We're trying to buy a condo in SF




Somehow, we thought we'd timed it perfectly. We'd saved up for decades (or at least my husband had — I'm a writer). We've lived in San Francisco for close to 20 years, sometimes holding down three jobs at a time and spending every available hour enmeshing ourselves in the cultural fabric of the city. Mortgage rates are insanely low; credit is loosening up again. We're not looking for anything extra-fancy, just somewhere with a little charm to finally set down financial roots and maybe even have enough room to start a family.

So boring! And yet, in the era of Zynga and Facebook ... so seemingly impossible.

Hunky Beau and I have spent the last year looking for a two-bedroom condo, and it has been hilarious. Sometimes Three Stooges hilarious, like when open houses are so mobbed you almost catch a flying checkbook in the eye. Sometimes Saturday Night Live hilarious, like the broker who introduced himself with, "If you know what gentrification means, then you'll know the rapidly gentrifying Bayview neighborhood might be for you!" But mostly The Office hilarious, like the time we excitedly put in a bid on a place right after the open house, only to be told there were seven bids already in, three of them $50,000-plus above asking, two all cash. Sad honk.

Of course, we're being a little fussy. If my husband and I are going to spend more than half a million for somewhere to live in San Francisco — and $500K is pretty much the base price here for a non-studio condo — then we want it to be situated somewhere we can bike to work in less than 30 minutes, easily accessible by Muni or within stumbling distance of the clubs, and built before 1940 with some charm intact. We may not be rich but, dammit, we're still gay. (Dear quickie-flip contractors: whoever told you all to slap horrid sandstone travertine tile into every bathroom and kitchen was wrong in the 1990s, and still is.)

And yes, we're small potatoes, too, and definitely more fortunate than most: I moved here when a tragic confluence of AIDS, earthquake, recession, and urban population incarceration made San Francisco real estate cheap, and it's only by virtue of a rent controlled apartment, one I've been basically trapped in since the first Internet Boom raised rents sky-high, that I've been able to stay in the city I love. Yet it's become especially obvious in the past three or four months — since Zynga went public in fact, and Facebook announced its IPO — that the market has become almost absurdly competitive.

Paula Gold-Nocella, managing broker at Vanguard Properties, confirmed my observations. "On top of the notoriously low inventory that's part of the winter season here, we're seeing an incredible interest due to recent technology developments," she said in a phone interview. "With Twitter moving in downtown, Saleforce, the Facebook IPO announcement ... the seller's market is especially hot right now. I have a broker down the Peninsula who's fielding offers where they're waiving the inspection contingency. And some sellers are most likely waiting to see what happens with Facebook. It's kind of a perfect storm that's brewing."

I don't think we've missed the buyers boat just yet — and for my friends who are renters I know the situation is getting far worse. But Oakland and the Outer Avenues are looking more and more attractive, even if that means remaking our lives from scratch to buy into the current economy. At least we may meet other artsy types there.


to be in the East Bay. While SF property goes from strength to strength, Oakland's real estate market is bomded out with many homes selling for 30% to 50% of their value just five years ago.

Not everyone has the means to buy in SF. Realising whether you are or are not one of those who can make it here could be key to your future happiness.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 17, 2012 @ 6:29 pm

Friends bought a 2 bedroom TIC in the north Mission for under $400k. And other friends bought a 1 bedroom condo on the SF-DC border for under $200k.

Posted by bernal on Feb. 20, 2012 @ 3:06 pm

That's a good way to get a nice place relatively inexpensively - however I realize there are at times issues with financing. But if that fails there are cute places in West Portal (easily accessible by MUNI) and some nice places in Glen Park too (right by BART).

Good luck!

Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2012 @ 4:24 pm

That means either an inferior location or an inferior ownership type, such as TIC's.

Anyone read the SFGATe piece today on the insanity of house prices in noe Valley? Apparently there were 22 offers on one small house which went for 40% over asking.

