Monthly Archives: June 2014

“Any Way Except a Slow Way”

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I came across this quote about coping with leaving a longtime home. Beautiful. And good advice:

“I have learned that if you must leave a place that you have lived in and loved and where all your yesteryears are buried deep, leave it any way except a slow way, leave it the fastest way you can. Never turn back and never believe that an hour you remember is a better hour because it is dead. Passed years seem safe ones, vanquished ones, while the future lives in a cloud, formidable from a distance.”

― Beryl Markham, West with the Night

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

Story: The Cat

http://www.miskatonic.com/
Photo by David Corby

“It’s fine, but remember The Cat is in the house,” said my seller Y, when I asked if I could show her condo that day on short notice.

I laughed at Y’s intonation. She sing-songed her answer like a rapper: The Cat is in the house, y’all.

That humor would’ve been lost on her pet because if The Cat were an audiophile, she would prefer Mantovani to Macklemore. A senior citizen among felines, she was overly ancient. Extra old. Like 300 cat years old.

When I first met The Cat, I knelt down to greet said bag o’ fur. Y cautioned me sternly, “Don’t touch her. She’s mean!” And, indeed, the shabby tabby began hissing and swiping at the air. I jumped back just in the nick of time.

I ended up logging quite a few hours alone with The Cat during open houses, appointments and inspections. I warned the photographer, the pest inspector, the window washer, various agents and numerous animal-loving customers to keep their distance.

But would they listen? No! All these folks fancied themselves to be cat whisperers.

Me: Watch out, The Cat is viscious.

Visitor: (advancing toward The Cat with bare arm outstretched, fingers waving like seaweed) Nice kitty. Nice kitty. Aw, whatsa matter? Nice, nice. There now. You’re not so ferocious! Who loves the puss? Who wuvves de widdle kiddy. Who? Oh shit! (screaming)

Me: You don’t seem to be bleeding too badly. (rummaging through medicine cabinet for hydrogen peroxide and Band-Aids)

And so it went. With each successive visit, The Cat became bolder. Initially, The Cat hid under a bed. After a week, The Cat would hiss at me from atop the entry stairs. Eventually, The Cat would be lurking just inside the condo door.

This made me very nervous. Nervous The Cat would attack me. Nervous The Cat would attack someone else. Nervous The Cat would escape as soon as I cracked open the front door.

I expressed my concerns to Y. She said, “Don’t worry too much. It wouldn’t be your fault if she ran away. Just bring me an offer.”

Cynthia Cummins is a Top Producer and Partner at McGuire. For info on SF real estate visit http://CynthiaCummins.com. I posted an earlier version of this entry at McGuire.com in 2010.

Before You Pass Go: Get An Agent!

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Most homebuyers wend their way to me through personal referral, which – even in this age of electronic connectivity – is the warmest means of finding trusted resources.

Yet I receive “cold” inquiries almost daily from folks shopping on their own. They’re calling or emailing or texting on a listing they spied on Trulia or Zillow.

Many of these cold callers believe they’ll benefit by not aligning themselves with an agent. They are misguided in that assumption.

Because I am busy and don’t want to seem pushy, I seldom take time to explain to them why they need an agent. But because I’ve received so many of these calls lately, I thought I’d take a few minutes and write about it. Here goes, in no particular order:

  1. Your Buyer’s agent’s services are free. Seller’s agent has agreed in advance with the Seller that they’ll share half their commission with the prevailing Buyer’s agent. Seller pays that commission.
  2. On any property you might ask the Seller’s agent to represent you as a Buyer. In which case, the Seller’s agent would take the whole commission while splitting their allegiance between Buyer and Seller. Or you can – at no additional cost – be represented by your very own agent who only cares about YOUR happiness.
  3. And, guess what? Your agent is only paid when you find, win and close on a property you want. In the meantime, your agent works for you – free of charge.
  4. Let’s add emphasis to items 1, 2 and 3 above: Seller’s agent’s fiduciary allegiance is to the Seller. As such, her/his primary goal is selling Seller’s property. Buyer’s agent’s fiduciary allegiance is to the Buyer and her/his primary goal is finding Buyer the ideal property. There’s a huge difference between the two.
  5. Your agent comes equipped with a wealth of knowledge gleaned from years of hands-on practice. No matter how clever you think you are, you will never be able to replicate the service they provide.
  6. Your agent:
  • knows the market and has access to sales data
  • is a savvy negotiator
  • understands strategies for competing in multiple-offer scenarios
  • is connected to other professionals like inspectors, lenders and contractors
  • possesses insider knowledge of off-market opportunities
  • has seen hundreds or thousands of properties
  • has solved hundreds or thousands of transaction problems
  • knows about property maintenance, improvement and expansion
  • understands contracts and has a vested interest in keeping you out of legal trouble
  • realizes the hybrid nature of real estate transactions where personal emotions exert tremendous influence on business decisions – for good or ill
  • is likely to become a trusted friend and advisor who will be there for you over many years to come (provided you choose your agent wisely)

Take note: There’s a strong chance you won’t truly comprehend or appreciate any of what I’ve just written until after you’ve completed your first transaction.

