One of the Painted Ladies on San Francisco’s Postcard Row is for sale for $3.55 million.
Leah Culver bought the house in 2020, but the pandemic stalled her renovation and move-in plans.
She’s now selling the house, without having lived in it, at the same price she bought it for.
The Painted Ladies were built by Matthew Kavanaugh, an Irish contractor who immigrated to the United States in 1869, per the listing. Kavanaugh had built the first house for himself in 1892 and completed the other six homes over a period of three years. The Pink Painted Lady was constructed in 1895.
The houses are designed in the Queen Anne Victorian style, which is characterized by steep roofs and elaborate facade ornamentations.
The bright colors of the houses came about in the 1960s, per the official San Francisco tourism board. Most homes in the city were originally gray, but a local artist named Butch Kradum started painting them over in bright hues, starting a trend that eventually caught on with other homeowners.
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The houses weren’t always known as the Painted Ladies; the moniker only gained popularity in 1978, per the official San Francisco tourism board. The nickname doesn’t specifically refer to the houses on Postcard Row, but rather to the style of the houses.
Now an iconic San Francisco landmark, the seven homes have been featured in numerous shows.
“An entire generation who watched Full House is familiar with the photographs of the seven Painted Ladies all in a row, stepping up the hill,” listing agent Nina Hatvany at Compass told Insider.
The house “has been significantly changed over time and much of the interior finishes are in disrepair,” the listing states.
Photos, like the one above, show dusty rooms, discolored walls, and stained floor tiles.
When Culver first bought the house, she knew how much work it would take to restore it.
“It’s unclear, based on city records when the house was last remodeled,” she said. “When I bought it, it was in a condition that needed some repair.”
Despite the interior overhaul required, the overall building was still sturdy, she said. As Culver told Insider’s Katie Canales in a 2020 interview, she initially expected renovations to cost around $3 million.
“I wanted to re-organize the rooms in the house and lay it out closer to its original configuration,” she said. “The seven houses used to have a similar interior layout, but over time 714 Steiner was modified and broken up into a different layout from the original.”
However, it took a while to obtain building permits, in part due to the pandemic, and she never got around to renovating the home.
The house is located in a prime area with views of the San Francisco cityscape on all sides.
“You can see the Golden Gate Bridge from the front of the house, and at the back, you get a beautiful view of downtown and City Hall,” Culver, who currently lives with her husband about half a mile away, said.
The windows on the front of the house overlook the grassy hills of Alamo Square Park, per the listing.
The entire Alamo Square area, including Postcard Row, is part of the Alamo Square Landmark District and is protected by the city’s Historic Preservation Program, per the National Park Service.
As she was examining the house, Culver found items that were left behind by its previous occupants.
“The only thing that’s been done is some exploratory demolition, which is a technical term, to see what’s behind all the walls and to see what needs to be done in the house,” she said.
Small pieces were taken out of the walls in order to check the condition of the house and its overall structure, but nothing was torn down, she added.
It was during this process that she found treasures that had been left behind by previous families.
“We removed the mantle that we suspected might not be original, and behind it, we found all sorts of things,” she said. “Postcards, photos, letters. I think they had been put on top of the mantle and then probably fell behind over time, which is pretty cool.”
Culver intends to give all the trinkets that she found to the next owner, along with the social media accounts that she created for the home.
Culver runs Twitter and Instagram accounts dedicated to the Pink Painted Lady, where she posts updates about the house and facts about its history. The Twitter account currently has over 5,600 followers, while the Instagram account has over 20,000 followers.
However, she doesn’t expect the new owners to go public with their house or their renovation journey like she did.
“If the new owners would like it, they’re welcome to the domain name for both Twitter and Instagram. I’d love it if someone wanted to continue them, although it isn’t a requirement for the buyer,” she said.
Despite the bathrooms’ disrepair, Culver managed to salvage some features that she felt could be reinstalled in the renovated home.
During the exploratory demolition, she had builders remove tiles and a sink from one of the bathrooms on the upper floor, she explained in a December 2021 tweet.
Earlier this year, the ceiling of the first-story bathroom caved in due to a leak on the upper floor, she tweeted in January this year.
Since the house is in the same condition Culver bought it in, she’s looking to break even by listing it at the same price she paid.
“I haven’t modified anything, I haven’t changed anything. The house hasn’t been updated. I expect whoever purchases it would renovate, so I thought it would be good to list it at the price that I bought it for,” she said.
Selling the house at the same price that Culver paid two years ago will help to attract potential buyers, especially since home prices have risen since then, Hatvany told The Journal.
The median listing home price in the Alamo Square neighborhood is $1.1 million as of May, up from $998,000 in January 2020, per data from Realtor.com. There’s only one other single-family home for sale in the neighborhood right now, a $4.5 million Queen Anne Victorian home, per Realtor.com.
The sale of the house also comes with approved permits and design plans, which Culver worked with an architectural firm to create.
Since the design and administrative work has been done, the next owner will not have to go through the same waiting period as she did.
“It took the seller two years to get the architectural drawings approved by the Planning Department and even though things are moving slightly faster now, it will massively expedite the process for a new buyer compared to starting from scratch,” Hatvany told Insider.
Due to the historical nature of the building, the house also qualifies for property tax benefits under the Mills Act, she added.
The Mills Act grants owners of certain historical properties a tax reduction on the basis that they use the savings to offset the costs of maintaining and preserving their properties.
Culver hopes the next owner will be able to restore the historical property to its former glory and give it the attention it deserves.
“I’m hoping the person who purchases it will do something really nice with it because it’s in a historical district,” Culver said. “The exterior structure can’t be changed but you can paint it different colors and fix it up. It doesn’t have to be pink.”
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