Often I have clients who are interested in purchasing a 4 bedroom, 2 bath home in a good school district in Silicon Valley, particularly in the South Bay and West Valley areas.    Tonight I did a study on the MLS of homes that have sold and closed escrow in the last 4 months with these characteristics:

  • single family home (house)
  • 4 bedrooms
  • 2 bathrooms
  • 1800 to 2200 square feet of living space
  • 6000 to 10,000 sf lot

Disclaimers aside, here are the numbers for select West Valley Communities in the West/South Bay area with good schools. The first number is the average sales price per square foot, the second number is the average sales price:


And a look at the chart from all the way back in 2011. What’s changed? A lot! The order has shifted some, showing where demand has increased or decreased. Most noticeably, the prices are significantly lower in 2011 than they are now.

The home prices tend to run with the school district API scores.  You can check the 2013, three year average, API scores in Santa Clara County for both the districts and the individual schools online here.         Continue reading

Garage photoRecently I spent about an hour on the local multiple listing service,, looking at expired or canceled listings.  Perhaps it shouldn’t have been surprising, but in many cases, the photography on the homes which failed to sell was simply ghastly.

Whether there’s a professional photographer or the real estate agent is shooting the photos himself or herself, though, you’d hope that they’d move the clutter, make sure that the seller isn’t in the picture, and that the lights are on.  Incredibly, that doesn’t always happen.  Not everyone is equally “visual”. So here are a few tips:

  • clear the driveway of garbage cans, cars, bikes, etc.
  • if the roof is covered with leaves or debris, have it cleared off
  • make sure all hoses are rolled up and there are no items which do not belong in the front yard
  • best if the exterior photos do not emphasize the garage in most cases
  • also best if the front door is visible from the main photo
  • if needed, trim bushes so that they do not obstruct windows prior to the photo shoot
  • make sure that the house is super clean
  • clear counters in kitchen and bathrooms of most everything but a tiny number of items
  • make sure that lights are on, curtains are opened, and photos taken in daytime
  • toilet lids should be closed
  • closet doors should be closed
  • beds ought to be made
  • clutter on dressers, desks, headboards, and any other surfaces should be put away for the photos

Remember, the first “open house” for a home is online, so it is extremely important that the photos make a great impression.  If buyers don’t like what they see online, they won’t bother to come see it in person.

  1. 3 beds, 3 full baths
    Home size: 1,803 sq ft
    Lot size: 1,350 sqft
  2. 0 beds, 0 baths
    Home size: 3,332 sq ft
    Lot size: 4,748 sqft
  3. 5 beds, 5 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 4,765 sq ft
    Lot size: 10,497 sqft
  4. 4 beds, 4 full, 2 half baths
    Home size: 5,432 sq ft
    Lot size: 17,424 sqft
  5. 4 beds, 3 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 2,862 sq ft
    Lot size: 9,016 sqft
  6. 4 beds, 3 full baths
    Home size: 2,682 sq ft
    Lot size: 10,018 sqft
  7. 0 beds, 0 baths
    Home size: 5,079 sq ft
    Lot size: 7,535 sqft
  8. 5 beds, 3 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 4,107 sq ft
    Lot size: 13.68 ac
  9. 0 beds, 0 baths
    Home size: 3,464 sq ft
    Lot size: 5,967 sqft
  10. 5 beds, 3 full baths
    Home size: 2,695 sq ft
    Lot size: 7,405 sqft

See all Real estate in the city of San Jose.
(all data current as of 4/29/2017)

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  You can find it at (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 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. 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 Continue reading

5 things yourbuyers agent can doHome buyers in Silicon Valley are getting frustrated, discouraged and disheartened as they write offer after offer, only to lose out in multiple bid situations. It’s not just the poor FHA home buyer either – this is happening to those with 20% down and more too.   Yesterday I had about a dozen and a half offers on my cute listing in Santa Teresa, and had the unhappy task of telling all but one of those Realtors that their buyers did not get the house.

What can be done to improve the odds of success?

