Buy house with no garage in SF?

sanfrancisco
realestate

#1

Hi there,

New poster, prospective buyer in SF and very happy to have found this informative/lively community!

My fiancee and I are looking to buy a SFH in the Noe/Dolores Heights area in the $1.4 -2M range. We could probably afford up to $2.2-2.3M but would rather not stretch to our max.

Would love any perspective on the following:

  1. Given our budget, is it crazy to buy a house with no garage in these neighborhoods? I think this is one of the only ways to get what we are looking for at this price point. We will have a car but don’t mind street parking as long as street parking is decently available. We would also be open to adding a garage in the future (how much does this realistically cost in $$ and effort? We got one rough quote of $200K for a fairly hilly lot - this seems low to me), but this would be an expensive and possibly frustrating project. However, are we hurting ourselves on future appreciation - e.g. should we either pay more or give something else up (views, SFH) at this price point for sake of a garage?

  2. What would you do with our budget, we can probably only afford an entry-level SFH in this area? More info on our priorities/non-priorities are below. Would love your thoughts on whether we are compromising the right things here, with both lifestyle and future appreciation in mind.

  3. Should we even buy now, or wait given that (IMO) price increases seem to be softening and interest rates rising? We are from but do not currently live in the Bay Area. We currently live in a HCOL east coast metro and plan to relocate back to the Bay Area in 2 years. If we bought now, it would be to hedge future appreciation but we would take a cashflow loss renting the place out until we can move in. If prices remain stable in the next 2 years, I would rather wait as we will be in a better cash position and can avoid the hassle of being long-distance landlords.


Priorities (in order of importance):

  • Location - We started looking broadly, but have narrowed to the Noe/Dolores area for the mix of walkability, sunshine, views neighborhood feel, proximity to friends and dog-friendly amenities and relatively easy commute south.
  • Views - This is huge for my fiancee.
  • Light/sunshine
  • 3 bed/2 ba (or potential to expand/renovate to achieve this)
  • Rentability - We plan to rent the place out (at cashflow loss of hopefully no more than ~$2K/month with 20% down) until we move back to the bay area, so the place needs to be in rentable condition with minimum rehabbing. We will do more extensive work before we actually move in.
  • SFH - We currently own a townhouse. While it’s been nice, we are (perhaps irrationally) enamored with SFH-ownership, especially in a city that is not making more of them.

Less Important:

  • Garage - will we regret not having a garage? how hard is it to add a garage in the city on a hilly lot (our lot will probably be hilly given our desire for views)
  • Schools - we don’t have kids yet, and will probably move before our future kids are in school
  • Layout/renovation status - We feel comfortable rehabbing in the future before we move in (spending another $200-400K)
  • Yard/outdoor space - We would love to have nice outdoor spaces but it’s less important for us. We are ok with having a smaller lot as long as there’s a deck with nice views.

#2

Garage is big. You do want a garage. Instant discount from a buyer’s perspective if lacking garage.


#3

Yes, I’ve definitely seen this in the prices…garage would definitely push us to the max or out of budget for this neighborhood. Is there any opportunity to arbitrage by buying a property without a garage and adding one later (without doing a full rebuild)? We are generally gung-ho about projects but not sure if that type of project is too risky given the cost, topography and planning department red tape.


#4

Hard to add a garage without major re-work, unless you have a converted garage which would be easy to change it back to a real garage. I would rather buy something with a converted garage than no garage at all.


#5

Interesting, how can you tell if there’s a converted garage (I don’t usually see that advertised). Are most places with unwarranted downstairs “bonus room” or in-law unit converted garages?


#6

You know one when you see one. It’s pretty easy to tell. Those converted garages don’t really fit into the normal flow of the house. Those rooms don’t usually have windows or heating, or separate heating, and a garage door that can’t be opened :slight_smile:


#7

I don’t think it’s a good idea to buy now, 2 years before you are moving back. First, you may not even move back. Second, where will your future jobs be? If you work in the South Bay the commute can get tiring real fast.

Less than 2M in Noe won’t get you anything nice. It’s one of the hottest neighborhoods especially for the tech crowd.


#8

Frankly, I just came from a offsite team lunch and we all took Uber to the restaurant and it was fine, more than fine, and I am as old school as it gets. In a couple of years more, maybe the norm of using car services like Uber and then driverless cars may be routine.


#9

Garage is for storing junk. Not parking.


#10

Hey now, some of us use the garage for parking cars :grin:


#11

There are plenty of of wealthy people in SF that park their beater car on the street and park their pleasure Ferrari/AMG/Aston/Ducatis/Porsches/Whatever im the garage. I even know a 30 year old guy who lives in the haight and has a 7 car garage - all 7 cars are beautiful.

