Tag Archives: #SmartSFBuyers

Real Estate Sells Itself

You know that full-page splashy four-color ad your agent paid for? Inside the front cover of Luxury Real Estate Rag? With the dramatic twilight image of your three-bedroom bungalow? With the adroit description of its stunning floor plan and unique window mullions? The one that never fails to melt your heart no matter how many times you read it?

It doesn’t actually attract buyers for your actual house. Seriously. Instead, it:

  • Assuages your fear that your Realtor isn’t doing enough to market your home
  • Irritates other agents who pitched your listing but didn’t get it.
  • Gives folks something to peruse while waiting for their lattes at Peet’s
  • Keeps the Luxury Real Estate Rag afloat
  • Prompts other potential sellers to contact your agent
  • Offers Looky-Lous and never-will-buy buyers something to talk about

This has always been the case in San Francisco, whether it’s Print or Web advertising. Real estate marketing is mainly about agent branding and agent promotion.

What gets a property sold is its inherent desirability coupled with correct pricing, strategic presentation, availability to be seen and inclusion on Multiple Listing Service. Everything else is pretty much window dressing on which every successful Realtor spend considerable time and money.

You may assume that – like Snapchat and teenagers – sales and marketing go together. Can one exist without the other? Yes! When it comes to real estate sales.

Real estate sells itself. With very few exceptions, a property either meets a buyer’s hopes and expectations or it doesn’t

In San Francisco, where there’s never much for sale, prospective buyers’ energies are spent watching MLS updates – and their feeds to various websites – like Sylvester the Cat. Any changes in or around the canary cage and the buyer is poised to pounce.

This is just another way in which real estate is not really about real estate. It’s about primal human needs like food and sanctuary. The motivated buyer seeks shelter. If your cave is available for occupancy and reasonably priced, buyers will hunt it down and make you an offer you can’t refuse.

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

How Icebergs Are Like Realtors

So, you’ve been selling San Francisco real estate for almost 29 years. You’ve embraced the changes: Learning to gather signatures electronically rather than in person. Trading the 5-pound Multiple Listing book inked on newsprint for an online search site. Wielding an electronic lockbox key rather than twisting the dial of a combination lock.

You’ve learned how to avoid trouble for your clients. Unlike a lot of newbies, you understand what the Liquidated Damages clause in the SFAR contract means. Just as you know the Real Estate Transfer Disclosure loophole hasn’t been cinched until your Agent’s Visual Inspection Disclosure is signed.

You know to warn all your clients that something surprising almost always goes wrong with an escrow. “It’s not a matter of if,” you say, sagely, “It’s a matter of when and what.”

And then the federal government passes new legislation about lending disclosures. This new law is designed to protect consumers. (As if improved Truth In Lending documentation – rather than sweeping reform of the banking and credit system – will prevent another economic meltdown.)

For months before its October 2015 debut, the San Francisco Association of Realtors warns of the impending arrival of the TILA/RESPA Integrated Disclosure (TRID) Rule. Seminars are held. Bulletins are posted. One title company gives everyone a plastic Frisbee-sized wheel for determining “Consummation Dates.”

TRID wheel

But this is all meaningless until you actually see a transaction through:

You make your closing a week longer than normal, to allow for TRID’s 3-day waiting period and Murphy’s Law. You explain to your Buyer that he will be among the first TRID guinea pigs.

You powwow in advance with Seller’s Agent, just to be sure she will explain to Seller that things could get weird. Seller’s Agent says it’s all cool. She and Seller will hang loose, even though Seller has another closing that hinges on this one. There’s enough spaciousness for a small delay, she says.

The loan is approved.

Title gathers all the info needed to close both sides of the deal. This includes property taxes, homeowners dues, move-in fees, move-out fees, HO-6 insurance, prepaid interest, loan fees, credits, commissions, city fees, transfer taxes, home warranty plans and so forth.

Lender takes all the detail supplied by Title and translates it into a federally-mandated format which Buyer must review and approve before the 3-day waiting period begins. Easy, right?

Wrong.

When doing their transcription, Lender mistakenly gives Buyer an $18,000 credit from Seller. Lender also omits Title Insurance Premium and forgets to fill in Prepaid Property Taxes. Altogether, this creates a $25,000 shortfall on Cash Due at Closing.

Buyer receives the form and calls you. He is delighted that he doesn’t have to come up with as much money as he’d anticipated. The amount is $25,000 less than he’d estimated. He’s going to call Schwab and reduce the amount of his wire. How fantastic is that?!?

Wait a minute, you say. You say this because your spidey sense tells you something ain’t right. Plus you’re keenly aware that, under the new regulations, any material change to the TRID disclosure kicks off another 3-day waiting period. Which delays loan documents. Which delays closing. Which damages Seller. Which costs Buyer. Which is your fiduciary obligation to prevent.

So you start investigating. And – after a day of confusing back and forth with Lender and Title and Seller’s Agent – you find the errors and get them corrected. The transaction closes on time. Everyone is happy.

You add this experience to your Iceberg. As in:

A lot of people think what we Realtors do is easy. They think we drive around in nice cars and look at pretty houses and get our clients to sign some papers and – voila – we’re paid a gazillion dollars.

A real estate agent is like an iceberg (as SF real-estate-guru Ray Brown famously said). Folks can only see a tiny portion of what he or she does and knows. The true mass of the Iceberg is invisible. And GINORMOUS. And it’s made up of tons of ice crystals, each one consisting of a tale akin to the TRID saga (which I’ve boiled down to a succinct outline).

It’s impossible for agents to fully convey to potential clients their value and depth. To do so would be as time-consuming, boring and futile as rowing a dinghy down to Antarctica and saying, “Here. Check out this iceberg. You can only see 5% of it but, trust me, what’s out of sight is quite impressive!”

