I'll start off with some comments on the listings that you've mentioned:
733 Front Street -- This is a new building and I understand that it's over 50% sold at this point, with lots of 30-something buyers. I happen to live in this neighborhood and I love it! There's a Safeway nearby, the park is wonderful, and it's so convenient to the Ferry Building, North Beach, Chinatown, shopping, fab restaurants, and the Financial District.
199 New Montgomery #509 -- This unit has no parking ... I know you think you'll be getting a deal, but when you buy a "negative," when you go to sell that negative aspect of the property will still impact the desireability. Parking in the areas that interest you are key!
The Telegraph Landing complex has high hoa dues, and units there tend to sit on the market awhile, but I do like the location -- you might want to look at units in the Parc Telegraph, although they tend to be a bit smaller (there's one unit on the market on the first floor -- not the most desireable).
1255 California St -- This is a sweet unit, with views and upgraded -- I suspect it is a short sale (buyer must be approved by lender), the hoa is high at almost $780 per month.
There are a number of other buildings you can check out that may fit both your budget and what type of condo you see yourself living in.
Good Realtors want clients for life, and look forward to earning your business, so it's common to conduct a buyer interview to fully understand what the client is looking to ideally find and what type of property will fit their financial situation. I'm certainly open to a meeting to see if we'd enjoy working together. I'm familiar with these areas, and as a 17+ year resident of the City, I have a wealth of resources for my clients.
The best way to find a Buyer's agent is to interview the agents themselves. Then ask for references and call the references so you can speak voice-to-voice instead of email. Any good agent will take the time to discuss your concerns and give you referrals to check. All agents have hit and miss records with negotiations. In today's market, money often speaks the loudest, although I do know of Buyers whose offers have been accepted even though they offered less money. In those cases, the terms of the offer made a bigger difference. Your agent needs to discuss with the Listing Agent exactly what the Seller is looking for.....
You have asked about two older complexes (1255 California and Park Telegraph) as well as two newer complexes. 199 New Montgomery is now having resales and 733 Front is still selling original units. You need to talk to your Buyer's Agent and find out what prior sales are, how the buildings are selling and the any plusses or minuses for each complex. This can be done but not in this email for an attachment of sales cannot be added.
After 18 years in the business and as A Top Producer at Hill & Co., I can tell you that it is best to meet face-to-face to discuss your wants, needs, concerns and about the various buildings. I am available throughout the holidays if you wish to go further with me. In any event, I wish you a very successful hunt for a new home and a very Happy New Year!
There are many occasions in which a seasoned professional can be a huge advantage.
Negotiating skill are critical - in both securing the property and the price!
Gary Youngman (561) 306 7653
I let the Buyers do the walking and drive the neighborhoods themselves that they like and then narrow down from there. Before we look at homes, they have to be pre-approved by a lender. Not just pre-qualified, but pre-approved.
I can work efficiently for each buyer if I use my time wisely. I would rather spend my time researching an area so that I can inform a buyer of the most recent sales activity than be driving around for hours looking at homes that my buyers thought they might like. It's so important that a buyer drive by and around a property before I schedule a visit.
Truly working in a Buyer's best interest means helping them become the BEST buyer that they can be. Being pre-approved is the FIRST step to being the best buyer you can be.
You have listed some very important criteria for your buyers agent -
" How can I evaluate if the agent has extensive experience and knowledge of working in these areas? And how can I evaluate the negotiating skills and success rate of a broker? Of course, there has to be a personal fit too and I only want to be exclusively involved with an agent once I am comfortable with their personality, trust level and my belief in their ability."
The best way to find out is not by their answers about the four properties (even if they are not familiar with the specific properties at the time - I sometimes miss a few properties because there are too many on the market and my clients are not looking at a certain area at the time - they will be able to learn about the area and the properties and comparable properties) but rather, by interviewing reputable Realtors in and around the area and find out first hand for yourself. Sometimes, learning about a specific property can be the least concern for an experienced and skilled agent - they can be up to speed very quickly.
Most of the skills and experience you talk about can not be found by answering question about four properties but by meeting with the person, talk to them and find out what they will do for you specifically. Learn about their philosophy, their belief, they way of doing things,
My suggestion is to get referrals if you have any, or, on Trulia, to look at an agent's profile and contact the agents directly (you can do that by clicking on the link on their name; an agent usually list their profile and contact information there). Set up appointment with a few chosen ones and interview them just like you would interview and hire any professionals.
There are many designations and associations in Real Estate; but the most important thing for me is the philosophy, the reputation, the practice, work ethics, knowledge and the commitment to you as a buyer.
As she said, a good agent will be interviewing you, as you interview them. You want to connect with a person personally.... after all, you will be spending some amount of time together, so in addition to trust you want to enjoy your agent. Hopefully for both of you, if you choose the right agent, they can be your "agent for life"- helping you when you move up to another home, or when you buy an investment down the line.
I am a part of an organization called Women's Council of Realtor's and know many top agents in your area. If you would like some referrals of agents who have the ABR designation, in addition to other designations (which show that these people are serious about what they do! ) give me a call or e-mail me- I'll be happy to pass their names on to you.
2007 President- North San Diego Women's Council of Realtor's
As far as finding the right agent, I would suggest a referral by a friend. If that's not available, perhaps you could call a real estate office located in your area of interest, ask to speak to an agent and ask them what you'd like to know. Ask about their experience in the area, what their philosophy is about negotiating to see if it matches yours. By asking just a few questions, you'll be able to determine if you feel comfortable enough to set up a meeting to talk further. The agent should provide references and a resume.
Once that meeting is set, you'll be able to have a face-to-face conversation to determine if you're a good match for each other. If the agent is not willing to take the time to insure your comfort or answer your questions, you may want to choose someone else.
One of my dearest friends is an agent in SF. I don't know if she can help in your specific situation, but you could contact her as a way to get started. Jane Mermelstein at Zephyr. 1415 608 8461.
Based on your questions, it seems you're already headed in the right direction. Best of luck.