First time homebuyers

When trying to figure out what market value or a fair price is for a property, Silicon Valley consumers will often look at recent sales nearby which they find online, extract an average price per square foot, and then decide that this is likely to be what a house or condo is worth based on those “comps”.

First factor: the unique real estate itself (how similar are the comps, really?)

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple to figure out that home’s likely sale price or the probable buyer’s value. Homes are much more nuanced than just the average price per square foot.   Unless the comparable sold property is truly comparable in every way – similar quality of updating or remodeling, similar location, similarly expensive landscaping –  and the timeframe recent, too, you’ll have to try to adjust based on varying factors. (And that’s not easy – it’s an appraiser’s area of expertise. But you may say “those comps had remodeled kitchens, so that may be worth X amount of money”. You would not ignore that big of a difference.) Look at the list of homes below – how much can you tell about remodeling, landscaping, or upgrades from a simple list? Not enough.
Comps in a Campbell community

Second factor: speed of sale, number of offers

The situation surrounding each sale is likewise quite varied.    A property that gets 4 or more offers on day 7 on the market is a different situation than 1 offer on day 43.  If you are writing a real estate contract on a home that is getting multiple offers, it’s not going to help you to compare it to a stale listing that sold with just one offer.  It’s not just comps: it can be the current competition that largely determines the final sale price of that house or condo.
Continue reading

What does a title company do? People helping buyers, sellers, real estate professionals with title and escrow work.What is the function of a title company or title insurance company in real estate purchases or refinances? In Silicon Valley, and the San Francisco Bay Area and northern California generally, title companies perform two specific services:

  • provide title insurance for real estate being bought or borrowed against
  • provide escrow services, acting as the neutral third party which takes in the deposit money and holds it during the escrow period, disbursing all funds when escrow closes and having someone go to the county recorder’s office to record the deeds to complete the sale

Title insurance companies research the title history, find out what recorded easements may exist,reveal any encumbrances (leins, clouds on title, etc.). An escrow officer from the title company is usually the professional with a notary’s license who will sign off home buyers and sellers on the final documents, too.

There are many other services that title companies provide. Many people wonder how to hold title, and while neither your Realtor nor your escrow officer can advise you on how to do so, the title companies all have a little 1 page handout explaining the major concepts for each option on how to hold title.

If you need to sign off on the final documents out of town or even out of the country, the escrow officer and her or his support staff will work with you to coordinate it. (It can be a little tricky if overseas and outside of the U.S.).

If you are selling your house or condo and discover that an old loan that you paid off is still showing up in the preliminary title report, the escrow officer at the title insurance company will work to get it resolved and removed.

The customer service department at title companies can research the chain of title, too. Sometimes it’s quite interesting as the chain brings you back to the time of patents and land grants, with hand written deeds in a style of cursive which is somewhat foreign to us today.

There are many other things that title companies do – big and small – and most of them are “behind the scenes” that few of us ever witness directly, but without which no one would be able to close out sales with the safety net of title insurance which we value so much.

Title insurance can be a confusing concept, but I wrote about it elsewhere on this site.

What Is Title Insurance and Who Pays For It?
What is a preliminary title report? Why does it matter?

Why do sellers prefer cashBuyers who are getting slammed out of the Silicon Valley real estate market due to low inventory and multiple offers are extremely frustrated. In many cases, they write offer after offer, and each time not only are their bids rejected, but they never even get a counter offer.

You should not depend on getting a 2nd chance, of course.  Just because you write a contract on a San Jose area home does not mean that the seller needs to give you a counter offer.  Some agents and sellers don’t respond at all – not nice, but if you get dozens of offers, sometimes that does happen.  Sometimes they just take the best offer and run. Othertimes they only counter the best offer and forget the rest.

The question arises all the time: why isn’t my 20% down offer just as good as the 50% down or the All Cash offer? Isn’t 20% down good enough? Or for that matter, why wouldn’t a 3.5% FHA backed loan be suitable?

