San Francisco from Kevin+Jonathan’s P.O.V. 

We first did this survey in 2016. Boy was the world different back then. While a lot of the subject matter has remained consistent (we are talking about houses after all) a lot in the world has changed (we are talking about houses after all). Combine an additional seven years of experience and you can see it was time for us to update the survey.
We also realized that the survey is an ongoing on (as it should be), which is why you’ll see that there are some districts that aren’t here in this guide just yet. But fear not, areas that are not in this version of the survey will get the Kevin+Jonathan treatment siib.
Until then, read the following pages with a grain of salt and know that our opinions, while informed, are just that, opinions subject to error and change. Your own conclusions, thoughts and comfort level with where we get your next home, however, are paramount.

So much has been written about San Francisco and its housing market we’d be crazy to summarize it all here. But, since the Pandemic and the challenges San Francisco has (and continues to have), we acknowledge our current challenges but also underscore the attractiveness and the undeniable potential for growth — we are a boom/bust type of place and we always have been (and will be).  

The passionately held opinions about real estate in all its aspects, is clear evidence of a community deeply invested in its future. There is a collective determination to see us thrive again. As this survey demonstrates, nuanced matters so much in San Francisco.

In an era where people may only learn about what’s happening in their neighborhoods via Ring alerts, Nextdoor posts, crime reports or by an advanced game of telephone, we try to give you a sense of what our overall impressions are of our varied neighborhoods are. We’ve accumulated our observations over the 14+ years of doing real estate and over the 20+ years of living in San Francisco and the 3 years Kevin had living in Berkeley before moving to the Inner Sunset and then to the Castro. Jonathan’s experience had him in the Inner Mission, Van Ness Corridor, Rincon Hill and then to the Castro. We’ve seen thousands of homes, met countless buyers, sellers and neighbors and have just begun to learn about the variety, diversity and uniqueness of each and every home, we have been able to accumulate a trove of knowledge, impressions and learnings from all of this and turn it into the evolving survey you see below. This is our first major revision since the 2016 edition. 

Diversity and inclusiveness stand as our greatest asset, but our brand is innovation. San Francisco continues to draw entrepreneurs and innovators alike — as it has done so since its founding — even in light of the Pandemic and, now, as we head into the recovery. Apart from the people themselves, draws like the area’s natural beauty, Silicon Valley, and the area’s progressive disposition mean that what little buildable land has always been scarce.   

The City has seen waves of population booms and ebbs. Housing crunches (and crises) are as much a part of San Francisco as much as the fog has been. Because it’s been a boom town for more than 170 years, it has attracted folks from far and wide seeking opportunity, success and more which has led to the City’s diverse architecture, housing patterns and market quirks.

Broadly speaking, each boom, of course, puts demand for more housing stock; after all, everyone needs to live somewhere, right? There were early 49ers who made their fortune who first lived in the mansions of where South Park is (which is based on an English oval-type of layout and where you could hunt deer before apparently) only to move up to Nob Hill and Pacific Heights when cable cars came onto the scene. Chinese immigrants who built the railroads of the West and supported the gold miners concentrated near present-day Chinatown, but with increasing immigration after the 1960s started finding their way west to the Sunset and Richmond, joining the Irish populations occupied the Sunset and Richmond previously. We know of the strong ties between the Mission and Central and Southern American areas and the connection between Italian immigrants and North Beach.

Then there was purposeful displacement of African-American and Japanese-American populations from the Fillmore District and Western Addition to make way for “progress.” Throw in some other population influxes like the post-WWII sailor surge, the LGBT population surging after the Summer of Love and all the aftermath that has drawn even more people to the City and you’ll start to see how the City grew over time and continues to grow today.

But why is it so expensive?

Well there are at least five reasons that speak to why it will continue to be coveted and valued. 

Geography: There’s not a lot of land to build on, we are surrounded by water on 3 sides after all

Climate: Some of that scarce land is off-limits to people thanks to the area’s famed Coastal Fog (aka Karl), why else are beach front properties usually worth less than inland ones?  

Market Distortion 1: Red Tape. Historic preservation and environmental conservation regulations make demolition and brand-new construction rarer and more expensive especially because the Planning and Zoning process may implicate a very long and confusing approval process involving public notice and comment  

Market Distortion 2: Pro-tenant laws and ordinances affords tenants a large number of protections that effectively lock rental buildings into that use exclusively. How this will combine with the mandate to build 80,000 units by 2030 — your guess is as good as ours. 

Market Distortion 3: Taxes. While mostly irrelevant in other parts of the country, taxes stemming from capital gains are actually an issue here that, when combined with Proposition 13’s restrictions on allowable tax increases, may prevent people from selling because there won’t be enough money left over to buy something new.

Okay, enough of that stuff, let’s give you a sense of our neighborhoods.

The 10 MLS Districts

A 1979 California Living magazine article about San Francisco was the first to divide San Francisco’s diverse neighborhoods into 10 large districts. Eventually, the REALTOR board used that may as the basis for the 10 MLS districts and 85 subdistricts that we use today.

  • Note: there’s no overlap or correlation with San Francisco voting districts.  
  • Note 2: 1979 proves to be a pivotal year for San Francisco Real Estate history, it’s when the Rent Ordinance was passed that enshrined rent control and eviction control into our market. 
  • Note 3: This on the heels of 1978’s passage of Prop 13, which capped property tax assessment increases to no more than 2 percent (it has been as high as 8 percent before)

We explore many of those substrict neighborhoods in detail below with live market data for each big MLS district. Our observations are broad on purpose as each property is unique unto itself with each experience being different and the on-the-ground perspective are based on our direct experience from selling and looking at homes all over the City.

Take a look at our survey below! and let us know what you think where you should end up making a home. 

So What Type of Home Do You Want? 

(Part 1: By Architectural Type)

(Generalizations, Clearly.)

Victorian & Edwardian 

Where the houses built during Queen Victoria and King Edward VIII's reign are (having been split up into condos, TICs or updated as large houses). Usually Queen Anne style or Eastlake Stick Style, most constrained to the San Francisco standard of 25 foot wide parcel ... 


Modern Condo Areas 

Glass, steel, new and shiny (aka, condo buildings, both tall and mid-rise), hurt the most by the Pandemic and the slow recovery the city has seen. 


Which Areas Are For You?

We Can Help You Decide

Finding the right neighborhood can be overwhelming but we can help you discover all the parts of the City you know and those areas you have yet to discover! 

So What Type of Home Do You Want? 

(Part 2: By Geography)

(More Generalizations)





District 1


The Richmond, Sea Cliff, Jordan Park, Lake Street

Big Single-Family Houses, Edwardian Condos, Views of the Presidio and Golden Gate Park

District 1
The Richmond, et al. (Click to Enlarge)
  1. MLS-Dist-1-outline
  2. District 1 in San Francisco

The older of San Francisco’s two big coastal areas next to the Pacific, the Richmond boasts a variety of people, housing styles and amenities.

On the northwest portion of the City below the Presidio, south of the Golden Gate and east of the Cliff House and north of Golden Gate Park sits District 1.

District 1 is the large swath in San Francisco’s northwest that runs from Baker Beach and Land’s End down to Golden Gate Park along Fulton to the south. To the north you run up against the coast and the actual Presidio (the old military base that’s now a massive land trust) while you run into Presidio Street and Presidio Heights to the east. Most people refer to the area as the ‘Richmond’ as a whole even though it’s comprised of a few distinct neighborhoods. District 1 features more houses than condos, which all tend to be on the bigger side. Laid out mostly in a grid, there are lots of houses of course with a good number of multi-unit buildings (4 unit or less) interspersed. You tend to get more remodeled homes rather than all-new builds. We are starting to see more TIC sales in District 1 (which was less common before). Many single-family homes have in-laws or ADUs. There is a lot of architectural variation in the Richmond with many styles on display within the span of a house or two. The area is foggier but is also very scenic in parts as its bounded by Golden Gate Park, the Pacific Ocean and the Presidio and has more gently sloping hills than other parts of San Francisco, with many areas getting Bridge views and views to the headlands. While the summers are foggier, the sunsets in the fall and winter can be absolutely stunning examples of magic hour. Another hallmark of the area is that its residents love living here almost to a fanatical sense — especially those who are closer to California Street or to Golden Gate Park. The other hallmark is that public transit is weaker here as there’s no BART, no MUNI light rail line although there are nice bike lanes and designated paths for bikes on major streets. This puts a lot of stress on the big thoroughfares like Geary, 25th Avenue, Park Presidio and California Street.

Foggy Amusement Turned Residential Enclave with Lots of Styles and Committed Denizens 

Many people who live in the Richmond love the Richmond. Like L-O-V-E love it. This sense of community may run counter to the endless rows and rows of houses you’ll see in the Richmond that can seem anonymous and endless at times. This is a neighborhood where most people drive but also bike and walk in the neighborhood and is where most people will say hello to you on the street. 

Most commercial activities and businesses are focused on a few main corridors on Geary, Clement, California and Masonic on the eastern edge of the district.   

Bounded on three sides with dramatic bookends — the trees of the Presidio and Golden Gate Park and the drama of the Pacific Ocean and the Golden Gate to the west, the area has always had a more dramatic flair in its architectural variety and various views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Marin Headlands in the distance (depending on where you are at). Marketing lingo will always mention a view of the Bridge or the Headlands (if there is one) or proximity to either park. 

Foggier than the Sunset but developed earlier thanks to the early use of the area as farmland that gradually saw street cars ferrying people to Sutro Baths, the Cliff House and Baker Beach crisscross that farmland that gradually led to the area being developed in the early 1900s and onwards. (The Sunset was largely sand dunes not conducive to farming).  

Who Lived Here, Who Lives Here and Why

Known for many communities and nationalities, the Richmond District has drawn Russian, Asian and Irish immigrants over its long history. Recent census data shows that both white and Asian populations rank at about 42.5% and 40.7% percent respectively, with mixed race following at 7%.   

People like living in the Richmond for a number of reasons. 

Yes, some people like the fog. 

Many people move and buy in the Richmond because the homes are bigger and may come with yards. Translation: people who want to have families with children and/or with multi-generational living with in-laws or ADUs. This is why having parking is key — storage.  

Among the rows of mixed art-deco, Spanish/Mediterranean, craft homes will sit random mid-century 4-unit buildings that represent a good investment potential as there is captive pool of renters who want to be close to the University of San Francisco, San Francisco State and UC San Francisco (UCSF) while they study. 

The neighborhood’s elementary schools are among the most sought-after by parents (as our clients have all told us).

The neighborhood drags are relatively big and rich with variety and convenience/necessities. There’s some spice here! 

The Richmond has a good location for car commuting. The big north-south artery of Park Presidio, otherwise known as U.S. 101 or the California 1 PCH, connects to the North Bay (Marin County etc) and to the Peninsula and the South Bay relatively easily so the likes of tech workers can drive down to Meta/Facebook, Google, YouTube, Apple or GenenTech (or many other biotechs) as they don’t take the shuttle anymore. 

We Meant Architectural Diversity When We Said It. Really. 

In terms of housing, you start with mansions with post-card perfect views of the Golden Gate on El Camino de Mar for tens of millions where you can see Land’s End and the Marin Headlands (and beyond) in Sea Cliff. Then you get the bigger, Arts and Crafts home along tree-lined Lake Street (which is now largely a Slow Street from Arguello to 28th Avenue after much contentious debate) that may still be a single house with an ADU or, perhaps it was always meant to be separate flats that are now likely condominiums. 

Not to be confused with the larger and larger number of TICs you’re seeing out here in the Avenues too.   The next biggest and most pricey homes that aren’t re-done big houses close to Park Presidio on Funston or Fulton Street, are the larger, oversized, detached homes of Jordan Park that all sit on large parcels with bigger scale interiors and proportions. Many have been redone but some are still vintage and/or are sold as fixers only to be renovated to become $5 million plus homes. Most will have parking, curb presence and boxier architecture. Questions about property values center around the now-shuttered CPMC California Campus and its future. Let’s delve into specifics.  

The main shopping areas in the District: Geary Street, Clement Street, California Street

The People: Buyers will compete with families who have kids looking to locate in a location near to private and public schools; flipper/developers, multigenerational families, renters and income-property buyers.

