Steps to Take When Preparing Your Home for Sale

So you’re getting started on the process of selling your home. Maybe it was your first house and your family has grown and now it’s time to upgrade. Maybe this is a family home you’ve lived in for over 30 years – filled with countless memories, and… stuff. Either way, you need to prepare it to be listed for sale. Here are the steps I suggest my listing clients take to maximize the potential sale price and minimize the amount of stress involved in such a large transaction.

  1. Sell, donate, or throw away as much as possible. All those old pictures and memorabilia on the wall, give it away to friends and family. Any excess furniture that’s just taking up space and making your house look cluttered. All your shot glass collections and old star trek memorabilia. If you have a lot of stuff that can be sold, either sell it yourself on eBay and craigslist one by one, have a garage/yard sale or hire an estate sale company to go through everything – if you have a lot of stuff this is the best option because they can get everything sold for you quickly with less hassle. Ideally, you want the house to be completely vacant so you don’t have to worry about moving stuff by close of escrow.
  2. Do some repair and touch up work throughout the house. Fix those flickering lights and squeaky doors, rip off that old wallpaper and paint it a neutral color, replace those old outdated windows with double pane glass. You might need to do some significant work like repaving the driveway or upgrading original kitchen and bathrooms to fully maximize value – if you have the money of course. If there’s hardwood floors that are in rough shape then all you need to do is resurface and stain them. If there is dirty or ripped up carpeting then replace it with brand new carpeting. The idea is that you want prospective buyers to visualize themselves living in the home. it’s very hard to accomplish that objective if buyers are distracted by various trinkets or random damage in areas of the house. All this work that I mentioned is mostly inexpensive and pays for itself many times over once the home is sold.
  3. If you haven’t done so already, talk to your CPA to find out the tax implications associated with selling your home. Find out if you qualify for the $250,000 ($500,000 for married couples) home-sale exemption. Figure out whether you (or your parents) qualify for Prop 60 / Prop 90 tax assessment carry over and depending on where you’re moving to if you could carry it over. Based on this information, you may decide you don’t want to sell your home after all, or you may have to wait a few months to qualify for certain tax credits and exemptions.

A good real estate agent should recommend that you do these things and give you additional recommendations based on your specific situation, home, and area. They should also give you a list of service providers that they use (handymen, painters, contractors, cleaners, stager, CPA, lender etc.). You may choose to bring these people in for an estimate and then decide to go with someone else – it’s always good to get multiple opinions. Check out some nearby open houses for at least a few weeks to get a good idea of what a home should look like when it goes on the market.

Good Luck!


Reports and Inspections Required When Selling a Home in San Francisco

Most everyone is aware of the sky rocketing prices of homes in SF. Not as many people are aware of what’s been happening with inventory lately. What most certainly everyone is familiar with is the enormous amount of regulation involved in San Francisco’s Real Estate Market. Sometimes, particularly for homeowners, it can seem overwhelming, even frightening. The good news is that when it comes to selling your home in San Francisco, the required Reports and Inspections aren’t overly complicated at all, and if a little time, and due diligence is taken, then you can minimize any problems and prevent penalties from the city.

There are 3 main reports and inspections which are required when selling your home in San Francisco:

1. Report of Residential Building Record: Otherwise known simply as the 3R report, the purpose of this report is so any prospective buyers can view the building permit history on your property (This doesn’t include electrical and plumbing.) It’s important for buyers to see whether the past work that’s been done to the property has been inspected and approved by the city. Here’s a good blog post on the topic, and here’s a  link to the application for the 3R report. The fee for a 3R Report is currently $148.

2. Residential Water and Energy Conservation Inspection: This inspection covers things like low-flow shower heads, faucets, efficient toilets, leak repairs, insulation of attic space, weather stripping all doors leading from heated to unheated areas, insulation of water heaters, caulking and sealing holes in building exterior, insulation of heating and cooling ducts, etc. Here’s some detailed information on this inspection and here’s a link to certified inspectors. There’s no statutory limit on the cost of complying with water conservation requirements. In the case of 1 or 2 family dwellings and individual condominiums and co-op units when complying with the ENERGY requirements as an entire building, the maximum expenditure will be $1,300. Cost of inspection is around $225.

3. Underground Storage Tank Inspection: In the early 1900’s, homes in San Francisco were heated with an oil burner. The tank to store the oil was usually located in the ground, in front of the home. As we moved to new heat sources, some of the tanks were left abandoned with oil still left in them. Now after many years, the oil can seep through into the ground and ground water. So before a home is sold in SF, an inspection must be done to ensure there isn’t an underground storage tank still on the property (If seller didn’t do an inspection, then it’s the buyers responsibility). If one is found, then usually the seller has to pay for costs of removal. The inspection is around $90 and cost of removal is over $10,000.

