New Year’s Resolutions and Goals for Silicon Valley Real Estate Purchase, Sale, Remodeling

New Year's Real Estate ResolutionsAs 2021 comes to a close, it’s time to start looking forward to 2022. What are your real estate related goals and resolutions for this new year? Do you plan to buy, sell, or remodel your Silicon Valley home?  If so, this is a great time to sketch out your objectives and start early preparations to get the wheels in motion.

For South Bay home owners who want to make 2022 the year to sell and move, it’s wise to plan ahead so you can maximize your return on investment of time and money. A clean, well-prepared listing gives buyers greater confidence, and confident buyers tend to make higher offers! Take the time to do it right and you will reap the rewards of your effort.

Quick Tips for Planning to Sell a Home in 2022

  • Hire your real estate professional early in the process so that she or he may provide additional guidance from the beginning. It won’t cost more to hire early and you get more help. You may even save money by avoiding costly mistakes. A good agent will help you prepare your listing and determine a timeline to sell, whether you plan on selling this spring, next year, or next month.
  • Decluttering is one of the biggest task for home sellers and it can be where you get the most bang for your buck. Presenting a property to buyers in a way that feels like home, but not your home is a balancing act. Some homeowners choose to move out and stage their home to sell, which has been increasing in popularity and is certainly a successful way to declutter! Sellers occupying a listing should commit to depersonalizing the house and creating a marketable space. Some sellers will discover this is a much bigger undertaking than expected, and requires more time and energy than originally planned. This can be particularly challenging for long-term residents, sellers who are downsizing, and seniors. Talk to your Realtor before embarking, as some items may be helpful for staging and you don’t want to totally empty the house! Completely empty homes do not sell as well as those which are thoughtfully furnished.
  • Fix everything that is broken or in disrepair. No home is perfect, and buyers will not expect it to be (unless it’s brand new, of course), but everything you can repair is one less thing the buyers will worry about when writing an offer. That lightbulb that’s burnt out? Replace it now so that it doesn’t wind up in inspections or worrying buyers about the electrical system! Low cost repairs are often an excellent investment, but so can some more expensive fixes. I have had sellers who willingly go above and beyond preparing their home, from repiping to reroofing, see a clear return on investment for their efforts! However most sellers don’t want or need to do that much work. A bid with a price for the work from a reputable company is usually enough. Speak with your listing agent before tackling any major projects.
  • Clean everything: windows, window tracks, hardware, lamps, mossy patios, etc. A clean home is inviting and feels well cared for. Professional cleaning can make lightly used carpets look new again. Areas that easily show wear, like grout, caulk, and kitchen appliances, can give that “new home” feel when they are looking fresh!
  • Plan to have pre-sale inspections, but hire inspectors with your real estate salesperson.

Tips for Silicon Valley Home Buyers This Year

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Seasonal Pricing Patterns

The Silicon Valley real estate market tends to have seasonal pricing patterns. They are not rigid, and some years the typical or expected patterns don’t really hold. Generally, though, we expect the Spring market to be hot and the winter period to be cool. Is that true? Let’s take a look at the stats that I pulled today from MLS Listings.

Seasonal pricing patterns and today’s market

I spot checked the median sale price as well as the average sale price for houses in Santa Clara County, and they both followed the same seasonal pricing patterns. In the chart below, we have data from January 2013 (when the recovery really began) to November 2021. I’ve named the months with the peak prices and also the biggest dip each year. The pattern is a bit like the stock market – it does not only move up or down, but there are a lot of both with a generally upward trend.

This image is best seen on a tablet or desktop computer. If it is too small, please click on the image to view a larger version of it.

 

Seasonal pricing patters via the average sale price in SCC for SFH

 

 

If you prefer a data table, here’s one with just the peak bolded (please click to view larger image):
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Silicon Valley’s real estate market by school district: Santa Clara County

Today I want to share with you some stats provided by my real estate brokerage, Sereno Group. One of our own has crunched the numbers by school districts across various counties. Schools are a major driver in the real estate market, often more than zip code or city name, so here’s a very valuable approach to understanding the local housing market a bit better: a view from the vantage point of school districts.