Cash is better because there’s less risk

Twenty percent down is “good enough” if there are no other offers. If it’s multiple offers, though, it’s probably not sufficient for most sellers provided that the all cash offers are written with realistic pricing. Right now, 25% of all sales in Santa Clara County are all cash, and sellers would far rather deal with an offer that includes no finance or appraisal contingencies.  For sellers, the fewer contingencies the better and no contingencies is ideal.  Particularly now, when we are seeing a very sudden and dramatic upswing in pricing, appraisal contingencies can kill an offer’s chances of success. With all cash, there is no appraisal at all – it’s a slam dunk on that front. Continue reading

Just starting to think about buying a home? If you’re like most people, you’ll be looking at online listings of homes for sale here in Silicon Valley to see what they cost and how they look. Viewing homes for sale and the list prices is a good thing to incorporate in your first steps to assess the cost of home buying, but there are more data points to be used to create a sense of what it will cost to get the kind of home you want (and where you want it), or, coming from the financial side, how much home your money can actually buy.  Misreading the market, or not understanding the odds of success, can lead to frustration and a slower “learning curve”, and that can be expensive in an appreciating market!   Today I spent a few minutes explaining how to get a better handle on home prices in the video below.  I hope it will be helpful to folks in the San Jose – Los Gatos – Saratoga area who are just getting into the market now.

 

If you are interested in home buying and looking for a seasoned Realtor to assist you, please reach out to me with an email or a phone call.

  1. 3 beds, 2 full baths
    Home size: 1,270 sq ft
    Lot size: 8,407 sqft
  2. 3 beds, 2 full baths
    Home size: 1,113 sq ft
    Lot size: 5,009 sqft
  3. 3 beds, 3 full baths
    Home size: 1,443 sq ft
    Lot size: 435 sqft
  4. 2 beds, 2 full baths
    Home size: 1,008 sq ft
    Lot size: 3,659 sqft
  5. 5 beds, 4 full baths
    Home size: 3,001 sq ft
    Lot size: 8,581 sqft
  6. 4 beds, 2 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 1,320 sq ft
    Lot size: 1,698 sqft
  7. 3 beds, 2 full baths
    Home size: 1,092 sq ft
    Lot size: 5,270 sqft
  8. 3 beds, 2 full baths
    Home size: 1,905 sq ft
    Lot size: 6,534 sqft
  9. 3 beds, 2 full baths
    Home size: 1,400 sq ft
    Lot size: 5,662 sqft
  10. 3 beds, 2 full baths
    Home size: 1,500 sq ft
    Lot size: 6,446 sqft

See all Real estate in the city of San Jose.
(all data current as of 2/20/2017)

Listing information deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Read full disclaimer.

Today consumers have a lot of choices as to where to search for properties for sale in Silicon Valley (the South Bay area, Santa Clara County, San Jose, Los Gatos, Almaden etc.).  But not all “find a home” sites are equally accurate.  Some websites display listings that are sale pending, sold & closed or even withdrawn.

The very best, most accurate and most often updated site is the public branch of our agent-supported Multiple Listing Service or MLS, which is MLSListings.com.  You can find it at www.MLSListings.com. (If sending your own agent info a house, it is helpful if you provide both the street address and the MLS #.  By the way, the first few digits of the number imply the year that the listing was put into the system.  811 = 2011.  810 = 2010.)

Why is MLSListings.com the best source for finding Silicon Valley homes for sale?

It is updated constantly.  Within a few minutes of whenever a real estate agent or broker changes the listing status, comments, photos, showing instructions, open house information,etc., the new information is displayed on MLSListings.  While it’s not instantaneous, most changes appear within 5-10 minutes (photos being the slowest to load).

MLSListings is syndicated out to some other sites, but some don’t update often (or at all).  Other sites rely upon the listing agent to go to that one site and update the status.  Realtors and other licensees get busy and this task may slip through the cracks, making you believe that a home is available when it’s not. MLSListings.com is the source.