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: 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: 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.

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.

 

Homebuying in San Francisco: Don’t DIY!

 

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♡2010 by Author/Artist. Copying is an act of love. Please copy.

You book airfares and hotels online. You pump your own gas. You buy and bag a week’s worth of groceries in the self-checkout line.

Yet buying a home is NOT (nor should it be) a DIY activity. Sure, you can do lots of looking online. But when it comes to exploring neighborhoods, searching for qualified properties, evaluating choices, making offers, and moving from “in contract” to “sold,” you absolutely need a professional agent’s assistance.

The housing forecast for 2015 is rosy, and with interest rates likely to remain low for much of the year, NOW is the time to buy. (See this from CNN about the “return” of first-time homebuyers.)

I can help! If you know anyone who is considering a purchase in 2015, please introduce us. You can trust me to help them:

  • Decide if buying actually makes sense – or not
  • Clarify and refine their wish list
  • Find an ideal home
  • Gather resources
  • Focus on practical solutions while honoring emotional responses and reducing stress
  • Write a competitive, winning offer
  • Close successfully on the property of their choice

As my client N – who never thought she would be able to buy in San Francisco – writes,

“Cynthia’s knowledge and expertise of the…complex real estate market is fantastic. She understands how important owning a home is for her clients, and takes the time to educate them about the process. She really listens to what they’re looking for in a property so she can find the right fit and creative a positive experience. She is a joy to work with!”

You can trust me to care for your friends. Have them check out my website or RealEstateTherapy.org for more information. Or call or email me so I can invite you and your friend to be my guests for an introductory tea or lunch!

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

 

Query: What About The B Word?

RWS_Tarot_18_Moon

Burbling about the bubble is always in fashion. Experts and amateurs offer all sorts of theories about whether we are entering, leaving, or returning to a bubble, and they all have data to support their claims.

If I had a crystal ball, I could answer your question with absolute authority. Sadly, I don’t own one. But I do have access to three alternative tools that can forecast the San Francisco real estate future about as accurately as the Case-Shiller index:

My Tarot deck said MAYBE we are in a bubble. I drew the Moon card, which basically means “Things aren’t as simple or as clear as you’d like them to be, so stop asking and chillax already.”

The hawks-perching-on-light-standards test said YES we are in a bubble. I spotted three hawks on three light standards on three consecutive days. This clearly denotes three (or nine) years of bubble, although it doesn’t tell us which years.

My ever-reliable Angel Cards answered with a resounding NO we are not in a bubble.The word was Balance and, even though it starts with a B, Balance is not the same as a Bubble.

Using these indicators, we can say with conviction that the bubble question is unanswerable. The good news is that the effects of bubbling have historically been mild in San Francisco. Go ahead. Buy your home, stay put a few years and you’ll be okay. Meanwhile, here are two wise quotes to help put it all in perspective:

“Those who have knowledge, don’t predict. Those who predict, don’t have knowledge.” Lao Tzu

and

“I predict one of these two teams will win the Super Bowl.” Gilbert Gottfried

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

Open House “Boring” Says 7-Year-Old

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“unknown,” posted on http://katiapellicciotta.blogspot.com

I’m quite familiar with the look.

Sometimes it says, “How dare you show this property and let my parents drag me to umpteen open houses on Sunday afternoon when I’d rather be playing with my toys?”

Or it says, “Please don’t let them buy this condo because I hated it the instant we walked in. I want a blue house.”

Or it’s something like this, “I can see you’re as trapped as me. You have to stand here and be nice and greet everyone and you can’t leave until 4 o’clock. And I have to come in and look around and not touch anything and I can’t leave until they say it’s okay. Since we’re both stuck here, have you anything to offer me in the way of refreshment or entertainment?”

Or maybe, “You might fool my parents with your friendliness, but you can’t fool me. Stand back three feet or I’ll start screaming.”

Don’t get me wrong. I love kids. (I even raised two myself.) But children coming through the front door of an open house can be as nervous-making as an unsteady high-heeled matron holding a latte in one hand and a shih tzu in the other while navigating the white-carpeted stairs.

You never know what you’re going to get, including:

  • Serious disruption of staging – vases smashed into smithereens, chess pieces sent down the toilet, pillows thrown out the window.
  • Nasty messes – unflushed number twos hiding in the powder room, newly planted impatiens wrenched from the ground, every glass surface streaked with yogurt paws.
  • Pandemonium – door slamming, stair running, door locking, cat chasing, crying, biting and violent pulling on parental arms just as they’re about to request your business card.

I prefer quiet children who tell their folks to get lost while they sit on the front steps with me. Like Maizy, a seven-year-old who attended my last open house.

Maizy: Do you live here?

Me: No. I am the real estate agent. I am showing the house for the owners.

Maizy: Do you like this house?

Me: Yes. I think it’s a terrific house. How about you?

Maizy: I guess so. I like our old house better but Mommy says we need more room for my baby brother.

Me: I bet you’re a great big sister. Is it fun being a big sister?

Maizy: (puzzling her lips together and to one side) No. He’s pretty boring. But he’s still little. Do you have some candy?

Me: No. I might have some Altoids.

Maizy: I like Altoids.

Me: Is it okay with your parents for you to have an Altoid?

Maizy: Oh, yes, of course it’s okay. They let me have Altoids all the time.

Me: (offering the Altoids tin) Here you go. Help yourself.

Maizy: Thank you. This is so boring.

Me: Yes, I know what you mean.

Maizy: Are you bored? I thought grownups didn’t mind boring things.

Me: Well, perhaps not as much as kids mind them.

Maizy: I don’t want to be a grownup.

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 on Undermom.com.