After The Equifax Breach: What You Need To Know

The recent Equifax security breach makes it clearer than ever that consumers need to take data security very seriously. There are steps you can take today to maintain control of your credit and personal information. If you haven’t already placed a security freeze on your credit files, maybe you should.  Here’s what you need to know.


San Francisco Real Estate Transfer Tax

Sellers have many things to consider when they prepare to sell their home or condo. One of the expenses that can surprise some sellers is the City & County of San Francisco Transfer Tax. This hefty tax is based on the sales price and is deducted from your proceeds by the escrow company. Here is how the tax is calculated.

How much can you expect to pay in transfer tax? Enter the sales price below:




Enter sale price: $

How do I get a good deal when buying San Francisco real estate?

Buying a home or condo in San Francisco can be intimidating for buyers. The prospect of competing with dozens of frenzied buyers for that one special place can take the wind out of your sails pretty quickly. But here is some good news…

Time of year matters

The SF real estate market tends to be slowest in November and December, that can mean better deals for buyers. Less competition and lower prices are more likely during these two months than during the rest of the year. Although inventory is very limited during this notoriously quiet period, some of the listings that are available will be relatively good bargains.

Back on market, high number of days on market, price drops

Beyond time of year, there are some other ways to find potentially good deals. Watch for properties that have recently come back on the market after being in contract. Although it’s important to understand why the contract was cancelled, these situations sometimes indicate that a seller may be frustrated and more flexible on price and terms. Properties that have been on the market a while (with a high number of days on market, over 60 days) often will signal that the seller is open to some negotiating. Keep an eye out for listings with recent price reductions. All of theses are indicators that there may be a window of opportunity for the savvy buyer.

I’m happy to send you my picks of the best deals in the neighborhoods you’re interested in, just let me know.


Looking for a rental in San Francisco? Be careful!

There are lots of internet scams out there, especially when it comes to rental housing ads. I have some suggestions to help you to avoid falling victim.  Here is how the fraud works… the scammer lures prospective tenants by posting very convincing ads on various legitimate rental websites using addresses and photos and descriptions of real San Francisco apartments and condos. They usually just copy the details and photos from properties that were recently advertised online for sale.

The scammer advertises these places on many web sites, often with rents that seem attractively low. Once you contact them, they will eventually ask you to provide confidential info or request that you apply or send money to them to secure your spot in order to arrange a showing appointment, don’t do it!

They even sometimes use the name of the legitimate local real estate agents and brokers. Presumably this is to confuse the prospective tenant in to thinking that they are dealing with a reputable person. Of course they conveniently include a bogus phone number and email link so that you communicate with the scammer directly and not with any actual legitimate agent.

Scam Computer Keys Showing Swindles And Frauds

Be sure you are using reputable rental sites (like or and always keep your eyes open for red flags or things that don’t seem to add up. Although the reputable sites do get many fraud postings, they are more likely to remove those scams quickly when they get flagged.

Here is what you need to know…

If you contact an owner about an apartment and he or she is unwilling or unable to show you the apartment within a few days, move on. If there is a dramatic story about illness or death or distant family members causing a delay in the showing, move on. If the language that the “landlord” uses seems very odd to you, move on.

Never ever ever complete an application or send money to anyone until you have personally toured the apartment. Also when you do go to see an apartment, don’t go alone.

If you find a place that looks interesting, I suggest that you Google the address to see if there are other ads online for that address. Use a few versions of the address in your searches, like 123 Main Street #5, San Francisco or 123 Main St Apt 5 San Francisco. If your online search turns up some links to the same unit currently listed for sale on major real estate sites like or, then that’s a sign that the property may not actually be for rent and you are likely dealing with a fraudster. While it is possible that a property could be legitimately advertised for both sale and rent simultaneously, it is not the most likely scenario. In any event it would be easy enough to decipher by speaking with the actual agent representing the seller.