You don’t have to register. Some of the portals that you might consider visiting to view the MLS info may not include the virtual tour or all pics – or might show them to you only if you register.  You do not need to register to view houses, condos, townhouses, multi units etc. on MLSListings.com. Continue reading

Valley of Hearts Delight + Sereno Group LogoEarly in my career, I had the pleasure of working with a wonderful young woman (let’s call her Ann) who was preparing to buy her first house in San Jose.  Ann was all of about 23 or 24 years old, but she had been saving since she was 16 or 17 years old. So much discipline!  This Silicon Valley native had a clear idea of what she wanted (a house in a good part of Santa Clara County), what she expected (a bigger place that probably would need some work) and her long term goals (get a house and rent bedrooms out to friends and relatives later).

Together, we got her into a 4 bedroom Blossom Valley house with lots of potential.  Ann rented the other 3 rooms out to friends and relatives.  She worked to save the money to buy the property and has labored to make it better over the years. This was not an impulse buy at all – instead, it was part of a big plan she had since she was a teenager.  I did and do respect her so much: she had a very clear idea both of what she wanted, and what she needed to do to attain it.

How many of us can say the same or have so much discipline and planning?

I have a ton of respect for people who carefully save and plan.  At the other extreme, I worry tremendously about those who make spur of the moment, highly impulsive and seemingly unrealistic decisions.  When or if they ask me for advice, they don’t always like what I have to say, because as a friend or as their Realtor, I need to try to help them to make better decisions. Continue reading

If you read a termite or pest report, you may bump into the phrase “cellulose debris.” What does it mean?

Usually cellulose debris means that there are scraps of wood, sawdust, or bits of wood (possibly paper). It’s any kind of material made of wood.   Most often, cellulose debris is mentioned as found in the crawl space of a home.  Sometimes it’s infected (meaning there is a wood destroying organism such as termites present), other times it’s simply an invitation for “wood borers” such as termites to come and feast on the wood members that are laid out as a buffet for them.

In our Silicon Valley area, pest reports are normally “separated” into Section 1 and Section 2 findings.  If the cellulose debris is called out as Section 1, that means that there’s an infestation of termites or other wood-destroying organisms present.  If it’s Section 2, that means that it’s not yet infected but is an invitation to trouble.

Pest control operators will suggest that cellulose debris be removed so that termites and other wood eating oranisms aren’t attracted to the crawl space or other areas of the home.  It’s a nuisance to get rid of it, but much better to prevent a problem upfront than to wait and have to solve it later.

Related articles:

How Often Should You Get A Termite Inspection?

How to prepare for a home inspection in Silicon Valley 

What do you want from your home inspections?

Watch for Dampwood Termites in Silicon Valley!

  1. 1 bed, 1 full bath
    Home size: 908 sq ft
    Lot size: 914 sqft
  2. 3 beds, 2 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 3,783 sq ft
    Lot size: 10,802 sqft
  3. 3 beds, 2 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 1,708 sq ft
    Lot size: 1,742 sqft
  4. 3 beds, 2 full baths
    Home size: 984 sq ft
    Lot size: 7,971 sqft
  5. 3 beds, 3 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 2,231 sq ft
    Lot size: 1,219 sqft
  6. 4 beds, 2 full baths
    Home size: 1,565 sq ft
    Lot size: 6,011 sqft
  7. 3 beds, 2 full baths
    Home size: 1,166 sq ft
    Lot size: 5,096 sqft
  8. 3 beds, 2 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 1,773 sq ft
    Lot size: 958 sqft
  9. 4 beds, 2 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 1,602 sq ft
    Lot size: 1,916 sqft
  10. 4 beds, 3 full baths
    Home size: 2,077 sq ft
    Lot size: 2,439 sqft

See all Real estate in the city of Santa Clara.
(all data current as of 2/20/2017)

Listing information deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Read full disclaimer.

Sharing home buying infoPerhaps you’ve decided to buy your first Silicon Valley home before the end of the year, or that you want to make it a New Year’s Resolution for this upcoming winter.  It’s a really exciting, but also somewhat scary, thought.  It’s harder if you are going it completely alone…and also harder if you have 10 or 20 people giving you advice the whole way through.

How much sharing is helpful, and at what point will it bog you down or make things worse?