Usually losing out is a simple case of the best price and terms winning out.  (I wrote a series of articles on how to compete in multiple offers that you can find here.)  At times, though, there’s a bit more nuance, especially if there are two or more bids which are “neck and neck” or nearly tied.  Sometimes the buyer’s agent either does or doesn’t do certain things which can impact how your real estate purchase offer is viewed by the listing agent and seller(s).  Here are 5 important things that the buyer’s Realtor or sales person can do which will help the odds of success:

  1. The agent should read the MLS printout carefully to see if there are any instructions regarding offers.  This one may seem obvious. but too many buyer’s agents just draft the offer and send it in, ignoring information that will probably be useful (such as offer deadline, preferred form – CAR or PRDS contracts, availability of disclosures, the request to call before writing the contract etc.).  Ignoring clear instructions will usually result in creating bad feelings between the parties, and lessen the odds of success.
  2. The buyer’s agent should call or email the listing agent before writing the offer (and after reading the MLS!).  Sometimes there are requirements or just preferences that won’t be known unless contact is made.  Additionally, though, the listing agent will simply want to know about the level of interest and not have any surprises – it’s a courtesy call.  If the relationship between real estate agents is improved, so are the odds of success.
  3. The agent should ask if it is possible to present the offer in person… and be willing to do it, of course.  Many seller’s agents won’t want a live presentation (most would email), however the fact that your agent is willing to spend the time and make the effort to present in person usually speaks volumes about his or her professionalism. It’s also a hint that the agent is a cut above most.  In my real estate practice, several times I beat out other offers by asking if I could meet with the listing agent and sellers to discuss my clients’ offer, and then doing it.   (With my multiple offer situation yesterday, only 3 agents requested to present to me live.  One of them had the winning contract.  Of course, the rest of the package was also super strong – but this one step is a clue to the whole offer strength and commitment.)
    Continue reading
June 20 2014 San Jose Condo Inventory

June 20 2014 San Jose Condo Inventory

Home prices, like anything else which is bought and sold, are subject to the pressures of supply and demand.   In recent weeks, we have seen an increase in the number of condominiums and townhomes for sale in San Jose, but a slight lessening in buyer interest.  More supply with less demand equals lower prices.  This will be a bit of a shock to most home sellers, who’d read about the madness of the market in February, March and April.  But spring is nearly always stronger than summer – and we are seeing a fairly typical calming down in the Silicon Valley real estate market as we move into that milder summer market.

Since I mostly sell in the “west valley” areas of the Santa Clara Valley, I had a look at a few of them just to see what the trends look like. In this chart, please see the inventory of condominiums and townhomes for sale in 95120 (Almaden Valley), 95123 (Blossom Valley), 95124 (Cambrian) and 95125 (Willow Glen). Almaden seldom has many listings of townhouses or condos at all – over the last year, it looks as though it’s usually close to 5 at any given time. A slight uptick means 6 are available. The trend is much more dramatic in other parts of San Jose.

Home sellers: where the inventory rise is the steepest, you will probably see the most impact on the odds of selling and the price for which you can sell your home.   Home buyers:  if you see that inventory is largely unchanging, as it is in the tony Almaden Valley, the odds are good that it’s still pretty competitive for home buying and you will likely need to bring your best game forward to secure your future home.

Interested in other areas?  I work all of Santa Clara County and would be happy to help you buy or sell your condo, townhouse or single family home here.

June 20 2014 condo inventory 95120 95123 95124 95125

June 20 2014 condo inventory 95120 95123 95124 95125

  1. 1 bed, 1 full bath
    Home size: 813 sq ft
    Lot size: 1,785 sqft
  2. 2 beds, 2 full baths
    Home size: 1,116 sq ft
    Lot size: 1,393 sqft
  3. 2 beds, 2 full baths
    Home size: 1,133 sq ft
    Lot size: 1,132 sqft
  4. 0 beds, 1 full bath
    Home size: 661 sq ft
    Lot size: 261 sqft
  5. 2 beds, 2 full baths
    Home size: 1,350 sq ft
    Lot size: 1,785 sqft
  6. 2 beds, 2 full baths
    Home size: 1,040 sq ft
    Lot size: 827 sqft
  7. 3 beds, 2 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 1,887 sq ft
    Lot size: 1,611 sqft
  8. 3 beds, 3 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 2,319 sq ft
    Lot size: 3,441 sqft
  9. 2 beds, 2 full baths
    Home size: 1,647 sq ft
    Lot size: 435 sqft
  10. 2 beds, 2 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 1,224 sq ft
    Lot size: 871 sqft

See all Real estate in the city of San Jose.
(all data current as of 4/29/2017)

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

Old listingsThe real estate market in the San Jose – Santa Clara County and San Mateo County areas has been brutal for folks wanting to purchase property.  With multiple offers and large numbers of cash offers or non-contingent offers being so prevalent, it can seem impossible at times.

