Stump the Stammtisch: “How can I predict if my house has what buyer’s are looking for?”

It is amazing how the traffic to this site is exploding! We love it, and we’re here to help. We think we’ve illustrated that at least once, and we’re ready for more.

Recently, a reader wrote in, and we’re thinking he/she would like some help from the Stammtisch. If you have a question for our panel, just ask us.

“Hello and thanks for giving us a glimpse of the SF real estate world. I’m thinking of selling my home in Noe Valley this summer and I’m having a hard time getting a grip on the market and home pricing in this neighborhood. Price per square foot ranges widely, average prices have risen dramatically as number of sales declines. It’s easy to compare parking, views, number of bedrooms, condition, etc. Just about all houses for sale are staged and marketed similarly. Yet, using a comparative analysis, houses that seem under-priced can sit unsold and houses that seem over-priced can create a bidding frenzy. I think that I have a magnificent home on the best block in the city — but don’t all homeowners think that? How can I predict if my house has what buyers are looking for? How much of it has to do with timing or market conditions and how much of it has to do with the house and how it is presented? Thanks, A”

Thank you for sending, and thanks, in advance, to anyone that responds.

More Q&A’s [theFrontSteps]

9 thoughts on “Stump the Stammtisch: “How can I predict if my house has what buyer’s are looking for?”

  1. One thing you almost never see in SF are ForSaleByOwners. Actually you do see it once in a while, but curiously, its almost always by Realtors. I think realtors can add a lot of value in just acting as an impartial negotiator, and not all sellers are savvy enough to tread these waters. Anyway, I’m off topic, but I think that sellers that do have a great property should consider alternative marketing tactics and FSBO routes to see if they can sell it on their own. But I’d say do this only if you have the time and energy to do so.

    Back to the original question, I think you could learn a lot by visiting every open house in Noe; Start with the one on Douglas that just listed for an idea of what buyers are looking for in the market. Answer the following questions, how old is my kitchen, how old are my bathrooms, are all my bedrooms above the living space, does my property have room for expansion, or is it easily renovated, do I have any unwarranted rooms, and what is likely to come out in the home inspection that you’ve been ignoring for the past 5 years (roof, shoddy deck, wood on dirt, etc…), how ‘clean’ in the place and does it have real curb appeal. The right or wrong answers to these questions can be the difference between $1.2 to $2.95M in Noe. A rare case of a total dump hits the market for sub 1M every so often, but then you’re just getting the land value at that point.

    I’d ask yourself why your selling? Are you trying to time the market, downsize, forced to relocate? Make sure you’re selling for the right reason and don’t regret it later. You can always interview realtors and get them to give you a marketing plan and a comp plan; and get some ideas of listing prices. That part is free and if you can overcome the guilt factor of “using” these people and taking ‘your’ time to do it; you will learn a ton. Good luck; let us know what you do.


  2. After being a realtor in San Francisco for 32 years I can almost always predict if a particular property is going to appeal to a wide number of buyers. It takes experience in San Francisco real estate to understand the nuances of our market. To a person who does not analyze our market every day it can be confusing. If I were to use a comparative market analysis, I could almost always tell why one sat unsold and others obtained multiple offers.

    It is a matter of those factors: timing, market conditions, marketing techniques and how the house is presented. If there are several homes at the same price point with the same amenities then you might not receive as many offers or if the market is slow you might not get offers right away. There is also a big difference in the quality of the marketing by different agents. I cannot predict how fast a house will sell because our market can change very fast. If the interest rates change or if the stock market takes a big correction or if we have an earthquake then all of the predictions can be wrong. However, if no major event happens then preparing the house and marketing it to all of the potential buyer pools is the best way to receive the best price.

    An experienced realtor is your best tool since they are in the market every day and can counsel you on changing market conditions and buyer feedback so your expectations are in line with reality.

    Janis Stone

  3. Aren’t you glad you found us? You get solid advice from a bunch of different people…but don’t listen to “Eddy”, FSBO is not the way to go. ;-)

    The best way to “predict” is to go see a bunch of open houses and take note, or ask us, how quickly they sell. Or, better yet, get a professional to come take a look at your place, show you comps, take you around to these homes, and educate you a bit. Costs you nothing.

    It has everything to do with timing, and a ton to do with how the house is presented. In life, isn’t timing everything? Lucky for you, chances are pretty damn good you have both timing, and a desirable property on your hands, so you shouldn’t sweat it too much. That is if you sell soon. Who knows where the market will go.

    You can try to figure all this out on your own, or (I keep coming back to this) get a professional in there to handle the entire process for you…that’s where agents earn their money.

