Category Archives: Home Buyer Tips

How Real Estate Agents Get Paid in San Francisco

I’m often contacted by prospective buyers and sellers who eventually ask how payment and commissions work. So I thought I’d give you the bottom line as to how real estate agents get paid.

Homeowners who list their properties are typically responsible for paying the commission to the brokers (e.g., the companies affiliated with each agent) who represent the seller and the buyer. The listing agent negotiates a commission up front, and this is included in the seller paperwork. Total commissions for both brokers range from five- to six percent, and are typically divided equally. For example, a five percent commission on a $1,000,000 condo would find the seller paying $50,000 in commissions, with the brokers each receiving $25,000.

The broker then pays the real estate agent according to whatever split is set by the broker. Splits range from 50% to around 90%, and are based upon how much money the agent is earning. The more money the agent earns, the more favorable the split.

Home buyers aren’t directly responsible for paying real estate agents a fee. An agent who represents a buyer doesn’t get paid until the buyer actually purchases a property.

It’s worth mentioning that real estate agents are never guaranteed a paycheck. There are times when sellers decide to withdraw a property from the market after their agent has been marketing the home for several weeks or months, and there are buyers who can house hunt and write offers for months or even years before they actually buy.

In the meantime, agents are responsible for covering their own cost of living, as well as hundreds of dollars in association and transaction fees, marketing costs, and annual broker service fees/insurance that can be as high as $5,000/year.

Check Building Permit History Before You Buy

Was that room downstairs added with permits? Was the roof redone ten years ago with permits? Is the two-unit building you’re buying actually zoned as such?

These are the types of questions my clients are often faced with when considering purchasing a home in San Francisco. Properties here often have varied histories, and it’s important to know as much as you can.

One of the best tools for doing so is the city’s online permit site. The online history is useful when you’re doing preliminary research on a property you may be interested in purchasing.

Sellers are required to present a printed 3R Report from the Building Department that lists the permit history. However, that report takes weeks to arrive, and you want to do as much as you can to avoid surprises during escrow.

What Closing Costs Do Buyers Pay?

There’s a lot going on when you’re buying a home with a loan, and closing costs can sometimes hit you unexpectedly. In addition to your down payment, you can count on anywhere from one- to three percent in various fees when it comes time to close your transaction.

If you’re paying points, the closing costs will be on the higher end of that range.

Here’s a rundown on the major types of closing costs you’ll see when you buy your home:Continue Reading

Coming Soon and Off-Market Opportunities: September 23, 2015

The flood of inventory continues to hit the market. Here’s a preview of what’s to come, or what may never go into the MLS before it’s sold:

2872 25th St / Mission
3BR/2BA 1920s home, in-law down, 1 pkg

2040 Fell #12 / NoPa
2BR/1BA top-floor condo, 1 pkg

1156 Treat / Mission
2BR/1BA top-floor condo, 1 pkg
$949,000Continue Reading

What You Can Buy: Condos Under $1,000 Per Square Foot

It’s no secret that the list price per square foot for condos is topping $1,000/square foot these days—with actual sale prices rising above that. And while I’m not a huge fan of relying completely on price-per-square foot as a data point, I do reference it when it comes to home values.

The good news is that the condo market currently has 125 units listed in San Francisco for under $1,000/square foot. The average list price for condos in this category is $1,144,151, with 15 condos listed for the ever-popular $899,000 price. ($995,000 is right behind that price point.)Continue Reading

Coming Soon and Off-Market Opportunities: September 16, 2015

New listings are popping up everywhere, on and off the market. Here are my picks for upcoming and off-market listings this week:

745 DeHaro / Potrero Hill
2BR/2BA view home, 2,000 sq ft, three levels, 1 pkg

242 San Jose / Mission
Architecturally significant 4BR/2.5BA + guest quarters, 27′ x 175′ lot, pkg

2842 Pierce / Cow Hollow
2BR/1.5BA condo, 2 pkg
$2,550,000Continue Reading

Coming Soon and Off-Market Opportunities: August 19, 2015

Here are my picks for upcoming and off-market listings this week:

12 Winfield / Bernal Heights
2BR/1BA top-floor condo, 1 pkg

355 Buena Vista Ave East #506W / Buena Vista-Ashbury Heights
1BR/1BA, 855 sq ft, 1 pkg

555 Filbert St / Telegraph Hill
3BR/2BA renovated, top-floor TIC, 1 pkg
$1,695,000Continue Reading

Five Things That Can Shrink a Condo’s Buyer Pool

Certain things about a building or homeowners association (HOA) can seriously shrink a condo’s buyer pool. In the end, getting multiple offers on a property is directly linked to how many buyers are interested. I’ve rounded up five of the most common things that present challenges in a sale. If you’re planning to sell your condo this year, make sure you’re prepared to handle buyer objections when it comes to these factors:

1. Very high HOA dues. There’s a reason this is listed at number one. Many buyers balk at paying upwards of $500 a month in HOA dues. Of course, some are willing to pay a bit more if, say, the fitness facilities would replace their current gym membership. The reality is that if you’re living in a large building, the operating costs are simply higher, from paying for that 24-hour concierge to maintaining elevators, common areas, pools and roof decks. I’m seeing more buyers filtering their searches with maximum HOA dues amounts. From a seller’s standpoint, there’s not a lot that can be done about high HOA dues. However, it’s sometimes worth offering to pay a year’s worth of HOA dues, for example, as part of the deal.Continue Reading

