Questions that the disclosures raiseWhen in doubt, disclose” is the advice that real estate and legal professionals use as a guiding principal in home sales.  And yet many sellers forget or miss things that should be told to the buyer, and some listing agents are a bit sloppy in reviewing their clients’ disclosure paperwork.  It is not uncommon to see questions unanswered or only partially answered.  The home owner may presume that if the disclosure paperwork was done wrong, the Realtor hired to help market and sell the home will catch it.  Would that it were so, but too often, that is not the case.

To avoid problems later, whether small or big, it is best to be thorough and careful while making your disclosure.

Small problems are created by seller (and listing broker) omissions when the paperwork gets kicked back for clarification or to complete the needed response.  Bigger problems are forged when a sale is nearly closed and a new disclosure is made – introducing a brand new 3 day “right of rescission” for the home buyer.  Worse yet is something substantial which is only brought to light after the close of escrow.  At that point, it’s not an inconvenience, it risks being costly and time consuming to resolve it.

The State of California requires that the Transfer Disclosure Statement or TDS be filled out in most realty transactions.  The intention of the form is to help you, the property owner, to disclose anything materially impacting value or desirability.  That’s a tall order to fill, so other forms have been created to supplement the TDS, which has pretty much become Step #1 for disclosing defects and other issues to buyers.

What kind of things are often skipped in the real estate disclosure paperwork?

On the TDS, a very common error involves the question as to whether Continue reading

Selling without an agentSometimes sellers want to sell their home without the representation of a licensed real estate agent.  But to try to encourage agents to show their home to a buyer, those same sellers might offer a buyer’s agent a commission (often somewhere between 2.5 and 3%, but it varies).  The sellers are surprised when they don’t get a ton of real estate professionals clamoring to see and show their properties.

What’s going on?  Why are licensed real estate sales people sometimes (or often) reluctant to show the home of an “unrepresented seller” (or “for sale by owner” seller)?

There are a couple of reasons why Realtors and other licensees may not be wildly enthusiastic about getting into a transaction with an unrepresented seller.

  1. There is more liability for the licensed real estate professional
  2. There is the risk of “implied agency

Sometimes, as you know, transactions don’t go as planned and buyers or sellers are both unhappy at the end and the whole mess may end up in court.  (Knock on wood, this has not happened to me!) If it does, the judge may well look at everyone involved and find that there was one professional real estate person in the bunch.  The liability may shift greatly onto that person – even if he or she was not representing both sides (was not a dual agent) and was not compensated for the responsibility of both sides. Continue reading

Where have all the offers gone?Real estate agents from Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties are relaying that although it’s still a strong seller’s market, they are seeing fewer numbers of offers.  Where there used to be perhaps a dozen bids, now maybe there are 5.  For properties that might have gleaned six offers in March, now there are 2 or 3.  Even with just three offers, overbids are the norm and frequently, the successful bidders are the ones going in with few or no contingencies for loan, appraisal or inspection.  (That’s not a safe practice and not recommended, but the reality is that sellers want to know that once’s it’s sold, it is going to close for sure – so they pick the buyers who will take on all the risk and who also bring in the best price.)

And, as before, not every home gets multiple offers.  Some get no contracts at all.

There’s so much hype about the multiple offers and overbids and bidding wars that many Silicon Valley home owners have unrealistic expectations regarding the summer real estate market and find themselves very disappointed with the results of their labors in getting the property to market.

Unfortunately, our multiple listing service,, does not track the numbers of offers, so we do not have an official way of measuring what’s happening with this particular factor.  Networking with other agents, writing and receiving offers, though, Realtors are “boots on the ground” and can gauge the market with issues like this before the impact shows up in other measurable data such as the sale price to list price or days to sell.

Sellers, don’t worry – it is still a fine time to sell your San Jose, Los Gatos or nearby home.  It is very important to work with a great realty professional who will guide you on pricing, staging, showings, and every other facet so that you maximize your net takeaway in this market.  Some home owners will be unrealistically optimistic about the market conditions and will overprice their homes.  Don’t be that seller who gets set up for failure in a market where success is probable.  Understand that summer markets are usually cooler than spring and that getting things right is more important now that there is less buyer interest.  One good offer is all it takes, but if you can get two or three, you should be set up for a happy ending.

