Category Archives: Home History

Boogie-Boarding Home

During our initial interview, my client Sandra handed me a spreadsheet. It specified all the features her new home should have, arranged in descending order of importance. Here are the top 10.

  1. Fireplace
  2. Parking
  3. Single family home
  4. Not on a busy street
  5. View of some water
  6. 3 bedrooms or 2 + den
  7. 2 bathrooms
  8. Walk to coffee
  9. In-unit laundry.
  10. East of Arguello and north of Fell

We conducted an exhaustive search, touring and/or considering several dozen properties over a dozen weeks.

Guess how many of those top-10 features her eventual home included? Two. The property was on a quiet block and had its own washer and dryer.

This incongruity between aspiration and actuality happens because our dream of home can’t be translated neatly into a checklist. There are too many intangibles.

In Sandra’s case, she knew her future home (a condo, not a single family home) was “the place” as soon as we entered the front door. And I guessed it from the hesitant excitement I read in her sideways glance towards me.

“Property sells itself” is one of my favorite real-estate adages. By that I mean there’s nothing anyone can say to “sell” someone on the desirability of a home. The buyer either feels it, or they don’t feel it.

It’s like boogie-boarding. You belly onto the wave as soon as you enter a property, but you sense almost instantly whether or not you’ll ride the board into shore.

It’s kismet. It’s chemistry. It’s love, not real estate.

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.

Spoiler Alert: Stop Reading if You’re New to San Francisco

Not for sale: Mark Twain's "Stormfield"
Not for sale: Mark Twain’s “Stormfield”

Turns out Mark Twain never actually said that cool thing about summer in San Francisco being the coldest winter ever. I was going to use the quote on my blog today but when I checked its accuracy, up popped a Snopes link to quash my clever intro.

Twain did sorta say something about summer in Paris and he definitely wrote, “If you don’t like the weather in New England, just wait a few minutes.” But nary a word did he pen about our cool grey city’s climate.

It’s the second half of August and – although I live on what is arguably the sunniest block in the whole dadgum town – I’ve been wearing wool since June. If you’re a local you understand why I’ve been wearing wool. Just as you understand why nobody has air conditioning and why those beyond-ugly $50 sweatshirts from Pier 39 are so popular with tourists.

(Ixnay on the weatshirtsay if anyone asks! Do your bit to keep our economy going!)

Spoiler Alert (if you’re newly local and this is your first time through a whole San Francisco calendar year): Summer starts in 10 days.

The bad news is that vacation is over and it’s back to school for you kids and parents. The good news is it’s prime selling season for San Francisco residential real estate. See you soon at an open house near you!

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

Asphalt Flowers, Hidden Art

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Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
And the dark street winds and bends.
Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow
We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And watch where the chalk-white arrows go
To the place where the sidewalk ends.

          –from “Where the Sidewalk Ends” by Shel Silverstein

One ordinary Tuesday, I was delighted to discover a garden of “asphalt flowers” enclosed by mural-adorned walls. I was out on brokers’ tour and had parked my car on Cook where it dead ends north of Geary.

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Normally on Tuesdays I’m running around town like a harried hare, trying to see as much property as possible. But for some reason — on this particular day — I decided I had time to investigate what was behind a crumbly gate next to what looked like an old school building.

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Turns out I’d found the site of the old Geary School. I did a little bit of internet research later to find that it closed in 1974 for seismic reinforcement and (according to one source) was subsequently torn down. The building that fronts Cook looks an awful lot like a circa 1930s schoolhouse to me, but I couldn’t find any good answers about the fate of the school. Signs on the building indicate it’s still in use by the SFUSD, although for what I couldn’t tell. But I diverge.

As you can see in the photo above, apparently the colorful murals were painted by kids at the school in 1973! They’re in beautiful condition. For example, see this happy wagon:

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And this shy green spider.

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And the pink bird of happiness.

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And a beautiful butterfly.

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Plus a cheerful bat.

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A talkative reptile (though we can’t quite make out what he’s saying).

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And, of course, every garden needs a bunny and a dragon.

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Where, oh, where are the children now who painted these walls in 1973? If you are one of them, please let me know?

 

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.