Tag Archives: real estate

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.

Realtor’s Dozen: Cow Hollow

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Cow Hollow when there were cows in the hollow.

Here’s another entry in my series of installments called “Realtor’s Dozen,” in which I extol 13 virtues of a neighborhood in San Francisco.

  1. You can’t help but love an urban neighborhood with a name like Cow Hollow. Especially given the discrepancy between its cow-filled past and its multi-million-dollar-home-filled present.
  2. Walk westward and you’re in The Presidio — full of Eucalyptus trees, historic buildings, hikes, museums and a cemetery where lie the remains of a Union spy.
  3. Wonderful Union Street runs right down the center of Cow Hollow.
  4. Equally wonderful Chestnut Street parallels Union, four blocks to the north.
  5. An offshoot flock of the Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill flies over the neighborhood like Blue Angels during Fleet Week.
  6. The Lyon Street steps are good for working off a worried mind or for working up a sweat while getting from Point A (Lyon and Green) to Point B (Lyon and Broadway).
  7. Reliably pleasant weather.
  8. There aren’t many octagon houses left in the world. Maybe one or two hundred. One of the best examples is the McElroy Octagon House at Gough and Union. Let me know what you think. (Nearly 30 years and I’ve yet to visit.)
  9. Find a moment’s peace in the courtyard of The Episcopal Church of St. Mary The Virgin at the corner of Union and Steiner. When open, it’s a nice place to just sit quietly. Like Ferdinand the Bull.
  10. Within walking distance of the Bay. But not on landfill.
  11. Calling all Millennials! According to a 2014 survey by Niche, Cow Hollow is the best neighborhood for Millennials in the 5th best U. S. city for Millennials.
  12. If your home is too small for out-of-town guests, there’s a plethora of relatively low-priced hotels nearby.
  13. The 41-Union is one of the tastiest MUNI routes in town, running from The Presidio, through Cow Hollow, over Russian Hill, across North Beach, into the Financial District and all the way to Main and Howard.

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

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.

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:

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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.

10 Things Smart Buyers Look For in a Home

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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.

Spoiler Alert: Stop Reading if You’re New to San Francisco

Not for sale: Mark Twain's "Stormfield"
Not for sale: Mark Twain’s “Stormfield”

Turns out Mark Twain never actually said that cool thing about summer in San Francisco being the coldest winter ever. I was going to use the quote on my blog today but when I checked its accuracy, up popped a Snopes link to quash my clever intro.

Twain did sorta say something about summer in Paris and he definitely wrote, “If you don’t like the weather in New England, just wait a few minutes.” But nary a word did he pen about our cool grey city’s climate.

It’s the second half of August and – although I live on what is arguably the sunniest block in the whole dadgum town – I’ve been wearing wool since June. If you’re a local you understand why I’ve been wearing wool. Just as you understand why nobody has air conditioning and why those beyond-ugly $50 sweatshirts from Pier 39 are so popular with tourists.

(Ixnay on the weatshirtsay if anyone asks! Do your bit to keep our economy going!)

Spoiler Alert (if you’re newly local and this is your first time through a whole San Francisco calendar year): Summer starts in 10 days.

The bad news is that vacation is over and it’s back to school for you kids and parents. The good news is it’s prime selling season for San Francisco residential real estate. See you soon at an open house near you!

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

Asphalt Flowers, Hidden Art

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Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
And the dark street winds and bends.
Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow
We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And watch where the chalk-white arrows go
To the place where the sidewalk ends.

          –from “Where the Sidewalk Ends” by Shel Silverstein

One ordinary Tuesday, I was delighted to discover a garden of “asphalt flowers” enclosed by mural-adorned walls. I was out on brokers’ tour and had parked my car on Cook where it dead ends north of Geary.

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Normally on Tuesdays I’m running around town like a harried hare, trying to see as much property as possible. But for some reason — on this particular day — I decided I had time to investigate what was behind a crumbly gate next to what looked like an old school building.

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Turns out I’d found the site of the old Geary School. I did a little bit of internet research later to find that it closed in 1974 for seismic reinforcement and (according to one source) was subsequently torn down. The building that fronts Cook looks an awful lot like a circa 1930s schoolhouse to me, but I couldn’t find any good answers about the fate of the school. Signs on the building indicate it’s still in use by the SFUSD, although for what I couldn’t tell. But I diverge.

As you can see in the photo above, apparently the colorful murals were painted by kids at the school in 1973! They’re in beautiful condition. For example, see this happy wagon:

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And this shy green spider.

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And the pink bird of happiness.

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And a beautiful butterfly.

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Plus a cheerful bat.

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A talkative reptile (though we can’t quite make out what he’s saying).

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And, of course, every garden needs a bunny and a dragon.

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Where, oh, where are the children now who painted these walls in 1973? If you are one of them, please let me know?

 

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

“Any Way Except a Slow Way”

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I came across this quote about coping with leaving a longtime home. Beautiful. And good advice:

“I have learned that if you must leave a place that you have lived in and loved and where all your yesteryears are buried deep, leave it any way except a slow way, leave it the fastest way you can. Never turn back and never believe that an hour you remember is a better hour because it is dead. Passed years seem safe ones, vanquished ones, while the future lives in a cloud, formidable from a distance.”

― Beryl Markham, West with the Night

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.

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.