Where to buy a house/condo in SF? Suggestions?

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Where to buy a house/condo in SF? Suggestions?

Post by rupalb9 » Tue Dec 25, 2012 2:06 pm

My wife and I have been talking about buying a second home in San Francisco. Our budget tops out at $750K although we'd prefer to pay less. We have lived in the Bay area for over a decade but don't have much of an idea about the neighborhoods of San Francisco.
We are interested in finding out about safe neighborhoods with good mass transit. Does it make sense to buy a single family home or a condo?
We'd appreciate any suggestions.


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Re: Where to buy a house/condo in SF? Suggestions?

Post by jhd » Tue Dec 25, 2012 2:48 pm

I don't know home prices, since my family rents, but $750 is modest for a SF home. Sounds more like a condo budget to me.

These are some general pointers - if you want something more specific, let us know what you want in a neighborhood. E.g. why do you want a second home in San Francisco?

If you need mass transit to the Peninsula/South Bay, you need to live near the Caltrain station (near the ballpark) in SoMa. There are plenty of condos in that area, though I don't know if the neighborhood is any good to live in. (Not a lot of green space, for instance.)

For the East Bay (and down to SFO, but not much further), you can live anywhere along the BART line - from the Mission to SoMa to the financial district.

Potrero Hill isn't too far from either train line, and seems like a good neighborhood - close to the Mission, close to SoMa, etc. It's also supposed to have some of the best weather in San Francisco.

Mission Dolores is also a great neighborhood, and close to BART, busses, etc. (Actually, most of SF is accessible to public transportation like bus, streetcar, etc.)

I live in NoPa (western Western Addition to purists) and am a big fan of that neighborhood. It's about as central as you can get - 15 minute drive/bike from just about anywhere in town, and walkable to Pac Heights, Japantown, Golden Gate Park, Alamo Square, Haight, Lower Haight, Castro, etc.

Richmond and Sunset are safe and probably have places in your budget, but they're remote. They're also foggier and colder than the eastern half of the city.

Most of SF is safe. Just stay away from gangs and (non-medicinal) drugs, and you'll be fine. The Tenderloin is the "bad" part of town, and parts of Western Addition and Mission have bad reputations too, but they aren't really that bad. They get their share of property crime, but not a lot of violent crime.

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Re: Where to buy a house/condo in SF? Suggestions?

Post by rupalb9 » Tue Dec 25, 2012 4:58 pm

jhd > Thank you for your very detailed and valuable response.
E.g. why do you want a second home in San Francisco?
- One of our sons is a renter in SF and has a job as a software engineer in downtown SF. He leases a room in a house. Our logic is to help him get better situated and to have a weekend getaway place for us. Safety and accessibility by public transportation are the primary considerations.
- Weekend travel between the Peninsula and SF will be by car, weekdays by Caltrain. Travel within the city will primarily be by public transit.


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Re: Where to buy a house/condo in SF? Suggestions?

Post by gkaplan » Tue Dec 25, 2012 6:08 pm

SoMa? NoPa?

I guess that's South something and North something; however, even though I lived in the Bay Area in the eighties, I have no idea what these abbreviations stand for.

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Re: Where to buy a house/condo in SF? Suggestions?

Post by sscritic » Tue Dec 25, 2012 6:46 pm

I haven't lived in the Bay Area since the 60s, but I'll take a guess: South of Market (SoMa) and North of Golden Gate Park (NoPa).

Now for google. One wrong answer: north of Panhandle Park.
The Panhandle is a park in San Francisco, California that forms a panhandle with Golden Gate Park
At least from the 1990s if not before, the area north of the panhandle, bounded by Divisadero, Fell, Turk, and Stanyan Streets, has been termed North Panhandle, North of the Panhandle, or, more colloquially, NoPa.
Yup, I was thirty years too early.

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Re: Where to buy a house/condo in SF? Suggestions?

Post by john94549 » Tue Dec 25, 2012 6:59 pm

Son, daughter-in-law and three kids recently moved to Ross. Mind you, this was a daughter-in-law who vowed never, ever, to move from the City*. Just up the street from Dolores Park, they packed it in.

*Her ancestors go way back.

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Re: Where to buy a house/condo in SF? Suggestions?

Post by Harold » Tue Dec 25, 2012 7:36 pm

Seems to me the son ought to be providing the most input for this decision (and presumably he is). Every neighborhood has a different feel, and given that he lives there he probably already has some ideas of what he does and doesn't like.

