Several people, companies, and systems assist me in my work with buyers and sellers in Silicon Valley. Most often, my clients will not see or speak with many of them much (if at all), but they are all part of the package, if on the “back end” much of the time.
My daughter, Clair, assists me about half time. She is unlicensed and does not usually interact with my clients. Most of her work is computer related or errands-running: tagging disclosures for electronic signing, duplicating keys, dropping fliers off to listings, research for my blog posts, help with the monthly newsletter, and driving me while I videotape neighborhoods are some of her tasks.
Within My Brokerage:
At my brokerage, Sereno Group in Los Gatos, my escrow coordinator, Sonia Sisto, makes sure that the paperwork is complete. With a myriad of places to sign and initial and papers not to forget, it’s helpful to have a second set of eyes on the file. Additionally, other agents also review the file on behalf of Sereno management. When there are legal questions, which can come up from time to time, we have a legal counsel available through Ryan Iwanaga, my manager, or Chris Trapani, the CEO of Sereno Group, and we get answers back within a business day, if not a few hours. Finally, there are several agents who assist me in some cases (vacation, sickness, family emergencies). So I’m well supported on the office or firm level. When you hire me, you get a full staff behind me.
Whether buying or selling a silicon valley home or investment property, good inspections are critical. I don’t have one list for buyers and another for sellers – no matter which end of the transaction you’re on, you want excellent information. Surprises tend to sour escrows, so part of the plan in helping you avoid trouble is to avoid surprises. Only with excellent information can you make good decisions and have more control of the way your real estate sale progresses.
1. Home or Property Inspectors. It is crucial that your property inspector be exceedingly well trained, experienced, careful, clear, and through. In California, there is no license for home inspectors. However, there are a couple of trade groups which have a very high standard of practice. One is ASHI (American Society of Home Inspectors) and the other is CREIA (California Real Estate Inspection Association).
There are many good home inspectors in the San Jose area, but my #1 choice is Duane Serrano of Tri Star Home Inspections. Duane is an ASHI member with 15 years experience. I have not found him to either miss or over call issues (I have sometimes had inspectors who say a chimney or roof is bad, have the clients hire more experts, only to find out that it was fine – that aggressive over-calling is expensive, time consuming and upsetting). Duane also provides my clients with suggestions as to solutions and how to make the home last longer with proper care. He gets the reports out, with digital photos, on a same-day basis. Duane’s website is http://www.tristarinspections.com/ or he can be reached by phone at 408 266-2706.
Yesterday I met with some seller prospects – actually, I consider them clients since I’ve been assisting them, updating them, and giving them staging advice for about six months now. Their Blossom Valley home has been sliding in value and I have been concerned about the situation and trying to get them on the market sooner rather than later since they do want to sell. A couple of months ago, I told one of them that they’d now have to bring money to closing; I asked if they knew this and if they planned to do it. “I think we’ll be OK” I was told.
But now it’s the middle of March and prices have slid about 10% over the six months we have been chatting about their home sale. They’d told me that they were ready to list so I had spent hours getting comps and stats and trends pulled together as well as the listing paperwork. But I knew the issue of “bringing cash to closing” was the major hurdle.
So that’s where we started. One of them was clear that this was an issue, but one appeared surprised. Before I said the amount, I heard “well we might be a short sale”.
“A short sale?” I was just surprised to hear that idea even floated.
Both of them are very gainfully employed. They want to move, but I don’t see a “have to move” situation. It was clear to me that the short sale concept was not well understood, nor the punishment it brings appreciated.
I guess it sounded like an easy answer. After all, wasn’t everyone else doing it?
Certainly, in this particular area of San Jose, and in this particular price point, a good 80% to 90% of the homes appear to be short sales – and they are dragging values down for everyone else.
Let me briefly explain what a short sale is and isn’t:
(1) What is a short sale?
- it is usually a pre-foreclosure situation
- the buyer cannot continue to make the payments and will go into foreclosure if the short sale doesn’t happen (or this will happen in the near future)
- there is a significant “hardship” (job loss, sickness, death, divorce) causing financial problems
- the owner wants to sell the home but cannot pay off the lender in full because the home has declined in value – there’s not enough equity
- it is going to hurt one’s credit badly, but only half as badly as a foreclosure
- short sales often do not go through – most of the time, they end up becoming full blown foreclosures
(2) What a short sale isn’t:
- it isn’t a help to people who simply want to upgrade and don’t want to pay off the bank
- it is seldom an option if you have other assets (like other properties or money in the bank) – the bank will want your money!
