Tag Archives: real estate therapy

The view from 1201 California #802

Historic Hip on Nob Hill: 9 Ways to See For Yourself

If you’ve never walked around Nob Hill in San Francisco, you’re missing an authentic slice of our cool grey city of love. There are many reasons this delightful neighborhood was the original preferred destination of the West’s wealthiest citizens. It has big views, fantastic architecture and plenty of charming attractions. Catch a cable car up from Union Square one afternoon and give yourself a few hours to explore. You won’t be disappointed.

 

  • Look at the city from any Nob Hill vantage point on a foggy night and you’ll know you’re in the real San Francisco

 

  • Skip Uber and take a Cable Car up, down or across the hill

Continue reading Historic Hip on Nob Hill: 9 Ways to See For Yourself

15 Parking Hacks for the SF Driver

A car is a miracle. To own one is to be a wizard waving a big sparkly wand.

It’s a magic carpet.

A personal rocket ship.

A veritable transporter. As in, “Beam me over to Whole Foods, Scotty.”

If only you could beam your vehicle to some off-planet parking garage when the spots disappear from the streets of San Francisco just as you’re trying to catch a 7 o’clock movie at The Clay on Fillmore!

In the interest of offering a balanced perspective, it must be mentioned that there are many compelling reasons not to own a car if you live in San Francisco (or in any city, for that matter). But you can list those reasons yourself.

If I didn’t have a job that requires me to whisk myself and clients all over town to see properties at all hours of the day and night, I wouldn’t own a vehicle. But that’s not the case. I am a Realtor and I own a car.

What I don’t have is a place to park it besides on the street. And I live just half a block from Dolores Park, which is one of the worst places for parking in this 7-x-7-mile chunk of paradise.

I am living proof that it’s possible to own a car + not have a garage + live in a parking Bermuda triangle and yet somehow survive. Here are my top parking tips:

  1. Take half a day off work and go get a residential parking permit. Bring along something to read, as well as a snack.
  2. Get out of bed and leave home early every day so you can get stuff done, especially if you’ve parked in a construction zone where they begin towing at 7 a.m.
  3. Return home 30 minutes before parking restrictions end – typically 6 p.m. for most construction zones and many metered streets – and snag a spot before the evening rush.
  4. If possible, walk, take MUNI or use UBER or taxicabs on weekends and evenings when parking competition is (typically) its most fierce.
  5. Become intimately acquainted with all the semi-questionable parking spaces within a two-block radius from home. They’ll do in a pinch.
  6. Memorize all the parking restrictions on the streets near your home. Don’t confuse the Thursday side with the Monday side! And try not to forget that on Wednesday on the west side of Dolores they start towing at 6 a.m.
  7. Be willing to put your car on the sidewalk for street-cleaning.
  8. Be philosophical about your banged-up bumper, your dented doors and the occasional break-in. This is easier if you don’t own a fancy car. And since you don’t need a luxury automobile, be sure to buy an extra tiny vehicle.
  9. Pay a little extra for comprehensive auto insurance with no deductible.
  10. Never ever EVER leave anything in your vehicle. Even an old sock on the backseat will create a business opportunity for some lucky opportunist. (Sorry, you can’t actually call it a crime.)
  11. Create good parking karma by avoiding turf brawls with other drivers who are vying for the space that just opened up. (Pull in quickly and act like you didn’t notice them. Don’t expect an Academy Award. Just be grateful if it works.)
  12. Be willing to stalk pedestrians who are walking slowly down the sidewalk jangling keys.
  13. Get to know your neighbors and their vehicles and keep track of their comings and goings.
  14. Keep your gas tank topped off in case you find yourself locked in a holding pattern.
  15. Always park tight. Don’t be a parking piggy.

Be grateful to the Parking Gods whenever you hear that satisfying key-beep that means you’re home and locked up for the night. And while you’re busy performing your parking-gratitude ritual, be sure to make a mental note of where you left your car.

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

7 Hills and 7 (or 8) Views

Dream of San Francisco and you’re likely to conjure a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge: Hands down, the most iconic image associated with our city.