Now if this still seems overwhelming, and too much stuff to deal with on top of the multitude of other stuff you have to do as a homeowner before selling your home, don’t worry, a good real estate sales professional will take care of all this for you. They’ll schedule the inspections and they’ll order the reports, and you won’t have to do much other than comply with whatever is found.

Getting Ready To Buy Your First Home

Here you are. You’ve finally made it – you’ve decided that you’re ready to buy your first home. Maybe you’re tired of paying someone else’s mortgage by renting out a place and want to start building your own equity, maybe you’re ready to move out of your parents house, maybe your young family needs a starter home, or it’s a combination of a few of these.

Whatever the case may be, the process may seem overwhelming at first. So much to consider, so much to learn, the overload of information can make anyone cringe. Winston Churchill once said “Let our advance worrying become advance thinking and planning.” To ensure that you’re home buying process goes as smoothly as possible you need to be well prepared. Buying your first home will be filled with ‘surprises’ along the way, but if you’ve done your due diligence you can eliminate most of the unnecessary stress which could’ve easily been avoided.

So I’ve compiled a series of steps that come with the home buying process that everyone should take into account when you do take that plunge into what will arguably be the biggest event of your life up until that point.

1. Get Your Finances Ready. First you need to get your credit score checked with one of the many websites like credit karma, or if you have a good relationship with someone at your bank they can let you know for free. Read up on how to build good credit: Make sure your credit cards are payed off, you’re not carrying a lot of debt, etc.

Then you want to start talking to a lender, discuss your options, and get pre-approved for a mortgage. This is vital to do before you even start looking for a home because it lets you know exactly what you can afford and it puts you in a strong position to make an offer on a home when you do find a good one. Since the financial crisis lending standards have tightened so you will need to provide verification of income and assets (at least 1 month of pay stubs, 2 years of tax returns, 3 months of bank statements, etc.).

2. Choose a Real Estate Agent. This can also be number one because a good real estate agent can recommend a lender or vice versa. It’s important that your realtor and your lender get along and work together well because if one of them is late in submitting paperwork, getting signatures, or following-up that could mean the difference between a sealed deal and one that falls apart.

In San Francisco we’re currently in a very competitive environment among buyers; there are people bidding against you with all cash, no contingencies, and higher purchase amounts so you need to ensure that you’re real estate agent and your lender are on top of it. You need to hire a hustler, someone who’s professional and effective.

Is your realtor following up with you regularly and sending you homes as they become available?

Is your realtor knowledgable about the areas your looking at buying your home?

Does your realtor communicate with you about contracts, disclosures, and other paperwork so that there’s no surprises later?

These are just some questions you have to ask yourself in the beginning of an agency relationship to ensure that you’ll be able to get the house you want.

3. Go through a buyer consultation with your agent to identify your needs. You need to narrow down the areas you prefer, type of property (singly family home, condominium, etc.) price range, size of home, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, etc. This will help your realtor to send you properties that are relevant, and that you’re able to afford, and would actually considering living in.

4. Go view properties. Never see more than 5-6 in a day, otherwise it’ll be overwhelming. Prepare a checklist ready of things to look for in the home, and possible deal breakers. Visualize yourself living there, having dinners and entertaining guests, relaxing, going through daily life, and see if the home is a good fit. Once you’ve identified a few homes that seem to be a good fit, your realtor will get you the disclosures on the property. This will usually include a pest report and/or home inspection. If you’re looking at condominiums or town homes you’ll have to look through the homeowners association guidelines and CCR’s. Your agent will go through all this with you to make sure that you’re fully aware of any problems or defects associated with the home.

5. Make offers. Once you’ve checked the disclosures your realtor can start helping you write offers. You decide on an offer price by looking at comparable homes that have sold in the neighborhood, preferably within the last 6 months. You should take into account the features of the home, any upgrades, etc.

After your offer is approved it’s up to your agent and lender to get the deal done. There will be a walk-through and some other things you’ll have to do, but most of the hard work on your part is over. Hopefully, you chose a good agent and lender who are working their butts off to get you in your dream home. If you followed the steps I’ve outlined you’re well on your way to homeownership!