You should also Google the name of the agent, for example if the ad says to contact Patrick Lowell at Zephyr Real Estate for information, just Google that name to see if the phone number and website that you find online match what’s in the ad.  If you are not sure if an ad is legitimate and you’ve searched for the agent’s name and found a phone number that is different, call it and speak with the agent. Often it is someone like me who can tell you right away that the ad is a scam and that they did not post it.

Bottom line, follow your gut, if something does not seem right, it probably isn’t. Trust your instincts.

Remember: NEVER send money or complete any application until you have toured an apartment in person.

Here is an example of an actual rental scam email, most of them follow a similar pattern:


This is to acknowledge your e-mail and interest to reserve the apartment. Once again I would gladly lease this apartment to you, but i have to state quite clearly that if this is your intention, that is if you truly and really intend to lease this apartment then you will have to make sure its yours by securing it now as i cannot guarantee that it will still be available in the next few days for the period you intend to move in. So you can have the apartment reserve now for your intended move in date if you wish.
With regard to your requested, the unit is available for short and long term lease and can be rented Unfurnished, if you wish to bring your furniture you are free to do so (the rent price for the unit unfurnished is $2,500 monthly) and it is so guaranteed in the lease contract. There is washer/Dryer in the unit (laundry in unit), central air conditioning and assign parking and pet friendly.
About viewing: Please note that the apartment will be available for viewing from August 22nd,2015  because the current occupant is out of the city for relocation and the lease will expire 10:00 am on the 20th of August and the unit will be cleaned up the following day which is why I said that the earliest viewing date is (August 22nd) so you can schedule to come view the unit as from August 22nd and can also possibly move in that same day if you wish.
Please understand that the rental market in San Francisco is competitive so the apartment is on high demand and if you are really interested in this apartment I will advice you try and secure it now so that you do not loose it to other prospective tenants who are also in contact. Like I said before who secures it first gets the unit. To reserve this unit you will have to deposit only the first month’s rent plus the refundable security deposit after completing all the relevant rental documents.  The terms and conditions of the contract gives you full refund if you do not want the apartment upon viewing.
Lease Plan Available:
– One Month rent with a refundable security deposit.
– 3 months upfront rent payment attract 10% discount of the total plus refundable security deposit.
– 6 months upfront payment attract discount of 15% of the total rent plus a refundable security deposit.
– Upfront payment a year lease attracts 20% discount of the total rent with a refundable security deposit.
Do find the attached tenancy application form for you to fill and return back to me along with your credit report by fax or e-mail attachment and as soon as I receive the filled form I shall forward the lease agreement contract for you to review.
I will await your earliest response so that we can proceed with the securing of the apartment for your lease duration. I am 100% confident that if you like what you saw online, you will surely go ahead and take it because the pictures represent the present conditions of the apartment.
Hope to hear back from you soon.


SF Real Estate Market Update May 2016

Home sales activity, representing buyer demand, is one of the most basic market trend indicators. We typically compare the same time period because home sales are seasonal, lower in the winter and summer months and higher in the spring and fall. Over the first four months of 2016, the number of homes sold declined by 13% for single family homes and 10% for condominiums versus the same months in 2015. While this does represent lower demand, reviewing other indicators will provide a better understanding of overall market conditions.

The amount of supply available, how long it takes to sell and at what price, will provide a better indication of market dynamics buyers and sellers can expect. On the supply side, the inventory of available homes for sale remains low, but it has increased compared to last year. Single family home inventory was up slightly in April 2016 versus the prior year to 587 homes. Condominium inventory year-over-year was up by 94 units or 15%. In terms of the time required to sell homes placed on the market, the average in 2016 was 35 days, four days longer than in 2015. A selling time under 60 days is considered short and seller favorable, indicating an active market. Finally, the median home price, which represents market conditions motivating a buyer and seller to agree upon a sale price, surpassed or equaled its twelve month high in April 2016.

