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
- 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
The Cambrian or Cambrian Park district is a popular residential market with good “bang for your buck.” It remains a strong seller’s market, possibly just past the hottest spring peak. This article provides a detailed look at the residential real estate markets of Cambrian with live and monthly updates. Here are some points of note from the latest monthly update for Cambrian Park single family homes:
- The sales to list price ratio finally cooled a hair, now at 112.1% of asking (115% in May)
- Days on market have maintained a lighting fast 10 day average
- Available inventory has fallen almost 28% from them month before
The Cambrian Park Real Estate Market
The days of lockdown, PEAD forms, appointment only showings, and other restrictions is coming to an end. Despite the lifting restrictions, home buyers are still very motivated to get out of San Francisco and into more space in the suburbs – especially more yard, and more rooms in the house for separate “work from home” offices as many schools and businesses continue to physically distance. Strong public school districts remain a big draw.
Cambrian single family homes trends at a glance – numbers from the RE Report
Here’s the RE Report info for last month’s sales:
(Mobile viewers, swipe to scroll if the graph you are viewing extends beyond the screen.)
Trends at a Glance
|Trends At a Glance
|No. of Sales
|Sale vs. List Price
|Days on Market
|Days of Inventory
Please see the whole Cambrian Real Estate Report for charts, stats and more.
It is a prolonged, strong seller’s market. Sellers and buyers today continue to face restrictions under the coronavirus order that affect the market. While homes may still be appreciating (on a case by case basis – much has to do with the exact location, condition, etc.), before you list you should know how your sale would be affected by these changes.
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 real estate 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! Last month condos saw increased activity with stable market trends. June sales averaged at 104.3% of list price in only 2 weeks.
Trends at a Glance – Cambrian condos
|Trends At a Glance
|No. of Sales
|Sale vs. List Price
|Days on Market
|Days of Inventory
The Cambrian Park Real Estate Market Update for San Jose 95124 – Altos
Here’s a different kind of update for the Cambrian Park real estate market courtesy of Altos Research (which uses LIST prices for its charts). The next few data sheets show the housing market trends and updates, live and updated weekly. My observations are from the most recent update at the time of writing, June 12th. This first item reflects the weekly Altos Research report right now for San Jose 95124 and will provide an approximation of how much home your money can buy in this district of San Jose.
The median list price is at $1.598 million, an increase from last month.
The chart above shows extremely low days on market beginning to slowing down (14 days as of June 12th after seeing 0 DOM all three months prior!), small increases in inventory, and a recent drop in market action. Overall San Jose 95124 remains in a fiercely strong seller’s market with some seasonal cooling into summer.
The Real Estate Market Update for San Jose 95118
Next let’s look at the listing data from Altos Research for 95118, single family homes (east side of Cambrian Park).
Normally, prices are distinctly different between 95118 and 95124 – we’re seeing that now, though it can be more pronounced when demand isn’t as high and inventory isn’t so low.
And below, an update of the market data from Altos for this part of the district.
Inventory in 95118 is severely lacking, days on market are low and growing, and overall it is strong seller’s market with a slight dip in market action.
Please see the Condominium & Townhouse Real Estate Report for all of the numbers in this area and the rest of Santa Clara County! Now let’s work with Altos Research’s graphs and get a feel for the Cambrian realty market in “real time.” These use list prices, whereas my RE Report uses sold data.
First, the statistics by quartile for houses in San Jose 95118. A quick note: most of 95118 has San Jose Unified Schools, while 95124 has Cambrian and Union schools, which are normally preferred.
Quick profile of 95118 and 95124 from Altos – this is dynamic and should update automatically each week:
Here, both 95124 and 95118 remain a strong sellers’ market with elevated market action. In 95124 there is lower market action for condos than in the single family market, but in 95118 that’s reversed with a slightly higher market action in condos compared to single family homes! However, with such small inventory these charts can have severe swings in data, so take this data with a grain of salt.
What is happening with the Cambrian real estate market? A lot of it seems to depend on the price point, school district, and condition of the property.
Turnkey houses, townhomes, and condominiums in Cambrian Park which have a contemporary look and are priced aggressively are selling fast. They need to look like 2019 and not like 2010 or 2012, though. Home buyers are very fussy and most households are either 2 income or 1 income and 1 very busy parent home with little ones. They don’t have the time or the energy to remodel. (Most buyers want grey hardwood or high quality laminate that looks like wood throughout – they don’t want 4 or 5 different types of floor covering.)
