Frequently Asked Questions

General Buying Questions

What Bay Area cities and neighborhoods do you cover?+

We cover the entire Bay Area. We've helped clients buy homes in San Francisco, North Bay, East Bay and South Bay. We also cover LA and San Diego in Southern California.

What services do you provide Bay Area home buyers?+

We provide all of the services of a traditional real estate agent, with better data-driven tools, increased transparency and more responsive customer service. We can help with as little or as much of the home-buying process as you require. Some clients come to us with a home already found and a price in mind, and need assistance with assessing the home and executing the transaction. Others are still figuring out their budget, what they're looking for, and advice on where to focus their search. Wherever you are in your home buying journey, we’re here to seamlessly guide you through your home buying process - finding the right home, valuing it, understanding the disclosures, submitting a competitive offer, and closing the transaction. We're with you from start to finish.

Is Unlocked fully licensed?+

Yes. Unlocked is a fully-licensed California brokerage (CalBRE #02060530) and all of our agents are fully-licensed California sales agents. All of our agents are members of the San Francisco Association of Realtors (TM), California Association of Realtors (TM) and the National Association of Realtors (TM).

How are you different from a traditional buyer’s agent?+

With Unlocked, you’ll be working with one of our fully-licensed real estate agents and get all of the buying services provided by a traditional real estate agent, with better data-driven tools, increased transparency and more responsive customer service. So in many respects, your buying experience will be the same as working with a traditional real estate agent - only better!

In terms of how we’re different, firstly, we offer 1% cash back. This is the largest buyer’s rebate in the Bay Area (that we know about)! That is tens of thousands of dollars that you can put that towards buying new furniture, renovating your kitchen and bathrooms or throwing that all important housewarming party (or more responsible uses like paying down your mortgage).

Secondly, our backgrounds are different than traditional real estate agents. We are a Stanford MBA and a Yale Law JD, who have also worked at some of the top management consulting, law and private equity firms (Bain & Company, Boston Consulting Group, Wachtell and Bain Capital). We leverage our data-driven, customer-oriented experiences to deliver a more insightful, analytical and responsive home buying experience.

Thirdly, Unlocked has built custom analytical tools to bring data, insight and transparency to the key buying decision points and streamline the buying process. For every home you’re interested in, we provide our Custom Valuation Report, an easy-to-interpret spreadsheet of recent comparable transactions, competing listings and third-party valuations, as well as our Disclosure Review Summary, a comprehensive summary of the 200+ pages of disclosures.

All-in-all, we’ve designed the buying experience that we would have wanted when we bought our homes, and we’re sure you’ll love it, just like our current and past clients have (check out our Yelp reviews).

Who will be my day-to-day point of contact at Unlocked? +

One of our licensed real estate agents personally leads each transaction and will be your day-to-day point of contact throughout your home buying journey. We work closely as a team, and are able to jump in for each other if and when you have a time-sensitive request.

Can you help me buy a new construction home? +

Yes, we also work with new construction homebuyers. To learn more, please visit here or contact us

How much does it cost to work with Unlocked? +

Nothing! Working with Unlocked is free for buyers. We make our money via the commission the seller pays. On top of not costing you anything, we also give you a 1% cash back rebate. So buying with Unlocked gets you a better buying experience AND you get rebated 1% of your purchase price!

Rebate Questions

Unlocked's 1% cash back rebate offer sounds too good to be true. Is there a catch?+

There is no catch! We started Unlocked as we think there needs to be a better way to buy a Bay Area home based on our own home buying experiences. Buying agents get paid 2.5% of the purchase price, which means on a typical $2 million single-family home, they get $50,000. Given escalating Bay Area real estate prices, that didn’t feel right to us, so we rebate 1% of the purchase price back to the buyer (subject to a minimum commission of $15,000 to Unlocked). We still offer all of the services of a traditional real estate agent, with better data-driven tools, increased transparency and more responsive customer service. It is the home buying experience we wanted when we bought our Bay Area homes.

How are you able to pay 1% of the purchase price cash back to buyers? +

The seller generally pays both their listing agent and the buyer’s agent 2.5% of the purchase price. On a $2 million dollar home, that’s $50,000 to each agent. We think buyers should keep more of their money, so we rebate 1% of the 2.5% commission back the buyer. We leverage technology (and work around-the-clock!) to provide a higher-level of service to our clients, while spending less of our time having coffee and networking with potential clients.

