Since joining Sereno Group Realtors in 2009, I’ve been a part of the flagship Los Gatos office, serving all of Santa Clara County and nearby areas. I’ve worked with many of the top real estate companies in Silicon Valley over the 26 years of my career, and have a good sense of the best and worst of the business.
As in the 1990s, we are again in a time of sea change and upheaval in the real estate industry. It is a fair question to ask how or why a brokerage choice matters for me and for my clients. Today I’ll reflect on both my affiliation with Sereno Group, Realtors in Silicon Valley and Santa Cruz County, and what is, to me, compelling about this brokerage – its agents, leadership, vision, and community involvement, social responsibility, ethics and work ethic.
When I joined this group of top producing real estate professionals, I did so because it was clear to me that Sereno Group is comprised of the best Realtors and has fantastic values which I share, including a collaborative bent. I love that it’s locally owned and I’m thrilled to be a part of “the Sereno Family”. That’s the elevator pitch version on the “why Sereno Group” question: quality Realtors, quality leadership, giving back, deep community ties, a priority on ethics and working hard for our clients.
The downturn of 2008 – 2012
Even during the downturn of 2008-2012, when many agents and real estate companies were in a world of hurt, Sereno Group Realtors had a can-do attitude. You could feel the energy when visiting the office. They were working the market rather than letting the market work them over. This didn’t surprise me, though, as I knew many of these top producers back from the early days of Cornish & Carey back in the early to mid 90s, when the saying I heard a few times was “keep it alive until 1995” (when it was expected that the market would improve).
I was drawn to work with Sereno Group Realtors who had a positive attitude and strong work ethic no matter the market conditions. This culture is both from the ground up and from the corporate level down, and to me it is one of the defining characteristics of the firm.
1% for Good
The 1% for Good campaign is a hallmark of Sereno Group Realtors, staff, and leadership all wanting to give back to the community. The top 1% of my commissions, and most (if not all) agent’s commissions go toward worthy, charitable causes in our local communities. Offices vote on which groups to support financially, and donations are made quarterly. You can see a list of charitable recipients for my Los Gatos office at this link. Or read more about Sereno Group’s 1% for Good here.
How does being affiliated with Sereno Group Realtors benefit my clients?
Put simply, I think part of what makes this brokerage special is the vision, and part is the strategy / tools / implementation (including hiring).
- We are tied into the local community and have in-depth knowledge of the areas we serve.
- Sereno Group focuses on collaboration and sharing of information so we have the latest info on sales and other issues before the general public reads about it in the news.
- We help each other out. At times a colleague has had a listing in a neighborhood where I’ve had many sales, and I’ll assist with input on pricing etc. At times it’s gone the other way and I’ve had the support of my fellow Realtors when there’s not enough data for pricing, or if a particular property is highly unusual and hard to “comp out”.
- We have in house legal counsel to help us stay on top of the laws and disclosure issues in our region. This is an additional resource that enables us to provide the best guidance to our clients.
- We have affiliations with premier property marketing (Sereno Studios, our in house marketing department) and photography companies to ensure that our clients’ homes looks the best.
- When utilizing Sereno Studios, listing agents who have other Sereno agents holding their listings open can have the same fliers made for the other agent, providing quality marketing no matter who is holding the home open. This is not typical among real estate companies.
- We believe in staging and presenting homes in their best possible light to maximize the return for our clients.
- We have internal resources to help our agents maximize digital exposure through social media and the web.
- Sereno Group encourages its Realtors to strive for the highest levels of professionalism, ethics, marketing, and service. As a company, Sereno Group fosters an attitude of strong relationships between our clients and ourselves, with an effort at creating value for our clients not just during the transaction, but before and after it.
For all of these reasons, and many more that are hard to quantify (such as a more upbeat mood in the offices!), I’m thrilled to be one of the Realtors affiliated with Sereno Group.
It’s always interesting to see which articles are most popular among by readers (and also other data, such as where they are reading it from, which browsers are used, how long folks generally stay on the site, etc.).
