Now Playing

To the Locals Go the Spoils

Jesse Woodward and John Novotny


Buyers: Jesse Woodward and John Novotny
Bought: 2-bed, 2-bath condo in the Castro
Asking: $1.3M 
Final: $1.36M
Realtor: Sally Thompson, Vanguard

Jesse Woodward and John Novotny had been dating for five years, but two rent-controlled apartments were keeping them apart, literally. “We wanted to live together, but neither wanted to move in to the other one’s apartment,” says Woodward, who had rented in the Castro for 19 years and co-owns Hi-Tops, a popular sports bar and restaurant there. “But not moving forward because of cheap rent is not a good reason to not move forward.”

Instead, the couple decided it was time to be done with rent for good. But a year nearly came and went, and they saw nothing they loved enough to make an offer on. “We looked at around 10 places. On paper we thought they would be good, but then we couldn’t believe how bad they were,” he says. “Sometimes you see the price tags and you expect it to be a palace, and it just couldn’t be further from the truth.”

Then one day, after spending the afternoon drinking beer and hanging out at the Castro Street Fair they stopped in at an open house nearby. It was a two-bedroom, two-bathroom flat in a beautiful 127-year-old house with a private patio and small backyard—it checked all their boxes. “It was everything we hoped for,” Woodward says. They made an offer the next day.

With their offer of $1.3 million, they included a letter outlining where they worked (Hi-Tops and YouTube) and liked to hang out (Spike’s), and it struck a chord with the sellers. “I think we had a lot in common, and they liked that connection,” Woodward says. The sellers countered, and Woodward and Novotny came back with another offer, a little higher but not quite as high as the sellers’ counter. There were other buyers in the running, but the sellers went with Woodward and Novotny anyway. “I think what really locked it in was how we wrote about loving the neighborhood, having lived here so long, and wanting to remain here,” Woodward says.

They closed in December 2016 and adopted a dog two months later. Going from renters to owners has made them see their slice of the Castro in a whole new light. “We take more pride in the neighborhood now. We notice things we want to fix up, and we know our neighbors more than ever before,” Woodward says. “We have way more sense of community.”

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

Have feedback? Email us at
Email Erin Feher at
Follow us on Twitter
Follow Erin Feher on Twitter at