Here’s an inspiring and true story for the would-be San Francisco home buyer about the power of owning your piece of San Francisco real estate…

Recently, I received an email from a past home buyer client of ours, which reinforced what I have been telling our real estate clients for years:  buy what you can afford, when you can afford it. This is still the best, most effective strategy for successfully buying a home in San Francisco.  It allows you to achieve your goal of home ownership without the psychological burden of finding the “perfect” forever home. Find the home that works best for you in the present moment of  your life.

Think 3-7 years, rather than 30, and you’ll find the home buying process to be much more enjoyable and successful.

When my client Dean was looking for a home, he had the right approach. He was thinking of this home purchase — his first — as his “starter” home. He never let go of the idea of his “dream home” during the process, but he knew that to run a marathon, he should probably begin with a 5k and work his way up. He knew that he had to use a “starter” home to build up equity for his “dream” home down the road. In his opinion, time and location were the two most important factors for real estate success.

With permission from Dean to share his story, here is the email I received.

Hi Danielle –

Hope all is well! Thanks for keeping up with me over the past 2 years. I love receiving the great info on SF real estate you pass along.

I wanted to give you a quick update on what’s happening at my Hayes Valley home. Brian (upstairs owner) and I have successfully converted the TIC into a condo – YAY!! It was relatively painless. Not much needed in house updates (less than $6k total for that) – most of the cost is paying the city – but what’s new about that! The biggest issues were simply with paperwork and the city, but again, no surprise. We are now in the middle of refinancing (perfect timing!) and I just had appraisers come by to provide their estimate on the worth of my condo.

I bought it 2 years ago and just received the refinance appraisal for 39% more than I paid for it!  I was shocked.  I know a bank estimate and an actual sale price are two different beasts – but it was nice to know that I made the right decision when I bought, and that my CONDO is now worth significantly more than I paid for it – even if it never sells at the appraised price. Not to mention that I have not intentions of selling this place at any time in the near future. Hayes Valley is the place to be!

Keep in touch! And, please share the news with Tanya.


As a real estate professional who cares deeply about her clients, receiving this email made me very happy. It’s an inspiring story for first time buyers and a great testimony to buying what you can, when you can so you are moving in the right direction of your long-term goals…while loving where you live in the meantime!  I asked Dean if I could share his story and followed up with a clarifying question.

I asked him, “When you were shopping, were you thinking about this as a “starter” home and figuring our how to be realistic about your budget and find the best home/investment possible given the constraints?”

Again, with permission from the author, here is Dean’s response:

I was thinking of this as my starter home. I still have my “dream home” in mind, but knew I had to jump into the game at some point and work my way up to the dream by sitting tight and letting the home’s equity build up through time and location.

Not only did I need to be realistic about my budget, but as you know well enough, still needed to make other compromises (i.e. no parking, no backyard). Even with $1million + budgets I’m sure there is always some compromise that needs to happen!

I first started looking and had to stop for a year to reassess (and get some more $$ for a down payment).  When I started up again, I only looked at 6 places over 2 days before I walked into my spot now, and walked out with the intention of making a bid, immediately. So timing was very important, too, as I knew someone else would have snapped this up quick.

The keys to Dean’s San Francisco home buying success are: he stayed realistic about his budget, he accepted that compromise would be needed and he focused on finding the best home for his current situation. He wanted a hip, walkable location with potential for price appreciation. He sacrificed parking and outdoor space, compromised on a flat that he could improve over time and condo convert but that was located in a very happening neighborhood: Hayes Valley, with many parks nearby for his dog.

If you have an inspiring real estate story, we’d love to hear it! And, of course, if haven’t yet achieved your home ownership goal and you want to create your own inspiration, our real estate agent collective is here to help you.

Talk soon,



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