Median Sales Price




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Patrick’s Properties

239 8th St #7

South of Market

Hip urban loft with large private patio, parking & storage
Listed at $899,000
Open house Monday, May 30th: 1pm-4pm

81 Clairview Ct

Midtown Terrace

Sweet single family home, 3 beds 1 bath
Listed at $895,000
Open house Tuesday, May 31st: 1pm-2:30pm

1350 Natoma St #7

Inner Mission

Newer townhome-style condo. 2 beds 2.5 baths, parking & storage
Listed at $849,000
Showings begin June 11th

san francisco real estate market update: April 2016

Over the last four years, the San Francisco real estate market can easily be referred to as frenzied. The result has been a huge surge in home prices. Recent data though seems to indicate that the trend may be shifting.

Prices over the last three years appreciated by a whopping 35.02%, but looking at a year-over-year analysis, we can see that the vast majority of the gain, almost 31%, happened between 2013 and 2015. Over the last twelve months, the rate of appreciation has slowed to just 3.80%.

Condos & Single Family Homes Median Sale Price
2013 – 2016 / Year Over Year
It’s also interesting to note that most of 2013 – 2015 saw a steady smooth upward price trend but the last twelve months was filled with multiple peaks and valleys.

The underlying market dynamics haven’t really changed. Demand is high, inventory remains low, interest rates are stable, and financing is no easier or harder to secure then it was a year ago. Of course many other factors impact the housing market (local employment opportunities, the stock market, politics, consumer confidence, etc). They are each likely impacting the current market adjustment to some degree.

We have all expected that the pace of appreciation of San Francisco real estate would start to cool down a bit. While we may have reached that point, I definitely do not view this as the bursting of a bubble.

If you’ve been thinking of selling or buying a home, give me a call and we can chat about how this market shift could impact your real estate goals.

Patrick Lowell
Broker Associate, CRS, GRI
BRE# 01372286
[email protected]


Rainy days are good for home buyers


California is in a major drought. We need rain. If you are a home buyer in the market for a single family home, there is yet another benefit to the wet stuff. Touring your dream home on a rainy day can tell you a lot about your prospective home before you submit an offer.

Probably one of the last things you want to do is go out and look at homes in the rain. If you’re like most people, you want to see houses on a sunny spring day. Visiting a house on a rainy day however can sometimes be more helpful, here’s why:

Ideally when rain falls, it runs off the roof in to the gutters and eventually flows away from the house through a drain or pipe to the street or sewer. Given the hilly terrain in San Francisco, older housing stock, and densely packed neighborhoods, heavy rain in San Francisco sometimes leads to “ponding” or standing water with no place to go. Standing water tends to seep in to places it should not be (like walls, foundations, garages, or basements). Keeping water away from your home is important to help prevent issues like dry rot, wood boring beetles, foundation deterioration, termites, and mold. So while checking out your new prospective house, always keep your eye out for standing water around the outside of the home and in the garage or basement.

Another benefit of touring a home in the rain:  if a roof or skylight needs repair, there might be some visible signs of a leak. Be sure to look up at the ceiling occasionally as you are walking around. If you see signs of a ceiling repair or even differences in paint texture, it may be worth at least asking about.

I’m not a home inspector, but I’ve learned a bit by attending hundreds of home inspections with clients. I have many more home buying tips to share. Feel free to get in touch.

How to buy a home in San Francisco if you are an expat

Expats can buy a home in the U.S.

If you are considering a move to the U.S. from another country, you will quickly learn that the process of buying a home here is unique and probably even a little baffling at first. Here is what you need to know:

  1. Step one is to find the right real estate broker to guide you. In San Francisco, like much of the U.S., buyers and sellers each have their own dedicated broker to help them. Your broker is your primary advocate throughout the real estate purchase process and can help you to buy any available home on the market regardless of which broker is representing the seller. He or she has a fiduciary duty to represent your best interests. Sellers pay the commission which is the compensation for both brokers. Buyers rarely pay any commission at all.
  2. Get pre-approved for a loan. Without a U.S. credit report and social security number it can sometimes be challenging to get a mortgage loan. Here is how the system typically works: after a potential home buyer applies for a loan, the mortgage lender uses their social security number to check credit history which is pulled from three credit bureaus: Trans Union, Equifax, and Experian. Each of these bureaus collects data from various creditors like banks and credit card companies regarding an individual’s payment history, amounts owed, etc. That data is used to formulate a score called FICO which gauges an individual’s perceived credit-worthiness. The score can range from 300-850. Anything over 700 is generally considered very good. The credit bureaus and resulting FICO score only considers credit history earned in the U.S., not overseas.  If you are new to the U.S., this is clearly a bit problematic. There are some alternatives for expats who are new to the U.S., so finding the right mortgage lender is key. Your real estate broker can refer you to a few lenders that can help.
  3. Start looking at neighborhoods and homes with your broker. This step may take a while as you learn the areas and nuances of the city along with the various property types that fit into your budget. San Francisco is geographically small but it has 89 distinct neighborhoods, so there is a lot to learn. Your broker can give you access to MLS, the database of all available homes in the city.
  4. Once you find the right home for you, then it’s time to make an offer. Offers are comprised of price and various terms that your broker will discuss in detail with you. Offers can be contingent upon certain events like a professional home inspection or even full mortgage loan approval. Your broker will discuss the pros and cons of various offer terms to make it attractive to the seller while still protecting your interests. The timeframe of offering on a home to actually getting keys in your hand is generally about 35 days or less.

I have represented many buyers from other countries. I’d be glad to sit down and talk with you about the process to see if buying a home in San Francisco is the right move for you.  Just let me know when you’d like to meet. I can be reached at (415) 971-5651.

San Francisco Real Estate Prices for 2015

It’s been another wild year in SF real estate.  The median sale price for a condo is $1,100,000 which is up more than 15% from a year ago.  Single family home prices jumped almost 13% to $1,250,000.  As we enter 2016, that strong upward trend is likely going to cool. With mortgage interest rates increasing and international financial markets showing more signs of instability, my prediction is that we’re likely heading toward a somewhat less robust seller’s market than we have seen in the last few years.  As always, it will be interesting to see how things unfold. If you are thinking of selling or buying a home, feel free to get in touch, I’m here to help.

2015 prices of condos and houses in San Francisco
SF Median prices for 2015

What are the most common methods of holding title to property in California?

There are plenty of big decisions that need to be made during the process of buying a home or condo. One decision that buyers often don’t consider in advance is how they’d like to hold title to the property. The method of holding title, often referred to as “vesting”, can have significant legal and tax implications so it should always be discussed with an attorney or tax pro. Before the sale can be completed, the title insurance company will need to know how the property is to be vested. Thinking about the options in advance may help to make the process smoother for you.  The chart below from Fidelity National Title summarizes the more common methods of holding title. Click on the chart to enlarge it.  If you are considering buying a home in SF (or anywhere else for that matter) just let me know, I’ll be happy to help.

Holding title to real property in CA

Buyers see a glimpse of opportunity in San Francisco

price reduced sign

Let’s face it, San Francisco is a tough city for buyers. Over the past 18 months, sales with multiple offers that end up far above the list price have become the new normal. The average buyer often finds it difficult and stressful to compete in such a heated market.

Over the last few weeks however, the market seems to be adjusting a bit in the buyer’s favor. This is especially true with condos and TICs, less so for other property types. It could be a typical seasonal adjustment, or a response to global financial market turmoil, but one thing is clear: price reductions in San Francisco are now more frequent than they’ve been for a long time.

In addition to lower prices, there is a marked increase in properties that are “back on the market” (aka. BOM) following being in contract with a buyer that couldn’t get financing or cancelled for some other reason. These homes can sometimes become an opportunity for a savvy buyer.

Looking at the last two weeks of MLS activity, here are some of the opportunities available today:

14 single family homes and 11 condos/tics have come Back on the Market

19 single family homes and 49 condos/tics have had Price Reductions

To be clear, this is not likely anything more than a momentary market adjustment. Do not expect that you can get a steal on everything out there, but it is a sign that buyers may have more leverage than before, at least for now.

Check out the details on any available property here

If you’ve been thinking of buying but were waiting for the right time, this may just be it.

Want to take a look at any of these places? Just email me here or give me a call at 415-971-5651.

How’s the market in San Francisco?

