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Are you motivated enough to buy a home?

Quote on being motivated and determined This is a tough market for home buyers. If you aren’t sufficiently motivated, you may write offers, but you won’t be buying a house.

I am a member of several online groups of Realtors and other real estate professionals who share ideas, give feedback, marketing, challenges, safety or tech tips, and more. Sometimes these groups are support for weary real estate agents.

Just now I read one agent in the deep south complain that her buyer won’t pay more than list price “on principle”, despite what the comparable sales indicate the value to be, despite the market conditions, 20 offers on a house, etc. She cannot get that buyer’s offer accepted because the buyer is staunch on offering exactly list price in every instance, and it’s just too low to be viable.

The real estate sales person has explained the market,  the competition, the sale to list price ratio, but the buyer does not care about the data. The buyer only wants to pay list price, even if the house is under priced.

Guess what the 200+ real estate professionals advised her to do? If you guessed “fire the buyer“, you’re right. And I agree. She is not able to help him to buy a house. She is spinning her wheels. (And while doing so, she’s unable to help buyers who will buy, or to find new business so she doesn’t go broke working on something hopeless. As a business person, she either needs to help the buyer to write viable offers or she needs to let him know that she cannot assist him further. She’s not doing him or herself any favors to continue working with him under those circumstances.) (more…)

The Cambrian Park Real Estate Market Update

Cambrian Park Real Estate Market graphicCambrian buyers keep hoping that prices will drop and inventory will rise, but so far we aren’t seeing it. Here are some points of note from the latest monthly data for Cambrian Park single family homes:

  • Home prices are down a hair month-over-month and remain significantly high year-over-year (both median and average prices) for single family houses
  • Closed sales shot up from the month before and remain above last year
  • Available inventory was just 31 houses on the last day of September, less than the month before and a hair above last year

The Cambrian Park Real Estate Market

With good schools and easy proximity to Los Gatos, Campbell, Willow Glen, and traffic routes, Cambrian has that “enduring value” that home buyers seek. Sellers aren’t selling – they like it there and appreciate their low taxes from staying in their homes for many years. The result is a continuous demand that outpaces supply, with prices going to unreal seeming places.

Cambrian single family homes trends at a glance – numbers from the RE Report

It’s a red hot market for Cambrian single family homes! Only the slightest cooling is perceptible month-over-month, which also had a spike in closed sales and shrinking inventory. Compared to last year, it remains a much stronger market.

Please see the whole Cambrian Real Estate Report for charts, stats and more.

(Mobile viewers, swipe to scroll if the graph you are viewing extends beyond the screen.)

Trends at a Glance

Trends At a Glance Sep 2021 Previous Month Year-over-Year
Median Price $1,525,000 (-6.2%) $1,626,000 $1,345,000 (+13.4%)
Average Price $1,618,020 (-2.4%) $1,658,120 $1,349,530 (+19.9%)
No. of Sales 82 (+34.4%) 61 76 (+7.9%)
Pending 84 (-2.3%) 86 76 (+10.5%)
Active 31 (-13.9%) 36 30 (+3.3%)
Sale vs. List Price 109.4% (-0.7%) 110.2% 103.2% (+6.0%)
Days on Market 13 (+19.4%) 11 19 (-30.8%)
Days of Inventory 11 (-38.1%) 18 11 (-4.2%)


Learn about the Cambrian months of inventory, or absorption rate, by elementary school district. (Please note that the months of inventory post is not updated as often as this monthly market analysis.)

The condo and townhouse real estate market for San Jose 95124 & 95118

The townhouse and condo market (also from my Real Estate Report) – with great schools and relatively affordable pricing, this market segment is usually popular and remains hot, although nowhere near as hot as the single family housing market!

Pricing for this market has fallen both year-over-year and month-over-month. With just 18 sales, though, the actual values may not have shifted so much as what properties are being listed and selling. Some townhomes are going to sell for over a million dollars, but tiny studio condos may be just a bit more than half that much. If one year a lot of luxury townhomes with 2000 SF sell, but the following year it’s mostly the smallest condos, the numbers would be skewed. So please take it with a grain of salt.

Condos and townhomes are also hotter than last year and cooling month-over-month, but the market isn’t as hot as it is for single family homes.



What needs updating in an older home?

Image of stucco chipped away from window before replacement - what needs updating in an older home may include single pane windowsWhat needs updating if you are buying an older house, townhome, or condo? Most of the homes for sale in Silicon Valley are more than 25 years old, and with our already very restricted inventory, that makes the odds of purchasing an older house, townhouse or condo fairly high if you’re in the market to buy real estate here.

