Category Archives: Home Buyer Tips

How Easy Is It To Add a Garage in San Francisco?

I get asked this question all the time when my clients who need parking consider a house that doesn’t have a garage. There are many older homes in San Francisco—and a Planning Department that likes to retain the historical character of these buildings. Garages usually don’t fit into the period detail thing.

The answer is that you typically won’t be able to get a definitive answer on a garage permit before you submit an offer. But you can get an informal answer that may help guide your decisionmaking.

I talked with architect Steven Whitney, who recently provided input on a garage-free house my client was considering purchasing. You or your architect may be able to meet informally with someone at the Historic Preservation division within the Planning Department to get initial feedback on whether you may be able to install a garage, says Whitney. He adds that Preservation is conservative about changing facades of older buildings, and that they would look at whether there’s a pattern of other homes that have been given permission to install garages.

But even if there is such a pattern, Preservation would likely require an environmental evaluation (EE) to clarify if the house is a potential historic resource, adds Whitney. The EE would involve getting a report from a preservation architect and then waiting a few months for Preservation to review the report. The cost for the report and EE would probably total around $6,500.

So, unfortunately, it often takes a long time and an investment on such projects to clarify what’s feasible with Preservation. Make sure you’re comfortable with having no garage after your purchase, and have a contingency plan in case Planning doesn’t greenlight a garage.

What You Can Buy For Up To $1.2M

Trying to figure out what’s in your price range at the outset of your house hunt can be a frustrating experience. It seems like every property sells for well over the list price, and it’s impossible to tell what will actually sell within your budget.

This is a good time to engage a knowledgeable real estate agent who can point you in the right direction. After all, what’s the point of spending your weekend afternoons trudging from one open house to another if the half the homes you’re seeing will be out of your range? I decided to give it a whirl and spotlight a few new house and condo listings that I believe will sell for up to $1,200,000—a popular price point in San Francisco. Here goes:

1991 32nd Avenue
Parkside

2BR/1BA, 2 pkg
$798,000

This Hollywood style starter in the Parkside is adorable and has a remodeled kitchen and bath, two-car garage and small yard with potential. You’re only two blocks from the restaurants, shops and Safeway on Noriega, as well as near many public and private schools. Continue Reading

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

The Most Overbid House ‘Hoods in San Francisco Right Now

Buyers have had no qualms about dramatically overbidding for single-family homes in West Portal, Westwood Park/Highlands, the Central Sunset, Ingleside Heights and Miraloma Park this year.

Those neighborhoods are seeing an average overbid of 20 percent. West Portal actually had five homes sell for between 30 and 50 percent over list price this year.

The selling pattern within individual neighborhoods is a useful data point for sellers when it comes to setting a list price—and for buyers as they decide how much to offer for a property. The traditional pattern in San Francisco has been to list low and sell for more. In general, single-family homes in popular neighborhoods and at price points under $2M tend to get the highest overbids.

I did a quick analysis on the single-family home market and flagged the neighborhoods that are experiencing the highest levels of overbidding. Here are the hot spots now, according to the average overbid percentage year to date:

West Portal 22%
Westwood Park/Highlands 21% Continue Reading

What You Can Buy: Condos That Live Like Houses

The single-family home market is currently crawling with buyers, and inventory is at a low level for the number of prospective purchasers. Single-family home buyers need to be creative and flexible when it comes to landing the right dwelling, which sometimes translates into considering other types of properties.

Condos with unique, house-like features are out there—from detached Victorian cottages to two-level units. Here are a few homes that are technically condos, but that live like houses and are located in popular, walkable neighborhoods. Here are just a few I’ve seen recently:

75 Wood
Jordan Park/Laurel Heights

4BR/2BA, 1500 sq ft
Leased parking @$300/month available
$1,295,000

The Deets: 75 Wood is one of two cottages, and sits on the rear of the lot. You enter through the breezeway from the street, and there’s a nice courtyard between both cottages. The main level has two bedrooms and the living spaces, and the lower level is connected via spiral staircase and includes another two bedrooms and bath, as well as an office area. Improvements include new foundation, electrical, plumbing and roof. There is also a huge, undeveloped attic, which definitely has possibilities given that this is a standalone building and wouldn’t require messing with a unit below you when it comes to structural work. Though there’s no garage, street parking is not bad and there is also leased parking available nearby.
The Location: Commanding a 96 Walk Score, 75 Wood is an easy hop to the restaurants and shops along Clement and Sacramento Streets, the heart of the Laurel Village retail area, and is more or less situated between the Presidio and Golden Gate Park. Continue Reading

Where PG&E Gas Lines Are in San Francisco

Where PG&E Gas Lines Are in San Francisco

It’s been several years since there have been high-profile PG&E gas line fires in The Bay Area. The San Bruno disaster happened in 2010, and a street went on fire in Oakland due to a gas line eruption in December 2013. And a natural gas pipeline in Fresno exploded in 2015, injuring eleven people.

