Author and curator Cynthia Cummins has been devoted to homeowners and homebuyers for three decades and counting. Visit for more information on San Francisco real estate. 

Reading time: 3 minutes

My friends Pat and Patricia do this funny thing every time I’m invited over for dinner.

If I say, “Wow, your hydrangea bush is blooming like crazy!” Patricia will say, “Oh, no, we’re not selling!”

If I say, “These cookies are delicious, and the banquette you added to your kitchen makes everything so cozy.” Pat will say, “We’re not going anywhere; we’re here forever and have no plans to leave and we’re not selling!!”

If I say, “I ran into So-and-So the other day.” Patricia will say, “So-and-So is planning to move back to North Carolina when they retire, but when we retire we’re giving this house to our kids and we’re not selling!”

The P’s and I have been friends forever. They never hesitate to ask me about what a neighbor’s house sold for, how the market is doing, where to find a reputable plumber, whether or not it’s a good time to refinance, how to appeal their property tax basis, or when is the best time to plant dahlia bulbs in San Francisco.

I always answer quickly and cheerfully. It’s part of my professional practice to offer reliable information and reputable resources to anyone who asks nicely, and I don’t expect anything in return. I don’t expect to ever sell Pat and Patricia’s house. Ever. Unless Pat and Patricia change their minds and ask me to represent them.

Which is why I’m rather amused by and curious about the terror I seem to induce in them. You would think I possess a superpower that could force them to sign a stack of listing papers, clean out their house, hand the deed over to me, and move away.

And don’t get me started on how I’m sometimes perceived by folks I’ve just met — at a party, or when volunteering at the YMCA, or while serving chili and cornbread at the kids’ school fair. Tell somebody you’re a real estate agent and there’s a tiny chance they’ll be intrigued. The more typical reaction will be a negative one.

I’m not kidding: Upon meeting me for the first time, one of my son’s girlfriends asked, “Is it true that all real estate agents are sleazy?” I think my jaw dropped on that one, though I admired the bald naiveté of her question.

People are welcome to their misinformed assumptions – that I’m wealthy and have no problems, that I tread upon the backs of the poor, that I want to kick longterm tenants out of rent-controlled apartments in order to sell the building to the highest bidder, that I’m stupid but lucky, that my work is easy, and so forth. What confuses and hurts me is when people who know better – people who know me – think all I want to do is sell, sell, sell!

If you’re a dentist, do you aspire to extract everybody’s molars? If you’re an insurance agent, do you decide whether or not to hang out with someone based on how likely they are to suffer a catastrophic loss? If you’re a crime fiction writer, do you only befriend people who are detectives and serial killers?

Speaking of: How many movies have you seen where a (female, always) Realtor character shows an empty house to a villain posing as a homebuyer and ends up murdered in some horrific fashion just to move the plot along? (Bonus points if you email me with answers! I promise to send you a modest prize.)

All you screenwriters out there: Please consider letting your next powerful, sassy and beautiful heroine have a career as a real estate agent. Let her job be portrayed as a noble calling. And if it’s not too much to ask, let the role be played by either Carrie Mulligan, Cate Blanchett or — in the case of a musical comedy — Anna Kendricks.

I look forward to the premiere!

Photo Credit: Nhia Moua