Buyers aware

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 February, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 February, 2009, 12:00am

The internet is an excellent tool for learning about San Francisco and its many neighbourhoods.

'So much information is available on the internet. Buyers that come to San Francisco understand the market. They've done their research,' said Patrick Barber, senior vice-president at Sotheby's International Realty.

Finding a savvy real estate agent for counsel is another essential. Malcolm Kaufman, a realtor with McGuire Real Estate and founder of, a website about condo living in San Francisco that goes online in May, said: 'While it's important to do your own due diligence, a good agent can help you to understand the opportunities and avoid making major mistakes.'

Mr Kaufman offered a tip for residential property investors. 'Even if the unit you're buying or selling is identical to one in the same building that sold for X amount a few months ago, don't go by that as the definitive price. A better guide is checking the prices of all comparable units on the market.'

Sellers in San Francisco are responsible for paying agent commissions, not buyers. Agent commissions typically range from 4 to 6 per cent. 'The better agents usually have higher commissions, but they also get the higher prices,' Mr Kaufman said.

When buying in districts where many condominium buildings are going up, be sure to ask whether your view or the amount of natural light enjoyed by your unit will be affected by a future building.

In a large building of 100 to 400 units, investors will have to expect an annual turnover of about 8 to 10 per cent of the total number of units. This means that when you decide to sell, bear in mind that you may be competing with other units that are up for sale at the same time. Some buyers may cherish your balcony or terrace. But, when it is time to sell, experts say the value of such space is minimal. Although deeded to the unit, balconies or terraces are not included in the square-foot calculation of the property.