How and when do I get the 1% cashback?+

Buyers receive their cash back rebate at the close of their home purchase. As soon as the escrow company distributes the funds to Unlocked (generally the same day as close), we then wire you your cash back rebate. You can then use your cash back rebate to buy new furniture, renovate your kitchen and bathrooms or throw that all important housewarming party! (or use it to pay down your mortgage)

Are there any restrictions to the 1% cash back?+

We strive to give the best possible financial deal to all of our Bay Area clients. However there are a limited number of instances when Unlocked has to slightly modify our cash back rebate offer:

  • If the buying agent commission is less than 2.5%, we reduce the cash back rebate by the same amount. For example, if the seller is only offering a 2.25% buying agent commission, you’d receive a 0.75% cash back rebate. 99%+ of Bay Area properties offer a 2.5% buying agent commission, so this is a rare event, and we would let you know ahead of submitting an offer so you can adjust your offer price accordingly.
  • If Unlocked would earn less than $15,000 commission, we rebate you all of the buying agent’s commission, after deducting $15,000 for Unlocked to cover our time and expenses. For example, on a $900,000 home offering a 2.5% agent commission, the buying agent commission would be $22,500, and we would rebate $7,500 to the buyer (which is 0.83%, slightly lower than the full 1%, but still a very high rebate).
  • Under every circumstance, you’re still getting the highest cash back rebate offered in the Bay Area (that we know of).

Is the cash back rebate taxable?+

According to the IRS, a cash back rebate from a buying agent as part of a real estate purchase is generally not subject to income tax. Per the IRS “a payment or credit at closing from [a real estate brokerage] represents an adjustment to the purchase price of the home and generally is not includible in a purchaser's gross income.”

When you sell your property in the future, you would adjust your cost basis down by the rebate amount when calculating capital gains taxes (subject to allowable capital gains exemptions on real estate properties). Of course, you should consult with your accountant or tax attorney as it relates to your circumstances.

Will there be a written contract between myself and Unlocked detailing the rebate?+

Simply Contact Us and we can send you our standard client agreement in DocuSign for you to review and electronically sign. The contract is non-exclusive, so if you are not 100% satisfied working with Unlocked, you are free to work with another buying agent.

Other Questions

How do I see your listings? Do you have off-market properties available?+

Most of our buying clients find their new home via homes listed on the MLS, where you’ll find the broadest inventory of Bay Area homes available for sale. This is usually the best way to find a home that meets your buying criteria. We recommend using either Redfin or Zillow to peruse current listings, as these websites have all MLS listings, and have a better user-interface than the actual MLS.

From time-to-time we have Unlocked “off-market” properties, generally when an Unlocked buyer wants to sell their old home. When that happens, we reach out to all Unlocked buyers that the home may be suitable for, and see if there is an interest in purchasing the home at a price that the seller is expecting.

Do you help buyers looking to purchase new construction homes?+

Yes. We’re happy to work with buyers looking to purchase a new construction property and do so regularly. Some new construction developments can be strict about requiring you to register us as your buying agent the very first time you contact the development, so it’s often important to get in contact with us sooner rather than later if you’re considering a new development property.

To learn more about how Unlocked can help you with your new construction purchase, please visit our new construction page for more details, or feel free to contact us

Do I have to work exclusively with Unlocked?+

No. We do not require any exclusivity from our clients, and we want to earn your business with every interaction. If for whatever reason Unlocked is not a good fit for your home buying needs, you are free to work with other agents.

We do ask that once you start working with Unlocked on a particular home, you continue to work with us on that home, and similarly if you start to work with another agent on a particular home, you continue to work with that agent on that home.

I've already started working with another agent on a home. Can Unlocked represent me so I can get the 1% rebate?+

Unfortunately not. If another agent has already helped you with a particular home, including providing you the disclosures, given you valuation advice or toured the property with you, you should continue to work with that agent for that home.

Should you not end up buying that home, and would like to work with Unlocked on future homes to get the Unlocked 1% cash back rebate, we'd love to work with you. Simply Contact Us and we can get started from there.

Do you work with sellers?+

While our primary focus has been helping home buyers, we are beginning to also work with home sellers. If you're interested in discussing this further, please Contact Us.

Sounds great! How do I get started with Unlocked?+

Simply Contact Us! We can answer any questions you may have, and ensure you kick-off your home buying process on the right foot. If needed, we can introduce you to the Bay Area’s best mortgage agents at the major banks, and discuss with you valuation trends for the neighborhoods or cities you’re focused on.

When you’ve visited a property you'd like to learn more about, just let us know. Most Bay Area listings have an offer deadline, often within a week or two of listing. Once you’ve contacted us, we can inform you of the offer deadline, as well as obtain the disclosures from the listing agent and put together our Custom Valuation Report and Disclosure Review Summary. If you'd like to move forward with an offer, we will be available to walk through that process.

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