- it isn’t a “get out of jail free” card – there are built in punishments for those who must resort to doing a short sale (trashed credit AND paying taxes on any amount “forgiven”)
- a short sale is never a happy thing – it is always the lesser of two evils (vs foreclosure)
I explained to these nice folks that it didn’t appear that they would qualify for a short sale (no hardship, no inability to pay the loan etc.).
What options exist for Silicon Valley folks who want to move but have no equity?
Here are a few thoughts:
- A promise was made to repay the loan, so the obvious first answer is to wait out the market or come up with the cash to buy out of the situation.
- Walking away: In some parts of the country, we are again hearing about “jingle mail“, in which owners simply turn in their keys to the bank and walk away. I remember decades ago that happened in Alaska when the market there tanked. Now it’s happening here too.In Sacramento, where some owners bought a home at 50% more than the identical house is selling for now, some folks are first purchasing the new home (same floorplan as current one) at the cheaper rate, then walking away from their old home. In effect, they get a home with half as much mortgage. No, it’s not very nice. It’s defaulting (a strategic default) on their promise to repay a loan. The lenders could potentially persue them for losses. Will they? I don’t know – this is a crisis of epic proportions!
- Renting it out: another possibility is to simply rent out the house (rents are rising due to increasing demand) and to move to the next house.
I don’t think anyone now doubts that we are in a recession which is fueled by the housing crisis. For every person who just “walks away” from a house, that’s the recession deepening for everyone. I’m not going to encourage it – it worsens the economy and trashes the borrower’s credit.
Rents are increasing with this crisis. So my suggestion: rent out your house and move on if you can. Talk to the nonprofit credit counseling agencies. Give it a few years, Then call me when you’re ahead of the market and we’ll sell it for you. Or keep it until you have kids going to college and you can then use it to pay tuition.
Eventually, the market will improve. You don’t have to sell when it’s at a low point.
Thanks for reading this article – I hope you find this Silicon Valley real estate blog to be of help to you!
Please see also these related posts:
Underwater & Considering a Short Sale or Loan Modification?
What is a “Kick Out” Clause?
How Long Does it Take to Buy a Silicon Valley Home?
Short Sales in the West Valley Areas of Almaden, Los Gatos, Saratoga, Campbell, and Nearby
Real Estate Inventory & Sales in Silicon Valley’s “West Valley” Areas of Los Gatos, Saratoga, Campbell and Cambrian Park
Interested in Buying a Los Gatos Short Sale?
All posts relating to “short sales” on this blog for real estate in Silicon Valley
Which part of the Santa Clara Valley
is seeing all of this foreclosure and pre-foreclosure activity?
Depending on where you live in Santa Clara County, you may be seeing a whole lot of distressed properties on the market – or you may be seeing none at all. This is part of our current “bifurcated market” situation.
Generally, the more expensive areas of Silicon Valley (Palo Alto, Cupertino, Saratoga, Monte Sereno, Los Gatos, Almaden Valley and Silver Creek) are not suffering from a huge number of listings in which the sellers are in financial straits. There are some, though.
It is the less wealthy areas in San Jose (including parts of downtown, the east side, south San Jose, Santa Teresa, Blossom Valley) and the south county cities of Morgan Hill and Gilroy) where there is an inundation with short sales – in the lower price ranges especially.
Generally speaking, most short sales, preforeclosures and bank owned homes are priced below $600,000.
How can you tell if a home is in pre-foreclosure?
Homes listed for sale in your neighborhood of San Jose, Saratoga or Los Gatos that are in pre-foreclosure may look like any others available. They may have granite in the kitchen, beautiful baseboard and crown molding, new dual pane windows, and on and on. The sellers may have borrowed and borrowed to improve the property, be unable to make the payments due to job loss, divorce, or other problems, and now be in default on a loan, heading toward foreclosure.
This status usually doesn’t “show” unless you have access to the county records or have a subscription to a service that lets you know the status (and those services are no where near 100% reliable, by the way). Your real estate agent, who should have a subscription to the MLS with full information, can see a report at no cost that shows the foreclosure history. (Not all pre-foreclosures are short sales.)
What’s a short sale? Being in “pre-foreclosure” means that the seller has missed payments on a loan in which the real estate owned is used as collateral, or security. Let’s say a home is worth $1 million, but the amount in default is a small loan, perhaps of $25,000. If the home is sold, it can pay off the debt in full.
