Tag Archives: home

What Argentina Taught Me About Home

“Argentines are Italians who speak Spanish who think they are British.” ~ unknown

There’s nothing like traveling abroad to refresh one’s perspective on life back home. It’s been more than a month since I returned from a wonderful vacation and – before I forget – here are the lessons learned about HOME from my sojourn in Argentina.

Wood is good. Old wood is especially good.
Argentines haven’t gotten the memo about painting out or replacing all the wood in their houses, hotels and restaurants. It’s everywhere and in every condition from rotting away to brand new, and there’s something very comforting about it.

In the kitchen, simplicity is a gift.
Having the latest appliance or gadget doesn’t count for a fig when it comes to making scrumptious food. In the Airbnbs where we stayed, we’d find a hot plate, running water, an electric kettle, a refrigerator, at least one decent knife and a good bottle of olive oil. Never a dishwasher, seldom a microwave, sometimes an oven. We nonetheless ate well when we cooked at home, and enjoyed the simplicity and lack of fuss prompted by the pared-down equipment.

Bidets rock.
I was sad to come home and see the toilet sitting there all by itself. How lovely to have the companionship and convenience of a bidet. So civilized. So European. (Americans don’t get it.)

San Francisco groundwork such as sidewalks and streets are (relatively) fantastic.
One of our guides mentioned that jay-walking is a sport in Argentina. Well, plain-ol-walking in Argentine towns and cities challenges one’s physical fortitude. If you aren’t vigilant and wearing sensible shoes, you’ll end up in a hole or a ditch or the hospital.

Same goes for roads and highway infrastructure.
In Argentina, they don’t “need no stinking” road signs. On the day we were flying back home, it’s good we had a six-hour window to make the one-hour trip to the Buenos Aires International Airport in our rental car (admittedly, sans GPS). I won’t go into detail; let’s just say it was an adventure.

Americans aren’t friendly.
We’d heard about the Argentine reputation for arrogance, but didn’t experience that firsthand. Instead we were struck by how very friendly everyone was. Cheerful, helpful, kind, generous and possessed of a playful sense of humor.

It takes a lot of Argentine pesos to get around.
I felt rich carrying two-inch wad of bills – 5s, 10s, 20s, 100s and 500s. When you consider that the exchange rate was then roughly 15.6 pesos to 1 USD, you’ll understand why.

The wine is fine.
And relatively inexpensive, and offered throughout the day. Going for a swim? How would you like a glass of champagne poolside? Going for a horseback ride? May we bring you a nice Sauvignon Blanc as you dismount? Checking in to your hotel? How about a pour of Malbec while you sign this form? And if you don’t care for wine, may we bring you a beer?

Argentine dogs are something else altogether.
We encountered plenty of dogs that were leashed and pampered and treated as beloved pets. But there are semi-feral dogs roaming free everywhere, and my partner learned – the hard way – the meaning of the expression “Let sleeping dogs lie.” Don’t interrupt a wild dog’s nap to snap a silly photo of him on your cell phone. He’ll tear your leg off.

I want a Parilla.
Everybody in Argentina seems to have a built-in, brick-walled, wood-fired BBQ in their yard. And they really know how to cook chicken and meat. If I had a parilla here in San Francisco, I’d roast some vegetables too.

And a six-pack of Quilmes
Quilmes Cristal quickly became our local beer of choice. (It’s also the choice of 75% of Argentine beer drinkers.) Founded in 1888 by a German immigrant, the name comes from an indigenous tribe of people who fought off the Incas for 100+ years and then resisted the Spaniards for 100+ years, only to be systematically eradicated. Only a few Quilmes people remain today, while their name is displayed prominently in every grocery store, bar and restaurant in the country. Sound familiar?

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

 

Where Do Sex and Real Estate Meet?

At home, of course!

It’s probably first on the list of places where the former and the latter intersect.

“Sex and Real Estate: Get Lots While You’re Young” is the catchy title of a homebuyer seminar I’m co-hosting on Wednesday with my colleague Laraine Hsu. After receiving their colorful invitations, a few people have asked what in the world that means.

Here goes an explanation:

1. There’s an X in both SeX and LuXury real estate. Pretty much all property in San Francisco qualifies as “luxury” because luxury is defined as anything selling for at least $1M (entry level in our fair city).

2. Everybody knows that the best time to start investing in real estate (or anything else) is when you’re young. Similarly, the best time to invest in sex (through practice) is when you’re young because – let’s face it – at a certain age you won’t have as much time and freedom to “get lots.”

