SF’s Pink Painted Lady Is Listed for $3.55 Million — but Needs Work

When Leah Culver bought one of San Francisco’s Painted Ladies in January 2020, she couldn’t wait to renovate it and move into her new home.

The exterior of 714 Steiner Street, also known as the "Pink Painted Lady."

 

The exterior of 714 Steiner Street, which used to be pink in the seventies.

Rob Jordan

Culver bought the home at 714 Steiner Street in January 2020 for $3.55 million, above its initial asking price of $2.75 million, listing records show.

Before she took over, the house had been with the previous owners for the past 60 years, Culver told The Wall Street Journal. Property ownership was transferred within the previous family during that period.

“I nicknamed it the Pink Painted Lady with the intention to paint it pink when I was finished remodeling. It is currently a beige with reddish-brown trim, but it was bright pink in the 1970s,” Culver said, citing historical images of the home in the Max Kirkeberg Collection at the San Francisco State University.

But then the pandemic struck, and two years later, she’s selling the house without ever having lived in it.

“My job got busier, my life just got crazier — I got married and I moved in with my husband,” Culver told Insider.

“As time went on, I decided to focus on other things,” the software developer, who works for Twitter, added.

The house is one of the seven Painted Ladies on San Francisco’s iconic Postcard Row, which date back to the 1890s.

The house is part of a row of seven houses known as the “Painted Ladies” or “Postcard Row” in San Francisco.

 

The house is part of a row of seven houses known as the “Painted Ladies” or “Postcard Row” in San Francisco.

Rob Jordan

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.

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.

The main entrance as viewed from the house's corridor

 

The main entrance of the house as viewed from the corridor.

Rob Jordan

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.

The main front room of the house overlooks Alamo Square Park.

 

The main front room of the house overlooks Alamo Square Park.

Rob Jordan

“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.

Culver found old, faded photographs and letters behind the mantle during some exploratory demolition works.

 

Culver found old, faded photographs and letters behind the mantle during some exploratory demolition works.


Leah Culver/Pink Painted Lady

“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.”

Despite the bathrooms’ disrepair, Culver managed to salvage some features that she felt could be reinstalled in the renovated home.

A collage showing the first-floor bathroom on the left, and the second-floor bathroom on the right.

 

A collage showing the first-floor bathroom on the left, and the second-floor bathroom on the right.

Rob Jordan

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.

The back room on the second floor.

 

The back room is on the second floor.

Rob Jordan

“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.

The kitchen on the second floor.

 

The kitchen is on the second floor.

Rob Jordan

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.

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