1B, A, E

The Richmond – Inner, Central and Outer 

Thanks to its long history, relatively big parcels and rolling topography its homes are also varied too where it’s common that you have a Queen Anne Victorian, sandwiched in between some mid-century apartment building on one side next to a Spanish Mediterranean revival on the other. While inventory is usually the single-family house, many of those have been divided up into condominiums and, more recently, tenancy in commons. The Inner Richmond is the most densely concentrated part with more shops, restaurants and neighborhood-y types of amenities while the central and outer Richmond are more house-oriented. While many homes have been flipped and upgraded, many are still vintage or were last touched in the 1990s/2000s. We’re sure there’s demographic and economic shifts here between generations at play, but the point here is that we will still see fixers that have been owned by the same family for generations come to the market that are especially big. There are a few tree-lined alleys and streets that do make it feel more special, but for most of the Richmond the trees of Golden Gate Park will have to do as power lines and power poles outnumber the number of real trees in many parts. 


Sea Cliff 

Literal home to some of the most epic homes with the most epic ocean and bridge views there are, the homes within Sea Cliff can be quite grand. Home to celebrities in the past, old money and some new, the ‘gated’ community (there are stone markers when you center) has curvy streets where people may park their spare Toyotas, Benzes and BMWs. Most homes are nicely kept and on the bigger-than-normal side. There are, of course, homes where the size and quality is as big as the views. Most homes keep the ostentatious touches reserved for inside, touches like indoor basketball courts, sweeping view living rooms and massive windows and not to mention wine cellars too. Many of the bigger homes hew towards the Spanish-Mediterranean tradition as was the most popular style in the 1920s and 1930s. Per MLS data, a ‘typical’ Sea Cliff house will usually have at least 4 bedrooms, 3.5 baths and will have about 3,000-4,000 sqft of space on a 3,000 sqft parcel. Usually about 10-20 single-family homes sell each year. 

The People: Home to celebrities, old money, new money, financiers, and people with ‘homes around the world,’ the views and prestige draws people in. Public transit is not the primary concern when folks park their spare BMW or Tesla on the street. That said, you’re also likely to see Toyotas and Hondas parked here too.


A Stroll Through the Lake District, erm, Street District

A Lake Street listing will have a 50/50 chance of being a house or a condominium with about 25-40 of each selling every year.  If there are any income properties in the area, they tend to be 2-unit building (duplexes) with the occasional triplex or quadplex. Houses are still on the larger side with the median/average house having 4 beds, 3.5 baths with about 3,400 sqft of space set on larger parcels with about 3,000 sqft of space. Condominiums here tend of have 3 beds, 2 baths and 1,600 sqft of living area. People like the area because of its feel which is due, in large part, to its tree-lined streets, wider streets (although Lake Street is now a permanent slow street) and varied, yet rich architecture that is a mix for sure but a style that favors the Arts and Craft movement. Some homes have been spectacularly updated while others were updated in the 90s and 80s and dressed up for sale today (meaning they too could be upgraded). If you do any renovations, be cognizant of applicable permits, get the support of your neighbors and think about how best to use that lower space on garage levels. You’ll understand what we mean if you’re considering just a project, which will cost a lot because of the sheer size of many homes and the scope of work that many may need.  

The People: A diverse mix of younger to mid-level professionals and long-time residents, and retirees who are more ‘worldly,’ to tenants in those apartment houses.

Set in between Presidio Terrace to the north down to the south part of the USF campus are three distinct and relatively smaller enclaves of Jordan Park, Laurel Heights and Lone Mountain.


Jordan Park is known for its angular, grander scale houses set on three perfectly straight streets: Palm, Jordan and Commonwealth. About 10-12 single-family houses sell in Jordan Park each year. The homes that sell usually have 4 beds, 4 baths and 2,800-3,000 sqft of living area on larger, nearly 3,600 sqft-sized parcels. They are big. On the inside, you’re likely to see larger, grander living areas, formal dining rooms, entry foyers, big kitchens (more likely if a house has been remodeled) with a fireplace-centered living room. Bedrooms are upstairs clustered around a center staircase. The feel has that bigger brownstone/federalist row home or something you’d find on the west side of London in Kensington, Mayfair or even St. John’s Wood.  

The People: A diverse mix of professionals, physicians, students, families and long-time residents.


Laurel Heights is another USF-adjacent, curved topography, buried-powerline clutch of larger 1930s and 1940s houses and two-unit buildings that have a suburban feel. That’s probably thanks to the wider-frontage parcels and because the street scape is dominated by driveways and garage doors. The homes here are wide and big with varying details on the inside that may have been updated to something modern or something that has held up well over time. You will have the issues with homes dating from the 1930s and on but not the Victorian era issues (if you have any). Some homes may have views and the area has that feel that someone is always coming or going but in that suburban way if that makes sense. 


The actual Lone Mountain refers to the hill (mountain) where USF’s administration is located. That parcel, which was bought from a defunct college by USF in the 1970s for $5 million at the time, has some of the most unexpected views in the entire city and is among the most manicured gardens and grounds we’ve seen. But the only people living on the actual Lone Mountain would be USF people in dorms. But the area immediately adjacent to campus (where Turk Street is no longer a street but is now Turk Boulevard) has a few short blocks of largely Spanish-Mediterranean revival houses that can be quite charming, cute and alluring. To us, this is the one of the few neighborhoods that could as close to resembling a college town because you’ll see USF sports fields in the background. The other part of Lone Mountain bleed into the other surrounding areas, like the clutch of Victorians and 1920s-1940s stucco-clad houses closer to the Inner Richmond.  

The People: Your usual mix of folks but the area seems move low-key and understated in general.




District 2


The Sunset, Parkside, Golden Gate Heights

Cookie-Cutter, Stucco-clad Single-Family Houses, Edwardian Condos, Mid-Century Apartment Buildings, Good Schools, The Fog, Proximity to MUNI

District 2
The Sunset, et al. (Click to Enlarge)
  1. MLS-Dist-2-outline
  2. The Sunset

On the Sunset:

One of the biggest neighborhoods in the City in terms of geographic size, numbers of houses and population density the Sunset occupies a different place for different folks. It can be the land of recently-immigrated Chinese families (or generations thereof), the old-school original owners who moved in shortly after WWII, the younger family looking for a house in the city, the folks with SF State or UCSF student renter in the in-law unit behind the garage or the home to the surfer crowd. 

One of the most standardized parts of the city by the beach.

Specifically laid-out in a grid and largely developed right before and especially WWII, the area has seen rapid price growth since about 2012 for a number of reasons such as demographics (the aging of the Baby Boomer generation) and market forces (more folks looked here after being priced out of other parts of the City).  Now, it’s a given that folks looking for houses with yards, space and/or renovation potential, proximity to the beach or to the peninsula will look here. Doing so means overlooking the area’s notorious fog (although many folks like the fog) and accepting the trade-off of getting more value and space than you’d get in a Victorian condominium for the same amount of money in more central parts of the City (plus, no HOA dues). In the 80s and 90s, the area was also attractive to buyers because of the usual in-law space on the ground level that were previously workshops, knotty-pine rumpus rooms or just plain unfinished spaces suddenly represented a rental income opportunity for a SF State student or UCSF student for example. More recently, these spaces are viewed as potential areas for grandparents to stay or where a flipper can add a primary en suite bedroom or two. 

As we said earlier, demographics have had big role in shaping price appreciation in the district — which includes the Inner, Central and Outer Sunset and Parkside as well as Golden Gate Heights — as more and more folks who bought their homes and raised their children after the war continue to transition out of their homes, which has meant more opportunities for developers to flip houses, which have grown more expensive and lavish as more high-end flipper-developers have come to the neighborhood. 

Most homes that haven’t been upgraded (and for many that have) will have one of a handful mass-produced and largely uniform layouts, i.e., tunnel entry and center patio/terrace, so that nearly all the homes in District 2 will feature a garage on the ground floor with other common architectural elements like (unvented) stucco and/or cement board (with asbestos) exterior walls, terrazzo entry stairs, oak plank floors (strips or parquet) with some getting the gumwood trim upgrades. Some Rousseau-built, overly embellished style homes (clustered on certain blocks between Judah and Lawton and near 14th and 15th Avenues) will have vaulted ceilings in their living rooms. Most will have lath and plaster walls, which is great for wi-fi networks of course, unless it’s been renovated at which point you’ll get sheetrock. 

Most homes in the area will have wood-burning (decorative) fireplaces. Most will have two or three bedrooms on the upper level with a ceramic tile-clad bathroom with a tub and separate, unlit shower in any number of coral or peach colors. The public area consists of a living room, dining room and kitchen. Some homes will have a center terrace, others will have a large living room with very tall ceilings and others with have a more Victorian layout with a double-parlor living and dining area. While most parcels are 25 ft x 100 ft in San Francisco, many will be 25 x 120 here, unless you’re on a corner parcel that may be huge or tiny. 

Most will have outdated and inefficient gravity furnaces that look like a robot octopus that will have duct work that is wrapped or sealed with asbestos tape. Electrical service is usually no more than 70 or 100 amps and will likely feature main panel boxes from Federal Pacific, the long-discredited manufacturer whose products were recalled because of increased risk of fires due to overstated capacity ratings. 

Traditionally thought of as always being foggy that rep has started to change thanks to global climate change. Buyers who discovered the neighborhood’s foggy disposition is turning into a sunnier one have been buying here while you were busy looking in eastern half of the City and have driven up prices over the past few years by 50-100% in some cases. The area is flatter but once you pass Sunset Boulevard there’s a gentle slope towards Ocean Beach. And homes on numbered streets with addresses in the 1200-1500 range will see Golden Gate Park more. There are great schools and surprises throughout the neighborhood.   

Architecturally, one of (truer) stereotypes about the Sunset is that the houses look alike. Okay, they’re not exactly alike but you can see how that rep stuck. Most of the houses are right up against its neighbors. The rows and rows of houses will usually be stucco, have poured terrazzo stairs going up to the main living level with ground-floor garage with a room or some kind of space behind the space. Building materials are almost always stucco and wood with asbestos siding in the rear. Most parcels are 25 feet wide and 100 feet deep with 2 bedrooms, 1 pastel-colored bathroom, dining-living combo with kitchen all on one level. Wood floors are common as are older gravity-style furnaces and older electrical systems that may need some attention. Also, because it’s moist out here, you’re likely to have some kind of pest (termite, dry-rot, or beetle) issue. Many homes that haven’t been updated lately will be sold via probate or trust as fixers or cosmetic fixers. Homes that have been redone can range from the Home Depot fly-by-night fixer to some stunning architectural statements that are growing more common especially near the beach.  

The Outer Sunset/Parkside. Homes here are stacked up against each other and have become more popular (and expensive) as folks who are priced out of other parts of the City come here. The area has become nicer as climate change has increased the number of warm and sunny days here. Known for good schools, Ocean Beach and the N-Judah and L-Taraval MUNI lines, the area can be foggy and can be monotonous especially on treeless streets. Odd-numbered houses on numbered avenues have a chance for an ocean view and homes on numbered avenues up the 1900 block are worth more as they’re located closer to the MUNI lines and Golden Gate Park. The typical configuration is 2-3 bedrooms up with 1 bathroom, garage and additional space behind with homes in the Parkside part of the Outer Sunset being smaller and more budget friendly. Watch for pest reports (it’s more damp here), Federal Pacific electrical service boxes, old gravity heaters and single-pane windows, average living area: 1000-1500 sqft. Outsidelands, the big music festival weekend in August (now, maybe two weekends!), is the big booming event (literally) now that draws loads of folks to the area.

The People: Long-time residents/original owners, the surfer/hippie crowd, the younger family moving on up who may or may not have kids, the owners who want to do their houses up themselves, those interested in better schools, folks seeking condo alternatives or the beach vibe.

The Central Sunset. These homes run from 17th Avenue to Sunset Boulevard approximately. Many are the standard 2-bed, 1-bath variety but there are upgraded blocks with bigger footprints. Larger homes usually have 3+ bedrooms and 1+ bathrooms with more ornamentation and Mediterranean -French château Rousseau-builder embellishments (see parts of 25th, 33rd and 35th Avenues for example) or are of the Edwardian Arts + Crafts style (closer to the Park). The bigger houses will have 1500-2000+ sqft. There’s a fair chance these homes have been remodeled at one point (increasingly nicer quality). Summers are foggy but there’s a fair chance you’ll get about 30 minutes less fog a day than there would be at the beach. 