Cambrian home buyers often move to 95124 or 95118 for a combination of strong schools and relative affordability. Having a worry free home that does not look like it will cost a fortune to be made ready is a big plus and will help tremendously with the sale-ability of that residential real estate.
The part of Cambrian with Union schools continues to have the strongest demand (mostly 95124 but also part of 95118), followed by the area with Cambrian schools, and then those with San Jose Unified. All of them are doing well, but some areas are stronger than others.
If you live in Cambrian Park now, or are thinking you’d like to buy a home there, you’ll want to get a better understanding of the current real estate market conditions for your part of the market. The information above is naturally a little generic, applying to either all of Cambrian or to either 95124 or 95118. All real estate is local, though. It may be different by pricing tier, exact location, home style, or amenities (such as pool versus no pool, large garage vs no garage, walking distance to elementary school or really having to drive there). All of these things can be factored in and may apply to your particular home – or dream home – market. For the most specific to you data, please reach out to me by email to request a phone conversation. If it seems like a good fit at that point, we can arrange to meet in person and formulate a plan.
What can you buy in Cambrian for about $1.25 million?
Cambrian Park homes for sale
How 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.
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.
Where 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…)
Are you getting priced out of the market? If so, you’re not alone. In Silicon Valley, the prices of houses are rising dramatically right now. In some cases, homes are selling for 20% or more than list price. Recently I’ve heard of at least 2-3 homes which sold $400,000 or more over the asking price. This is happening in prices up to $3 million especially, but I’m also hearing it in the luxury tier.
With rapid housing price appreciation in Silicon Valley, home buyers who are “patiently waiting” for more inventory and just the right house to come on the market can end up finding themselves “priced out of the market“.
What does it mean to be “priced out of the market”?
In a nutshell, it means that while a few months before, you could afford the type of house you wanted (more or less), but prices have risen so fast that now you feel that you cannot buy anything at all.
If that’s the case, you feel that it’s no longer worth it to buy – so you continue to rent (or not purchase that investment property).
The waiting strategy may backfire
Have you been patiently waiting for just the right house to come on the market? Let me suggest to you that it may not be forthcoming. What you could afford a year ago is no longer possible today, and we do not see that situation changing anytime soon. In fact, appreciation would appear to be steeper now than it was 12 months ago. Waiting can be very expensive in a market like this one.
Why do buyers wait when they might do better to jump in?
Want to be a home owner in the San Jose area? Hire a great agent, but then LISTEN to him or her! (more…)
Open houses are returning to the California real estate scene, and private showings are also becoming more relaxed, but it won’t be a return to pre-pandemic practices just yet. The announcement that open houses would be permitted caught most of us Realtors (and our managers and brokers) by surprise a couple of days ago, and all of the details are not yet published, but I’ll share what I have learned so far.
Required protocol and open house paperwork
First, a home seller must decide whether or not to permit an open house (and a listing agent if he or she wants to do it). Naturally, there’s a form for that – an addendum to the listing agreement, LOHA (LISTING AGREEMENT OPEN HOUSE ADDENDUM OR AMENDMENT). Here’s a bit of a screenshot to give you a sense of what is required if the seller agrees to have an open house at the property:
If the seller wants the home to be held open, and the listing agent is willing to do it, there’s a bit of protocol to follow. Visitors to an open house must sign in for contract tracing purposes. If you’ve been house hunting over the last 14 months, you are probably used to signing the PEAD-V form for visitors. With that document, the listing agent got your name and saw your electronically signed signature, but that is it. Only your buyer’s agent had your contact info.
As open houses are returning in this transitional phase, the new Property Sign-In (PSI) will ask you for your name, phone number, and email address. This is not for marketing purposes, but for contact tracing purposes only. (Some agents may opt to still use the PEAD, but if so, they’ll need a way to contact you should you end up exposed to COVID-19 at the open house.)
You should expect that at an open house there will likely be a table set up before you can enter where you sign in and use hand sanitizer, which is required. The agent will make sure you are wearing a mask. Some sellers and / or listing agents may have additional requirements, such as your wearing shoe covers (usually provided) or gloves (not usually provided).
