In Silicon Valley, most of the licensed real estate professionals belong to local, state, and a national trade group. There’s a name for members of these associations, in which dues paying members promise to abide by a code of ethics. Do you know that the name is? You’ll hear various things, even out of members: Realtor, Realitor, Realator, Relator, Reeltur. Which is it? The answer is the first one, REALTOR. It’s two syllables, pronounced Real-tor. (There is no a, e, i, o, or u between the REAL and the TOR parts.)
Also, please note that being a member of the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the California Association of Realtors (CAR) and the Silicon Valley Association of Realtors (SILVAR) is not the same as being licensed. The states issue licenses for real estate sales people, brokers, and other professionals. Realtors are first licensed by the state and then voluntarily join the trade group for the industry. In California, it’s now the Bureau of Real Estate which issues the salesperson or broker licnese. (Please see the related article at the bottom of this post for more on that.)
Looking for a Silicon Valley Realtor? A Los Gatos Realtor? A San Jose Realtor? Please call or email me, Mary Pope-Handy, to chat about your real estate needs, buying and selling a home here in the South Bay area. And please, don’t call me or anyone else Realitor, Realator, Relator, or Reeltur!
I am a full-time, second generation, award-winning & enthusiastic Los Gatos real estate agent, serving this town and the county too – a Silicon Valley Realtor. Real estate was my second career after I’d worked happily in the area of religious education (in Catholic high schools) & ministry for several years. Economics necessitated an employment change, and real estate was a natural fit as it really is a “helping profession” and I’d grown up with it. I like to joke that my first words were “raised foundation”.
An area native, I was raised in Santa Clara and Saratoga, graduating from Saratoga High in 1977. As an adult I lived in several parts of the valley, including 10 years in Cambrian Park, and since 1999, in Los Gatos. Over the years I’ve also spent extensive time in Campbell, Almaden, and many parts of the West Valley.
I hold a Bachelor of Arts from Gonzaga University in Spokane (a Catholic university run by Jesuits – in Religious Studies, 1981) and thanks to my parents’ generosity, was able to enjoy a fabulous Junior year abroad at Gonzaga-in-Florence, Italy (1979-1980), which cemented my love of travel and all things Italian. (With some refreshing, I can still manage a simple conversation in Italian – which is fun!) After some teaching, I earned a Master of Arts (in Systematic Theology, 1986) from The Graduate Theological Union/Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley.
Afterwards I returned to teaching religion in Catholic high schools, a very rewarding career, for a few years, until our children came onto the scene. I did a lot of related volunteer work too, with my favorite being as a volunteer chaplain at Good Samaritan Hospital in the early 90’s. Additionally, I worked in the Rainbows Program at our parish, St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception in Los Gatos. Rainbows is a peer-to-peer ministry/support group for kids suffering from any major loss, such as the death of a parent or divorce.
Sereno Group, Los Gatos
Serving Santa Clara County: Los Gatos, Monte Sereno, Saratoga, Campbell, and San Jose (Almaden Valley, Cambrian Park, Willow Glen) and nearby
California Department of Real Estate license # 01153805
Hobbies include enjoying walks in the neighborhood, Belgatos Park, and throughout the San Francisco Bay area – usually with camera in hand and blogging ideas being created! I love to write, hence the huge number of blogs, and wonder if someday I might write a novel. Photography, live music, and travel are all top hobbies too. I often enjoy the Almaden Music in the Park or any of the Los Gatos musical events. In 2016, I was over the moon to hear Andrea Bocelli perform at the SAP center in San Jose.
There are clever, but ultimately unsubstantial, things that real estate consumers might experience in the process of buying or selling a home – or just researching Silicon Valley real estate on the web. Here are a few of the doozies that some people fall for, in no particular order:
(1) Quoting the contract paragraph by number is meant to impress you with the agent’s grasp of the contract, which must be thorough if the thing is memorized like chapter and verse. You might hear something like this: “as it says in paragraph 14 of the purchase agreement”. Perhaps better is not so much the paragraph number, but the nuance, how it matters and perhaps how the alternative contract or paperwork reads on the same subject. I like this better: “The PRDS contract says that any repairs must be done by a licensed contractor. The CAR contract says that anyone may do repairs, even the home owner, as long as it is done in ‘workmanlike fashion’ with comparable quality materials.”
A similar twist may be quoting statistics that aren’t real. “There are 2.3 months of inventory in Campbell right now” may be a made up number. Realtors know that sounding precise makes them sound credible. But is it true? Check it out. (As for me, I am not a walking statistics machine. I have to look it up, or crunch it, to tell an answer. Yesterday a total stranger texted me and asked what the cheapest townhouse or condo in Mountain View is right now. I am not the MLS! I don’t know off the top of my head – and I’m not going to fake it.)