San Francisco has fortunately not been the site of a similar fire recently. However, the gas lines do run underground in the city, and it’s important to be aware of their locations as part of your due diligence when buying a home. You can easily consult the pipeline map on PG&E’s Web site. Just click on the map, and zoom in on San Francisco until you can see the actual street names and gas lines. You can also type in a property address to see which lines are potentially nearby. Continue Reading

Should You Buy Earthquake Insurance?

Two earthquakes in Blackhawk and the Geysers over the past couple days prompted me to run one of my most popular posts: Is it worth it to buy earthquake insurance?

Only about 12-15% of California homeowners have earthquake insurance, and I believe that ratio drops further in The Bay Area and San Francisco. This is because earthquake insurance is very expensive. In a condo building, it will double your homeowners association dues (HOAs). Additionally, most policies come with a 10-15% deductible. This means the damage to the building would have to be pretty severe in order for you to use your coverage. Continue Reading

Is The Condo/TIC You’re Buying in a Building That Needs a Retrofit?

Make sure you do your due diligence when it comes to buying a condo or TIC in a building with five or more units over a garage.

The city adopted a mandatory soft-story law in 2013, which targets buildings in various tiers that are susceptible to failing in an earthquake and requires owners to retrofit as necessary. You might be noticing these jobs happening as you walk or drive up San Francisco’s streets. Many of the buildings are on corners and have multiple garages. The city has notified building owners and has given them deadlines to apply for permits; work costs roughly $30-$50 per square foot—not an insignificant cost. Continue Reading

What You Need To Know About Leased Parking

You start your home search with a parking space as part of your criteria. And then you see the perfect condo, but it has what’s defined as “leased parking.” What’s that all about?

The SF Realtor Association changed the data fields in the MLS a few years ago to include leased parking and its related details in a given listing. Previously, you either had some type of deeded parking, or not. Some agents indicated “1L” in the data field, which resulted in listings showing a parking space that technically wasn’t going to be sold with the unit. So the leased parking fields are a good thing, in my opinion.

When it comes to parking, either you have a space included or not. There are variations on parking that comes with a unit, such as deeded, assigned, tandem or independent style. Continue Reading

Homes That Sold for Around $1 Million

Inspired by one of my favorite New York Times real estate features, I thought I would highlight six recent San Francisco sales around the $1M price point—a popular one in the city right now. This is a great way to see what you can expect to pay for future similar homes, as these sales will be good reference points in the months ahead.

Outer Parkside
1929 48th Avenue

2BR/1BA, 1,130 sq ft
11 days on the market
List price: $799,000
Sale price: $1,076,000 (cash)
Classic floor plan with two bedrooms at the rear, eat-in kitchen and bonus room/bath on garage level. Blank canvas of a yard. One block to the beach.
Continue Reading

Latest Noe Valley Fixer Sells for 54% Over Asking

Latest Noe Valley Fixer Sells for 54% Over Asking

Many prospective home buyers who made an offer on 350 Jersey (between Noe and Castro) in Noe Valley walked away disappointed this month. The 2BR/1BA, 1400-square foot 1940s-era house on a large, 2,964-square foot lot was listed for $1,295,000 and attracted 17 offers from buyers looking for a “project” house. There were probably some in the mix who could’ve lived with this kitchen and the basic floor plan until they had time and money to renovate:

But as a testament to the continued strength of the San Francisco fixer market, only one buyer was given the opportunity to develop the property in the future. That buyer paid cash, to the tune of $2,000,000.

Defer Paying Taxes with a 1031 Exchange

A 1031 exchange is an excellent option for investors looking to cash in on the San Francisco market. You can defer paying big capital gains taxes, move up to a bigger and better investment property, and build your wealth in the process.

The Internal Revenue Code Section 1031 allows investors to reinvest proceeds from the sale of one investment property into another similar property while deferring capital gains that would otherwise be due on the sale.

Here are the four simple guidelines for exchanges, as per the Asset Exchange Company in San Francisco: Continue Reading

What You Need To Know About TIC Ownership

Many buyers are considering tenancy-in-common (TIC) units these days, given the cost of real estate in San Francisco. TICs are typically priced lower than condos, and you can generally get into a neighborhood that you might not be able to afford were the property a condo.

But before you run out to see that two-bedroom condo in Cole Valley listed for only $699,000 that you saw on Redfin, you need to know the TIC basics. Continue Reading

What You Should Know About the SF Fixer Market

What You Should Know About the SF Fixer Market

Driven by high buyer demand for single-family homes, the fixer market is going gangbusters in San Francisco.

There are generally two categories of what you’d call “fixers” in San Francisco real estate. The first is the contractor special—not habitable, needs work on the foundation, roof and everything in between. Then there’s the habitable house with a clunky floor plan and expansion potential that could be transformed into someone’s dream house. Continue Reading

Get in touch:

Eileen Bermingham

Zephyr Real Estate

415.823.4656

ebermingham@zephyrsf.com

BRE# 01352627

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