Bay Area Housing Crisis: First time home buyer tips

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ByDion Lim via KGO logo
Thursday, August 8, 2019
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With the average price per square foot at around $1,100 the challenge can appear daunting. First time home buyers now need to think outside the box.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- In a city where the average home price is a mind-boggling $1.7 million, try making that American Dream happen when you're on a teacher's salary and moving to the Bay Area from Wisconsin where the median home price is just $230,000.

Kristine MacDonald, an educator at a charter school in San Francisco's Mission District moved from Wisconsin several years ago and up until recently, was living with roommates. She didn't think it would ever be possible to buy her first home in the city.

SHARE YOUR HOUSING STORY: How are you making it work here in the Bay Area?

"Navigating has just been hard because there's a lot of pressure from the timeline itself to move very quickly and it's been a very different process."

Wanting to stay in the Bay Area for the long run, Kristine was determined to make her dream of homeownership a reality.

"I feel very lucky and fortunate that I did have a little bit of savings and my family was able to help me out a little bit. But after cashing out much of my retirement accounts, it's been a huge risk and very exciting at the same time."

Kristine put in a handful of offers on homes over the course of eight weeks and was outbid by sometimes a dozen or more buyers. All had larger down payments or could pay all cash.

Rebecca White was Kristine's realtor.

"One was a condo in Noe Valley for $750,000. Less than 800-square feet. No garage, no in-unit laundry. Built in the '70s and it was ugly! It went for $1.17 million-- 45-percent over asking!"

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With Rebecca's help, Kristine did find a condo in San Francisco's Bayview district which cost just under $800,000 and she's set to close on the property the last week of July.

Rebecca White says there are ways for first time home buyers to get a leg up on the competition. Like thinking outside the box.

"There's no such thing as the perfect home. I learned this when I started in real estate over 30 years ago. If you find a home with 80-percent of what you like and 10-percent something you can learn to change and 10-percent you can learn to live with."

For Kristine, the Bayview isn't quite Noe Valley. And because of her small down payment, her interest rate and closing costs were exceptionally high. But because the condo was under litigation over construction issues, fewer people were willing to bid and this gave Kristine an advantage.

"If you find something with problems, then other people aren't going to want it."

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Rebecca also says getting into the mindset that there will be failures along the way helps.

"I remember one time we had a couple and we put in 10 offers before they finally got their home. People get attached and they start crying and it's very sad. Be willing to think outside the box."

Take a look at ABC7's latest stories and videos about efforts to Build a Better Bay Area.