Tag Archives: Top Realtor

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.

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.

Throwback Thursday: The Realtor/Stripper Connection

Sally Rand, striptease artist

This post from August 2012 when the market was really starting to heat up.

I was the most popular gal in San Francisco on a recent Sunday afternoon. (Not counting the hard-working women employed at the Gold Club, of course.)

That’s because I had a hot new listing that everybody wanted. It was in fantastic shape, freshly remodeled and beautifully staged. It smelled divine. It was totally available and it was really cheap (relatively speaking).

As a result, everybody who came to the open house loved the place and, in an attempt to butter me up, loved me too.

If you’re ever feeling down about yourself, just get a California Real Estate License, procure a well-priced listing in our fair city, hold an open house and stand in the foyer handing out flyers. You can be as repellant as Donald Trump and people will still find something to compliment you about. They will dig deep to sweet-talk you.

“That smiley-face tie is so arty!”

“Your purple cell phone is the nicest one I’ve ever seen!”

“These chocolate chip cookies are fantastically tasty! Did you buy them at Safeway yourself?”

Generally speaking, agents are even more shameless than the general public. They flatter you about how skinny you’ve gotten; how you’re so darn tiny all of a sudden?! (Always amusing, since on the morning of my open house, I’d torn my bathroom apart in search of a safety pin to let my pants out an inch or two.)

Anyway, I counted 100-plus visitors to that open house; pretty heady stuff. It’s like having the ultimate my-parents-are-out-of-town party of your dreams—everybody wants in! People can’t move from the front to the back because the hallway is so crowded. Yet, unlike the guests at an impromptu high school bacchanal, your open house visitors are polite and respectful. Nobody is raiding the liquor cabinet or throwing up in the hydrangeas.

With an attractive San Francisco listing to show, a REALTOR®—at least for two hours every weekend—can be the most popular person in an entire neighborhood. No wonder we agents plaster our photos all over the place.

Think about it. In what other profession do practitioners affix their photos to every communication or marketing vehicle? Not doctors, lawyers or Indian chiefs. Not tinkers, tailors or internet wunderkinds.

You guessed it: Strippers. It’s what strippers do! Maybe that’s why so many successful REALTORS® have what sound like successful stripper names.

Remember the trick about how to discover your stripper name? You combine the name of your first pet with the name of the street you lived on as a kid. Using this technique, my alter ego’s handle is Blue Laurel.

Just for fun, I tried creating stripper names using a new method. I mixed up the first and last names of Bay Area real estate agents (to be fair, I threw both my real names into the pot). Here are some of the results: Missy Cummins, Francesca Holmes, Eva Wood, Adam Upjohn, Mona Cherry, Candace Merryman, Max Shine, Luba Hand, Cynthia Ho.

I bet you can come up with some better ones yourself; just go to any real estate website and start mixing.

Blue Laurel. Not bad for the stage. But not great either. I think I’ll stick with my day job.

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.

Hot on Tuesday Tour: “Same As It Ever Was”

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And you may find yourself in a beautiful house with a beautiful wife

And you may ask yourself, ‘Well, how did I get here?’

from Once in a Lifetime by Talking Heads

“Same As It Ever Was” is just one work on display (and available for purchase) at 2222 15th Street, a delightful “secret garden” condo that shows like a veritable art gallery, thanks to an abundance of natural light and smart staging. Represented by Lance Fulford at Alain Pinel, the spacious one bedroom is listed for $699,000.

Check out the condo’s website for more information (and better photos than mine). Or contact me to schedule a showing.

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Baseball, Buying and Mixed Metaphors

It’s double-extra-super tough being a buyer in San Francisco right now. But if you’ve written six offers without winning a property, it’s time to reexamine your strategy.

Ask your agent to ask you the “hard” questions about your motivation and your goals. And ask your agent about his/her batting average in multiple-offer situations. Re-think your approach. Maybe call in a relief pitcher.

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

Throwback Thursday: 7 Ways Buyers Sabotage Themselves

Aesop's Fable 133: The Dog and Its Reflection
Aesop’s Fable 133: The Dog and Its Reflection

This post from February 2012. (Perhaps you, too, are tired of silly lists like “10 Ways to Do Such n’ Such” or “5 Top Reasons for This n’ That” but I’m told numeric list-making is supposed to catch readers’ attentions. Well….did it? Catch yours? Let me know.)

This week I heard of several first-time buyers’ plans to shoot themselves in the proverbial feet, so I thought I’d offer just a smidgen of advice. Here are seven things that make it hard for a so-called buyer to actually buy.

1.) “All my agent cares about is making a sale.” It’s possible that you are indeed working with an agent who only wants to make a sale (see #3 and #4). However, the smart agent knows that ensuring a client’s happiness is the key to continued success. A satisfied buyer brings return and referral business to the agent who cares.

2.) “I’m going to work with a family friend.” There’s a teeny chance the family friend is qualified to represent you, but more likely he/she is either: a.) Part-time b.) Semi-retired c.) Completely unfamiliar with SF inventory, contracts, customs, or pricing d.) Responding to the wishes of the buyer’s family, not the buyer themselves. Saving money is usually the true (unstated) motivation for this choice, but the kickback of commission seldom compensates for poor service and bad advice.