(2) Focusing on less relevant marketing approaches to selling your home may be a way for the potential listing agent to appear better, to seem to “do more”. The most important is price, because a grossly overpriced house will not sell for top dollar even if the print and web marketing are over the top wonderful. The second most important is photos, because they are your first open house – albeit virtual. If the photos are poor, or if every major area or room isn’t shown, whatever is not represented is deemed as bad. Photos of a cluttered, mismatched home will cause buyers to skip your property. That said, some agents will say that they will advertise your home in China, so you should list with them. Well, Chinese buyers are real, but they either come over to buy or they have close family and friends here who will help them buy. And whoever is here can see the listing on the regular channels. Similarly, things like drone photography do not usually improve either the odds of a home selling or the price for which it will sell in most cases. For a luxury property with a lot of land, ok, yes, of course a drone video or photo series would be great. But some agents push the drone angle only because it differentiates them – they’ll provide what other agents don’t want to provide. (Because it doesn’t make sense for most tract homes.) Beware marketing gimmicks.
(3) Combined experience – if you have a team with 4 agents and they each have 2 years’ experience, you might hear this: “we have 8 years combined experience”. Nonsense. You have 4 people with 2 years each.
Alternatively, there may be things which sound like trickery but aren’t. One friend of mine, on the east coast, bemoaned that every time he wanted to buy a house, the listing agent told him that another offer was coming in. “Do they teach you to say that at real estate school?” he complained. No, they don’t teach us to say that. In fact, if it’s not true that another offer is coming in, we may not say so if we are Realtors – it’s against the Realtor Code of Ethics to lie. (Not all real estate agents are Realtors. The state issues the real estate license, but membership in the National Association of Realtors is voluntary.)
Another thing which make some sellers skeptical feeling is the need for staging. “Why should I fill my empty rental house with someone else’s stuff? Buyers can see that it’s a kitchen!” But let me tell you, there are statistics proving that staged homes do sell for more. A good Realtor wants your home to sell for top dollar, wants you to become a raving, lifelong fan, and hopes like crazy you’ll be so happy that you’ll refer your best family and friends to that same Realtor.
As a Silicon Valley home buyer or seller, the best thing you can do for yourself is to hire a great Realltor. Don’t do it because they use slick “closing techniques”, but because they are experienced, knowledgable, capable, honest, and not afraid of hard work. Right now 20% of all real estate licensees have less than 2 years’ experience selling homes in the US. (Source for that statistic: CNBC article.) It doesn’t cost more to hire a great Realtor, so please do your due dilligence and don’t fall for stupid tricks. Go for substance.
How do you choose where you’d like to live in Silicon Valley? Especially if you’re relocating here from out of the area, this can be a huge question (for more relocation-specific posts, check out my blog Move2SiliconValley.com). Most Santa Clara County home buyers have strong preferences for low crime, good schools, and pleasant looking, quiet neighborhoods.
My clients often ask me to compare for them areas which are somewhat similar, such as Los Gatos & Los Altos. Off the top of my head, I can give general answers, such as this: Compared to Los Gatos, Los Altos is a more expensive (perhaps 20 or 25% more?), has a very slightly smaller population, is a little more spread out, has slightly milder weather and is overall “quieter” in terms of the downtown night life. Los Altos is more convenient if you want to go to Palo Alto or San Francisco. Los Gatos is more convenient if you like to visit Santa Cruz, Monterey and the coast. Los Gatos is more mixed in terms of housing types (it still has many beautiful historic districts with nicely renovated Victorian homes, but also newer construction). Both are “nice looking” but Los Gatos has more varied terrain as it is nestled into the Santa Cruz Mountains. Both enjoy pleasant neighborhoods, good schools, lower than normal crime and community involvement.
That’s the kind of “ballpark” info I can tell people about various areas of the Santa Clara Valley, whether it’s comparing one part of San Jose to another (Cambrian Park vs Almaden Valley vs Willow Glen) or one city to another (Cupertino vs Saratoga). I can give general info on schools.
What I can’t do (and most agents can’t) is recite from memory school API scores, median household income, housing density, crime statistics, etc. For that we have the web! Here are some very helpful links which can assist you in your search to find the part of Santa Clara County that’s the best fit for you, your wants, needs, and budget:
Want to compare areas in and near San Jose? A great tool for some basic and broad information by zip code is Zip Lookup. Input a zip code and get an easy to read map of population information like density, age, and income. For more official documentation, census data is easily searchable online through Fact Finder – just search by county, city, town, or zipcode. A good overall source for research is Melissa Data.
