Seller concession

Dogs playing tug of war - words seller concession, buyer concessionWhat is a seller concession? This refers to anything that the seller gives or grants to the buyer. Sellers are not the only ones who can grant concessions, but right now it’s in the news more due to changes underway in how we sell real estate and the forms and clauses we use to do so.

Concessions are a normal part of negotiation. Most of the time, both sides concede something in the arena of price and terms. In a sense, it’s a bit like tug of war in that both sides want the best price and terms, but most of the time the negotiation is a little give, a little take, unless there are a lot of multiple offers.

Seller concession examples

A good example of a seller concession would be accepting a price less than the list price. The seller concedes the desired price.  A concession can be about money, time, inclusions, or any number of things.

Other home seller concessions might include:

  • accepting an offer with a contingency, or some contingencies
  • home owner agreeing to pay for a home warranty
  • providing a credit to help with the buyer’s closing costs (if there’s a lender involved, there may be limits to that credit)
  • paying the buyer’s agent’s fee as outlined in the buyer representation agreement (there’s a box to check in the contract)
  • allowing a longer close of escrow than typical if the buyer requests it (perhaps to close escrow on their current home)
  • leaving personal property, such as the washer, dryer, and fridge – or patio furniture, a pool table, a TV, etc.
  • permitting a longer than typical timeframe to meet buyer’s needs for contingency removal or depositing money to escrow (we have run into religious reasons for this to be requested)
  • granting access to the home for visits beyond the typical 17 days
  • agreeing to remove a fixture that the buyer does not want
  • making repairs prior to close of escrow (termite work, roof leaks, or anything else that the buyer asks and the sellers agrees to cover)
  • with buyers of homes in common interest developments, sometimes the seller only orders the bare minimum, legally required HOA documents – if the buyer requests newsletters or other non-required items and the seller pays for and provides them, that’s another seller concession
  • the seller could agree to pay points on the borrower’s mortgage – this would also be a seller concession

 

Buyer concessions

Buyers sometimes make concessions, too. Some of the buyer concessions that we’ve seen included these:
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Introducing the Cambrian Gardens Neighborhood of San Jose

The Cambrian Gardens neighborhood is situated close to the Los Gatos border and is one of the more affordable Cambrian neighborhoods, particularly if home buyers are looking with schools in mind first and foremost.

It enjoys lovely views of the hills, great public schools with strong test scores (and other metrics), a neighborhood private school to boot, and convenient access to freeways and stores. There’s no sign, marker or gateway to the area, so many of its residents are probably unaware that the official name to it is Cambrian Gardens.

This area in Cambrian Park provides an incredible “bang for the buck” for home buyers wanting excellent schools and not wanting to pay luxury home pricing. In many ways, it’s a “sleeper” – meaning that many people don’t know it’s there, but it’s a relatively good deal!

Where is the Cambrian Gardens neighborhood of Cambrian?

 

Map of the Cambrian Gardens neighborhood in San Jose 95124The rough borders are Union Avenue, Los Gatos-Almaden Road, Leigh Avenue, and the West Valley Freeway (85).

Not everything within that area is part of the tracts which make up Cambrian Gardens, though. It was developed just south of and directly adjacent to the Cambrian Park area which is so well known, but now separated from it by the freeway. (Click image or here to see live map in Google.)

Cambrian Garden Landmarks

Homes built in this part of Silicon Valley were clustered around the later-built neighborhood public school (bordered by Clarinda, Laurinda, Emeline and Sandy), James De Voss, which is now leased out as a private one, the Global School, as well as Little Oak Preschool. The other major landmark to the neighborhood is Ross Creek, which slides through the middle. With it come frogs, egrets, ducks and other wildlife which are generally welcome. (more…)

How to fix incorrect property records in Santa Clara County?

Professional man working at computer in a sunny room - Fixing incorrect property records in Santa Clara County - what do you need, who do you callWhat do you need to do about incorrect property records in Santa Clara County? Sometimes public property records are wrong or have missing information.

Info needed to rectify errors on the public record

What you need to do about incorrect property records in Santa Clara Co depends on what needs correcting. If your square footage is correct but the number of bedrooms is not, you may be able to phone and just tell the person over the phone what the issue is and it will be changed.

If the square footage of the lot size is not right, you’ll need documentation from a surveyor or another professional qualified to measure the parcel and document the calculations. That paperwork will need to be submitted, probably by email, but possibly in person.

In all cases, you need your parcel number for the most efficient help.  More on that below.

Incorrect property records in Santa Clara Co – who to contact

In Santa Clara County (San Jose, Los Gatos, Saratoga, Campbell etc.), you must go through the county tax assessor’s office to address these errors, and specifically, you need to speak with your property’s assigned appraiser. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. First, find your APN or assessor’s parcel number and keep it handy, as you will need it (also paper & pen).  You will find it on your property tax bill.  You can also find your APN online via the Santa Clara County website.
  2. Phone the Real Property & Appraiser Department at (408) 299-5300.  Someone there will ask you for your APN so that the correct appraiser can be contacted – I was surprised to learn that there are several dozen appraisers on staff! You can also try emailing them at RP@asr.sccgov.org
  3. From there, you’ll need to talk with your assigned appraiser and see what needs to be done.  He or she may need some documentation, may ask you some questions – just call and find out.
  4. More info can be found here, on their FAQ page: Santa Clara County Tax Assessor’s Office FAQ page. The phone directory for that office is here. But do yourself a favor and do not phone any other number besides  the -5300 one. I made that mistake myself and was passed from one department to the next, each person not understanding what needed to be done, and it ate up 40 minutes of my time. If you want to fix incorrect property records in Santa Clara County, it’s imperative that you call the appropriate number and get put in touch with an appraiser, or you may have an unpleasant experience, as I did.

