Make Your House YOUR HOUSE in 2018

In order to afford their home dream, clients are working 60 hours a week, and often raising kids and helping elderly parents, too. When escrow ends, they’ve just endured an exhaustive search for the right house and they have run the harrowing race to closing.

Which is when they (often) look at me and say, “Now what? How do we furnish and decorate our home?”

You can start with the internet, where you’ll find an endless assortment of ideas: General inspiration, room planners, places to comparison shop, decorating blogs, you name it. But it can be quite overwhelming and confusing.

My online search today for color trends wasn’t helpful in the least, except as entertainment. As 2018 Color of the Year, Benjamin Moore is touting AF-290 Caliente. Kelly-Moore has chosen KM4782 Baja Grass. Pantone’s pick is 18-3838 Ultra Violet. And Dunn-Edwards’ selection is DET544 The Green Hour, which “draws inspiration from turn-of-the-century Paris, when 5 o’clock became known as ‘The Green Hour’ due to the popularity of absinthe. A darker shade of gray blue-green, this color embodies the timeless sense of mystery and creative revelry of the era.”

Or check out this advice I found on home decor trends for 2018: “We are seeing square and boxy edges remain in inspiration, but being executed with more flowy curves and a softness to them. Even classic mid-century pieces are having a hint of softness to them.”

What does that even mean?

When it comes to design, home decorating, and color choices, my advice is to make a little room in your budget for professional counsel. It’s money well spent, since home is your sanctuary and you’ll be spending a lot of time there. Meanwhile…

My Style Prediction for 2018 and beyond: The sun has set on the oh-so-popular big white box with nano windows, glass/steel staircase, matte wide-plank flooring and lab-style kitchen featuring Quartz waterfall island. If you’re contemplating a remodel in the Bay Area, don’t look around you, look ahead.

My 2018 Top Secret Tip: Hire a stager to help you. They are the designers/interior decorators who can work with almost any budget, and are quick studies who mix pragmatism with artistry. (If you need recommendations or referrals, ask me.)

The main thing is to make your house your house, and be true to yourself. As the preeminent interior designer Bunny Williams famously said, “If you love something it will work. That’s the only real rule.”

Instant art, using Benjamin Moore “Century” paint brochure.

Cynthia Cummins is a Top Producer and Partner at McGuire. For info on SF real estate visit http://CynthiaCummins.com.

Best Time to Buy? Right Now.

The first home I owned — in San Francisco — was a 2-unit building purchased with my ex-husband (call him Bob) and my clients (call them Greg and Ann).

Loma Prieta had shaken us silly that October of 1989, but it didn’t slow our real estate search. It was two weeks after the earthquake when Curt, Sally, Pablo and I first viewed our future home – a spacious hunk of Victorian history in the neighborhood now known as NOPA. By the time we closed in December the market was trending downward. Seems we’d bought at the peak.

But we enjoyed living there for the next five years, even as the market continued falling. We remodeled, added parking, started families, celebrated holidays together and hoped the market would change. We converted our flats to condominiums, sold them, and purchased neighboring single family homes in the Richmond district.

In retrospect, we were smart to get in (and out) when we did. We sold the condos at the bottom of the curve. But — hey! — we bought our houses at the bottom, too. $250,000 condos turned into $350,000 houses turned into $650,000 houses turned into $1,300,000 houses just before the 2009 adjustment. Those same houses are worth $2,000,000 or more today (though we’ve all moved on).

Ask any agent – on any day during any month during almost any year – if it’s a good time to buy and they’ll say one of three things:

  1. Now is a perfect time to buy.
  2. Five years ago was a better time to buy.
  3. Tomorrow will also prove to be a great time to buy.

The San Francisco real estate market is daunting and rewarding. The main thing is to get your foot in the proverbial (or literal) door. But you’ll need an agent’s help:

  1. Ready? Interview a couple of agents (or just call me) and choose your ally.
  2. Set? Follow her/his (my) advice on preparing for the journey.
  3. Go!

Cynthia Cummins is a Top Producer and Partner at McGuire. For info on SF real estate visit http://CynthiaCummins.com.  This article was re-posted at McGuire.com.

These Are A Few Of My Favorite (Luxurious) Things

Ah, luxury!

The luxury of sitting down with a cup of Mighty Leaf black vanilla tea (plus a splash of coconut creamer) and looking out the window at whatever happens to be there.

The luxury of cuddling up with a good book. I recommend The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin. It’s a quiet and compelling tale set in the Pacific Northwest at the end of the 19th Century. Or if you’re looking for something disturbing and dystopian, check out The Passage by Justin Cronin. It takes place in a future United States where gangs of starving vampires run around looking for dinner. (Dinner, of course, consists of a rag-tag bunch of humans trying to survive another night.)

