Real Estate Search
Let’s Connect
Find Mary on FacebookFollow Mary on TwitterRSS FeedFollow Mary on YouTube

Contact Mary
Mary Pope-Handy
Sereno Group Real Estate
214 Los Gatos-Saratoga Rd
Los Gatos, CA 95030
408 204-7673
Mary (at)
License# 01153805

Selling homes in
Silicon Valley:
Santa Clara County,
San Mateo County, and
Santa Cruz County.
Special focus on:
San Jose, Los Gatos,
Saratoga, Campbell,
Almaden Valley,
Cambrian Park.

Do you have a strategy for buying a home in Silicon Valley?

January 29th, 2015

Home buying in Silicon ValleySilicon Valley is mired in an extraordinarily deep seller’s market, and has been for a couple of years now. Want to buy a home?  No one who understands the market at all will tell you that it’s going to be easy.   If you are serious about becoming a home owner rather than a shopper, it’s time to get serious about what it will take for that to happen.

In a deep seller’s market, it’s very helpful to have a game plan or strategy for purchasing a home.  The best place to begin is with an understanding of your competition and the inherent risks of buying in this climate.

  • Approximately 30% of all sales in this area are “all cash”.  Not all cash buyers are savvy and may make mistakes (such as vastly overestimating the value of a cash offer – sometimes the lowest price comes from a buyer without financing).  All cash buyers need to be educated, too.
  • When homes sell in under 2 weeks and with multiple offers, there’s a very good chance that the winning bid came in with no contingencies for inspection, loan, or appraisal.  Sometimes it’s all cash and non-contingent on the normal items.
  • Most home buyers will have done a lot of research on how to compete in multiple offer situations.  A few years ago I wrote a series of tips and they are still good today.  Major hint: it’s not always only about price or even primarily about price.  The terms matter, and so do a few things which are harder to measure (and can include all sorts of things – even whom you hire to work with you on the purchase).
  • If you dawdle, you risk being priced out of the market.  Sometimes when beginning to shop, home buyers who are new to the game feel that they have power and can “wait until the market improves”.  The problem is when there is deep scarcity of inventory and a ton of amply able buyers, the prices are going to go up steeply.  If you take a year to buy, most of the time – unless you are extraordinarily lucky – it will cost you dearly.  I have seen buyers wait so long that they basically used up their entire down payment.  Since 2 years ago, prices are up about 25% to 30% in most of Santa Clara County and the San Jose area.  If you have been looking for 2 years, your down payment has been spent.  This is a real case of time versus money.
  • The greatest fear that buyers have when purchasing in a raging seller’s market is that there will be a correction or crash, and they’ll be left with an over-investment   in real estate.  Put another way, they don’t want to overpay and they really do not want to be upside down in their home.  No one wants to overpay.  But right now, many homes that sell will not appraise (many do, but quite a few don’t).

So that’s the starting point – steep competition, a lot of “all cash” and a lot of “no contingencies” – when it comes to homes newly listed and gleaning multiple offers right away. Read the rest of this entry »

What the staged or model homes often don’t have

January 21st, 2015

magnifierDo you enjoy looking at open houses, or visiting new home sites and seeing the models? Or are you hunting for a new Silicon Valley home in earnest and seeing tons of staged houses or condos? That can be a fun real estate exercise but there are omissions in some models or staged properties that you might not notice, so I wanted to just touch on those today.  I would like my readers to actively look for what may not be there – and to register for themselves whether it matters or not.

In many new or vacant & staged resale homes, all or most window coverings have been removed.  Why do this?  With older houses or condos, often the curtains or blinds are old and bent.  Always, they block some of the natural light.  By removing them, far more light pours in.  Most home buyers never notice that they are missing.  But it’s a hidden cost if you buy and there are no shades there!  It’s easy to spend thousands on window coverings for a home, so take note!

Another item often missing – perhaps usually missing – from newly constructed model homes are interior doors.  Not there are doors to bedrooms, bathrooms, laundry rooms and the like.  Why leave these out?  First is probably a practical issue that they are always just a little bit in the path of traffic and likely to get banged up.  But visually, it makes rooms and doorways seem to be bigger, more open, less obstructed with the doors gone.  Furniture placement in a bedroom may be differently perceived without the door.   Is it a big deal? Maybe not.  But it is different with the doors in than not, so please just make a mental note.