“How’s the market?”  This is one of the most frequent questions that I get from clients and friends. As things cool down for the winter season, I thought it may be time to help shed some light on it.  We’ve put together a few graphs to show you exactly what’s happening in the market right now. I have much more data to share, so feel free to let me know if you have questions about your specific property or neighborhood.
median price image-1

Condo, TIC, Co-op. What are the differences?

Diff betw condos tics coops InfographicWhat’s the difference between a condo, a TIC, and a co-op? No doubt you’ve heard of each of them but if you are like most people, you’re not sure about the specifics.

Generally speaking, if you are looking to buy a place to live in San Francisco (and it’s not a single family house) then you are probably talking about one of these three forms of ownership.  Since these are forms of ownership and not styles of construction, you can’t tell these buildings apart by physically looking at them. Here are the primary differences in how they each work:

A condo is the most common form of ownership. When you buy a condo, you own one particular unit in a building. You’ll have title to the unit plus you have rights to a use the common areas. In a condo, you’ll pay a monthly homeowners association fee, and you’ll need to abide by rules & regulations (called CC&Rs). Condos can be financed with conventional mortgages (think 30 year fixed rate loans issued by major banks). Most banks that issue mortgages will loan on a condo as long as it meets their underwriting criteria.

A tenancy-in-common (aka. TIC) is a hybrid form of ownership where you own a percentage of a multi-unit building. TICs came about as a way for people to be able to band together to buy property relatively affordably in otherwise expensive cities.  As a TIC buyer, you’ll have rights to live in one unit in the building. Just like a condo, you pay a monthly fee and can use the common areas. In a TIC, the rules and regulations of ownership are spelled out in a TIC agreement. Major banks do not loan on TICs (because there is no secondary market where they can sell the loans to other banks). Financing is therefore more expensive and less attractive than condos. There are a few smaller banks around the Bay Area that offer TIC loans. They charge a 1% fee up front to write the loan, and the interest rate is often about 1% higher than a conventional condo loan, and the rate is locked for no more than 7 years (compared with 30 years for condos). Down payment requirements are higher than for condos, often 25-30%. Although TIC owners each have their own mortgage, this form of ownership does come with some additional risk, primarily surrounding payment of property taxes and potential default by a co-owner. The TIC agreement does address the risk to some degree however buyers should be fully aware of the details before buying a TIC.  The upside is that the purchase price for a TIC is almost always considerably less expensive than a comparable condo.

A co-op (aka. cooperative) is a building owned by a private corporation. It is basically an elite gated community. When you buy in to a co-op, you are purchasing shares in the corporation. You’ll pay a rather hefty monthly fee for rights to live in one unit. Buyers must first be interviewed by the board of directors (ie. other owners) for approval. The interview process generally requires buyers to provide personal financial details for review. The board may accept or reject buyers for any reason. Like TIC financing, terms for co-op financing are less attractive than conventional condo financing and the number of banks that will issue loans are limited. Co-op buildings tend to be well maintained (because they usually have substantial amounts of cash in the bank). Co-ops do not allow rentals, so purchasing one as an investment property is not an option. Like condos and TICs, co-ops may have shared common areas as well as rules and regulations governing what owners can and cannot do.

This is just a quick summary of the differences in these forms of ownership. I’ve sold all of these types of properties and am happy to discuss the specifics with you.  You can find me anytime at 415-971-5651.


2 new condo listings in the Mission District

I have two great condo listings coming up soon in the Mission District. Here is some info on each, let me know if you’d like more details before they go on the market:100_2186

2889 24th Street #6 is a bright two bedroom two bath condo facing the quiet side of the building. Built in 2006, this intimate building sits in the heart of the Mission within walking distance to BART, shopping, restaurants and more.  Approximately 935 square feet of living space per the condo map. This sweet condo offers upscale appliances, a contemporary open kitchen, gas fireplace, garage parking, in-unit laundry and a large shared patio. This one is not to be missed. List price is $875,000

2208 Mission St #405 is an awesome three bedroom two bath condo at the corner of 18th & Mission. Located just steps to some of the finest restaurants and coffee shops plus BART and tech shuttles are within a few blocks. The building was built in 2009 and includes a locally-owned grocery store and an upscale coffee shop. Approximately 1173 square feet of living space per tax records. This condo boasts a huge central great-room concept for living/dining/entertaining and it includes a private balcony, shared laundry, garage parking, common area roof deck, and one of the most walkable locations in the city. List price is $975,000

What is a contingency when buying a home in San Francisco?

