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Property inspections are important

Most of the properties for sale in San Francisco are not new.  With such a large purchase, it is not recommended to buy a property without inspections, even if the property is new.  I feel this is important because an inspector takes an unemotional look at a property and can give you an idea of conditions to watch for that, if they aren’t issues now, could become so in the future.

The most common inspections I recommend are outlined below.  Other inspections may be warranted based on the findings of these primary inspections and on the disclosures provided by the seller. Other inspections may include roofers, furnace contractors, chimney and fireplace maintenance, sewer inspectors, hazardous substance experts, mold inspectors and structural, or soils engineers to name a few.

For my buyers, I provide a few documents to help you select inspectors, such as the Buyers Inspection Advisory, and Zephyr Real Estate Recommendation Regarding Inspections, that highlight the many types of inspections available to you to give you the opportunity to select additional inspections which may be prudent.

You should plan to attend all inspections so that you can see for yourself any problems that might surface.  Your attendance also makes review of written reports much more comprehensive and easier to understand.

The costs of inspections are paid by the buyer.  Inspections usually are conducted in the first 10-15 calendar days of the escrow period. I can provide you referrals, schedule inspections and provide you with average inspections costs.

Structural Pest Control Inspection-A licensed structural pest inspector will examine the property for any evidence of problems such as: termites, dry rot, earth to wood contact, excessive dampness, fungus damage and beetle infestation.  The inspector will provide to you a written report identifying any problems, along with a bid for any corrective work.  This is a critical inspection because this type of damage can be very costly to repair and may require immediate attention. The cost of correcting pest control work is sometimes negotiable.

General Contractor’s Inspection-Among other things, this inspection covers major systems, structural elements, safety features, and code compliance.  Good inspectors will take the time to give you an orientation to the building, including how to operate and care for the furnace, where you will find the shutoff valves for the gas and water lines and where to go if you blow a fuse or trip a circuit breaker.  Accompanying the contractor during the inspection gives you the opportunity to ask questions and to get valuable maintenance tips.  The general contractor’s report will alert you to possible problems but, unlike the structural pest control report, will not include price estimates for any needed corrections.

Underground Storage Tank Inspection-The City of San Francisco requires an owner of real property to make a reasonable effort to locate and remove abandoned underground storage tanks (UST), as they may contain hazardous or environmental waste. Because the owner of record of a piece of property is responsible for any tank found on the property, I strongly recommend you ask a contractor specializing in locating such tanks to inspect your property to avoid your inheriting a tank already on the premises. The contractor will provide an estimate to remove a UST if found, which can be expensive.

Target at Masonic and Geary

According to Socketsite, the Target Store planned for the old Mervyn’s space at Geary and Masonic (and even older Sears Building) was unanimously approved by the San Francisco Planning Department. Politics aside, it seems like a great location and there is certainly the space for it.

City Center; rendering from Socketsite

The West Portal/Inner Parkside Third Quarter 2013 Real Estate Market Update

By Eric Castongia, Zephyr Real Estate

A lack of supply and high demand for the number of available homes in West Portal / Inner Parkside is an issue most of the time; there is a predictable lack of inventory that keeps property values up and in demand.  Dot com round two, in the last few years, has accelerated values and created a level of frenzy beyond our normal level of activity. Changes in the marketplace in the last few months have made predicting a home’s value that much more difficult and has left a lot of real estate professionals shaking their heads trying to figure out how to council their clients.  There are lots of theories about why that might be true.  Here’s what I have observed about our neighborhood:

  • At the close of the third quarter of this year, we had three active homes, four pending (not yet closed) and 17 sold (closed) properties.  Of the 17 sold, 10 (59%) received multiple offers and 13 (76%) sold over their asking price.
  • Two of the active homes on the market have been on for longer than 60 days, indicating that they are over priced for market conditions.
  • There were no properties that were withdrawn from the market in the third quarter.
  • Of the 24 transactions in this quarter, we had 2 short sales; one active, one pending.
  • Sellers North of Ulloa took advantage of the market to sell.  11 of the 17 (65%) sales were in this area and 6 of the 11 were purchased by their sellers since the year 2000.  Eight of the 11 sales were multiple offers, over asking. The overbid amounts ranged from $81,000 to $405,000.  The most under asking was $67,000.
  • In the second quarter, 13 of the 14 sales had multiple offers over asking.  The range of overbids was $5,000 to $273,000.  The most under asking was $900. 
  • While the average number of offers has gone down on all properties, the number of offers and the amount of overbids has accelerated on the best properties on the market. Gone (for now) are the days when all properties in the marketplace are treated the same way.
  • In the first part of this year, large down payments and all cash buyers had been dominating the marketplace; I am now hearing more offers are coming in with financing and 20 percent down payments.
  • The number of offers on listings have been dropping for the last few months; I suspect a combination and buyer fatigue slightly higher interest rates.  The holidays will contribute to that slow down as well.
  • As for values, year over year, it looks like three to seven percent appreciation, while quarter over quarter, it looks like we have stayed even or lost a little.  In comparing two comparable homes that sold within a block of each other for the second and third quarters, it would appear that we had a spike in value in the second quarter.  I think we will look back at the second quarter as a high point in the year.
  • Seller tip; if you are thinking of selling your home, use the remaining time this year to prepare your home for sale and be ready to go on the market in February/March of 2014.  We typically see a bump in prices after the first of the year.  Work with your realtor to come up with the to do list and don’t be afraid to spend a little money to make your home stand out in the best possible light.  Remember, once you decide to sell, it is no longer your home; it is an asset that you need to merchandise and market to it’s best potential.

Eric Castongia, Residential Sales Specialist at Zephyr Real Estate provided the information in this article. The content of this article is an interpretation of data from the San Francisco Multiple Listing Service and Eric’s observations in the marketplace.  Eric can be reached by e-mail at, or via mobile phone at (415)307-1700. DRE Lic. No. 01188380

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