Category Archives: Realtor

Great San Francisco views. How can I get one?

If a breathtaking view is at the top of your wish list, you’ll need a breathtaking budget to afford it.

San Francisco is home to some of the best views anywhere on the planet. And, happily, hundreds of them are available for free. To everyone.

To watch the full video click on the photo.

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

A Rancher Reverie

I daydream about living in a one-level house built in the 1950s or 1960s. Why is this?

Could be I’m starved for mid-century ranchers because I sell residential real estate in a city dominated by homes from earlier or later eras. Ranchers tend to be mutually exclusive with 25’ x 100’ lots (standard in San Francisco).

A better theory is it’s because I spent a lot of my childhood in one-story houses. In the 60s and 70s that style was in style, and as I’ve gotten older I’ve noticed a strange correlation between certain architectural characteristics and feelings of comfort and sanctuary.

As a teenager, I yearned for vaulty Victorian ceilings, turret-windowed rooms and expansive porches. That’s because we lived in a new 1970s subdivision and I envied the storybook turn-of-the-century houses where many of my friends lived. That hankering stuck with me and I eschewed anything built after World War II for a long time.

But now I’ve gone retro. I’ve gone back to…

  • Clerestory windows like the ones in the bedroom of my grade-school friend Jennifer. During sleepovers, I’d lie awake – slightly nervous – watching car headlights flashing off the ceiling.
  • Flagstone on facades, like the ones adorning our first rented house in Grundy, Virginia.
  • Wide-plank hardwood floors, perfect for scooting around on a blanket pretending to steer a boat.
  • Harvest gold and decorative brick in the kitchen, a palette that perfectly matched autumn.
  • Oversized picture windows with rain slapping down them, like the one in the piano niche of my piano teacher’s living room, where I’d struggle through Mozart, Czerny and Debussy after having not practiced all week.
  • Widely detached houses, which could be circled for hours in order to evade capture by your little brother during a prolonged game of Hide n Seek or Let’s Pretend We’re the Men from Uncle.
  • Split level floor plans that made spying on the grownups easier than with a traditional staircase.

But, alas, such homes are scarce in San Francisco and so I live in a quaint and distinctive Victorian on a block well-traveled by tourists and locals on their way to Dolores Park. At least once a week as I exit or enter my front door, somebody hails me and asks if I actually live there.

“Yes,” I reply, with a barely perceptible sigh, “I do.”

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

RE Glossary: A’s and B’s

My own tongue-in-cheek definitions of real estate terms, starting with the A’s and B’s.

Acceleration clause:
A clause in a loan contract where – if you do certain things – instead of having to repay your loan 27 years from now you have to repay it next Monday.

Adjustable rate mortgage:
Not necessarily a bad thing. Ask me why.

Agent:
Loves you like your mother (if you have the right agent).

Annual percentage rate:
What your rate of interest would be if you factored in all the costs associated with your loan. Better not to dwell on the APR.

Application:
Fill in a loan application once and you’ll understand why you should make a copy so you never have to fill one in again.

Appreciation:
Something you can count on to be robust in San Francisco.

Assessed value:
Predicated on purchase price and, in San Francisco and California, subject to expected, minimal increases over time. No surprises, unlike in other parts of the country.

Balloon payment:
Neither fun nor festive. See “Acceleration clause” above.

Bridge loan:
Allows you to buy a new house before you’ve sold your old one. Not a great idea unless you can afford to own two houses – in case something goes awry with your plan.

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.

Spraying the Moss

I’ve written previously about how staging is a form of theater. Instead of setting a scene in which actors animate a story, stagers set a scene in which buyers can imagine living their lives.

It’s about contextualizing rooms, enhancing good design, downplaying flaws and heightening the effectiveness of photography. But it’s primarily about evoking a mood and creating a positive subliminal response.

Staging, however, doesn’t solve everything. Properties often need a few subtle (or funny) tweaks that only an agent can think of and handle.

Examples include:

• Moving the cat box out of the powder room and into the garage during an open house.
• Spraying lavender mist to mask the odor of last night’s salmon.
• Turning up the heat and closing all the windows.
• Turning off the heat and opening all the windows.
• Neatening the shoes stacked outside a neighboring condo’s door.
• Cleaning up dog poo from a carpet.
• Lighting candles.
• Asking a homeless person to please nap elsewhere.
• Roasting an onion.
• Emptying or taking out the trash.
• Angling shutters for optimum lighting.
• Sweeping up leaves and street detritus blown into an entry.
• Asking teenagers on their school lunch break to smoke somewhere else.
• Sorting mail for saving or recycling.
• Emptying a diaper pail.
• Windexing the fingerprints left by kid visitors on windows, doors, coffee tables.
• Freshening the fruit bowl.
• Unclogging a toilet used by an open house looker.
• Hiding the toilet paper to discourage future use.
• Carefully removing used syringes from a planter box.
• Shooing away (without success) those little flies that love the dead air in an entry.
• Guarding neighbors’ driveways and garages.
• Plucking dried orchid blooms from a dining centerpiece.
• Double-checking that nobody has spelled dirty words using the stagers’ Scrabble set.
• Making sure people don’t hurt themselves or damage the property.
• Putting the paper towels, knife block, toaster and dish drainer under the sink.
• Holding babies, watching strollers, minding dogs, stowing latte cups, monitoring double-parked cars.
• Gently relocating a spider to the exterior.
• And – perhaps the most fun and funny task ever – spraying the moss displayed in a sculptural bowl upon every visit to a property.