Yet with 7 hills in a 7-by-7-mile square space, San Francisco can’t help but offer hundreds of stunning views. Just hike up any ol’ slope and have a look around.

My new listing at 1201 California, situated at the apex of Nob Hill, has knockout panoramic views. We’re talking southern sky and cityscape, from the water of the southeast Bay to Twin Peaks. It’s not instantly recognizable as San Francisco. But if you’ve lived here for at least two weeks you’ll know what you’re looking at because you can’t miss Sutro Tower framing the sunset.

Number 802 at Cathedral Apartments is one of those rare spaces where you really can “live in the view.” You can watch the pink of sunrise over coffee, note the creep of fog bumping against distant hills, toast the sunset with a glass of wine at dusk, wonder at the sea of twinkling city lights during a wee-hours bathroom break. Lucky you!

Yet if you’re not fortunate enough to “own” a view, there are plenty to be had in San Francisco for free. Here’s a list of my favorite seven unexpected (and slightly “secret”) public vistas:

1. Strawberry Hill. In Golden Gate Park, cross one of the two pedestrian bridges that lead to the island in Stow Lake. Head uphill. Enjoy a tree-filtered 360-degree view of the St. Ignatius spires, the surprisingly hilly Sunset, Ocean Beach, the Pacific Ocean, the Richmond, Golden Gate Bridge, the Marin headlands and more.

2. Twin Peaks. Approach by car (and preferably at night) from Portola near Laguna Honda or from Clarendon. Drive to where the Martians will land when they invade San Francisco. Imagine you are a Martian surveying the splendid city you’re about to conquer. Take note of how Market Street makes a glowing runway of light from your feet to the Bay Bridge.

3. Grandview Park. Get it? Grand? View? The park is roughly bordered by 14th and 15th avenues and Noriega in Golden Gate Heights, although I highly recommend walking up the magical Moraga Street steps for access (at 16th and Moraga). From the top you can see downtown, Golden Gate Park, Pt. Reyes and Lake Merced.

4. Lake Merced. A trail encircles the entire lake, though there’s a lot of traffic whizzing by. Instead, park in the lot at Harding Park off Skyline. Walk past the boathouse, cut across the golf course and take the trail that goes along the northernmost part of the lake. Lots of green. Lots of green water. Birds. Cattails.

5. Sutro Park. We’re talking higher on the cliff than the Cliff House. Drive out Geary Boulevard (which turns into Point Lobos) to 48th Avenue. Or take the 38 bus to its last stop. Walk into the park. Look south for an amazing perspective on magnificent Ocean Beach. You can look in other directions that are equally nice. But the Ocean Beach vista is surprising.

6. Zellerbach Garden of Perennials. Once upon a time, admission to the Strybing Botanical Garden in Golden Gate Park was free to all. Now you must pay if you aren’t a resident of San Francisco. (But it’s worth it.) There are actually many beautiful views here, but one of my favorites is looking slightly south and mostly east from the Zellerbach Garden of Perrennials. A long lane of lush green lawn framed by trees. Bring a picnic while you’re at it.

7. The “notch” at Sanchez and Liberty. Skip the frat party/parade at Dolores Park. Walk west up 20th Street and south up Sanchez (there are stairs available for this last part). At the top of the hill are some very fine views to the south, east and west. Breathtaking any time of day.

Cynthia Cummins is a Top Producer and Partner at McGuire. For more details about 1201 California #802, visit NobHillViews.com. For info on SF real estate visit http://CynthiaCummins.com. This post also appeared at McGuire.com.

Query: Is Now a Good Time to Buy in the Bay Area?

Q: Is this a good time to buy a home in the Bay Area?

A: Now is a perfect time to buy a home in the Bay Area. At least in San Francisco!

You might say, “Well, Cynthia, of course that’s your answer because you’re a San Francisco real estate agent and, according to San Francisco real estate agents, NOW is always the best time to buy.”

True. That’s because, as a longtime, fulltime Realtor, I’ve witnessed the market’s reliability  for 28 years: Up close and personal. Through several economic cycles. Helping hundreds of individuals buying hundreds of homes.

At the outset, purchasing property in San Francisco is especially daunting. Prices are ungodly. Competition is fierce. Doubts are plenteous. Yet in hindsight nearly every SF homeowner will tell you that purchasing their home was the wisest, luckiest investment they ever made.

