Draft – love letter to excelsior.
Buying your first home may seem like a very stressful process. It’s all new to you and there is a lot of conflicting information out there about what you should do to find your starter home. Of course, a good real estate agent makes a difference and can take some of the stress out of the situation.
As a first-time homebuyer, it’s also important to understand what you’re shopping for. Often, you’ll be looking for an affordable starter home, which means you should understand the best places in the United States to find your starter home. Here’s a look at the top cities in the country for first-time home buyers.
Find Your Starter Home in San Francisco, CA
While San Francisco, CA has a reputation as one of the most expensive places to buy a home in America, there are still a few areas within the city that are less expensive than others. Examples would be homes in District 10 on the SE side of the city (neighborhoods like Bayview, Hunter’s Point, and The Excelsior) and District 3 on the SW side of the city (neighborhoods like Ingleside and Merced Heights). Within the SF bay area region there are also areas where you’ll be able to search for a great starter home. When you look at value, Redwood City, on the San Mateo peninsula in Silicon Valley, is one place to buy a starter home near San Francisco:
- Palm Park – Best for commuters and known for great schools with prices lower than $1.1 million, on average.
- Redwood Oaks – Higher prices, closer to $1.4 million, on average, but great for commuters and some of the best schools in the area.
- Woodside Plaza – Great for commuters and schools are very good with prices averaging less than $1.4 million.
- Roosevelt – Great schools with a good commute and prices around $1.35 million.
- Lyon Hoag – Good commuter location, but prices are closer to the $1.7 million range.
- While homes near Redwood City range from $1.1 to $1.4 million, which is right around the San Francisco average of $1.2 million.
Find Your Starter Home Elsewhere
If you’re considering a starter home in San Francisco, these are some areas where you might find your starter home. If you are looking outside the bay area, other U.S. cities with great neighborhoods to find your starter home include:
- New York City – Specifically the Yonkers area, which provides home with a price lower than the metro median home value by about $200K. Ludlow, North Side and Woodlawn Heights are the top neighborhoods here for first-time homebuyers.
- Chicago – Palatine is the place for starter homes in Chicago with a low median home value. Its’s rather affordable, especially the Fairgrounds Park and Palatine Manor areas.
- Washington, DC – The Avondale area is a great place for starter homes in the D.C. area. University Park and Kingman Park are also two good choices.
- Miami – The Melrose Vista area is a very popular spot for first-time homebuyers in Miami. This is the Fort Lauderdale area and Flamingo Park is a top neighborhood for starter homes.
You don’t have to feel like the best starter homes are only found in small towns or remote communities. While small towns may be more affordable, big cities across the United States offer great homes for first-time homebuyers willing to do some research and start with their first home, not their forever home.
Maybe best-known as the home of Danielle Steel, the Spreckels Mansion has plenty of history behind it. The mansion is located at 2080 Washington in Pacific Heights, across from Lafayette Park. Here’s a look at one of the most incredible mega-mansions found within the city.
The Spreckels Family Story
The Spreckels family is one of the oldest found in San Francisco and dates back to 1856. Claus Spreckels brought his family to the city and started a brewery before turning to the sugar industry in Hawaii. Legend says Claus won the water rights from the King of Hawaii in a poker game.
In 1867, Claus built a sugar refinery in San Francisco but soon had to expand into a larger space. In addition to the sugar refinery, the Spreckels family opened a store, invested in the Santa Cruz Railroad and has their hands in many other companies.
Claus and his wife Anna had 13 children, but only five survived to become adults. John, the oldest, built his fortune in San Diego in real estate, while Adolph took over the family sugar business in San Francisco. Adolph’s wife Alma became known as the great-grandmother of San Francisco and was a true rags-to-riches story.
Adolph and his wife purchased the property that would later become the Spreckels mansion. He had the home built as a Christmas present for his wife. Many nearby Victorian homes had to be bought by the Spreckels to make room for the huge mansion. Alma actually helped save eight of the structures by moving them to new locations.
The Spreckels Mansion was completed in 1912 and became the site of many incredible parties that helped to launch Alma into high society. Alma outfitted the home with many 18th-century antiques found on trips to Europe. When Alma died, the mansion was divided into four apartments. Danielle Steel later purchased the property and restored the mansion back to a single family residence.
She has said in interviews that she wrote many of her novels from a small office in her bedroom. Today, she spends plenty of time in Paris and says the city of San Francisco is a great place for raising children, but she was happy to leave it. She also feels that nobody dresses up or has style and the city is all hiking books, Tevas, and shorts.
While the mansion may not suit Steel’s taste anymore, it’s still a landmark for the city of San Francisco. It has hosted a number of lavish parties over the years and it’s steeped in incredible history.