Discouraged home buyers should consider looking at overlooked properties, those which have been on the market for awhile and yet remain unsold. Most often, the difficulty with these Silicon Valley homes is that they are simply overpriced.  Sometimes the problem is that the showings are too severely limited, so most buyers have gone elsewhere.  It’s not unusual to see poor marketing overall, either: bad descriptions, bad photos, bad exposure. And at times there is a more significant issue at play, some sort of problem with the location or home itself.

When houses, condos or townhomes do not sell within a month, most buyers assume that there’s something wrong with them.  The thinking is that if they were all right, it would have sold – so there must be an issue.  They are right, of course, but usually the issue is fixable!  And most of the time, in my experience, it’s not even related to the property itself, but to the marketing (which includes the price).

Look specifically for homes that have been on the market for 30 days or more, for properties where the listing price has been decreased or should have been by now.  Research the expired, canceled and withdrawn listings too.


Related Reading:

Buying in a seller’s market? Do not expect a perfect house or condo!

What If Your Silicon Valley House Doesn’t Sell?

Let’s list high, we can always come down later

  1. 2 beds, 1 full bath
    Home size: 416 sq ft
    Lot size: 5,532 sqft
  2. 3 beds, 3 full baths
    Home size: 1,803 sq ft
    Lot size: 1,350 sqft
  3. 0 beds, 0 baths
    Home size: 2,120 sq ft
    Lot size: 5,662 sqft
  4. 2 beds, 1 full bath
    Home size: 900 sq ft
    Lot size: 19.56 ac
  5. 0 beds, 0 baths
    Home size: 3,332 sq ft
    Lot size: 4,748 sqft
  6. 4 beds, 4 full, 2 half baths
    Home size: 4,714 sq ft
    Lot size: 1.60 ac
  7. 5 beds, 5 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 4,765 sq ft
    Lot size: 10,497 sqft
  8. 4 beds, 4 full, 2 half baths
    Home size: 5,432 sq ft
    Lot size: 17,424 sqft
  9. 5 beds, 4 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 4,310 sq ft
    Lot size: 18.81 ac
  10. 4 beds, 3 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 2,862 sq ft
    Lot size: 9,016 sqft
  11. 5 beds, 5 full baths
    Home size: 2,750 sq ft
    Lot size: 11,543 sqft
  12. 4 beds, 3 full baths
    Home size: 2,682 sq ft
    Lot size: 10,018 sqft
  13. 0 beds, 0 baths
    Home size: 5,079 sq ft
    Lot size: 7,535 sqft
  14. 5 beds, 3 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 4,107 sq ft
    Lot size: 13.68 ac
  15. 4 beds, 1 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 1,763 sq ft
    Lot size: 30,012 sqft
  16. 0 beds, 0 baths
    Home size: 1,763 sq ft
    Lot size: 30,012 sqft
  17. 5 beds, 4 full baths
    Home size: 4,300 sq ft
    Lot size: 34.11 ac
  18. 5 beds, 5 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 3,964 sq ft
    Lot size: 7,405 sqft
  19. 0 beds, 0 baths
    Home size: 2,682 sq ft
    Lot size: 1.94 ac
  20. 3 beds, 1 full bath
    Home size: 2,682 sq ft
    Lot size: 1.94 ac

See all Real estate matching your search.
(all data current as of 4/29/2017)

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

It’s a January that feels like March, if a dry one.  The weather is clear, mild, and temps are around seventy degrees, the skies are blue and trees are beginning to blossom.  Typically, January is not a strong month for home buying in Silicon Valley.  The normal winter months are wet, “low inventory” ones, making most potential home owners put off shopping until after the Super Bowl, Valentine’s Day or some other point a little later in the calendar year, when there’s more selection and the weather is more conducive.

But what about you – should you wait?   Let’s consider this question, as I’m being asked it in email and in person several times a week right now.

Weather, Inventory, Interest Rates and Silicon Valley Real Estate

First, to note the obvious: there is no weather related reason to wait. (Sellers: pay attention!)

