WILD HEART WRITING | APRIL 24 | 10 TO 4 | SAN FRANCISCO
Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart | William Wordsworth
Join Cynthia Cummins for a day of writing and discovery at a private home near Lands End in San Francisco. $60 fee includes lunch. All you do is show up with pen, paper and a readiness to invite your muse.
Effortless and therapeutic, Wild Heart Writing reveals the themes and stories we want and need to share. In timed exercises, our pens never leave the page as we bypass our inner critic. We write creatively and easefully. Stories come alive. Memories are uncovered.
or call 415.713.8008.
Cynthia Cummins regularly leads Wild Heart Writing workshops in San Francisco. A former journalist, she is a blogger, novelist and student of writing. She is a graduate of Interchange Counseling Institute and formerly served as SF facilitator for The Hoffman Institute. (She also sells residential real estate in San Francisco; for more about that go to www.CynthiaCummins.com.)
Staging is magical. It’s “theater” that evokes a buyer’s emotional response and thereby enhances a seller’s bottom line.
It makes it easier for buyers to envision themselves living in a home. It psychically de-personalizes the property and displays furnishings in context. It makes a house more inviting in every way.
But there’s another unexpected and little-discussed benefit: By creating an idealized version of a home, staging makes it easier for sellers to LET GO.
An owner’s initial reaction to viewing their staged home inevitably goes something like this: “Wow. I wish we’d done this while we were living here.”
That “shouldawouldacoulda” cringe is normal. Yet nobody ever actually lives that way. Ergo one of my real estate mantras: “The way you live in a house and the way you sell it are two entirely different things.”
A cruder twist on that bit of wisdom is: “If your home looks like it’s staged, you probably should examine the sacrifices you’re making in the name of keeping up appearances.”
Life is messy. Shit happens. Stuff accumulates. There’s a healthy difference between ideal and reality, and it’s evident in your home. After all, THE HOUSE is the dream metaphor for THE SELF.
So, with staging, there is a pivotal moment that presents a homeowner with a wonderful opportunity for closure and progression.
Consider the story of my lovely client Jane (not her real name). Preparing her house for sale required four stressful months of cleaning out and organizing 40 years’ worth of belongings. Another month was needed for cosmetic fixes and staging. I spent 10 days marketing the house before we considered offers. We closed seven days later.
Prior to de-staging, Jane visited her longtime home. Alone. She sat in the living room. She let the serene and clean feeling of the staged house wash over her. She walked through the rooms and looked out the windows. It was as if she were seeing some of those views for the first time.
There were brief waves of regret – the shouldawouldacoulda. There were flashes of memories – both happy and sad. There was appreciation for the years of service the house had given.
This was followed by a curious contentment and detachment. Jane assimilated the staged version of the house as the one she’ll remember in years ahead. Then, without resisting, she let go of her longtime home.
“The staging,” she explained, “was a gift for 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.
First, consider just a few things that have happened since 1969:
A hole formed in the Ozone.
Hip Hop was born.
The Cold War ended.
Panama got the Panama Canal.
The Internet took over our lives.
Next, spend a moment reflecting on your own life — the places you’ve lived and the things you’ve experienced. If walls could indeed talk, what stories would they tell?
I sometimes muse about what has been witnessed by the walls of San Francisco properties, about what changes the windows have observed, about how many living things have lived and perished in a backyard tree.
What would an original 49er make of the Folsom Street Fair? How would a Victorian matron feel about relinquishing her corset and not needing to faint in the fainting room? Who from 1932 would recognize Mission Bay? Or the Golden Gate Bridge for that matter?
Back – or, should I say, forward – to 1969: That’s when my lovely client Jean purchased her home, my new upcoming listing in Cow Hollow. That’s 45 years ago! Nearly a lifetime!
Imagine the walls’ excitement, knowing soon there will be new inhabitants living within. Imagine the windows scanning the street for potential buyers. Imagine the birds perching on the fence to catch sight of children, once again, playing in the garden.
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.
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.
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:
And this shy green spider.
And the pink bird of happiness.
And a beautiful butterfly.
Plus a cheerful bat.
A talkative reptile (though we can’t quite make out what he’s saying).
And, of course, every garden needs a bunny and a dragon.
Where, oh, where are the children now who painted these walls in 1973? If you are one of them, please let me know?
“It’s fine, but remember The Cat is in the house,” said my seller Y, when I asked if I could show her condo that day on short notice.
I laughed at Y’s intonation. She sing-songed her answer like a rapper: The Cat is in the house, y’all.
That humor would’ve been lost on her pet because if The Cat were an audiophile, she would prefer Mantovani to Macklemore. A senior citizen among felines, she was overly ancient. Extra old. Like 300 cat years old.
When I first met The Cat, I knelt down to greet said bag o’ fur. Y cautioned me sternly, “Don’t touch her. She’s mean!” And, indeed, the shabby tabby began hissing and swiping at the air. I jumped back just in the nick of time.
I ended up logging quite a few hours alone with The Cat during open houses, appointments and inspections. I warned the photographer, the pest inspector, the window washer, various agents and numerous animal-loving customers to keep their distance.
But would they listen? No! All these folks fancied themselves to be cat whisperers.
Me: Watch out, The Cat is viscious.
Visitor: (advancing toward The Cat with bare arm outstretched, fingers waving like seaweed) Nice kitty. Nice kitty. Aw, whatsa matter? Nice, nice. There now. You’re not so ferocious! Who loves the puss? Who wuvves de widdle kiddy. Who? Oh shit! (screaming)
Me: You don’t seem to be bleeding too badly. (rummaging through medicine cabinet for hydrogen peroxide and Band-Aids)
And so it went. With each successive visit, The Cat became bolder. Initially, The Cat hid under a bed. After a week, The Cat would hiss at me from atop the entry stairs. Eventually, The Cat would be lurking just inside the condo door.
This made me very nervous. Nervous The Cat would attack me. Nervous The Cat would attack someone else. Nervous The Cat would escape as soon as I cracked open the front door.
I expressed my concerns to Y. She said, “Don’t worry too much. It wouldn’t be your fault if she ran away. Just bring me an offer.”
Cynthia Cummins is a Top Producer and Partner at McGuire. For info on SF real estate visit http://CynthiaCummins.com. I posted an earlier version of this entry at McGuire.com in 2010.