Last night, KPIX-5 (CBS) ran a great segment about Bayview gentrification, starting off the segment with a question about what it means when a Peet’s Coffee comes to the neighborhood. It’s a 6-minute segment connecting current concerns about displacement to the unfortunate San Francisco “urban renewal” of the 1950s/60s that destroyed the black community of the Fillmore, and tracing how those mistakes have echoed through the decades to our current situation. The video is embedded below (depending on platform/device it may not show up, or may ask you to load unsecure script (iframe with video loads via http not https):
SF Bayview Residents See Disruption In Neighborhood’s Economic Transformation / KPIX-5 / Wilson Walker
I was interviewed and appear in a few segments. I show up at the 3:26 mark through about 4:20, then again at 4:29 – 4:38, and again around 5:23 – 5:37. But please watch the entire clip.
If you’d like more history around the “urban renewal” and displacement that happened in the Fillmore neighborhood, Hoodline has a good article about it. San Francisco is often a temporary stop for our residents, with people living here for a few years but not decades and almost never a lifetime. So much of what happens today, the arguments we still haven’t solved, have been arguments and discussions and challenges that we’ve been attempting to address for decades. Bayview gentrification can be traced back to Fillmore urban renewal. “A small piece of a long, complicated story” to quote Wilson Walker in the segment.
If you want to see some of my other thoughts about diversity in real estate, that link will take you to my thoughts after presenting on a panel at Inman NYC 2017 with Leslie Ebersole and Phil Faranda.
What are your thoughts about diversity in San Francisco? Diversity in real estate? The Bayview gentrification and displacement that are a part of our history and continues to the present in San Francisco? There’s a lot to talk about and no easy/obvious solutions, particularly given our current political climate.
While the transaction volume of buying and selling in San Francisco may have cooled off a bit in 2016, it was still a very hot year for the market. Some of the most expensive properties throughout the city sold for record prices as buyers brought cash for some very historic and unique properties. Here’s a look at some of the most expensive homes sold in San Francisco for 2016.
2250 Vallejo – $21.8 million
Pacific Heights property, bought by a 30-year-old billionaire, this was the most expensive home sold in San Francisco last year. The property was sold in October.
2476 Broadway – $18.1 million
Another Pacific Heights home, this property was the most expensive sold in the city for a short time. It was listed in May for $22 million and was sold in October. It used to be a duplex with a baby-blue exterior. Now, the home has a more modern look and it’s no longer a duplex.
164 Sea Cliff – $17.8 million
Sea Cliff neighborhood home designed by Albert Farr, this waterfront property sold in November for $17.8 million. It was originally listed in September for $18.9 million and ended up third on the list for most expensive homes sold last year.
3800 Washington – $15.75 million
Presidio Heights home that has had a rough few years. After being purchased by a tech exec, it ended up in bankruptcy court after renovations had already begun, leaving the home in a rather un-financeable and, shall we say, hard to show state. Which didn’t stop a squatter from stealing art during the bankruptcy proceedings. Rumored potential buyers include Taylor Swift, and this property finally sold in 2016. For less than the 2007 sale price.
2755 Fillmore – $13.25 million
This property was bought in 2013, renovated and hit the market again this year. The renovations allowed for a quicker sale this time around and a higher price.
Other expensive homes sold in San Francisco for 2016 include:
Millennium Tower Penthouse – $13 million
2480 Broadway – $11.7 million
2456 Filbert – $11.4 million
3610 Washington – $11.3 million
2600 Jackson – $11 million
All of these beautiful homes were sold during 2016. It will be interesting to see which homes make the most expensive list for 2017.
Located at 2963 Webster (on the southwest corner of the Filbert and Webster intersection in Cow Hollow), the Vedanta Society Old Temple is an architecturally stunning building. It’s one of our favorite buildings in all of San Francisco, and truly a Cow Hollow neighborhood gem.
The Vedanta Society Old Temple recently got a new paint job, and the new paint really makes the architectural details of the building pop! It’s a pleasure to see a neighborhood treasure restored and shining once again. Here are some photos:
Here’s a bit about the building from the Vedanta Society’s website:
The Old Temple was designed by Swami Trigunatitananda with Joseph A. Leonard, architect, of the San Francisco and Suburban Home Building Society.
The first two stories were constructed in 1905, and in 1908 the temple was completed with the addition of the third floor and towers.
Except for the lobated arched windows of the ground floor, the first two floors, with their bowed windows and cornices above at the front, and overhanging bay windows on the side of the frame building, represent typical turn-of-the-century architecture. The main entrance, on Webster Street, is recessed behind Ionic columns which frame the covered entryway. The 112-person auditorium and various offices comprise the first floor; the second and third floors were occupied by the monastery of the Vedanta Society for many decades.
Below are some “before” pictures that were taken a few years ago and show the previous paint job:
What are some of your favorite San Francisco buildings?