  1. 4 beds, 2 baths
    Home size: 1,590 sq ft
    Lot size: 5,806 sqft
  2. 4 beds, 3 baths
    Home size: 2,137 sq ft
    Lot size: 5,601 sqft
  3. 3 beds, 2 baths
    Home size: 1,991 sq ft
    Lot size: 5,998 sqft
  4. 3 beds, 3 baths
    Home size: 1,361 sq ft
    Lot size: 2,452 sqft
  5. 4 beds, 4 baths
    Home size: 1,890 sq ft
    Lot size: 3,380 sqft
  6. 3 beds, 2 baths
    Home size: 1,503 sq ft
    Lot size: 7,357 sqft
  7. 3 beds, 2 baths
    Home size: 1,113 sq ft
    Lot size: 500 sqft
  8. 4 beds, 2 baths
    Home size: 1,628 sq ft
    Lot size: 6,006 sqft
  9. 3 beds, 2 baths
    Home size: 1,095 sq ft
    Lot size: 4,839 sqft
  10. 3 beds, 1 bath
    Home size: 1,021 sq ft
    Lot size: 5,758 sqft

See all Real estate in the Santa Clara community.
(all data current as of 9/19/2018)

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

Speed of home sale and sp to lp ratio in LG with CUHSDSilicon Valley home sellers often have trouble believing that their best price will happen if they sell in just 2-3 weeks (assuming open market, professional representation, multiple listing service exposure, etc.) rather than 2-3 months.  What I hear sometimes is “I’m in no hurry, I can wait for my price”.  Normally, a slower home sale means a lower price. (An exception can be when prices are rising really fast and the home goes off the market for awhile before returning, in which case it can be viewed as a new listing again.)

I thought it might be helpful to look at some numbers to see what really happens with the real estate market statistically, that is, what we can see from the data.  Yesterday I spent a little time looking at the MLS and crunching numbers.  Here’s what I see.

Los Gatos-Monte Sereno area (“area 16”) with Campbell Union High School District (Westmont, Leigh), sold in the last 30 days (so not just March, but also going into April):

  1. All: For all houses sold in the last 30 days, the average sale price to list price ratio was less than 1%off (almost 100%)  and the average price per SF was $626.53
  2. Fast: For homes which sold after just 21 or fewer days on the market and closed in the last 30 days, the average sale price to list price ratio was 102% and the average price per SF was $627.29
  3. Slower: For homes which sold after more than 21 days and closed in the last 30 days, homes sold at an average of 3% under list price and at an average price per sf of $625.43

So there’s a gap of about 5% between the sale price to list price ratio of the fast selling to slower selling homes.  (Yes, that is an amount similar to what is spent on commissions in many cases, so NOT a small figure!)  OK, so in that segment of the realty market, it does appear to make a difference.  What if we look at it from another angle?

All of Santa Clara County for March 2014

What if we look at a bigger area?  Will the trend be different?  Let’s have a look at Santa Clara County, again single family homes, sale price to list price ratio only, but this time for closings in the month of March.

  1. All sales in March 2014 105.6%
  2. Homes sold in 21 days or less 107.6%
  3. Homes sold in 21 days or more 99.6%

For the whole city of San Jose in March, the “gap” in the sale price to list price ratio between selling faster and slower is 6%.  OK then, what if we look at just part of San Jose, will it be any different? Continue reading

This way out sign Visiting Silicon Valley and San Jose area open homes is a great way to get to know neighborhoods, architectural styles and the market overall. I encourage people thinking of buying or selling to visit the opens nearby to get a pulse on the market and what’s “out there”.

A few open house tips, in terms of what to be aware of:

  • feel the floor as you walk through the condo or house: is it level?
  • smell the various rooms – are there candles or other scents intended to mask odors?
  • note the light and time of day, as well as the direction the home and windows face and ask yourself if the home gets adequate light for your taste
  • is the layout good?
  • is there enough storage?
  • if there are problems with the home, can they be fixed?
  • what needs updating or remodeling, or will need it soon?
  • how are the homes, yards, and cars nearby?
  • where are the power lines? are they regular, or high voltage power lines?
  • was the home flipped or being lived in by long term owners?
  • does each room have appropriate furniture, or is it barely furnished to make the room and space appear larger?
  • have interior doors been removed? (this is an old “model home” trick)

The best homes will have presale inspections and disclosures completed which you can view prior to writing an offer.  It can be very helpful to familiarize yourself with the various reports, inspections, and disclosures so that you understand the range of normal. Older homes will not be defect free, and sellers will not make them perfect either – so get a feel for what to expect by perusing some of these if the binders are available during your open house. (Do understand that the agent is likely going to read it as a “buying signal” so explain that you just want to understand how the paperwork looks.)

