The Inner Sunset has grown in prominence as a hot San Francisco real estate market, and we caught up with Ilana Minkoff, a Realtor with Vanguard Properties, to learn more. Although she helps clients buy and sell across the city, Minkoff shared insights into the unique challenges of purchasing real estate right here in the Inner Sunset.
What’s the most notable change to the Inner Sunset’s real estate market that you’ve observed in recent years?
"What used to be a fairly under-the-radar neighborhood has become a recently discovered gem. It has a laid back, unpretentious family feel. And being so transit and bike friendly, it’s become a great alternative to more pricey neighborhoods. As with the rest of San Francisco, inventory in the Inner Sunset is very low, so with such high demand, prices are on the rise."
Photo: Walter Thompson/Hoodline
How many homes have been listed for sale in the Inner Sunset in the last 12 months?
"In the last 12 months, 67 properties, including single-family homes, condominiums and tenancies-in-common, have sold according to the MLS. As of March 3rd there were only three active listings on the MLS. That being said, about one-third of the properties are sold 'off-market' which means they are never put on the MLS. This is happening citywide. Working with a good Realtor is key to finding 'off-market' properties."
In your experience, what’s the biggest surprise for first-time homebuyers in San Francisco?
"I’m constantly reminding my buyers to stay positive. Competition can be fierce. I always tell my buyers it’s normal to write 3-4 offers before one is accepted. Then if they get one accepted faster, they’re thrilled. Buyers often don’t believe that a property will sell so far over the list price until they see it with their own two eyes. So my job is to set expectations and get them prepared for the journey so they avoid getting discouraged.
"As a seasoned Realtor who’s worked with plenty of first-time buyers, I educate them on the buying process before they start shopping. They should follow the market, go to open houses and track properties for a few months before jumping in to make offers. That way it’s not shocking when we have to go 20 percent or more over the list price on an offer. I remind them interest rates are still really low, so now really is a great time to buy. Home buying in this market really is more of a marathon than a sprint."
Is there a specific type of person or demographic that’s moving to the Inner Sunset? What do they do for a living?
"One of the really special things about the Inner Sunset is the diversity of the population. A wide variety of people are moving here. Many are young families who want an easier lifestyle, parking, a yard and to be able to take the kids to the park are drawn here. Of course there is a considerable amount of money coming in from the tech sector citywide, and that is also the case here. Proximity to UCSF is also a draw for their staff. The largest age range in the 94122 area code is the 21-34 year olds with a median income of $81,000 (according to Claritas.com)."
Anecdotally, what draws prospective buyers to the Inner Sunset?
"A lot of people are drawn to the Inner Sunset because they’re looking for a mellow, laid-back, transit-friendly, affordable area of town. They love the being close to Golden Gate Park and how easy it is to get to the beach. The housing prices are still quite a bit lower than other areas, making it more affordable than more eastern neighborhoods. And you can often get far more space for your dollar than other parts of town. The wide variety of great restaurants, the Sunday Farmer’s Market and shopping around 9th and Irving is definitely a draw as well. And because it’s relatively flat, you can leave your car at home, take a nice walk and enjoy everything the Inner Sunset has to offer."
What advice, if any, do you have for renters who are seeking to become homeowners?
"Start planning early. Have a goal. It’s never too soon to meet with a financial planner or lender to make a plan. Whether you are starting at the very beginning with saving for your down payment or getting close to go time, get a plan."
How large of a down payment will someone need (ballpark)?
"The general rule of thumb is 20 percent of the purchase price."
Would you ever counsel someone against his or her first choice of property? If so, why?
"Of course. I frequently equate buying a home to dating, because it’s something everyone gets. Sometimes you go out on a first date and you are absolutely sure that person is the one you are going to spend the rest of your life with. You think they are perfect! But as we all know, you can be so blinded by lust you can’t see their faults. My job is to be that gentle friend that reminds you to really look at their qualities, good and bad before putting a ring on it."
Do you have stories about house-hunting in the Inner Sunset? Let us know in the comments.