9 Tips to Buying San Francisco Real Estate Without Breaking Your Budget

A photo of San Francisco skyline looking eastward from the Russian Hill area.

If you want to buy a real estate in the San Francisco Bay Area, but aren’t sure if your budget can handle soaring prices, we’ve got good news. There are things you can do to stretch your buying power. With the help of your real estate agent—and these 9 tips—you can become a savvy homebuyer without breaking your budget.

  1. Get pre-approved for your home loan. This is the first step of the home buying process and means filling out a loan application and going through the process of securing financing for your purchase. Once you’re ready to seriously begin your real estate search, you’ll know exactly how much home you can afford. Additionally, you can prove to a seller that your offer is sincere.
  1. Explore creative financing options. During the home loan pre-approval process ask your real estate agent or loan officer about ways to get creative with your financing. Low down payment options, first and second mortgage combinations, and first-time buyer programs may help you afford more funding. Many lenders are now offering interest-only home mortgages; just make sure you thoroughly evaluate the terms for this type of home loan. Down payment grants are also available in some instances, and just might be worth investigating or discussing with your Realtor®.
  1. Sell your existing home first. Although selling your existing home before finding or purchasing your next home can be a little nerve wracking, any inconvenience will be offset by your ability to make an offer with cash in hand. Cash offers can make all the difference to sellers and their agents when negotiating. Contingent purchases are not the best when negotiating to buy a home. Having your financing in order and your bags packed will give you the upper-hand in the San Francisco Bay Area and Silicon Valley’s extremely competitive real estate markets.


Selling and moving out of your home before looking to purchase new real estate can give you more negotiating power.
Selling and moving out of your home before looking to purchase new real estate can give you more negotiating power.


  1. Look for vacant real estate. Perhaps a seller’s job has transferred her out of the area. Or maybe a family purchased a new home before listing their existing one on the market. In any case, a vacant home could be just the deal for a savvy homebuyer, so have your Realtor® look for vacant property in your preferred neighborhoods. And keep in mind, the longer a house stays empty, the greater your negotiating power will be.
  1. Consider cosmetic fixers. If you’re handy with a paintbrush, a toolset and gardening equipment, consider buying real estate in need of cosmetic fixing. Property that lacks curb appeal typically only needs minor handiwork. A simple paint job or landscaping job could end up making a fixer-upper the home of your dreams for a price you can afford. Look beyond the ho-hum to see the potential of a cosmetic fixer.


3915 Hacienda Street, San Mateo
3915 Hacienda Street was a “Contractor’s Special” in San Mateo’s highly desired Hillsdale neighborhood. Sold by listing agent Rick Lei for $825,000 in 2014.


  1. Buy a home that’s a major remodel project. If you want to live in a trendy neighborhood, but can’t afford a $2M home mortgage, consider buying a dilapidated home on a fabulous lot with western exposure. In time you’ll need to gut the existing home and build from the ground up, or contract significant home improvements. But in the end, your property value will skyrocket. And if your carpentry and other construction skills are well-developed, you can save even more and accrue “sweat equity” during your remodel by doing some of the work yourself.
  1. Don’t discount bank foreclosures. One person’s loss could be your gain if you buy real estate in foreclosure. Although the search for a decent foreclosure may take a while, your   JODI Group real estate agent can help. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development can be an excellent resource for foreclosed properties. Because HUD homes are sold at market value, your best bet will be homes that need cosmetic work or even major repair.
  1. An older, smaller home. Older homes are typically priced much less than newer construction and don’t tend to create buyer bidding wars. If you can enjoy life in an older and smaller home in a neighborhood or suburb off the beaten path, this could be your ticket to real estate ownership.
  1. The cheapest house in the best neighborhood. You have your heart set on a specific—and expensive—neighborhood. Maybe it’s the schools you’re interested in. Or perhaps it’s the close proximity to fabulous entertainment options, or the waterfront. In any case, a budget-savvy buyer will look for the least expensive home for sale in the neighborhood. If you’re not in a hurry, you can even play the waiting game to see what properties come on the market. Your real estate agent can be a huge asset in this case by investigating potential sellers.

Buying real estate without breaking your budget will require research and compromise. On moving day, however, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that your homework paid off!

Don’t have a real estate agent to represent you yet? Meet our team of experienced Realtors® here.

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