Monthly Archives: April 2015

HouseStories: If Our House Would Talk

A New York Times article today focuses on Seattle’s “shrine to defiance,” the home of the late Edith Macefield, who refused to sell her bungalow to developers. She lived there until her death in 2008 at the age of 86. The house stands today — though not for much longer, apparently — hemmed in on three sides by tall commercial buildings.

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Comparisons to the cartoon house in the movie Up are understandable, but I couldn’t help but think of the Virginia Lee Burton book called “The Little House,” in which another diminuitive home withstands the ravages of development. Eventually it escapes the noise and pollution of the city raging around it (albeit not by the balloon method in Up). The house is trucked out to a daisy-filled field in the country. Set out to pasture.

Nothing pastoral about San Francisco at the moment. Everywhere you walk (or drive), progress is marching. Cranes. Gaping holes in the earth. Hard hats. Steel road plates. The reverse warning beeps of  construction vehicles filling the air like birdsong.

I live in a circa 1907 abode not unlike Ms. Macefield’s home. A 1,400 square-foot cottage with no garage on a huge RH-3 lot (ripe for development). We’re just two blocks from the infamous Zuckerburg project. And right across the street from us is a modest 1,800 square-foot Victorian whose new owners are proposing to enlarge it into a 7,000 square-foot masterpiece.

But there’s something very comforting about letting a house just be as it is. Our little old lady has only one bathroom. Her yard isn’t landscaped. There’s no central heating. The kitchen is super funky — with a beat-up wood floor, painted cabinets from a demo’d Victorian, 1950s drainboard sink, vintage but functional O’Keeffe and Merritt range. No dishwasher. No disposal.

We aren’t hankering to give her a makeover. No painting her all white inside like an Apple store.  No front door that locks via an app. No Sonos. Or security cameras. Or Nest thermostats. Thank you very much.

Our venerable lady is simple. She isn’t at all “smart.” But she’s wise. More than 100 years old. If only she would talk, I’d sit quietly and listen.

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.

Query: Do a “Bubble Assessment” Before Buying?

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Q: When buying a first home, is it important to assess if the market is in a bubble, or just buy and go with it?

A: In my 28 years as a Realtor, I’ve watched at least half a dozen would-be buyers struggle with the bubble question. They waited for a clear sign that we weren‘t in a bubble or that we were at the so-called bottom of the market.

I’ve seen them sitting on the sidelines in a runaway buyer’s market. I’ve witnessed them kicking themselves with regret in a seller’s market. I’ve watched them invest in the stock market instead and lose all their savings.

I’ve also seen them accidentally buy at just the right time and double their investment in 18 months.

Buying a home — especially in a place like San Francisco — takes a giant commitment and huge leap of faith. It’s beyond challenging to pony up the down payment required for a median priced home of $1,000,000. It’s nerve-wracking to contemplate making those mortgage payments. It’s frightening to think about when the next earthquake is coming.

I have tremendous compassion for potential buyers. Home ownership looks scary when you’ve been renting. But once you’ve closed and moved in, it feels normal.

There’s an old Realtor’s adage that goes like this: “Buyers Buy.” In other words, they don’t spend too much time hemming and hawing. They don’t analyze everything to the nth degree. They buy. Because if they don’t buy, they aren’t invested. And if they aren’t invested it doesn’t matter WHAT the market does.

My advice is to not worry about the bubble. Do your due diligence. Work with a professional agent. Plan on staying for at least five years. You’ll be okay.

For more on the subject of bubbles, click here.

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

Query: How Do I Find A Realtor?

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Q: How do you currently find a Realtor?

A: The best way to find a trustworthy Realtor — your ally and advocate — is to keep it  simple. You can set personal goals, make a list of must-haves, analyze statistics and search the internet. But there’s no substitute for two tried-and-true methods:

  • Ask reliable friends whom they recommend (and why).
  • Go agent shopping by visiting open houses. Look for someone who “feels” right — who is kind, relaxed and a good listener. You don’t want an agent who tries to “sell” you on anything.

A thoughtful and seasoned professional will help you formulate your questions and refine your goals. They’ll help you glean an education that will allow you to make informed decisions. And then they’ll help you find and close on a home you love. You’ll think of them as a friend by the time the transaction closes.

Cynthia Cummins is a Top Producer and Partner at McGuire. For info on SF real estate visit http://CynthiaCummins.com. This post originally appeared as an answer on Quora.