In San Francisco we tend to revel in what makes our city unique and, at times, downright wacky. Just a few examples: Once a year it’s OK to run naked across town, pet owners are officially recognized as “pet guardians,” and our Board of Supervisors thinks it’s worth their time to ban toys in Happy Meals.
Our “we do things OUR way” approach extends to real estate, too. I’m certainly not claiming expertise in other markets (SF is the only city where I’ve worked in real estate), and the purchase and sale of my first house, in Austin, Texas, didn’t confer any expert status on me. But I do know from talking to agents across the country that some of what we do here differs from, well, pretty much everywhere else in the US.
1. A lockbox? What’s a lockbox?
OK, it’s not really that foreign to us here, and yes, agents do sometimes slap a lockbox on a listing. But in my ten years in the business, I can count on one hand the times I’ve used one for one of my listed properties. Legend has it that they were in use fairly widely in SF until the 1980s, when a bunch of homes for sale were burglarized by people who broke in using keys stored in what must have been pretty pathetic lockboxes. So, thirty years later, the standard practice is to make appointments for all showings, or tell people to come to the Sunday open house.
2. We buy properties with total strangers and share a deed and mortgage with them
Huh? It’s one of those only-in-San-Francisco things: one answer to the age-old question of how to afford property here is to find a two- to six-unit building with a group of people, qualify for a loan together, buy it together as a TIC (tenancy-in-common), hope you don’t kill each other, and cross your fingers that you get selected for the condo conversion lottery. Crazy, right? I’ve got pretty strong feelings about TICs, some of which I shared with a New York Times reporter a few months ago.
3. Disclosure happens before the offer is written.
I’ve heard that in many markets sellers give disclosures to the buyers after their offer is accepted. Here, we give them to potential buyers before they write their offer. It makes sense to me to do it this way; the buyers are well-informed when they’re writing their offer and can do additional due diligence when they’re in contract.
If you’ve got any “only-in-my-market” stories, feel free to share in the comments.