Five Essential Tips for First-Time Home Buyers in San Francisco

The San Francisco real estate market is known the world over for its sky-high prices and stiff competition, with the median price for a home in San Francisco in August of this year at $1.6 million. Still, the city is in the midst of a building frenzy, with new condos, townhouses, and other kinds of multi-family developments in the works. If you dream of living in the city by the bay, here are five essential tips for first-time home buyers in San Francisco.

1. Be Ready for Serious Competition

High home prices and limited supply contribute to the intensity of the San Francisco real estate market. It’s just a fact — house hunting here means dealing with serious competition at every stage of the buying process. This intense level of competition means buyers, and particularly first-time buyers in the city, need every edge they can get. Usually, that means getting an early jump on properties to be listed. Partnering with an experienced agent who has the network to give you the early heads up on new listings can prove invaluable.  

2. Pick Your Battles

Every prospective homeowner has a list of deal-breakers, but in San Francisco, you have to be willing to pick your battles. Don’t get hung up on a single neighborhood — the hottest parts of the city mean even more competition, which means you may simply be priced out of your first, second, or even third choice. There are fifty plus neighborhoods in the city, so be open to options. And remember, this is a compact place. Things can change pretty dramatically from one street to the next. This is where a knowledgeable agent can really add value.  

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3. Be Prepared to Move Quickly

You often won’t have the luxury of time when you’re house hunting in San Francisco, so be prepared to move quickly when you’ve zeroed in on something you like. And make sure to get your ducks in a row at this point. If you’ll be taking out a home loan, have that mortgage pre-approval letter in hand. And here’s a pro tip — ask your lender about fully underwriting at the pre-approval stage. It can give you an edge over all cash offers.

4. Don’t Skip Reading the Disclosures 

While you’ll need to move quickly to nail things down, it’s almost always a bad idea to gloss over the disclosure package. Hidden items that can cost you down the road tend to run rampant in any 200-page-plus disclosure package you’re often required to sign off on before your offer is even accepted. Having a set of experienced eagle eyes flagging you to what’s most important can save you time and a lot of money down the line. 

5. Trust but Verify 

Buying or selling a home in San Francisco isn’t a job for a novice. You’ll only benefit from the experience and expertise of a San Francisco realtor, but find someone who knows what they’re doing — with a proven track record of putting her clients needs first.

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