All seemingly insignificant details that make a difference and all part of my role as a professional real estate agent!

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.

Is Buyer’s Remorse Inevitable?

“Remorse, the fatal egg by pleasure laid.”William Cowper, 18th century poet and hymnodist

Image

What pleasure to instantly find a suitable quote about “remorse” as soon as I Googled it!

Yet imagine my remorse at having taken so much time reading online about William Cowper (whose life was apparently filled to the brim with pleasure and remorse, joy and sadness, soundness and insanity) that I had to work an extra hour to make up for my diversion.

Where there’s pleasure, there’s remorse.

I’ve been blind-sided by remorse on many auspicious occasions: Right before walking down the aisle to get married. Just after bringing my first child home from the hospital. Midway through a trans-Pacific flight to a dream vacation in Tahiti.

It’s a regular occurrence with real estate purchases. Especially in San Francisco where buyers are required to strip naked, place large baskets of money on their heads and dance like their lives depended on it. All for the chance to be the lucky owners of a one-plus-million-dollar, two-bedroom condo without parking but in a fairly nice area.

It goes something like this:

Buyer’s agent: Guess what? You won!

Buyer: (Holding cell phone at arm’s length and screaming) Oh! My! God! How many offers were there?

Buyer’s agent: Fourteen. Twelve were for waaaaaaay more than the asking price. Only two had loan contingencies. But apparently your willingness to close in just four days and let the sellers stay for three months for free really made the difference.

Buyer: That and offering 60% more than the asking price.

Buyer’s agent: Well, yes. Plus they really liked the sculpture you submitted with your offer.

Even if you don’t create original artwork or donate to seller’s favorite charity or provide two roundtrip tickets to anywhere in the continental U.S. with your offer, there will be a twinge of buyer’s remorse when you visit your new home for the first time after closing.

You fiddle with the keys. You shove open the door. It’s dark. It’s vacant. It’s cold. And it smells funny because the stagers removed the potpourri along with the staging.

Yet it doesn’t have to be “fatal,” as in Cowper’s quote. Instead, now is when it gets interesting: After the closing. Before the destination. Following the honeymoon. During the journey. That’s when life is richest.

Cynthia Cummins is a Top Producer and Partner at McGuire. For info on SF real estate visit http://CynthiaCummins.com. This throwback post originally appeared in April 2014.

Don’t Take It Too Seriously

The National Association of Realtors sends out an online newsletter once a week. I skim it for headlines (Equifax Breach Could Stall Home Sales, 6 Tech Trends to Keep on Your Radar, Buy vs. Rent Index Still Leans Toward Buy). Sometimes I read the feature article.

This week’s feature was 4 Things You Really Wish Your Sellers Knew. (If you’re interested, here’s the link.) Based on a survey of NAR members, the 4 things comprise some sound advice.

They are:
1. Your home décor isn’t always perfect for selling.
2. Stop being so secretive with your agent.
3. Remodeling doesn’t guarantee a price uptick.
4. Be ready to fix some things.

I have my own perspective on all four bits of wisdom, but wish to instead add a fifth item to the list. There are many different ways to say it. “Lighten up” comes to mind. Or “Chillax.”

Yet I prefer this quotation from, one I have posted prominently in my brain pan: “What we are doing here is so important, we better not take it too seriously.”

Selling your home IS important. It is VERY important.

And yet, as with most worthy pursuits, white-knuckling one’s way through it can be grievous. If your aim is to sell your home, then you’re going to get the proverbial ball through that goalpost one way or the other. Better to come out of it looking like Jerry Rice after Super Bowl XXVII instead of mud-caked and mad.

The best method is to listen quietly and carefully to your wise coach’s counsel. Let your agent run the plays. Chances are she’ll opt for a tried-and-true offensive strategy culminating in a thrilling and successful bomb into the end zone.

Sometimes, she may have to grunt it one yard at a time down the field. In which case, it’s best not to watch too closely and fret over every down. Duck out to the concession stand. Watch the cheerleaders. Remember it’s just a game.

Because in the broadest terms, it IS just a game. You can have some fun at it, or you can be miserable and bite all your nails off in the process. I prefer the former and I work diligently so my clients don’t have to suffer. (Although I sincerely apologize for making you, dear reader, suffer through all these football metaphors.)

