I had known Cecilia for several years and had spent many evenings at her flat near Coit Tower enjoying the view of North Beach and Russian Hill. She made a good income and paid a large amount in rent for the beautiful view she enjoyed. But to me it was not a smart use of money (to me, it was a no brainer for her to buy a place).
The problem was she did not have a down payment saved. So together we brain stormed solutions and determined that the best path to homeownership for her was to partner with someone and buy a 2-unit building with them. She needed a partner that had cash for the down payment and of course wanted to buy property. Her friend Catherine came to her mind almost immediately.
After consulting with Catherine they gave me my mandate: to find a 2-unit building with enough space to accommodate both of them as well as Catherine’s roommate, Lynne.
The challenge for me was to stay within their price range and find a building large enough and in good enough shape for them to move into.
After showing them property in the Castro and Noe I found them a 3 unit property with an illegal in-law unit, located in Lower Pacific Heights. This was actually a 2-unit Victorian structure (in-law behind the garage facing the rear garden) and a cottage at the rear of the property.
The property was not without issues, which is why the price was appealing. It
had tenants in all three units and an abatement by the City due to the illegal in-law (an abatement is an order by the City to remedy a code or zoning violation).Finding a lender that would loan on a building that had an abatement filed against it was quite a challenge!
In the end, though, after much negotiating, the seller agreed to remedy the abatement prior to closing. However, this raised the sales price of the property, such that Catherine’s cash was not quite enough for the downpayment. After a bit of thinking, I located a private lender willing to provide second liens in order to bolster purchasers’ down payments. In those days, lenders allowed what was then called an 80-10-10 financing scenario (10% of the purchase price from the buyer in cash, 10% from a private lender and then 80% from the primary lender). After a few months of going to and fro, the deal closed and Cecilia, Catherine and Lynne moved into the property. Lynne in the cottage, Cecilia in the upper unit and Catherine in the lower unit.
Years later, looking back it was the best thing that Cecilia and Catherine could have done, from a personal and financial prospective. Catherine lived in the lower unit for 6 years and then sold her unit as a TIC interest to a third party and sold her interest in the Cottage and the in-law space to Cecilia. Catherine was able to parlay her money into several properties and is now a real estate developer in her own right! Cecilia was able to rent the cottage, live the in the upper unit and use the space that was previously the in-law for her home office. Cecilia and her new TIC partner then entered the condo conversion lottery and, after a few years, won a spot and were eligible to convert to three condominium units. Post conversion Cecilia sold the cottage (the third condominium).
The property has enabled Catherine to move on with her dream of buying and selling real estate and has given Cecilia the security every single mother desires. They are all still the best of friends, and are regularly in touch. Indeed, their purchase helped form a lasting bond such that they refer to themselves as the “Women of Mid-Finance”.
“Purchasing the property on Bush Street was a life changing discussion. A decision I would have never had the opportunity to make if Gary Belk didn’t envision the potential for me and Catherine. It was a lot for two single women to take on, but Gary was an endless resource to us and we were good students under his tutelage. He changed my life.” – Cecilia.