What Can You Afford? Know SF’s True Property Values

San Francisco buyers are often mystified by the selling pattern of our real estate market.

And with good reason. For years, agents and sellers have listed homes for less—often far less—than the actual value.

I won’t bore you with tales of various properties that ended up selling for way, way, over list price. What’s more useful is knowing how navigate the market when you’re ready to buy—without having to spend hours writing one offer after another in order to achieve that goal.

There are many factors that weigh into what a property will sell for (and my buyer clients quickly learn what those are). But as we speed toward the Spring market, I thought I would share some info that might point prospective home buyers in the right direction.

The secret to a successful home search? Know what you can afford.

Here’s an example of what can happen if you ignore that reality: You get preapproved for up to $1.2M and are interested in buying a condo in the city. You’re in the early stages and haven’t selected a Realtor yet. So you jump on Redfin, Zillow or Realtor.com and decide to take a whirl on the weekend open house circuit.

Armed with your list of ten condos priced at around $1.2M, you unexpectedly see a unit you love and offers are due the next day. That leads to a scramble for an agent who can help you throw together your first offer. The agent tells you the property will probably sell for well over list price, but you submit your offer at asking anyway. Later that night, the agent calls to let you know that the sellers received five offers and accepted a different one.

And so it goes.

To avoid that inauspicious beginning, get your Realtor on board so he or she can run a report of the homes that have sold in your range over the last three months. You’ll be able to see what your money will buy, and you’ll also see a pattern with respect to list and sale prices.

It’s important to break down this type of data into neighborhood-specific sales. For example, the two-bedroom condo with parking in Pacific Heights will most likely have a different value than the one in the Central Sunset.

Don’t get sucked in too frequently by teaser list prices. With very few exceptions, those properties in good locations listed for $995,000 will be selling for around $1.2M. Houses listed for $1.5M will sell for closer to $2M. You’ll start getting used to the selling patterns, and the end game is to buy a suitable home without having to write 25 offers to achieve your goal.


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Eileen Bermingham

Corcoran Global Living



DRE# 01352627

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