What – today – is so important that you need to NOT take it too seriously? I’d love to hear.

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.

The nose knows its way home in San Francisco

“Nothing is more memorable than a smell. One scent can be unexpected, momentary and fleeting, yet conjure up a childhood summer beside a lake in the mountains.” ~ Diane Ackerman

Real estate staging puts the emphasis on the visual. Because it’s a critical part of online marketing. Quality photos make for a quality listing.

But when it comes to in-person viewing, the other senses come into play –particularly the sense of smell. Before you reach for the potpourri or the Febreeze, watch this video about staging for smell.

To learn more watch the full video click on the picture.

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.

“Must Haves” You Might Not Need

Guess what? There are some things on your “must have” list that aren’t must-haves.

You don’t need a dishwasher. Seriously, some of the your most productive and creative ideas can arise while doing the dishes (or taking a shower – what is it about water and creativity?). I’ve lived without a dishwasher for 7 years and I don’t miss it. In the time it takes to rinse and load, you can wash the dishes by hand.

You don’t need a garage. Because you don’t need a car! At least not in San Francisco. You can walk, use public transportation, take advantage of Uber or Lyft, call a taxicab, use a car-share service for the occasional errand, rent a vehicle for that out-of-town weekend, ride a bicycle, drive a scooter, or arrange carpools. All of which costs less than a vehicle and its upkeep, and much less than the additional funds needed to purchase a house with parking vs. without parking. (Even with a job that requires regular use of a car at all hours of the day and night, I’ve survived without a garage. And I live just a half block from Dolores Park – epicenter of one of the worst neighborhoods for street parking EVER.)

You don’t need a wood-burning fireplace. Some big candles and a faux mantelpiece substitute very nicely and you won’t be filling the air with Presto-log exhaust or smoke.

You don’t need an en suite bathroom. You can accomplish everything you need to accomplish in a bathroom located in a hallway. Put a lock on the door if privacy is a concern.

You don’t need private outdoor space. Have you seen the condition in which most outdoor-space owners keep their outdoor space? We’re talking dry grass, wilted and rambling plants, bicycle storage, layers of city soot, moldy mushy lemons, dead plastic toys, cigarette butts from that party last February. Note the numerous, well-maintained and inviting public spaces in San Francisco.

You don’t need a remodeled kitchen. Fabulous food can be prepped on a cutting board on a two-foot-wide sink-side Formica countertop and cooked on an electric Kenmore stove that doesn’t vent to the exterior. If you want something grilled or odiferous, go to a restaurant. San Francisco has more eateries than any other city in the United States.

You don’t need to be in a top floor condo. I’ve lived on the top and on the bottom and, trust me, noise travels both ways. If you’re on top, you have an added responsibility to tread gently. Trying to avoid making unwanted noise can quickly become as annoying as hearing unwanted noise.

Naturally, there are exceptions. Maybe you’re a secret agent working on a top-secret project that’s vital to our nation’s security and, therefore, you must have a garage for Spymobile. Maybe you’re a Red Witch from Game of Thrones whose job requires that a wood-burning fire be available 24/7 for flame-reading what the Lord of Light has in mind. Maybe you’re Jacques Pepin and you can’t get your knife on over Formica.

But if you think it through, many of your must-haves can be eliminated. And “doing without” can be refreshing and freeing. In a city where real estate always involves compromise, cutting down on required features makes all the difference.

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

You Need an Agent

Finding a house is the easiest part of buying in San Francisco. Winning it and getting through escrow are much more challenging.

It’s a competitive marketplace for buyers, and those who get the keys to their dream home have the support of a topnotch team. Your team captain and primary ally is your real estate agent.

Always, always, always begin by shopping for your agent, not for your house.

To learn more watch the full video click on the picture.

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.

Happy Couples Decide Together

Let’s call them Jane and Jean. They’ve been looking for an Ingleside home for three months and one has appeared that meets all their criteria.

There’s just one teensy-weensy problem: The 24-hour liquor store located down the block. In separate conversations with each of them about whether or not the store impacts their feelings about the house, I hear them say the same thing:

“As long as she’s happy with it, I’m good.”

It’s a noble sentiment, but not a wise approach to buying a home. (Nor a sustainable one for long-term health of a relationship.) Without delving deeply into the psychological dynamics of coupledom, let’s just say that Jane and Jean need to tell each other what they do and don’t like about the house.

It would be wise for each of them to say aloud or write down the pros and cons, then compare lists actively. That way Jean and Jane can feel empowered about their decision.

They can be happy together about the purchase. Or they can eliminate the house together. But they’ll have made a conscious decision together, without either partner adapting the sort of passive role that can spell trouble later.

As when five months hence Jane says to Jean, “You should have guessed I’d be miserable about that darn liquor store…”

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.