Tag Archives: SFRE

HouseStories: If Our House Would Talk

A New York Times article today focuses on Seattle’s “shrine to defiance,” the home of the late Edith Macefield, who refused to sell her bungalow to developers. She lived there until her death in 2008 at the age of 86. The house stands today — though not for much longer, apparently — hemmed in on three sides by tall commercial buildings.

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Comparisons to the cartoon house in the movie Up are understandable, but I couldn’t help but think of the Virginia Lee Burton book called “The Little House,” in which another diminuitive home withstands the ravages of development. Eventually it escapes the noise and pollution of the city raging around it (albeit not by the balloon method in Up). The house is trucked out to a daisy-filled field in the country. Set out to pasture.

Nothing pastoral about San Francisco at the moment. Everywhere you walk (or drive), progress is marching. Cranes. Gaping holes in the earth. Hard hats. Steel road plates. The reverse warning beeps of  construction vehicles filling the air like birdsong.

I live in a circa 1907 abode not unlike Ms. Macefield’s home. A 1,400 square-foot cottage with no garage on a huge RH-3 lot (ripe for development). We’re just two blocks from the infamous Zuckerburg project. And right across the street from us is a modest 1,800 square-foot Victorian whose new owners are proposing to enlarge it into a 7,000 square-foot masterpiece.

But there’s something very comforting about letting a house just be as it is. Our little old lady has only one bathroom. Her yard isn’t landscaped. There’s no central heating. The kitchen is super funky — with a beat-up wood floor, painted cabinets from a demo’d Victorian, 1950s drainboard sink, vintage but functional O’Keeffe and Merritt range. No dishwasher. No disposal.

We aren’t hankering to give her a makeover. No painting her all white inside like an Apple store.  No front door that locks via an app. No Sonos. Or security cameras. Or Nest thermostats. Thank you very much.

Our venerable lady is simple. She isn’t at all “smart.” But she’s wise. More than 100 years old. If only she would talk, I’d sit quietly and listen.

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.

Query: Do a “Bubble Assessment” Before Buying?

BubbleWrap

Q: When buying a first home, is it important to assess if the market is in a bubble, or just buy and go with it?

A: In my 28 years as a Realtor, I’ve watched at least half a dozen would-be buyers struggle with the bubble question. They waited for a clear sign that we weren‘t in a bubble or that we were at the so-called bottom of the market.

I’ve seen them sitting on the sidelines in a runaway buyer’s market. I’ve witnessed them kicking themselves with regret in a seller’s market. I’ve watched them invest in the stock market instead and lose all their savings.

I’ve also seen them accidentally buy at just the right time and double their investment in 18 months.

Buying a home — especially in a place like San Francisco — takes a giant commitment and huge leap of faith. It’s beyond challenging to pony up the down payment required for a median priced home of $1,000,000. It’s nerve-wracking to contemplate making those mortgage payments. It’s frightening to think about when the next earthquake is coming.

I have tremendous compassion for potential buyers. Home ownership looks scary when you’ve been renting. But once you’ve closed and moved in, it feels normal.

There’s an old Realtor’s adage that goes like this: “Buyers Buy.” In other words, they don’t spend too much time hemming and hawing. They don’t analyze everything to the nth degree. They buy. Because if they don’t buy, they aren’t invested. And if they aren’t invested it doesn’t matter WHAT the market does.

My advice is to not worry about the bubble. Do your due diligence. Work with a professional agent. Plan on staying for at least five years. You’ll be okay.

For more on the subject of bubbles, click here.

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

Query: How Do I Find A Realtor?

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Q: How do you currently find a Realtor?

A: The best way to find a trustworthy Realtor — your ally and advocate — is to keep it  simple. You can set personal goals, make a list of must-haves, analyze statistics and search the internet. But there’s no substitute for two tried-and-true methods:

  • Ask reliable friends whom they recommend (and why).
  • Go agent shopping by visiting open houses. Look for someone who “feels” right — who is kind, relaxed and a good listener. You don’t want an agent who tries to “sell” you on anything.

A thoughtful and seasoned professional will help you formulate your questions and refine your goals. They’ll help you glean an education that will allow you to make informed decisions. And then they’ll help you find and close on a home you love. You’ll think of them as a friend by the time the transaction closes.

