Daily Archives: January 6, 2016

What It Takes To Buy A House In The Inner Sunset

Hoodline, 3/6/15


Flickr/Shawn Calhoun

The Inner Sunset has grown in prominence as a hot San Francisco real estate market, and we caught up with Ilana Minkoffa Realtor with Vanguard Properties, to learn more. Although she helps clients buy and sell across the city, Minkoff shared insights into the unique challenges of purchasing real estate right here in the Inner Sunset.

What’s the most notable change to the Inner Sunset’s real estate market that you’ve observed in recent years?

“What used to be a fairly under-the-radar neighborhood has become a recently discovered gem. It has a laid back, unpretentious family feel. And being so transit and bike friendly, it’s become a great alternative to more pricey neighborhoods. As with the rest of San Francisco, inventory in the Inner Sunset is very low, so with such high demand, prices are on the rise.”

Photo: Walter Thompson/Hoodline

How many homes have been listed for sale in the Inner Sunset in the last 12 months?

“In the last 12 months, 67 properties, including single-family homes, condominiums and tenancies-in-common, have sold according to the MLS. As of March 3rd there were only three active listings on the MLS. That being said, about one-third of the properties are sold ‘off-market’ which means they are never put on the MLS. This is happening citywide. Working with a good Realtor is key to finding ‘off-market’ properties.”

Flickr/Mark Hogan

In your experience, what’s the biggest surprise for first-time homebuyers in San Francisco?

“I’m constantly reminding my buyers to stay positive. Competition can be fierce. I always tell my buyers it’s normal to write 3-4 offers before one is accepted. Then if they get one accepted faster, they’re thrilled. Buyers often don’t believe that a property will sell so far over the list price until they see it with their own two eyes. So my job is to set expectations and get them prepared for the journey so they avoid getting discouraged.

“As a seasoned Realtor who’s worked with plenty of first-time buyers, I educate them on the buying process before they start shopping. They should follow the market, go to open houses and track properties for a few months before jumping in to make offers. That way it’s not shocking when we have to go 20 percent or more over the list price on an offer. I remind them interest rates are still really low, so now really is a great time to buy. Home buying in this market really is more of a marathon than a sprint.”

Is there a specific type of person or demographic that’s moving to the Inner Sunset? What do they do for a living?

“One of the really special things about the Inner Sunset is the diversity of the population. A wide variety of people are moving here. Many are young families who want an easier lifestyle, parking, a yard and to be able to take the kids to the park are drawn here. Of course there is a considerable amount of money coming in from the tech sector citywide, and that is also the case here. Proximity to UCSF is also a draw for their staff. The largest age range in the 94122 area code is the 21-34 year olds with a median income of $81,000 (according to Claritas.com).”


Anecdotally, what draws prospective buyers to the Inner Sunset?

“A lot of people are drawn to the Inner Sunset because they’re looking for a mellow, laid-back, transit-friendly, affordable area of town. They love the being close to Golden Gate Park and how easy it is to get to the beach. The housing prices are still quite a bit lower than other areas, making it more affordable than more eastern neighborhoods. And you can often get far more space for your dollar than other parts of town. The wide variety of great restaurants, the Sunday Farmer’s Market and shopping around 9th and Irving is definitely a draw as well. And because it’s relatively flat, you can leave your car at home, take a nice walk and enjoy everything the Inner Sunset has to offer.”

What advice, if any, do you have for renters who are seeking to become homeowners?

“Start planning early. Have a goal. It’s never too soon to meet with a financial planner or lender to make a plan. Whether you are starting at the very beginning with saving for your down payment or getting close to go time, get a plan.”

How large of a down payment will someone need (ballpark)?

“The general rule of thumb is 20 percent of the purchase price.”

Would you ever counsel someone against his or her first choice of property? If so, why?

“Of course. I frequently equate buying a home to dating, because it’s something everyone gets. Sometimes you go out on a first date and you are absolutely sure that person is the one you are going to spend the rest of your life with. You think they are perfect! But as we all know, you can be so blinded by lust you can’t see their faults. My job is to be that gentle friend that reminds you to really look at their qualities, good and bad before putting a ring on it.”

Do you have stories about house-hunting in the Inner Sunset? Let us know in the comments.


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Circus Center: An Historic School For Clowns, Jugglers And Acrobats

Hoodline, 3/4/15


In years past, running away to join the circus was a childhood fantasy. Today, at the Inner Sunset’s Circus Center, responsible adults attend evening and weekend classes with names like “Flying Trapeze” and “Intro to Parkour.”

To learn more about what Wikipedia describes as “one of the foremost circus schools in the western United States,” Hoodline spoke to Barry Kendall, the organization’s Executive Director.

“If you can master the knee hang, you can try a catch in your very first class,” Kendall told us. “Which is great for one-shot people who want instant gratification. We get a lot of people who just want to try something new, like tight wire walking or juggling.”

Kendall said many new students attend so they can cross an item off their bucket list, but returning students are more motivated by personal fitness goals: “We like to say there’s ‘fit,’ and then there’s ‘circus fit.’”

“What we teach is definitely functional movement, but a lot of people also like it for the artistic element. There’s overlap with dance and gymnastics,” he added. “We do have students here who came in with an aspiration to become professionals” – by way of explanation, he pointed to a man swinging from his knees about 25 feet over our heads. “He’s now auditioning for major circus schools around the world, and he’s going to make a career of this.”

Many students seek a career in a traditional circus environment or in an ensemble company like Cirque de Soleil, he added. Others are acquiring skills they can use to entertain at children’s parties or corporate events. “Producers very often don’t just hire you, they’re hiring your act. Hopefully, you get an agent to hire you, and you’re off and running,” he said.

Circus Center’s offices and performance spaces are located in the former gymnasium of Polytechnic High School, which Hoodline recently looked at here. After the school was demolished, its gym and auditorium were left standing so that the city could turn them into community centers, “but the city didn’t have the money for that” as Kendall put it. Circus Center, which bills itself as “the Bay Area’s oldest 501(c)(3) non-profit circus performing arts facility,” doesn’t have a lease, but he said the school will be able to use the space indefinitely. After years of ongoing renovations, the school has about 40,000 square feet.

Circus Center instructs students in the finer points of pulse-pounding specialties like acrobatics, flying trapeze, parkour and Chinese pole, but Kendall emphasized that safety is their first priority.

“We have a professional rigger who’s been doing stagehand and rigging work for many, many years,” Kendall assured us. “We have a very clear and well-documented system for how we maintain and rotate out all of our equipment.” New students receive safety training and start off wearing harnesses attached to safety lines managed by someone firmly rooted on the ground.

“You’re still going to have overcome some fear just to climb 25 feet into the air, however,” he said.

Circus Center’s youth circus will perform during the first two weekends in May in a show called “Circtopia.” The school’s spring session begins on March 30 and runs through June 7. For more details, be sure to explore the many options available on their site.

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Inner Sunset Hidden Gem: The Carl Street Free Library

Hoodline, 2/28/15


The San Francisco Public Library operates 27 branches and 5 bookmobiles, but that hasn’t stopped free libraries from popping up around America’s 10th-most literate city (as determined by USA TODAY).

On the 300 block of Carl Street between Willard and Hillway in the Inner Sunset, one generous, mysterious bibliophile has maintained a free library outside their front door for several years. Over the last few years, the collection has grown from two shelves to a six-foot bookcase that’s secured with a bicycle lock. (At the time of this writing, Hoodline wasn’t able to obtain the name of the library’s landlord.)

[Update: the creator, Jay Streets, has provided an extensive personal history of the library in the comments section below. Check it out.]

Ad hoc libraries are peppered throughout book-loving San Francisco, such as the Little Free Library on Sutter between Pierce and Scott, or the collection on Noe near Duboce Park that’s been stolen and set aflame since it opened in 2014. In contrast, the Carl Street bibliotheque has gone largely unmolested over the last few years.

According to the Little Free Library’s location map, there are six outposts around the city, including another depository in the Inner Sunset at 1823 10th Ave., though the Carl Street bookcase is not listed. Members of the Little Free Library system are encouraged to go through local zoning and approvals; in San Francisco, distributing free merchandise from a sidewalk requires a DPW permit.

To date, neighbors seem more YIMBY than NIMBY about the impromptu book depository.

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