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San Francisco is a vibrant city that’s home to a long list of high-tech companies, world-class museums and delicious cuisines. But no matter how much a city has to offer, selling a home there can still be a daunting process, especially when prices are higher than the average person can likely afford. The longer your home lingers on the market waiting for a qualified buyer, the harder it is to move on to the next chapter of your life. But there are steps you can take to speed up the process. Read on for everything you need to know about the San Francisco housing market, and how to sell your home there — fast.
How fast can you typically sell a house in San Francisco?
As of March 2023, homes in San Francisco spent a median of 29 days on the market before selling. That’s reasonably fast, but even so it’s almost twice as long as the 15 days it took at this time last year, according to Redfin data. The timeline can vary based on where in the city the home is located, its condition and other factors specific to your property.
Traditionally, spring and summer are prime selling seasons and the best time to list a house for the fastest sale, in San Francisco or anywhere. Price-wise, real estate data firm ATTOM found that May, June and July offer seller premiums of as much as 10 percent more than market value, and that the month of May specifically is the best.
Need to sell even faster?
If you’re looking to close a sale in a hurry, there are options to speed up the timeline. These include:
- Selling to cash buyers: Companies that proclaim “We buy houses!” offer an alternative way to sell your home that allows you to skip the showings and the need to make repairs. These companies typically buy homes as-is, no matter what the condition, and they pay cash, which means there’s no need to wait on a buyer’s financing to be approved. They can also get the deal closed quickly, sometimes in as little as one or two weeks. But don’t expect to get as much money for your home as you would listing it with a real estate agent.
- Using an iBuyer: iBuyers are another option to sell your home quickly. They too will pay cash for your home and close the deal rapidly, but iBuyers usually will not buy homes in very poor condition and may charge steep service fees. Opendoor is the best known iBuyer operating in the Bay Area.
- Pricing aggressively with a trusted agent: The price at which you choose to list your home can also help it move more quickly. By pricing below what similar homes typically command in your area, you can get people interested in making offers more quickly. It may even trigger a bidding war, driving up the final sale price. But this step isn’t recommended without the guidance of a skilled agent who knows the San Francisco market well. The idea is to attract more buyers, not to leave money on the table.
Selling your home in San Francisco
If you decide to proceed with selling your San Francisco home via the traditional route, with the assistance of a real estate agent, here are some questions to consider.
Is it worth upgrading your home before you sell?
Some home upgrades offer more return on investment than others — but it probably isn’t worth investing in a major renovation project before you sell. Most won’t recoup their cost. However, don’t overlook curb appeal, which can be a cheap and easy way to increase the appeal of your home. A tidy front yard and a few colorful plantings can go a long way.
What should you fix before selling?
Before listing your home for sale, think about what potential problems a buyer might spot. What should you fix, and what should you skip? However, not all fixes are worthwhile. Your real estate agent will be able to advise you on what needs to be addressed and what doesn’t. A pre-listing inspection can also help you zero in on issues that might impact your sale price.
Should you have your home staged?
Staging your home to make it more appealing to potential buyers can help to close a deal more quickly, and bring in a higher price. This can not only help your home stand out in online searches, but also help buyers who tour your property more easily picture themselves living there. If your home is already in great shape, it may not be necessary, but most spaces — especially if you still have a lot of stuff there, or if it’s completely vacant — can benefit from a professional touch.
How should you price your listing?
Pricing your home effectively can be key to selling quickly and for the highest price possible. This is where a skilled Realtor is really invaluable. An agent can help assess the value of your home and perform a comparative market analysis, researching recent sales of comparable homes in the area. Home prices in San Francisco have been declining over the past year, so be aware of market conditions and make sure your expectations are realistic.
What do you need to disclose to a buyer?
California has a variety of legal requirements regarding the information that residential property sellers must share with buyers. These disclosure requirements cover information about the condition of the home you’re selling, potential additional taxes and any hazards that may impact the home. Home sellers are required to complete a form containing information in writing for the buyer about a range of questions. There may also be other paperwork you’re required to provide, including natural hazard disclosure documents, which tells buyers whether the property is located in a flood-prone area, and Megan’s Law disclosures, which allows buyers access to information about registered sex offenders who may live in the area.
Closing is an exciting time — it means you’ve reached the end of the sale process and will soon receive the payment for your home. However, there are several costs that will cut into the amount of profit you’ll walk away with.
Costs of selling a home in San Francisco
- Real estate commissions: As the seller, you are responsible for paying both agents involved in the sale. Expect to pay between 5 and 6 percent of the purchase price in agent commissions, which gets split between your agent and the buyer’s agent. Given that the median sale price here is $1.35 million, per Redfin, 6 percent comes to $81,000 — by far the biggest cost of selling a home in San Francisco.
- Title insurance: Title insurance is another seller’s expense you can expect to pay. This cost is typically 0.5 percent to 1 percent of a home’s purchase price.
- Transfer taxes: You’ll also need to budget for transfer taxes when selling a home in San Francisco. The rate varies based on the home’s sale price. On homes that sell for more than $1 million but less than $5 million, for example, the transfer tax is $3.75 for each $500 in value.
- Recording fees: You may also be required to pay a recording fee related to the sale of your home. This cost may be about .03 percent of the home’s sale price.
- Property taxes: Sellers are responsible for the amount of property taxes that were due up through closing.
Which approach for selling your San Francisco home is best for you? If you’re not in a rush, a traditional listing with a local agent can help you make more money on the sale. But if time is of the essence, an iBuyer or cash-homebuying company may be preferable.
No matter which approach you choose, be sure to do your homework and understand exactly what you’re signing on for. There’s no state law requiring you to have a real estate attorney, but it may be worth paying for one anyway — after all, given San Francisco’s high home prices, there is a lot of money at stake.
Real estate markets across the country are beginning to cool down from the red hot competition that characterized the past few years. Home prices in San Francisco are falling (though they’re still high), and high mortgage interest rates are keeping some would-be buyers on the sidelines for now. All of this means sellers here do not have the edge they once did.
Homes are spending about 29 days on the market before going into contract as of March 2023, according to Redfin data. If you need to sell your home more quickly, consider homebuying companies, which pay cash and can act fast. Or, work with a local real estate agent who understands that speed is your top priority.