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Top Real Estate Agents in San Francisco Reveal the Secret to Selling Homes There

At HomeLight, our vision is a world where every real estate transaction is simple, certain, and satisfying. Therefore, we promote strict editorial integrity in each of our posts.

Looking to sell your house in San Francisco? Lucky you. As of April 2019, a SF home purchased in 2000 for $300,000 is now worth $806,550—an appreciation rate of 186.8%! Don’t worry, we did the math. You earned $25,327.50 each year, just for living there.

But before you pull up that dream vacation Pinterest board you’ve been steadily building for years, consider that homes with a median price point of $930,000 require exact pricing and strategic presentation to pull in the perfect buyer.

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We picked the brains of some of the top agents in San Francisco, who have delved into the specific skill-sets they developed in a market full of vastly distinct neighborhoods and a largely software industry buyer pool.

They use strategies like virtual staging to help buyers visualize their dream house, valuation technology to help secure a home’s worth with hard data, and innovative marketing campaigns to highlight a less-attractive home’s great location.

With this wealth of knowledge and over 2,951 combined transactions, any one of these top agents will convince buyers looking for houses for sale in San Francisco to quickly move past that eyebrow-raising list price to the assets of your home.

Top real estate agent in San Francisco, Omar Kinaan.

Sacrifice the wrong buyer to find the right one for your property.

Omar Kinaan at Golden Gate Sotheby’s International Realty
Omar has over 14 years of experience and sells homes 43% faster than the average Menlo Park agent.

“There’s a marketing concept that I use in all of my sales called ‘Sacrifice.’ Basically what it means is, you sacrifice the wrong buyer and attract the right buyer.

For example, I listed a house on Embarcadero Road in Palo Alto and it was on a very busy street—two lanes, going in both directions, fast-moving cars at 35 mph.

“This was an old 120-year old Victorian house with big picture windows looking right at that street. And I started my process trying to cushion myself from the busy street. We put a little fence in front, we landscaped the front yard, and I put in these blinds that could go up and down on those big picture windows.

“Once I realized there was no way to hide that street, I opened the blinds up and I changed my marketing stance. Instead of saying, ‘Here’s a house where you can buy on a quiet street,’ we said, ‘If you want to buy a house in the exclusive neighborhood of Old Palo Alto, this is how you do it—at a discount.’

“So I opened up the windows, marketed it in that fashion, and sure enough, we got lots of attention from people who wanted to live in that neighborhood but couldn’t afford to live in a quieter location.” 


Kristen Stuecher, top real estate agents in San Francisco.

Entice technology-focused buyers with smart home updates.

Kristen Stuecher at Climb Real Estate
Kristen has over 13 years of experience and has sold 65% more homes than the average SF agent.

“I think the younger buyers who work in technology are wanting to see more smart features, like eco-friendly appliances, in their home. People like the older Edwardian or Victorian architecture from the exterior, they certainly appreciate the period detail, but I’ve seen a lot of those same buyers will want the interior to have modern amenities—updated kitchens, updated bathrooms. 

“And oftentimes because these buyers are so busy with work, they want all that work to already be completed. So a lot of the homes that are selling the fastest, at the highest price have been remodeled or updated with these features.” 


Dale Boutiette, top real estate agent in San Francisco.

Hire an agent who values your relationship over your transaction.

Dale Boutiette at Compass
Dale is in the top 1% of agents in his area and has over 13 years of experience.

“There’s two types of real estate agents out there—transaction based, and relationship based.

“An example of what a relationship agent versus a transactional agent would be: I had buyers I was working with who told me, ‘I went to an open house and the first thing an agent asked was, ‘Who’s your agent?’

“The buyer said, ‘Dale Boutiette is my agent, he’s great.’ 

“The agent said, ‘Yes, I know Dale, but wait—why is he so great?’ And the buyer said, ‘He’s been working with us for four years to buy a house, and we haven’t bought a house yet and he’s been so patient with us.’ And the agent said, ‘Wow- I would never work with somebody for more than two months.’

“That’s a transaction agent.

“My advice to sellers is to ask agents how they get new business. And if they say something to the effect of, ‘I need to do a great job for you so you refer your friends and family to me’ then you’re onto something. Because then that agent’s future business depends on doing a great job at that very moment in time.”


Kevin Pickett, top real estate agent in San Francisco.

Use virtual staging to allow every buyer to picture a future in your home.

Kevin Pickett at Sotheby’s International Realty
Kevin is an investment property specialist who sells 70% more homes than the typical San Francisco agent.

“If you can take a photo and swap out the color of the cabinets, or swap out the color of a countertop, it can be extremely valuable, especially for investors. The buyer can go into a property, they can see what it looks like in its current state, and then what the finished product would look like before investing in the work.

“And if someone is trying to measure out the size of their furniture to fit in a room, and move it around like a puzzle, I think you’re definitely dealing with someone who would seriously consider purchasing the property.

“Virtual staging is here to stay. I think it’s going to move more towards the top of the funnel, where it will almost be necessary to offer all these things to your client. It’s going to get you more people that are interested in the property and more people that are going to come in with a serious mindset about the sale.” 


Alex Lehr, top real estate agent in San Francisco.

Seek out micro-charities in your neighborhood to give a second life to your unwanted items.

Alex Lehr at Lehr Real Estate
Alex holds the Seniors Real Estate Specialist certification and is a SFH expert, having sold 81% more single-family homes than his peers.

“In our area, near Silicon Valley, the area is so affluent that charities have become very particular with the items that they’ll even take as donations. They get flooded with so much great stuff, they’re now having to be choosey as to what donations they’ll take. We have a tough time giving away pianos, china, armoires, because society today doesn’t celebrate those things.

