Advice for growing up…

The Smiths 2013-29

I don’t know about you, but the more I think about buying my first family home with my boo, to raise our future schmoos in, the more I freak out and wonder how we’ll be able to compete in this crazy real estate market.  It seems like every day the average price of  a home in the Bay Area climbs drastically… meaning so does the down payment needed to qualify, and the big income needed to carry the monthly payments.

So what do I do when these fears start to creep in?  I talk to my amazing friend Mary Macpherson, who just happens to be one of the top Real Estate agents in our glorious city, not to mention one of the warmest, most motivated, inspiring people I know.  When my wailing starts, she smiles, gives me a hug, and tells me that with proper planning, determination, and guidance from people like her, we will find our way into “our” home.  🙂

Mary Macpherson | Paragon Real Estate Group

Tips on Buying Your First Home:


1.       Ask your friends for advice. Your friends and family who have bought in your area undoubtedly have some war stories to share. Ask them who their agent was, and if they would recommend that person.

2.       Visit open houses, not only to look at homes, but to ‘interview’ prospective agents. Agents who work open houses are there for one of two reasons: they are the actual listing agents for those homes and are there to sell them, or they are agents in the same brokerage as the listing agents and have asked them to work their open houses to meet buyers and sellers. For new agents, open houses are typically their best ‘prospecting’ tool, until they develop a referral base of their own. Spend time in the open houses, and ask the agents about how they work with buyers to help them find their homes. Don’t dismiss “new” agents – some of these agents are the hardest working in the business, and will give incredible customer service. What’s key is the brokerage they work for – some are far better than others, offering wonderful support, training, tools and management. You’ll glean a lot of information from visiting open houses and seeing who the true professionals are.

3.       Interview agents. Even though the seller typically pays the buyer’s agent’s commission, this agent is still working for you and with you, hand in hand, through one of the biggest financial and emotional decisions of your life. Interview at least three agents, check references, ask for their recent success stories. What can they do for you that will give you an edge? Agents get paid big bucks, and you don’t want to just receive weekly mass emails with new listings. You can check that yourself with the zillion and one online real estate search portals. Are these people connected to off-market listings? Will they go the extra mile?

4.       Once you decide on an agent, COMMIT 100% to them. Let them be your man on the street. Give them all the information you can, and be open to their suggestions. My clients who are the most successful in their house hunting ventures are the ones who regard me as their trusted advisor and ally.

5.       Be ready to pull the trigger. Get all of your financial documents in order, and get pre-approved. The San Francisco market moves faster than most can handle, and the early bird almost always catches the worm. Don’t be afraid to write “pre-emptive” offers – those offers that are presented before an actual offer date. But remember that pre-emptive offers need to be compelling enough for the seller to forego other offers that might come in on the offer date. Coming in at full price isn’t compelling. Ask your agent for comparable sales in the area (if you’ve vetted your agent well, they’ll do this for you instinctively).

6.       Put yourself in the sellers’ shoes. When you finally sit down to write an offer on the home of your dreams, remember that the #1 rule in negotiation is to think like the other side. Find out why the seller is selling. What will help your offer? Price is obvious, but are there terms that will help? Do they need extra time to move? Do they want to buy something else? Make sure your offer reflects your understanding of their needs and wants, and then put it in a written letter as well. There’s nothing that speaks to a seller more than a buyer who is committed to closing and sincere in their love of their home, and someone who is empathetic to their plight.

7.       Due your due diligence. Just because the market is competitive (when isn’t it?), it doesn’t mean you have to throw away your rights. If you’re buying a car, you’d kick the tires. If you’re spending hundreds of thousands, or even millions, then you better be sure the house isn’t a money pit. Don’t be afraid to ask for a credit, price reduction, explanation, etc., if something turns up during your inspection period that is cause for concern.

8.       Buy with your heart – and your head. I have two questions I ask my buyers before we write an offer: 1) Will you be truly happy when I hand you the keys to your new home? And 2) If you, like many transient San Franciscans, have to call me in 5-10 years to sell your home, is this a wise investment? Take the time with your agent to think about why you want this home (don’t let the manic market drive you to do something you’ll regret) and talk about why the home is or isn’t a good investment (above all, location, location, location).

9.       Be prepared for the ups and downs of an escrow. Since the 2008 mortgage meltdown, lenders are asking for everything from your 6th grade report card (ok, that line was borrowed from a loan agent friend of mine) to your 1992 tax returns. Well, not really, but it certainly can feel like it.

10.   Enjoy! You’ve come a long way from meeting agents, looking at open homes, to gathering tax returns and signing documents. Try to plan a week off from work right after you move in. Don’t schedule any big remodeling jobs yet, if you can. Get a feel for your new home. Live in it and get to know it better. Then, go to town to get it just the way you want. You deserve it!

About the Author

Mary Macpherson


About the Author

Mary Macpherson

Mary`s tenacity and commitment to her clients have put her in the top 5% of all agents in San Francisco – an honor that has earned her placement in the city`s Top Agent Network ( She has bought, sold and invested in San Francisco real estate for many years and puts her extensive knowledge of neighborhoods, property values, and market trends to work for her clients. She offers boundless enthusiasm, a tireless work ethic and an absolute commitment to protecting their interests—in what is typically one of the largest, most complicated and most emotional financial transactions of their lives.

For her Buyers, Mary promises she will make every effort to find them the home they will love and enjoy for years to come; aggressively negotiate the best attainable price and terms on their behalf; make the process as smooth, understandable and stress-free as possible; and manage the transaction so that they are fully aware of the condition and circumstances of the home they purchase. As a longtime homeowner in San Francisco, Mary is committed to helping others realize the same dream: owning a home in this beautiful city.

For her Sellers, Mary offers hard work and expertise; the most comprehensive marketing plan in the business; aggressively negotiate the highest possible sales price; and transaction management skills to make the process as easy and straightforward as possible, with a minimum of time, effort and stress on her clients` part.

Mary`s family lives near Fisherman`s Wharf and her children attend local schools.

Mary Macpherson | Paragon Real Estate Group

1400 Van Ness Ave | San Francisco, CA 94109

Cell: 415.846.4685 | Fax: 415.701.2671

DRE# 1839976

Member, Top Agent Network (SF’s Top 5%):