Category Archives: Uncategorized

Vacation, anyone?

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” Especially if Jack is trying to buy property in San Francisco.

Jill needs a break, too. Especially if she is representing Jack in the search for his dream home.

Residential real estate is a 24/7 deal. Successful Realtors (unlike doctors, lawyers and maybe even Indian chiefs) are on call all the time. So are buyers. You might say our motto is “We Never Close.” Continue reading Vacation, anyone?

How Icebergs Are Like Realtors

So, you’ve been selling San Francisco real estate for almost 29 years. You’ve embraced the changes: Learning to gather signatures electronically rather than in person. Trading the 5-pound Multiple Listing book inked on newsprint for an online search site. Wielding an electronic lockbox key rather than twisting the dial of a combination lock.

You’ve learned how to avoid trouble for your clients. Unlike a lot of newbies, you understand what the Liquidated Damages clause in the SFAR contract means. Just as you know the Real Estate Transfer Disclosure loophole hasn’t been cinched until your Agent’s Visual Inspection Disclosure is signed.

You know to warn all your clients that something surprising almost always goes wrong with an escrow. “It’s not a matter of if,” you say, sagely, “It’s a matter of when and what.”

And then the federal government passes new legislation about lending disclosures. This new law is designed to protect consumers. (As if improved Truth In Lending documentation – rather than sweeping reform of the banking and credit system – will prevent another economic meltdown.)

For months before its October 2015 debut, the San Francisco Association of Realtors warns of the impending arrival of the TILA/RESPA Integrated Disclosure (TRID) Rule. Seminars are held. Bulletins are posted. One title company gives everyone a plastic Frisbee-sized wheel for determining “Consummation Dates.”

TRID wheel

But this is all meaningless until you actually see a transaction through:

You make your closing a week longer than normal, to allow for TRID’s 3-day waiting period and Murphy’s Law. You explain to your Buyer that he will be among the first TRID guinea pigs.

You powwow in advance with Seller’s Agent, just to be sure she will explain to Seller that things could get weird. Seller’s Agent says it’s all cool. She and Seller will hang loose, even though Seller has another closing that hinges on this one. There’s enough spaciousness for a small delay, she says.

The loan is approved.

Title gathers all the info needed to close both sides of the deal. This includes property taxes, homeowners dues, move-in fees, move-out fees, HO-6 insurance, prepaid interest, loan fees, credits, commissions, city fees, transfer taxes, home warranty plans and so forth.

Lender takes all the detail supplied by Title and translates it into a federally-mandated format which Buyer must review and approve before the 3-day waiting period begins. Easy, right?

Wrong.

When doing their transcription, Lender mistakenly gives Buyer an $18,000 credit from Seller. Lender also omits Title Insurance Premium and forgets to fill in Prepaid Property Taxes. Altogether, this creates a $25,000 shortfall on Cash Due at Closing.

Buyer receives the form and calls you. He is delighted that he doesn’t have to come up with as much money as he’d anticipated. The amount is $25,000 less than he’d estimated. He’s going to call Schwab and reduce the amount of his wire. How fantastic is that?!?

Wait a minute, you say. You say this because your spidey sense tells you something ain’t right. Plus you’re keenly aware that, under the new regulations, any material change to the TRID disclosure kicks off another 3-day waiting period. Which delays loan documents. Which delays closing. Which damages Seller. Which costs Buyer. Which is your fiduciary obligation to prevent.

So you start investigating. And – after a day of confusing back and forth with Lender and Title and Seller’s Agent – you find the errors and get them corrected. The transaction closes on time. Everyone is happy.

You add this experience to your Iceberg. As in:

A lot of people think what we Realtors do is easy. They think we drive around in nice cars and look at pretty houses and get our clients to sign some papers and – voila – we’re paid a gazillion dollars.

A real estate agent is like an iceberg (as SF real-estate-guru Ray Brown famously said). Folks can only see a tiny portion of what he or she does and knows. The true mass of the Iceberg is invisible. And GINORMOUS. And it’s made up of tons of ice crystals, each one consisting of a tale akin to the TRID saga (which I’ve boiled down to a succinct outline).

It’s impossible for agents to fully convey to potential clients their value and depth. To do so would be as time-consuming, boring and futile as rowing a dinghy down to Antarctica and saying, “Here. Check out this iceberg. You can only see 5% of it but, trust me, what’s out of sight is quite impressive!”

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 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.

Achgro (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Sellers, Don’t Wait For Coulda Woulda Shoulda

image by Achim Grochowski

HOT HOT HOT! That’s the San Francisco real estate market today.

So, I’m giving a shout out to all you homeowners who are “kinda-maybe thinking about selling sometime in the not-too-faraway future.” Pay attention to what’s happening, assess your situation and be sure you don’t miss the proverbial boat.

There are lots of reasons why it’s a good time to sell. Here are a few:

  • Amnesty abounds. Translation: Demand is so high and supply is so low that all “sins” are forgiven. No parking? We’ll sell our car! On a busy street? We love it lively! Tricky floorplan? We’ll sleep in the kitchen!
  • Tenants are trouble. Translation: Tenant-occupied properties always sell for less than vacant ones. So, if your renter has just given notice, don’t freak out. Consider yourself lucky, and at least explore the advantages of selling (either the whole property or a tenancy-in-common share).
  • Capital gains tax sucks. Translation: If you are renting out a property that was recently your primary residence, drop everything else you’re doing and check with your accountant, financial planner or me. Don’t let three years go by and thereby lose your IRS Capital Gains Exclusion. That would be a $100,000-or-so mistake that you’d be really, really, really mad about making.
  • Investors are looking for the long hold. Translation: Income properties – even with relatively lousy rental returns – are in demand. Buyers from all over the world are looking for a piece of San Francisco. Sell yours and you may be able to get a higher return on investment elsewhere.
  • Interest rates are still low. Translation: It’s a good time to buy, which means it’s also a good time to sell. Only after the market shifts will you know it has shifted.

The truth is it may or may not make sense for you to sell your property now. But if it’s a consideration for any time in the next five years, contact me so we can begin a conversation and formulate a cogent plan for your real estate future.

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.

Take a Walk on the West Side

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City living makes it easy to forget about the natural world. Luckily, we have one of the most fabulous urban parks on Earth right here in San Francisco. (And, no, it’s not Dolores Park.) Take a break from your day to explore any part of Golden Gate Park. Even the rather “ordinary” spots have something beautiful to reveal.

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A lunchtime stroll yesterday took me past a mighty tree that must have fallen during our recent storms. The scent from the freshly cut wood was pleasant, and I was fascinated by the pit of sandy soil from which it toppled.

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Golden Gate Park is an amazing resource for SF citizens and visitors alike. Click here for more information. Then check it out! GO NOW!

 

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.

Competition not Comps

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Want to get from listed to pending to #sold fast & high? It’s about competition not comps. AND choosing the right agent. #SFRE

What I Noticed This Week on Broker’s Tour, Besides Properties and Prices

Sometimes it’s the details of the staging that catch my eye. That was the case this week on broker’s tour. Lots of pretty fabrics, surfaces and art. For example:

Pretty pink patterns:

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Textures:

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SAMSUNGBotanicals:

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More pleasing-to-the-eye stuff:

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

Enough with the Booties, Already!

Selling a property isn’t brain surgery. So why ask agents and potential buyers to wear surgical booties when they step inside your house? Nobody wants to look like this:

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Need more inspiration? Watch this favorite from my video archives:

How do YOU feel about booties?

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