3. By contrast, studies show that sex in a committed relationship can be more rewarding than NSA hookups. Just as happy homeownership requires a more serious commitment than renting.

4. And yet! It’s important to carefully examine one’s reasons for buying a home because the so-called American Dream of homeownership is not all it’s cracked up to be. Analogously, “Happily Ever After” in marriage is a flat-out fairytale.

5. In pursuit of these dreams, today’s homebuyers and love-and-sex-seekers use a myriad of apps designed to maximize results. Much dysfunctional energy is expended in swiping at devices and checking for updates.

The aim of Wednesday’s “homeworkshop” is to give prospective homebuyers some reassurance – plus practical advice for making the best of their quest for home.

As T.S. Eliot famously said, “Home is where one starts from.” (And, of course, sex is where one starts from, too.)

Join us on Wednesday as we have some good, clean fun while exploring the many paths for finding one’s way home!

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.

A Non-Toothache for Solstice

I sat down on the Solstice to write something about home and holidays. I wanted to evoke in myself some fitting Christmas spirit to share with others.

But neither spirit nor words arose. Instead came the slow realization that I could be quiet and stop trying. I could be at home in and at peace with myself. Period.

No running around short-of-breath with my shopping list in hand. No decorating. No tree. No cards. No elaborate Christmas dinner plans except an ordinary stew in the pressure cooker. No writing just the right thing.

I’ve been gradually stripping away the winter holiday trimmings from my life over the last half-dozen years or so. Every December there’s been a diminishment in the fuss and bustle, matched with an increase in presence and non-efforting. More time being unproductive, inefficient and aimless.

More time being grateful for home, family and health, especially in these darkest days of the year.

As Thich Nhat Hanh said, real happiness derives in part from noticing and being grateful for any moment of contentment: “Suffering from your toothache you get enlightened: you say: ‘It’s wonderful not to have a toothache.’ So, how to enjoy your non-toothache? Just remember the time when you had a toothache. Suffering plays a very important role in helping you to be happy.”

Gratitude for my “non-toothache” makes me more aware of the pleasure in my life and – simultaneously – aware of the pain in every life. And that is followed by compassion. Compassion for myself not “measuring up” to some crazy holiday standard I learned as a child. Compassion for all beings. A wish for everyone to have a safe home, a loving family and abiding love in their lives.

That’s enough for today, and for tomorrow. And it’s what I offer you at the end of 2016: Light and love in 2017!

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.

Grateful for Another Year!

On a recent trip, I caught a few minutes of a real estate “reality” show on the close-captioned TV monitor at the airport.

I don’t know if I was seeing Flip or Flop, Buying Naked, or Love It or List It. But it was blatantly obvious that the show depicted the practice of real estate about as accurately as Lost depicts being stranded after a plane crash on an uncharted island.

For me, real estate is a noble calling. I’m privileged to work on behalf of my clients – each of whom has his or her rich and unique story.

The first tale (and sale) of my 2016 real estate year involved wonderful clients who managed to prepare and stage their family home while living in it with two young children. They proved that with perseverance, patience and faith it CAN be done!

After a brief and intensive search ranging across the city from Bay to Breakers, this cutest couple and their beloved Emma found a dream fixer in a favorite, hip SF neighbrohood.

It was a family affair on the day of our happy walk-through. My buyers had previously failed to acquire a nearby house, due to a surprising and, frankly, unfair listing-side scenario. In hindsight, that loss was a blessing because it led us to this superior, extra-darling home.

To be truthful, the house pictured above closed at the end of 2015. But I just love this photograph of my client playing her violin in her new home, and I haven’t had another occasion to use it. What made this day extra sweet was the fact that her old rental had prohibited the playing of musical instruments!

I’ve shared only a few glimpses of what real estate looked like in 2016 from my perspective. Suffice it to say I’m grateful for a job where business isn’t just about business. It’s about sanctuary, family, friends, love and all the wonderful things this life can bring.

If you know someone who could use the help of a trustworthy real estate ally in 2017, please know you can count on me!

Crows and Cupcakes

So, I’m holding open a house on one of those all-too-rare sunny hot San Francisco Sundays. The house has a gorgeous garden. All the favorite Realtors’ adjectives apply: incredible, amazing, unparalleled, stunning, spectacular, unrivaled, and so on.

