Category Archives: Advice for Buyers

If You’re New to the Richmond: Part I

Imagine that you’ve just purchased 614 21st Avenue (or another wonderful property) and you’re new to the Richmond district. Lucky you!

You need some ideas about things to do in the neighborhood. A prized quotable quote of mine is “I’ve never met a neighborhood I didn’t like.” Yet of all the spots in our cool grey city of love, the Richmond is among my top-five favorites. There is so much to explore and enjoy.

Reliable tourist guides will send you to Golden Gate Park, the California Academy of Science, the Japanese Tea Garden and many other worthwhile places. And be sure to consult the Not For Tourists guide, for tips on restaurants and shops, many of which are “under the radar.”
But here are my less-than-obvious suggestions for things to do:

1. Skip the Japanese Tea Garden and instead bring a thermos of tea to the Moon Viewing Garden in Strybing Botanical Garden. Even better, join a Full Moon nighttime walk, scheduled at different times throughout the year. Next one is on Earth Day, April 22nd.

2. Enjoy a pizza pie and a pitcher of beer at Gaspare’s. It’s been on Geary Boulevard since 1985 and yet it feels like you’ve time traveled to 1963. The food is delicious and the ambiance is straight out of central casting.

3. Pop through the park (on foot) to enjoy a plethora of restaurants and shops at 9th and Irving. A really fun route is to enter Golden Gate Park on the southeast corner of Park Presidio and Fulton. Walk through the Rose Garden, take the pedestrian path from JFK to MLK between the Japanese Tea Garden and Stow Lake, then either shortcut through Strybing Botanical Garden to its south gate, or follow MLK until it meets Lincoln and turns into 9th Avenue.

4. Walk west through GG Park all the way to Ocean Beach and have a snack at Beach Chalet or Park Chalet. While you’re there, check out the sensational wood carvings, mosaics and murals that were part of a 1936-1937 WPA project.

5. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but the Richmond District YMCA is one happening place. You can’t go wrong if you’re looking or a great workout, inspiration and community. The group exercise schedule ROCKS.

6. Go to Sutro Park and head for the ruins at the far west of the property. The view south over Ocean Beach is magnificent. Sunsets aren’t bad either. Roll downhill to the Cliff House’s Zinc Bar for a cocktail afterward.

7. Keep it simple. Stop and smell the roses in the Rose Garden of Golden Gate Park.

8. Have the Beet Borscht at Katia’s. Or the Potato Vareniki (with carmelized onions, YUM). Or the Pel’meni. Or the Piroshki. Or anything else on the menu. Tell Katia that I sent you. 

9. Get yourself over to House of Bagels for some REAL bagels. Or, better yet, get some Cragels.

And keep your eyes peeled for Part II of this post for more ideas on how to help you settle in and explore!

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

Suffering from Real Estate Depression?

Yes. Real estate depression is a Real Thang. Lisa Selin Davis, a writer for Realtor.com, has personally suffered the pangs of regret over not buying at the “right” time. And like many would-be buyers, she sought solace for her distress.

She interviewed me, and we talked a long time about archetypes, self soothing and the value of wanting what you already have. Check out her story, “Suffering From Real Estate Depression? Here’s the Cure,” just published on Tuesday.

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: Is Now a Good Time to Buy in the Bay Area?

Q: Is this a good time to buy a home in the Bay Area?

A: Now is a perfect time to buy a home in the Bay Area. At least in San Francisco!

You might say, “Well, Cynthia, of course that’s your answer because you’re a San Francisco real estate agent and, according to San Francisco real estate agents, NOW is always the best time to buy.”

True. That’s because, as a longtime, fulltime Realtor, I’ve witnessed the market’s reliability  for 28 years: Up close and personal. Through several economic cycles. Helping hundreds of individuals buying hundreds of homes.

At the outset, purchasing property in San Francisco is especially daunting. Prices are ungodly. Competition is fierce. Doubts are plenteous. Yet in hindsight nearly every SF homeowner will tell you that purchasing their home was the wisest, luckiest investment they ever made.

This scenario assumes owner occupancy and a hold of at least five years. But nothing will pay if you don’t play.  Nothing will happen if you sit on the sidelines awaiting clear confirmation that NOW is the optimum time to buy.

Which brings up an important point: Buying a home in San Francisco is a sound investment, regardless of the exact timing. But it’s much more than an investment. It’s your HOME. It’s the place where you sleep in on weekends, empty the kitty litter, entertain friends, gargle saltwater for a sore throat, change kids’ diapers, plan vacations, argue with your husband, make up with your wife, unload groceries, take out the recycling, pay the bills, soak in the bathtub and putter in the garden.