The People: (Fewer and fewer) original owners, mid-career professionals with kids, the professionals who work on the Peninsula, the multi-generational family, folks with the in-law renter who use the rent to off-set taxes or otherwise, renters of all types.   

The Inner Sunset 1 (Closer to UCSF and 5th Avenue). If you’re not looking at an income building or condo, you’re looking at big Arts & Craft houses along 3rd through 6th Avenues, cute houses or condos on Hugo Street, which all have seen big price gains in the past few years. There is a clutch of big houses up on 8th and 9th Avenues and into Golden Gate Heights and the Windsor Heights area that feel like a bit of Tahoe in SF. These homes can be big with character and period details, woodwork and a rich, big feel. While there have been ones that have been redone, they’re not the over-the-top/builder-boring whitewash of all the character that makes these houses so distinct.   

The Inner Sunset 2 (Closer to Lincoln and 19th Avenue). This is where you’ll see rows of Victorian/Edwardian houses across the street from some mid-century monstrosity that’s filled with renters who are young professionals with roommates, UCSF students (UCSF being one of the best medical and nursing schools); physicians and scientists doing fellowship or research work). There’s always people walking around and parking can be tough. There’s a big Asian influence in the area as well. Activity and local businesses are focused around 19th Avenue, 9th Avenue and Irving and Judah Streets. Major thoroughfares are Lincoln, 7th Avenue, 9th Avenue, Irving and Judah. 

Golden Gate Heights. The streets here are curvy and perched above the Sunset and Parkside. You can see some of the cliffs extending from Sutro Mountain as you curve up and up. While homes next to Forest Knolls may not have good views, homes on the odd side of 12th and Funston can have jaw-dropping and sweeping views from the Zoo, across the entire coast, to Point Reyes. Sunsets can be epic here but so can the fog and winds especially if there’s a storm. The fog can last for 2 weeks straight during the height of the summer and be as thick as you can imagine. Homes here are typically in the junior 5 configuration with some homes having been enlarged and updated. Lots can be deep, irregularly shaped and feature large grade and slope changes. Features are mid-century and the mix of people who live here range from natives, longer-term families, newer families, tech people, contractors, and almost every profession you can think of. The mix of long-time residents and new ones (maybe, with new money) is part of what living in a city is like as is the blending and co-existence of cultural influences and differences. There are plenty of people who live in the West with stories, experiences and perspectives that vary greatly. These distinctions will show up in how homes are finished, remodeled or configured as different buyer segments will value more rooms while others want more quality, finishes or specific aesthetic. The great thing is that District 2 is large enough for all of that.   

Notes on Houses Out West

Parcel Size and House Size Chart


Homes on numbered streets are more regarded than the named ones as they’re not as much of thoroughfares than the named ones. Odd-numbered addresses on numbered streets will have ocean views from the back.

Homes closer to the N- and L-MUNI lines will be valued more unless you’re too close to the rails. Remember bus service takes the place of the trains from 12–5 am.  

Four enclaves — the Outer Sunset in the Judah and Irving area; view homes in the Golden Gate Heights area, and the Inner Sunset nearer to UCSF and the park; and the Inner Parkside, with its proximity to West Portal, have all especially gained in value and desirability over the past few years. 

Buyer profiles will range somewhat but generally we encounter the following types of buyers: Couples looking to start a family; Families with 1 or 2 small children; Multi-generational families; Parents buying for adult kids who are starting school or starting a family. And, to a lesser extent, investors looking to flip properties, and far less common, investors looking to have a property they can lease out.  

A vacant vs. staged home (a vacant one is more likely to be a trust/probate sale with a 50% chance it’s a fixer and 20% chance there will be court confirmation of the sale required).Probate sales from trusts that are usually moderate to major fixers (developers may get priced out of these homes unless they add space and really upgrade finishes) 

The average pest report runs $10,000-$20,000 worth of work (usually dry rot, wood beetles and/or termite damage). Other common issues requiring attention are inefficient gravity furnaces (with asbestos), use of electrical panels that have been otherwise recalled, single-pane windows, weathering (thanks to the sea climate), and those endless pastel bathrooms.  

Most homes will have very low (unrealistic) list prices. Nearly 85-90 percent of Sunset homes sell over list price compared to a citywide average of 69 percent. Up until the summer of 2022, you’d see two weekends of busy open houses followed by an offer date (if a property hadn’t received pre-emptive offer). The lower the list price, the greater the frenzy. Homes listed by certain agents will usually be listed at $1,099,000 or $1,195,000 regardless of property condition (these will sell over list price but by how much will vary on timing, location, ocean views, yard, amount of work that needs to be done, etc), but with the latest market cycle cresting in June 2022, we should see a little more time added and homes selling for a little bit less — that is until a new equilibrium is reached and the prices go up from there (again). 

What’s this about a warrant? A lot of times, downstairs spaces in these homes is going to be ‘unwarranted.’ We talk about this elsewhere in this Guide but suffice it to say, in most cases these down stairs spaces (finished or not) should have at least 8 feet of ceiling height, making them viable spaces to legalize and incorporate into a home update. While a space may be ‘unwarranted’ and not counted in a listing’s square footage tally, most appraisers are accustomed to counting these types of spaces in their square footage totals as this is a common phenomenon out here. 

Hidden Gems? Apart from a dilapidated fixer that gets bought off-market with an enormous footprint, there are gems hidden in plain sight out here, especially homes that were remodeled in the 1980s and 1990s with finishes that were nice then, but look dated now. The value these homes have is that most folks lack the vision, knowhow, and patience to do a cosmetic remodel, when they’d otherwise have the resources to add loads of value to a home. 

Out Back, Not the Box. It can be difficult to spot updated and renovated homes here because the luxe ones aren’t going to have the Noe Valley or North-side “box” approach as expansion is usually done by filling in underutilized spaces or by adding living area via rear addition.

Homes that have been flipped have been improving in quality and finish level and will fall into one of three general types: 

(1) of cheap, contractor-grade quality with at least 4 or 5 bedrooms and garish LED chandeliers and electric fireplaces — a lack of taste at minimum but taste choices also can lead to questions about what corners were cut with prices pushing towards or past the $2M mark only just; 

(2) homes done by owners for themselves or by well-versed developers that have a much more practical feel that are usually better quality with better finishes, materials and appliances. Recent prices vary from the $1.8M+ mark to the high $2M range; and, 

(3) stunning renovations that are really exceptional that will command high prices pushing well into the $2.6M+ range if not $3M+.  




District 3


Merced Heights, Ingleside Terrace & Heights, Stonestown, Pine Lake Park, Lakeside, Lakeshore, Oceanview

Dominated by SF State, Stonestown Galleria, Lake Merced, 19th Avenue and 280, housing is almost an afterthought but what housing exists is either more utilitarian or suburban but definitely more affordable

District 3
Ingleside, Pine Lake Park, Merced Heights, Ingleside Terrace, Balboa Terrace
  1. MLS District 3
  2. Highlighted neighborhoods
The Trending South

College Students, Golfers, Fog, Cars and Surprise are the Hallmarks of San Francisco’s Southwest neighborhoods that is anchored by Lake Merced, the Stonestown Mall and SF State University, Redevelopment

In 2016 when we first created this survey we noted that the entirety of the area between Ocean Avenue and 280 was on the up and up. Indeed, prices did (and have) increased markedly and remain strong. The cycle of bars coming off windows, fewer cars being parked out front per household, and homes with sharp, sans serif fonts started appearing. The first versions of these homes were done by flippers with, shall we say, a different aesthetic — contractor chic? There was little judgment used, taste did not comport with what we would do if we were in charge, the sale aisle at Home Depot was the chief vendor (and don’t even get us started on inappropriate light temperatures). The homes that were the first to be flipped were often those that were renovated by long-time owners’ cousins or by ‘some guys’ they or some agent knew on a shoe-string budget because the margins aren’t clearly there yet. The resulting quality looked new and smelled… new? Or was that mildew that wasn’t properly addressed? (Stucco houses you know). 

But as history went on and this cycle went on the renovations became better, more elaborate and of better quality. More people started buying fixers and started doing renovations for themselves and developers were willing to spend more money. Overall quality has improved, and more homes were starting to get the full makeover that you may have even seen on HGTV, for example. But when 2022’s chill came to the housing market in San Francisco this area has seen price growth slow somewhat as rates have increased. This makes sense as this would be an area where more people are likely to purchase using a mortgage as these are single-family home alternatives to condominiums in the middle, northern and eastern parts of San Francisco. Why buy a condo with dues, HOAs and neighbors when you can have a house for the same price or less?  There is still a lot of opportunity here. The good thing is though that this area is still relatively affordable and there are still hidden gems, blocks of the unexpected, views that are still as engaging and enchanting as any other. What’s especially rewarding in purchasing in this area is that there can be a greater emphasis on pride of ownership. This translates into people taking pride in the DIY project they did that turned out super well. Or this means that a connection and relatability between buyers and sellers may be a stronger determinative factor here than in other parts of San Francisco where people have literally been there and done that. 


Lakeside. This is a tiny sliver of homes and businesses in between Junipero Serra and 19th Avenue. The two major draws here are the nice public library and the 1950s-era feel collection of businesses off of Ocean Avenue. Homes here, when they do come to market, tend to be older dating from the 1930s-1950s with most being generally well-maintained over time. Houses here are sandwiched in between white picket fences, window shutters and rose gardens behind double-pane glass if you’re lucky given all the traffic in the area. You won’t necessarily get mind-blowing renovations that sparkle, but you may encounter cute, Instagram-worthy vignettes. Yard sizes vary thanks to the MUNI tracks’ path and concerns focus on traffic noise from 19th Avenue and from Junipero Serra. And despite its name, it is not beside a lake.

3A and 3F

Lake Shore and Merced Manor. There’s something about this part of San Francisco and a sense of scale. It seems wider and bigger around here. Whether it’s the view across Lake Merced to the golf course that, if you catch it at the right time on a sunny day, looks like a magical seen from middle Earth with wind-swept cypress trees and the arching setting sun rays over the cliffs that drop down to the lake below. Or it could be the fact that the streets are bigger and wider (Sloat for example seems like a raceway you’d find in Florida or SoCal) or the houses are both detached and bigger with 3-4 bedrooms and at least 2 levels, well at least in Lake Shore and Merced Manor they are. These homes are boxier, stucco and the streets are wider and flatter (they get bigger the closer you get to 19th Avenue and Lowell). Some have been remodeled, some have been flipped, but many are vintage. This is a neighborhood of necessity and it’s rare to see a lot of community among neighbors as everyone seems to be on their way to work on the Peninsula, studying so they can get into nearby Lowell High School or have family elsewhere. Nevertheless, the detached homes, quiet setting and proximity to Stonestown are still attractive to larger families.  


Ingleside rises up from Ocean Avenue up until you hit the relative peak of the neighborhood at Lakeview. As you go higher up the grade so does market value as the view can get pretty dramatic pretty quickly, especially of the backside of Mt Davidson in District 4.  At the base of the neighborhood Ocean Avenue is the main thoroughfare. It is a busy street with cars, MUNI street cars and a lot of foot traffic made up of area kids and families, City College and SF State Students, along with commuters going to and from 280. Because the streets are broad and are on inclines, fast driving is to be expected but it is fraught given street traffic and blind driveways.

Inventory ranges from Victorian, Edwardian and Marina/Sunset-style tunnel entry houses. Many skew toward the vintage 1940s-1960s, Glen Miller Band feel with long-time owners who may have multiple generations under one roof. Many more will have ADUs or in-law units of varying levels of legality (large captive rental pool with SF State and City College being so near). Flips still tend to be on the many-room/contractor-grade attempts at good home design feel finishes. If we’re lucky we’ll get a cheesy LED/Karaoke-bar visual effects plug-in fireplace with a space heater attached or, if they wanted to spend more money, they will have the Thermador buy-2-get-1 free package with a Thermador range, refrigerator and either the hood or the dishwasher — maybe both. If the contractors/developers did their job right we hopefully get eggshell/low luster sheen painted walls, otherwise many choose flat paint sheens which means you’ll have to repaint at one point because that finish scuffs at the mere suggestion of brushing up against a wall. Otherwise, homes that have been maintained will have that high-gloss oak cabinet feel with larger format, shinier tile. You may come across a fixer too. Be alert for any homes with renters in them. 