In the meantime, you must take a leap of faith and search for YOUR agent. To that end, ask friends and co-workers for recommendations, or visit open houses. Sit down in person with prospective Realtors to interview them and be interviewed by them.

And trust your intuition. If you get that feeling that you’re being “sold” or pushed, keep searching. If you feel at ease and their references check out, then “hire” them.

But never engage more than one agent on your behalf. That’s not fair and, in the end, it’ll undermine your chances of finding and winning a property you love. San Francisco is a small town with very little for sale and – if you’re working with more than one agent – it’s only a matter of time before they discover each other and dump you for more loyal clients.

That’s it. Happy agent hunting!

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Virtual Hand Holding

cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde
Potential buyers flock to ancient open house  — just kidding!

I’ve been doing this a long time.

Back in 1987 as a new agent, I tried to divine the secrets of successful Realtors. I spied on them during brokers’ tour as they double parked their cars, air-kissed one another hello, threw their business cards into a pile in the entry hall.

But I found there are no guaranteed paths to success. Perseverance is helpful. Luck is a gift. A willingness to step high or stoop low comes in handy.

We so-called Top Producers have all had the pleasure of calling buyers to congratulate them on “winning” a house. We’ve also wrenched our fair share of sandwich signs out of the trunks of our cars in the pouring rain.

Our satisfied clients have cried, and thanked us, and called us “friend,” “miracle worker,” “genius.” More naive customers have judged us unfairly, assuming (without actually knowing us) that we’re selfish, rich and/or crooked.

Over 27 years the face of the city has changed dramatically. So has the way we do business.

Once upon a time we escorted our buyers to dozens of properties. Now we text, email or tweet website links.

Once we spoke with our buyers several times a day. Now we rarely communicate voice to voice.

Once we wrote offers on carbon paper on the hoods of our cars. Now even signatures are handled electronically.

I’m embarrassed to confess that when fax machines were new, I stood up at a weekly sales meeting and argued against acquiring one for the office. “Isn’t it better to sign and deliver papers in person?” I inquired of my colleagues.

Flash forward to the present and I’ve recently completed two entirely “virtual” transactions. My clients were very happy with the result. As was I.

Yet I miss seeing folks face to face, buying them coffee, walking through houses together, literally holding their hands during negotiating and handing over keys at closing.

Like I said, I have been doing this a long time and the only constant is change.

Another version of this entry first appeared on my Mcguire.com blog in 2012. Cynthia Cummins is a Top Producer and Partner at McGuire. For info on SF real estate visit http://CynthiaCummins.com.

Buddha, Come Back

SAMSUNG

I’ve noticed a significant decrease in the number of Buddhas being used in staging San Francisco properties for sale.

Did we grow tired of the Buddha home decor fad? With likenesses sprouting on mantelpieces like oxalis in sidewalk cracks?

Or does their sudden scarcity signify a market in which listing agents and sellers have become thoughtless and, sometimes, downright cruel? I’m just asking.

Meanwhile, I’m away to Tassajara Zen Mountain Center for a mindfulness retreat and I won’t be posting for a few days.

 

 

Throwback Thursday: The Realtor/Stripper Connection

Sally Rand, striptease artist

This post from August 2012 when the market was really starting to heat up.

I was the most popular gal in San Francisco on a recent Sunday afternoon. (Not counting the hard-working women employed at the Gold Club, of course.)

That’s because I had a hot new listing that everybody wanted. It was in fantastic shape, freshly remodeled and beautifully staged. It smelled divine. It was totally available and it was really cheap (relatively speaking).

As a result, everybody who came to the open house loved the place and, in an attempt to butter me up, loved me too.

If you’re ever feeling down about yourself, just get a California Real Estate License, procure a well-priced listing in our fair city, hold an open house and stand in the foyer handing out flyers. You can be as repellant as Donald Trump and people will still find something to compliment you about. They will dig deep to sweet-talk you.

“That smiley-face tie is so arty!”

“Your purple cell phone is the nicest one I’ve ever seen!”

“These chocolate chip cookies are fantastically tasty! Did you buy them at Safeway yourself?”

