Tips for Silicon Valley Home Buyers
One of the best ways to get a pulse on the Cambrian Park real estate market is to see what’s selling fast. Sometimes a few low sales will make the market look more sluggish than it is. For the Cambrian housing market, though, most single family homes are selling well, with multiple offers, and overbids right now. But not all. So let’s separate them out by time and see how it looks.
Before we begin, it’s important to recognize how much has changed since the beginning of March, so this data is not going to be as relevant as it normally would be. This month we will have a better grasp over the pandemic’s affect on real estate, but it will take time to see the full picture. For more on the impact of the pandemic on the market, check out my post titled Coronavirus impact on real estate sales.
During the shutdown so far, the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) stopped the timer on all Days on Market (DOM). Therefore these numbers will be off beginning from March 17th through around May 17th. In the data below, this will affect any numbers related to the days on market, the absorption rate, and the days of inventory for previous months. June numbers are accurate.
Fast sales are stronger sales: under 14 days is best for Cambrian Park realty sales
Just now (as of July 10th) I pulled the single family home sales for Cambrian (mls area 14) for the last 30 days (mostly June but possibly some July) and saw a huge difference between the homes that sell fast and those that do not. The turning point seems to be 14 days on the market between overbids and underbids.
Out of 76 properties sold in the last 30 days, 61 of them or about 80% sold in 14 days or less, with the average days on market (DOM) for this group a lighting speed 5.4 days! For these fast selling homes the average list price $1,242,045 and average sale price $1,269,485 (averaging an overbid of $27,440 or approximately 102.2% of list price). A larger than usual number in that group, 21 total, sold below list price and 3 sold at list price. The majority, 37 properties, sold over asking.
Of the 15 slower sales, roughly 20%, were on the market between 15 and 152 days. Only 4 sold above list price, 1 at asking, and 10 sold below.
Home buyers & sellers in Silicon Valley hear about various types of real estate related insurance products and they can sometimes be confused with one another: Homeowner’s (or Fire) Insurance, Title Insurance and Home Warranties. We’ll discuss them today and hopefully will clear up the confusion.
Insurance Choices: Homeowner’s Insurance, Title Insurance, and Home Warranties
Homeowner’s Insurance pays you money to cover losses in the event of a fire or other unseen catastrophe (such as a tree falling on your home, a fire caused by lightening or a fence falling down in a windstorm). Often there’s a deductible but beyond that you have major coverage for losses in most cases. There are some caveats, of course. If you purchase a home using financing, your lender will require you to buy this type of insurance. It is sometimes also called Fire Insurance.
Homeowner’s insurance does not cover damage from earthquakes or flooding from creeks, rivers or dam failure. If you have a fixture that fails and the home floods, though, that is probably covered.
Homeowner’s insurance does not guarantee that if something is destroyed it can be rebuilt. For instance, in older parts of Santa Clara County (such as downtown Saratoga, San Jose, Los Gatos and Willow Glen) there are detached garages built right up against the property line or very close to it. In most places there are now setback requirements of about 5 feet or so. Should that garage burn down (or be destroyed by termites or anything else), it can only be rebuilt, most often, if it’s moved. Creating a new foundation is expensive – and that may not be covered by your HO insurance.
In the market to buy a California home? You may be surprised to find that you’ll be required to sign paperwork to get into the property for a viewing. This is part of the coronavirus impact on real estate sales and is likely to be part of the normal home buying process for awhile.
Do I have to sign paperwork for a buyer broker agreement? What is required?
No, the paperwork required is not a buyer broker agreement at all. Instead, it has to do with the pandemic, your safety, and the safety of anyone else living at or visiting the home. (Read more about a buyer broker agreement here.)
First, something you don’t sign: The seller’s agent is supposed to provide your real estate agent and you a document with the safety protocol for your visit. It’s often referred to as the “prevention plan” or “best practices”. That form provides info on safety rules and tips as well as what the listing agent or seller will due to help insure your safety during your visit.
For any listing agents who are Realtors, you can use this form provided by the California Association of Realtors: “Real Estate Best Practices Guidelines and Prevention Plan for Showings During COVID-19 – Stage 2 Expansion” (C.A.R. Document BPPP, 5/25/20).
While buyers do not sign this, they are supposed to receive the prevention plan before they sign the 2nd document. The listing brokerage does sign it.
From my experience and what I am hearing, there’s quite a bit of confusion over this form, and very few listing agents are sending this out. What might be smart is simply including it or the company’s alternative in with the disclosure package, or make it accessible via the private agent remarks along with instructions about having the buyers sign paperwork prior to the showing.
Second, you must sign paperwork for entry: The buyer’s agent is required to get you, the home buyer, to sign a 2 page form, “Coronavirus Property Entry Advisory and Declaration – Visitor” (C.A.R. Document PEAD-V, 5/27/2020). Again, this is supposed to happen after you receive the safety protocol. Continue reading
Cambrian Park is a highly desirable district of San Jose. With close proximity to Los Gatos, Campbell, Willow Glen and Blossom Valley, there’s lots to do within Cambrian itself or very nearby. Cambrian also enjoys good schools, low crime, two newer libraries, two Farmer’s Markets, and a fabulous rec center, the Camden Community Center.