If you have been looking at property in San Francisco, you have probably heard the term “contingency” being used by agents or other buyers. The word contingency means: “dependence on the fulfillment of a condition”. In the world of SF real estate, a contingency is generally a period of time in which the buyer can investigate a property while still protecting their deposit. Buyer contingencies are often used for property inspections like a termite inspection or structural engineering survey. Other common contingencies involve mortgage underwriting or the sale of another property. Sellers may also have contingencies (like finding a replacement property) but buyer contingencies are much more likely. Any buyer contingency is essentially a parachute out of the contract in the event that some condition is not met or is not satisfactory to the buyer. parachuteIf, for example, an accepted offer gave a buyer a 5 day inspection period, the buyer could cancel the contract (and get their deposit back) if they were not comfortable with the inspection results during that period. In this very frenzied seller’s market, it is critical to understand that any buyer contingency will give the seller some pause when they are considering whether to accept the offer.  While buyer contingencies are good for the buyer, they make the offer less attractive from the seller’s perspective. Since sellers are often receiving multiple offers, they typically do not want to risk taking the property off the market for a buyer who may or may not actually buy the home, and risk losing the non-contingent offers that they may have gotten. For this reason, it can be problematic for buyers to both protect their interests while still getting their offer accepted. As I’ve written about before, disclosures are important. Seller disclosure packages (complete with inspection reports) allow the buyer to be informed about the property at the outset before submitting an offer. Regardless of disclosures, some buyers opt to roll the dice and waive all contingencies as a strategy of making their offer more attractive to the seller. Depending on what inspection reports were provided, this could be a very risky way to buy a house. Of course, each transaction is unique so if you are considering buying or selling, let’s talk.

How do I buy a home in San Francisco?

If you’re beginning to think about buying a place in SF, there is one sure-fire thing that you should do before you spend too much time visiting open houses. Get pre-approved for a mortgage. Until you know how much home you can comfortably afford, it really doesn’t make much sense to fall in love with the place of your dreams. Unless you are just browsing with no intent to buy soon, looking at homes before getting pre-approved for a mortgage is a bit of a cart-before-the-horse kind of thing. It is easy to fall in love with the perfect place when you see it. Unfortunately it is also that much more disappointing to learn that it is financially out of reach.


I suggest that buyers get pre-approved for a loan with two different sources. One direct lender (for example, Wells Fargo) and one local mortgage broker.  As I have mentioned before, the big banks are notoriously quite slow and bureaucratic when it comes to issuing mortgages. The reason is simple, they are huge organizations that make money by selling off bundles of mortgage loans. They can only do that if certain loan underwriting criteria is adhered to from the outset with every buyer. Careful mortgage underwriting is certainly good (hello 2008, I’m looking at you) however the slow-moving process can sometimes present problems for buyers who are trying to purchase a home in this very fast-paced seller’s market. Bottom line here is that sellers are really not interested in waiting around to see if you happen to get your loan or not.

A mortgage broker has access to many loan sources, from small banks to local portfolio lenders, all of which tend to move much faster than big brick & mortar banks. Mortgage brokers also know that properties in San Francisco often come with some local idiosyncrasies that do not exist in other areas. When underwriting with one lender is not working out for a buyer, a mortgage broker can move the loan to another lender to get approval.  I can suggest a number of reliable San Francisco mortgage brokers that have helped my clients over the years. Guaranteed Rate, Opes Advisors, Guarantee Mortgage are three examples. Let me know if you’d like any specifics about who to contact at each company.