3G and 3J

The backside of Merced Heights' hill that peaks at Shields/Lakeshore are Ingleside Heights and Oceanview. The slope here speeds down to 280’s valley, but before you get there, you run into the unexpected neighborhood drag of Broad Street where there’s a library and a nearby rec center. 19th Avenue comes off the freeway here near 280 and Brotherhood, so traffic and road noise should be expected. The houses are utilitarian and functional and are mainly Sunset-style, junior 5, tunnel-entry houses with in-law units rented out to students or immigrant families for example. Streets are narrower here with lots of cars, parked on the street with bars over the windows and entrances, although that’s starting to change. Given the proximity to BART rails, MUNI tracks and 280 there’s a functional vibe already built in here but it’s not the homiest type of place. 

Pine Lake Park, adjacent to Stern Grove, is known for its Parkside-like homes (District 2) with higher prices because of enlarged footprints and layouts. Be prepared to bid strongly if you want extra rooms for the kids and a yard but also be prepared to focus on those priorities as there’s not a whole lot to do once you get home around here without a car. And despite global climate changes there’s still a fair amount of fog that comes and visits you.


Stonestown. When I was a kid and visited my grandpa and great aunts who lived nearby, Stonestown was then known as the Stonestown Galleria. It was a quiet, marble-clad, skylight-centric type of temple to shopping. Where the stores would be shoppes that would have that boutique feel. There was a Brentanos book store (remember those?) and a Sweet Factory with scoops for candies that were weighed — confectionaries so fine they had to be weighed to be priced.   

How far the shopping center has come.  

It went from a higher end feel to being the bustling mall in the 2000s with bustling shoppers going to the Gap, Banana Republic, Macy’s and Nordstrom. There was a Borders for the students at San Francisco State and the high schoolers who were stressing out about college. It was busy here and full of people. 

Fast forward through brick and mortar’s decline and the Pandemic’s punishing lockdown where there almost was no one in the entire mall that it was downright eerie, and you had a mall that was teetering save the food court and Apple Store. 

Stonestown in its latest iteration is now (as of 2024) a different kind of retail destination flanked by the chain stores we see so few of in San Francisco. An immense Target has taken over the Nordstrom and the Borders location. A subterranean Trader Joe’s that continues to do brisk business shares this portion of the chaotic parking lot jammed full of Teslas, Priuses and people. The other half of the mall has a new theater, Shake Shack ands Whole Foods in place of the long-gone Macy’s. 

Stonestown will always have a captive audience and foot traffic from the thousands of SF State students and area high schoolers from nearby Lowell (the best-rated public high school in San Francisco as of this writing) but also draws kids from St Ignacious and the countless families who live all over San Francisco looking to get their Trader Joe’s Os or Two Buck Chuck. 

Having a shopping and retail center that caters to daily essentials rather than conspicuous consumption is a major draw for the immediate surrounding neighborhoods and for the western and middle parts of San Francisco in general. If it weren’t for the fog you could mistake the area for somewhere in Southern California as this is the most suburban part of San Francisco that is within San Francisco proper. 

Most of the housing near Stonestown is usually filled with SFSU students. The largest mid- and tall-rise apartment buildings — Park Merced — are rental units that are undergoing a major 20-30 year renewal plan with thousands of new rental units planned over the next 10-20 years.  

The one exception to the lack of non-rental, for-sale housing comes with a collection of 182 towhomes at 800 Summit. 

This is the 2014-era group of townhomes off of Brotherhood Way on the way to Lake Merced (where you pass by Bingo night at the Armenian church) if you took that last exit before 280 starts. Marketed as 800 Summit these townhomes were built on previously vacant land. Complete with a sales center, model homes and design center finishes, the homes are larger and more modern of course. It’s somewhat remote location in the southwestern part of San Francisco but also has proximity to I-280 and Silicon Valley. Each of the 180+ homes on the 7.7-acre sized development came with garage parking. As of this writing in 2024, the homes and the HOA were all sorting out construction defect claims alleged against the developers. We explain the workings of California’s SB 800 10-year warranty period for totally new construction developments elsewhere in our materials, but the issues found here are (of course) related to water intrusion between the zero-lot line homes and improper waterproofing (or lack thereof). 

Issues stemming from water, waterproofing and leaking are the most common ones facing mass-produced, modern housing developments. The proceedings usually trigger litigation that goes to arbitration. The fixes themselves will take years to figure out as there will be options, blame, and liability assignment. Only a handful of lenders will lend on development with defect claims (and even fewer if suit has been brought). Defects will chill sales and lower values until claims are dismissed which is usually by settlement. Once there’s a resolution to those claims (and, especially once the fixes take place), you’ll see a spike in sales and prices should recover within a couple of years as the normal turnover rate returns to normal. 

District 3 Homes: Cut from similar cloth as the Sunset and SF

Because many parts of this part of San Francisco developed after parts closer to the Bay you will have relatively fewer Victorians here (there will more on the slopes off of Ocean Avenue). Most stock in the area was built after 1930. Homes here are more in the Edwardian/Sunset/Marina style home with stucco, terrazzo stairs and old growth framing (these were among the last types of homes in San Francisco that could use such lumber). You will see a hodgepodge of façades here — from the (ghastly) flag stone coat, to fun and funky colors (something has to stand out against fog’s gray), to the elegant Spanish-style ones with pastels and beachy neutrals. While a good number of homes have been updated to modern modern standards, many homes tout the ho-hum façade that looks like it needs to be power washed and painted. Yes, District 3 homes are of a similar vintage to those in District 2 in heritage and design and because topography brings the ocean influence all along this side of Twin Peaks, homes in this swath of San Francisco share many of the same issues (and fixes) that you’ll find closer to the beach. This is why you may be feeling a bit of deja vu here. 

Typical D3 Updating Costs 

  • Old skylights (replace with new Veluxe auto open/close ones ($2,500) when you get a new roof ($15-20K)
  • Federal Pacific-branded main power service panels (recalled/faulty manufacturing, risk of fire)
  • Gravity (inefficient) furnaces ($7-9K replace)
  • Lack of externally vented cooking ($3K-$5K)
  • Older roof/replacement ($10K-$20K replace)
  • Single-pane windows ($10K-$20K replace; historic)
  • Pests: dry-rot, termites, wood post beetles ($10K-$12K)
  • Poor moisture barrier/controls — mold (varies)   
  • Faulty-grade foundation/spalling (varies)
  • Terrazzo stair leaks, cracked, compromised ($5K-$15K)
  • Sewer lateral pipe connections (clay pipes that have shifted) ($7K-$15K)
  • Galvanized water supply pipes (vs copper)($5K-$10K)
  • Insufficient electrical service for EV/etc (less than 100 amps, 200 amps)($10K-$50K, more if underground)





District 4 

Balboa Terrace, Diamond Heights, Forest Hill+ Knolls + Extension, Ingleside, Midtown Terrace, St. Francis Wood, Miraloma Park, Sherwood Forest, Monterey Heights, Mount Davidson Manor, Westwood Highlands + Park, Sunnyside, West Portal

Varied Cookie-Cutter, Custom, Curvy Roads, Stucco-clad Single-Family Houses, Mid-Century Houses, Good Schools, Gates, Sutro Tower, Mid-Century Condos, Forests, Eucalyptus Trees, City College, Proximity to 280, Portola, Market Street

District 4
The MIddle, et al. (Click to Enlarge)
  1. MLS-Dist-4-outline
  2. The Middle of SF District 4
The Middle

Located in the middle of the City, these areas surround Sutro Tower and the backside of Twin Peaks, which means you’ll have hilly and curvy streets that can be narrow in parts.

This is one of the more challenging areas for us to write about because it’s geographically large with varying topography, home styles, sizes. The variation in conditions – from fixers to mediocre flipped houses to, more and more, exquisitely redone homes is wide. The buyers here tend to be less varied than the houses and in other parts of the city because this is a more residential vibe type of place that has fewer ‘main street/high street’ destination blocks where you have collections of shops, restaurants and other amenities you’d expect. The area is instead serviced by Amazon deliveries or trips to Stonestown or Costco (you’re likely to have enough room in your garage for your extra Costco refrigerator too).

From the basic junior 5 to sprawling near-mansions, the district has most of the single-family style homes you’d expect in San Francisco except for Victorians.

This area is popular with families and long-term residents who first bought their homes in the 1950s and 1960s. Depending on where a property sits you'll need to Watch out for drainage issues and/or land movement issues (however rare). Of course, because of the area's hilly topography, it usually acts as a buffer for the coastal fog we’re apt to get creating a fog shadow that happens to corresponds with the warmer climes of Noe Valley, the Mission and more. Remember that the coastal fog forms when cool moist air from the ocean is drawn in by the heated land mass from the East Bay, which means that the fog is chilly and wind-driven at times!

Depending on where, these neighborhoods were among the last developed in the City because they were more removed from the flatter parts of the land and probably because some hillsides are so steep. Take note: all those trees you see up by Sutro Tower are not natural to the area. Originally, the area was covered by coastal scrub and grasses like you’d see on Mount Davidson. It was Adolf Sutro, of the tower’s namesake and former mayor, who owned 1/10th of San Francisco at the time, who planted the eucalyptus, cypress and pine trees that we see today. Homes here range from having views to none at all. You may have a garage (which depends if you’re on the uphill or downhill side of a street) or you may park on the street — just remember to curb your wheels. Things to be aware of in the area: foundations, water drainage systems, roof conditions and other potential issues arising from the area’s potential dampness and/or forest-like feel. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the public school admission process which isn’t tied to where you live necessarily. You’re like to see kids and families, sport utilities alongside the shut-in who hasn’t kept their house up in years.

The flatter areas off of Portola (Market Street’s name once you go over the hill) like West Portal and St. Francis Wood have larger homes and are in demand because they’re bigger and pricier as a result. Meanwhile, the area’s proximity to I-280 makes it attractive for tech folks and the area’s elementary schools are also sought after as they rank among the best in the City.

West Portal. Described by many as the ‘new’ Noe Valley, no one neighborhood drag is more dominated by the MUNI light rail than West Portal (the 9th and Irving one comes close). West Portal itself is a mix of 1950’s-vibe local and national businesses and angled parking spaces. You’ll encounter restaurants, services and one-off stores like a gold store next to a title company next to the Korean BBQ across the street from the Mexican place that has not an ounce of dust anywhere. It’s one of the rare neighborhoods where you’ll see families of kids and parents out and about ala Norman Rockefeller — i.e., Americana but updated for the 21st Century. The houses here are on windy, curvy streets that bound up to the Inner Parkside, which looks a lot like the Sunset. There’s a mix of big houses of varying styles (stucco-clad tudor/Spanish colonial anyone?). You’ll have clutches of cute, redone houses next to each other, a number of long-time (and neglected) houses ripe for a renovation and detached homes sitting on very large parcels. The vibe is a mix of long-time folks, others like students who are en route to SF State on the M-MUNI line as well as an occasional, very-lost-looking tourist. Proximity to Portola, 280 and MUNI make it popular as to do good schools. Single-family houses will range from the mid $1Ms all the way up towards $2M and beyond.  

