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Buying San Francisco: Which Home Would You Pick Near the Wilds of the City?

Written by Maria De La OPublished Dec. 02, 2022 • 3:09pm
Which single-family home near SF’s urban wilderness would you buy? | Courtesy Sotheby’s International Realty
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Editor’s Note: There are few things San Franciscans love to talk about more than real estate. So in that spirit, the Standard presents Buying San Francisco, a profile of two homes going head-to-head in what’s quickly pivoted to a buyer’s market.

A single-family home in San Francisco isn’t going to come cheap. But if you’ve got the cash, the city’s got some unique properties near wild open spaces that might make you think you’ve moved across the bay.

While last month we featured condos in the  $1.3 million range, this week we present two very different green-adjacent dwellings, one in the trees of Glen Park and one right near the Presidio.  

Which would you buy: The Presidio Terrace With a Pool or the Glen Park Treehouse? 

Presidio Terrace With a Pool 

521 Lake St. | $3,850,000
3 bedrooms/2.5 bathrooms | 2,500 square foot lot

The deck and garden of the single-family home for sale at 521 Lake St. in San Francisco in December 2022 | Courtesy Sotheby’s International Realty

JUST THE FACTS: What struck me first about this three-story, wood-shingled house was the garden. I saw a variety of mature trees and plants here, a huge patio, gardening beds, a deck off the dining room and a gazebo, all surrounding the piece d’ resistance—a two-lane, jetted lap pool. What?! On the inside, you’ll find two bonus rooms for home offices or guests.  

The swimming pool at the single-family home for sale at 521 Lake St. in San Francisco in December 2022 | Courtesy Sotheby’s International Realty

WHO’S IT FOR: The place is perfect for a family—especially if that family includes swimmers who like to throw garden parties.

THE NEIGHBORHOOD: The tree-lined nabe is walking distance to Mountain Lake Park’s playground and the Presidio, where you’ll find hiking and biking trails aplenty, the House of Air trampoline park, La Petite Baleen kids’ swim school, a bowling alley, a climbing gym, Crissy Field and tons more diversions. Asian food on Clement Street is a couple blocks away. And nearby Laurel Heights is the quintessential, upscale family location; main drag California Street also has the Jewish Community Center, where you’ll find an affordable gym, day camps and more swimming lessons.

The living room of the single-family home for sale at 521 Lake St. in San Francisco in December 2022 | Courtesy Sotheby’s International Realty

POSITIVES: Besides the little pool, the house is also situated near public schools that are among the best in the city. (You’ll save around $50K a year per kid by not having to dive into the private school morass.)

NEGATIVES: Granted, the pool is small, and you’ll pay for it, but it’s guaranteed to be a kid magnet. Whether that’s a positive or negative is up to your individual tolerance for a yard full of your children’s screaming friends.

The kitchen of the single-family home for sale at 521 Lake St. in San Francisco in December 2022 | Courtesy Sotheby’s International Realty

Glen Park Treehouse

729 Congo St. | $3,410,000
4 bedrooms/3.5 bathrooms | 3,215 square feet

An aerial view of the rear of the single-family home for sale at 729 Congo St. in San Francisco in December 2022 | Courtesy Sotheby’s International Realty

JUST THE FACTS: This four-story, new construction contains all the showstopping bells and whistles you’d expect from a modern abode: soaring ceilings, spa bathrooms, a gas fireplace, two wine fridges, floor-to-ceiling windows with motorized shades, high-tech lighting, a home entertainment system with integrated audio and a home theater on the bottom floor. Plus, it’s all LEED-certified.

WHO’S IT FOR: A tech couple who wants easy access to Interstate 280 or BART toward the South Bay or Valley. They like to entertain in a big space—but have their sights set on having a couple of kids someday. Perhaps just not right now.

The media room of the single-family home for sale at 729 Congo St. in San Francisco in December 2022 | Courtesy Sotheby’s International Realty

THE NEIGHBORHOOD: Perched above the unpretentious, family-friendly village of Glen Park, home to Canyon Market, Higher Grounds Coffee, Bird & Beckett Books and Records, a public library and plenty of dining options, the place is practically in the Glen Canyon Park, one of the largest open spaces in San Francisco. You’ll find a rec center and playground, tennis courts, four miles of hiking trails and even an outdoor preschool here.

The living area of the single-family home for sale at 729 Congo St. in San Francisco in December 2022 | Courtesy Sotheby’s International Realty

POSITIVES: The home is literally in the trees, giving you the feeling you’ve escaped the city to Marin or Sonoma every time you walk in. 

NEGATIVES: The sheer verticality of the home (four levels!) makes me wonder about aging in place here.

The kitchen of the single-family home for sale at 729 Congo St. in San Francisco in December 2022 | Courtesy Sotheby’s International Realty

Click through the gallery at the top of the page for more photos of each property.

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