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Where do most SF homebuyers shop for new homes? In another city.

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Sunset is most popular option, but not as popular as “somewhere else”

An aerial photo of South San Francisco and the bay beyond.
Facing South San Francisco, a top destination for homebuyers from, well, the north San Francisco.
Kit Leong

Where do San Francisco homebuyers in the market for a new place look first? According to real estate site Trulia, in the Sunset, which tops their list of local neighborhoods most frequently searched by San Francisco buyers.

Trulia blogger Christine Ciarmello credits slightly lower median prices in the outer portion of the neighborhood for the interest and quotes locals talking up the appeal of ocean proximity, all of which seems likely.

The only other neighborhood cited in the blog: South San Francisco, which residents call “just easier” than trying to find a San Francisco proper home for nearly double the price.

But the site also provided Curbed SF a rundown of the most popular ZIP code searches among SF buyers (or more accurately, buyers in the larger SF metro area, which includes other upper peninsula cities), which tells a bigger story.

South City was actually the most popular ZIP code of all for SF home browsers looking for a home in the SF Metro area last month, accounting for 14 percent of SF-based traffic among the listings. Next was San Bruno, Brisbane, San Mateo’s 94402 ZIP, and then Daly City.

In fact, of 23 areas assessed, an actual San Francisco neighborhood doesn’t pop up until number 16. That’s the Outer Sunset, of course, followed by the Inner Sunset at number 17, both with about 12 percent of search traffic.

Here’s the full list in order:

  • South San Francisco
  • San Bruno
  • Brisbane
  • Millbrae
  • San Mateo (94402)
  • Daly City (94105)
  • Daly City (94104)
  • Burlingame
  • San Mateo (94401)
  • San Mateo (94402)
  • Pacifica
  • Foster City
  • Belmont
  • San Carlos
  • Redwood City (94065)
  • Sunset (94116)
  • Sunset (94122)
  • West Portal / St. Francis Wood (94127)
  • Excelsior / Sunnyside (94112)
  • Noe Valley / Castro (94114) SF Neighborhoods
  • Hayes Valley (94117)
  • Redwood City (94061)
  • Mission / Potrero Hill (94110)
Photo by SanFranMan59

According to the city’s 2015 housing inventory, the Sunset altogether makes up about 12 percent of San Francisco’s housing stock. More than 55 percent of that is single family homes, and nearly 80 percent consists of buildings with four units or less.

Right now Trulia has 1,113 active listings, of which 124 are in the Sunset. That’s a little more than 11 percent.

So the popularity of the Sunset on Trulia appears exactly parallel to how much there is there to potentially buy.

But this might just be a coincidence, as there are a few additional caveats to keep in mind. For starters, the four week June-July span may represent just a seasonal hiccup instead of a long-term trend.

Second, Trulia is of course only measuring the activity on its own site, and it’s impossible to know if the average Trulia user also resembles the average San Francisco homebuyer in general. So the view of the numbers is hazy.

One thing’s for sure, though: It’s really hard to ignore the gravity of the fact that almost everyone who opts to shop for a home “in San Francisco” through such a service checks out of town first.

South SF’s Oyster Point.
Sharon Hahn Darlin