Westwood AreaWestwood Park, Westwood Highlands, Sherwood Forest. Bounded by an increasingly posh Ocean Avenue to the south (a Whole Foods went in there and City College kept its accreditation) and Monterey to the north (Westwood Park) and northwards towards Mt. Davidson is this collection of bigger and bigger houses on increasingly curvy and narrow streets. The houses here were built in the 1920s-1950s and were of the larger kind of homes that incorporated stucco exteriors, parquet wood floors with big bedrooms, driveways and garages. It seems that this neighborhood represents a bit of Americana in San Francisco. The streets all have ‘wood’ in their names and the lots can either be quite large or have contorted shrunken yards that favor houses with more embellishments than in other parts of the city. Interior spaces have wood details, craft details and the kitch/cute vibe (perhaps ala Southern California?) If you venture here you’re bound to see scores of porta-potties and construction crews who are renovating these houses as the first generation of owners (maybe even the second ones too) are selling out of these homes leaving it to the latest generation of owners to renovate and update. Therefore, you’re likely to see pricing fall into surprisingly low to shockingly high. Why? Well, first you’ll find more owner-users in this area who are willing to pay more money to buy a place to renovate because it’s more than likely that the plan is to buy, remodel and hold houses here for the long haul to raise a family. In other words, a house on the market here may not come back to the market again for 18 years so gather them up while ’ye may. There seems to be a more obvious pride of ownership here than in many other neighborhoods but that may be due to the fact that many homes sit on larger parcels and are detached from each other. Homes here tend to have 3-4 bedrooms with 2-3 bathrooms and the possibility of more than 1 parking space routinely. But the area is more removed which necessitates a greater need for a car.

Midtown Terrace. You live here for space, your kids (more space & good schools) and practicality. This gets you over the feelings of isolation, fog and existential anxiety. Otherwise the houses are zero lot line, late art deco into mid-century style with some renovated, others not. And while the homes that have been redone can be very nice (a larger-than-normal footprint helps) with spectacular views, the homes that haven’t may well suffer from the area's dampness, moisture-related structural issues and potentially questionable building materials (like asbestos) due to the vintage of the area. One other potential consideration to be aware of is that some of the homes are on stilts and are located on curvy streets that are otherwise steep bluffs, so you are well-advised to investigate a structure’s foundation and soil conditions as some parcels do have land subsidence risks that are typically excluded from most homeowner insurance policies.

Forest Knolls, Hill + Extension, Mount Davidson. These neighborhoods snake in the areas between Gate Heights, Portola and Glen Canyon on the backside of Twin Peaks as bounded by steeper valleys. It’s here where you’ll see a great deal of variation. Yes, you’ll have the traditional sunset-style 2-bed, 1-bath home-over-garage, but you’ll also see big, sweeping houses straight off the side of a landscape lighting box. Depending on where you’re at you can get sweeping views, nice sun-soaked yards (on a sunny day) with a variation in lot sizes and shapes (because of the hilly and curvy topography). Architecturally, you’ll see a mix of grand, grand Spanish-stucco style houses, Mid-Century style houses and everything in between. There’s a fair chance you’ll encounter some fixers in the area too.     

St. Francis Wood. If this neighborhood had better weather (i.e., less fog), this would rival Pacific Heights and Presidio Heights in value and luxury. But given demographic shifts towards the Southwest (proximity to 280 and 101) and a revival of Ocean Avenue and popularity of nearby West Portal, the area has awoken from its slumber. As it is, the ‘gated’ neighborhood is the closest you’ll get to a Pasadena or San Marino in San Francisco — it even has key-access parks and a large fountain or two and the area contains single-family homes only. The homes are large, grander and detached and named after California cities with a “Saint,” “San,” or “Santa.” Homes will have detached garages, driveways and manicured lawns and canopy trees that all exude a non-San Francisco feel (the neighborhood should be nice because each owner must pay a decent amount in annual neighborhood dues of at least $1,000/year). You’ll encounter many, many styles of houses here — anything that looks expensive or was ever perceived as such in the 1940s and 1950s. This explains why you’ll see Tudor-style houses mixed in stucco haciendas and Cape Cods — whatever people thought represented wealth over different eras and areas can be found here in some form or another. Some homes have been renovated while many others are awaiting modern updates after being owned by the same family for 30 or 40 years — many families can’t sell either because the capital gains obligations can be crushing. This is also why you’ll such variation in prices per square foot. There’s also an HOA that collects the dues and hires the landscapers as well as enforces building guidelines, which may explain why you’ll never see a glass and steel modern house in the area. Thus, expect to see porta-potties and contractor trucks among the benzes and that leaf blower crew.

Diamond Heights. Welcome to the Future (As Envisioned in the 1950s) If you think you’re in a mid-century redwood village when you’re in this neighborhood, then you’re not too far off the mark. Conjured up in the 1950s and 1960s by the folks who brought us those great Eichler homes, the entire area was the first big project the San Francisco Planning and Urban Renewal Association directed (the predecessor to SPUR).

The thought here was to use modern building techniques to fit much-needed housing into the hilly topography of the area instead of simply bulldozing the area as they did in other parts of California. That and the reality is that there’s a lot of bedrock in the area that would be difficult and expensive to move.

The Result of Midcentury Urban Planning

Diamond Heights represents a very deliberate planned neighborhood with subtle and angular architecture among the trees with far fewer architectural embellishments or adornments than the rest of the City. From the large condo developments (usually studios or 1-bedrooms) on Red Rock Way, to the smattering of big single-family homes overlooking Glen Canyon or Noe Valley. Most places here will have parking, which can be seen by the prominence of garages in the area. You may notice that many homes and condos will have ceiling joists as a pronounced interior design element with carpet under your feet. You’ll also likely find big-pane glass wall windows with sweeping views with sliding glass patio doors to access a patio of some kind. Along with those features you’ll see low-slung stone fireplaces, electric stoves, carpet and faux wood panels. The neighborhood is both central and removed at the same time. Its relatively central location is counteracted by its higher elevation and lack of light trail tracks and bikable access. No other businesses apart from those in a Safeway-anchored strip mall exist here which may explain the emphasis placed on driving and parking or the prevalence of buses. Prices vary depending on view, upgrades and size with the very affordable to the surprisingly strong for finished single-family homes situated on streets named after minerals and other precious stones.

Miraloma Park. This heavily-residential neighborhood branches off of Portola and runs down along curvy lanes of densely packed homes with front-facing garages. The homes will have wood floors, various architectural details with single-pane windows and older systems. A lot of these homes are stucco-clad, 2-bed, 1-bath homes in the marina-, Spanish- and art-deco style with more and more being remodeled with a tell-tale darker, sleeker facade.   

Sunnyside. Immediately outside of St. Francis Wood and the Westwood Park sits a neighborhood with a mix of marina-, craft- and art-deco style homes that were built anywhere from the 1920s and 1940s with the errant Victorian here and there. The area is undergoing a similar demographic turnover that Glen Park and Bernal Heights are going through. You’ll see some blocks that are further along than others in having homes updated. The most common configuration here is the 2-3 bedroom with 1-2 baths, garage with about 1200-1400 sqft. And as other areas rose in value many folks took another look at the relatively ‘cute’ and sleepy neighborhood and liked what they saw. The area seems like an extension of Glen Park as it too is on the southern slope of Twin Peaks going down to I-280. The neighborhood’s schools are good which also draws families as does the Sunnyside playground. Access to 280, 101 and to the Glen Park BART station, along with more room are also draws for would-be buyers. One thing that differentiates houses is whether or not freeway noise can be heard.

Ingleside Terraces. Did you know there was a big speedway loop that dominated this neighborhood way back when? Well it’s true. This neighborhood is just south of a revitalizing Ocean Avenue. The streets here are winding and curvy anchored by detached, stylized, unique houses that are a mix of craftsman and Mediterranean styles that feels a lot like the OC than SF save the fog. But manicured lawns with cypresses, driveways and pastel-colored homes that are much larger than other parts of the City. The neighborhood was socked in with fog a lot of times but with climate change and the City’s housing crunch the neighborhood is now getting more attention and you’re seeing bigger and bolder fixers and flips dotting the market.

The same vibe of little big houses on curvy streets can be found across Ocean Avenue and south of St. Francis Wood in Balboa Park.




District 5 

Noe Valley, Eureka Valley, The Haight, Duboce Triangle, Clarendon Heights, Mission Dolores, Buena Vista, Corona Heights, Cole Valley, Ashbury Heights (the Castro), Glen Park

Big Victorians, Victorian-facade Modern Mansions, Hills, Tech Shuttles, Stucco-clad Single-Family Houses, Edwardian and Victorian condos, Multi-Unit Victorians, Romeo and Juliet Flats, Large Victorians, New Condo Developments, Proximity to BART, MUNI, 101 and 280, Duboce and Dolores Parks

District 5
The Mission, Noe Valley & More (Click to Enlarge)
  1. MLS-Dist-5-outline
  2. The True Heart of San Francisco
The Middle

District 5 is the second most-traded district in the City. It’s popular and the hot bed of where the techies, gay and lesbian population — among many other different groups — live.  

District 5 encompasses Noe, Eureka and Cole Valleys, the Haight and Lower Haight, Mission Dolores, Dolores Heights, Corona Heights, Buena Vista and Ashbury Heights and more. The area’s proximity to BART lines, 101/280, MUNI lines, views, parks and its warmer weather plus a mix of demographics, topographical and architectural assets combine to make this area very attractive to buyers, renters and tourists.

Cole Valley. This small tree-lined, cute and curvy corridor along the N-Judah MUNI line is comprised of lots of 2- or 3-unit buildings, single-family houses and some very large homes (3000+ sqft) that have been divided up into apartments, condos, TIC units or preserved as enormous houses that, if restored, can be quite expensive. Focused on Carl and Cole Streets the area is wedged between the Haight and UCSF’s main Parnassus campus so you’ll get a younger vibe and more renters as the area has a good number of apartment buildings. Area architecture ranges from Victorian, Edwardian, California craft with some smatters of mid-century brutalism thrown in for good measure. The area is the last enclave of central San Francisco before you hit the Sunset district. There’s a fair chance you’ll get parking (tandem) but the lack of parking may be especially pernicious because one unit may have parking while the other doesn’t. There’s less new construction. You’ll have 45 minutes less fog than the Inner Sunset. If you want character and charm, this area is for you.

Ashbury Heights Perched above Cole Valley to the west of the Castro is a clutch of larger, charming homes that are a mix of Victorian and Craftsman style with a little Art Deco thrown in. Single family homes are cute and some have been enlarged. Instead of full-flat condos you’ll find multi-unit buildings. The area can feel a little removed as it’s up a hill.  is quiet. Last to get the fog for areas west of Twin Peaks.

Duboce Triangle Centered around Duboce Park with its large dog park. This was a formerly a rough area in the 1970s that is now a much-coveted one. Charming period Victorian flats (2 or 3 to a building), mix of those elements and craft details.  There are three quiet streets: Pierce, Potomac and Carmelita that have the lure of single-family homes on cul-de-sacs. There are some large and spectacular specimens on Waller and Scott Streets too. People can hop on the N MUNI line here, get onto 101 easily or bike to mid-Market too. There are lots of bikes wiggling along the wiggle and there are trees, multiunit buildings and hidden driveways.

Buena Vista. Centered on Buena Vista Park’s large oval shape, this area is made up of 2-3 unit buildings, a very large complex called Park Hill, and, towards Buena Vista West you will see very large detached large houses, some have been split up, while others not, some with stupendous views and others with spectacular renovations.

Corona Heights. The lower parts of Corona Heights will feature multi-unit buildings but the further you go up towards Corona Heights Park the more likely you’ll encounter more houses than condos. The houses are smaller than those in Buena Vista but will have more variety. They sit on curvy, steep and narrow roads with trees. Condos tend to be mid-century if they exist. Views are likely. Be prepared for stairs and narrow floors.

The Castro (aka Eureka Valley) Traditionally an Irish neighborhood, the gays moved here in large numbers starting in the 1970s & 1980s turning the leafy neighborhood into the gayborhood. Many of the quiet wood-floored Victorians have been turned into ones worthy of catalogs; throw in some nightlife and a constant stream of new transplants all lend to create one of the most vibrant neighborhoods in the City. Architecturally, there’s a good amount of variation: from carved-up Victorians that were turned into full-floor condos with some being upgraded while others still have that split-bathroom, double-parlor, oak-floor vintage feel. Chances are that you may get parking but it may be a small and tight space, have a steep driveway or is actually a leased spot elsewhere. An increasing number of houses have been restored, preserved and stunningly remodeled if not enlarged. You will find a fixer every now and when there’s one around people will fall over themselves to get it. There are also a large number of rental units that have had long-term tenants which can implicate a lot of drama if folks want to displace them. The epicenter of the neighborhood is 18th Street and Castro and/or Market and Castro Street with countless rainbow flags, bars, restaurants and the Castro Theater. It’s always a show here.

