I've been eyeing the Bay Area market for the past 5 years and to me, the only way to get a "good deal" (I'm talking about 5-10% below market/listing) is through negotiations alone (throw a non-contingency on the offer, find a property sold by a unexperienced real estate agent, etc.).
The reason is that you're competing against a lot of tech millionaires who are ready to offer full cash for anything, including a burnt out husk of a house. While the pandemic should in theory have caused a seize on this, instead because of the lack of inventory, housing market prices have gone up.
People who have found these unicorn 10% deals, how did you do it?
market/listing, real estate agent, competing against
You find deals like that by looking off market.
We have bought three houses in Marin between July 2019 and October 2020. All were in the high $700's or low $800's - close to 20% below market. We have come close to acquiring two more since that time (we were one of two finalists). Here's the formula in shorthand that has worked for us:
1. You have to know your market like the back of your hand and need to spend time looking for suitable properties every day. No days off. We specialize in fixers that have other redeeming features (e.g. flat yard, more living space than listed on property records, etc.).
2. You need to have financing worked out in advance so that you can make "no contingency" offers.
You need to research sellers (APN is a good start) to get a sense of what extras they may be looking for (rentback? flexible move schedule? assume risk/cost of county/city required repairs done without permits?)
4. You need a relationship with an agent ready to write same day/next day offers
5. You need to have or be able to assemble a team ready to tackle just about any kind of repair. In other words, you need to understand the cost of repairs and no screwing around with inspection contingencies.