For more tips on what to include when viewing Santa Clara County homes for sale, please see:
Viewing An Open House  on my main website.

  1. 4 beds, 2 baths
    Home size: 1,590 sq ft
    Lot size: 5,806 sqft
  2. 3 beds, 3 baths
    Home size: 2,531 sq ft
    Lot size: 3,663 sqft
  3. 3 beds, 4 baths
    Home size: 2,313 sq ft
    Lot size: 8,690 sqft
  4. 5 beds, 2 baths
    Home size: 1,755 sq ft
    Lot size: 9,700 sqft
  5. 2 beds, 1 bath
    Home size: 900 sq ft
    Lot size: 20.00 ac
  6. 4 beds, 4 baths
    Home size: 2,413 sq ft
    Lot size: 1,955 sqft
  7. 4 beds, 3 baths
    Home size: 2,279 sq ft
    Lot size: 10,410 sqft
  8. 4 beds, 4 baths
    Home size: 2,116 sq ft
    Lot size: 2,334 sqft
  9. 4 beds, 4 baths
    Home size: 2,352 sq ft
    Lot size: 6,534 sqft
  10. 4 beds, 3 baths
    Home size: 2,137 sq ft
    Lot size: 5,601 sqft

See all Real estate matching your search.
(all data current as of 9/19/2018)

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

Thou Shalt Not ParkIf you’re selling a home in Silicon Valley, it’s likely that you’ll have an open house or two.  How should you prepare for it for it?  Today we’ll go over some tips.

First, plan to be gone during any open house events! (This goes double for pets, with the exception of fish!)  One of the biggest mistakes I see is home owners hosting their own open houses. Bay area home buyers don’t want you there – they feel inhibited and worried that they will say something offensive, so they say nothing and hurry out. Serious home buyers will want to linger and will want to imagine where their furniture will fit. They may be mentally remodeling your home too. But if you’re there, they will be very uncomfortable. Hire a good agent who will handle this task for you (or have someone from that brokerage do it).

Second, make your townhouse, condo or house as close to perfect as possible for the open house. Your property needs to be squeaky clean, safe and inviting. I’m presuming that you’ve already done all the fixes and staging needed generally for selling your home. Here’s a list of a few last minute to-do’s:

  1. Keep your driveway clear of cars so visitors can park there.
  2. Make all walkways free of tripping hazards (garden hoses, toys etc.) – you do not want your buyers to be “on edge”. Don’t water the garden just prior to the open house or guests might slip (or track in more than you want).
  3. Your front door should be impeccably clean!
  4. Color near the front door (front walkway or front porch) is a good “bang for the buck”, so if you have room, provide flowers there. 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

Real estate professionals usually spend time, effort and money to grow their business, and that means attracting new clients while working with those currently buying and selling homes, or getting ready to do so.  Some consumers believe that realty sales people will give out tons of information, and spend loads of time, without having any kind of commitment from the consumer that they are working together.  In other words, the idea is that they “work for free”.   Better business people won’t do that – they recognise a waste of time when they see it and won’t take you seriously.

If you’d like to be taken seriously by a real estate agent or broker, it’s important that you get started on a good foot together.  If you are cagey, want to remain anonymous, or expect the Realtor or other licensee to do work for you before you ever have a conversation, you’re probably not using a winning strategy.

Here are some common reasons why a prospect (not a client yet) may get eliminated:

  • use a fake name (or only your first name, or other partial name)
  • use an email address that has no connection to your name or appears to go to another name
  • refuse to provide a cell number
  • make appointments but then cancel, reschedule – over and over
  • expect the agent to be available on short notice, but require tons of time (for appointments, to respond, etc.)
  • ask for pricing information or analysis on a property before you establish a working relationship (or meet in person) with the Realtor
  • requesting any other extreme expenditure of time & effort prior to your hiring the agent to help you to buy or sell a home

Anything that smacks of dishonesty, disrespect, or expecting a lot of “something for nothing” will be a big red flag to a real estate professional.