Mission Dolores This is hipster central that’s focused on the newly redone Dolores Park and palm-tree-lined Dolores Street. Sunny and warm you’ll find many a coffee shop, bike shop and hot restaurants. Prices are high. You’ll get a mix of big full-floor condos, TICs that may convert and a few single-family homes will likely cost a hefty sum even for fixers. Some new larger developments were built near Market Street that sold just a couple of years ago that are now seeing first resales for very hefty returns. The other main drags are bike-centric Valencia Street between 15th and 20th Streets, 18th St from Church to Dolores, and you’ll see lines of people waiting to get their Tartine baked goods or Bi-Rite ice cream or at Delfina and many more taco places as the area’s Hispanic heritage shines through despite gentrification pushes. You’ll see lots of tech shuttles, fixed-gear bikes, BMWs, and Vespas and charming Victorians in the middle of the Spanish Mediterranean buildings.


The Inner Mission Like Noe Valley is also focused on 24th Street, the traditionally Hispanic neighborhood has been ground central for the latest gentrification fights. What’s happening? Rental properties are being turned into TICs or razed to make way for larger market-rate condominiums for techie and professionals alike. At the same time more bike lanes are coming as are tech shuttles and protests. Inventory wise you’ll have old facade homes (split between condos/TICs and single-family homes) that have been really remodeled (quartz countertops, engineered woods, large format tile baths) that are sold as TICs as well as the fixer that is in need of substantial fixing. Therefore, you’re likely to find TICs here more than anywhere else in the City. What’s the draw? The neighborhood’s weather is warm, transit — car, shuttle or BART — is good and the neighborhood’s diversity are all draws.

Noe Valley Also an Irish neighborhood in the past, the area’s rolling hills and large 1800+ sqft Queen Anne Victorians has become home to an increasing number of large trophy homes that have been both restored and enlarged into the Noe Valley Box — luxurious 2500-4000 sqft houses pushing the $5M-$7M+ mark depending on view, amenities and proximity to 24th Street, the area’s cute main drag. Particularly focused around 24th and Noe Streets and radiating up and out, you’ll find walls of glass, modern luxurious kitchens and moving roofs in these homes — just spot the updated sans serif house numbers to see which ones have had the enlargement. But you’ll also find charming, large full-floor flats (some with upgrades). You’ll also encounter multi-unit income properties, bidding wars for the fixers on the market and everything in between. As time goes one, expect to find fewer fixers and more perfect-looking streets in the area (each is very different though) as inhabited by tech execs who could take the shuttle to work but drive their luxury hybrid cars in so as to miss the commute and the fixers that remain will have folks who’ve lived in the area for 30+ years.

Glen Park Previously an afterthought between Noe Valley, Bernal Heights and Sunnyisde and I-280, the area has come into its own as a viable alternative to Noe Valley and Bernal Heights. This area has windy streets that go around the rim of Glen Canyon (so there are some hills with narrower streets) to the “village.” The area’s draw stems from its proximity to I-280 and the appropriately named Glen Park BART. Glen Park village is essentially the intersection of Diamond and Bosworth, which has about 10-15 stores. Expect to find homeowners who bought at unbelievably low prices to the professional class with young families who have turned these eclectic homes into pragmatic, nicely redone homes with an occasional luxury home here and there. The area blends into Sunnyside and into Westwood Park as well as Mission Terrace.




District 6

North of Panhandle (NOPA), Hayes Valley, Alamo Square, Anza Vista, Western Addition, Lower Pacific Heights, Anza Vista

Big, Big Victorians, Victorian-facade Mansions, Edwardian and Victorian Condos, USF, Divisadero, Tree-lined Streets, the Panhandle, New Condo Developments, Hippies, Bay to Breakers, Masonic, Oak & Fell, Franklin & Gough, The Painted Ladies

District 6
Hayes Valley, NoPa, Alamo Square (Click to Enlarge)
  1. MLS-Dist-7-outline
  2. District 6
Straddling the Middle

Right between Mission Dolores/Castro and Pacific Heights (two of the most actively traded and valued areas of the City) sits MLS District 6, which is a crossroads of sorts both figuratively and literally. District 6 includes Hayes Valley, NoPa and Lower Pacific Heights among more. The area is criss-crossed by major thoroughfares that bring people east to west as well as north to south across San Francisco (Van Ness, Gough, Franklin, Oak and Fell). This area used to be the western most part of the City (hence the 'Western Addition' moniker some parts of the district has) but now sits in the middle of course thanks to 100+ years of growth. There’s such a mix of people and property here that you’re bound to find something here you’ll like whether it’s modern condominium building (there are plenty), historic Victorians (fixer or completely redone) to drab Mid-Century apartment buildings. The area can be gritty and narrow or modern and wide and everything in between.

Hayes Valley. Up until a decade ago Hayes Valley was under the last part of the Central Freeway which made it dark and dingy. But after urban renewal efforts the area has become vibrant and has transformed radically going from gritty to hipster in an blink of an eye. Social life, shopping and dining is focused on Hayes Street with increasing overflow onto Gough Street. The area’s proximity to the Symphony, Opera and Civic Center naturally predisposed to drawing lots of people. All this growth has brought more cars and traffic but the area generally flows well despite being the main link to 101 for the western half of the City. Architecturally, there’s a mix of new condo buildings ranging from the cool and sleek feel of 8 Octavia, 450 Hayes and 400 Grove, the more approachable design at 580 Hayes, 300 Ivy and most accessible mid-2000s building called, aptly, the Hayes, at 55 Page Street. More micro-units are in the pipeline along Octavia and many of the newly built units built since 2013 have been rolled out as rental buildings (the Avalon ones for example). You may think that these bigger buildings would dwarf older ones but they don’t as the way buildings were constructed in the area (along slopes or built on a higher podium) have a sense of scale and volume that combine with older trees to give the area a more established feel. Most older properties you’re likely to encounter here are the Victorian flats (some updated, some not) with the charm of double-parlors, the occasional grand-scale Victorian/Edwardian single family house that stretches back onto one of the many small alleys that dot the area that served as alleys for carriage houses (and now garages). Many of the bigger modern structures here will have garage parking while many other older structures will have a separate garage facing out onto one of those alleyways we talked about but those alleys too (named after flowers) are being built up with single-family houses springing up over their carriage house roots. As the density of the area increases so does car, shuttle and bike traffic. 

The Panhandle & NoPa (North of Panhandle), Alamo Square, Western Addition. Two major thoroughfares, Oak and Fell Streets, define the area. This area is filled with wood-floored, single-pane window Edwardian buildings with many that have been split up into condos with decently tall ceilings, plaster walls, and split bathrooms. The ones that have been restored may be TICs for a while before converting into condos, renovations of big houses can be stunning, expensive and more traditional: think Restoration Hardware while others can be victorian on the outside but ultra-modern on the inside. Parking tends to be tandem or squeezed into low-clearance garages unless steel beams were added. For investment buyers, there are large apartment buildings that occasionally come onto the market (usually filled with tenants) or, in some cases, a vacant two- or three-unit fixer will come onto the market.  

The Haight. While technically in District, it’s worth noting that this area mirrors NoPa a great deal except for there are more trees and parks. Famous for the summer of love and hippies it’s more filled with techies and yuppies than before. There are lots of rental flats in carved up Victorians, big houses and condos. The lots in the area tend to be deeper and , in some cases, wider, which leads to grand houses, multi-unit buildings or mixed use ones too. Some properties have been renovated while many are fixers. Caution should be used with tenant issues, condo/TIC issues and historic issues if you're planning on remodeling. 

Maps From Our Listings




District 7 

Pacific Heights, Presidio Heights, Cow Hollow, Marina, Laurel Heights

Really Big Victorians, Tudors, Villas, Embassies, Billionaires' Row, Big Condos, Views, Roof Decks, Porta-Potties, Trees, Groundskeeping Crews, The ’North Side,’ The Fog Horns, Bridge Views, Renovations, Storied Properties, Old Money, New Money, Long-Time Families, Fame, Cable Cars, Scott St, Divis, Union Street, Chestnut, Gough, Frankin, California, Broadway, Filbert Street

District 7
Pacific Heights, Cow Hollow, Etc. (Click to Enlarge)
  1. MLS-Dist-7-outline
  2. District 7
Straddling the Middle

When people think luxury or expensive houses you think Pacific Heights. When you have movie shots that aren't the Painted Ladies or the Golden Gate Bridge you'll see shots from here.

Presidio Heights. A lot of times when you think of big, detached and stately Pacific Heights mansions you’re really thinking of Presidio Heights homes. Tucked next to the woodsy Presidio, butting up against the Marina with vistas of the Golden Gate Bridge, Tiburon, Marin and the Marin Headlands, this is the Restoration-Hardware-meets-Architectural Digest cover homes. These are the detached homes that are either imposing (on top of a hill) or framed just so. These homes have been redone and done up (the Designer Showcase showdown homes are here a lot of times along with AIA tour homes).  So why is this the epicenter of big, well-done mansions? It’s got to do with demographics. The truth of the matter is that many of the homes in Pacific Heights have only just turned over to new internet money. That’s why you’ll run into more porta potties and scaffolding trucks over there than you will in Presidio Heights where you’re likely to run into an embassy or dead-end street.

The People: The well-heeled who are never home, upwardly mobile professionals with younger families and aspiration, the established family, financiers and ambassadors and diplomats (or at least diplomatic plates)

Marina/Cow Hollow. This is the land of the ‘blue-shirt army’ the just-out-of-college or MBA-in-hand-just now crowd that lives here and take the 1 California Express bus that brings these legions of financial/services sector workers to the Financial District on weekdays. You’ll find spacious houses, art-deco era condos, and a score of rental buildings with garages on the bottom floor in this maritime neighborhood that has 2 main shopping drags (Chestnut and Union) and Lombard as your big thoroughfare. Living here is about the outdoors and night life to an extent. Views, if you get them, are of Alcatraz, the Marin Headlands and the Golden Gate Bridge. You’ll get fog earlier and the area is avoided a lot of times because it’s built on fill from the World’s Fair. Many of the properties here will be investment income properties with 2-5 unit buildings filled 1 and 2 bedroom rental units. The units will have single-pane windows, dated bathrooms (circa 1930 or 1980), a double parlor layout with hardwood floors, Spanish-style stucco buildings with some embellishments with garages underneath

The upgraded versions of these former rental units make up the condominium inventory here. Usually the condos have thicker (and darker) hardwood floors, nicer cabinets with a Bertazzoni (maybe even Viking) gas range, stone countertops, recessed lighting, a higher bedroom-to-bathroom ratios, marble-laden bathrooms with plush finishes, plantation shutters and carpeted bedrooms. You’re bound to find a coved ceiling or two too.  in These condos tend to start in the $1.2M+ range going all the way up to $3M-$4M+ depending on views, room count, finish level and/or amenities.

Pacific Heights is the granddaddy (or grand-mommy?) of San Francisco neighborhoods. People think of decades and years here instead of months and days. There are plenty of homes that can trace their ownership lineage to the time when X family came to the City from the East Coast where X made their fortune in something. That pattern has repeated itself of late as the area has become home to many a tech-derived fortune. Houses are large and opulent and vaguely East Coast-meets-London. The scale of properties here is what sets them apart from many other parts of the City. You’ll see many a porta-potty here as renovations take a long time as there’s more house and more to do as the homes that haven’t been touched in years can be cavernous, drafty and creaky. Lots of changes (some elective, some required) are needed in a Pacific Heights fixer but the resulting product can be over-the-top and is likely to be refined, restrained and tasteful — or so we hope. More tawdry renovations at these price points tend to take place on the Peninsula as most developers, architects and homeowners like to show off the views you’re likely to get here. And yes, you’re paying for location, prestige and views.