There are Meyer lemons and vining roses. There are agapanthus, salvia and lavender. There are tree leaves shimmering in the soft, warm breeze. And in the center is an attractive bird bath where tiny songbirds are splashing joyfully.

Mother Nature herself is helping to stage this beautiful home!

Into this urban idyll flaps a gianormous black crow with — get this — a whole cupcake in its beak, purloined from a kid birthday two fences over. And BAM! He (or she) bombs it right into the birdbath. The cupcake disintegrates upon impact, forming a scummy soup with a ridged pink paper wrapper floating on top.

So much for Staging by Mother Nature. And guess who gets to clean it up?

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

If you’re looking for a San Francisco agent, know what’s in the cards.

They hearken back to ancient Egypt, with images like those on the walls of the chambers beneath the Sphinx.

They mirror the androgynous Hindu god Ardhanari who holds in its arms objects similar to swords, discs, cups and wands.

They are linked to Fez, ancient Greece and Morocco, and were popular – then banned – in 15th Century Italy.

But did you know that the cards of the Tarot can help you choose a Realtor to represent you in San Francisco? Watch this video to learn how.

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

This post was also featured on McGuire’s blog.

Home: Where We Start and End

I’ve written a lot about how a house is not just an investment. How a house is, first and foremost, your home. It’s the sanctuary where you do your LIVING.

And – if you get any say in the matter – it’s where you do your DYING.

If I’ve killed your real-estate buzz with talk of death, please forgive but don’t forget.

In your house, you will celebrate birthdays, host Thanksgiving dinners, and bring home your new baby. You will also endure illnesses, recover from accidents, and overcome crises. Your rooms will ring with laughter, but also with crying.

Viewed through this lens, your list of requisites may change. That big entertainment space may become less essential than a quiet bedroom and a cozy bathroom with a heated toilet seat.

Or you may say, “Who cares about the toilet seat? As Prince sang, ‘Life is just a party and parties weren’t meant to last.’ Give me the loft space with no rules about quiet hours!”

I’m not suggesting that thoughts about life’s end should drive your real estate decisions. Yet it’s wise not to focus exclusively on the deal (price, interest rates, competition, resale potential), the décor (remodeling choices, having the latest and greatest), or validation from others (your parents’ approval, your friends’ admiration, your colleagues’ envy).

Just take time to get clear on the meaning of “home.” As in what “home” means to YOU.

After all, as T. S. Eliot wrote, “Home is where one starts from.”

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

This post was also featured on McGuire: http://www.mcguire.com/blog/2016/04/home-where-we-start-and-end/

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:

SAMSUNG SAMSUNG SAMSUNG

Textures:

SAMSUNG SAMSUNG

SAMSUNGBotanicals:

SAMSUNG SAMSUNG SAMSUNG

More pleasing-to-the-eye stuff:

SAMSUNG SAMSUNG SAMSUNG SAMSUNG SAMSUNG SAMSUNG SAMSUNG

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

Now is the Perfect Time to Buy and Sell but First…

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I remember my first home in San Francisco: a two-unit building purchased with my husband (let’s call him Pablo) and our partners/my clients (let’s call them Curt and Sally).

Loma Prieta had shaken us silly that October of 1989, but it didn’t stop our real estate search. Curt, Sally, Pablo and I first viewed our future home – a spacious hunk of Victorian history on Divisadero near Golden Gate – that Halloween. By the time we closed in December the San Francisco market was looking rather spooky. Seems we’d bought at the peak.

But we made the best of it for the next five years, during which time the market continued falling yet began rising again. We remodeled, painted, added parking, started families, celebrated holidays and watched the neighborhood improve. We converted our flats to condominiums. Then we sold and purchased single family homes in the Richmond district.

In retrospect, we were smart to get in when we did because the market hasn’t turned downward in any significant way since that time.

Ask any agent – on any day during any month during any year – if it’s a good time to buy and they’ll say one of three things:

  1. Now is a perfect time to buy
  2. Five years ago was a better time buy
  3. In hindsight, tomorrow will prove to have been a great time to buy

The main thing is to get your foot in the proverbial door. But you’ll need an agent’s help:

  1. Ready? Interview three agents.
  2. Set? Choose the person who feels like your true ally.
  3. Go!

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

Hot on Tuesday Tour: Sexy Plumbing

This radiant heat system (in the house listed by McGuire at 2605 Union Street) made my heart go pitter patter. Just look at the gleaming copper and red shut-off valves! So clean and beautifully installed. Super sexy!

SAMSUNG

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