Several times in recent years I have represented buyers in transactions where the seller’s side of the escrow seems to be a little messed up. In most of those cases, the problem was a result (directly or indirectly) of the home seller doing too much prep work before hiring an agent. That is really putting the cart before the horse, is a waste of money and it can cause harm to you, the seller, down the road.
In a couple of instances, the sellers ordered pre-sale inspections first and hired a real estate licensee later. What could be wrong with that? Like all professionals, there are better and worse inspectors (and better and worse companies). There are firms with fantastic reputations for honesty, thoroughness, and reliability. And then there are the duds.
Most of my real estate colleagues have a preferred vendor or two, but also have a long list of professionals whom they would trust to inspect a property and do a good job of it. Most home sellers, though, do not have much experience with inspectors and do not know these companies by reputation. More than once, I’ve heard sellers picking a national brand due to name recognition. That may be OK some of the time, but it’s sure not how most real estate agents would suggest hiring anyone!
When you hire a Realtor or other real estate licensee in a full service capacity (which is what happens most of the time), you are paying not for just the MLS entry, the negotiations, the fliers etc., but the whole transaction package, from start to finish. You’re paying for advice and guidance and that can begin long, long before there’s a sign in the yard. Why not take advantage of that guidance from the very beginning, with basic input on decluttering and staging and then which inspections to order – and for those, get a list of trusted sources from the real estate professional you hire.
As for the sales in which the seller made a poor inspection choice, in one case it cost that home owner about $10,000 and in another a lost sale.
There are many decisions you’ll need to make when selling your home. You don’t have to go it alone! Hire a great agent or broker to work with you and take advantage of your trusted resource from the very beginning. That will save you time, money and stress in the long run!
If you found this informative, there’s plenty more to read. Try one of these related posts:
$2,188,888 : 10220 Phar Lap DR, CUPERTINO4 beds, 3 baths
$2,398,000 : 11411 Bubb RD, CUPERTINO5 beds, 3 baths
$1,158,000 : 19999 Stevens Creek BLVD 209, CUPERTINO2 beds, 2 baths
$2,898,000 : 10490 Madera DR, CUPERTINO5 beds, 3 baths
$1,299,000 : 10110 Firwood DR, CUPERTINO2 beds, 2 baths
$2,398,800 : 1412 Rose Garden LN, CUPERTINO4 beds, 3 baths
$1,988,000 : 721 Stendhal LN, CUPERTINO4 beds, 3 baths
$3,500,000 : 994 Westlynn WAY, CUPERTINO0 beds, 0 bath
$1,888,000 : 879 Miller AVE, CUPERTINO0 beds, 0 bath
$2,888,800 : 10061 Pasadena AVE, CUPERTINO0 beds, 0 bath
See all Real estate in the city of Cupertino.
(all data current as of 4/20/2018)
Listing information deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Read full disclaimer.
One of the most common misconceptions I see among home buyers today is that the real estate agent assisting them is the one who should locate the property to view first. This was true 20 years ago, but not today. (A spin on this is “I found the property first. My agent has no value!”)
Let’s get this huge misconception addressed right away. Anyone can find homes for sale on the web; the real estate community opened this up years ago and syndication made it even more pervasive.
Realtors are no longer the gatekeepers of the inventory. Most of the time, both the agent and the home buyer are going to the web to see possible matches. Your agent may happen to see something before you do, or may find something in an area where you aren’t looking, but the odds are that you, the hyper motivated home buyer, will see the home online first.
Why is that? For one, as a home buyer, you are likely obsessed with finding your next home. Your every free moment is spent scouring real estate sites for listings. Secondly, while you’re doing that, your agent might be showing properties, staging a listing, meeting inspectors, having photos taken of a listing, attending a sign off (settlement), getting keys duplicated, giving relocation clients a tour, etc. And your Realtor is working with LOTS of home buyers and home sellers. So most likely, you will see it first. Finding the home is not your real estate agent’s main value. In other words, commissions aren’t “finder’s fees”. They are much, much more than that.