Perhaps the last big item that you may find with staged and model homes is something I will call, broadly, “unrealistic use of space”.  Here are a few examples:

Let’s say there’s a home with a living room (but no family room).  It may be staged with a couch, two chairs, and a coffee table and an end table or two.  That’s well and good, but for most American households, there also needs to be room for a television, perhaps also a stereo or a cabinet for a CD player and so on.  Many homes will be decked out with bookshelves, a place for knickknacks, or in some cases, a piano or a box full of toys.    The living room is staged almost sparsely; but throw in a toybox and a TV set and suddenly you’ve got crowding.

Bedrooms are often portrayed extremely lightly on the furniture front.  A double bed, 2 nightstands and a tiny desk with cool decor may fill the room.  In reality, though, what you may have is a bed, one nightstand, a dresser, and a desk for homework.

Kitchens, of course, do not include the normal assortment of coffee pots, toasters, knife blocks, oil & vinegar etc.  Instead, there’s often an artfully placed wooden statue of a rooster (don’t ask me why) and words stuck on the wall with something like EAT telling you why you’re there.    Countertops are abnormally empty. Is that how most of us live?  I tell you, no!  Of course it’s good to remove the photos from the fridge and to put the cat food out of the way, but when you go through a model home, the decluttering is so extreme as to be nearly intoxicating.  But – and this is a big but – it’s not how most people actually live.

Dining rooms usually contain just the table and chairs.   Really – where do you put table clothes, napkins, place mats?  How about your better dishes and cutlery, your special candlesticks and all the rest of it?  In traditional dining rooms, there’d often be at least one massive piece of furniture and often  two of them for the linens, china, crystal etc.  A room with just the table and chairs may look nice, but is it realistic?

With models, one other gotcha is that often they are shown with the upgrades, not the base package.  Each builder has a different set of upgrades but what you fall in love with may not be the base price.   Landscaping in back yards is often not included, even if you see it in the model.  So price it out so that you don’t have the shock of your life later!

Finally, what about flipped  homes?  Townhouses, condominiums or houses which were bought either as original, tear down, or foreclosed but rehabbed and resold within a few months are dubbed “flipped” properties.   I wrote about the difference between “nicely remodeled vs flipped” on my Belwood of Los Gatos blog (Belwood is a neighborhood in east Los Gatos where my family and I live).  With a flipped property, there are MANY concerns.  Among them are that the work done is only going to be what’s visible (carpet and paint vs electrical, plumbing, foundation, sewer line, etc.).   Please click on the link above to read more on this topic.

When you visit new or highly staged homes, please make a checklist (at least a mental one) of what you are not seeing.  If you fall in love with a  home based on how it looks today, rather than how it may work with your life, you may feel later as though you made a mistake.  Best to go in just a little cynical and see how realistic it all is.  Bring a checklist – it may really help you in the long run.


Morgan Hill real estate market

January 19th, 2015

How’s the real estate market in Morgan Hill?  This article will include data, trends and statistics for both houses and condominiums / townhouses.

For the single family home segment, prices are up strongly both month over month and year over year in this “south county” town. The sale price to list price ratio is down a bit.  The cities of Morgan Hill and Gilroy are usually a bit less in demand than parts of Santa Clara County which are either tech magnets or closer to them, so while most of the Silicon Valley has a sale price to list price ratio of over 100%, it’s below that here, making the home buying conditions much calmer for weary buyers.  Below is a chart with basic info, but to see more information, you may click on this link to see the Real Estate Report for Morgan Hill.


Live charts from Altos Research

The following charts are from Altos Research, updated automatically each week, using data of homes available to purchase (not sold / closed sales), for the Morgan Hill real estate market. (I have a paid subscription to this service.)

Morgan Hill homes listed for sale by price quartile

Real Estate Market Chart by Altos Research

Read the rest of this entry »

Los Gatos & Saratoga CA historical real estate data 2005 – 2014

January 17th, 2015

Today on my “Live in Los Gatos” blog, I included 5 images with graphs of the historical sales date for Los Gatos (zips 95030, 95032, and the mountains, zip 95033) and Saratoga 95070. Below is one of the five – to see all, please continue to this article:

Los Gatos & Saratoga real estate sales statistics 2005 – 2014

Saratoga median price and average DOM

City of Santa Clara real estate market

January 14th, 2015

The real estate market in the city of Santa Clara is calming down and settling into more stability for the single family home market, but prices are up strongly from a year ago.  The condo market looks a little different.   Homes are selling fast, but prices are off from a year ago.  I think, though, that this is deceptive.  I spot checked a few things and it looks to me like homes have appreciated in this sector, too, but that smaller, older (and less expensive) condos are moving – which makes it look worse than it is.