Most of Silicon Valley is in Santa Clara County, followed by San Mateo County and a few neighboring areas. (It is sneaking into San Francisco and has also been present in pockets of Alameda and Santa Cruz Counties also.) Today, I’ll just focus on Santa Clara County.

Many cities or towns have multiple school districts. For instance, in Los Gatos, students may be served by Campbell, Los Gatos, or Union schools – depending on the address. San Jose, being the largest city in the county, has far more school districts than that.

First up, here are the numbers for Santa Clara County by high school district, a market update for May 2020:

Santa Clara County real estate market by high school district 2020 single family homes

 

Continue reading to see Santa Clara County’s real estate market data sorted by elementary school district.

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Hot seller’s market – what is it?

Hot Seller's Market!What does it mean when real estate professionals, journalists and consumers refer to a “hot seller’s market“?  Simply put, it means there’s an imbalance in the market which is very much in the seller’s favor.  In terms of supply and demand, it translates to far more demand than available inventory for sale (supply). It’s a good time to sell, but a hard time to buy.

The Elements of a Hot Seller’s Market

We measure or note the market conditions using a variety of data points;

  • days to sell (and days on market for all homes, including unsold)
  • sale price to list price ratio
  • absorption rate (months of inventory, weeks or days of inventory)
  • number of listings available vs pendings and recently closed homes
  • rapid rise in home sale prices, especially if to unsustainable levels
  • number of offers received on a property at once (multiple offers)
  • buyers upping their price and improving their terms voluntarily, without getting a counter offer
  • buyers writing offers with few or no contingencies, fast close of escrow or other extremely strong terms
  • overall market trends of inventory lessening, prices rising, buyers getting more desperate – how all of these look when viewed as a whole

Basically, when buyers are competing against one another with multiple offers, when properties are selling quickly and over list price, and prices rise, the ball is in the seller’s court and you’ve got a hot seller’s market!

While some of the above can be easily tracked on our multiple listing service, some are not findable anywhere except in conversations with real estate agents who are actively working the market, writing and receiving contracts. What isn’t tracked includes the number of offers placed on a home for sale, whether buyers are engaging in “bidding war” tactics such as upping their price before even getting a counter offer, or offers with no contingencies.

Related reading:

A summary of tips for multiple-offer situations in Silicon Valley real estate contracts

Should you write an offer with no contingencies? What is the risk with a non-contingent offer?

Mistakes that buyers’ agents make which damage their clients’ chances of winning in multiple offers

 

 

 

Comparing cost of housing in West Valley communities from Palo Alto to Los Gatos to Blossom Valley: what will a 4 bedroom home cost?

Sketch of houseIt can be really challenging for people moving to Silicon Valley to get a sense of real estate prices, and perhaps more, comparing cost of from one town or district to another.

One question I get a lot is this: what does it cost to buy a 4 bedroom, 2 bath house of about 2000 square feet?

So to answer this question, let’s see what houses like this are selling for (4 bed, 2 bath, appx 2000 SF or 185 square meters) and see how the cost looks in one Santa Clara County / Silicon Valley area versus another.

Comparing Costs

Today I compared several areas and cities using this criteria: single family homes of 1800 – 2200 SF, 3-5 bedrooms, 2-3 bathrooms, on lot sizes of 6000 SF to 10,000 SF. Normally I would chart this over the last 2 months, or 60 days, but because of the low inventory causing the sellers market I have expanded the search to the last 3 months, or 90 days, for a better range. Because some areas have had a scarcity of inventory, I’ve added an addition to the chart titled NoS for Number of Sales within the given range.

Here’s how it shakes out in the “west valley areas” along the Highway 85 corridor, most of which are known to have good to great public schools. What areas are most affordable? One way of analyzing this is the “price per square foot” figure. Whenever I update the chart, I re-arrange the order of the cities from high to low based on the price per square foot, although there’s usually minimal movement.