By the way, some lenders and mortgage brokers offer the ability for buyers to get fully approved in advance (not just the customary pre-approval). If your lender offers it, do it. You will be ahead of the many buyers who don’t take this extra step in advance. Buyers are increasingly competing to get properties. It makes sense to be as prepared as possible.

Where are the open houses in San Francisco this weekend?

This is going to be a very busy weekend. There are hundreds of condos and single family homes having open houses throughout the city. I’m particularly intrigued by 11 of them.  Here are my favorites. If you’d like to see  a list of all of all houses and condos having open house events, here’s a full list of what will be open this weekend. Want to search by neighborhood? Check out my neighborhood search. Let me know if any catch your eye. Have a great weekend!



4 tips for selling your home in San Francisco

It’s no secret that we’re in a seller’s market right now. Limited inventory, competing buyers, and multiple offers above list price seem to be the new normal. This will certainly change as the market goes through its normal cycle but for now things are clearly favoring sellers. Despite the current robust market, sellers still need to be very careful as they prepare to sell their home. Here are my suggestions for getting your home or condo sold for the highest price possible:

1.  Your home should be vacant and staged.
It is important that buyers can envision themselves living in your home, instead of being reminded by visual queues that you live there. Staged homes typically fetch higher sale prices that non-staged properties. I understand that moving out and staging is sometimes not feasible, but at a minimum the home should be freshly painted, in reasonably good condition, clean and clutter-free.

Untitled Infographic2.  Do not overprice your home.
The best marketing in the world will not sell an overpriced home, even in a seller’s market. Most sellers have an almost irresistible desire to slap a sky high price tag on their home. Like most things in San Francisco though, real estate works a bit differently here compared with other cities. In the majority of SF neighborhoods right now, it’s customary to list your home a bit lower than you expect to actually end up with. Assuming the market demand warrants it, an offer date is set.  That date is essentially an engraved invitation to buyers to make their highest and best offer. Real estate guru Barbara Corcoran said it best: “Don’t ever be afraid of underpricing your home, because market forces always correct an underpriced property. It’s called a bidding war, and you’ll be smiling when it starts.” If you’re worried that you’ll be forced to accept a low offer, don’t stress. In San Francisco, you are never obligated to accept any offer at any price until you actually accept it. There are many exceptions to this strategy, it does not apply to all homes, all sellers, or all neighborhoods. Carefully consult with an experienced broker on this.

3. Disclose. Disclose. Disclose.
Selling a home can be a litigious minefield. Buyers sometimes claim that they were misled by sellers who did not reveal all they knew about a home. There’s a simple way to avoid much of this risk though, since the only buyers who sue sellers are surprised buyers.  If you are selling your home, you are required by law to document any material facts in advance of the sale. Disclose everything that might surprise a reasonable person if they were to learn it after the sale was over. Every home and neighborhood has some degree of imperfection, especially in San Francisco. A crack on a wall, chipped paint on a doorframe, an appliance that is not working properly, a constantly barking dog next door, the stolen bike from your garage last year, a noisy freeway nearby, etc.  Will a list of negatives turn off a motivated buyer? Highly doubtful. In fact your thorough disclosures tell buyers that you are forthcoming and diligent. This potentially could result in a higher offer because buyers will likely feel more informed, more comfortable, and less apprehensive about the purchase.


4. Hire an experienced real estate broker who knows the local market.

Are you working with an experienced licensed broker? How long has he or she been selling homes? Can they provide testimonials from past clients? Do they have a professional web site and a solid online presence? This person is representing you (and probably your biggest financial asset) so make sure to do your homework.  Of course, if you are thinking of selling,  I’d love to have a chance to go over my proven marketing plan with you before you list your home.

I’ve represented many sellers over the years so I have plenty of additional tips to share. Just call or email me.

Making sense of San Francisco’s MLS district map

You probably have heard about MLS (or Multiple Listing Service). MLS is the central database of all property listings in a city or region. With 10 MLS districts and 89 sub-districts, San Francisco is a small city with a lot going on. It can be confusing to understand the layout of the different districts and the micro neighborhoods/sub-districts within them. To help make sense of it all, here’s a link to the official SFAR MLS district map.  Here is a flash version of the same map. You can use the map when you search the MLS database using Zephyr Real Estate’s MLS Search Portal which allows you to see every listing available with every real estate company in the city. Let me know if there’s a property you like and I will get to work for you.
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How’s the Real Estate Market in San Francisco?

