Strange Customs


It may surprise you to learn that the Bay Area is ripe with strange and unusual customs when it comes to Real Estate practice. For example, in San Mateo county the buyer customarily pays the Title and Escrow fees on a purchase…in Santa Clara county it’s the seller who pays. During the multiple offer frenzy of a few years ago it was common for agents and sellers in San Jose to counter offer the top 3 or 4 offers to try and drive the price up on a purchase. In Foster City, and elsewhere around here, it was common to take the best offer without multiple counters.

In San Francisco it’s a whole new ballgame when it comes to strange real estate customs. They have their own contract, their own disclosures and their own methods of showing homes. Use of lock boxes is limited too. Often, the only times you can see a property is 1) when the seller is home and allows you to come in, 2) the listing agent meets you there or 3) at an Open House. Alot of SF agents don’t like playing with agents from other counties, they make it sort of hard for us to show a place up there.

This gets a tad bit interesting when a SF agent lists a property in San Mateo county and uses the same practices down here. You see, we’re used to lock boxes and relative ease at showing properties and the SF style doesn’t quite click with us. For example, I have an all cash buyer client who wants to live in South San Francisco. The perfect house came up for her about 10 days ago yet she hasn’t seen it yet because nobody is ever around to let us in and my client is busy on Sunday afternoons. I did manage to get my client’s son and his wife in there last week (the seller had left the door unlocked and left a note telling us to go in). The kids loved it, and when I called the agent to see if I could schedule an appointment to show the Mom on Saturday the SF listing agent said “They want to see it again and bring more family? What…are they Chinese?” She told me the seller would be too busy cleaning and couldn’t show it on Saturday, have your client come back to the Open House on Sunday.

Call me zany…but I think a listing agent’s job is to provide access to as many potential buyers for a property as possible. What do I know?

Honestly, if you’re out there looking it’s wise to pay attention to local customs. It can easily help you get a place…or sell a place!


  1. What’s up with that “Chinese” comment? I can’t believe that!

  2. Jim Minkey says:

    You’re telling me! Incredible! Here’s a small clue…the agent has photos of herself and her two French Poodles on her flyers and business cards…

  3. cbtoday says:

    though I am not real chinese, I got offended. It seems that me that chinese wont be able to get that house anyway.

  4. Jim Minkey says:

    I can sure understand being offended! Here’s the thing…the agent in question is a moron. It’s that simple. Plenty of potential buyers will be discouraged from seeing the house based upon whatever silly criteria the agent has and the seller will receive less money. When most agents have a listing they don’t care about who the buyer’s are…they care about whether or not they qualify to buy it! OK, I’m off of my soapbox…

  5. Judy Schneider says:

    Very interesting! I love the Strange Customs information you provided!!

  6. Frances Rokicki says:

    Jim, Wow! Imagine having a ready, willing and able buyer, and the listing agent is not available to let you in. We have different customs within Connecticut, too. Finally, we share the same mls statewide.

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