Second, let’s discuss selection.  Inventory is horribly low. Most people expect it to be higher in Spring.  Seasoned Realtors know that while this often happens, it doesn’t always, so we cannot count on it. (Check the Santa Clara County monthly real estate statistics here.)

How bad is it?  I’m on the MLS right now (our multiple listing service,  For single family homes (houses and duet homes) in Santa Clara County, there are 713 for sale right this moment which are not sale pending.   This is for the whole county, where there are 1.8 million people residing.  There are a mere 346 in the City of San Jose, home to nearly one million people.  It’s always low in January, but not this bad.  Have a look at the inventory of houses for sale in San Jose in recent years (chart by Altos Research, to which I have a subscription):

San Jose Inventory Altos Jan 22 2014

It’s clear that this is scrapping bottom. Often Silicon Valley residents think “it will be better next month”.  Usually it’s better by March.  But sometimes it actually gets worse before it gets better.  Last year provides a good example.  Continue reading

Have your own agentSome Silicon Valley home buyers do not want to have their own buyers agent, but instead expect that they can find properties in the San Jose area that they want to see and request that the listing agent show it to them in a private appointment.  These same potential buyers may be surprised that the listing agent may refuse to show them the listing outside of a regularly scheduled open house – that is, if the seller is permitting open houses.

What’s going on?

In earlier articles we’ve discussed the need for a buyer broker agreement (verbal at the least, but possibly in writing) and why you, as a buyer, ought to have your own representation at the negotiation table.  (If you missed these, see the links under “related reading” below.)   Today I want to dispel the myth that the listing agent is required to open up and show condos or houses for sale to anyone who calls and requests seeing them and explain why that’s the case.

Showings of homes for sale are determined by the listing agreement or contract between the home seller, the listing agent or Realtor and the broker

The most important thing for buyers to understand is that the accessibility of the home for viewings depends upon the agreement, verbally or in writing, between the owner of the property and the agent/brokerage hired to market, negotiate, and sell the real estate.   It’s not an “on demand” situation where an interested buyer can insist on seeing the property as desired. Here are some of the expected scenarios and reasons why showings are somewhat restricted most of the time: Continue reading

What if your home doesn't sellYou have cleaned your house, decluttered it and cleared out so that potential home buyers could see the house alone.  You have followed your agent’s advice on pricing and staging.  You are exhausted, and at the end of it all, your house did not sell.

This is a difficult situation for Silicon Valley homeowners, especially as they read that it’s a “seller’s market“, as it is today.  That would lead you to believe that prices are strong and sellers are in control.  But that’s not always the case.

In every market, no matter how “strong”, some houses, condominiums and townhouses simply don’t sell.  In fact they may never even get an offer.  What’s going on?

Let’s first talk pricing.  The #1 reason why most homes don’t sell is overpricing. (We’ll address more issues at the end of this topic.)

Most of the time, Realtors and other real estate licensees can give you the “probable buyer’s value“. But figuring out what a buyer will want is not like a perfect mathematical equation.  We know what the odds are, most of the time, and for the most part, real estate licensees will do their best to give you correct info.  Sometimes, though, Silicon Valley sellers don’t want to hear it.  They may have their own number in mind, no matter what the comps indicate.

So some home owners in the San Jose area are literally the highest bidders on their own homes.  The market analysis might indicate a probable value of $800,000, but the homeowner is sure it’s worth $900,000.  Or more.  Then what? Continue reading

When Silicon Valley home owners prepare their property for the competitive real estate market, they want to get a good return on their investment of time and money.  Often the best staging work is a matter of decluttering, updating or improving floor coverings, wall coverings fixtures and countertops.  It’s what I call “lipstick and rouge” rather than cosmetic surgery.  Please remember that the shift is from this being “your home” and a reflection of you to a product you wish to sell.  So it’s got to be appealing to the market more than anything else – and that means taking your own personal taste out of the equation.

Today let’s talk color.

Years ago, the conventional wisdom was that all San Jose, Los Gatos or Santa Clara County home buyers wanted white walls “because it makes a home look bigger”. It is true that lighter colors tend to help with the light, bright and airy look, but all white is also all boring.  All white homes can be difficult to sell and too frequently those homes sell for much less or do not sell at all!

Have a look at the image above.  Do you find that the all-white look is the most appealing? Most buyers would say not – that a splash of color makes the room “pop” and more interesting and desirable. Continue reading

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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.
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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
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