$848,000 : 3705 Terstena PL 202, SANTA CLARA2 beds, 2 baths
$1,198,000 : 695 Clara Vista AVE, SANTA CLARA3 beds, 2 baths
$1,699,000 : 572-574 Harvard AVE, SANTA CLARA0 beds, 0 bath
$1,180,000 : 3585 Butcher DR, SANTA CLARA3 beds, 2 baths
$1,148,888 : 46 Linden DR, SANTA CLARA3 beds, 2 baths
$1,400,000 : 2563 Pebble Beach DR, SANTA CLARA3 beds, 1 bath
$368,000 : 988 Kiely BLVD E, SANTA CLARA1 bed, 1 bath
$1,249,000 : 4726 Cheeney ST, SANTA CLARA3 beds, 3 baths
$568,000 : 2250 Monroe ST 335, SANTA CLARA1 bed, 1 bath
$958,000 : 592 Valeri Ruth CT, SANTA CLARA2 beds, 3 baths
See all Real estate in the city of Santa Clara.
(all data current as of 4/20/2018)
Listing information deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Read full disclaimer.
Are you interested in Los Gatos real estate and Los Gatos neighboorhoods? Over on my Live in Los Gatos blog, I’ve been reworking articles about the various residential areas of town, digging into the county records for subdivision info, shooting video as I’m driven through various neighorooods and adding MLS information. Today I completed a whole new article with video on the Vista del Monte neighborhood in east Los Gatos.
Please have a look!
Or if you’d just like to see the video, here it is (bigger version on Live in Los Gatos):
As a Los Gatos Realtor and resident, I hope to showcase more & more areas within the town, as well as in San Jose and the greater Silicon Valley area. If you are interested in buying or selling a home here, please call or email me today!
$3,388,000 : 17348 E Vineland AVE, MONTE SERENO4 beds, 4 baths
$1,295,000 : 18400 Overlook RD 48, LOS GATOS3 beds, 3 baths
$3,599,000 : 470 San Benito AVE, LOS GATOS6 beds, 5 baths
$3,599,000 : 470 San Benito AVE, LOS GATOS0 beds, 0 bath
$2,974,000 : 18630 Farragut LN, LOS GATOS6 beds, 3 baths
$4,600,000 : 18690 Withey RD, MONTE SERENO5 beds, 4 baths
$1,399,000 : 269 Los Gatos BLVD, LOS GATOS2 beds, 1 bath
$5,600,000 : 15710 West RD, LOS GATOS6 beds, 6 baths
$2,495,000 : 16140 Cypress WAY, LOS GATOS2 beds, 1 bath
$1,398,000 : 15400 Winchester BLVD 4, LOS GATOS3 beds, 3 baths
See all Real estate in the 95030 zip code.
(all data current as of 4/20/2018)
Listing information deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Read full disclaimer.
Perhaps 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
You met a real estate agent – perhaps at an open house, perhaps you saw a few homes with him or her, or perhaps that person did a market analysis on your home and interviewed to list it – and now that person keeps phoning or emailing you. Why? Why won’t he or she leave you alone?
The answer to that is simple: that Realtor or other real estate sales person thinks of you as either a client or a potential client (a prospective client or prospect or a “lead”), so is following up to get your business. Realty professionals are always looking for their next job; perhaps job # 1 is finding people who want to hire them since without clients, they are out of business. To that end, when real estate agents are trained, they are told to stay in touch lest they lose business. So those who are serious about being successful will do just that. Some licensees will try communicating a few times and then give up. Others will be undaunted for longer. Continue reading
Home buyers want to exercise caution about expressing much when viewing homes in the presence anyone other than their own party or their own Realtor. Many intuitively know to say very little in front of the seller, the listing agent, or other buyers or other agents at an open house except for their own. Since many of our Silicon Valley residents originally hail from another country, the temptation can be to switch modes and converse in their native language. But that, too, may not always give the confidentiality you’d hope for, as many people here speak two or more languages, and you might be surprised to find out who speaks which one(s).
My blonde haired, blue eyed younger sister is fluent in Spanish after studying at the language institute at Cochabamba, Bolivia and later living in Venezuela for several years. She tells a very funny story about later studying and living in New York and hearing, loud and clear, some young men say rude things in Spanish, mistakenly assuming that she didn’t understand a word of it. Apparently, her Irish got the better of her, and she told them off using Spanish that would make a sailor blush. I bet they didn’t make that assumption about language capabilities after that!
Home sellers will want to be discreet also. They are usually best served when they are absent during showings – it heads off all kinds of problems at the pass. Their listing agent should be present during conversations with potential buyers or buyers’ agents to keep that seller from saying something that might be harmful to his or her negotiating position later. (And in fact the buyers’ agent is not supposed to ask the seller any questions unless the listing agent is also there – that’s part of our Realtor code of ethics.) Continue reading