Every day without fail, someone asks me how the market is doing. I love this because it tells me that people are interested in our city and engaged with real estate. Everyone is curious about prices and trends and what the future may hold for the local real estate market in SF.  I thought it may be helpful to prepare a city-wide 5 year trend of median prices of single family homes, condos, and TICs.  So here it is!  I have tons more data to share on a neighborhood level too, so just let me know if you have questions about your specific area of SF.  Enjoy!

The Rockwell, new luxury condos in Pacific Heights


The Rockwell is a new and highly anticipated Pacific Heights condo community going up near the corner of Franklin and Pine. When it’s finished in late 2016, the project will include two 13 story buildings for a total of 260 condos. The Rockwell includes a 24 hour lobby attendant, owner’s club room, fitness center, plus a stunning rooftop lounge and outdoor terrace. The units are comprised of 1 and 2 bedroom homes priced from $749,000 to $1,624,000. The penthouse units will be priced higher. Most of the larger units include stacked parking for 1 car.  Monthly homeowners dues range from the $800’s to high $900’s per month depending on the unit. It will be awhile before buyers can move in, but it looks like it will be worth the wait.  Let me know if you’d like a preview tour of this impressive property.

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6 Tips for Buyers: How to get an offer accepted in San Francisco


If you are like most buyers today in San Francisco, you have already submitted offers (and were outbid) on more than one property. In this fiercely competitive market, buyers are routinely competing for the best properties. Only the most creative and aggressive buyers are able to get their offer accepted. Since the market is so competitive, it is important to make your offer ultra compelling to a seller.  Below are some tips that will help:

1.  Assuming there is serious competition for the property you want, submit your highest and best offer right out of the gate. While counter-offers are certainly possible, they are less common in highly competitive situations. After your initial offer, you will most likely not be given a second chance on a popular property. 

2.  Conduct property inspections before you submit an offer or rely on the inspections provided by the seller. Putting an inspection contingency clause in your contract is possible however it reduces the overall attractiveness of your offer. 

3. Know the sellers’ situation. Do they need a rent back period because they’re looking for another home? Are they doing a 1031 exchange? Is the home being sold by a family following the death of the owner? Knowing the circumstances of the seller may help you to structure your offer in a way that is more likely to be accepted.

4. Make sure you are being represented by an experienced local San Francisco real estate broker who knows the market. The nuances of the real estate market in SF are significant and very unique to our city. The idiosyncrasies surrounding topics like offer dates, mortgage underwriting, disclosure packages, termite inspection reports, rent control, local professional inspectors, energy & water conservation rules, and condo conversion can all make or break your transaction.  Be sure you are being represented by a local San Francisco real estate broker who knows what they’re doing.

5. Like it or not, you will probably be competing with all-cash buyers. Cash offers are of course very appealing to a seller. If you are like most people however, you’ll need to get a mortgage;  get fully underwritten in advance by a local mortgage broker. I do not recommend going through a big bank for your mortgage. The underwriting process at the giant brick & mortar banks is typically extremely time-consuming. It moves much slower than the brief timelines that are customary in our brisk purchase process in SF. That can push you in to a stress spiral at the 11th hour when the bank is dragging their feet on issuing your final loan approval while the seller is demanding that you remove your loan contingency (that contingency is what protects your deposit). Mortgage brokers generally are able to communicate with loan processors and underwriters so that they can get things moving along should any approval issues arise. Mortgage brokers coordinate loans through many sources, so if one lender will not loan at terms that work for your situation, it’s likely that he or she can find another one that will. Your real estate broker can recommend solid mortgage brokers, just ask.

6. Include a personal letter to the seller with your offer. Tell the seller about you and why you love the home. Connect on an honest and personal level. I have seen buyers prevail because of a letter, even when their offer was not the highest one received.