Category Archives: HouseStories

The Exclamation Index

Oh, exclamation point! Oh, Realtor’s friend! Your slender line and dot speak volumes!

Who needs statistics!? When it comes to assessing the state of the San Francisco real estate market, one has only to review a copy of last week’s brokers tour.

Its bounty of exclamation points tells the tale of our surprise at a newly observable shift. After months of tracking the tide in anticipation of its turn, we find ourselves stranded on a proverbial spit of sand, looking at the high water mark on shore.

Surprise! The market is changing.

Brokers tour, in its printed form, allows two lines of type for each property. The first line lists basics like address and price. The second line – consisting of a maximum 60 characters (including spaces and punctuation) – lets the agent say something extra about the property’s attributes.

Given the scant space allotted for elaboration, the exclamation point becomes a shortcut. It is a one-character plea for attention. A skinny line conveying delight, excitement, urgency or panic.

This week, after reviewing the first of 23 pages of brokers tour, I abandoned counting exclamation points and looked instead at the words preceding them. I saw multiple variations on “Price Reduction!” and “Don’t Miss This!” and “Must See!

Other exclamation-point and word pairings included:

Come for pastries!
Parking!
Great flow!
View rooftop with BBQ!
Stunning!
Amazing!
Time to make the offer!
Best in show!
Offers encouraged!
Decks!
Location!
Views!
VIEWS, VIEWS & more VIEWS!
Light!
Charm!
Seller says SELL!
Cookies!

When inventory was too scarce to meet demand, the exclamation point took a sabbatical from brokers tour. No need to shriek about rooftop BBQs. No need to shout about cookies, or a $5,000 selling bonus, or two years of paid leased parking.

But that was 2015 and this is now. Next thing you know, nobody will be asking open-house visitors to remove their shoes. There will be a corresponding decrease in use of the adjective “exclusive.” Agents will cease to post offer dates. And we’ll all be saying, “Welcome home, exclamation point! We need you!”

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

What New Zealand Taught Me About Home

“I dislike feeling at home when I am abroad.”

Agreed, George Bernard Shaw!

One of the best reasons to travel is to gain a new perspective of HOME, and my recent two weeks in New Zealand opened up new views of my Chateau Shack in San Francisco.

The takeaway, gleaned from our stays at various Airbnb cottages:

Up-to-the-minute décor is gratuitous: (Apologies to my designer friends and dear clients in the middle of a major renovation. I’m not talking about YOU.) The latest and greatest is pretty ho hum. Once you’ve seen a few stunning remodels, you’ve seen ‘em all. But what pleasure there is in letting rooms mellow. What comfort exists in living in a home that is OUT of style. Change up your linens. Paint a room. Or install a simple outdoor shower. But skip the rest. Relax and enjoy what you have. Today’s new will be next year’s old.

Disregard the Nerdo Riche: I didn’t see any white-on-white décor schemes in New Zealand. How refreshing to escape that techie trend! No wide-plank oak floors. No 15’ x 3’ kitchen islands. No iPads in the walls. Simply put, as Janeane Garofalo said, “Taking into account the public’s regrettable lack of taste, it is incumbent upon you not to fit in.”

All you need is a spoon: Plus a spatula and a good knife. After my time in New Zealand, I’m planning to clean out my kitchen drawers and discard the extra peelers, pitters, zesters, tongs, whisks, scoopers, openers and strainers. An ordinary table fork can do the work of a dozen gadgets.

Linens matter: Quality bed linens equal luxury. Nothing ruins a night’s sleep quite like crappy bedding. If a space is clean, quiet, possessed of a comfortable chair and outfitted with soothing sheets, you’re all set. (And forget about thread count. Just choose percale cotton.)

Give me a cup of civility: Tea! So nice. So peaceable. So perfect anytime of day. Coffee is so, uh, A-muhr-ican. Yes, please, a cuppa for me.

Compost, recycle, repurpose: Farming is a big part of NZ life, and a basic tenent is not to waste anything. Even I, who am pretty conscious about recycling, composting and reusing, was impressed by the Kiwis’ commitment to sustainability.

Let it all hang out: It’s not like the sun shines every day down under, but clothes dryers aren’t de rigeur in New Zealand. They’re good for backup when it’s raining or there’s a hurry, but line-dried clothes and linens feel/smell better and last longer. Plus it’s FUN to hang out the laundry. The energy saved is almost secondary.

Woolly bully: Wool is fantastic. Breathable, durable, warm and it doesn’t hold body odor. If you haven’t checked out New Zealand wool in the form of Icebreaker active wear, now’s your chance. Click here.

All present and accounted for: What a joyous relief to find that New Zealanders do not spend all day wearing earbuds and staring at handheld devices. They converse with one another and don’t seem to suffer from Text Neck. Technology is great, but enough is enough. I now vow to use my various “devices” more perspicaciously. (Bonus points to me for using the word “perspicaciously.”)

Cynthia Cummins is a Partner at McGuire Real Estate. For info on San Francisco property visit http://CynthiaCummins.com. This post also appeared on the McGuire.com blog.

Saying a Gracious Goodbye…to your HOME

“He makes his home where the living is best.”

At the end there’s a rush of details. Papers to sign. Cobwebs to clear. Straggler coat hangers in the closet. Keys that need labeling and winnowing.

The focus is on vacating, and on where you’ll be living next. So it’s easy to forget that the house you just sold was also your home.

Home is where life happens. The eating, sleeping and teeth-brushing. The naps and TV-watching. The wakeful nights and arguments. The birthday parties, flus, Thanksgiving dinners and baby’s first steps.

In my role as Realtor, I do the marketing, negotiate the terms, cinch up the contracts and usher everyone through escrow to closing. Also, whenever possible, I like to help people create a ritual for saying goodbye.

In the midst of packing and moving, it can be difficult to convince partners and kids to stop and mark the occasion. So it helps to have a third party (me) facilitate it.

It can be something simple. Maybe I snap your photo in front of the house. Or we walk through and recount happy memories, room by room. Or we burn some sage. Or we invite neighbors and the new owners over for wine and hors d’ouevres.

The exact details don’t matter because – in this case – it’s the thought that counts. When we’re saying goodbye to your property, I’ll work with you to design a perfect closing ritual.

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. 

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.

sub-House-master675

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.