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

Query: Common Contract Mistakes

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Q: What are easy mistakes to make when writing a real estate contract?

A: The easiest mistakes have to do with math and spelling. That’s why I always double-check that the good faith deposit, loan and closing balance add up to the purchase price. (Of course, online contract writing programs like California Association of Realtors’ ZipForms have made it nigh-on impossible to get the arithmetic wrong.)

Misspellings are the more likely error. The only thing more embarrassing than misspelling a property address is misspelling a client’s name. (And yes, I’ve done it. More than once. Under deadline.) Luckily, spelling mistakes can be corrected without too much trouble.

More grievous errors — ones with adverse monetary consequences — are much harder to make. Especially here in San Francisco, where our standard contract is a simple, well-oiled, clean machine that’s been nitpicked over for decades. Agents handle the contract while title companies handle the escrow and search the title; attorneys get involved only in exotic circumstances.

But that’s in San Francisco which, in many respects (climate, gender fluidity, percentage of vegans), is located on a different planet than the rest of the nation. That’s just one reason everybody wants to live here and the real estate prices are interstellar!

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

Throwback Thursday: Grrrrrrrreat!

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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.

Query: New Ways to Save $$$

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Q: What are some unique ways to save for a down payment to buy a new house or condo?

A: The tired Nike phrase, “Just Do It,” comes to mind because – apart from creatively hiding your cash in a red-velvet sack placed inside a Ziploc bag submerged in your grandmother’s toilet tank – you don’t need a unique way to save.

Ordinary, tried-and-true approaches will suffice. Yet, like birth control, they don’t work unless you actually use them.

You might find inspiration from the blogger J. Money (dubbed “the Miley Cyrus of finance”). Here’s the link to a great pictorial guide to squirreling away your hard-earned dollars: How I Save Money… [In Pictures]

Although: You may first want to read Mr. Money’s thoughts on whether or not it makes sense to buy a home in the first place:  What it Cost Us to Own Our Home Last Year + A Question I Ask Myself Every Morning

Then: Think twice about how large your down payment needs to be. Size does matter and you might be someone for whom a low-money-down loan makes sense. See this NYT article: The New York Times

Finally: I can offer a relatively unique way to relate to money and savings. Check out Bari Tessler Linden, who says, “money is the final frontier of a conscious lifestyle.” Her website: Bari Tessler – Art of Money.

Bon chance! (And if you’re thinking of buying in San Francisco, reach out to me!)

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 on Quora.

 

"Platt brunch" by Japanexperterna. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Platt_brunch.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Platt_brunch.jpg

Query: House Flipping

"Platt brunch" by Japanexperterna. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Platt_brunch.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Platt_brunch.jpg

Q: How do I flip Houses?

A: With much more care than flipping a pancake, a pursuit which requires just the right balance of providence and panache. And — as with hotcakes — you must always be ready to accept a flop. Especially in San Francisco where the griddle is especially hot. What’s not required is the use of silly breakfast bread metaphors.

…Although…as I sit here re-posting what I wrote on Quora, I think I should add a few metaphors about staging a house in order to sell it after you’ve fluffed it up. If you want the property to sell like hotcakes, then you must present it in an appealing fashion.

That means hiring a professional stager who’ll gussy it up like a plate at Mission Beach Cafe. Make it look like the real-estate equivalent of a $15 short stack: Fresh fruit garnish, hot maple syrup, a pat of butter melting on top, a side of bacon, maybe a wee vase of fresh nasturtiums on the table.

Yum. More coffee, please?