It’s not only helpful, but imperative to get solid advice from a very experienced, local real estate professional, ideally a Realtor. Real estate is local, so if your advice is from a friend or relative in another state, it simply may not apply here. (For example, in many parts of the U.S., it is normal to involve an attorney or to get a survey, but not here.  And in those areas it may not be common to worry about earthquake fault areas or drainage to protect your home from expansive clay soils.  The final signing of paperwork is different, as are the contracts, as are the ways school district boundaries are drawn, as are the disclosure requirements!)   You can check to see how long your real estate licensee or broker has been licensed.  That is not going to tell you everything, but it’s a good starting point.

It is critically important that anyone financially involved see all the homes you see.  Whether it’s parents helping with the down payment or a busy spouse who doesn’t want to spend time for most of the house hunt, my experience is that the odds of success are lowered significantly if these financially involved people do not go through the process of seeing what you see.  Continue reading

Read the HOA documentsWhat do you think about living in a neighborhood with an HOA, a homeowner’s association?  For many, living within an HOA means a nice, tidy community.  For others, it’s like signing up for Big Brother telling you way too much about what you can and cannot do.

HOAs in the San Jose area vary tremendously in what they can and cannot do, and also in the types of rules which are enforced.

In Silver Creek, in the Evergreen area of San Jose, you can look around and see a vast collection of stuccoed houses with tiled roofing.  So it would not surprise you if your roof needed to be tile there.

At Shadowbrook in the Almaden area of San Jose, houses are much older and were put up in about 1970, so you would expect more diversity, not so “cookie cutter”.  But take a look at the Shadowbrook architectural control policies and it appears that houses in that area must get approval before re-roofing.  A new wood shake roof will be automatically accepted (surprising, given the movement away from wood shake!).  A high end composition shingle roof will be allowed, but lower weight will not.  No mention of the metal roofs which are made to look like shingles, tiled roofs or any other types (foam, flat etc.). So your choices are limited by the HOA.  Is that good or bad?  That depends on what you want.

In some HOAs, you may not wash your car in the neighborhood at all. Want it clean? Take it to a car wash.  In some, you can only have your garage door open when moving your automobile in or out of the garage.  Many have rules about curtains that show on the front side of the home.

Do not assume that all HOAs are equally lax or stringent.  Be especially careful where pets are concerned!  Many tears are shed over this issue.  Buyers or tenants move in only to find out that their beloved pet is not welcome.

Boring as it may seem, the only way to know whether you will find any HOA regulations tolerable is to read them.  Buying or even leasing a home is a big decision and commitment.  Do not be rushed in making your decision about a condo, townhouse, duet home, house or any real estate at all with a Homeowner Association.   Get all of the information – all several hundred pages of it – and put the time in to read, read, read.  You’ll be glad you did.

Related reading

Why are those Silicon Valley HOA dues so high?

Does your HOA have enough in reserves?

Understand the Pros and Cons of Homeowners Associations in Silicon Valley

Buying a Silicon Valley condo? A few questions to ask!

  1. 5 beds, 4 full baths
    Home size: 3,001 sq ft
    Lot size: 8,581 sqft
  2. 4 beds, 2 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 1,320 sq ft
    Lot size: 1,698 sqft
  3. 4 beds, 2 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 2,936 sq ft
    Lot size: 6,577 sqft
  4. 5 beds, 2 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 2,075 sq ft
    Lot size: 6,011 sqft
  5. 3 beds, 2 full baths
    Home size: 2,032 sq ft
    Lot size: 5,009 sqft
  6. 3 beds, 2 full baths
    Home size: 1,216 sq ft
    Lot size: 784 sqft
  7. 4 beds, 2 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 1,802 sq ft
    Lot size: 5,183 sqft
  8. 3 beds, 2 full baths
    Home size: 1,374 sq ft
    Lot size: 6,446 sqft
  9. 2 beds, 2 full baths
    Home size: 1,490 sq ft
    Lot size: 435 sqft
  10. 3 beds, 3 full baths
    Home size: 1,303 sq ft
    Lot size: 4,486 sqft

See all Real estate in the Evergreen community.
(all data current as of 2/20/2017)

Listing information deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Read full disclaimer.