Sometimes, though, a distressed seller bought higher than the home is now worth. When prices fall (and if the owner bought the home with a low down payment especially), selling the home will not be enough to pay off the loan. So again let’s imagine that a house is worth $1 million, but the owners owe $1.1 million on it (and to sell they have to worry about closing costs to boot). By selling the home, foreclosure can be averted – but to do so, the bank will have to agree to not being repaid 100%. This is a “short sale”. (Not all short sales are in preforeclosure, though, as not all home owners of these properties have missed payments on their mortgage.)
We’re seeing a lot of short sales in the entry level markets. In these cases, current owners bought their properties a year or two ago – for 10% or 20% more than those houses are now worth.
In the higher-priced regions of Silicon Valley, it’s less common to see a short sale than it is a straight pre-foreclosure because someone just can’t make the loan payment (due to some new problem like divorce or job loss, or because the adjustable loan went up and the payments are now untenable).
Recently I viewed a piece on Forbes.com that said that San Jose was on it’s “top 10” list of good places to be a landlord. Investors, take note!
Recently I had a listing in Sunnyvale where an enormous tree graced not only the front yard of my clients’ house, but stretched over a next door neighbor’s yard and even over the neighbor’s roof. We got the home I’d listed sold quickly, but prior to closing, the neighbor complained about the limbs.
The sellers, wanting to close escrow on time, agreed to trim the large bough that threatened her roof. They only wish that she had mentioned it sooner so that it could have been a “non issue” during the time of the sale. Ideal would have been a request in spring, which is the better, healthier time for trimming a tree.
And more recently, something similar happened in Los Gatos (with a home not for sale). A property manager of a tenant-occupied house showed up on the doorstep of a tree owner whose large tree arches over the fence. The property manager demanded that the tree be trimmed and that the tree owners pay for it. “It is your responsibility,” she asserted. (Interestingly, she showed up with a gardener – not a tree professional – and had no business card so that she could later be contacted about this issue. So it wasn’t the most amicable approach.)
My understanding of laws around trees and property lines was simple: the neighbors can cut the tree if they want to back to the property line, but the tree owners don’t have to pay to cut it unless it is truly damaging or about to damage the others’ property. If the neighbors harm the tree while pruning it, they can be liable for damages.
But just to be sure, I phoned the California Association of Realtors’ Legal Hotline and spoke with an attorney about it. My understanding was correct: the lawyer cited case law and verified that the tree owners can’t prevent the neighbors from trimming the tree if they want and that the neighbors cannot force the tree owners to trim it unless it is truly causing (or immediately threatening to cause) damage.
The property manager was mistaken and out of line.
A friendly phone call and inquiry about tree maintenance goes a long way toward neighborliness. Most tree owners will take good care of their trees and do pruning in spring, and will discuss the timing with their neighbors so that it is convenient for the arborist to also clean up any dropped branches in adjacent yards. Open communication is always helpful for neighbor relations. It helps when requests come in a pleasant way without rushing or pressuring. But that would be true about any issue, whether it’s trees, fences, noice, odors, junky cars or anything else.
(This topic was also addressed on my Live in Los Gatos blog, if you would care to read more about it.)
I’m going to be blunt here: it is really hard to help when we, as agents, don’t know what is truly going on. It’s not a whole lot different than keeping important things from your doctor or lawyer. If you want help, it is imperative that you tell your hired professionals what is going on.
For that matter, if you are interviewing agents to list your home or to help you to buy your next home, expect those agents to ask you about your needs and motivation. Hiring an agent (and the agent agreeing to take you on as a client) is a two way relationship. Both sides need to be clear and honest with each other.
Let me give you an example. Years ago, I had some prospects (not yet clients) in Monte Sereno who inquired off and on for years about selling their home. At one point, it became a “hurry up” situation. Luckily, they told me the truth: one of them had been diagnosed as terminally ill. The sick one did not want to saddle the survivor with selling the home after the death.
Almaden Valley, a district of San Jose with the zip code 95120, is noted for good schools, low crime, and beautiful vistas. It enjoys an historic old downtown & museum where the mercury mining took place, a fabulous golf course and abundant open space with room for hiking, horses and more.
The commute is not bad to downtown San Jose and has gotten better since highway 87 was built (in addition to Almaden Expressway). Like the Rose Garden, Naglee Park, and Silver Creek, Almaden is one of the more expensive spots on the San Jose real estate landscape.