Since parents and a "getaway" are part of the equation, and since he works in the Financial District (or maybe SOMA, hard to tell based on your "downtown" description) -- Nob Hill, Russian Hill, or Telegraph Hill seem like decent candidates. Given the price you named, you may need to make more concessions on space or whatever than you would like. That's for you and your son to judge. He could certainly choose one of the neighborhoods farther out, but he may or may not find the commute to be an issue (MUNI trains get packed, have delays, etc.)

About crime: the Tenderloin is nowhere near the "bad" part of town (more like the "sad" part of town, with aging drug users who have failed at life); the real dudes could mess you up kind of places are more like the Bayview and other southern neighborhoods, parts of the Mission with gang violence, even parts of Western Addition. I doubt your son would've steered you to any of those places anyway -- except perhaps the Mission which has a very funky vibe, lots of restaurants, on the BART line, etc.

The eastern parts of the city will be sunny a lot of time -- the western parts of the city will be foggy a lot of time. Both have their own appeal and their own beauty. In the western and southern neighborhoods people drive a lot more, though public transit is pretty extensive. In the northeastern part of the city, there's little need for a car at all. (Mentioning that partly because a NoPa resident cited drive time -- which wouldn't even have occurred to me as a Nob Hill resident.)

That's a brief synopsis. Hope it helps.

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Re: Where to buy a house/condo in SF? Suggestions?

Post by DiscoBunny1979 » Tue Dec 25, 2012 9:30 pm

In my opinion, one really needs to live in SF for a few months, taking mass transit or riding a bike around town in order to determine which neighborhood would be a good fit. Just driving a car around, you could easily drive through the Castro or even Pacific Heights and not know any more than before your trip began. I know some folks that find the Marina absolutely the only place to live, whereas others prefer a converted Victorian off of Height Street. I think it's all a matter of personal preference, what your budget is, and the purpose of the house/condo. While I like San Francisco, I don't know if home ownership in the city is the answer for everyone. It can be quite expensive and your place might not come with adequate parking. I lived in SF during the 80s before South of Market began its "transformation" and therefore the only value from me is a word of caution - while the neighborhoods might have appeared to improve with updated buildings and new hi-tech tenants, there still are homeless on the streets. So when shopping for a home, make sure you notice every detail. It's not just how a neighborhood appears, but how it feels.

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Re: Where to buy a house/condo in SF? Suggestions?

Post by jcw » Wed Dec 26, 2012 7:46 pm

I grew up in the bay area and lived in a fancy house this summer in Hayes valley while interning at a local tech company. Here are my suggestions:

South of Market Area (SOMA) - access to everything from restaurants, ball park, embarcadero. Quickly exit the city to the Eastbay (via 80 bay bridge) or South bay (via 101/280south). You will have to enjoy condo living if you want to live here but it's very nice and trendy. Scene is young, professional and new graduates. I would live here.

Marina - Very nice area with expensive apartments/condos and access to bars/restaurants, fort mason. Escape to North bay easily. No easy access to Muni/Bart. Must drive around. Exiting the city to the south or east bay is painful. Scene: young, up and coming "wealth" (or just conspicuous consumption). A lot of financiers (bankers, private equity) , consultants, and ivy leaguers. Ex frat/sorority boys and girls. I wouldn't want to live here if I were older.

Pacific heights: Really nice part of time with expensive houses. Nice restaurants and super safe. Just a nice as Marina but a little bit of an older crowd. It has been described to me as: "where the Marina kids go when they grow up".

Hayes/Cole/Noe Valley: Can get single family homes here. More family friendly. Decently accessible to Muni. Overall a good place for families or older crowds. I would live here if I wanted to raise a family in San Francisco.

Sunset/Richmond Area - My friends live here for the affordability. It's colder, more run down, and there's not much out there. Some good restaurants, the second china town, access to ocean beach. Public transportation is not easily accessible (unless you take the bus, which I never have).

Japan Town/Western addition/Tenderloin: Some good restaurants but like others have said, it's a dangerous area. Absolutely no reason to live in these area.

Mission: An area that was previously considered dangerous but has become more hipster and gentrified. Probably a good area for a 22 year old guy out of college and wanting to live cheap and hit the dive bar scene every night. Areas near dolorous park are pretty nice. A strange mix of families and pot smoking hipsters, all sharing the same park. Nice restaurants and dessert shops (bi rite, tartine).

Hope this helps! Personally, I am looking at buying a condo is SOMA when I finish business school and if I end up in San Francisco.

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Re: Where to buy a house/condo in SF? Suggestions?

Post by rupalb9 » Thu Dec 27, 2012 10:12 pm

Thanks to everyone who has posted and provided their views.
Best wishes,

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