Agents say SF homebuyers getting more particular since pandemic concerns


Many San Francisco residents are leaving the city, which is supposedly creating a problem for the local real estate market.

However, according to local agents, claims about the San Francisco real estate market's current standing has been exaggerated, and they say there's a "robust" market for homes that check off all the boxes for the pickiest of homebuyers.

As reported in SFGate, the trend of buyers moving out of the city is happening, said Compass agent Bill Kitchen. There are still many who are wanting to stay but to a space with a private outdoor space.

"I am seeing outdoor living as a big trend right now in San Francisco," he said. "Those cooped up in a small condo are looking for some outdoor space, even if it is a small patio.”

The actual decline may hit the condo and rental market more than the single-family market, since those who were renting are more likely to leave the city.

"It seems as though buyers are prioritizing single-family homes as opposed to condominiums and, more particularly, homes that offer some outdoor space," said Sotheby's agent Tania Toubba. "One of my clients was tired of sheltering in his small apartment and decided it was time to buy a place with some space."

While rents may keep declining and condos without private outdoor space are likely to see a drop in value, the single-family homes those condo-owners and renters now want have become more desirable.

"Single-family homes at the entry-level seem to be moving quickly, while some of the higher price points are slower," said Compass agent Dennis Otto.

"I am definitely seeing a slowdown of the ultra-luxury market," said Compass agent Nina Hatvany. "We had a beautiful listing on Jackson for $8.5 million, which only got one offer and it was an unusual structure. Listings are taking longer to sell and buyers have the luxury of being more discerning and taking their time to consider construction costs and get additional inspections before they settle on a home."

Toubba said that she expects an "unusual" summer for luxury listings since they usually drop in the summer months as high-end buyers and sellers usually take longer summer holidays. This year, however, more of those buyers are in town, while at the same time, more sellers who had the option to wait out the spring are feeling better about listing their homes.

"Our San Francisco summer market may very well feel like our spring market because of the pent-up demand," she said.

"Sellers who held off putting their houses on the market in March and April seem ready to sell."

But the summer season might not have the same frantic feeling as the typical spring. All the agents felt that spending more time at home has made buyers realize they aren't willing to compromise on getting exactly what they want. "It seems that homes with a perceived flaw or those that are overpriced are being overlooked," said Otto.

"Being able to have the entire family home with adequate work and study areas plus space to unwind and play now needs to be perfect," agreed Compass agent Brendon Kearney. "Having the perfect mix of indoor and outdoor space is essential. Pre-COVID any of these details may have been compensated for with a nearby park or coffee shop, but today the home must be multipurpose and still have an intimate connection to the owner."

San Francisco neighborhoods popular before COVID are probably going to remain in demand, even if all the amenities in those neighborhoods aren't accessible at the moment, he said.

"I am seeing buyers stay true to the neighborhood and locations that they know and love," said Kearney.

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