District 8

Russian Hill, Nob Hill, Telegraph Hill, North Beach, North Waterfront, Tenderloin, Downtown, Financial District, Van Ness, Civic Center, Barbary Coast

Stately Facades, Mid-Rise, Stone-Facade, Big Victorians, High-End Condos,  Sweeping, Views, Coit Tower, Victorians, Bay Windows, Fog Horns, Single-pane windows, Upgraded Foundations, Small Alleys, Cable Cars, Bridge Views, Tourists, Soft Story, Foundation, the Most San Francisco area of San Francisco, SROs, Co-Ops, Door Person Buildings, Steep Hills, Homeless, Tourists, Long-Time Renters, Chinatown, Newly Landed Professionals, Columbus, Hyde, Francisco, Lombard, Mason, Powell

District 8
Pacific Heights, Cow Hollow, Etc. (Click to Enlarge)
  1. MLS-Dist-8-outline
  2. North side San Francisco
The San Francisco of San Francisco

This is one of the most varied of neighborhoods in the City. From the ultra posh Russian Hill or Telegraph Hill to the grit of the Tenderloin. Various building and planning department restrictions constrain how much these neighborhoods can ever change. From historic preservation regulations in the Hills — Nob, Telegraph and Russian — to the anti-condo development laws regulating SRO buildings in the Tenderloin you get hardcore entrenched San Francisco-ness in District 8.

Telegraph Hill is iconic, postcard San Francisco focused around Coit Tower. In between cable cars tourists, windy and narrow streets, you’ll get a mix of stucco-clad, bay-window buildings filled with luxury condominiums, apartments the occasional TIC unit along with stately homes of famous people. You’ll have stunning renovations mixed in with dilapidated buildings on the major streets and a propensity to have little alleys and dead-end streets. There are lots of multi-unit rental buildings with just-minted MBA finance types, to buildings that house very long-term (i.e., protected) tenants in various states of disrepair. While garage parking is the norm here so is a shortage of parking. Rents are high because these are the neighborhoods moviemakers focus on.

Russian Hill is also iconic San Francisco.  The homes here are a little more spread out and there are some of the City’s early high-rise buildings located in the neighborhood (several of the City’s 13 co-op buildings are in Russian Hill). The streets can be steep, narrow and windy — the crooked part of Lombard Street is located in Russian Hill. While condominiums and co-ops are the norm here so are opulent single-family houses. Like the other hills you’re getting panoramic views, prestige and location (if you need to be close to the FiDi of course).

The Tenderloin/Van Ness Like the meat cuts of the same name, this neighborhood is indeed tougher and rougher. Euphemistically known as Lower Pacific Heights or Lower Nob Hill (sometimes the Tendernob) the area is permanently gritty and shadier. Why? Big building shadows, soot from area traffic because there’s a high frequency of heavily traveled one-way streets going east-to-west and north-to-south here (e.g., Larkin, Geary, Van Ness, Ellis, Eddy, Taylor, Bush, Post, Sutter). The area has long been associated with the seedier elements of society. Any mention of the area must also note the large homeless population too. It’s tough. That said, there is real estate here too. There are newer build condominium buildings here (see Civic Center) along with old-school buildings like the Belgravia scattered throughout the area that surprise as well as puzzle in this most urban of areas.

Civic Center is a very modern model urban forest. Being anchored by Van Ness Ave. the soundtrack here is of car horns, revving engines and reverse beeps. Most homes here will be a condo or stock co-operative (co-op) with views of, well, other tall condo buildings. Many condos will have a decidedly pre-war feel but yet many others are of newer construction with varying degrees of views. Most will have at least a secure entry lobby with some having security guards. Parking, if you can find it, will be underground. The area itself is full of cars, artists (the symphony, opera and ballet are here), lawyers (state and federal courts are located here along with SF’s city government), tourists and homeless people. You may get swept away by the odd wind vortex that’s created by Van Ness near Grove Street. If being close to mass transit, the arts and a certain grittiness is your cup of tea, then this urban jungle of neighborhoods will be just right. Sutter’s new Cathedral Hill hospital along with a few other adventurous car dealerships are leading a Van Ness corridor revival. Notable buildings in the area: One Daniel Burnham Court (senior-focused units and circa 1980s feel condos), the Artani (2008 vintage modern LEED-certified condos),the Marquis (industrial timber and brick lofts circa 2002), Opera Plaza (1970s brutalist architecture condos gone a wry) and Blanc SF (circa 2014 new-build condos designed, in part, by Stanley Saitowitz) and new build ones like the Rockwell coming online soon.

Union Square. This is the most New York-like living you can have in the City that’s located in an area where you can hear honking and hail a cab. If you can find housing as the area is known for its tourists, shopping, holiday ice rink and proximity to the Tenderloin. Spaces for sale can be hidden gems, but you’re far more likely to find commercial properties here. There are a few named condominium buildings here (e.g., the Odeon, the Royal) that have units with views (usually of other buildings or a busy street) and parking is at a premium.




District 9 (in 2 parts)

 Bernal Heights, Potrero Hill, the Inner Mission | South of Market (SOMA), Rincon (East Cut), South Beach, Mission Bay, Dogpatch/Central Waterfront, Yerba Buena

Skyscrapers, loft, warehouses, traffic, tech, South Park, Chase, Bernal Hill, UCSF, 280/101, 24th Street, Precita Park, Bernal Hill, Media Gulch, Zuckerberg SF General, Holly Park, Burritos, Tech Shuttles (still),  Gentrification, stucco, sunshine, BART, Mission Street, YIMBY vs NIMBY


District 9
Inner Mission, SOMA, Potrero, Bernal, Etc. (Click to Enlarge)
  1. MLS-Dist-9-outline
  2. SOMA FIDI San Francisco
The Warm South

One of the largest and most diverse of districts, District 9 runs the gamut from luxury skyscraper penthouses with door people, high HOAs, amenities and valet parking to tiny bungalows, creaky Victorians that are falling apart, lofts, stunning hillside mansions and more.

What’s common to the area? Well, it’s sunny, closest to the freeways and mass transit (BART and CalTrain) and home to the emerging biotech sector, AT&T Park, the future Golden State Warriors stadium it’s no wonder why it’s one of the most-traded of the districts and the most travelled and trafficked. The people who live here range from renter, owner, tenant, landlord, lifers to just arrived, hipster, activist, baseball star, jet setter, the elderly, kids, techies who code to people who've never touched a computer. The Inner Mission. Like Noe Valley is also focused on 24th Street, the traditionally Hispanic neighborhood has been ground central for the latest gentrification fights. What’s happening? Rental properties are being turned into TICs or razed to make way for larger market-rate condominiums for techie and professionals alike. At the same time more bike lanes are coming as are tech shuttles and protests. Inventory wise you’ll have old facade homes (split between condos/TICs and single-family homes) that have been really remodeled (quartz countertops, engineered woods, large format tile baths) that are sold as TICs as well as the fixer that is in need of substantial fixing. Therefore, you’re likely to find TICs here more than anywhere else in the City. What’s the draw? The neighborhood’s weather is warm, transit — car, shuttle or BART — is good and the neighborhood’s diversity are all draws. There are newer condo buildings towards Potrero, loft buildings like the ones near Hampshire and 18th Streets as well as the big brick and timber lofts on York Street as well as the big Union SF development around 20th and Bryant. The Media Gulch enclave near Alabama,19th Streets and Mariposa Streets has been led by the likes of Heath Ceramics, Slow Club, Coffee Bar, Sightglass, Mission Cliffs, Universal Café, Flower and Water, and with new businesses opening up every day there’s plenty more coming.

Potrero Hill 1 (flats). This area runs along 16th Street to about 18th Street along the area’s main drags — 18th, 17th and 16th Streets. In the flats you’ll see a mix of trades-related warehouses interspersed with historic loft conversion buildings, newer stock condominium buildings (1001 17th, the Onyx) and a very large condo development building at 17th Street and Kansas (The Potrero) that are complete with its very own Whole Foods and the large series of buildings along Carolina Street.

Potrero Hill 2 (North Slope). As you go up the slope you’ll encounter a mix older Edwardian two-unit buildings, marina-style houses, Victorians with fewer that have been renovated but the ones that have can be breathtaking or have breathtaking views. There is a good crop of circa 2007 vintage remodels in the area for some reason too with colored-glass pendants. This area focuses around 18th Street with its little shops, restaurants and venerable Goat Hill Pizza. The area is sought after for these single-family homes and split-up Victorians as many will have character and views of the City’s skyline.

Potrero Hill 3 (South Slope). On the other side of Southern Heights is the South Slope of Potrero Hill. You have a sunnier, drier part and a more desolate feel because the views are usually of 280/101. The streets are broader and there are big Victorians, some Edwardian condos and duplexes all sloping down. But as you get to 25th the freeway noise, and the slope downwards towards the infamous Potrero housing projects that have been identified as the next big redevelopment site which will feature a more mixed-income, less-dense focus that has worked at 25th and Harrison and at Valencia Gardens at Valencia and 14th Streets. Part of that redevelopment will also feature new market-rate condominiums too.

China Basin/Mission Creek is really just made up of one street — Berry Street — but the area is home to lots and lots of people as the area has been filled up by large bulky condo buildings bounded by 280, Mission Creek (which still stinks at low tide) and CalTrain and AT&T Park. The condos are modern, large, and somewhat generic. Why are they appealing? It’s a little bit of Tampa or suburbia in San Francisco as most units will have at least 2- to 3-bedrooms with 2- to 3-baths and there will be more consistency in the inventory as they were built off of the same mold. The most energy efficient building is the Arterra which manages to have a 24-hour front desk staff, gym, parking and common area rooms while having low HOA dues is because of the LEED elements the building incorporated when it was being built in the 2008-2009 era. The latest development, the Arden, expands on leitmotifs from its sister buildings in Mission Bay (the Radiance and Madrone) by having light, double-pane windows, recessed lighting, drywall and professional management. Most the buildings will likely have parking (at least the 2-bedroom units will) and most having a door attendant downstairs with key-fob entry. You’re likely to see a lot of investors here as the City’s comprehensive Rent Ordinance doesn’t apply here meaning no rent or eviction control.

Mission Bay the former dredged bay/dumping ground has been reclaimed by UCSF with its massive research buildings, Women’s & Children’s’ hospital and broad avenues. the area is flat and has great views of SF’s skyline. Many of the buildings here are high-end rentals with two notable exceptions built by the mogul Bosa family called the Radiance and the Madrone. These feature large condos with higher-end but generic finishes.

Dogpatch was home to the City Attorney and to the Hell’s Angels for the longest time as the area languished after the area’s Pier 70 shuttered. The area has revitalized over the past 10 years with loft condominiums leading the way, the addition of the T-Line on 3rd Street and now with the promise of Pier 70’s ballot-measure approved revitalization project. While you can take CalTrain down the Peninsula you’ll likely drive on 280. And the area’s soundtrack is the sound of rubber meeting 280’s pavement. You’ll find loft condominiums from the 2000 and later vintage. You’ll see wood floors, brick & timber, modern build condos with more rooms and space with minimal amenities but with parking. The Hell’s Angels and City Attorney still live here. South of Market (SOMA) was the original home to the urban lofts in San Francisco. Starting in the 1990s the areas warehouses and vacant lots were filled in by, well, loft condominiums on the area’s small alley side streets. First emerging in the 1990s as “live/work” lofts where anyone living in these units also had to have a business license from the City (lots of ‘consultants’) they’ve evolved over time growing more elaborate and more luxurious.  There are some stunning examples of brick and timber renovations like those in the Oriental Warehouse at Delancey and Brannan Streets down to the Clocktower, to modern concrete/harsher designs 855 Folsom to more generic, more modern ones. Starting in the late 2000s with the Palms at 4th and Bryant the area has now moved solidly into the mid- to high-rise luxury developments that are named or are known by their addresses: 829 Folsom, 200 Delancy, 175 Bluxome, the Portside, Bridgeview, etc. Traffic from 1st to 6th Streets on weekday mornings until 10am and starting again from 4pm until 7pm is nightmarish especially if there’s a baseball game or an accident on the bridge; yet, on weekends its super quiet. Within this area is Mid-Market/Central SOMA, from 6th Street to 12th, where twitter, square and other .coms have setup shop (thanks to the Mayor’s payroll tax incentives) alongside local arts organizations and more and more luxury condominium buildings (some being rental ones like the NEMA). The juxtaposition between gridlocked cars (despite big one-way streets), people walking to work from CalTrain or BART with ironic t-shirts and the homeless population this area is undergoing rapid development/gentrification with prices rising as more inventory is built. The issue is that many of the new-build condominiums are far more of a commodity because they are so similar to each other (although having parking is key as the City doesn’t require a 1:1 ratio of units and parking spaces).

