When I first moved here, I didn't even know where the Excelsior was and I heard bad things about the area.
Years later, when I got into real estate and became acquainted with most of San Francisco's neighborhoods, I met great people and discovered that I had friends living in the Excelsior. Like most neighborhoods, there are better and worse streets/areas.
I think that it is one of the last bastions of affordability that isn't too far away from everything else. It is a large neighborhood and has plenty of homes for sale. FYI, there are currently 41 two-bedroom homes available under $800,000. You will have quite a selection to choose from. There are some short sales (pre-foreclosures) as well that are good deals.
Drive around, talk to people who live there and go to Open Houses. I also like Crocker Amazon (the part closest to the Excelsior) for that matter as there are also nice people who have lived there for years, it seems more affordable and the houses have a little more variety in architecture.
P.S. The article that Jed mentions has mostly good information. (I disagree with the part about working with the seller's agent--get your own!)
I have devoted my practice to serving the Excelsior and my clients love living in this great little small town within the context of our beautiful city! Its been my experience that most of the people that live in the Excelsior are homeowners.
(1) Home to famed singer Jerry Garcia from the Grateful Dead
(2) Excelsior Street was named "Japan" and it was changed during WWII
(3) Wonderful history of ethnic diversity!
Please give me a call with more questions...its a great area!
I had clients buy on Persia and they love it. There are great houses in the area and some that are not great. There are families that have been there since the beginning many Italians, which it was predominately years ago. There is also a fairly large number of renters in the houses there.
I'd say it will take patience to find the right property but you never know. The clients that bought there had been looking for two years before they found me and then they found the house within 2 weeks.
In fact he blogged about it back then and the article still brings calls to me. Google "buying a house in San Francisco" http://www.teamten.com/lawrence/writings/buying_a_house_in_s
The market has changed since then and you should have more to chose from.