The luxury of picking up my iPad, flicking two fingers and seeing which YMCA exercise classes are on today and where I can go for dim sum on Saturday.

The luxury of work-related apps and web platforms that do what they’re supposed to do: In particular, DOCUSIGN!

The luxury of being able to eat after undergoing a routine medical screening that required 36 hours of fasting.

The luxury of then asking myself “What shall I have for dinner?” and being able to find it (whatever IT is) in San Francisco – today.

The luxury of loving my job, and belonging to a workplace where I am welcomed, supported and surrounded by congenial staff, management and colleagues.

The luxury of having heat, a roof, windows, a refrigerator, a MacBook Air and comfortable furnishings, as well as a piano, a banjo, a ukulele and three guitars.

The luxury of electricity, roads, clean water, clear skies, peace.

The luxury of friends and family, and quiet time for connection.

These are just a few of my favorite luxurious things.

Cynthia Cummins is a Top Producer and Partner at McGuire. For info on SF real estate visit http://CynthiaCummins.com. This article was re-posted at McGuire.com.

New post soon!

I’ve escaped for a little while. New post soon!

Cynthia Cummins is a Top Producer and Partner at McGuire. For info on SF real estate visit http://CynthiaCummins.com.

Great San Francisco views. How can I get one?

If a breathtaking view is at the top of your wish list, you’ll need a breathtaking budget to afford it.

San Francisco is home to some of the best views anywhere on the planet. And, happily, hundreds of them are available for free. To everyone.

To watch the full video click on the photo.

Cynthia Cummins is a Top Producer and Partner at McGuire. For info on SF real estate visit http://CynthiaCummins.com.  This article was re-posted at McGuire.com.

A Rancher Reverie

I daydream about living in a one-level house built in the 1950s or 1960s. Why is this?

Could be I’m starved for mid-century ranchers because I sell residential real estate in a city dominated by homes from earlier or later eras. Ranchers tend to be mutually exclusive with 25’ x 100’ lots (standard in San Francisco).

A better theory is it’s because I spent a lot of my childhood in one-story houses. In the 60s and 70s that style was in style, and as I’ve gotten older I’ve noticed a strange correlation between certain architectural characteristics and feelings of comfort and sanctuary.

As a teenager, I yearned for vaulty Victorian ceilings, turret-windowed rooms and expansive porches. That’s because we lived in a new 1970s subdivision and I envied the storybook turn-of-the-century houses where many of my friends lived. That hankering stuck with me and I eschewed anything built after World War II for a long time.

But now I’ve gone retro. I’ve gone back to…

  • Clerestory windows like the ones in the bedroom of my grade-school friend Jennifer. During sleepovers, I’d lie awake – slightly nervous – watching car headlights flashing off the ceiling.
  • Flagstone on facades, like the ones adorning our first rented house in Grundy, Virginia.
  • Wide-plank hardwood floors, perfect for scooting around on a blanket pretending to steer a boat.
  • Harvest gold and decorative brick in the kitchen, a palette that perfectly matched autumn.
  • Oversized picture windows with rain slapping down them, like the one in the piano niche of my piano teacher’s living room, where I’d struggle through Mozart, Czerny and Debussy after having not practiced all week.
  • Widely detached houses, which could be circled for hours in order to evade capture by your little brother during a prolonged game of Hide n Seek or Let’s Pretend We’re the Men from Uncle.
  • Split level floor plans that made spying on the grownups easier than with a traditional staircase.

But, alas, such homes are scarce in San Francisco and so I live in a quaint and distinctive Victorian on a block well-traveled by tourists and locals on their way to Dolores Park. At least once a week as I exit or enter my front door, somebody hails me and asks if I actually live there.

“Yes,” I reply, with a barely perceptible sigh, “I do.”

Cynthia Cummins is a Top Producer and Partner at McGuire. For info on SF real estate visit http://CynthiaCummins.com. This article was re-posted at McGuire.com.

Wishing You A Happy Thanksgiving

I’m spending the holiday with family and friends rather than writing a blog post. Hope you’re having fun, too!

Cynthia Cummins is a Top Producer and Partner at McGuire. For info on SF real estate visit http://CynthiaCummins.com.

Go West to Ocean Beach

The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea. ~ Isak Dinesen

Guess what? We’ve got the cure! Here in San Francisco we live next to an ocean. As in right next to the Pacific Ocean.

 How easy it is to forget. Doing the daily commute. Working out at the gym. Buying groceries. Picking kids up from school. Getting gas. Taking care of one sort of business or another.

Yet you can jump on the 38, 5, 7, 31, N or L, or drive, or walk, or ride your bike, and in no time or distance at all you can be standing on the shores of the mighty Pacific.

