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Before & After: The Power of Good “Vision”

April 26th, 2012

One of our strengths as an agency is the capability to visualize every home’s potential. A simple remodel, paint job or design tweak can make a huge difference in a home’s ambiance (not to mention its perceived value). We help our clients understand what design changes (simple or complex) can be made to create their ideal home. Our expertise will help you assess the potential each home has (or doesn’t have) and estimate the true cost to getting your dream house (or kitchen, or bathroom).

When we work as listing agents, we use this skill to stage the home in a modern, stylish, and authentic way so potential buyers can envision themselves living there. We want the home to show its absolute best so buyers can see its potential. We’ve captured some before/after photos that do a great job conveying the power of good “vision.” (We’ll admit – using a good camera with a wide-angle lens gives the “After” photos that much more of a punch!)

Style is cyclical and fortunately the white cabinets and white counters that were installed in 1982 have come back around in 2012. While we would choose a different white material now, these counters were in good shape. In order to make the cabinets pop we painted them a super white semi-gloss. Light gray kitchen walls really tied together the newly painted cabinets, tidy white counters and original Mexican tile floors and completed the fresh, contemporary feel that we wanted to create. It was not our goal to hide the need for some modern cosmetic upgrades but to mitigate the need for a potential buyer to have engage in a remodel project right away. We did change out the stove because it was very worn.

Dining area:
We painted the dark green wall a deep charcoal gray, which lent a more formal and modern edge to the dining area and also segued and complimented the light gray color of the kitchen walls. The solarium windows in the dining area flooded the dining room with natural light and we wanted to take advantage of that light. So we changed the dining table to light wood, Bertolli and white leather chairs and switched out to a more narrow side table to lend spaciousness to the area.

Master bedroom:
Changing out the carpet would have been too costly, so we changed the color of walls to mitigate the purple hue of the carpet. We painted the walls a cement color that really played up the beautiful plantation shutters. The cement color on the walls brought out the neutral tones in the carpet, which we felt was more compelling for a potential buyer.

Guest bedroom:
Our goal was to reinforce the modern, contemporary feel of the rest of the condo by painting this room a light blue/gray color. We also wanted to reprioritize the room from office to guest room. To do this we added a queen size bed with side tables but kept a small discreet desk.

Living room:
We painted the walls to match the light gray in the kitchen, which really took advantage of the light and made a terrific contrast to the wood beamed cathedral ceilings. We selected furniture that was light, eclectic and minimalistic. The light gray walls also brought drama to the wood-burning fireplace.

We re-painted the bathrooms with colors that would add freshness to each.

The terrific and infinitely usable floor plan, cathedral ceilings, solarium windows, small deck, and wonderfully desirable neighborhood gave this condo a head start, but what attracted 300 potential buyers, 24 disclosure packages, 12 offers and a selling price $240,000 over asking was the vision and polish generated by a modern paint palette and thoughtful, creative staging.


Do Your Homework: A guide to public schools & property in SF

April 5th, 2012

Several weeks have passed now since the notorious San Francisco Unified School District placement lottery so I feel like I can now take a step back and put this all in perspective without having a minor emotional breakdown.  My partner and I have a five year old son that just survived the crazy process of getting into kindergarten in San Francisco.  It’s a process that I didn’t think would impact me in the way it did, but when it came right down to it, it was a nerve-wracking and downright emotional experience!
If you’re new to San Francisco or don’t have a young child and haven’t a clue what I’m talking about, I’ll give you a quick summary of how the new (started in 2011) public school placement process works:

1) In the fall prior to your child entering kindergarten, parents are expected to tour as many elementary schools as they’d like to consider.  Usually these are guided tours led by current families attending the school.  Some schools have self guided tour booklets and others even have iPod audio tours!  The tours usually last about 1 hour and often end with the principal answering questions about the school.  You usually get to visit a handful of classrooms.  Your mission is to get as much of a feel for that school in that hour to help guide you in your next step, the application.

2) In January, it’s application time.  You can list as many schools as you’d like in the order that prefer.  We listed six.  Some parents only list two or three and others list 21.  There are all sorts of tips out there about how many you should list in order to have the best chance of receiving one of your top choices. If you really want to drive yourself crazy, the school district publishes statistics from previous years so your can determine which schools have the highest ratio of applicants to placements.  I have a friend who did a full on statistical analysis of the schools in which they were interested. They used that info to inform their application process.  Side note, they got their first choice. I can’t say for sure, but the pessimist in me tends to think that was just pure luck!

3) Inevitably, there are way more requests for many schools than there are seats available.  This is where the true confusion begins.  The district employs a computerized system that places students based on a series of tie-breakers.  For elementary schools, this includes factors such as younger siblings, pre-K attendance area, test score area, attendance area, then all others.  So, to overly simplify, siblings beat out all.  Then students who attended a SFUSD pre-K program in a particular attendance area get the next dibs.  Following that, students who live in areas that have historically low test scores get the next spots, and finally students who live in the designated “attendance area” for the school get dibs on any remaining spots.  After all the tiebreakers, any other students may be placed in the school.  If you don’t get one of your choices, the computer then assigns you to the closest school that has openings.

4)  Decision letters are mailed out in mid-March.  On the day they were set to arrive, I sat for 2 hours staring out my bay window looking for the mail truck.  When the mailman finally arrived, I nearly yanked the mail from his hand.  We sat down on the couch and slowly opened the letter that was set to define a large portion of our lives for the next six years.  We breathed a heavy sigh of relief as we were one of the 60% that received our first-choice school.  It helped that our first choice was our neighborhood (attendance area) school.

5) If you’re not happy with your choice, there is an appeal process that can help place you in to another school.

So, how does this affect real estate?  In short, somewhat. Because living in a particular attendance area gives you a better shot at getting into that neighborhood school (based on the tiebreaker system explained above), there are some buyers who will seek to buy in a particular attendance area.  More often, they will try to avoid the attendance areas of schools that currently are underperforming (at least per test scores).  We certainly don’t see the kind of relationship between schools and real estate that most of the rest of the country sees, but it can certainly play a role in some buyer’s choices.

Want to see how the attendance areas are currently defined?  Download this map from SFUSD.

For more information about the “nitty gritty” of the school assignment process, feel free to contact us for more info!


To buy or to rent? SF’s eternal conundrum

April 4th, 2012

Is it financially smarter to rent or to own? New data from Trulia’s recently released Winter 2012 Rent vs. Buy index indicates that it’s still a toss-up in San Francisco. That said, that headlines overshadowed a fascinating data point: the price-to-rent ratio in SF dropped more than 3 points in the past year alone! This reflects a great opportunity for first-time buyers in the current marketplace. If you are ready to make the leap, we’re here to help you. Get our first-time buyers’ guide here or contact us directly with any questions about the SF real estate landscape.