When Leah Culver purchased one of San Francisco’s Painted Ladies in January 2020, she couldn’t wait to renovate it and move into her new home.
Culver bought the home at 714 Steiner Street in January 2020 for $3.55 million, above its original asking price of $2.75 million, according to records.
Before she took over, the house had been owned by the previous owners for 60 years, Culver told the Wall Street Journal. Ownership of property was transferred within the previous family during this period.
“I’ve nicknamed her the Pink Painted Lady with the intention of painting her pink when I’m done with the remodel. She’s currently beige with a reddish-brown border, but was hot pink in the 1970s,” said Culver, citing historic images of the house in the Max Kirkeberg Collection at San Francisco State University.
But the pandemic hit and two years later, she sold the house without ever having lived there.
“My job got busier, my life got crazier — I got married and moved in with my husband,” Culver told Insider.
“Over time, I decided to focus on other things,” added the software developer, who works for Twitter.
The house is one of seven Painted Ladies on San Francisco’s iconic Postcard Row, which dates back to the 1890s.
The Painted Ladies were built by Matthew Kavanaugh, an Irish entrepreneur who immigrated to the United States in 1869, according to the listing. Kavanaugh had built the first house for himself in 1892 and completed the other six houses over a three-year period. The Pink Painted Lady was built in 1895.
The houses are designed in the Victorian Queen Anne style, which is characterized by steep roofs and elaborate facade ornamentation.
The bright colors of the houses first appeared in the 1960s, according to the official San Francisco tourist board. Most homes in town were originally gray, but a local artist named Butch Kradum began repainting them in bright hues, starting a trend that eventually caught on with other homeowners.
The houses were not always known as Painted Ladies; the nickname didn’t gain popularity until 1978, according to San Francisco’s official tourist board. The nickname does not refer specifically to the Postcard Row houses, but rather to the style of the houses.
Now an iconic San Francisco landmark, the Seven Houses have been featured in numerous shows.
“A whole generation that has watched Full house knows the photographs of the seven Painted Ladies all in a row, climbing the hill,” Compass operative Nina Hatvany told Insider.
The home “has been significantly altered over time and much of the interior finishes are in poor condition,” the listing says.
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 not clear from city records when the house was last renovated,” she said. “When I bought it, it was in a state that needed repairs.”
Despite the necessary interior renovation, the whole building was still solid, she said. As Culver told Insider’s Katie Canales in a 2020 interview, she initially expected the renovations to cost around $3 million.
“I wanted to rearrange the rooms in the house and lay it out closer to its original layout,” she said. “All seven houses had a similar interior layout, but over time the 714 Steiner was modified and split into a different layout from the original.”
However, it took time to get the building permits, in part because of the pandemic, and she never had time to renovate the house.
The house is located in a prime neighborhood with views of the San Francisco cityscape from all sides.
“You can see the Golden Gate Bridge from the front of the house, and out the back you have a nice view of downtown and City Hall,” said Culver, who currently lives with her husband. about 800 meters away.
Windows at the front of the house overlook the grassy hills of Alamo Square Park, according to the listing.
The entire Alamo Square area, including Postcard Row, is part of the Alamo Square Historic District and is protected by the city’s Historic Preservation Program, by the National Park Service.
As she examined the house, Culver found items left behind by its former occupants.
“The only thing that’s been done is an exploratory demolition, which is a technical term, to see what’s behind all the walls and see what needs to be done in the house,” she said.
Small pieces were removed from the walls to check the condition of the house and its general structure, but nothing was demolished, she added.
It was during this process that she found treasures that had been left behind by previous families.
“We removed the coat that we suspected was not original, and behind it we found all sorts of things,” she said. “Postcards, photos, letters. I think they got put on the mantle and probably got delayed over time, which is pretty cool.”
Despite the dilapidated state of the bathrooms, Culver was able to salvage some features that she believed could be reinstated in the remodeled home.
During the exploratory demolition, she asked the builders to remove tiles and a sink from one of the upstairs bathrooms, she explained in a December 2021 Tweeter.
Earlier this year the ceiling in the first floor bathroom collapsed due to an upper floor leak, it tweeted in January of this year.
Since the house is in the same condition Culver bought it, she is looking to break even by listing it for the same price she paid.
“I haven’t altered anything, I haven’t changed anything. The house hasn’t been updated. I expect whoever buys it to renovate, so I thought it would be good to list it at the price I bought it at,” she said.
Selling the home for the same price Culver paid two years ago will help attract potential buyers, especially since home prices have risen since then, Hatvany told the Journal.
The median price for listing homes in the Alamo Square neighborhood is $1.1 million in May, up from $998,000 in January 2020, according to 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 home also comes with approved permits and design plans, which Culver worked with an architectural firm to create.
With the design and administration work complete, the next owner won’t have to go through the same waiting period as her.
“It took the seller two years to get the architectural drawings approved by the planning department and while things are moving a little faster now, it will speed up the process considerably for a new buyer compared to starting from scratch,” said Hatvany told Insider.
Due to the historic nature of the building, the house is also eligible for tax benefits under the Mills Act, she added.
The Mills Act grants owners of certain historic properties a tax reduction on the basis that they use the savings to offset the costs of maintaining and preserving their properties.