Ten Things to Know Before Buying a Home in San Francisco
Know how much home you can afford. Buying a home in San Francisco is confusing, so be prepared with the essential knowledge: information about your own financial resources, data on what the real up-front and ongoing costs are — beyond the purchase price of a home itself, and a grasp of how those factors relate to the home’s price and your resources. We will help you run the REAL numbers, so you can properly plan and have a sense of what life will be like after taking on a mortgage. Then when you are ready we have great mortgage professionals you can speak with and start getting pre approved. This will let you focus on properties that are realistic, and you will have a better idea of what homes for sale are really available to you.
Your online search is an important part of starting to understand the San Francisco real estate market. Nationally 81% or more of home searches begin online, but no matter how many pictures there are of any given property it won’t be enough to really get the feel for the home… you need to go out and look, and we will help you!
When starting the process of buying a home, we will help you consider what size home you need and fits your budget. We see every home available in the neighborhoods you are interested in. After more than 18 years in the business we have a long historical understanding of how properties are priced and what their likely sale price will be. Mike & Oliver are well respected in the realtor community and are often asked by other local realtors to help with the pricing of their listings. We will get you up to speed quickly!
You should have your own realtor! The realtor hired by the seller (a.k.a the listing agent) has already negotiated the fee that he/she will split with the buyer’s agent, so in effect your realtor will work for you for free. A good realtor knows the market and will help you understand what is normal in your search area. When it comes down to it, that’s the next thing you want to know: are you being treated fairly in the market?
If you don’t have a relationship with a realtor already — and sometimes a cousin or a friend of a friend may not be the best choice!— meeting one at open houses can be a great way to find a good match (see number 3). You’re going to count on your realtor, so you ought to like her or him and feel secure that the realtor is looking out for your interests.
There are bad players in every business, and real estate is no different. Still, realtors and sellers are legally required to make you aware of all the material facts concerning a given property. That means that if a window leaked three years ago and the sellers had it repaired, or if a neighbor’s dog barks but only in the middle of the night, they need to let you know about it.
If you find a property that you really like, ask your realtor to get a disclosure package. Read through it, and if the property is still interesting to you, write an offer. The escrow period is there for you to figure out if everything you’ve learned about the house adds up the way it should. A Purchase Offer should not be written frivolously, but the time between finding a home and getting into escrow is a courtship period, during which you are trying to get the seller to agree to deal with you. Escrow is when you really figure out the details.
That said, always have an inspection by a credentialed home inspector. (Your broker can recommend one.) Real-estate transactions in San Francisco can move fast, but unless you have a lot of experience buying homes it’s important to have an inspection contingency. The inspection will allow you to walk away from the deal if you uncover something of which you were not previously aware (see number 6), but it could also give you the opportunity to renegotiate. It also lets you find out useful information about the home, like where the gas shut-off is.
Not everything that seems like it ought to be quick and easy actually is. This applies double to lending. Unless you’re paying for the home with cash, you will have to jump through hoops for the lender. Rates are amazingly low right now, but it is also much more difficult to find loans. I had a client who couldn’t qualify for a loan because he bought a washer-dryer during escrow!
Everyone wants to buy a home that will increase in value over time, but unless you are an actual investor, don’t buy the home you are going to live in solely as an investment. The most important question is whether you’ll be happy living there. In fact, I’ve noticed that people who have really enjoyed living in their homes are usually able to find buyers when it’s time to sell.