 

Feb 2020 Sales Comparisons

 

Within this range, Campbell only had one sale over the last 90 days, so data for that segment may or may not be a good average. Both Los Altos and Saratoga had no sales within the last 90 days within these criteria, so their searches have been expanded to 0-180 days (or 6 months / half a year) and 0-120 days (or 4 months / a quarter year) respectively to provide data for comparison for this chart. Now that we have the data, let’s analyze it!

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What can you buy in Cambrian for about $1.25 million?

Silicon Valley home prices are sky high, if lower than the peak of the market in Spring 2018. The median sale price of houses across all of Santa Clara County as of February is $1,182,000, and the average is about $1,449,000. Would you be able to buy a house in Cambrian for that sale price, or a little lower? If so, what would it look like? What can you buy in Cambrian for about $1.25 million today? Here we’ll consider the cost of Cambrian housing.

Cambrian offers good schools, a reasonable commute to places like Apple in Cupertino, and a nice location near Los Gatos and Campbell with lower real estate prices than those two areas. For that reason, it’s become a magnet for smart home buyers over the last 20 years. If you have the budget for a median priced Santa Clara County home, how far would it go in Cambrian?  Here’s the data, pulled this week from MLSListings, to answer that question.

What Can You Buy in Cambrian?

For the charts below: CUHSD refers to Campbell Union High School District, and SJUSD is San Jose Unified School District. Cambrian housing is most expensive in the Union SD, 2nd priciest is Cambrian, and most affordable is San Jose Unified.

 

Cambrian housing costs - What can you buy in Cambrian for $1.25 mil 02-2020

I need to add something very important here about the cost of  Cambrian housing, and that’s that the numbers above reflect CLOSED prices.

Pending sales right now are usually higher. Many homes with Union Schools especially, but in all areas, are experiencing multiple offers and overbids. In some cases, homes are selling for $250,000 or $300,000 over list price. 

Houses that had been modest 3 bed, 2 bath, 1250 SF homes that were selling for about $1,250,000 are now often selling for $1,350,000 or more, depending on walkability, lot size, and of course condition.

Despite what the closed numbers say, it is very difficult to find a house in Cambrian with Union or Cambrian schools that will actually sell for under $1.3 now. Cambrian housing prices are going through the roof at this point, particularly in areas with the best schools.

 

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Multiple offers and fair market value

"Multiple offers" - artwork

“Multiple offers”

Over the years I have been in quite a few multiple offer situations with my Silicon Valley home buyers and it seems that we are again in that kind of market in many parts of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties. Understandably, home buyers do not want to pay more than a home “is worth”. With several buyers all vying for the same property, though, the price is driven up. That’s a seller’s dream and a buyer’s nightmare. Is it possible to pay fair market value, and not more, with multiple offers?

What is fair market value?

With a little research, you may find a few slightly different definitions of fair market value. Most, though, include these elements:

  • Both buyer and seller are reasonably motivated (but not under any undue pressure)
  • Both buyer and seller are well informed and acting in their own best interests
  • The home or property has been given enough exposure such that the market has been tested
  • There are no special concessions that would impact the sale price (such as a year long free rent back, including all the furniture or personal property, the seller carrying the mortgage at a very high or very low rate of interest). Likewise, no other special terms that would increase or decrease the sale price.

In other words, fair market value is usually achieved when the buyer and seller have a normal sale, with normal time frames, normal contingencies, normal relationships to one another. Most of the time, this is the result of one offer on the house after two or three weeks on the open market. (Sooner than that, there may be pressure and other bids.)

If a seller or buyer is desperate to sell or buy, you probably won’t see fair market value. Similarly, if a parent sells the family home to a son or daughter, there’s a good chance it will never be a matter of exposing it to the pool of buyers, and the price is likely to be soft. Off market sales may be on the low side, though recently we’re seeing buyers in those circumstances paying more just to secure the property. A buyer who writes an offer subject to the sale of her or his home will be at a negotiating disadvantage, but a seller may accept that bid if the home has been on the market awhile, there is no other competition, and if the sale price is higher than it otherwise would be. (They’ll accept more risk for a higher sale price.)

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Is it too early in the season to be house hunting in Silicon Valley?