“So, fast forward—we’ve actually gone and looked for micro-charities. People that are more grassroots, right in immediate neighborhoods that might be a little bit more hands-on or in direct contact with the recipients. We do a lot of donating to the sites out here to places like that.”


Anthony Navarro, top real estate agent in San Francisco.

Invest in crucial updating projects like paint, fixtures, and landscaping to reach your home price potential.

Anthony Navarro at Harper Real Estate
Anthony is a Luxury Specialist with over 14 years of experience. He sells homes 58% faster than his peers.

“At a house in Redwood City, we put in grass, stepping stones, and plants. It wasn’t a huge investment, but it was impactful because when buyers came in, they saw it as, ‘Wow, this has really plush, green, mature, landscaping’ that could be used right away.

“It was listed at $1.59 million, and I think it went over $2 million. In that same house we re-did the floors, painted the interior and exterior. We also had to do minor updates to a couple of the bathrooms. 

“I have the crew available and ready-to-go to make all these things happen: the staging, the landscaping, installing new countertops, and hiring a handyman for fixtures.

“The goal is to execute on getting the house ready for market in a cost-effective way. And even for people that may be financially-strapped, we can make it work.”


Nicole Solari, top real estate agent in San Francisco.

Save on moving costs with your top agent’s network and local insights.

Nicole Solari at Level Up Realty – Solari Group
Nicole is a single-family home expert, selling 67% more SFH’s than the average Fairfield agent.

“As a Realtor, we’re part of the National Association of Realtors and in my case, the California Association of Realtors, which provides a ton of resources to us to pass off to our clients such as discounts on PODs, moving services, and national brands like United Van Lines. All of those resources are provided by our association and we can pass off those discounts to our clients. So sellers should definitely be asking their agent for those discounts upfront.

“Join the local Facebook group for your community, too. That’s been really successful in helping my clients find things like brand new packing materials. People go out and overcompensate for what they think they need for their move—things like sheets of bubble wrap or boxes that were never put together can be found free on these Facebook groups.

“Use your Realtor as a resource to find the best vendors when moving. They’ll help you find the people that are tried and true. And because our vendors work a lot with us, they’re always going to give us the best service and pricing because they want those referrals to keep going.”


Carl Medford, top real estate agent in San Francisco.

Get a data-backed read on your home’s value.

Carl Medford at Keller Williams
Carl holds the Broker Price Opinion Resource certification and has over 18 years of experience. He’s sold over 81% more properties than the average Fremont agent and has 689 transactions under his belt.

“If you’re working with a home seller who’s an engineer from Silicon Valley, they typically come in with charts and graphs to show what they think their house should be worth and the conversation I have with them is, ‘I understand all of this, but this isn’t how buyers behave.’

“So in addition to completing a comparative market analysis, I use a service called It’s an analytical tool that lets me enter my ZIP code, square footage, and time period that I want and research those exact home sale trends. It’s hugely helpful for me to really help nail down what I think the price should be. It also helps validate my initial research because I should get the same number looking at the trends as I do by doing my CMA. If I’m off, something’s wrong and I have to go in and do it again.

“Consider the fact that buyers are highly educated now. Before they come visit your house, they’re going to have checked out your house online. They’ve run the AVM on your property already, so they know approximately what your property is worth. And if they see your price out of line with the AVM, they’re not going to come. They’re going to conclude that the seller’s unreasonable and they don’t want to get in a bidding war, they don’t want to waste their time and efforts.”


Ron Abta, top real estate agent in San Francisco.

Make your smaller home feel bigger by removing and replacing bulky items.

Ron Abta at Polaris Realty
Ron has sold 137 more condos than the average agent and has over 29 years experience.

“To make the home feel bigger, we swapped out the light fixtures; we installed flush mount light fixtures. Instead of the light fixture coming down off the ceiling, we pushed it up to give the room a more voluminous feel.

“We made sure to take out some of the bigger carpets, and replaced them with smaller rugs to give the place a more spacious feel. We decluttered and made sure to take out any personal effects.

“Sometimes, buyers don’t want to see pictures or family photos. They want to envision themselves in the home. And so we made sure to take all of that out and to make the home feel more inviting for people to come and visit a Sunday open house.”


Pam Zaragoza, top real estate agent in San Francisco.

Host twilight tours to find your luxury buyer discreetly.

Pam Zaragoza at Today Sothebys International Realty
Pam has over 18 years experience and has sold 87% more properties in Burlingame than the average agent.

“In the luxury market, being discreet is very important. Some people do not want an open house. They do not want people walking through their houses. So most of the luxury market is by invitation or appointment only and private tours.

“So when selling your luxury home, you want to make sure that you have an agent that is connected with other local real estate agents.

“I usually have a cocktail party, or a twilight tour on a Thursday or Friday night from 5-7, so that the real estate agents that I know, who are also luxury agents, can come in and have a sneak preview first. And they can bring their clients in first. And when it’s a specialty property, these tours allow me to focus in on the agents I know personally that have clients in that price range.” 


A home that a top real estate agent in San Francisco sold.
Source: (Chris Lawton/ Unsplash)

Don’t underestimate the value of a top San Francisco agent

The National Association of Realtors 2019 Q1 Housing Report showed that San Francisco holds the #2 spot for the most expensive housing market in the U.S. (right below San Jose), and it has consistently held this position since 2014.

Common sense says the real estate agent with the most commission to lose is the real estate agent most prepared to keep it, right? Unfortunately, not.

There are 7,385 real estate agents to choose from, but only the top seller’s agents stand out enough to not only earn you a whopping 116% of the list price, but also help you sell your house faster than average in San Francisco.

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Editor’s note: Agent quotes have been edited and condensed for brevity and clarity.

Header Image Source: (Maarten van den Heuvel/ Unsplash)