It’s been an unusually busy start to 2012 for San Francisco real estate. I haven’t seen this active a market in the January-February timeframe in a few years, and many other agents with whom I’ve talked agree.
There are currently 183 single-family homes, 243 condos, 33 TICs and 53 two- to four-unit buildings in contract. Many well-priced properties are being snapped up within a few days or a week’s time. This means that when I head to a home that’s listed on the Tuesday broker tour, I’m often informed shortly after crossing the threshold that the property is already in contract.
For buyers, this means that getting to that first open house is critical if you want the opportunity to make an offer. Many times, the first showing of a home is at the weekend open house. And a side note: Though an agent enters a listing into the MLS the week prior, the property may not be quite ready for showtime. Sellers sometimes still need to clean out the garage or complete final de-cluttering. It never hurts to have your buyer agent request a showing prior to the open house, but don’t be surprised if the sellers request that you simply attend the open house.
If you’re on the home-buying warpath, I recommend being fully preapproved with a lender before you seriously begin looking at houses. There’s nothing worse than stopping in at a Sunday open for a lovely 3BR house in Noe Valley and learning that they’re taking offers in three days—and you haven’t even submitted any financial documentation to a lender yet. Believe me, there are enough property details to review in order to determine whether this is the house for you (i.e., disclosures, comps, neighborhood info). Adding a quickie preapproval that doesn’t give you time to consider what you’re getting into is not the best way to proceed.
Based on the high volume of homes going into contract—and the likely possibility that Spring will usher in even more inventory—it’s clear that more and more buyers are getting off the 2011 real estate-buying fence and making purchasing decisions. I don’t expect this activity to soften as the months wear on, due primarily to the low interest rates and feeling that we have definitely reached the bottom of the San Francisco market in most neighborhoods.