Tag Archives: humor

There’s Always a Piano

“The secret to humor is surprise.” ~ Aristotle

Conversely, the secret to navigating a surprise is humor – especially when it comes to something unexpected in a real estate transaction.

One scrap of wisdom I share at the outset with new clients is this: There will be at least one moment during this process when something is unexpected and upsetting. It isn’t a matter of IF it will happen. It’s a matter of WHAT and WHEN.

As a Realtor, I am Navigator of the deal. I unroll a map of the Transaction and highlight a route to Closing. I know most of the twists and turns by heart. And I deftly steer around new bumps and barricades. Yet there is always a pothole I don’t see before driving over or into it.

These holes along the highway take many forms (or so I have seen).

The mortgage one-more-thing: On the day before signing lender requires that Buyer’s car lease be paid off in full.

The insurance Catch 22: Buyer can’t obtain loan and close escrow without insurance in place. But insurance company says circuit breakers must be installed before house can be insured. So Seller must have the circuit breakers installed prior to closing. Yet property is a probate and Seller is deceased. And Buyer doesn’t have a contingency for insurability because the insurance companies just dreamed this new policy up a month ago.

The unimaginable: Buyer has a brain aneurism on the day before closing.

The catastrophic: Loma Prieta comes knockin’ and the house goes rockin’ off its foundation just after Buyer waives inspection contingency.

The governmental: The IRS decides to begin scrutinizing a formerly-ignored form called a TRDBV required by mortgage lenders. TRDBV stands for Tax Return Database. (I’m not sure what the “V” connotes and I don’t really care and I hope you never have to find out yourself.) Buyers drop everything (including their jobs) to go stand in line at the local IRS office for hours. And HOURS.

The feral: During a final walk-through, Buyer steps onto the roof and into a pile of raccoon poop.

The emotional: Soon-to-be-divorced yet cheery Seller goes silent in the week before closing. Refuses to sign closing papers. Will not return agent’s or attorney’s phone calls. Will not answer doorbell. Emails escrow officer that she’s changed her mind.

The economic: Seller’s employer withdraws offer of new position on the East Coast just after Seller accepts Buyer’s all-cash, no-contingency offer with a 14-day closing.

The watery: Closing is December 30th. Huge storm – the first of the season – crushes Bay Area on December 31st. Buyers call shortly before midnight, but not to wish me a Happy New Year. They are crying loudly. I realize, however, that their tears are not the cause of the dripping sound in the background.

The musical: Several days prior to closing, piano-owning Buyers realize they missed the Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions ban on pianos in the condo building. As we search for a possible music-friendly solution, I remind the impatient Sellers, “There’s always a piano.”

Yes indeed.  In every transaction, “there’s always a piano.”

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

The Life Changing Magic of Clobbering Your Crap

HeatherZabriskie

The word “clobber” is on my mind. I was thinking about the word “cobbler” and a slip of my mind’s tongue shifted the “L” so it became “clobber.”

The words mean totally different things. Yet they have a symmetry that has not to do with their sounds.

Cobbler is sweet, satisfying, earthy, down home and righteous. Clobber is sassy, satisfying, earthy, down home and righteous.

Ever want to clobber someone? I know I do. About 15 times a day.

Usually my clobbering impulses run toward a relatively innocent person who doesn’t deserve to be clobbered.

Like the lady at Garnet Hill customer service who can’t find my percale-sheet-set order.

Or the drunken guy in front of me at Bi-Rite deli deliberating over which sandwich will soak up the 6-pack he just consumed at Dolores Park.

Or the man at my recent garage sale who wanted to buy a $10 table for $10, but tells me his wife insists on paying only $5. (Note: it’s a $200 table.) I’m not amused when he asks, “Can you please just talk to her? Talk her into paying more?”

This makes me want to clobber him. After I clobber his wife. I negotiate multi-million-dollar transactions for a living, and I don’t want to waste my precious time haggling over five bucks at a garage sale.

“Just take it,” I say, “My son will help you get it into your truck.”