Coming Soon and Off-Market Opportunities: August 12, 2015

Here are my picks for upcoming and off-market listings this week:

147 Day #4 / Noe Valley
1BR/1BA top-floor condo, 1 pkg

1670 Kirkwood / Bayview
Two 3BR/2BA flats, built 2001, 2 pkg

1562 Portola / West Portal
3BR+/2.5BA, 2777 sq ft Craftsman house

471 Munich / Excelsior
3BR/1.5BA barrel front house + inlaw unit, 1 pkg
Price TBDContinue Reading

What You Can Buy in the Center of It All

San Francisco home buyers typically want to purchase a property that’s near restaurants, cafes, bars, services and transportation. For those buyers who really want to be in the middle of everything, I’ve selected six currently available properties that I think would do the trick—in a variety of distinct neighborhoods.

You can expect to pay roughly $1,000-$1,300/square foot for homes with all the amenities in popular locations like these.

Here are some properties worth considering:

207 King #706 / Mission Bay
3BR/2.5BA, 1872 sq feet, 1 pkg
If you literally would like AT&T Park and the Giants in your backyard, 207 King #706 at The Glassworks will grant you that privilege. This sexy and spacious, loft-like penthouse spans two levels. It has three large bedrooms, an office space, and plenty of closets. Gaze through your wall of windows and take in the city and water view. Central air and in-unit laundry are also on hand, along with generous storage. Glassworks was constructed in 2007 and is in the midst of Mission Bay’s restaurants, nightlife, cafes and the Caltrain station.Continue Reading

Coming Soon and Off-Market Opportunities: August 7, 2015

Here are my picks for upcoming and off-market listings this week:

43-45 Fair / Bernal Heights
Two units, cosmetic fixer

607 Shotwell / Mission
1BR/1BA TIC with no parking, four-unit building

2905 Bush / Lower Pac Heights
3BR/3BA Victorian house with legal garden apartment–technically two units
$2,849,000Continue Reading

Precita Park Tops Bernal’s Microhoods in 2015

Precita Park Tops Bernal’s Microhoods in 2015

I unveiled my Bernal Heights microhoods more than a year ago, and the post inspired local blog favorite Bernalwood to create its own more humorous, cartoonish microhood map—not to mention inspired a few real estate agent marketing pieces that you may have seen around town lately.

But if you know Bernal and are a serious buyer or future seller, you’ll know that the microhoods I carved out last year will give you the most accurate sense of neighborhood values.

All the microhoods have made substantial jumps in their sales price averages since my initial post in March 2014. But the biggest boost belongs to Precita Park, which has basically exploded over the past year. The Precita Park microhood now carries an average sale price of $2,203,857.

It’s a good time for an update on how home prices are doing in each microhood. (Note: All 2015 numbers are based on the time period April-July 2015; the 2014 averages referenced in my initial post are based on sales that took place from September 2013-March 2014.)

North West Slope
Average Price: 2014: $1,195,589 / 2015: $1,498,146
Price Increase: 25%
The North West Slope has been going strong these days. Of the 15 homes sold, five sold for more than $1.5M. There were two cash sales, including the one at 52 Mirabel, which was the most expensive home sold in the past few months at $2,625,000. Continue Reading

SF Condo Market Sees Summer Softening

SF Condo Market Sees Summer Softening

The San Francisco condo market tends to hop into a hammock for a siesta around July and August. For buyers who aren’t on vacation and serious about snagging a new home or investment property before the big Fall push, summer can present a wonderful opportunity to avoid bidding wars and get a pretty good deal.

There are 200 condos on the market as of this writing, and almost half are looking at a days on market (DOM) count of 21 days or more. 38 of these condos are listed for under $1M, and 29 for $1.5M+. For once, the luxury market isn’t leading the market-sitter pack.Continue Reading

The Basics Behind SF Property Taxes

You’re considering purchasing a property in San Francisco, and want to figure out what your total annual costs will be. A significant portion of those expenses will be property taxes.

The property tax rate for the 2014-2015 tax year is 1.1880% of the purchase price. Property taxes are due in two installments: The first is due November 1st, and is delinquent after December 10th. The second installment is due on February 1st, and becomes delinquent after April 10th.Continue Reading

Coming Soon and Off-Market Opportunities: July 28, 2015

Here are my picks for upcoming and off-market listings this week:

18 Lansing #303 / SoMa
1BR/1.5BA loft, 1 pkg

72 Amber Drive / Diamond Heights
4BR/2.5BA Eichler home, needs work

475 Texas #B / Potrero
4BR/2BA condo, 2 pkg, top-floor condo with decks

4521 25th Street #1 / Noe Valley
3BR/2.5BA condo, 2 pkg, 1860 sq feet with deeded flat yard
$1,695,000Continue Reading

Get in touch:

Eileen Bermingham

Zephyr Real Estate


BRE# 01352627

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