3.) “I don’t need an agent, I’ll just look on my own and have the listing agent help me.” Typically, the seller has already contractually agreed to pay buyer’s agent’s commission. Why wouldn’t you avail yourself of free expertise from a professional whose sole purpose is to please you? (Also see #2 and #4)

4.) “I’ll have the listing agent write my offer.” You think the person who has a fiduciary obligation to get the very best result for the seller is going to serve the buyer best as well? Buyer can buy anything currently listed for sale in his/her price range. The listing agent has a vested interest in selling this one property. Ever read Aesop’s fables? I’m sure there’s one that applies to this scenario.

5.) “I’m in no hurry, I don’t have to buy now.” Then why are you searching the internet, going to open houses, getting preapproved for financing, asking for disclosure packages, contemplating writing an offer, writing an offer, writing a counter offer? We know you don’t have to buy now. We can’t and won’t wrestle you to the ground and force you to pay cash for a place you don’t want at a price you can’t abide. Why, then, are you going on about how you don’t have to buy now? Do you think that inspires us to pull out all the proverbial stops? What’s really on your mind?

6.) “I’m going to work with a high-profile agent, not a rookie.” It’s true that most high-profile agents are hardworking and devoted to their clients. That’s how they achieved their current status and success. However, despite their best intentions, Top Producers may not have a whole lot of time to offer first-time buyers. A hungry, relatively new agent may be a better bet.

7.) “My agent wants me to pay more so they’ll earn a higher commission.” First, revisit #1 above. Second, consider that the individual agent’s take-home commission is going to be somewhere in the vicinity of 2% of the purchase price. On a $1,000 price increase that’s $20 (before taxes) more for the agent. Yet, that same $1,000 could determine whether or not the seller accepts your offer. You do the math.

To conclude, if you’re a real buyer and you’re not a liar (as the crude saying goes), start acting like a real buyer. Find your agent, get your financial ducks in a row, and buy something.

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

Hot on Tuesday Tour: Lilacs and Glass

Usually it’s orchids, or budding twigs, or ficus trees: Plants that beautify a home but don’t require a lot of water or maintenance.  Yesterday these drying lilacs caught my eye at a property in Laurel Heights. If I knew who the stager was, I’d give him or her credit.

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Then, a little later, at Dona Crowder’s beguiling Queen Anne on Masonic, I stopped in my tracks to admire this stained glass window. My wimpy cell phone camera doesn’t do it justice so check out the website here — though, trust me, this is one of those houses you must see in person. (I’d be happy to arrange a showing!) Up close and personal, the beautifully preserved wood in the (truly) light-filled home is warm and sweet as honey.

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And while I’m on the subject of things stopping me in my tracks, check out this closeup of the granite atop one of the bathroom vanities at a 53 Wilder condo in Glen Park. It put me in mind of the river stones in the South Holston back home in Appalachia. Neutrals are all very nice, but it’s fun to see something with a little life in it for a change.

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Finally — don’t judge me too harshly — I noticed that my outfit for tour day “matched” the decor at Travis Pacoe’s and Ron Abta’s listing on Eureka. So I snapped a selfie in the big master mirror. Not too bad!

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Heart and Home: Quietly In Your Room

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Armchair real-estate-shopping can be immensely pleasurable. Like traveling to Paris via the pages of Travel + Leisure, it’s fun to tour a la internet through a $15 million Pacific Heights mansion.

When fantasy moves closer to reality things get trickier.

As a friend and client lamented about her partner who spends several hours each week trolling Trulia: “She’s always looking at places just a little more expensive than the house we bought. Like she’s just wishing we could have spent a tiny bit more. And meanwhile, I’m like, ‘Hey, honey, we still have boxes to unpack! Help me!’ ”

In Status Anxiety, Alain de Botton writes, “Wealth is not an absolute. It is relative to desire. Every time we yearn for something we cannot afford, we grow poorer, whatever our resources. And every time we feel satisfied with what we have, we can be counted as rich, however little we may actually possess.”

This is one reason my kitchen is extremely non-updated and likely to remain so. I’d rather focus on being content with its “as-is” funkiness than on planning, executing and paying for a remodel I hope will make me happier. (Besides, my depression-era Blue Ridge Pottery dishes match the vintage chartreuse cabinets and I adore the 1940s O’Keeffe and Merritt range.)

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for renovation and decorating. I believe the aesthetics of our environment have a profound impact on our health and well being. We just need to be mindful of why we’re visiting and revisiting the photo of that $5,000 Art Deco sofa on Houzz.com.

Desire – for more, for different, for better – is essential to all human commerce. If we didn’t buy and sell real estate, the world would keep on spinning. But it’s unlikely I’ll be out of work anytime soon. Buyers will be buying and sellers will be selling and brokers will be brokering so long as people keep on switching jobs, getting married, having children, divorcing, dying, remarrying, downsizing, retiring or moving.

What matters – before, during and after these transitions – is the presence and acceptance we bring to every moment of our lives, regardless of where we sleep, where we hang our flat-screen TV, and whether or not we have parking or low HOA dues or directly-accessible outdoor space.

To quote Alain de Botton again, this time in The Art of Travel, “The sole cause of a man’s unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room.”

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