The whole purpose of the garage sale – and the reason I gave them the table for free – was to clobber the crap that had accumulated in my ex-husband house. I’d contributed heavily to that heavy load, as had our children. We’d moved 15+ years’ worth of clutter into it from our last house and then added 7 more years’ of stuff to the pile. The house had practically begged us to take up hoarding, with a storage room larger than most studio apartments. As a result, my “wasbund” and I easily punted the pain of decluttering down the field again and again.

Now, with him moving to a new, drastically smaller space, the reckoning time had come. 30 years of photographs in albums crammed into file boxes. 20 years of children’s art, trophies, award certificates, recital DVDs, sports equipment and birthday-party favors. Boxes of tax receipts. Cabinets full of Tupperware and water bottles.

And crawling out of every drawer like swarming roaches in a horror movie came paper, binders, Allen wrenches, screws, push-pins, paper clips, pens, reading glasses, puffy ski jackets, snow boots, ratty beach towels, dirty bathmats, lumpy pillows, grocery totes, paint, cleaning supplies, pit-stained t-shirts, misshapen coat hangers, dead flashlights, dried-up tubes of sunscreen, random batteries, earbuds, estranged socks, faded business cards and lonely half-wrapped-fuzz-encrusted Ricola cough drops.

There was a huge bag of rocks collected on hikes and beach walks. A collection of San Francisco-themed highball glasses my grandmother purchased in the 1950s. A jumbo Rubbermaid box filled with more boxes. And I’m not even talking about all the furniture!

The criteria for deciding on an object’s dispensation became: If this were to spontaneously combust right now, how would I feel?

 The answer – almost always – was: Where’s a match when you need it?

The mantra became: If in doubt, throw it out.

Even while being ruthless to the point of cold-bloodedness, the stuff just kept coming and coming and coming. Like zombies. We’d clobber one closet and then scream in terror when confronted by another we’d overlooked.

Just when one room seemed safe AKA vacant, we’d reenter to find more stuff crawling out of the walls and spreading across the floor into heaps of menacing detritus.

Which is all a long way of saying: One thing I’ve learned as a Realtor is that the Number One Impediment to Making Beneficial Changes In Our Living Situations is OUR STUFF.

Want to live a happy life? Want to remain flexible and open and ready to meet every daunting challenge or delightful change? GET RID OF YOUR CRAP. The sooner the better. Wait until you’re 78 and selling your house of 40 years and the mountain of stuff will literally crush you.

Do it. Now. Any way you can. Gift, sell, donate, recycle, toss or SET IT ON FIRE. Just clobber your crap now before it’s too late.

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

Realtor Haikus: Taking The Form To A New Level

Should I stage or not?
Is this even a question?
Look at sold photos.

~

Title insurance,
is it something I MUST buy?
Everyone says so.

~

Market is shifting.
Seller says, “offers as they come.”
At showings, shoes on!

~

Signing loan papers
as her attorney in fact,
his wrist is worn out.

~

How many square feet?
It’s quite unclear! Play it safe.
Underestimate.

~

Help out your painter.
Don’t make him guess the color.
Label your paint cans.

~

It only leaked once
in a heavy sideways rain.
Still, you must disclose!

~

Don’t get me started:
Way too many acronyms!
Please sign this AVID?

~

Tax year calendar:
July first to June thirty
first. Let me explain.

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

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.

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.

Throwback Thursday: Grrrrrrrreat!

Garry_Moore_Tony_the_Tiger_1955

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.

Realtor’s Dozen: The Richmond District

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Strybing Botanical Garden in Golden Gate Park

I heard it again the other day: An uninformed SF newbie designating huge swatches of the city as uninhabitable. As in, “I could never live there. I might as well just move to Marin. Or Hayward. Or Mountain View.

It’s true I err on the side of “I never met a San Francisco neighborhood I didn’t like,” but – honestly! – every part of town has its merits. My focus today? The breathtakingly delightful Richmond district. Why?