  • The older the property (think 100 years versus 60 or 70 years), the more likely it is that the home would benefit from expensive updates.
  • Typical home buyers find that an 18 year old remodel is in need of updating
  • See the list below of components that may need updating in an older home

If you are buying an historic home (more than 50 years of age is technically historic, but most consumers think of houses or units which are 100+ years old), the question of what needs updating will be significantly longer than if we are thinking of homes 25 to 60 or 70 years of age. The older the structure, the more you may need to consider safety improvements, or changes for better comfort or style.

Don’t despair – the older homes do tend to offer good locations, often there are beautifully established neighborhoods with large trees and bigger yards – which you may not see in newer developments.

How recent should that remodel be?

Something to note is that how often rooms or homes need to be refreshed is a matter of personal taste. If a kitchen is built well and done in a more timeless fashion, perhaps only the appliances or countertop or lighting may need a redo from time to time. But some home buyers will find that if a house was last remodeled 18 years ago, it’s time to do it again. If you’re selling, it’s important to appreciate that the 18 year old whole house remodel you had done may feel like yesterday to you, but it won’t to a large number of buyers.

Buyers, once you purchase a home, if you are like most home owners you won’t be doing a total remodel every 15 – 20 years. It’s too much expense, work, and inconvenience. My usual advice is to try to pick timeless elements that won’t go out of style (and put a more personal touch into things like paint or floor coverings, which are relatively inexpensive to change in many cases).

What needs updating in an “all original” home?


Stop Renting

Image of house and calculator and plans - If you can buy, stop rentingIf you are renting or leasing your home, you’re paying someone else’s mortgage. If you can, stop renting and start owning so that you are building toward your own future.

Much earlier in my career, I sold a house in Los Gatos where there had been tenants for 30 years. When the owner decided to sell the house, of course he gave them plenty of notice, but it was hard. It had been their home for 3 decades.

In those 3 decades they could have bought a house with all the rent they’d paid. No, they couldn’t have bought that house, but they could have purchased something. And after 30 years, they would have equity and either be able to enjoy a home rent free, or they could have sold it and cashed out.

It’s not easy to buy a home here: prices are high, saving the down payment is a huge hurdle, and the competition even for those who have the cash and the means is steep.  But if you choose to stop renting, at some point you’ll have equity, and if you hold the house long enough and steadfastly work to pay it off, you should own the home free and clear after 30 years, maybe less.

Tips for how to stop renting & start owning

One of the biggest shifts needed is expectations and the willingness to live in what you can afford to buy. You can almost always afford to rent something nicer than what you can purchase. For some, this is intolerable! Yes, when you buy, it’s often a step down in terms of your surroundings. Sometimes when buyers get stuck, this is the heart of the problem.

Once you’ve gotten expectations in line with what is possible, the next big challenge is putting together the down payment. It’s not easy, but people do it and not all of them have stock options or RSUs.

The down payment will require most people to do serious saving, possibly working more, or scoping out programs to help. Think “frugal mode”.

Here are a few things that have worked for my clients (or others I’ve heard about): (more…)

Remove photos of the home on the internet

Laptop computer showing a house - remove photos of the home on the internetOnce the home sale closes, will the listing agent remove photos of the home on the internet? No, not automatically. This is not something like the for-sale sign coming down, and home buyers may be surprised that the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) does not facilitate this after closing.

Recently I’ve done a bit of a deep dive on this topic. Here are a few quick points:

  • There are 3 broad categories covering where the listing images show up:
    (1) on the MLS itself
    (2) on any sites to which the MLS feed syndicates ( and many other sites) – this is most of it
    (3) and to any other websites to which the listing agent may have uploaded the photographs directly (such as a virtual tour site, their Facebook or other social media sites, etc.).
  • After the sale is finalized and the status on the MLS is changed to “closed”, the listing agent can no longer edit anything, including which photos are displayed. Any changes must go through the customer support department at MLS Listings.
  •  The MLS will not remove photos after closing, but it will agree to turn off syndication to other sites. I just learned this recently myself – it was something I  have had done in the past, but apparently it’s no longer an option. If syndication is turned off, the listing will entirely disappear (not just photos). Many listing agents and their brokerages like to showcase their sold listings, and may refuse that request.
  • The listing broker is not responsible for removing the images after the sale. If you bought a home in California, you likely signed off on the Statewide Buyer and Seller Advisory, which includes this:  “Buyer and Seller are advised that Broker has no control over how long the information or photos concerning the Property will be available on the Internet or through social media, and Broker will not be responsible for removing any such content from the internet or MLS. Brokers do not have expertise in this area.”
  • The photos (and videos, if any) actually belong to the listing agent, who paid for them to be shot. Asking for removal is a favor and not a right.

