Tag Archives: San Francisco

It’s Raining

When sellers fill out a Real Estate Transfer Disclosure Statement in advance of listing a house for sale, I often hear something like this:

“Remember that huge rainstorm we had last winter? Right around Valentine’s Day? Some water came in along the bottom of this window. See? But, you know, the wind was blowing in this funny direction. It never blows that way. So we think it was a freaky one-time occurrence. Do we need to disclose it?”

“Yes, you need to disclose it,” I will say.

Then my client will ask, “So how do I disclose that? What do I write?”

And I reply, “Write down what you just told me, but don’t theorize about the cause of the leak or suggest it was a freaky one-time occurrence.”

In other words, when it comes to disclosure, there’s no need to put any spin on the truth.

And when in doubt, dear Sellers, ask yourselves, “If we were buying this house, what would we want to know?” Common sense and kindness go a long way toward protecting everyone involved and upholding the spirit of the law regarding disclosure.
However, full disclosure doesn’t mean a new homeowner isn’t going to have water intrusion problems. When rain comes pounding down for 7 weeks in a row, all that water is going to figure out some new places to go.

It’ll makes it way through foundation walls when the earth becomes saturated. It’ll overflow a lightwell when the drain gets overwhelmed or clogged. It’ll creep in the gap created when the wind blew a couple of roof shingles away.

The problem with water intrusion is that it can be mysterious and difficult to diagnose accurately. Better to have a roof leak – usually easily pinpointed and its resolution pretty clear – than a slow-spreading stain down an interior wall or a puzzling puddle in the basement.

In my role as the always-available real estate concierge, I can help. I can’t (usually) stop the water myself, but I can refer you to appropriate tradespeople. Just give me a call, and remember that eventually wet turns to dry. One way or another.

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. 

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.

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.

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

Living Wild in San Francisco

It’s wild in San Francisco. Literally. I’m not talking about nightlife or street scenes or crazy housing prices. I’m talking about wildlife. All around us:

Hermit crab living in a vase-sized glass terrarium at a client’s house. Packed with the glassware and china by the family’s moving company. After a (no doubt) terrifying afternoon spent encased in bubble wrap, the crab is extricated from his temporary tomb. Restored to the family’s kitchen counter just before the semi-truck leaves for the East Coast.

Continue reading Living Wild in San Francisco

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/

Outdoors San Francisco for the Non-Outdoorsy

I can relate: Your friends are all like “Hey, let’s hike up Mt. Tam and then run over to Sol Food for Cubanos and Ponches.”

And you’re all like you don’t want to drive across the bridge and crawl through west Marin and get all hot and sweaty and wait in line for food  and then fight traffic INTO the city on a Saturday night when you could just stay home on the sofa.

You don’t particularly like the great outdoors. I confess that I didn’t either, until I was in my late 30s. So here are a few tips for face-saving things to do IN THE CITY with your outdoorsy friends.

Bearish (as in Polar) in the Bay

You: Walk to the end of the pier at Aquatic Park. Look for seals, sea lions, other wildlife.

They: Drop in as guests at the Dolphin Club or the South End Rowing Club (depending on which club is open to public that day). Swim in the (most recently) 58-degree water. Meet you at Buena Vista Café for Irish Coffees.

Continue reading Outdoors San Francisco for the Non-Outdoorsy

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.