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

Query: Advice for New Googler Moving to SF

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Image by Jijithecat
Q: What are some things a recent college graduate should know before moving to San Francisco to work at Google?
A: Congratulations to you for a) graduating from college, b) securing a job and c) having that job be at Google. Hooray! You’re way ahead of the game, since many graduates these days have no prospect of making a living wage.
I’m not sure where you have lived previously, but it is true that the cost of living in San Francisco is shockingly high. You would be wise to sit down soberly, do some advance budgeting and make some agreements with yourself about your financial priorities. You might also pledge to do without a car because they are expensive to maintain in San Francisco and the city is actively discouraging their use.
Once you’re here, watch out getting sidetracked by San Francisco’s infectious-hipster party-time atmosphere. If Millennials aren’t careful, they can quickly squander all their earnings on techie gadgets, lattes and nights out at the expensive and fabulous restaurants located on nearly every corner of the city.
Maintain your balance, learn to cook meals at home, count your blessings, have LOTS of fun, and be careful about sitting on the ground in Dolores Park. Great views of the changing skyline, but you won’t believe all the nasty germs lurking in that grass!
Finally, as soon as you can scrape together a down payment, you’d be wise to invest in the residential real estate market. There’s no market like San Francisco’s and there’s no better time than NOW to get started. As a wise woman once said, “Sex and Real Estate: Get Lots While You’re Young.”

Cynthia Cummins is a Top Producer and Partner at McGuire. For info on SF real estate visit http://CynthiaCummins.com. This post originally appeared as an answer to a question on Quora.

Achgro (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Sellers, Don’t Wait For Coulda Woulda Shoulda

image by Achim Grochowski

HOT HOT HOT! That’s the San Francisco real estate market today.

So, I’m giving a shout out to all you homeowners who are “kinda-maybe thinking about selling sometime in the not-too-faraway future.” Pay attention to what’s happening, assess your situation and be sure you don’t miss the proverbial boat.

There are lots of reasons why it’s a good time to sell. Here are a few:

  • Amnesty abounds. Translation: Demand is so high and supply is so low that all “sins” are forgiven. No parking? We’ll sell our car! On a busy street? We love it lively! Tricky floorplan? We’ll sleep in the kitchen!
  • Tenants are trouble. Translation: Tenant-occupied properties always sell for less than vacant ones. So, if your renter has just given notice, don’t freak out. Consider yourself lucky, and at least explore the advantages of selling (either the whole property or a tenancy-in-common share).
  • Capital gains tax sucks. Translation: If you are renting out a property that was recently your primary residence, drop everything else you’re doing and check with your accountant, financial planner or me. Don’t let three years go by and thereby lose your IRS Capital Gains Exclusion. That would be a $100,000-or-so mistake that you’d be really, really, really mad about making.
  • Investors are looking for the long hold. Translation: Income properties – even with relatively lousy rental returns – are in demand. Buyers from all over the world are looking for a piece of San Francisco. Sell yours and you may be able to get a higher return on investment elsewhere.
  • Interest rates are still low. Translation: It’s a good time to buy, which means it’s also a good time to sell. Only after the market shifts will you know it has shifted.

The truth is it may or may not make sense for you to sell your property now. But if it’s a consideration for any time in the next five years, contact me so we can begin a conversation and formulate a cogent plan for your real estate future.

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.

Six or a Half-Dozen Divinations for SF Real Estate in 2015

(Image of tea leaves by Richard Corner)

The weather vane is whipping to and fro. Tea leaves are magically shifting. Stats are twitchy and erratic.

The only thing you can be sure of is change. So — if you’re thinking about buying or selling — act before you get confirmation that the market has turned in whatever direction you’re waiting upon or dreading. When everything becomes crystal-clear, it’ll be way too late.

For 2015, I predict:

  • The San Francisco market will continue in its girls-gone-crazy-bikini-party mode. Here’s curbed.com’s take on our “steadfastly bonkers” market.
  • Rents will continue to be the highest in the nation.  Maybe it’s time to buy?
  • San Francisco is still a great place to raise kids (click for video), so don’t leave town!
  • As the year progresses and interest rates rise, it’ll only get more competitive for buyers. Stop watching sales prices from the sidelines and make your move before money prices increase.
  • Drive times to, from and within SF will continue to increase. Plus, parking will be increasingly harder to find and more expensive when you do find it. Consider locating where you won’t need a car. Transit first, baby!
  • 2015 will be a lot like 2014. To refresh your short-term memory, here’s what Q4 of 2014 looked like.

In addition, top-10 lists (as well as top-5, -6, -14 and -20 lists) will continue grabbing your already-scant attention. (I encountered at least TEN top-ten lists re. 2015 real estate while researching this.)

My advice is to shun statistics, analysis and speculation, and do whatever it is you’re yearning to do. Sell now. Buy now. Or stay put now. It’s six of one, half dozen of 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.