So. If you want to enjoy a profusion of colorful tulips in April, you’ll need to plant those bulbs soon. Time to start shopping for some dirt. Now!

Cynthia Cummins is a Top Producer and Partner at McGuire. For info on SF real estate visit http://CynthiaCummins.com. A version of this post originally appeared as an answer on Quora, and it was re-posted at McGuire.com.

Query: Is My Agent Crazy Trying to Save Me Money?

Q: Why would a Realtor you are buying with want to negotiate down the cost of the property?

A: The last time I looked in the mirror I didn’t have dollar signs for pupils. 28 years as a successful Realtor in San Francisco, and I still haven’t abracadabra’d my blue eyes to the color of bright green cash.

That’s because my commission is — honestly — THE VERY LAST THING on my mind.

If you haven’t stood in my shoes, or if you’ve never purchased or sold a home with the help of a truly professional agent, it’s probably difficult to imagine that someone could be motivated by a wish to serve rather than a financial incentive. Yes, this is my livelihood. Yes, I like making money. Yes, we Realtors are paid relatively “big bucks.” (Though there’s more — or, I should say, less — to that than meets the eye. A topic for another time.)

But I work primarily for my clients’ happiness. Sometimes that means I “make a sale.” Many times not. But their happiness translates into referrals to their friends, family and associates. And THAT is how my business grows. Call me dumb like a fox, but I like making my clients happy.

Hence, I’m always shocked and taken aback when people assume I am a money-grubbing shark. I feel injured when they regard my profession as one where you get “money for nothin,” as in the famous Dire Straits song about rock and roll.

To quote an even older smash hit: “She works hard for the money, but you never treat her right.” Perhaps that’s an unfortunate comparison, since Donna Summer was singing about a ladies bathroom attendant, but I KNOW I have a heart of gold.

So do the majority of my successful peers. Which explains why an agent would strive to negotiate a lower price for a buyer!

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 and originally appeared as the answer to a Quora question.

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.

Query: New Ways to Save $$$

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Q: What are some unique ways to save for a down payment to buy a new house or condo?

A: The tired Nike phrase, “Just Do It,” comes to mind because – apart from creatively hiding your cash in a red-velvet sack placed inside a Ziploc bag submerged in your grandmother’s toilet tank – you don’t need a unique way to save.

Ordinary, tried-and-true approaches will suffice. Yet, like birth control, they don’t work unless you actually use them.

You might find inspiration from the blogger J. Money (dubbed “the Miley Cyrus of finance”). Here’s the link to a great pictorial guide to squirreling away your hard-earned dollars: How I Save Money… [In Pictures]

Although: You may first want to read Mr. Money’s thoughts on whether or not it makes sense to buy a home in the first place:  What it Cost Us to Own Our Home Last Year + A Question I Ask Myself Every Morning

Then: Think twice about how large your down payment needs to be. Size does matter and you might be someone for whom a low-money-down loan makes sense. See this NYT article: The New York Times

Finally: I can offer a relatively unique way to relate to money and savings. Check out Bari Tessler Linden, who says, “money is the final frontier of a conscious lifestyle.” Her website: Bari Tessler – Art of Money.

Bon chance! (And if you’re thinking of buying in San Francisco, reach out to me!)

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, and originally appeared on Quora.

 

Homebuying in San Francisco: Don’t DIY!

 

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♡2010 by Author/Artist. Copying is an act of love. Please copy.

You book airfares and hotels online. You pump your own gas. You buy and bag a week’s worth of groceries in the self-checkout line.

Yet buying a home is NOT (nor should it be) a DIY activity. Sure, you can do lots of looking online. But when it comes to exploring neighborhoods, searching for qualified properties, evaluating choices, making offers, and moving from “in contract” to “sold,” you absolutely need a professional agent’s assistance.

The housing forecast for 2015 is rosy, and with interest rates likely to remain low for much of the year, NOW is the time to buy. (See this from CNN about the “return” of first-time homebuyers.)

I can help! If you know anyone who is considering a purchase in 2015, please introduce us. You can trust me to help them:

  • Decide if buying actually makes sense – or not
  • Clarify and refine their wish list
  • Find an ideal home
  • Gather resources
  • Focus on practical solutions while honoring emotional responses and reducing stress
  • Write a competitive, winning offer
  • Close successfully on the property of their choice

As my client N – who never thought she would be able to buy in San Francisco – writes,

“Cynthia’s knowledge and expertise of the…complex real estate market is fantastic. She understands how important owning a home is for her clients, and takes the time to educate them about the process. She really listens to what they’re looking for in a property so she can find the right fit and creative a positive experience. She is a joy to work with!”