This scenario assumes owner occupancy and a hold of at least five years. But nothing will pay if you don’t play.  Nothing will happen if you sit on the sidelines awaiting clear confirmation that NOW is the optimum time to buy.

Which brings up an important point: Buying a home in San Francisco is a sound investment, regardless of the exact timing. But it’s much more than an investment. It’s your HOME. It’s the place where you sleep in on weekends, empty the kitty litter, entertain friends, gargle saltwater for a sore throat, change kids’ diapers, plan vacations, argue with your husband, make up with your wife, unload groceries, take out the recycling, pay the bills, soak in the bathtub and putter in the garden.

So. If you want to enjoy a profusion of colorful tulips in April, you’ll need to plant those bulbs soon. Time to start shopping for some dirt. Now!

Cynthia Cummins is a Top Producer and Partner at McGuire. For info on SF real estate visit http://CynthiaCummins.com. A version of this post originally appeared as an answer on Quora, and it 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.

Sometimes It’s Hard to Imagine……

…what a little paint, a little floor refinishing and a little staging will do.

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Before and after kitchen at 2651 Baker. We did the bare minimum and it made a huge difference!

I almost always recommend superficial cosmetic updates and  staging whenever I list a property for sale. In my heart of hearts, I know it works.

But what’s funny is this: When my clients and I are looking at the “before” version prior to the “after” version being completed, it’s really difficult to envision the transformation ahead.

In other words, in hindsight it always proves to have been a good idea. Yet when you’re trying to decide whether or not to spend an extra $500 to have new carpeting put on the stairs, you might think, “Well. Hmm. It can’t make THAT big a difference.”

Note to self: It always works. It’s always worth it. When in doubt, GO for it!

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

 

Once in a Lifetime!

2651Baker.editedFirst, consider just a few things that have happened since 1969:

  • A hole formed in the Ozone.
  • Hip Hop was born.
  • The Cold War ended.
  • Panama got the Panama Canal.
  • The Internet took over our lives.

Next, spend a moment reflecting on your own life — the places you’ve lived and the things you’ve experienced. If walls could indeed talk, what stories would they tell?

I sometimes muse about what has been witnessed by the walls of San Francisco properties, about what changes the windows have observed, about how many living things have lived and perished in a backyard tree.

What would an original 49er make of the Folsom Street Fair? How would a Victorian matron feel about relinquishing her corset and not needing to faint in the fainting room? Who from 1932 would recognize Mission Bay? Or the Golden Gate Bridge for that matter?

Back – or, should I say, forward – to 1969: That’s when my lovely client Jean purchased her home, my new upcoming listing in Cow Hollow. That’s 45 years ago! Nearly a lifetime!

Imagine the walls’ excitement, knowing soon there will be new inhabitants living within. Imagine the windows scanning the street for potential buyers. Imagine the birds perching on the fence to catch sight of children, once again, playing in the garden.

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

Enough with the Booties, Already!

Selling a property isn’t brain surgery. So why ask agents and potential buyers to wear surgical booties when they step inside your house? Nobody wants to look like this:

SAMSUNG

Need more inspiration? Watch this favorite from my video archives:

How do YOU feel about booties?

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

Before You Pass Go: Get An Agent!

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Most homebuyers wend their way to me through personal referral, which – even in this age of electronic connectivity – is the warmest means of finding trusted resources.

Yet I receive “cold” inquiries almost daily from folks shopping on their own. They’re calling or emailing or texting on a listing they spied on Trulia or Zillow.

Many of these cold callers believe they’ll benefit by not aligning themselves with an agent. They are misguided in that assumption.

