Real Estate Today

Beam up my Beemer, Scotty

Car-stacking systems are growing in popularity in dense cities. PHOTO: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

If only there were an iPhone app for extraterrestrial parking, life in San Francisco would be so much easier. Technology has come a long way, but we are not there yet.

When I meet new home buyers, one of my first questions is: Do you need parking or storage? If the answer is no, that is fantastic! The buyers will have more choices as they search for a home. But what about the people who need a place to park their car when they are at home or those who need additional storage?

Parking today can at best be big enough to fit an SUV and at worst be small enough to fit a Mazda Miata. (I happily drive a Miata.) Parking can be independent — which means there are no obstructions to getting in and out of the parking spot — or it can be tandem. Tandem parking means two cars park in a line, and one must be moved to allow the other to come and go. Believe it or not, I have seen three-car tandem parking in small condo buildings.

There are parking spots shared in every imaginable way. I found a condo on Lake Street where two owners alternated months using the garage. Indoor parking six months out of the year was better than nothing. In new and old buildings, stacked car parking is no longer a rare solution to the parking problem. Many garage entrances have low overhead clearance and steep driveways, and this may be an issue for SUVs or low sports cars. Without parking your car in the garage, there is no way to know if your car will fit.

Some buyers do not feel comfortable with stacked parking, tandem parking, steep driveways, or low overhead clearance. Others are grateful to find a home with any kind of parking in a location that works for them.

Storage can be anything from a small area that will fit a suitcase or two, to a large cage or designated closet that will fit a bicycle, plus boxes or small pieces of furniture. Or, there is “common storage,” where people tend to pile up belongings in a haphazard fashion. And then there is space in condo buildings that owners use for storage that is not storage at all, but owners will use the area for storage until someone tells them to move their stuff. To complicate parking and storage in multiunit buildings, the governing documents or deed may not accurately describe the size or location of the parking and storage.

To deal with these issues in San Francisco, there is a parking and storage disclosure statement that must be included in the seller’s disclosure package. The wise seller will include this addendum in a single family home, too. There is no guarantee that a buyer’s car will fit into a garage in a single family home or that the storage area meets the buyer’s needs or expectations.

The bottom line is that not all cars fit into all garages, and not all storage is the same.

To protect both seller and buyer against disagreement at a later date, the parking and storage disclosure must be signed by the buyer to acknowledge that if they found a discrepancy, it is not material to the purchase.

In San Francisco today, buying a home is almost like speed dating. Buyers have a short window of opportunity to investigate the home. If it is not right for them, they move on to the next open house. But there is still time to drive your car into the garage and personally check out the storage. Do not blithely sign off on the parking and storage disclosure. Buyers must drive their car into the garage. I have heard agents joke, “The garage was so small the driver got in the garage, but could not get out of the car.” I am not exaggerating! Testing the parking is especially important when many sellers agents ask that buyers sign off on at least the first page of a disclosure, including the parking and storage disclosure, to submit with their offer.

The obvious next question is: What if my car doesn’t fit? The answer is easy. Buy a car that fits the parking space! There are dozens of cars to choose from and very few homes and condos. If you must have a car, and parking is a concern for you, build the cost of switching cars, adding a garage, or improving parking in an existing garage into the price of buying a home.

As far as storage goes, ask yourself how often you need what is in your storage area. There are several places in town to rent storage lockers if you cannot scale down and live with less space.

Today there are so many buyers and so few sellers that only those buyers who are willing to think creatively when it comes to parking and storage will meet with success and buy a home in San Francisco.

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Carole Isaacs is a Realtor with McGuire Real Estate, where she is a Top Producer. Follow her on Twitter @CaroleIsaacs or visit her online at or call 415-608-1267.