You should also expect that it’s possible you’ll need to wait to get inside. This is very important to keep in mind if there’s a heat wave. More on that below. (more…)
For years, Realtors have encouraged their home buyers to write “love letters” to go with their purchase offer on the home the buyers were trying to buy. The idea was to be more likeable so that the sellers would want to sell to them, as opposed to any competing home buyers. But as of now, the guidance from the National Association of Realtors is different: no more love letters.
What is wrong with buyer love letters?
The U.S. Fair Housing Act protects home buyers and renters from discrimination or bias under protected categories of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability. (In California, there are even more protected areas.) Put another way, when a home seller looks at a buyer package, the decision should be based on the offer price and terms, not on who the buyers are.
The concern with love letters is the risk of implicit bias: that the sellers would like or dislike buyers, even unconsciously, because of non-contractual facets that are protected. While it’s not illegal for a doctor to want to sell to another doctor, it is illegal for one member of a religious group to give preferential treatment to another member of the same religious group. It’s also illegal to give preferential treatment to buyers who have children versus those who do not. Photos are especially risky as they may enable things from the protected class list to be known.
Last October the National Association of Realtors published an article for its members in Realtor Magazine on this topic, Why a Buyer Love Letter Could Turn Into a Poison Pen. This short piece admonishes that even innocuous sounding statements are problematic:
Even a mention within a letter of envisioning “children running down the stairs on Christmas morning” could stir up trouble. After all, such a statement reveals the buyer’s familial status and religion, which are both protected under fair housing laws.
The real estate market in Silicon Valley is a hot seller’s market, and that means that often there are multiple offers, overbids, and sales with no contingencies. (I would say it’s the most overheated market I’ve seen in my 28 year career.) Some buyers may get it on the first attempt, but many are bidding over and over – why do they keep losing out on multiple offers?
Over the course of my career, I have noticed that often there is a consistent “spread” of offers. Most of the time, there’s a pack or band of offers at about the same level, sometimes 10% or more over list price, then a couple higher that that, and maybe one or two (once in awhile 3) at the top of the heap in terms of both price and terms which are attractive to the seller.
Not everyone is losing out on multiple offers: what are the winners doing?
- The top offer frequently has the highest price and best terms. It is 10-20% over list price or more, 25-30% down at least, and has no contingencies for inspection, loan, and most of all, appraisal (the percentage over has to do with whether the home was priced spot on the value or strategically under). But that’s not all. The winning offer’s buyers and agent followed directions. Normally that means that they come with all disclosures signed, and the buyer’s agent has even done her or his Agent Visual Inspection Disclosure. They include the proof of funds (all needed) which prove that the buyer can absorb any appraisal shortfall and is prepared to do so. ( Right now, many homes are not appraising to sale price, so this is awfully important for sellers.) Sometimes the listing agent asks for a particular contract to be used or a particular summary sheet to be filled out. The best agents do all of that. The 2nd tier offers often are incomplete – the listing agents may or may not circle back and ask about missing items, so it’s important to remember that you only get one chance to make a first impression.
- The best offer is also someone who’s been SURE that he or she or they wanted the home from the very beginning and looks ROCK SOLID. NO WAVERING, not a “last minute” offer. Any hesitation on your side will cause the seller to not feel good about your odds of closing the sale. Be consistently interested if you want the sale. A shaky looking buyer may not include their proof of funds. They don’t come across as certain about buying this property and need a few days to see the property again, or show it to their parents, or otherwise confirm the decision to buy. Their agent is not so thorough. If the TDS is not fully signed off, is the buyers’ agent trying to sneak a 3 day right of cancellation into the contract? The best buyer’s offer doesn’t look shaky – it looks dead set on buying the home and has done everything possible to convince the seller of their conviction and competence.
- The second best or next runner up is usually strong on terms (at least 25% down, few or no contingencies) but perhaps made an offer price a little under the top value. Sometimes the next runner up has a good price and mostly good terms, but something is not quite as solid – they didn’t offer to put the deposit into the escrow account the next day, they didn’t check all the needed boxes in the offer, they have a contingency when all the competing bids have none.. If the offers are tied but one buyer has no contingencies and the other has any, that will be the tie-breaker.