  4. I was hoping for discussion on the houses themselves, not yet more paragraphs on how Realtors are SO worth the money. :-/

    [Editor’s note: Here are the two questions posed:

    1. How can I predict if my house has what buyers are looking for?

    2. How much of it has to do with timing or market conditions and how much of it has to do with the house and how it is presented? Feel free to discuss.]

  5. I’ll try to answer # 1 for ya

    Ideally your house is appealing to a variety of home buyers – families, couples, empty nesters – goes without saying the more interested parties, the more likely to see a great return on investment. The modern dwelling at 610 Rhode Island that is on the market is an interesting home, but it’s not a house that is appealing to families — limit the number of potential buyers and it generally takes longer to sell a home.

    Do you have “updated” kitchen / bath. In my opinion you don’t need 25 grand of stainless steel appliances – but an updated kitchen and bathroom(s) assist and buyers will enjoy this.

    Period Details – is the home cookie cutter – does it have victorian details. Homes that are unique – where the sense is you won’t find something like this again – they sell in a flash.

    Time of Year / Market Inventory — In my opinion, Noe is insulated regarding “time to sell” – the weather isn’t as severe as the Sunset. I advise clients to avoid holiday periods – don’t list your house in late June as many leave for 4th of July, etc. What homes are on the market is far more important in my opinion. Are there a ton of other similar homes in similar locations? How are they priced? If there are 10 single family houses 2 blocks from 24th St on the market, it makes your house located 2 blocks from 24th less valuable. If you are the only 3 bed /2 bath with a backyard on the market – your going to see an increase in traffic and interest.

    Lastly – how the home shows and the impression given from marketing materials –it matters. Presenting your home in a professional manner – having a clean, uncluttered home – it adds to the allure of the house. I’m a HUGE fan of promoting the community you live in as well. People are buying more than a house, they are buying a neighborhood.

  6. Hi SB,

    Unless you are in tune with buyers on a regular basis, you can’t predict what they’re looking for. Realtors are in daily contact with buyers who provide feedback on properties; likes & dislikes-there are usually repeat comments on the negatives & positives of a property or property type. If a property has high end finishes and is in a desirable neighborhood, buyers are usually willing to pay a premium (if the property is appropriately priced).

    Buyers, in general want to be able to envision living in a home-that translates to depersonalizing a home through decluttering and/or staging. Other important factors are floor plan (does the home have good “flow”), pricing, marketing, timing, & location (don’t over improve for your location because you may not recoup your investment).

    It takes more than installing a “For Sale” sign to attract the largest number of buyers which brings in the multiple offers-even in some of our “Hot” neighborhoods.

  7. Did you know that most funeral parlor owners are buried in pine wood boxes? You don’t need an 8k casket when you’re underground and they know it better than anyone. I suspect that most successful FSBO’s are executed by Realtors and I believe that the right individual could possibly pull it off… But don’t listen to me…. In the end, given the current system for selling a house; the commission is a cost of doing business.

    Anyway, I think the above advice is very good and shows a decent balance on various inputs/factors into pricing and marketing a home to maximize profit..

  8. Forget what the realtors say…they are trained to sell a doghouse as a “charming,

    one room cottage, w/ great potential. needs some upgrades. won’t last long.”

    From my point of view as an architect, here’s what sells:

    1. logical floor plan. A good house has a central “spine” or hallway that connects to all the major rooms. Don’t fall for walking thru rooms to get to other rooms.

    2. Good, natural light. Watch out for bedrooms that only receive light from a property line light court. they will be forever dull.

    3. functional kitchen. You don’t need polished granite and stainless steel appliances to make a great kitchen. Look for generous counterspace, especially adjacent to the sink, and the cooking area. Make sure the refrigerator is actually IN the kitchen, not “down the hall”, or on another floor.

    4. Direct access to the garage below. I’ve seen Noe Valley remodels for $2m, and you have to go outside to get to the garage. what were they thinking? oh, yea and one more thing: if you see the laundry room down in the garage, walk away.Look for a laundry room either off the kitchen (not bad) or better yet, on the bedroom floor, or near the bedrooms.

    these are just a few of the qualities that a “good house” should have, and it will sell well.

    Trust an architect. watch out for realtors with german cars.

    [Editor’s note: Duggo…the editor is a Realtor…careful what you say. ;-) Or at the very least, keep coming back and contributing fantastic insight such as this.]

  9. Editor!

    oops….sorry, no intent here to offend anyone (well not too much)..least of all you.

    i think this is a GREAT site, and just discovered it recently.

    I try to call it like I see it….and yea, sometimes I’m actually wrong.:)


    [Editor’s note: No offense taken. The more opinionated our readers are…the better. Say what you like, and feel free to call me, or any other Realtors out, anytime you like. We’ll hopefully learn something from it…and get your ass on the Stammtisch, even if you want to be anonymous, we need a good architect on the panel. Thanks again for your comments!]

Leave a Reply