What can be done to remove photos of the home on the internet?

First, let’s consider the MLS, since that is where the bulk of the exposure has come from. (more…)

Does the exterior of a townhouse need to be inspected?

Does the exterior of a townhouse need to be inspected? View of townhomes in west Los Gatos.Does the exterior of a townhouse need to be inspected? If you are in the market to purchase a townhome, you may find that often the home and pest inspector are not including the outside areas such as the walls or roof. If you are preparing to sell your unit, you may be asked if you want to include or exclude the outer walls and features, or if you want a roof inspection done.

First, let’s consider why the inspectors may only inspect the interior of the home.

The reasoning frequently seems to be that the HOA will take care of whatever is on the outer walls or roof, so why bother? That assumption may or may not be accurate.

  • If the townhouse is held in condo ownership (as opposed to a PUD, in which homeowners own the outside walls, roof and the land under the unit), the HOA likely will take care of exterior damage.
  • If the townhome is a Planned Unit Development, or PUD, it’s much like a single family home: the homeowner will be responsible for repairs. (HOAs will repaint and reroof all units at the same time for both PUDs and condos, but not fix damaged siding, decks, roofs. It’s imperative to know which one you are buying, and you’ll only know that from  the preliminary title report. It’s also imperative to know what the HOA will do regarding repairs, and for that you’ll need to look through the lengthy HOA documents.)

Another consideration is the price of the inspection, which will be less – in most cases – if only the interior of the home is covered by the inspector.

Does the exterior of a townhouse need to be inspected even if it’s a condo?


Where are the high voltage power lines in Cupertino, Saratoga, Los Gatos, and Almaden Valley?

High Voltage Power Lines Collage

High Voltage Power Lines from around the West Valley.

“Location, Location, Location!” The most important element when buying or selling a home is the one thing you can’t change – it’s location. Because of that, you’ll need to know some location-specific things, naturally occurring and man-made. Like high voltage power lines.

What about this location?

If you own or are thinking of buying a home in Silicon Valley, here are a few location-specific things you want to know upfront so that you can make informed decisions:

  • where are the earthquake fault lines?
  • where are the geologic hazard zones, such as liquefaction areas?
  • where are the flood plains?
  • where are man-made things that will negatively or positively impact a home’s value? Things such as
    • train lines
    • freeways
    • electrical transmission
    • school district boundaries
    • zip code boundaries
    • proximity to entertainment venues

When looking at maps, sometimes these items show up and sometimes they don’t. Realtors and other real estate professionals in the San Jose area often use a Barclay’s Locaide and various online resources to locate the natural hazard areas. There are other tools to help locate school districts and zoning restrictions.

Google maps can help uncover some other areas, like distance to shops and freeways, but sometimes it raises more questions than it answers. For instance, a years ago a Realtor who didn’t know the Belwood of Los Gatos area too well phoned me to ask what a large object showing up on satellite view in the hills of Belgatos Park was. It is just a covered reservoir, but since it was not identified on the map it concerned some buyers. Local knowledge is still extremely helpful.

Mapping the Grid: High Voltage Power Lines


How long does it take to prepare an offer?

How long does it take to prepare an offer - people working at a computerHow long does it take to prepare an offer? Recently I wrote about how much time it takes buyers to put an offer together in Silicon Valley. But I didn’t go over how much of the buyer’s agent’s time is involved with drafting the bid In Silicon Valley, it’s a lot more than just typing up the contract and emailing it to the listing agent.

The first time I write an offer with a buyer, it may take me about 10 hours, because there’s a lot of information that will need to be explained, such as what is needed with the proof of funds, or going through the boilerplate disclosures that will be found on every sale (or most sales).

How long does it take to prepare an offer? There’s more to do than you may realize!