Happy Hunting…

Quick Start Guide to San Francisco

Today, San Francisco is a much different place than it was when I was growing up. For starters, the Mission district was definitely not the culinary mecca that it is today. In fact, the only things I really went there for from my home neighborhood of the Richmond District was a burrito at Cancun (which was just as good then as it is now, if not better, and no ridiculous lines) or cheap furniture (where I had my first lessons in haggling). SOMA didn’t really exist at all, no restaurants, no luxury condos, just 850 Bryant and the wholesale flower market (my mom owned a flower shop). The only time we had to go through that neighborhood is getting on and off the Bay Bridge. But with the wave of transplants coming into my beloved city, these neighborhoods are now revitalized, filled with life, and packed with a wide diversity of people and small businesses.

But even as welcoming and easy-going as San Francisco and it’s locals are, I’d imagine its extremely hard for someone to leave their home and come to a brand new city. When I think about the kind of things I like to do when I’m visiting new places, what comes to mind is immersing myself in the culture. When I go to a new place I try to be as social as possible, hang out at the local drinking hole and ask the locals what they like to do for fun, what their favorite food is, etc. When we went backpacking in Central America, our first stop was Belize where we went to a Chinese Restaurant and met a few friends who enthusiastically took us to see the real Belize; Think The Hangover part 6So I decided to make a list of must-do’s for transplants who’d like to experience the culture from the point of view of a born and raised native.

1. Go to as many city festivals as you can. The truly amazing thing about San Francisco is the pure abundance of huge, loud, obnoxious festivals that are strategically placed in the exact area of the city that I have to drive through that day for some important meeting or event. No but seriously. Unfortunately Castro on Halloween isn’t what it used to be, and there’s no more Love Fest by city hall. But I think Hardly Strictly and Outside Lands have managed to pick up the slack. You can go to the family friendly Union Street Econ-Urban Festival or the not-so-family-friendly Folsom Street Fair – whatever tickles your pickle.

2. Drink the local beers. I decided to quit drinking for all of 2015, and that hasn’t really been too hard to do considering how much I hate being hungover. But if theres one thing I miss more than anything, its drinking a cold, locally brewed IPA. San Francisco is quickly becoming the prime destination for those with a pallet for ultra hoppy beers. With breweries like Lagunitas and Russian River, it’s no wonder why. This SF’s natives suggestion on how to properly tour the beer scene? You choose Mission Beach Cafe as your starting morning destination for a delicious breakfast, and you plan to end up at La Taqueria for the best burrito in the world. You stop at a bunch of random dive bars along the way and ask the bartender for their recommendation of a great beer they have on tap. Make sure to stop at Monk’s Kettle for lunch and hang out there for a bit – one of my favorite beer selections in the city.

3. Eat at all of SF’s amazing breakfast spots. Go to Mama’s on Washington Square and order the Monte Cristo, Sweet Maple for Millionaires bacon, Grab the Corned Beef Hash at Mymy, Do the Beignet Flight at Brenda’s French Soul Food , Dotties and try…anything, and countless others. Unless you want to wait for 2 hours to get breakfast I recommend waking up early and going to these popular breakfast enthusiast destinations before they open so you get seated right away.

4. Go Rollerblading in Golden Gate Park on a Sunday. Strap on some skates, or get on a bike if your a little self conscious. No, scratch that, put on the skates and ride through the eastern side of JFK drive on Sunday when the park is closed to traffic. Make sure to stop at Skatin’ Place off 6th Ave. for some people watching time.

5. Spend the day being a tourist in Fisherman’s Wharf. Although with the bushman gone, Fisherman’s Wharf will never be the same again, plenty of the magic that made this area special is still around today. You have to make sure to stop by the seafood stalls and get the clam chowder in a bread bowl. After that, take  walk over to pier 39 and grab an ice cream cone for dessert and watch the seals frolic in the sun…err clouds.

6. Thursday Night at Academy of Sciences. This is by far one of the coolest things to do on this list. It’s like going to a science museum, exotic aquarium, rainforest greenhouse plus alcohol and pork buns. This is the ultimate first date destination.

To be continued….someday….maybe….

The Importance of Sales in Entrepreneurship

More often than not, when I’m talking to someone who’s in the beginning stages of a new entrepreneurial endeavor, I notice a recurring pattern of indecisiveness that piledrives the tombstone (Like that wrestling reference?) in what would otherwise have been a promising, dare I say, even profitable idea. Too much emphasis on planning and making sure everything is ‘perfect’. Don’t get me wrong, of course it’s vital to have a proper business plan with basic cash flow and gross margin projections, the concept of your business, how you’re going to market it, etc. But you don’t need a super flashy, 80 page, mega report that you spent countless hours perfecting, even if you are presenting it to potential investors, because after all is said and done, they’re not investing in your idea, they’re investing in YOU.

