Tag Archives: San Francisco real estate

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.

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.

Home and “Possibilities”

Group_of_Five

Here is a lovely poem — with a wispy and wistful real estate connection — which appeared on Writer’s Almanac recently.

 

Possibilities by Linda Pastan

 

Today I drove past a house

we almost bought and heard

through the open window music

 

made by some other family.

We don’t make music ourselves, in fact

we define our differences

 

by what we listen to.

And what we mean by family

has changed since then

 

as we grew larger then smaller again

in ways we knew would happen

and yet didn’t expect.

 

Each choice is a winnowing,

and sometimes at night I hear

all the possibilities creak open

 

and shut like screendoors

in the wind,

making an almost musical

 

accompaniment

to what I know

of love and history.

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.

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.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Virtual Hand Holding

cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde
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.

Highly Desirable Semi-detached Villa

“The new residence was…to be of some mysterious size and proportion, which would make us both peculiarly happy ever afterwards…It was neither to cost too much nor too little, but just enough to fitly inaugurate the new happiness.” 

http://www.trampsofsanfrancisco.com/a-foresting-we-will-go-a-history-of-trees-in-san-francisco-part-ii/
View of the Mission in 1865, described as, “Looking E. from Reservoir Hill, Market & Buchanan Sts., Vicinity Market & Valencia.”

In 1865, the writer Thomas Hardy published a short story called How I Built Myself a House. I came across mention of it in a Writer’s Almanac post, then googled it.

I was delighted to find that, apparently, not much has changed since 1865 in the realm of residential real estate. In the story, the dynamic between Hardy and his wife is very similar to what I see on a daily basis.

Thomas and Sophia shared many hopes for their new home near London, but disagreed on numerous details. After arguing about whether or not trees should be felled to improve the view (Sophia — in favor of the ax — prevailed) the Hardys quarreled over the floor plan. Thomas writes:

“I made my sketch, and my wife made hers. Her drawing and dining rooms were very large, nearly twice the size of mine…We soon found that there was no such thing as fitting our ideas together.”

Later, when costs get out of hand and Hardy tries to staunch the overruns, Sophia tells him, “…Elegance and extreme cheapness never do go together.”

And here’s a delicious bit that reminds me of a scenario I’ve witnessed a hundred times during home inspections:

“We were standing beside (the house) one day, looking at the men at work on the top, when the builder’s foreman came towards us.

‘Being your own house, sir, and as we are finishing the last chimney, you would perhaps like to go up,’ he said.

‘I am sure I should much, if I were a man,” was my wife’s observation to me, ‘The landscape must appear so lovely from that height.’

This remark placed me in something of a dilemma, for it must be confessed that I am not given to climbing.”

And so forth and so on. To read the entire story, click here. It’s most entertaining.

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

Homewords: Humor from Dave Barry

Study the listings carefully and make a note of any houses that look right for you, so your broker can confirm that they were all sold just that morning. This is actually good, because it will help to get you into the proper highly desperate frame of mind where you will do almost anything to get a house, including paying large sums of money you really don’t have to people you really don’t know for reasons you really aren’t sure of. Which is the essence of real estate.

— Dave Barry from “Homes and Other Black Holes”