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Resources For Buyers

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I have a proven track record of helping buyers get what they want. Buying a home in San Francisco can be a daunting with complex negotiations, dialog and decisions. I will help you get educated on the nuances of the San Francisco marketplace, locate the best property for your needs, provide financing resources, help you come up with a sound offer based on market analysis, negotiate on your behalf and keep you out of trouble by not overpaying.

The Home-Buying Process


Buying a home is typically the largest, most complicated, and often most emotional financial transaction of one’s life. There is a lot at stake, not just money but also issues such as security, happiness and everything else wrapped up in the concept of “home.” One of the main reasons why it can be so stressful is that one’s agent never explains how the process actually works step by step, what the decision points will be and the options one has at each step. When one understands the process and has a sense of control over how it will proceed, much of the stress is alleviated.

Remember that you are the sole decision-maker throughout the process: a good agent renders honest, experienced counsel and helps manage and coordinate everything that needs to happen, always with an eye to protecting your interests, but never presumes to make decisions for his or her client.

Finding the New Home

  • Agent & Buyer determine Buyer needs, wants, timeframe and financial options
  • Agent reviews the search and buying process, current market conditions and trends, Buyer costs, and real estate Agency
  • Disclosure package reviewed with Buyer
  • Agent works with Buyer to secure loan pre-approval, which is necessary for two reasons: 1) the buyer needs to know their financial options and financing costs, and 2) once the right home is identified, it is critical to have the lender pre-approval letter to provide to the seller at the time of offer submittal
  • Agent sets up automatic alert system for new listings that match Buyer’s parameters
  • Agent identifies and previews properties through MLS and brokers’ tours
  • Agent provides resources for neighborhood and community information. It is often the case that there are additional neighborhood options which buyer is not aware of
  • Agent and Buyer tour properties: showings by appointment, broker tours, open houses
  • Agent and Buyer review benefits, drawbacks and values of specific properties
  • Buyer identifies new home to purchase
  • As appropriate, Buyer checks the online Megan’s Law database, seismic hazard map, and local crime statistics with neighborhood police

Writing & Presenting the Offer

  • Agent reviews with Buyer the mortgage, closing and ongoing ownership costs pertinent to selected property
  • Agent and Buyer review property disclosure package from Listing Agent
  • Agent queries Listing Agent further on property issues, Seller situation and preferences, past offers, existence of other current offers and offer presentation guidelines
  • A comparative market analysis is prepared and reviewed to determine offer price
  • Financing pre-approval letter procured from loan agent
  • Agent and Buyer review offer and negotiation strategies, including offer price, due diligence contingencies, fixtures and personal property included, and close of escrow
  • Offer contract is written at Buyer’s direction
  • If very short contingency periods are being offered for inspections and/or financing, Agent to coordinate scheduling of tentative inspection and appraisal appointments
  • Agent prepares offer for presentation to Seller and/or Listing Agent: agency disclosure, offer letter, loan pre-approval letter, copies of Buyer-signed disclosures, etc.
  • Agent negotiates offer and counter-offers on Buyer’s behalf and at Buyer’s instruction to achieve the best possible price and terms
  • Agent receives back from Listing Agent the fully executed purchase contract, carefully reviews it for completeness, and provides copy to Buyer

Due Diligence, Contingencies of Sale & Close of Escrow

  • Escrow is opened, Preliminary Title Report ordered, Buyer’s initial deposit delivered to escrow company
  • Agents provides escrow information and copy of accepted contract to Loan Agent
  • Agent prepares a Timeline for the Removal of Contingencies and Close of Escrow
  • Appraisal appointment coordinated with Lender and Listing Agent
  • Buyer confirms homeowner’s hazard insurance for new home; Buyer’s Insurance Agent contacts Escrow Officer with required policy information
  • Agent coordinates Buyer-specified inspections—structural pest control, contractor, structural engineer, soils, roof, fireplace, etc. (see Buyer’s Inspection Advisory)
  • Agent monitors the timely receipt of property disclosures, reports and other documents, as statutorily or contractually required, for Buyer’s review and approval
  • Preliminary Title Report is carefully reviewed by Agent, Buyer, Lender and, as necessary, Buyer’s attorney
  • Agent attends all inspections with Buyer; Agent completes Selling Agent portion of Real Estate Transfer Disclosure Statement after careful walk-through of the property
  • Agent and Buyer carefully review inspection reports for Buyer’s approval, further clarification or objection
  • Agent and Buyer review county/city, natural and environmental hazard and other required reports for Buyer’s approval, further clarification or objection
  • Agent facilitates collection of additional information—further inspections, contractor quotes, legal advice, etc.—necessary for Buyer to understand/quantify issues pertinent to the property’s condition or circumstances
  • Agent verifies property’s statutory compliance with energy/water conservation compliance, smoke detector installation, water heater strapping, etc.
  • Agent verifies loan commitment and funding details with Lender and Escrow Agent
  • As applicable, contingencies of sale—financing, investigation, title, etc.—are removed, or Agent re-negotiates the terms of the purchase at Buyer’s instruction. Agent prepares appropriate addenda or contingency removal documents
  • Property repairs or remediation, if any, are completed by Seller
  • Buyer final walk-through of property
  • Buyer consults with Buyer’s accountant or attorney to determine method of holding title
  • Agent reviews Home Warranty option with Buyer
  • Agent provides final instructions to escrow
  • Agent and Buyer review the Estimated Closing Statement, and, if Buyer desires, complete loan and closing documents for Buyer’s review prior to signing appointment
  • Agent and Buyer meet Escrow Agent for signing of closing documents (Buyer brings legal identification as documents will require to be notarized)
  • Buyer makes arrangements for final funds—balance of cash deposit and closing costs—to be delivered to escrow by wire or cashier’s check
  • Buyer makes moving arrangements, schedules change of utilities and alerts any Homeowner’s Association of pending change of ownership
  • Agent confirms with Escrow Agent everything is set for scheduled close of escrow
  • Buyer loan funds; transfer of title is recorded
  • CLOSE OF ESCROW

