Tag Archives: Top Realtor

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.

Kindness in a Cruel Market

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” ~~ Philo

When you have a hot listing everybody loves you. You even kinda fall in love with your amazing self. You can’t help it.

It’s your party. Hundreds of potential buyers squeezing through the hallway on the weekend like it’s a frat-house kegger. Followed on Tuesday by their agents, vying for your attention so they can butter you up before offers are due.

Heady stuff, which I’ve written about before in this tongue-in-cheek post from August 2012. But, having just gone through the marketing and offer phase on a listing, I’m here to remind us agents that ours is a very tender business that calls for more than a modicum of professionalism.

In between the lines on the San Francisco Association of Realtors purchase contract and behind the ink on the signatures are real people with honest aspirations and human emotions. Each offer is the result of client and agent working together, trying to do the painstaking magic that wins a home in San Francisco.

In this most recent case, I received eight offers – eight buyer/agent teams, eight strategies translated into writing, eight sets of hopes, and countless hours of effort, planning and worry.

After I congratulated our winning agent, I made seven calls to the other agents to say “Thanks so much for your above-asking-price-with-stellar-terms offer, but we’ve accepted another offer.” Two of these agents thanked me profusely: For taking the time to actually speak to them in person about the bad news.

Having been on the other side of the listing/selling coin myself, I can vouch that all too often a listing agent can’t be bothered to pick up the phone and say “thanks but no thanks.” There is total silence, or you receive a blind-copy email. For example, I will never EVER forget the big-wig agent who – after I called to ask what had happened with our 40%-over-asking-price offer on a $3-million house – texted me back as follows:

“Yr offr not high enuf. Sorry.”

Listing agents: Let’s always be mindful of this very human part of our business. Let’s remember that, as professionals, we are obliged to have some minimal ethical and moral standards. Simple kindness and respect should be at the top of our list.

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.

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.

The Giants Won. So Can YOU!

Find an agent who'll champion your cause!
Find an agent who’ll champion your cause!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UKiUnAOA9Tk

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.

The Gift of Staging

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Staging is magical. It’s “theater” that evokes a buyer’s emotional response and thereby enhances a seller’s bottom line.

It makes it easier for buyers to envision themselves living in a home. It psychically de-personalizes the property and displays furnishings in context. It makes a house more inviting in every way.

But there’s another unexpected and little-discussed benefit: By creating an idealized version of a home, staging makes it easier for sellers to LET GO.

An owner’s initial reaction to viewing their staged home inevitably goes something like this: “Wow. I wish we’d done this while we were living here.”

That “shouldawouldacoulda” cringe is normal. Yet nobody ever actually lives that way. Ergo one of my real estate mantras: “The way you live in a house and the way you sell it are two entirely different things.”

A cruder twist on that bit of wisdom is: “If your home looks like it’s staged, you probably should examine the sacrifices you’re making in the name of keeping up appearances.”

Life is messy. Shit happens. Stuff accumulates. There’s a healthy difference between ideal and reality, and it’s evident in your home. After all, THE HOUSE is the dream metaphor for THE SELF.

So, with staging, there is a pivotal moment that presents a homeowner with a wonderful opportunity for closure and progression.

Consider the story of my lovely client Jane (not her real name). Preparing her house for sale required four stressful months of cleaning out and organizing 40 years’ worth of belongings. Another month was needed for cosmetic fixes and staging. I spent 10 days marketing the house before we considered offers. We closed seven days later.

Prior to de-staging, Jane visited her longtime home. Alone. She sat in the living room. She let the serene and clean feeling of the staged house wash over her. She walked through the rooms and looked out the windows. It was as if she were seeing some of those views for the first time.

There were brief waves of regret – the shouldawouldacoulda. There were flashes of memories – both happy and sad. There was appreciation for the years of service the house had given.

This was followed by a curious contentment and detachment. Jane assimilated the staged version of the house as the one she’ll remember in years ahead. Then, without resisting, she let go of her longtime home.

“The staging,” she explained, “was a gift for 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.

What I Noticed This Week on Broker’s Tour, Besides Properties and Prices

Sometimes it’s the details of the staging that catch my eye. That was the case this week on broker’s tour. Lots of pretty fabrics, surfaces and art. For example:

Pretty pink patterns:

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Textures:

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SAMSUNGBotanicals:

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More pleasing-to-the-eye stuff:

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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

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.