

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  1. [...] Condos are the red-headed step-child of real estate in many areas of the country. Not so here in San Francisco, where some buyers actually prefer condominiums because they don’t have to worry about yard or building maintenance and they enjoy the sense of community or building amenities, especially if it happens to be in a luxury condo building where the owners aren’t home very often. [...]

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