Which brings me to my main point, as an entrepreneur, you are first and foremost the number one salesperson for your product. Whether you’re pitching to investors or potential clients, you are the one who is responsible for communicating your mission statement and convincing people to do business with you. You gave birth to your ideas and concepts, you’re the one who spent countless hours designing a product or perfecting a service, then crunching the numbers to make sure it makes sense from a profit standpoint. It is you who must lead your team into the lions den day after day, to be the head cheerleader for your vision.

But I’m not a people person… I don’t know how to sell… Wah Wah Wahhh… Get over it!

If you want to see your idea turn into a successful enterprise you have to approach every single person who has ever come in contact with someone who may have an interest in your product or service, make your presentation, and don’t take no for an answer. If you’re not prepared to do that, than you had better find someone who is, or stick to your day job.

There’s no better example we can point to than Apple founder Steve Jobs, who was arguably the greatest salesman of all time. For all his talents and unmatched genius in the realm of technological innovation, Steve Wozniak lacked business acumen and social skills. He needed a best friend like Jobs to get his revolutionary Apple I computer out of a garage and into the hands of people. Those close to Jobs would sometimes describe him as ruthless and a jerk. But no one could deny the fact that he was a master of persuasion. In fact, Bud Tribble once coined the term “Reality Distortion Field” to describe Jobs’ ability to convince everyone – including himself – to believe almost anything with a mix of charm, charisma, bravado, hyperbole, marketing, appeasement and persistence.

Steve Jobs went to his first Apple sales presentation as a barefoot buddhist hippy who looked like he just stepped out of a plane from a meditation retreat in India and smelled as if he hadn’t showered for weeks, and still managed to sell 50 Apple I computers to the Byte Shop in Menlo Park – because he didn’t take no for an answer. Steve Wozniak almost single-handedly created the first Apple computers, but Steve Jobs sold the crap out of them.

As a real estate professional I offer clients my expertise and dedication. Essentially, in the purest sense of the term, I’m selling myself. Real Estate training courses focus heavily on prospecting and lead generation. If you don’t get yourself in front of a certain amount of people a day, how can you expect enough people to do business with you so that you can build a sustainable and successful career. That means I have to wake up every morning before the sun comes out, pound the phones, go knock on doors, regularly stay in contact with those in my sphere of influence, and meet as many new people as I possibly can.

The reason you need to concentrate most of your efforts on selling in the beginning is because you need to build momentum. It’s hard enough in the beginning when you’re starting off with little to no money, most of your friends or relatives are somehow discouraging you and belittling your ideas (Not always intentionally, but I’m sure every single entrepreneur has been told at one point or another by someone close to them to be “realistic”), your project is in its infancy and you are just outlining the structure and putting all the systems into place. Without some momentum right out of the gate the minor setbacks that you’re bound to face will seem enormous and overwhelming, and could cause you to quit.

When you make a commitment to lead generation and selling you must devote most of the time in your day to prospecting activities. This instantly puts you in front of potential clients, suppliers, and business partners who will judge, criticize, inquire about, and question you and your business. This will have you coming back to the drawing board regularly to change and upgrade every aspect of your business based on the real life feedback your receiving. This is the hardcore training program that an entrepreneur must go through to become an absolute expert in their field and be able to plan and adjust for any problems that may arise, and simultaneously carve out solutions to existing issues.

Although your new business may seem completely different from mine, or from that of Steve Jobs, I can guarantee that it’s success depends on your ability to make as many people believe in your dream as possible. To accomplish that, you need to overcome any self-limiting beliefs you may have and start making sales.

My First Blog Post

With a new year approaching, I figured now is a better time than ever to start throwing the thoughts and ideas that populate my skull onto the web. I’ll try to keep it tame but I can’t make any promises. Mostly I’ll be writing about what interests me, books and articles I’m currently reading, and stuff I’m doing. So that means you can look forward to a series of blog posts organized chaotically consisting primarily of random ramblings about philosophy, nutrition, fitness, real estate, investments, business, restaurants, etc.

Let’s start with this interesting blog post from Curbed SF about the Sunset District of SF. Turns out the neighborhood on the other side of the infamous GGP – My childhood stomping grounds – is the hottest real estate market in the US. According to new research from the Real Estate website Redfin, Sunset homes spent an average of 14 days on the market and received an average of 5.5 offers each. Nearly 88 percent of properties in the Sunset went for over asking in 2014, and 54.2 percent had multiple offers.

The Castro and Bernal Heights neighborhoods came in 2nd and 3rd respectively. San Francisco appears a total of 7 times in the top 30 most competitive neighborhoods for homebuyers rankings.