  1. “Outside Lands” real estate, as evinced by price-per-square-foot, is a relative bargain.
  2. Richmond lots are deep and burgeoning with greenery. You just don’t realize it because houses stand hip-to-hip and you can’t see inside the blocks.
  3. Fogmongers claim it’s socked in 24/7/365 west of Arguello (or some other imaginary line). Not so. Check out the dahlias and lemon trees thriving in those huge back yards.
  4. Golden Gate Park skirts the southern end of the Richmond, from Arguello to the Pacific Ocean. GGP is the brightest park jewel in SF’s crown.
  5. Bookending the Richmond on its north side is The Presidio.
  6. And did I mention Ocean Beach? And Land’s End, Sutro Park, Sutro Baths, Lincoln Park Golf Course? THE MIGHTY PACIFIC OCEAN?
  7. The Richmond is among the very safest neighborhoods in the city.
  8. Want hip? Want authentic? Want diversity? Forget the pretendscape of Valencia and check out Clement Street. Or Geary.
  9. Commuting in any direction is easy peasy. Tech shuttles along Park Presidio. Numerous MUNI lines. Quick access to 1, 101, 280.
  10. Kid friendly: Playgrounds. Museums. Libraries. Bike paths. Cheap eats.
  11. It’s quiet. (An underappreciated quality until you’ve lived, for example, near Dolores Park where the endless, noisy crunch of street closures, festivals, movie nights or just a regular weekend can drive you insane.)
  12. If music is your thing, it’s perfectly located for the big festivals at GGP. You can “Hardly Strictly” for a coupla hours, then stroll home for lunch and a nap.
  13. Green Apple Books, Toy Boat Dessert Café, B Star, Kabuto Sushi, Hong Kong Lounge II, House of Bagels, Tommy’s, Angelina’s, Aziza. Etc.

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

10 Things Smart Buyers Look For in a Home

cat in doorway

If you’re listing your home for sale, keep this list in mind. When I’m representing buyers, I’m always on the lookout for a “run-don’t-walk” property which…

  1. Is vacant and unstaged.
  2. Does not have a dedicated website.
  3. Is listed by an out-of-town broker.
  4. Has one grainy photo on MLS (or no photo).
  5. Doesn’t appear on MLS at all.
  6. Is shown on lockbox.
  7. Is asking $50,000 more than the most recent comparable.
  8. Isn’t listed on broker’s tour.
  9. Advertises “offers as they come.”
  10. Smells like a cat has been peeing on the carpet over in the corner.

Such a dream-come-true property is hard to find, but the search is well worth it.

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

Story: The Cat

http://www.miskatonic.com/
Photo by David Corby

“It’s fine, but remember The Cat is in the house,” said my seller Y, when I asked if I could show her condo that day on short notice.

I laughed at Y’s intonation. She sing-songed her answer like a rapper: The Cat is in the house, y’all.

That humor would’ve been lost on her pet because if The Cat were an audiophile, she would prefer Mantovani to Macklemore. A senior citizen among felines, she was overly ancient. Extra old. Like 300 cat years old.

When I first met The Cat, I knelt down to greet said bag o’ fur. Y cautioned me sternly, “Don’t touch her. She’s mean!” And, indeed, the shabby tabby began hissing and swiping at the air. I jumped back just in the nick of time.

I ended up logging quite a few hours alone with The Cat during open houses, appointments and inspections. I warned the photographer, the pest inspector, the window washer, various agents and numerous animal-loving customers to keep their distance.

But would they listen? No! All these folks fancied themselves to be cat whisperers.

Me: Watch out, The Cat is viscious.

Visitor: (advancing toward The Cat with bare arm outstretched, fingers waving like seaweed) Nice kitty. Nice kitty. Aw, whatsa matter? Nice, nice. There now. You’re not so ferocious! Who loves the puss? Who wuvves de widdle kiddy. Who? Oh shit! (screaming)

Me: You don’t seem to be bleeding too badly. (rummaging through medicine cabinet for hydrogen peroxide and Band-Aids)

And so it went. With each successive visit, The Cat became bolder. Initially, The Cat hid under a bed. After a week, The Cat would hiss at me from atop the entry stairs. Eventually, The Cat would be lurking just inside the condo door.

This made me very nervous. Nervous The Cat would attack me. Nervous The Cat would attack someone else. Nervous The Cat would escape as soon as I cracked open the front door.

I expressed my concerns to Y. She said, “Don’t worry too much. It wouldn’t be your fault if she ran away. Just bring me an offer.”

Cynthia Cummins is a Top Producer and Partner at McGuire. For info on SF real estate visit http://CynthiaCummins.com. I posted an earlier version of this entry at McGuire.com in 2010.