Where is Cambrian Park and how big is it? The 2010 census reported Cambrian Park as having less than 4,000 people. In contemporary usage, though, Cambrian consists of much more than the area known as “Cambrian Village” (which has this small population), and now includes about 75,000 residents in all. The area includes most of the 95124 zip code plus the 95118 zip code (and a little sliver of 95008). (To see a very approximate map of Cambrian Park boundaries, click on this link.) The local Realtor association had something to do with this shift in perception as it mapped out boundaries for Cambrian Park, roughly known in the industry as “area 14” that expanded the original area. Historically, though, Cambrian was really a very vast area including much of Campbell and many areas now falling under different district names. The area is alternately known as Cambrian, Cambrian Park, and Cambrian Village – the latter referring to the area near Union & Camden Avenues.
Related post on Cambrian’s history, areas and map: please also see Cambrian Park: Good Schools, Low Crime, Close to Los Gatos and Campbell
How do you decide where in Cambrian to live? Many aspects of home buying will likely come into play, from schools desired and budget available to the ambiance and practical things you desire such as RV parking, an extra large garage, family room, guest suite, commute issues (proximity to freeways), etc.
I. School Districts of Cambrian Park
Your decision might be influenced by the school district you want; Cambrian Park has three elementary school districts. All are good – Cambrian Park truly has no bad schools – but some are exceptionally high. Some districts may have more offerings for special needs kids or gifted kids – if you have children and are looking at placing them in the local public schools, do your research before you househunt!
- The north side of Cambrian Park (going into Campbell and Willow Glen) has schools belonging to the Cambrian School District (see map).
- The east side of Cambrian Park (going toward Blossom Valley) is part of the territory of the San Jose Unified School District. Schools for all of San Jose are beautifully mapped out by the district – you have to zoom in to see the boundaries around Cambrian but it includes all three local districts so is worth the extra steps!
- The southwest side of Cambrian (and east Los Gatos) is within the boundaries of the Union School District, which also has a helpful map of the borders. The map is a pdf and it is very detailed.
“Red flags” are clues that something is wrong or potentially wrong. They’re the hints that we need to investigate something further, the sign that we should be on alert.
Some parts of San Jose, and Silicon Valley generally, enjoy beautiful older homes with classic styling and beautiful finishing work. These properties and neighborhoods are prized because they are not cookie cutter, not ranch, not too new. They may be Victorian, Craftsman, Spanish, or any number of other interesting architectural styles.
One area of Santa Clara County that is well known for both charming historic homes and unfortunately also some structural issues among those older houses is the Willow Glen district of San Jose.
Back in 2015 I showed some clients about a half dozen homes, all in Willow Glen, and we saw a lot of “red flags” which hinted of foundation problems, among others. I thought I’d share a few pics I snapped at one of them with my old treo camera here. All of these were taken on the front porch of this house – all visible structural “red flags” before we ever set foot into the house.
Listings with few photographs or none at all typically are skipped by most home buyers. The reason is simple: if it’s not showing, the room (or yard, or whole house) is assumed to be in terrible condition.
The seller’s loss, though, is a buyer’s gain. The poorly marketed house can be an opportunity for home buyers who are having trouble in multiple offer situations. With few or no images, the odds of having multiple offers go way down.
Why would there be few photographs, or none at all, in an active listing?
The home may have no or few photographs for other reasons: the seller is extremely private, the home is occupied by tenants, the seller has not yet decluttered or made the home show ready, etc.
It’s also possible that a photographer will be at the home at some point, but has not yet been available.
The bottom line is that a property with no or few photographs online presents a possible opportunity for the home buyer who would like to purchase a home that not so many others are vying for. The home may not show as well as one that is properly staged and marketed, but it could be the thing that gets you into your next home sooner rather than later.
Planning to purchase your first home is very exciting (if a little scary). Setting priorities is a challenge. There are so many things you may want: a low price, a good and quiet neighborhood, and turnkey condition. Before looking, you may be positive that what you want for the price you can pay is doable.
The first time or two out and really looking at homes for sale can be very disturbing. After seeing acceptable looking homes online, why are the homes you are looking at still so terrible for the money when you see them in person?
This is the adjustment to reality period, and it’s stressful and depressing for most first time home buyers in Santa Clara County. (See Managing real estate stress and worry on another of my sites.)
How do you get your must-have list ranked?
Start asking yourself (or yourselves) some either-or questions. Which is more important to you, home size or home condition? (Smaller house in great shape or larger house that needs work?) Which really is more important: having 3 bedrooms and 2 baths close to work, or on a nicer street with a further commute? Is it better for you to get a low price and put in the “sweat equity” later, or would you prefer to buy a turnkey home but pay top dollar for it? Do you have to have a formal dining room or would you give that up to be on a better street?
Often the choice comes down to location – you may be able to get what you want for your budget, but not where you want it. The trade-off may come in the way of a longer commute, lesser school district, higher crime area or some other factor. Or, if location is a non-negotiable, your choice may be to get into a certain area with fabulous schools or a great little downtown area, but instead of a house, you’ll be purchasing a condo or townhouse. Or a house which needs a whole lot of work.
Write down everything that you want, but start with two categories: the must have list and the want to have list. This is the first step in setting priorities. (Include things to avoid, too.)
Now pare down your must have list as much as possible (whether it’s budget, amenities, geography or anything else) to what you believe is your true, top priorities – only allow yourself five or ten items on this list. The shorter it is, the more attainable it will become, most likely. Continue reading