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Riding Out the Recession

Nick and Surya Grover


Buyers: Nick and Surya Grover
Bought: 3-bed, 2-bath with an in-law unit in the Outer Sunset
Asking: $785K
Final: $951K
Realtor: Bill Charman, Gimme Shelter

It all started with one really lucky, only-in-S.F. kind of break. It’s 2009, and the housing market has collapsed. A 28-year-old unmarried guy pours his life’s savings into a tiny, dim ground-floor condo in a neighborhood that he knows virtually nothing about: Bernal Heights. He pays less than $530,000. He gets married. They renovate and have a baby. By the time they are compelled to look for more space, in 2016, that dark little condo in the now red-hot neighborhood appraises at $1.1 million. That, say Nick and Surya Grover, is how they were able to renovate their dream home just four blocks from the beach.

The Grovers borrowed against the new value of their condo, taking out enough cash for a down payment on a major fixer-upper in the Outer Sunset, which they closed on for $951,000—much higher than they had hoped to pay, since the property was listed for $785,000 and was “a house of horrors,” according to Nick. “Usually people will say, ‘Oh, at least it has good bones,’ but our agent was like, ‘This place doesn’t even have good bones!’” Surya says. They offered $808,000 and agreed to the seller’s counter of $951,000 only because they were confident they would be able to negotiate the price back down once the damning inspection reports came in. “We paid for an engineer and all these reports, and they found that, yes, the foundation was completely unusable. We thought once they saw how bad it was, they would come down. They came down zero. They said, ‘You can either have it or not,’” Surya recalls.

By then they had fallen in love with the possibility of it. “We thought we were about to get another deal of the century, but then it was like, yeah, you just paid $951,000 for a junk hole that is literally falling into the sand,” Surya says. “I guess lightning doesn’t strike twice.” They immediately called in the architect-and-contractor team (Christi Azevedo and Ronan O’Dea Construction) that had done their condo renovation.

After submitting plans to the bank for a construction loan, they moved out of their Bernal place and rented it out at market rate to help off set their costs, then moved in with Surya’s parents in the deep East Bay. They lived there for more than a year while their new home was taken down to the studs and rebuilt. They moved in on August 1 of this year, just two months before Surya gave birth to their second child, a boy, at their new home—a modern, light-filled five-bedroom, three-bathroom with a separate in-law unit downstairs (where the crumbling foundation used to be). Says Nick, “If we hadn’t bought a condo during the recession, this never would have happened.”

The Family Business
Broker, Lawyer, Designer, Mom
To the Locals Go the Spoils
Tell a Story, and Make It Good
The Lottery Winners
Riding Out the Recession
The Soul (and House) Mates
Three Boys and a Dream
Not in Texas Anymore
A Reward for the Faithful
A Gift from Grandma
The Grateful Educators
Chasing the Dream
The Renter No Longer
The Data Optimizers
An Accidental Homeowner
The “Oh-S**t” Moment
All Aboard in the Marina


Originally published in the November issue of San Francisco

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