Because I am busy and don’t want to seem pushy, I seldom take time to explain to them why they need an agent. But because I’ve received so many of these calls lately, I thought I’d take a few minutes and write about it. Here goes, in no particular order:

  1. Your Buyer’s agent’s services are free. Seller’s agent has agreed in advance with the Seller that they’ll share half their commission with the prevailing Buyer’s agent. Seller pays that commission.
  2. On any property you might ask the Seller’s agent to represent you as a Buyer. In which case, the Seller’s agent would take the whole commission while splitting their allegiance between Buyer and Seller. Or you can – at no additional cost – be represented by your very own agent who only cares about YOUR happiness.
  3. And, guess what? Your agent is only paid when you find, win and close on a property you want. In the meantime, your agent works for you – free of charge.
  4. Let’s add emphasis to items 1, 2 and 3 above: Seller’s agent’s fiduciary allegiance is to the Seller. As such, her/his primary goal is selling Seller’s property. Buyer’s agent’s fiduciary allegiance is to the Buyer and her/his primary goal is finding Buyer the ideal property. There’s a huge difference between the two.
  5. Your agent comes equipped with a wealth of knowledge gleaned from years of hands-on practice. No matter how clever you think you are, you will never be able to replicate the service they provide.
  6. Your agent:
  • knows the market and has access to sales data
  • is a savvy negotiator
  • understands strategies for competing in multiple-offer scenarios
  • is connected to other professionals like inspectors, lenders and contractors
  • possesses insider knowledge of off-market opportunities
  • has seen hundreds or thousands of properties
  • has solved hundreds or thousands of transaction problems
  • knows about property maintenance, improvement and expansion
  • understands contracts and has a vested interest in keeping you out of legal trouble
  • realizes the hybrid nature of real estate transactions where personal emotions exert tremendous influence on business decisions – for good or ill
  • is likely to become a trusted friend and advisor who will be there for you over many years to come (provided you choose your agent wisely)

Take note: There’s a strong chance you won’t truly comprehend or appreciate any of what I’ve just written until after you’ve completed your first transaction.

In the meantime, you must take a leap of faith and search for YOUR agent. To that end, ask friends and co-workers for recommendations, or visit open houses. Sit down in person with prospective Realtors to interview them and be interviewed by them.

And trust your intuition. If you get that feeling that you’re being “sold” or pushed, keep searching. If you feel at ease and their references check out, then “hire” them.

But never engage more than one agent on your behalf. That’s not fair and, in the end, it’ll undermine your chances of finding and winning a property you love. San Francisco is a small town with very little for sale and – if you’re working with more than one agent – it’s only a matter of time before they discover each other and dump you for more loyal clients.

That’s it. Happy agent hunting!

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Virtual Hand Holding

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Potential buyers flock to ancient open house  — just kidding!

I’ve been doing this a long time.

Back in 1987 as a new agent, I tried to divine the secrets of successful Realtors. I spied on them during brokers’ tour as they double parked their cars, air-kissed one another hello, threw their business cards into a pile in the entry hall.

But I found there are no guaranteed paths to success. Perseverance is helpful. Luck is a gift. A willingness to step high or stoop low comes in handy.

We so-called Top Producers have all had the pleasure of calling buyers to congratulate them on “winning” a house. We’ve also wrenched our fair share of sandwich signs out of the trunks of our cars in the pouring rain.

Our satisfied clients have cried, and thanked us, and called us “friend,” “miracle worker,” “genius.” More naive customers have judged us unfairly, assuming (without actually knowing us) that we’re selfish, rich and/or crooked.

Over 27 years the face of the city has changed dramatically. So has the way we do business.

Once upon a time we escorted our buyers to dozens of properties. Now we text, email or tweet website links.

Once we spoke with our buyers several times a day. Now we rarely communicate voice to voice.

Once we wrote offers on carbon paper on the hoods of our cars. Now even signatures are handled electronically.

I’m embarrassed to confess that when fax machines were new, I stood up at a weekly sales meeting and argued against acquiring one for the office. “Isn’t it better to sign and deliver papers in person?” I inquired of my colleagues.

Flash forward to the present and I’ve recently completed two entirely “virtual” transactions. My clients were very happy with the result. As was I.

Yet I miss seeing folks face to face, buying them coffee, walking through houses together, literally holding their hands during negotiating and handing over keys at closing.

Like I said, I have been doing this a long time and the only constant is change.

Another version of this entry first appeared on my Mcguire.com blog in 2012. Cynthia Cummins is a Top Producer and Partner at McGuire. For info on SF real estate visit http://CynthiaCummins.com.