I’ve met a couple of people lately who’ve lived in San Francisco five years and have never gone to Ocean Beach. (There should be a law, in my opinion.)

A jaunt to the city’s western end is never a bad idea. In all sorts of weather. During all times of day. At any ol’ time of year. There’s always something beautiful and compelling going on there and you haven’t really experienced San Francisco until you’ve visited.

Feeling sad or discouraged? I know it’s hokey, but listen to Lights on your way out to the beach a couple of times and you’ll soon be feeling better.

Face west, take three long breaths, feel your feet on the ground. Then stroll for as long as you like.

And then – depending on your exact location – drop into one of these fine establishments for a snack, a drink or a meal: Cliff House, Beach Chalet, Outerlands, Streamline Café, the Riptide or Java Beach Café.***

Go west. It’ll change your mood, your day and your life!

There is pleasure in the pathless woods, there is rapture in the lonely shore, there is society where none intrudes, by the deep sea, and music in its roar… ~ Lord Byron

***If your favorite Ocean Beach establishment isn’t on the list above, I’d love to know about it!

Cynthia Cummins is a Top Producer and Partner at McGuire. For info on SF real estate visit http://CynthiaCummins.com. This article was re-posted at McGuire.com.

RE Glossary: A’s and B’s

My own tongue-in-cheek definitions of real estate terms, starting with the A’s and B’s.

Acceleration clause:
A clause in a loan contract where – if you do certain things – instead of having to repay your loan 27 years from now you have to repay it next Monday.

Adjustable rate mortgage:
Not necessarily a bad thing. Ask me why.

Agent:
Loves you like your mother (if you have the right agent).

Annual percentage rate:
What your rate of interest would be if you factored in all the costs associated with your loan. Better not to dwell on the APR.

Application:
Fill in a loan application once and you’ll understand why you should make a copy so you never have to fill one in again.

Appreciation:
Something you can count on to be robust in San Francisco.

Assessed value:
Predicated on purchase price and, in San Francisco and California, subject to expected, minimal increases over time. No surprises, unlike in other parts of the country.

Balloon payment:
Neither fun nor festive. See “Acceleration clause” above.

Bridge loan:
Allows you to buy a new house before you’ve sold your old one. Not a great idea unless you can afford to own two houses – in case something goes awry with your plan.

Cynthia Cummins is a Top Producer and Partner at McGuire. For info on SF real estate visit http://CynthiaCummins.com.This article was re-posted at McGuire.com.

Spraying the Moss

I’ve written previously about how staging is a form of theater. Instead of setting a scene in which actors animate a story, stagers set a scene in which buyers can imagine living their lives.

It’s about contextualizing rooms, enhancing good design, downplaying flaws and heightening the effectiveness of photography. But it’s primarily about evoking a mood and creating a positive subliminal response.

Staging, however, doesn’t solve everything. Properties often need a few subtle (or funny) tweaks that only an agent can think of and handle.

Examples include:

• Moving the cat box out of the powder room and into the garage during an open house.
• Spraying lavender mist to mask the odor of last night’s salmon.
• Turning up the heat and closing all the windows.
• Turning off the heat and opening all the windows.
• Neatening the shoes stacked outside a neighboring condo’s door.
• Cleaning up dog poo from a carpet.
• Lighting candles.
• Asking a homeless person to please nap elsewhere.
• Roasting an onion.
• Emptying or taking out the trash.
• Angling shutters for optimum lighting.
• Sweeping up leaves and street detritus blown into an entry.
• Asking teenagers on their school lunch break to smoke somewhere else.
• Sorting mail for saving or recycling.
• Emptying a diaper pail.
• Windexing the fingerprints left by kid visitors on windows, doors, coffee tables.
• Freshening the fruit bowl.
• Unclogging a toilet used by an open house looker.
• Hiding the toilet paper to discourage future use.
• Carefully removing used syringes from a planter box.
• Shooing away (without success) those little flies that love the dead air in an entry.
• Guarding neighbors’ driveways and garages.
• Plucking dried orchid blooms from a dining centerpiece.
• Double-checking that nobody has spelled dirty words using the stagers’ Scrabble set.
• Making sure people don’t hurt themselves or damage the property.
• Putting the paper towels, knife block, toaster and dish drainer under the sink.
• Holding babies, watching strollers, minding dogs, stowing latte cups, monitoring double-parked cars.
• Gently relocating a spider to the exterior.
• And – perhaps the most fun and funny task ever – spraying the moss displayed in a sculptural bowl upon every visit to a property.

All seemingly insignificant details that make a difference and all part of my role as a professional real estate agent!

Cynthia Cummins is a Top Producer and Partner at McGuire. For info on SF real estate visit http://CynthiaCummins.com.This article was re-posted at McGuire.com.