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“Someone asked me what home was, and all I could think of were the stars on the tip of your tongue, the flowers sprouting from your mouth, the roots entwined in the gaps between your fingers, the ocean echoing inside of your rib cage.” ~ E. E. Cummings

I’m a Cummins, not a Cummings. And I think, sometimes, that I’m pretty good at writing about real estate. Property descriptions, website blurbs, captions for social media. But I’m not a poet and I know it.

If you asked me which words I’d use to describe my ideal home, I’d name old standards like “cozy” and “spacious” and “sunny.” I’d not answer “luxurious” or “exquisite” or “bespoke.”

I’d name features like an office, a small manageable garden, pleasant outlooks and an in-unit laundry. I’d not give a fig about quartz waterfall countertops or smart homes or even a dishwasher. I’d want two toilets, not just one.

There wouldn’t be a continual hum from the refrigerator or the streetlights. There wouldn’t be constant construction projects on the block. People’s dogs would stop doing their business beneath my bedroom window.

I’d have a garage. And a bathtub. And a quiet corner for a meditation altar.

As an agent, I ask new buyers to think about the qualities they’re seeking in a home. I suggest they not focus on the wish list. In truth, it’s a blend of the two that works best: “Have to haves” plus the intangible stuff like the feeling you get when you enter the front door or the way the sun tracks through the space.

Let me hear your non-negotiables. Then, please, may I ask WHAT is home to you? Or WHO is home, or WHEN or WHY is home? Before you set up Redfin alerts or head out on brokers tour with your agent, stop and poetically ponder those questions.

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

Photo Credit: Valentina Locatelli