Here’s a glance at the single family home statistics and trends for closings and listings for last month – updated each month on about the 5th – 10th on my RE Report site for realty stats & trends in Santa Clara:




Santa Clara Stats At A Glance


  • Median home prices increased by 5.4% year-over-year to $846,000 from $803,000.
  • The average home sales price rose by 12.2% year-over-year to $924,234 from $823,528.
  • Home sales fell by 29.3% year-over-year to 29 from 41.
  • Active listings fell 33.3% year-over-year to 36 from 54.
  • Sales price vs. list price ratio rose by 0.4% year-over-year to 103.3% from 102.9%.
  • The average days on market fell by 11.1% year-over-year to 27 from 31.

Compared To Last Month

  • Median home prices improved by 6.4% to $846,000 from $795,000.
  • The average home sales price rose by 13.5% to $924,234 from $814,261.
  • Home sales up by 3.6% to 29 from 28.
  • Active listings dropped 0.0% to 36 from 36.
  • Sales price vs. list price ratio dropped by 2.9% to 103.3% from 106.4%.
  • The average days on market increased by 62.8% to 27 from 17.
The median and average sales prices are up  substantially year over year.  The sale price to list price ratio remains at 106% and days on market less than 3 weeks, both indicating a strong seller’s market.

Santa Clara list prices of houses for sale by zip codes (95050, 95051, 95054)

In addition to the RE Report, I also have a subscription to Altos Research, which uses list prices (not sold ones) for tracking the pulse of the market. Here see list prices by zip code, as well as the city of Santa Clara as a whole – note how different they are! If we teased it out even more, by price point, school district or exact location, we would see a myriad of “micro markets”.

Real Estate Market Chart by Altos Research

Read the rest of this entry »

Willow Glen real estate market – San Jose 95125

January 13th, 2015

Willow Glen is perhaps the most charming residential area of the city of San Jose with its old style architecture, tree lined streets and quaint downtown area on Lincoln Avenue and nearby.  For folks working in downtown San Jose, the Willow Glen area (roughly the same as 95125 zip code, though a bit of 95124 is included also) is extremely convenient.  Values are up very substantially over last year, and up slightly from last month – somewhat atypical for the fall.

Click for the complete Willow Glen real estate report with all of the numbers, stats and trends from the closed sales of houses for last month.  Further down in this article you’ll find the Altos Research charts as well.


The Willow Glen Condo market

And next, of Willow Glen condos:

Read the rest of this entry »

Saratoga, CA, Real Estate Market Update

January 12th, 2015

How’s the Saratoga California real estate market?

This is a fairly comprehensive article on the Saratoga real estate market that will include the live statistics from Altos Research for listed properties (not closed) in Saratoga CA 95070, the closed sale data from the RE Report for last month in Saratoga 95070, and then the numbers I crunched for Saratoga – overall, and then by price point and high school district, as Saratoga has 3 different high school districts, each with an impact on home values.

First, let’s consider the months of inventory by price point and high school district that I crunched using, our local multiple listing service provider. (For comparison, please also see a similar article on the Live in Los Gatos blog for the town of Los Gatos – real estate market by price point and high school district.)  The months of inventory is a reference to how fast homes would be absorbed into the market if sales continued at the same pace and no new inventory came onto the market.  It’s often referred to as “the absorption rate” – and that can be months of inventory, weeks of inventory, or days of inventory.  A “balanced” market is somewhere around 4-5 months for us, though the National Association of Realtors says that 6 months is balanced nationwide.  Anything under 3 is a good seller’s market, and under 1 is like saying that homes are “flying off the market”.

Here’s the chart for Saratoga – all price points, all school districts.  Overall it’s 2 months of inventory, which is crazy fast.














And for comparison here’s last month’s chart, which was also a strong seller’s market in the lower price ranges.

Saratoga all prices and schools 

Read the rest of this entry »