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.

Wild Heart Writing Workshop on April 24

WILD HEART WRITING | APRIL 24 | 10 TO 4 | SAN FRANCISCO

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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.)

 

 

Throwback Thursday: Grrrrrrrreat!

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Beautiful, Wonderful and Great: Also known as the three weariest adjectives in Realtorland.

Of these, “great” is the most worn out because it fits so conveniently in so many places. When in doubt, throw the word “great” into your copy.

Note, for example, the Brief Property Report I printed from Multiple Listing Service (MLS) yesterday. My intent was to refer to it during a meeting with buyers. But it works nicely as a random sampling of Realtors’ MLS comments for my investigation of the over-exploitation of the word “great.”

Here’s what it revealed:

  • Property #1 is listed at a “great price”
  • Property #2 is a “great property for the first- time homebuyer”
  • Property #3 is a “great value”
  • Property #4 skips the word ‘great’ (as well as ‘beautiful’ and ‘wonderful’), so extra points for the agent for Property #4
  • Property #5 uses great twice, as in “great light” and “great room,” the latter describing the type of room not the quality of the room
  • Property #6 has no comments at all (aside to agent for Property #6: Come on, you can do better than that!)
  • Property #7 points to the “great weather” in the neighborhood

Okay, so you’re asking, “What’s the big deal? Who cares whether an agent uses the word ‘great’ one time, fourteen times or not at all?”

And I’m answering. Or I’m starting to answer and then shutting my mouth. I’m thinking. What IS the big deal? Who DOES care? Why AM I railing about the verbiage in MLS comments?

It has only to do with my interest in words and writing. It has nothing to do with real estate or selling real estate. I can use the word “great” as much as I want, but in the end no buyers are going to take my word for it. They’re going to see the property themselves and decide if it rates a “great.”

Meanwhile, it’s another great day in San Francisco. What a great place to live. What a great place to work. What a great place to sell real estate.

Cynthia Cummins is a Top Producer and Partner at McGuire. For info on SF real estate visit http://CynthiaCummins.com. This post originally appeared at McGuire.com a few years ago.
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.

The Balancing Act of #SanFrancisco “Home” Work

San Francisco real estate is a three-ring circus. As an agent, I’m accustomed to the vertiginous view– standing on a high platform waiting for the trapeze bar to swing my way.

I know all the tricks, from Piggyback to Reverse Whip Return, and I’ve had my share of facedown spills into the net.

It’s always a thrill (whether positive or negative) to

  • Witness hungry agents and buyers storming a new listing.
  • Congratulate my clients on obtaining a home they love.
  • Note the weekly litany of record-breaking sales prices.
  • Watch a buyer’s face light up with hope, then darken when he/she does the math.
  • Listen to sellers explaining how much money they “need to get” and why.
  • Hear a buyer say, “Okay, let’s raise our offer price to one gazillion dollars.” (First I think, “One gazillion is too much.” Next I think, “One gazillion isn’t going to do it.”)
  • Observe a listing agent speaking coyly about having distributed 28 disclosure packages.
  • Fill out a Buyer’s Waiver of Inspections form to accompany an offer.
  • Call ten buyers’ agents to say, “Sorry, we accepted another offer.”
  • Calculate the carrying costs on a $1.6 million, 1200 square-foot, two-bedroom condo.
  • See a neighborhood transforming.
  • Update a client on the value of their property.
  • Give a would-be homeowner the lowdown on exactly what it takes to buy in San Francisco.

Exhilarating. Exhausting. Extraordinary.

And at the end of every day spent doing “Homework,” I’m grateful to have a home. In San Francisco, that’s no small thing.

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