Want to have a great agent want to work with you?  Here are some tips:

  • be honest and upfront with your name, your goals, timeframe etc.
  • provide contact info so that the agent you’d like to work with feels you’re on the level, honest and transparent
  • respect the agent’s time, give enough lead time, be on time, understand that he or she has other clients and projects which all have to be part of the day or week
  • it’s fine to interview several real estate sales people, but then decide on one and be loyal

It’s important that on top of all other things, you and your realty expert have a good working relationship.  Buying and selling is stressful.  You and your Realtor are a team – if you begin the relationship with that mindset, the whole experience will be much improved.  And if not, it will seem like a doomed relationship, and you may never even have that first face to face appointment; instead, you’ll be eliminated as a bad prospect.

  1. 0 beds, 0 bath
    Home size: 3,188 sq ft
    Lot size: 8,219 sqft
  2. 0 beds, 0 bath
    Home size: 3,188 sq ft
    Lot size: 10,232 sqft
  3. 0 beds, 0 bath
    Home size: 3,188 sq ft
    Lot size: 8,777 sqft
  4. 0 beds, 0 bath
    Home size: 3,188 sq ft
    Lot size: 8,777 sqft
  5. 0 beds, 0 bath
    Home size: 3,188 sq ft
    Lot size: 8,772 sqft
  6. 3 beds, 2 baths
    Home size: 1,110 sq ft
    Lot size: 5,863 sqft
  7. 3 beds, 3 baths
    Home size: 2,138 sq ft
    Lot size: 6,189 sqft
  8. 5 beds, 4 baths
    Home size: 2,700 sq ft
    Lot size: 8,167 sqft
  9. 4 beds, 3 baths
    Home size: 2,461 sq ft
    Lot size: 14,549 sqft
  10. 2 beds, 2 baths
    Home size: 1,610 sq ft
    Lot size: 1,528 sqft

See all Real estate in the Campbell community.
(all data current as of 9/19/2018)

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

What needs to be done for a house, townhouse or condominium to be ready for a home or pest inspection?

The property inspector will need to be able to see what’s being inspected, of course, so the first and most basic thing to do is to make the home and garage accessible and visible.  For people trying to move, some areas under the roof, such as the garage or a spare bedroom, may be packed full of boxes and other stuff, so this may come as a surprise.  Anything inaccessible or covered up will need to be excluded from the inspection and report, often causing pest inspectors in particular to call for “an unknown further inspection” with a cost for a return visit being levied too.

Because most Silicon Valley homes do not have basements to serve for storage, garages tend to accumulate a lot of stuff.  In some cases, the walls cannot be visible due to built in storage cabinets, work benches, etc.  But for non built-in items, such as boxes, it is best to either move them out of the garage for the inspection or at the very least, place them in the center of the floor so that the inspectors can view the walls, particularly where they meet the floor.   Automobiles should be moved out for the inspection too.

This same principle is also true for the outdoors with anything which might be stacked up against the house under the eaves.  The walls need to be seen.

Indoors, if the property is built on a raised perimeter foundation with a crawl space (not a slab foundation), the access hatch needs to be accessible. Continue reading

Five Dollar Bill LincolnIf you are planning to purchase a home in Silicon Valley, most likely you’ll be working with a real estate professional and together you will use either the California Association of Realtors (CAR) purchase agreement form or the Peninsula Regional Data Source contract (PRDS). Both of them begin with the same basics: who is making the offer, what property is involved, how much is being offered to the home owner and how much is being put down or put into escrow as an initial deposit or good faith deposit.

What is the initial deposit in real estate contracts?

The initial deposit, or good faith deposit, is the amount of money which the buyer puts into the escrow account at the beginning of the transaction. It is usually given in a personal check, which is cashed within a day or two of being brought to the escrow holder (in our area, that’s a title company – in southern California, they tend to use escrow companies or even one of the real estate brokers).  Some home buyers wire in the funds. Either way, unless the boilerplate is changed, the money is due within 3 business days of contract acceptance. 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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Valley Of Hearts Delight
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Silicon Valley Real Estate Report
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Mary’s Blog Awards
Top 25 real estate blogs of 2018 by RentPrep2018's list of top 25 real estate blogs to follow

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