Real Estate Today

I want more! Or, lawn vs. lifestyle

What’s your priority in selecting your next home?, Photos: clockwise: Wybe; rrafson

This past winter, the sale of San Francisco single-family homes and condos remained extremely strong with not even a hint of a seasonal slow down. Inventory was painfully low, but this did not stop buyers from snapping up homes as they came on the market. During these months, buyers were asking: “When will more property be on the market?” Now here we are in the heart of the spring real estate season and buyers are still asking for more.

One Sunday I was out looking at open houses with a new buyer who, in the big picture of finding a home, was wet behind the ears. He had been searching online a while and gone to some open houses on his own. Being a highly educated, analytical person, this young man fit the profile of your average San Francisco buyer. By the end of our afternoon together, he told me he would really like to live in San Francisco, but knew when he talked to his parents they would say he could get more in the East Bay.

When I first meet a buyer, I always ask how long they have lived in the Bay Area, where they came from, and if they are first-time buyers what their parents think about them buying a home in San Francisco. My goal is to find out how realistic they are about the price of a home here and how much more they will want than is possible at their price point.

All buyers want more when they begin their search for a home in San Francisco. I like to sum up this dilemma with one question: Do you want more life-style or more lawn? My job as a teenager was mowing the lawn and I hated it, so this question has always been a no brainer for me. “Bring on city life and forget the lawn” is my answer to this question. If a condo has a deck big enough for a chair, I’m happy. No outdoor space is OK, too. A short walk to a neighborhood park or a parklet for coffee is my idea of heaven. This is not including the fact that a trip to the suburbs causes me to have an instant attack of boredom that has no rational explanation.

This is being literal. In reality, dealing with buyers, I think of “lawn” as a metaphor for whatever “more” they may want. All buyers must consider the lawn-vs.-lifestyle question at some point. Normally, until a buyer has spent some time going to open houses, it is not possible to know what is important. All buyers have dreams. The challenge is adjusting their dreams to the reality of buying a home in San Francisco.

When you are looking at a home and you find yourself thinking I like this, but I wish there were two baths, larger bedrooms, a bigger kitchen, a real dining room, a better view and a back yard with a lawn, you will know you need to answer the lawn-vs.-lifestyle question. The sooner you do this, the sooner you will be able to find a home that works for you and can start making offers.

There is no way to get around wanting more. It is a natural human condition. Did you ever hear your friends say, “I have too much; I want less”? Living in the Bay Area – the land of millionaires and 25 of the country’s 75 billionaires – I have never heard talk about people wanting less.

The excitement of city living is priceless for me. No amount of square footage, view, high-end finishes, pool, tennis court, amenities, or even a two-car garage could cause me to move to Marin, the Peninsula, or the East Bay. Once you feel this way, too, you will be on your way to becoming a homeowner in San Francisco.

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Carole Isaacs is a Realtor with McGuire Real Estate. Visit her online at or call 415-608-1267.