You gotta pay to play in this town, Marke. Are you a player?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2012 @ 5:16 pm

Don't lose hope. It can be done, I am proof of that. But it gets really ugly before the end. Here's 2 tips I wish I'd known before my first buy...

- Tell your realtor NOTHING! Especially when it comes to how much you money you have or how much you are willing to spend. Seriously. I wouldn't tell a realtor how I like my coffee in the morning, much less what I think about a half million dollar property.

- When the day comes when you are nigh on closing a deal, DO NOT allow your realtor to set up an inspection. Do not use their inspector, hire your own independently. Do not allow your realtor to introduce himself to your inspector, hand them his business card, or even speak to your inspector. In fact, tell your realtor that you don't want him anywhere near the property that day. TRUST ME on this.

Good luck. Please don't move to the East Bay. The City's hemorrhaging gay couples and it starting to not feel like San Francisco anymore.

Posted by RamRod on Feb. 20, 2012 @ 7:18 pm

Having a realtor who shows you properties from $200,000 to $18,000,000 is a great idea. RamRod is onto something - for everyone who has endless amounts of time to spend looking at properties.

And where is the evidence that gay couples (who have a higher per-capita income) are fleeing the city? We are not lezzies. We have cash money.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2012 @ 9:46 pm

I own quite a few apartments in SF. I've been extremely successful in the San Francisco real estate game. A genius? Not compared to some. Bur compared to you? I'm fucking Oppenheimer.

And thanks for the sexism and homophobia too. You sound like a really swell guy. You're not by any chance a realtor, are you? 'Cause then we could add thief and liar to your list of accomplishments.

You want proof? Never mind, I take it back. SF's Great! Never better! Absolutely no reason for you to stay. Please leave the City as soon as possible.

Posted by RamRod on Feb. 21, 2012 @ 7:55 am

Wake up people! Now you know about how difficult it is in this post-bubble credit checks. Unless this couple and I unite against the new Wall Street-Bank attitude, we are relegated to poor peoples' condo, an apartment without a view. Good.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 22, 2012 @ 7:56 am

then everyone who can is an "evil one percenter".

Only if SF is success a sin, and failure makes you noble and virtuous.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 22, 2012 @ 8:08 am

I have the right place for you in San Francisco. It's a 2 bedroom condo, 1.5 baths, parking, enclosed porch, fireplace, close to Muni, with bridge to bridge VIEWS (San Mateo to Bay). The building was built in 1978, but it has everything else you want. Asking $620,000. I am the Realtor. Jessica 415.218.6634

Posted by Guest on Feb. 23, 2012 @ 1:12 pm

Sounds like your sob story might have copped you a lead, Marke.

Posted by Greg on Feb. 23, 2012 @ 1:52 pm

He's just experiencing the same thing many San Franciscans who decide to buy experience. It was this way during the last boom too - I know because I lost out on several homes despite being approved for a $1.8 mortgage and having an enormous down payment to offer. Eventually I got a place for substantially less than the bank would have allowed me to borrow and I've been here for almost 10 years. The moral of the story is - be patient, be observant and have a realtor who knows their stuff and you'll be OK Marke. Don't let the nasty comments here dissuade you.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 23, 2012 @ 3:40 pm

Good to hear other peoples' stories -- especially with happy endings.

Posted by marke on Feb. 23, 2012 @ 4:19 pm

I'd get right on it - it's a steal

Posted by Greg on Feb. 23, 2012 @ 4:26 pm

And a buck eighty won't buy you much in SF.

Posted by Greg on Feb. 23, 2012 @ 4:24 pm

Uh - you need to reconfirm on that.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 23, 2012 @ 4:59 pm

it isn't unreasonable to assume that Marke is a chick.

But let Marke tell us for sure. Marke, do you and your husband file your federal taxes as a married couple?

Posted by Greg on Feb. 23, 2012 @ 5:32 pm

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