I try to cover all of the communities in Santa Clara County here, so I find it especially curious that some communities are more searched that others. City or area real estate market reports most searched or read include Cupertino, Sunnyvale, Cambrian, Campbell, and Willow Glen. (I was surprised not to see Los Gatos or Almaden on the list!)
Here is the “top 20” list of most popular articles on this site:
Which info do YOU find most interesting or relevant? I’d love to hear from you. (Since I got a lot of robo-spam comments, I had to disable the comments part of this site – it was 1000 bad to 1 real comment, unfortunately. If you want to provide feedback, please email me at mary (at) popehandy (dot) com. Thank you for reading!)
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. Without them, though, it would be impossible for me to assist my clients in getting their homes bought and sold. It takes a group – the Mary Pope-Handy Team – to make it work.
The Mary Pope-Handy Team is not a legal entity, just to be clear. It is the group of professionals with whom I work to provide the best service and skill set possible to my clients.
Mary Pope-Handy Team – Assistant:
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 Amy Hoefer, 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.
The Mary Pope-Handy Team Outside Specialists:
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).
I have 2 or 3 great ASHI certified inspectors with whom I usually work. You can find a list of ASHI Inspectors in Santa Clara County at this link. On this list, I’ve had extremely positive experiences with Craig Moorhead, Brett Reeder and Michael Strom-Berg.
2. Termite and Pest Inspectors. In California, especially in our sub-tropical coastal area of Silicon Valley, termites are an ongoing issue. We have both subterranean and drywood termites here. By far and away, the termite company I prefer to work with (and have work on my own home) is Thrasher Termite & Pest Control. They are located in Los Gatos but serve all of Santa Clara County (and I believe occasionally go into nearby counties – they once helped me with a listing in Scotts Valley, which is in Santa Cruz County).
Thrasher Termite & Pest Control has a great website, or you can reach them by phone at 408 354-9944. I’ve learned a lot from the folks at Thrasher and have shared some of what I’ve learned from them in this blog and others. See also my article on How often should you get a termite inspection?
On the rare occasion that Thrasher is not available, there are other termite companies that I may need to use. Or, if I’m working with a buyer and the seller has pre-sale inspections, there are pest control companies whose work I trust to be ethical and thorough. The Pest Control Operators of California can provide a complete list of who does termite and pest work in the San Jose area, but the companies I’m comfortable with include Able Exterminators (San Jose), Fraboni Termite Control (San Jose), and J & M Termite (in Mountain View).
The State of California has a site, The Structural Pest Control Board, which has great information for consumers and agents alike, including a license lookup feature.
There are more inspectors whom I endorse and work with, but these two categories are the main ones.
(B) TITLE & ESCROW
There are a number of excellent title companies in Santa Clara County. The one I prefer to work with is Old Republic Title in Los Gatos. My escrow officer is Bill Hastings.
They are all also financially sound, which is critically important in today’s real estate landscape in Santa Clara County. (In recent years, two title companies have shut down abruptly, causing headaches for consumers, agents and lenders.)
I have a short list of about 3-4 lenders I can refer to you. Some specialize in one type of loan or home situation, some another. Please contact me and I can give you a couple of names that are most likely to be a good fit for you.
(D) And More….
Depending on your needs, I have assistance from movers to house cleaners to photographers and full-time stagers. The list is extensive, reflecting my many years in the business! (Licensed & full time since early 1993.) If I don’t have someone already on my Mary Pope-Handy Team list, I’ll do some research and find some resources for my clients.
Hiring a Realtor? Silicon Valley home sellers are very savvy and go at their real estate transactions carefully. However, some may be tempted to try to line all the criteria up in side by side charts and attempt to make a hiring decion that way. Please beware the temptation of focusing on what is “easily measurable” as most important. Sometimes the most easily measurable factors may not be that important at all. Much of what is truly valuable in a Realtor’s suite of services and skills cannot be easily measured in a side-by-side comparison chart.
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.