You can trust me to care for your friends. Have them check out my website or RealEstateTherapy.org for more information. Or call or email me so I can invite you and your friend to be my guests for an introductory tea or lunch!

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

 

Query: What About The B Word?

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Burbling about the bubble is always in fashion. Experts and amateurs offer all sorts of theories about whether we are entering, leaving, or returning to a bubble, and they all have data to support their claims.

If I had a crystal ball, I could answer your question with absolute authority. Sadly, I don’t own one. But I do have access to three alternative tools that can forecast the San Francisco real estate future about as accurately as the Case-Shiller index:

My Tarot deck said MAYBE we are in a bubble. I drew the Moon card, which basically means “Things aren’t as simple or as clear as you’d like them to be, so stop asking and chillax already.”

The hawks-perching-on-light-standards test said YES we are in a bubble. I spotted three hawks on three light standards on three consecutive days. This clearly denotes three (or nine) years of bubble, although it doesn’t tell us which years.

My ever-reliable Angel Cards answered with a resounding NO we are not in a bubble.The word was Balance and, even though it starts with a B, Balance is not the same as a Bubble.

Using these indicators, we can say with conviction that the bubble question is unanswerable. The good news is that the effects of bubbling have historically been mild in San Francisco. Go ahead. Buy your home, stay put a few years and you’ll be okay. Meanwhile, here are two wise quotes to help put it all in perspective:

“Those who have knowledge, don’t predict. Those who predict, don’t have knowledge.” Lao Tzu

and

“I predict one of these two teams will win the Super Bowl.” Gilbert Gottfried

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

Open House “Boring” Says 7-Year-Old

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“unknown,” posted on http://katiapellicciotta.blogspot.com

I’m quite familiar with the look.

Sometimes it says, “How dare you show this property and let my parents drag me to umpteen open houses on Sunday afternoon when I’d rather be playing with my toys?”

Or it says, “Please don’t let them buy this condo because I hated it the instant we walked in. I want a blue house.”

Or it’s something like this, “I can see you’re as trapped as me. You have to stand here and be nice and greet everyone and you can’t leave until 4 o’clock. And I have to come in and look around and not touch anything and I can’t leave until they say it’s okay. Since we’re both stuck here, have you anything to offer me in the way of refreshment or entertainment?”

Or maybe, “You might fool my parents with your friendliness, but you can’t fool me. Stand back three feet or I’ll start screaming.”

Don’t get me wrong. I love kids. (I even raised two myself.) But children coming through the front door of an open house can be as nervous-making as an unsteady high-heeled matron holding a latte in one hand and a shih tzu in the other while navigating the white-carpeted stairs.

You never know what you’re going to get, including:

  • Serious disruption of staging – vases smashed into smithereens, chess pieces sent down the toilet, pillows thrown out the window.
  • Nasty messes – unflushed number twos hiding in the powder room, newly planted impatiens wrenched from the ground, every glass surface streaked with yogurt paws.
  • Pandemonium – door slamming, stair running, door locking, cat chasing, crying, biting and violent pulling on parental arms just as they’re about to request your business card.

I prefer quiet children who tell their folks to get lost while they sit on the front steps with me. Like Maizy, a seven-year-old who attended my last open house.

Maizy: Do you live here?

Me: No. I am the real estate agent. I am showing the house for the owners.

Maizy: Do you like this house?

Me: Yes. I think it’s a terrific house. How about you?

Maizy: I guess so. I like our old house better but Mommy says we need more room for my baby brother.

Me: I bet you’re a great big sister. Is it fun being a big sister?

Maizy: (puzzling her lips together and to one side) No. He’s pretty boring. But he’s still little. Do you have some candy?

Me: No. I might have some Altoids.

Maizy: I like Altoids.

Me: Is it okay with your parents for you to have an Altoid?

Maizy: Oh, yes, of course it’s okay. They let me have Altoids all the time.

Me: (offering the Altoids tin) Here you go. Help yourself.

Maizy: Thank you. This is so boring.

Me: Yes, I know what you mean.

Maizy: Are you bored? I thought grownups didn’t mind boring things.

Me: Well, perhaps not as much as kids mind them.

Maizy: I don’t want to be a grownup.

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 and on Undermom.com.