South Beach. The land of high-rise condos, some luxurious, others ultra-luxurious with amenities and high HOAs that seem to be springing up like weeds. Also home to mid-rise buildings that house baseball stairs, corporate rentals in a streetscape filled with construction cranes, baseball traffic and commuters. Even though there are views of the Bay Bridge and the East Bay it still feels like the most generic part of the City. Traffic has gotten worse and worse as the economy picks up and as more skyscrapers are being built. Some marque buildings here: One Rincon Hill, the Harrison (aka, the second tower), the Infinity and the Lumina among many other buildings opened as rentals but may well be turned into condominiums sooner or later.

A Bounty on Bernal Heights

Bernal Heights is one of the most popular neighborhoods we’ve worked in. Like all neighborhoods there are variations between the different parts that comprise the subdistrict but the ones in Bernal can be dramatic. The differences between one block and another, much less from the house next door can be especially marked. This is definitely a case-by-case type of neighborhood. A few general notes: 

There was a push in the 1990s to bury power lines where neighbors would chip in X amount of dollars and PG&E would work on burying overhead powerlines. The difference between powerline blocks and non-powerline blocks is significant. To bury powerlines today is next to impossible as the costs are prohibitively expensive — some estimates say it’s at least $1 million per mile with years of approvals and studies needed, not to mention the collective agreement of everyone on the block. The practical difference is this: homes on buried powerline blocks wanting to upgrade to 200-amp service (which is what’s considered the standard needed for EVs and all-electric appliances) will cost more because you have to break up sidewalks and basement slabs, whereas overhead powerline drops from telephone poles make for easier service upgrades. 

The parcels are smaller here. Instead of the usual 25-foot x 100-foot parcel, they are 25 x 70 feet, meaning that you end up with 1,750 sqft instead of the 2,500 sqft. This means that setback requirements will limit the amount a building can occupy of a given parcel. 

Anytime you want to expand outside of the 3-D building envelope, you will likely face a lot of neighborhood pushback. It’s a tradition here. Navigating that process can take years and deliberations and neighbor demands can be absurd, passionate and frustrating. Oh, and if you wanted to add a garage where none had existed before? May someone show you some mercy. 

You have a mix of Victorians, Edwardians and many Sunset-style, Junior 5 homes. The neighborhood’s history stretches way back when to when Señor Bernal and Señor Noe used the area as their ranches. Bernal Hill was where some earthquake shakes were built after the great 1906 earthquake and where many of the people who rebuilt San Francisco lived too. The neighborhood was also to home to some of the countless people who worked in the shipyards near where Dogpatch is currently. Considering the tradition of able-bodied residents, you may encounter unusual or makeshift elements that work for some reason but wouldn’t be anywhere near legal under today’s building standards. 

There is a long legacy of interfamily ownership where parents would pass along their homes to children or where properties are owned by family members. While true in many parts of San Francisco, the trend seems to be stronger here for some reason. 

Prices can vary wildly and the dollars-per-square foot metric is less useful here as finish quality, space utilization, views and proximity to neighborhood amenities make more of a difference. The price variation between one of Bernal, say on the North Slope with epic views of the skyline and proximity to Precita Park will be very different from a similar home sitting within earshot of the freeway. 

Be prepared for funky layouts crammed into smaller spaces on the one hand but also be prepared for surprises and quirkiness. It’s kind of like San Francisco in general. 

Being named as Redfin’s Number 1 neighborhood in the country among others, this eclectic neighborhood is bisected by Bernal Hill — the favorite stomping grounds of our four-legged friends who bark from time to time — into the North Slope and South Slope. And the South Slope has a natural division at Cortland Street, the main commercial street for area. To the west in that area is Holly Park and to the east you’ll closer to 101/280. Prices have surged of late and it’s common to see single-family houses with 3-bedrooms and updated bathrooms with parking close above $2M with bigger homes with views push higher. Parcels are mostly smaller here at just 25 x 70 ft, which limits how big the homes can get. Other limitations are neighborhood NIMBYs and site conditions. Beware the freeway noise, slope and neighbors. Because of the wide variety the area is known fore, we’ve really broken Bernal down:bernal-map

A + H. Manchester Hill/Mirabel — otherwise west of Folsom on the Precita side. More rental buildings than rest of area the closer to Mission and Cesar Chavez. Victorians and other styles on Mirabel, more have been redone, but some need TLC. Some streets are narrower, tight turns curvy. Some houses lack parking, others have amazing views. Owner remodels will have high quality finishes.  

B + C. North Slope: Precita Park/Bessie/Alabama/Folsom — Micro-Hot Area. Cute and charming park has been the popular anchor of the area. The once-rough park is now home to ruffs of Raffi’s kind with off-leash play area, kids play area. Popular café, Michelin-rated restaurant and walkable proximity to Mission District and freeways make this popular. Houses are medium sized with more luxe renovations; some fixers remain, some turned into condos. Big views from Ripley.    

C + D + E. Peralta/Mullen and Montcalm Curviness. Curvy, narrow streets. Some homes have skyline views over the Mission District. Mix of smaller homes (older and more recent), 2-unit buildings, wider homes on irregular-shaped parcels because of topography. Homes will try to go higher to take advantage of views. Powerlines still here. More of an ad hoc feel the higher and more east you go. 

H, I. West Slope: Virginia, Coleridge, Prospect and Coso complex — west border to Mission but quieter nonetheless, more walkable nearer to Mission Street. Esmeralda Steps draws people. Mixed inventory: Victorians (some split into condos), Junior 5s, cottages. Tree-lined, curvy and narrower streets, some are one-way. Some homes have views. Some modern stunner remodels with sweeping west views. Underground power.

South Slope. The large swath north of Cortland, east of Bocana to Prentiss as bounded by Bernal Hill to the north. Narrower treelined streets (similar to Virginia-Coleridge complex). Diverse mix of people and houses, Victorian, Junior 5, Mid-century, modern in-fill. Remodels can be luxe because parcel and house sizes limited. Potential views. Layouts can be odd. Underground power impacts landscape positively. Cortland and Bernal Hill are anchors to life. Arguably most Bernal of Bernal.    

G. Cortland Corridor. This is the main drag for the neighborhood. With butchers, drink stores, dumpling houses and restaurants, a grocery store, coffee shops and a great pet shop all call Cortland home. 

E. Holladay Quiet area, more removed and eastern views but 101 is right below elevation; freeway noise. All houses were picked up and moved here in the 40s/50s/60s when freeway was built. Lower prices.

Banks Houses — Banks has among the steepest grades in the city. Hilly and curvy (hence why this was developed later) with potential for views. For homes that look to east there are views but a more industrial outlook towards the old shipyards, but East Bay beyond that. Houses are choppier and denser for older stock, mix of the Junior 5 and variants. New flipped houses increasing. Be prepared for surprises especially in well-remodeled homes.  

J. South of Cortland before Ogden. Not as cute as the South Slope the streets are tighter and the houses sit higher as the hill continues its slope down to the freeway in the valley below. Because the echo reverberates freeway noise becomes an issue. Large public school here so there is more traffic, and the school breaks up the neighborhood feel. 

South of Ogden and it can feel like a different world. We have the Rule of Ogden and are skeptical of homes here because of varying property conditions and upkeep. Streets can be too steep, noise too loud. Cars can be on blocks, the street is just a gravel road. But it’s not all bleak as there are some pleasant surprises, we just have to find them. 

L. Richland/Crescent — Previously a ‘rough’ part of the neighborhood, the street is gentrifying with values starting to rise, but quality can be very mixed. Issues with freeway noise and remoteness. Non-remodeled homes can have quirks, deferred maintenance. Grab bag neighborhood.  

I. Holly Park Cuteness, Depending… Cute houses centered around park, quality varies depending on which spoke off of the park. Fixers will be in demand. Houses are smaller in size. Higher prices for done homes, but quality will depend on which part of circle you’re at. Housing project toward western part; fire station at Southwest corner. Character changes towards Mission and Crescent. Nicer towards Cortland.   

L. St. Mary’s Park. The entire area is shaped like a bell. Off of Mission Street via St. Mary’s, this planned development features bigger stucco houses with art deco/Spanish details, some of which have been remodeled. Freeway noise is a concern, especially on Justin. Access to both 280 and 101 is easier. Also, before you know it you can be in Silver Terrace or the Portola. Cute houses, more isolated neighborhood.  

The Bosworth Tail. This is the strange area where Glen Park, Bernal and Mission Terrace intersect that will somehow intersect with Sunnyside, Balboa Park and Ocean Avenue before too long! Freeway noise is the biggest concern; so get good windows. More functional area than not. Neighborhoods are technically walkable but you have to go under the freeway or over it on the Richland bridge. 





District 10 

Mission Terrace, Silver Terrace, Excelsior, Crocker Amazon, the Portola, Outer Mission, Bayview, Hunters Point, Visitacion Valley, Candlestick, Little Hollywood

Mix of architectural styles: Victorian, Sunset, Marina Styles, Stucco, Fog, Collegiate-named Streets, McLaren Park, fewer homes with bars over windows and metal gate doors

District 10
The Portola, Crocker Amazon, Bayview, Excelsior, Etc. (Click to Enlarge)
  1. MLS District 10
  2. The Big Southeast expanse of San Francisco
The Trending South

This area has been hot, cool, lukewarm and now trending again. Apt as some parts of District 10 are the warmest in San Francisco. With potential for views, warmth and affordability, this overlooked area is being looked at by many.  

Portola (portal-luh, not poor-toll-la)These homes are clustered around a senior home near the reservoirs that is known as University Mound. This is apt as the houses on streets named after colleges (e.g., Harvard and Cambridge) are potentially cute and charming and quiet. You’ll find folks who have lived here all their lives, multiple generations of residents in the archetypal Sunset-style homes that abut McLaren Park which itself has just been renovated. The area is quiet and sleepy but just like other overlooked parts of the City is now getting attention from folks who’ve been priced out of other neighborhoods.

Mission Terrace. You will find surprisingly large homes that have been remodeled on quiet streets with manicured lawns here with the Spanish-Mediterranean theme. There is opportunity here though as more fixers are coming to market but everyone else seems to have discovered the area too. There are lots of little enclaves or clusters of very cute houses (say, 3 or 4 of them) that are well-taken care of and manicured. The homes have character although remodeled ones can vary in quality, finish level and taste. Younger families and same-sex couples have moved here (like they have to Glen Park, Sunnyside and Bernal) because of the opportunity to get more value in a neighborhood that has access to 101, 280 and BART.

Silver Terrace/Excelsior. The homes here look a lot like the homes everywhere else in the City — a lot of marina-style 2- to 3-bed homes with garages mixed in with the occasional Victorian house. The thing different is that you’re likely to see more window bars and front metal gates. You’ll see streets named after world cities and countries (Persia is one of the true tree-lined boulevards in the City) and you’ll see more people parking their cars on the sidewalk, more houses in need of repair and encounter single-family homes that have been carved up into unwarranted rental units. That said, you’re seeing more and more redone homes in the area with finishes and prices that are surprising as developers/flippers are banking on the area being gentrified much like the Mission, Bernal and Sunnyside. The areas off of Carol have some truly winding streets and the sunset-style houses are jammed up against each other. Views are of the Bay, piers and 280 and 101. Time will tell how this area will fare as this last bastion of industrial activity in the City gets bought up.

Bayview. Gaining more than 50 percent value over the past few years, the area is the sunniest in the City and looks like every other part in terms of the mix of marina-style houses, Victorians, 2-unit buildings and everything in between. The area was notoriously rough in the past especially at 3rd Street and Palou. But with the 3rd MUNI extension and the rising prices elsewhere (plus the development of the shipyard) the area has become popular for gentrifiers and developers alike. There are big, large and newer condo developments at 5800 and 5900 3rd Street and the big, big, multibillion developments at the Shipyard at Hunter’s Point as well as the redevelopment at Candlestick. The clearest sign that the area is getting hot is the presence of a Blue Bottle Coffee within garden store favorite Flora Grub at 3rd and Jerrold.

Be alert for the newish town homes on Donahue in Hunters Point (the Lennar development) as there is litigation and various proceedings focused around faulty pre-construction remediation of the former military ordinance site.  

Various Maps Depicting San Francisco

Like this: