How This San Francisco Homeowner Sold for Twice the Purchase Price

Blog posted On September 19, 2018

After years of renting in San Francisco and Oakland, we bought a home in Walnut Creek (a small city in the Bay Area) for $545,000 in 2010—when the market was relatively slow. The house was the smallest model in a 1960s neighborhood at 1,445 square feet with three bedrooms and two bathrooms. But it sat on a spacious 9,375-square-foot lot. It was a dream cosmetic fixer. Over seven years, we made it our own. We installed new interior doors and baseboards, gave away the wall-to-wall carpeting on Craigslist, and refinished the original hardwood floor. We painted the interior and exteriors, removed popcorn ceilings, and remodeled both bathrooms and the kitchen. 

It was the first home we owned, the only place our kids could remember living in. But in 2017, our family moved back to my home state of Hawaii so that our family could experience a simpler small-town existence. For a year, we rented out the home while we ourselves became renters in Hawaii. But this past July, our tenants' lease was set to expire. Since we wanted to buy in Hawaii sometime in the new future—and the Bay Area had grown to be such a seller's market—we started looking into the option. We debated keeping the house for the income, but with the possibility of wanting to buy in Hawaii, we leaned toward selling for the extra cash. We talked with friends who are Bay Area realtors and with our former broker. My husband and I gathered advice from friends who had recently sold, too. Family members chimed in. We set up alerts on a variety of real estate apps to follow comp home listings and sales prices. I found that similar homes to ours were now selling in the $900,000 range. After long conversations and listing pros and cons for selling or not, we gave our tenants' advance notice that we would not be renewing their lease and plunged into first-time-seller mode.