Best San Francisco Real Estate Advice: 3 Things Homeowners Regret Forgetting
by Cynthia Cummins
Reading time: 3 minutes
Cynthia is owner and founder of Kindred SF Homes and a top San Francisco Realtor. Check out RealEstateTherapy.org for refreshing reflections on the meaning of home and for more “best real estate advice” (since 2013).
You know the tendency bloggers / writers / instagrammers have for framing a topic with enumerated lists? 10 Netflix Rom-Coms to Stream Tonight. 5 Most Loved Cabbage Recipes on Epicurious. 8 Ways to Say Yes but Mean No.
I hate that format. But I have my own enumerated list today, as you can see from the title of this post.
Number 1: Sober up and pay attention to the way you’re vested on title. If you’re in any sort of partnership please be sure you’re all on the same page about “how” you own your property. Make it explicit by confirming or changing your title vesting to reflect that accord. I recommend this whenever unmarried couples; siblings or friends are buying property together. But my advice usually goes unheeded and – often – love fades, family members fight and friends fall out. I’ve seen it again and again.
Ken and Rick are crazy in love. Together, they buy a home that is a radiant manifestation of the life they intend to share. Their relationship and their home are everything they’ve dreamed about. I’m happy for them and celebrating with them, but it’s also my professional duty to lightly rain on the parade.
“Remember to finish your Tenancy in Common agreement,” I say, “The one that spells out your percentage ownerships, your obligations surrounding the debt load, and the equity you’ve each invested. The one that covers what happens if something happens to one of you.”
They ignore my advice and instead turn their attention to the garden and the kitchen. I get it because I’ve done exactly the same thing. But it’s not pretty when, four years later, they decide to call it quits. Emotions are running high. Good will is running low. And nothing is in writing. Trust me. You don’t want to go there.
Number 2: Ensure that you’re insured and that your insurance is adequate. This goes for renters as well as homeowners. If you’re like me, you’ll obtain your insurance policy when you first buy or rent, and then fuggetaboutit. Years will go by. And then comes a fire or a flood or an earthquake. S*&t inevitably happens.
And oops! Constructions costs have doubled since 2013. Or you’ve acquired a lot of expensive jewelry over the last decade. Or you got permits to add 800 square feet to your house but you forgot to mention it to your insurance agent. This is not good.
Pro tip: Set an annual calendar reminder for a check-in with whoever’s handling your insurance. Or, if you’re bad about responding to your own pre-scheduled nudges, choose an insurance agent who will reach out to YOU regularly to review your situation.
Number 3: If you’re at a crowded gathering (please don’t be – until the covid crisis is over) and you’re wanting to get everyone’s attention, just shout the word “Probate.” There are many reasons for the disquiet that word evokes but I’m not going to enumerate them. Simply Google “why you should avoid probate” and you’ll get a list of results that each contain an enumerated list of why you should avoid probate!
Suffice it to say that probate sucks. You may be dead and beyond care, but the people left behind are going to suffer. So, if you are a wise person who is fortunate enough to own property and have heirs you love, please expend minimal time and energy on creating a living trust so nobody ever has to utter the P word when you Pass.
Speaking of P words, Plenty are the worries that can Plague a homeowner (capital gains taxes in a market like San Francisco) or any human being (health in a time like now). I’m sitting here staring at a page-long list of stuff that could use my attention. The urgent – 2019 taxes, dermatology appointment, call Uncle Howard. The not so urgent – boxes full of negatives, expiring Zappos points, remind wealthy single-mom friend to get life insurance. It’s never-ending. Until it ends.
It’s not my intention to add stress to your life. Yet I’ve seen the three things on this list jump up in nasty ways recently and I figure it’s time for a friendly reminder. If you need help or resources, please let me know.
Photo credit: @melidagimpel