Here are some of the places where that time goes:

  • Data entry on ZipForms (where we generate the contracts) – estimate 30 minutes if it’s done correctly. (Some agents cut corners, leave blanks, don’t fill in the listing agent’s contact info or address, etc.)
  • Pulling comps (comparable properties) could be anywhere from a half an hour (if properties are not reviewed individually and it’s simple, such as a condo with the same floorplan that just sold ) or 2-3 hours if your agent does a deep dive and it’s a custom home / lot / anything unusual going on or no recent solds nearby.
  • Providing you market information (stats, but also finding out from the listing agent how many offers may be expected, how many disclosure packages are pulled, etc.) at least 30 minutes, possibly an hour.
  • Doing an Agent Visual Inspection Disclosure (visiting the property, taking notes, photos, type up, electronic signing) at least 1 hour, probably more.
  • Reading the disclosures: at least 1 hour. If it’s complicated, and the agent needs to get more information, at least 2 hours.
  • Discussing with buyers the disclosures and inspections, pricing thoughts, terms of the offer, and questions that need investigating: at least 1 hour (usually several emails plus a phone call or video chat).
  • Talking with the lender, if applicable, and getting the pre-approval offer included and coaching the lender to call the listing agent after the offer is submitted – a few minutes.
  • Tagging the disclosures for electronic signing (seller’s disclosure package, buyer agent’s company forms,  plus the Agent Visual Inspection Disclosure) 1 – 2 hours, depending on how the listing agent has put the disclosure package together. Some have a signing package, others don’t.
  • Doing a contract review with the home buyer(s) – usually about 1 hour. If the buyers are first time home buyers,  estimate 1.5 hours or more.
  • Emails back and forth with buyers on a myriad of topics related to offers – varies.
  • Pulling together the proof of funds, making sure to white out what isn’t wanted or needed (bank accounts, individual transactions), combining pages and creating a summary sheet – estimate a half hour.
  • Creating a cover letter / offer summary – just a few minutes.
  • Combining PDFs so the listing agent doesn’t get 25 attachments – a few minutes.

If the home buyers don’t get the home they first bid on, it is a lot simpler and faster, probably half as much time with subsequent offers.

Want to Buy a Home? Save, Save, Save as a Permanent Way of Life

Are you interested in being a first time home buyer? A first priority will be learning to save, both for buying the home, and then for keeping it in good shape. There’s more to it, but that is usually the hardest part.

credit cardsWhere do you begin?

  • Having a budget will enable you to figure out where you can save more and spend less
  • Clean up any errors on your credit
  • Create a home buying plan

Save with a Budget

Creating a budget can be tedious, and admittedly it’s not fun, but it is immensely helpful if you want to get control over your finances (rather than have your spending control you). There are many free, online programs from financial gurus who can help you sort out what you need to factor in and where you may be able to cut costs, save for that house or condo (or retirement), and what is essential versus discretionary. Investopedia has a list of good sources. (I’ve used the Every Dollar one, it’s easy!)

Something to keep in mind is that having a budget and a plan to save is not something temporary, like a diet before a vacation that will be abandoned in the near future. Budgeting so that there’s money set aside for the most important things you want is a way of life. We intuitively know that if we spend all of our hard earned income on meals out, expensive cars, and luxury vacations, we may not be able to retire as early or as comfortably as we’d like. But unless we create the financial life we truly desire, it won’t happen. That’s as true for buying a home as it is for the retirement scenario. (more…)

How responsive should your real estate agent be?

Stone stepsThe odds are good that if you are looking to hire a real estate professional, one of the criteria you seek is “responsive”. Those of us who sell real estate for a living know that consumers want to hear back from us as soon as possible when they call or email (or text, in some cases).

How responsive should your real estate agent be?

  • Most real estate agents will return phone calls within a half day regularly, or at the end of the business day worst case scenario
  • Some will answer the phone when it rings every time, unless they are with clients or otherwise crunching on something urgent, such as writing or reviewing offers
  • For emails, the response times can be similar – often within a few hours, but not more than 24 hours
  • When consumers text, the response may be faster since it seems urgent to the recipient. You’ll want to see if your agent wants texts outside of certain hours or not, or if texting should be reserved for things that demand a quick response.
  • Some agents may have a dedicated day off and will not return messages until the following day. It’s good to ask ahead of time about how time off is handled.
  • Be sure to ask about your agent’s schedule and communication style (when and how they’d like to hear from you). Make sure you let your preferred method be known so you can be on the same page not just for when to communicate, but how!

Responsiveness and phone calls

If not with clients or otherwise tied up, many Realtors (yours truly included) will pick up the phone when called during business hours. (Some won’t. Some do time blocking and return calls at set times, such as between 11am and noon and 4 and 5pm. Those who time block in this way will often put a message on their voice mail explaining when they will call back. Hopefully, that works for the caller!).  (more…)