What happens at signoffThe sign off is an appointment in which home buyers and sellers sign the final papers which will lead to closing a few days later.  (In some states, the closing happens when all parties sign, and both sellers and buyers meet at the same time for the official paperwork.  Not so here in Silicon Valley, though.)  Usually the appointment takes place at the title company which is also handling the escrow – that is the norm in northern California.  Sometimes either buyers or sellers cannot be available during regular business hours.  In that case, they have an option of paying for a mobile notary to do the signing at their home or some other convenient location.

The closing, or close of escrow, takes place when the deed is recorded with the county at the County Recorder’s Office.  Usually each title company will send one person to record all of the deeds scheduled to close that day for that firm.    Once a particular property has been recorded, we say “it is on record”.  Someone from the title company will call or email the clients or the real estate agents (or both) to confirm that it’s on record.  For short, they often say “we have confirmation” – meaning that they’ve been told that the deed was recorded.  The property transfer happens when the deed is recorded – not when the papers are signed.

Related reading:

Who should be at the sign off or closing in Silicon Valley?

What is escrow?

  1. 5 beds, 4 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 3,368 sq ft
    Lot size: 9,626 sqft
  2. 3 beds, 2 full baths
    Home size: 1,215 sq ft
    Lot size: 6,011 sqft
  3. 6 beds, 5 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 6,257 sq ft
    Lot size: 23,958 sqft
  4. 2 beds, 1 full bath
    Home size: 908 sq ft
    Lot size: 784 sqft
  5. 2 beds, 2 full baths
    Home size: 1,065 sq ft
    Lot size: 1,089 sqft
  6. 4 beds, 3 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 2,390 sq ft
    Lot size: 8,102 sqft
  7. 3 beds, 2 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 2,556 sq ft
    Lot size: 6,969 sqft
  8. 5 beds, 3 full baths
    Home size: 2,268 sq ft
    Lot size: 8,407 sqft
  9. 2 beds, 1 full bath
    Home size: 903 sq ft
    Lot size: 2,003 sqft
  10. 4 beds, 2 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 2,766 sq ft
    Lot size: 10,454 sqft

See all Real estate in the city of Campbell.
(all data current as of 2/20/2017)

Listing information deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Read full disclaimer.

Translation

by Transposh - translation plugin for wordpress
Mary Pope-Handy
Realtor
ABR, CIPS, CRS, SRES
Sereno Group Real Estate
214 Los Gatos-Saratoga Rd
Los Gatos, CA 95030
408 204-7673
Mary (at) PopeHandy.com
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.
Let’s Connect
Find Mary on FacebookFollow Mary on Twitter
RSS FeedFollow Mary on YouTube

Please see more icons
at the bottom of the page.

The real estate search
Use the widget below to browse properties which are for sale, under contract (pending) or sold. Want to view only homes which are available now? Use the "find a home" link on the menu above (next to the "home" button).
Mary’s other sites & blogs
Valley Of Hearts Delight
Santa Clara County Real Estate,
with an interest in history

Move2SiliconValley.com
Silicon Valley relocation info

popehandy.com
Silicon Valley real estate,
focus on home selling

Silicon Valley Real Estate Report
Silicon Valley real estate
market trends & statistics
Mary’s Blog Awards
Top 25 real estate blogs 2016
2016: Personal Income's list of top 25 real estate blogs.


Best Realtor blog award
2016: Coastal Group OC's list of best Realtor blogs


The 2009 Sellsius list of top 12 women real estate bloggers
2009: Sellsius list of top
12 women real estate bloggers


Mary Pope-Handy's Live in Los Gatos blog won the 2007 Project Blogger contest, sponsored by Inman News and Active Rain

2007: Mary Pope-Handy and Frances Flynn Thorsen win the Project Blogger Contest for Mary's Live in Los Gatos blog. The contest was sponsored by
Active Rain and Inman News.


Non blog award


Best real estate agent in Silicon Valley from the San Jose Mercury News poll of readers in 2011
"Best real estate agent
in Silicon Valley"

2011 readers' poll,
San Jose Mercury News

Categories
Site Statistics
  • Users online: 1 
  • Visitors today : 577
  • Page views today : 1,480