Home types vary from modest condominiums to fabulous estate homes. A luxury property in this part of Silicon Valley is often newer and may include more land than similarly priced houses or estates in Los Gatos, Monte Sereno or Saratoga. Home buyers looking in the west valley often want to see high end real estate in Almaden Valley as well as other upscale communities nearby.
Browse Luxury Homes for Sale in San Jose’s Almaden Valley Neighborhood
Below please view Almaden Valley real estate listings of houses, duet homes and other residential property for sale over $2 million dollars as found on our local MLS.
20445 Via Santa Teresa, SAN JOSE
4 beds, 6 baths
20750 Lost Ranch RD, SAN JOSE
5 beds, 7 baths
7220 Glenview DR, SAN JOSE
4 beds, 5 baths
20665 View Oaks WAY, SAN JOSE
5 beds, 5 baths
20675 View Oaks WAY, SAN JOSE
4 beds, 5 baths
See all Real estate in the 95120 zip code.
(all data current as of
Listing information deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Read full disclaimer.
(all data current as of 9/22/2017)
Thank you for reading this Silicon Valley real estate blog. Please remember that information found on the web is not the same thing as knowledge. For guidance with buying or selling homes in Silicon Valley, San Jose, Los Gatos and nearby areas, please contact an experienced, ethical, full time Realtor. If you are searching for a good Silicon Valley Realtor to assist you, please contact me. I’m happy to chat with you by phone or in person for a no-cost, no-obligation initial consultation.
Saratoga, CA, has a beautiful assortment of custom esates, many with views. Some are horse property, others include vineyards – or both! Ranging from sprawling, comfortable ranch to Mediterranean, contemporary, and ecclectic (there is even one castle in Saratoga), there’s no shortage of choice in the Saratoga luxury market.
Below, please find a link to a list of currently available homes for sale in Saratoga, CA, listed over $2,000,000. This link will take you to a site hosted by me for searching available listings, so feel free to browse other areas while there. Enjoy!
Luxury Homes and Estates in the Town of Los Gatos, CA
Los Gatos offers a wide variety of home styles and size, acreage and useage. From small, modest cottages to large estates, there’s something for everyone in Los Gatos. Immediately below, please find the links to available and listed Los Gatos homes for sale offered at two million dollars or more. These will take you to my other website, PopeHandy.com, and open in a new window.
Browse listed homes in Los Gatos over $2 million
Or, if you prefer, browse all price points within this luxury range in Los Gatos here!
$2,498,000 : 16121 Wood Acres RD, LOS GATOS3 beds, 2 baths
$8,695,000 : 233 Forrester RD, LOS GATOS5 beds, 7 baths
$16,988,999 : 16450 Aztec Ridge DR, LOS GATOS8 beds, 10 baths
$2,999,000 : 159 Teresita WAY, LOS GATOS4 beds, 4 baths
$2,088,000 : 50 Clifton AVE, LOS GATOS3 beds, 2 baths
See all Real estate in the city of Los Gatos.
(all data current as of 9/22/2017)
Listing information deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Read full disclaimer.
A real estate agent is someone who’s taken a course (or more) and passed a state exam and is licensed by the state to sell real estate.
A Realtor (pronounced REEL-TOR, not real-a-tor) is an agent who’s ALSO a member of the National Association of Realtors, which is a voluntary trade group. Realtors promise to abide by and take very seriously their Code of Ethics. Ever wonder what is in it? It’s not short and is quite comprehensive. Take a look:
Please understand that not everything that is legal is also ethical – Realtors have a higher standard of practice. Often non-Realtors (at least in Siliocon Valley) are not full-time agents but dabble in real estate. Realtors are usually full-time and work as professionals.
Finally, if you have a problem with an agent who’s not a Realtor, you have to complain to the state. With a member of NAR, who is almost always also a member of the state association (CAR – the California Association of Realtors) and local (either SILVAR – the Silicon Valley Association of Realtors or SCCAOR – the Santa Clara County Association of Realtors), you can take action locally for most any issue and do not need to go all the way to the state level. Agents work hard to remain in good standing with the local, state, and national boards.
In the San Jose area, most of the large realty firms are “all Realtor” offices. Usually becoming a member of NAR, CAR and either SILVAR or SCCAOR is a requirement for joining the company. In other areas and in other states, in can be different. So it’s mostly the independents where you’ll find a real estate licensee who’s not also a Realtor. But ask!
When you interview an agent, then, the first question to ask is this: are you a Realtor?