SAN FRANCISCO — A few rare parking spots along Bernard Street are reserved for a broker’s tour event on this Tuesday morning. Inquisitive passersby, Realtors and potential homebuyers visit the property, a tenancy-in-common three-unit residential building, to get a sneak peek at the trendy flats in this Nob Hill neighborhood.
On this day, Abigail Picache, broker-associate at GMAC Real Estate, is taking a mother-son duo around to scope out some properties. She has several properties in mind that meet the specifications of her clients.
The son, Nima, is relocating from Manhattan and is seeking a two-bedroom condo unit. He indicates that the single most important thing for him is the neighborhood. He lived in San Francisco for several years prior to moving to the Battery Park community in lower Manhattan, so he is very familiar with particular neighborhoods.
Picache’s client is visiting for only a week, so he has a limited amount of time to search for prospective properties.
Since this is the first property they visit and there are three vacant units, with one undergoing construction, Picache makes sure that her client gets a thorough walk-through in all three before they head out to more listings.
They saunter around the homes, starting at the upper level: a five-room flat with pale olive-green walls and a radiant mint-green fireplace in the living room. The middle level interests Nima more since it is roomier, and he mentions to Picache that he likes the transition of the rooms. This four-room flat, staged with contemporary furniture, has grayish-blue walls and the doorways are more aligned than the top flat, giving it an open layout. The bottom floor, undergoing a renovation, is more difficult to fathom since there are carpentry tools and sheets occupying the space. However, the bottom floor has exclusive access to a plentiful garden.
Picache hops into her silver Range Rover while the two follow behind closely to the next destination. She has three more properties in mind to explore with Nima and his mother.
A musician by night and agent by day, Picache considers herself a "mobile" real estate agent, as she prefers not to have a desk space at the GMAC office. Instead, she works from home and spends much of her time "on the go."
Pacific Union, a part of the GMAC real estate network, has been in operation since 1975, with offices in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco and Sonoma counties. GMAC Home Services LLC was acquired by Toronto-based Brookfield Residential Property Services in a deal announced earlier this year (see Inman News). That company also operates the Royal LePage real estate network in Canada, among other brands.
Picache began her career at GMAC last year and says that it was a progressive move for her. While she was at Coldwell Banker, Christine Dwiggins, vice president and broker of GMAC Pacific Union in San Francisco, approached her.
"It took a year for Christine to recruit me because at the time I wasn’t focused on real estate. I was focused on music and I wasn’t ready to make a change," says Picache.
As a top-producing agent at Coldwell, Picache was making six figures a year and because her schedule was flexible, splitting her transaction with a personal assistant and an escrow officer, she was devoting a majority of time to her true passion.
Picache is a drummer for the Valerie Orth Band, a group of three musicians, and travels sporadically to play at shows.
Growing up in Virginia Beach, Va., Picache earned a full basketball scholarship to attend Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., where she earned a bachelor’s of science degree in business administration.
She worked as a financial consultant and stockbroker for Merrill Lynch and as a corporate account manager for Comcast Corp. prior to entering the real estate industry. Once she received her broker’s license in 2004 she joined ZipRealty.
"I’ve always had an entrepreneurial type spirit, and never wanted people to tell me what to do," says Picache.
After a year at ZipRealty she was recruited to join a Coldwell Banker team. The new opportunity gave her time to pursue her interests in music and athletics.
"I need all three in my life to be balanced — I don’t want one or the other," she says.
In June, she participated in an AIDS-Lifecycle benefit event, completing a 545-mile bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles in seven days. She raised more than $3,000 for charity and plans to participating in the event next year.
Her real estate schedule can be unpredictable, and she says many transactions take place during odd hours.
"Last night I had to meet a client at 11:30 p.m. to sign a disclosure package. All day, I was on the phone with the seller and the buyer closing out a deal," says Picache.
On this day, she started work at 9 a.m. to meet her clients for the first time. Prior to that, they spoke over the phone and perused listings together online. The clients found her through a referral — which is her primary channel for new clients.
Since they are running a little late today, Picache reschedules with a Zephyr Real Estate agent to meet at a later time.
Picache and her clients visit a property on Mason Street in downtown, which has a brick exterior. Nima adores this property, located on the top floor of a two-unit building. He takes pictures of it with his iPhone as they open closet doors and make their way to the rooftop area, overlooking the city. Nima is in awe with the neighborhood, the roof access and the reasonably sized bedrooms. The kitchen and the bathrooms are remodeled, giving the floors and features a new-home aura.
A third property is located in the Haight-Ashbury District of San Francisco — an unfamiliar area to Nima. This property is the largest among those they visit, yet Nima is not sure about the neighborhood. He asks Picache if they can stroll the area to get a feel for it, so they walk a few blocks up to the local park.
"Its all coming back to me now," Nima says to Picache as they approach the quiet park.
"See, its perfect. You have a dog and you could walk him here," Picache suggests to Nima.
They meet up with the Zephyr agent, who cracks jokes with the bunch as they walk. The Victorian home, which was converted to a two-unit building, is offered at $599,000. The door leading the way to exclusive access in the backyard grabs Nima’s attention, but he still has his heart set on the Mason Street property, he says.
Picache arranges a time to meet with her client on Friday before he returns to New York, since there are three more properties they haven’t looked at yet. As she steps into her vehicle, she notices that she is late to meet her band for rehearsal.
She drives across the Bay Bridge to Emeryville and pulls into the parking lot of Expressions College for Digital Arts, a colorful building that offers a free practice space for the group.
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