After Close of Escrow

  • After Close of Escrow
  • Agent procures and delivers keys, alarm codes, garage genies to Buyer
  • Agents follows up to check in, offer help, provide resources, and solve any problems that might have arisen
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Glossary of Real Estate

MEDIAN SALES PRICE

is that price at which half the home sales occur for more and half for less. If there is an odd number of sales, then the median price will be the sales price of the middle sale, even if that middle price is nowhere close to the middle value: for example, you have three sales of $1, $2 and $10 — the median sales price is $2. If you have an even number of sales, the median price is the middle point between the two middle-most sales. As you can see, as is almost always the case with statistics, small data sets or data sets filled with widely varying data points (such as all the different homes in Pacific Heights, for instance) can generate misleading statistics, especially over the short term. Median price can be, and often is, affected by other factors besides changes in market values, such as short-term or seasonal changes in inventory or buying trends. The median sales price for homes (in all their infinite variety) is not like the price for a share of company stock (all the same), and monthly fluctuations in median price are generally meaningless. If market values are truly changing, the median price will consistently rise or sink over a longer term than just 2 or 3 months, or even 2 or 3 quarters, and also be supported by other supply and demand statistical trends.

AVERAGE SALES PRICE

is calculated by adding up all the sales prices and dividing by the number of sales. It is different from median sales price, but like medians, averages can be affected by other factors besides changes in value, such as fluctuations in average unit size. Averages may also be distorted by a few sales that are abnormally high or low, especially when the number of sales is small. Average sales prices are usually higher than median sales prices, as averages are more affected (or distorted) by high-price sales. (Generally speaking, high prices can go much higher than the norm than low prices can go lower than the norm.)

DAYS ON MARKET (DOM)

are the number of days between a listing going on market and accepting an offer. The lower the average days on market figure, typically the stronger the buyer demand and the hotter the market. Note that this statistic is easily distorted by distressed home sales, which often have a very high DOM; by that minority percentage of listings that sell after multiple price reductions (one property that sells after being on the market for 12 months can sometimes play havoc with an overall average for a neighborhood); and by deals that fall through after offer acceptance (the listings come back on market and perhaps sell quickly, but the DOM clock keeping ticking throughout). Currently, appealing, well-priced new listings often accept offers within 7 to 14 days of coming on market.

MONTHS SUPPLY OF INVENTORY (MSI)

reflects the number of months it would take to sell the existing inventory of homes for sale at current market conditions. The lower the MSI, the stronger the demand as compared to the supply and the hotter the market. Typically, below 3-4 months of inventory is considered a “Seller’s market”, 4-6 months a relatively balanced market, and above 6 months, a “Buyer’s market.”

DOLLAR PER SQUARE FOOT ($/sqft)

is based upon the home’s interior living space and should not include garages, unfinished attics and basements, rooms built without permit, outdoor space, patios and decks — though all these can still add value to a home. These figures are usually derived from appraisals or tax records, but are sometimes unreliable or unreported altogether. Generally speaking, about 60-80% of listings report square footage and dollar per square foot averages are calculated on these listings alone. All things being equal, a house will sell for a higher dollar per square foot than a condo (due to land value), a condo higher than a TIC (quality of title), and a TIC higher than a multi-unit building (quality of use). Everything being equal, a smaller home will sell for a higher $/sqft than a larger one. (However, things are rarely equal in real estate.) There are often surprisingly wide variations of value within neighborhoods and averages may be distorted by one or two sales substantially higher or lower than the norm, especially when the total number of sales is small. Location, condition, amenities, parking, views, lot size & outdoor space all affect $/sqft home values. Typically, the highest dollar per square foot figures in San Francisco are achieved by penthouse condos with utterly spectacular views in prestige, doorman buildings and by mansions in the best locations of the most prestigious neighborhoods (usually with spectacular views).

PERCENTAGE OF LISTINGS ACCEPTING OFFERS (aka GOING UNDER CONTRACT)

is one of the purer statistics of supply and demand: it reflects the level of buyer demand as compared to the available inventory of homes to purchase. It is also one of the most up-to-date statistics because the heat of a market is really reflected in the time period when new listings are coming on market and offers are being made, negotiated and accepted, while sold data is only available 4 to 10 weeks after that critical time. The higher the percentage of listings going under contract within a given time period, the stronger the market.

DISTRESSED HOME SALE

can be one of two things: the sale of a bank-owned property typically pursuant to a foreclosure (also called an REO sale), or a so-called short sale, in which the seller-owner must get lender approval for a “short” payoff, a reduction in the loan amounts due on the property in order for the sale to close. These 2 kinds of distressed sale are actually different animals, though both can be long, tiresome endeavors to close because one is dealing with bank bureaucracies. However, in an REO sale, the seller is the bank (which may own hundreds or thousands of these properties), the property often looks “distressed” and the bank has very limited disclosure responsibilities (which is a liability to buyers). In a short sale, the seller is usually the individual owner-occupier, the property condition is and shows much better, and full seller disclosure laws apply (the buyer knows more about what he or she is buying). Both types of distress sale can be very good deals for savvy buyers and indeed investors are buying many of the REO properties around the country. But there are potentially greater risks and almost always much greater aggravation involved.

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