Condo Seller Gives Up Half a Million Dollars to Help Save the Neighborhood She Loves

By Scott Hutchins : modernluxury – excerpt

A teacher offered her Mission district condo for $500,000 under market value. The only catch: The buyers had to pass her cultural litmus test…

Catherine Lee, a film school instructor who has lived in the Mission district for over 20 years, had a real estate dilemma. She owned two places in the neighborhood—a condo that she was renting out and a two-unit building where she and her ex had lived until they split up. The breakup had catapulted her into a financial dilemma: To keep the two-unit building, she had to buy out her ex; to buy out her ex, she had to sell the condo.

Lee hated to think of losing her first bit of San Francisco—a two-bedroom Edwardian railroad flat on Alabama and 23rd Streets with beautiful hardwood floors, high ceilings, a marble fireplace, garage parking, a great backyard, and location, location, location. She’d bought it in 1993 for $90,000; 22 years later, with the market on fire, it would likely sell for at least 10 times that—in a matter of days, if not hours…

In exchange for a chance at her beautiful condo at a 2005 price, Lee asked prospective buyers to submit to an only–in–San Francisco application process. They had to explain who they were and how they would benefit from the condo. They had to swear that it would be their own home—not an investment or rental—and promise to never complain about Dia de los Muertos. Finally, they had to offer a 10-year “cultural promissory note”: a legally binding, decadelong commitment to provide something of cultural value—theater tickets, writing lessons, organic produce from “your uncle’s farm in Salinas”—to the community or Lee herself.

And so the competition began… (more)


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