My husband, Jim Handy, analyzes the semiconductor market. He grew up in many places due to his father’s line of work and speaks French and he too loves to travel; eons ago we honeymooned in Tahiti on Bora Bora where he got to practice his language skills (between their Polynesian French and his Belgian-Swiss-American accent it got interesting at times). We have been very happily married since 1985. Jim was a Parks Commission volunteer in the Town of Los Gatos for years, and even now, long after he’s left, he has his ear to the ground on that topic – I get a lot of interesting information about the town’s doings from him!
Our two children, Brian & Clair, are now twentysomethings. Real estate is inescapable for them, as it had been for me, and when Clair was in second grade she said, “uh oh Mommy, we have termites!” and had correctly spotted the telltale drywood termite pellets on our hardwood floor; I suspect she was the only second grader with the ability to correctly identify termite activity. So, real estate is a little contagious!
Like their parents, they love to travel and together we’ve been in much of the US, plus parts of Mexico, England, France, Switzerland, Italy, and Japan. Brian is now a newly minted grad from USC in Los Angeles with his Master of Fine Arts in Interactive Media and Video Games, having graduated from four happy years Loyola Marymount University in LA and prior to that, at Bellarmine College Preparatory in San Jose. Clair is currently assisting me in real estate, also graduated from LMU in LA and enjoyed four happy years at Notre Dame High School in downtown San Jose. She is taking animation classes and hopes to merge that with her college major of theater.
I hail from a large and loving extended family and it’s a very tight-knit group. In my free time, I enjoy keeping in touch with them and with many old friends (who feel like family) – and actually many friends and relatives become my clients, just as my clients often become my friends. In recent years, that’s meant a lot of time with older family members- something possible with a real estate career.
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.
Every once in awhile, someone will object to content that I’ve chosen to include in this website, mostly something I’ve spent time researching that involves an unpleasant angle of living here in Silicon Valley. Luckily complaints are exceedingly rare! But the question may arise of “why is she writing about THAT?” The answer is simple: it’s what I’m encountering in my real estate practice, it’s something I’ve been spending time on with my buyers or sellers.
High voltage electrical power lines and towers
Recently I wrote about high voltage power lines that run through Los Gatos, Cambrian, and Almaden and their relationship to public schools. Why there? Why that topic? Because that’s where many of my home buyer clients are buying, as these are all wonderful areas, and this is a topic that has been raised repeatedly by them.
- one client wanted to be “at least four houses away” from any high voltage lines
- another wasn’t sure how far to be, but said 1/10 of a mile was too close
- another eliminated all public schools with high voltage power lines adjacent or within a block away (and chose to live in Willow Glen instead)
- and another wanted to live at least a full mile from the lines
When something comes up again and again, I think it’s fair to raise it in this blog, because it is relevant to consumers, even though I know it will step on some toes. I don’t have an answer as to whether you should or shouldn’t buy a home within any particular distance of the towers or lines (or a mine, flood plain or anything else). Every house has pros and cons. I would say that if you get the EMFs tested, you might be surprised that the emissions are higher in front of your microwave than they are near the lines, so I do encourage home buyers and home sellers near the wires to get the facts and to see the numbers from a reputable source. If you’re buying with FHA backed financing, of course you will need to be aware of the high voltage electrical tower fall zone – if for some reason the tower fell in an earquake, the FHA folks want to make sure your new home won’t be in its path.
Not every home buyer cares at all about the lines, the towers, or even a substation. For home sellers near any of them, it’s important to understand that it is a potential home buyer concern, and that could translate to a lower sale price (depending on the market). For home buyers, even if there’s no real concern for health and safety, it is important to appreciate that if you are super close, it could be a resale issue in the future. All of these make it a topic worth discussing, not to be alarmist, but to be discussing what concerns real estate consumers today.
Natural hazards: mercury, asbestos, earthquake faults, liquifecation zones, unstable soils, flood plains and other scary things
Another topic that I covered recently, which also may have bothered some readers of this blog, is mercury mines in the west valley areas. In the past I’ve written about other natural hazard zones too. Continue reading
Thanks for taking the time to read, and sometimes comment on, my blog. It’s been fun to get the feedback on a lot of topics covered. Even better, some of you have reached out to me this last year and beforehand and we’ve ended up working together.
Wishing you all a very, very happy, safe, healthy new year ahead.