If you are going to buy in a high dollar nabe in a high dollar town, forgoing a garage will limit your pool of buyers in the future.


#12

Hi there - I just read through your desires and priorities. I do not wish to throw a wet blanket on your plan - however I think you may be underestimating the pricing here.

I know a house that just went under contract on the west side in GG Heights. 3 bed 2.5 baths. It has views on 3 levels of the Pacific - but no bridge views. It has a 2 car garage. But the problem is that it is total 1970s on the inside. Like you gotta rip it all out.

It went for 2.0M. You bet your bottom dollar that the buyers are budgeting a total redo of the house. Lets say 750K. Maybe 500K if they go cheap, which I doubt they will given then views. Theb, lets say this nabe is worth 400K less than Noe given the same house.

If you want to buy in Noe with those criteria, you are looking at a 3M+ proposition, IMHO.


#13

This one might fit:


#14

Thats a good find, wuqjian, at 2.1M. But to get more than the measly 1100-1200 sq ft that it has, the buyer will have to go up. $$$$$$$ foundation work and fighting neighbors with discretionary review. And then, if they want to open ip the floor plan on a multi level hillside lot - steel moment frame. Easily into 3M


#15

If I were to buy it (which I wouldn’t), I would probably just do a simple rehab and rent it out for a few years first. Big architectural change will be done when I want to sell it.


#16

Hi there - I just read through your desires and priorities. I do not wish to throw a wet blanket on your plan - however I think you may be underestimating the pricing here.

I know a house that just went under contract on the west side in GG Heights. 3 bed 2.5 baths. It has views on 3 levels of the Pacific - but no bridge views. It has a 2 car garage. But the problem is that it is total 1970s on the inside. Like you gotta rip it all out.

It went for 2.0M. You bet your bottom dollar that the buyers are budgeting a total redo of the house. Lets say 750K. Maybe 500K if they go cheap, which I doubt they will given then views. Theb, lets say this nabe is worth 400K less than Noe given the same house.

If you want to buy in Noe with those criteria, you are looking at a 3M+ proposition, IMHO.

Thanks for the honest feedback. I agree that a house with everything we want in this neighborhood would be well over 3M+. I guess we’re trying to see if could make sense to make some compromises (like no garage, small/no backyard) to get us to a lower price point, as these are things that the market values highly but we don’t value as much for our current lifestyle.

Alternatives would be we look for a nice condo in the neighborhood instead or wait 2 years until we actually move to SF and hopefully in a better cash position relative to prices (we are late 20s/early 30s millennial techies, one of us has 8 figures of illiquid equity in a Series C company…but i would bet on the market continuing to go up more than a cash out of that in the next two years :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:).


#17

Did you say 10 Figures? Geez…you are not Evan Spiegel right? Lol


#18

@wuqijun we looked at 561 Valley! ultimately passed because the walk and transit scores weren’t great.

Here are a few others we considered/bid on - would be curious to get everyone’s thoughts.

  1. We loved this house (the views, light, location, very little renovation needed but still w/ further renovation potential) and were within $50K of the winning bid. Ultimately we didn’t bid higher because it was already at the top of our budget even with lack of garage. But between this at $2.3M and 561 Valley St. with a garage at $2.1M, putting aside potential appreciation, we would 100% prefer this for our lifestyle. Is that crazy?
  1. This seems to check all the boxes for us AND has a garage - could we still find something like this at $1.8M today? I think we saw this come on the market but were busy that week and didn’t put a bid. One thing that gave me pause was that it was maybe TOO well renovated already - we like a little room to further renovate. I think If we bought this we would convert the dining room into a library or really nice master bathroom because we don’t need a separate dining room.

  2. We actually nearly purchased (were already into contract) a SFH in Dolores Heights that checked all of our “priorities” (excellent location near Dolores Park with 95 walk score, sweeping views, 3/2 potential, around 1400 sft) but also had all of our deprioritized downsides (no garage, small/hilly lot, weird layout + needed interior updating but good bones and rentable with min rehab). Purchase price around $1.5M - the seller initially overpriced and had some mistakes in the listing which caused the house to sit on the market. The deal ended up falling through because we discovered some of these mistakes during appraisal and decided to back out, but I’m now reconsidering whether it was still a good deal and should move forward with it…


#19

With this type of wealth, should be easy to get mortgage to buy a $5-$10 mil house.


#20

Um, F the garage idea…I would gladly be your full time chauffeur at your beck and call…