Stacey Caen and Joseph Lucier: two names synonymous with the San Francisco luxury real estate market. Their boutique residential advisory partnership, CAENLUCIER, was formed in 1999 at Sotheby’s International Realty and they have quickly become one of the most recognized real estate duos in the City. Both Stacey and Joe are native San Franciscans, which gives them a solid understanding of our City’s unique and diverse market as well as a deep, well-connected network of architects, designers, and builders. Read on to find out how that, combined with their proprietary data analytics (San Francisco Property Analytic System) and focus on the City’s north side properties means they’re able to offer their clients a unique and unparalleled market experience.
Jeff King: To begin, let’s start by explaining what sets your partnership apart from other luxury real estate agents?
CAENLUCIER: We decided a couple of years back to align our business with design professionals and to decrease the volume of our annual transactions. There was an initial pinch point from our previous business model, but the quality of the business we handle now is more rewarding. This strategy has allowed us to develop a clientele base and a professional partner network that are mutually motivated by the quality of life, appreciation of fine homes, and the desire for high-touch, personal service. We are happily working with many design professionals to help their clients find and purchase new homes for large scale, renovation projects. This shift has lead to an elevated level of client satisfaction and brand loyalty through enthusiastic referrals and repeat business.
JK: Why did you decide to concentrate on north-side properties, namely the Presidio Heights, Pacific Heights, upper Cow Hollow, and Sea Cliff neighborhoods?
CL: Our mission statement is based on our love of San Francisco’s history, beauty, and architecture. In our mind, these neighborhoods capture all three of these closely held tenets of our practice. They also are the locations with some of San Francisco’s most important groupings of architectural heritage. Representing design and historical pedigree are two of the most satisfying aspects of our work.
JK: It is safe to say that your clients occupy the upper echelon. Would you say there are certain criteria that make this level of business unique?
CL: Like many of our colleagues in the professions of interior design and architecture, we have the good fortune to work with individuals and families who have the wherewithal to enjoy the top tier of the market. Like any other buyers though, a residential purchase happens when the basic needs for location, function, and budget are met. The “want” list with our clientele tends to be of high importance, so it can be an even more difficult process sometimes to find the perfect home in a market with notoriously limited inventory.
JK: Can you give an example of a time you absolutely exceeded your client’s expectations?
CL: We worked with a client who had a specific need for a full-floor penthouse with Golden Gate Bridge views. After a frustrating and unsuccessful year searching the market, she was introduced to us. Within a few weeks, we had mapped out all the possible properties that met the stringent criteria, contacted each owner or representative, and identified two suitable options. The client was both thrilled and amazed that we were able to show her two penthouses so quickly. In the end, we represented both parties in a successful private transaction.
JK: Mapping out the possible properties was possible in part because of your proprietary data analytics. What can you tell us about your recently launched sfPAS® market analytic system?
CL: Having an affiliation with Sotheby’s International Realty for the past twenty years, we have often looked to Sotheby’s fine art auction services for innovative ways curate client services. The auction house has over thirty unique categories, including some of the more newsworthy departments of contemporary and modern art, automotive, and wine. Each of these departments has specialists with a depth of knowledge and a contact list of market participants that are highly valued and respected industry wide. We have simply applied this principle to San Francisco’s prime markets by aggregating proprietary data on an analytic software platform to become the definitive market specialists in our sector. sfPAS® encompasses the 2,200+ single-family home markets in Pacific Heights, Presidio Heights, upper Cow Hollow, and Sea Cliff. The results and reception from both homeowners and our buyers have been remarkable.
JK: Talk to us about CAENLUCIER Private Sales.
CL: The penthouse sale mentioned above kicked off our private sale services. We quickly realized that there was an underserved need in the top tier of the market. Clients approach us with strict requirements for privacy, security, and a desire for confidentially sourced transactions. Our niche expertise in the north side markets makes us a valuable conduit for individuals who want to accelerate and quietly transact private sales. This is a high growth part of our business. In 2019, private sales in San Francisco accounted for 35% of single-family homes above $5,000,000 and 45% of sales above $10,000,000.
JK: Getting to more current events, what has been the immediate impact of the coronavirus on the local real estate market?
CL: The impact on the market from mid-March through May was immediate, with a severe drop in sales volume. The California Association of Realtors and local government policy was quickly developed and put in place as residential sales were deemed essential services. It was an odd time to conduct business. The condominium and single-family home market below $2M remained relatively active. A speculative developer with two $20M+ single-family homes quickly met the market and closed two discounted deals at $19M and $27M. Fear and investor pressure were likely strong motivating factors in these transactions. I am certain he is happy to have these homes off his books.
JK: What long-term effects do you anticipate and how are you positioning yourself to handle these changes?
CL: Fortunately, San Francisco brokers have been using enhanced digital marketing strategies for years. So in that respect, we all had the ability to meet the demands of a virtual market without missing a beat. Property videos and Matterport virtual tours offered market participants the ability to assess properties at home almost as well as in-person showings. This period has tested the long-held theory that buyers will never truly be satisfied with purchasing a home exclusively online. There is no substitute for walking through a property to get a first-hand feel for the vibe of the home. We believe that the most noticeable long-term effect will be the increased quality of buyer appointments. Buyers are now spending more time online assessing a property to determine if the home meets their unique needs or not.
JK: What are you hearing from clients—are the majority going ahead with their plans of buying/selling or have you noticed a decline in activity?
CL: Since the start of 2019, we have been advising our homeowners who are interested in selling in the next one to three years, to sell now. While this may sound like a typical piece of advice from a real estate agent, our viewpoint— based on historical data—shows a market adjustment is likely. We have been in extra innings for some time now. There has been such a prolonged and significant increase in property values since 2011, we feel that realizing profits proactively, instead of trying to time the top of the market, is prudent.
JK: We are honored to be included on your exclusive list of design partners. What is important to you when selecting these valued relationships?
CL: We look for professional partners who share our ethos of quality service and superior execution. A desire to be better each year at your given field and an infectious passion towards your work makes for rewarding partnerships and, in the end, leads to happy and satisfied clients.
JK: With over two decades of real estate experience in the city, we are sure you have seen your share of exquisite homes. Do you have a favorite?
CL: Like any true sales professional, the next exciting home is often our favorite. That is not to say that we haven’t had our fair share of favorites. Currently, there is a spectacular opportunity to purchase a rare modernist design by Bay Area architectural legend, William Wurster. In addition to a dreamy location at the end of a Telegraph Hill cul-de-sac, the current owner spent the time to track down the original drawings through UC Berkeley’s Environmental Design Archives. Historical design corrections have been made to update the current interiors to Wurster’s original intent. A seller who is an architectural preservationist with a perfectly maintained home? This rarely happens. All we can say is, “Buy this home!”
JK: What do you do to unwind?
CL: We love nothing more than a weekend drive to the Sonoma Coast with pit stops for coffee and pastries at Wild Flower Bread in Freestone, lunch at Willow Wood Market Café Graton, and the drive over the pass into Bodega Bay before the beautiful drive home down Highway One.