Photo of ranch style house with the question - Is it too early to begin house huntingIt’s a January that feels like March, if a dry one.  The weather is clear, mild, and temps are sixty to seventy degrees, the skies are blue and trees are beginning to blossom – a great environment for house hunting. Is it too early in the season to begin your search for the right home in Silicon Valley?

Each prospective home owner’s situation is different, but for many people, January is a great time to jump in with house hunting, before the Super Bowl, Valentine’s Day or some other point a little later in the calendar year.

Weather, Inventory, Interest Rates and Silicon Valley house hunting

First, to note the obvious: there is no weather related reason to wait. (Sellers: pay attention!)

Second, let’s discuss selection. Inventory is horribly low (see the inventory data table in my 2020 predictions article). Most people expect the number of available listings to be higher in Spring.  Seasoned Realtors know that while this often happens, it doesn’t always, so we cannot count on it. (Check the Santa Clara County monthly real estate statistics here.)

How bad is it?  I’m on the MLS right now.  For single family homes (houses and duet homes) in Santa Clara County, there are 411 for sale right this moment which are not sale pending or under contract. This is for the whole county, where there are 1.8 million people residing.

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What does it cost to buy a home with Los Gatos schools?

What does it cost to buy a home in Los Gatos “with the schools” (as opposed to the Union School District or the Campbell School District areas)? In the last 90 days, 30 houses have sold in Los Gatos within the Los Gatos Union School District.  The averages will give you some idea of pricing, but remember that the range is very broad!  Disclaimers aside:

Average home size appx 2200 SF

Average lot size aboout 9500 SF

Average sales price appx $2,270,000

That’s not to say that you cannot purchase a house in town for quite a bit less!  Here’s what has sold for UNDER $2,000,000 (17 homes in all):

 

Chart of single family homes sold in the last 90 days in 95030 and 95032 zip codes under $2 million

Chart of single family homes sold in the last 90 days in 95030 and 95032 zip codes under $2 million

 

You can also view the info at the bottom of the Altos charts for 95030 and 95032 to get a profile of homes for sale by pricing quartile.

 

 

Silicon Valley real estate sales to “all cash” buyers: how prevalent are they?

Ten dollar bill (shown in part) with the words "Cash Is King" - all cash offers are preferred by home sellersHow common are “all cash” transactions for Silicon Valley real estate right now?  During the first couple of years after the downturn ended and the recovery cycle began, we had a large percentage of all cash buyers in Santa Clara County and nearby. In recent years, though, that ratio has been declining. Where are we now?

Some areas and some types of sales are more frequently all cash than others.  Here are a few quick stats for the last 60 days  (numbers from MLSListings, crunched by me – disclaimer on good intentions but no guarantee) for single family homes, townhouses, and condominiums (not included are multi-family homes, apartment buildings, mobile homes, farms / ranches etc.). Also, please note that this is for closed sales, not pending sales.

What percentage of sales are all cash?

  • Santa Clara County: 12% all cash
  • San Mateo County: 20% all cash
  • Santa Cruz County: 18% all cash

Few areas in Santa Clara County

  • San Jose (entire city): 10% all cash
  • Los Gatos: 12% all cash
  • Cupertino: 11%
  • Milpitas: 4%
  • Morgan Hill: 13%
  • Campbell: 10%

All cash sales close escrow without a loan. In higher priced homes, some new owners will put financing on the property after close of escrow.  Particularly in lower priced homes, though, these are investor buyers who will be renting out the property.  This is often the case with the lower priced distressed properties in particular.

With the crazy new demands that keep coming at us from banks and new requirements being imposed on appraisers, now more than ever, cash is king.  That doesn’t mean that the cash buyer will get a deep discount, but there will be a slight one in most cases and certainly preferential treatment that will create a great advantage in multiple offer situations.

Learn more about buying and selling Silicon Valley real estate with cash offers:

Cash offers: what do you need to know if buying “all cash”?

Finding Your Next Home

What’s My Silicon Valley Home Worth? Estimating the Probable Buyer’s Value  (financing impacts market value)