- Middle of the pack is usually a combination of a price where the home should appraise, a solid down payment, and few or no contingencies. It may be a price that seems “reasonable”. Buyers may feel that it is “a fair offer” or a win-win. Often the fair offers aren’t good enough to take the prize in multiple offers. If you can project what most buyers think a home will be worth, maybe you might want to consider getting ahead of that pack and seeing where the pricing trajectory will take you. The folks in the middle of the pack are usually the ones, together at the bottom, who keep losing out on multiple offers. (They will say things like “we are cautious…)
- Bottom offers are under, at, or barely over list price, and include an appraisal contingency as well as others (one for loan or one for property condition). If there’s a rent back, they want their PITI covered.
If you repeatedly find yourself losing out on multiple offers, try to see your own pattern in this spread. Is there one thing, or perhaps are there two or more things, you’re just not ready to do?
Why it is so hard
Looking to purchase real estate this year? Most interested home buyers are doing their house hunting online. Today I’d like to share a couple of tips with you that I think may be helpful.
- The local MLS is MLSListings.com. That is the most complete database of information for house hunting online. (Some listing agents will not permit their listings to syndicate to Zillow, Redfin, or Realtor.com.)
- Not everything is seen by the public on the MLS. MLSListings has 2 databases: most of it can be seen by the public, but there are some which may never show up on Realtor.com or other portals. These are homes which are either “coming soon” (but could sell before hitting the open market) and some which are “members only” and by design won’t be seen by the public, only by paying members of the MLS. To get access to all data, make sure that you are working with a real estate professional who is a member of the MLS. (He or she may also be able to tell you about disclosures online or offer due dates if they are published – or can reach out to the listing agent for that info.)Listing
- Redfin features the “hot home” label which lets you, the consumer, know that a property is likely to sell fast and over list price. Once in awhile a house or condo is “hot” and then it’s not. Sometimes the delisted from the hot list homes still do sell for more than list price, though.
- Syndication errors can happen. With syndication, some listing info that you see on one of the large portals, or perhaps through another MLS organization (not MLS Listings) may have old or outdated information. Best to always check the MLS local to the market where you want to buy.
- The status may not be updated immediately. Listing agents are allowed a couple of business days to change the status from active to pending once an offer is accepted. Many will wait for the buyer’s initial deposit to go to the title company. Typically that happens the next business day. If a property still shows active after a due date, it doesn’t necessarily mean that no one bid on it. For the same reason, the “days on market” on sold or pending properties could be a a little longer than what actually happened, particularly if the sale ratified on a Friday or a day before a holiday weekend and the check or wire could not go to title until the next business day.
If you are working with a local Realtor who knows the market and is partnering with you in your house hunting online, you are less likely to be surprised either when a home goes pending or closes if it’s your target.
In the current hot seller’s market here in Silicon Valley, most real estate agents representing the seller set an “offer date” for would be buyers and their Realtors to submit their offer packages, also known as their bids, for the property. How long does it take to write an offer? You may be tempted to do it on short notice.
The time commitment it varies – I would say you want to give yourself 2 days for a reasonably comfortable amount of time to read and absorb everything and to write your offer. It is difficult if you only have 24 hours between when you see and like a home and when the offer is due. It is possible, but only if you (and your Realtor) drop everything and only focus on this for the next 24 hours. And let me tell you, that is not fun – in fact, it’s miserable! Much better is to have several days.
Last week, though, I showed a home at 9 a.m. and turned in an offer before the 4 p.m. deadline. Never again. It was incredibly stressful and there was no way that we could all review everything as much as we should have done. The stress of it was sickening (literally) for me – I take my fiduciary obligations seriously and felt like I was cutting corners left and right to make a deadline. And I had to ignore all my other clients for a few hours to make it happen. (And no, my clients did not get it. Their offer was far too low, unfortunately.)
Most of the time, right now offers in the San Jose – Los Gatos – Saratoga – Campbell area are due on Tuesday. Once in awhile they are due on Monday and rarely on Wednesday. Seeing a potential target on Sunday is possible but it is still really hard (and about impossible if the due date is Monday). Much better is seeing it on Saturday, or, if possible, before the weekend even begins. If you can do that, it will be immensely easier and less stressful!
Why does it take so long to write an offer?