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The Data Optimizers

Dalmar Hussein and Aditi Shekar


Buyers: Dalmar Hussein and Aditi Shekar
Bought: 1-bed, 1-bath in Bernal Heights
Asking: $799K
Final: $1.02M
Realtors: John Solaegui and Maitri Ratanasene

Born in Sudan and India respectively, Dalmar Hussein and Aditi Shekar have lived all over the world. Yet they had never experienced anything like the bizarre rituals and customs of the Bay Area real estate market. “I am the kind of person who likes data. I like to know that there are very clear comparables in the market, and none of that stuff exists here,” says Shekar, who runs her own early-stage tech company. “Realtors are making offer recommendations based on their gut. Like, I’m sorry, you want me to increase my offer by $200,000 because you think and feel that it’s going to go for x? That’s freaking insane.”

The couple, who moved from Denver in January, were hoping to find a single-family home with a yard in a walkable neighborhood for $1 million. Their realtor was not optimistic. Over a period of four months, they bid and lost out on five places despite dangling all-cash offers at 20 to 30 percent above the asking price (with a plan to potentially finance later). “Dalmar wrote the most beautiful letter to include in all the offers. One person told us he had 16 offers but he loved our letter, and if we could match his highest offer”—a whopping $200,000 more than theirs—“he would give us the house without countering anyone else,” Shekar recalls. “We had 20 minutes to make the decision.” They passed.

For the analytically minded couple, it just didn’t compute. “Our expectations were tempered by D.C. and New York markets, cities we thought would be good proxies for San Francisco—and it turns out they weren’t,” says Hussein, a researcher at a tech startup. “After that, we were faced with the choice of either revising our initial goals…or being very strategic, quick, and patient.” They went with the latter approach, looking for a property that not only met their requirements but also had characteristics that might make it less appealing to others. “Every weekend we would look at 20 properties online, then select 8 to 10 we would see in person. We looked at 150 to 200 houses in person. Online we looked at 1,000,” Shekar says. “It became a real grind.”

But eventually, the numbers shook out in their favor. Single-family home. Nice yard. Walkable neighborhood (the flats of Bernal Heights). List price: just over $799,000. But what would keep this property from shooting up above their budget? “We noticed that it didn’t have a garage, which would drive away some people,” Hussein says. It was also a one-bedroom, onebathroom with a lot of unwarranted space, “eminently livable and very fine for us,” but not necessarily for a growing family. They had been strategic and patient; it was time to be quick. “We realized the preemptive offer is the way to go,” Hussein says, “because you reduce the field of people against whom you are competing.”

Hussein and Shekar gave the seller an offer of $1.02 million with a 24-hour deadline to respond. The aggressive move worked. They got their house, and now they can focus on the little things. “The house is completely comfortable and livable,” Shekar says, “as soon as we figure out how to get all the spiders out.”


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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