Generally speaking, agents are even more shameless than the general public. They flatter you about how skinny you’ve gotten; how you’re so darn tiny all of a sudden?! (Always amusing, since on the morning of my open house, I’d torn my bathroom apart in search of a safety pin to let my pants out an inch or two.)

Anyway, I counted 100-plus visitors to that open house; pretty heady stuff. It’s like having the ultimate my-parents-are-out-of-town party of your dreams—everybody wants in! People can’t move from the front to the back because the hallway is so crowded. Yet, unlike the guests at an impromptu high school bacchanal, your open house visitors are polite and respectful. Nobody is raiding the liquor cabinet or throwing up in the hydrangeas.

With an attractive San Francisco listing to show, a REALTOR®—at least for two hours every weekend—can be the most popular person in an entire neighborhood. No wonder we agents plaster our photos all over the place.

Think about it. In what other profession do practitioners affix their photos to every communication or marketing vehicle? Not doctors, lawyers or Indian chiefs. Not tinkers, tailors or internet wunderkinds.

You guessed it: Strippers. It’s what strippers do! Maybe that’s why so many successful REALTORS® have what sound like successful stripper names.

Remember the trick about how to discover your stripper name? You combine the name of your first pet with the name of the street you lived on as a kid. Using this technique, my alter ego’s handle is Blue Laurel.

Just for fun, I tried creating stripper names using a new method. I mixed up the first and last names of Bay Area real estate agents (to be fair, I threw both my real names into the pot). Here are some of the results: Missy Cummins, Francesca Holmes, Eva Wood, Adam Upjohn, Mona Cherry, Candace Merryman, Max Shine, Luba Hand, Cynthia Ho.

I bet you can come up with some better ones yourself; just go to any real estate website and start mixing.

Blue Laurel. Not bad for the stage. But not great either. I think I’ll stick with my day job.

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

 

Amorphous solid (non-crystalline) blah ba de blah

My theme for this Tuesday’s tour is GLASS. I saw lots and lots of it this week. Vases, bowls, sculptures, dishes — all used for staging.

According to Wikipedia, GLASS is “an amorphous solid (non-crystalline) material that exhibits a glass transition, which is the reversible transition in amorphous materials (or in amorphous regions within semicrystalline materials) from a hard and relatively brittle state into a molten or rubber-like state.”

(Easy for YOU to say, Wikipedia.)

I just thought all the glass was pretty. I took photos with my vintage Samsung Galaxy phone, then put them through Waterlogue. These images are the result.

Painted in WaterloguePainted in WaterloguePainted in WaterloguePainted in WaterloguePainted in WaterloguePainted in Waterlogue

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

 

 

 

Highly Desirable Semi-detached Villa

“The new residence was…to be of some mysterious size and proportion, which would make us both peculiarly happy ever afterwards…It was neither to cost too much nor too little, but just enough to fitly inaugurate the new happiness.” 

http://www.trampsofsanfrancisco.com/a-foresting-we-will-go-a-history-of-trees-in-san-francisco-part-ii/
View of the Mission in 1865, described as, “Looking E. from Reservoir Hill, Market & Buchanan Sts., Vicinity Market & Valencia.”

In 1865, the writer Thomas Hardy published a short story called How I Built Myself a House. I came across mention of it in a Writer’s Almanac post, then googled it.

I was delighted to find that, apparently, not much has changed since 1865 in the realm of residential real estate. In the story, the dynamic between Hardy and his wife is very similar to what I see on a daily basis.

Thomas and Sophia shared many hopes for their new home near London, but disagreed on numerous details. After arguing about whether or not trees should be felled to improve the view (Sophia — in favor of the ax — prevailed) the Hardys quarreled over the floor plan. Thomas writes:

“I made my sketch, and my wife made hers. Her drawing and dining rooms were very large, nearly twice the size of mine…We soon found that there was no such thing as fitting our ideas together.”

Later, when costs get out of hand and Hardy tries to staunch the overruns, Sophia tells him, “…Elegance and extreme cheapness never do go together.”

And here’s a delicious bit that reminds me of a scenario I’ve witnessed a hundred times during home inspections:

“We were standing beside (the house) one day, looking at the men at work on the top, when the builder’s foreman came towards us.

‘Being your own house, sir, and as we are finishing the last chimney, you would perhaps like to go up,’ he said.

‘I am sure I should much, if I were a man,” was my wife’s observation to me, ‘The landscape must appear so lovely from that height.’

This remark placed me in something of a dilemma, for it must be confessed that I am not given to climbing.”

And so forth and so on. To read the entire story, click here. It’s most entertaining.

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