Why are the public records on real property sometimes wrong?

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Disclosing death on a property

Disclosing death on a property - woman completing paperwork with image of house in the backgroundDisclosing death on a property is required in California home sales for 3 years after the person passes. The Seller Property Questionnaire asks if the seller is aware of:

Within the last 3 years, the death of an occupant of the property upon the property (yes / no)

(Note to seller: The manner of death may be a material fact to the Buyer, and should be disclosed, except for a death by HIV / AIDS.)

Some points to note regarding this form and disclosing death on a property:

  • The question does not say “in the house” or “in the garage”, but upon the property. Included is anywhere within the property boundaries.
  • If someone died further back than that, the seller is obligated to answer truthfully if a buyer asks if there was ever a death on the property.
  • Oddly, it specifies “an occupant” of the property rather than any death at all. I suspect that any death would be of interest to a buyer, and possibly a material fact. An attorney would be the best person to answer that question.

Deaths from crimes, or which would be a stigma, such as a suicide or murder, should be disclosed even if it’s been more than 3 years since that’s an issue which may materially impact value or desirability. There’s no question on the disclosure forms that asks this. It falls under the general requirement to disclose anything that a buyer may be  seriously concerned about, such as a stigma.

What about disclosing death on a property which is part of a condo complex?

First, it’s important to understand that detached homes, townhomes, and condo units that look like apartments can all be condominiums – condos are a type of ownership. They aren’t an architectural style. The comments below MAY apply to townhomes, or possibly other types of structures, if that home is held in condo ownership.

With condominium ownership, the owner owns the interior airspace of the living area (sometimes also the garage, but sometimes not) and owns a percentage of the common areas of the parcel. The condo owner is a partial owner of the entire parcel or property.

If there’s a death in a condo complex in the common area, will that be shared in the disclosures? It should be, whether the death was inside the unit for sale or anywhere within the common area of the parcel boundaries.
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Five Pricing Mistakes to Avoid

Five pricing mistakes to avoid - not factoring in location problems or other negative issues is a huge mistakePricing is the most important part of “marketing a home for sale” that sellers and their agents do. There are five pricing mistakes to avoid that we’ll go over here.

The one most important tip: over-pricing is the #1 reason why some homes don’t sell. A property has the best chance of selling at highest value and quickly when it’s priced right from the start. Here’s a quick list of the most common pricing errors which Silicon Valley home sellers should avoid because they often lead to over-pricing.

Five Pricing Mistakes to Avoid

  1. Selecting the list price of the home based on what you want or need rather than on what the market will bear (the “probable buyer’s value” of your home).
  2. Using dissimilar “comps”. The best comparable properties will be within a mile  of the subject property, within 10% of the home’s size and 10% of your lot’s size, in the same school district, ideally in similar condition and architectural style, in a similar type of location, and on top of all that sold very recently.  Don’t compare a patio home or zero lot line home with a house on a normal lot where the owners can walk fully around the property. Don’t use the price per SF of a property 20% (or more) larger or smaller.
    • Of the five pricing mistakes to avoid, this is the most common one – for both sellers and for buyers trying to gauge where a property might sell.
  3. Hiring an agent who tells you an inflated price and then using that number. Look at the numbers yourself. A better practice is to first select the best Realtor and then arrive at a pricing strategy together. Many agents are pressured by homeowners to tell the owner what he or she wants to hear. This is truly counter-productive!
  4. Not factoring in negative issues which could impact your home’s value, such as proximity to busy roads, high voltage power lines, the look of nearby homes and yards, non-permitted work or additions, a strange layout, etc. Ignoring it – or believing that buyers will – means you will be perpetually too high in your assessment of your home’s value.
  5. Failing to include the current competition in your assessment of your real estate’s value.  Are there a lot of homes like yours on the market? Are they selling or staying on the market? The buyers are are sending signals, so listen to them! Are there short sales and bank owned homes selling nearby? If so, those are going to pull your home’s value down, so those need to be included in your assessment. It is very important to establish the probable sales price of your home by looking at the competition as well as the pending sales and recently sold homes.

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Why does it matter if the bedroom windows are small or high?

Younger home with large bedroom window, low to the ground

Younger home with large bedroom window, low to the ground

If you are buying or selling an older ranch style house or historic home in Silicon Valley, there’s a good chance that original bedroom windows may be smaller or higher than your home inspector might like.  What is the big deal with the height or size of the windows?  The inspection report may mention ingress and egress.

On this site and others of ours, we bring up health and safety topics from time to time. For example, we shared info on unsafe electrical panels here. In the case of fire or other emergency, children and adults may need to get out and rescue personnel may need to get in. If bedroom windows are poorly configurated, the room could end up being a death trap.

For fire safety, it’s important that:

  • bedroom windows be an escape route for persons in the home (egress) – for this, they must be low enough to the ground and big enough so that children and adults can both get out in case of an emergency
  • emergency responders such as fire fighters, with their large backpacks on their backs, can get in through the same openings (ingress)

When windows are too high, kids, and perhaps adults, cannot get out through them.  And no matter how low or high, if the windows are too small, emergency personnel cannot enter through them.

Bedroom windows and safety: how big and how low do the windows need to be?

There are varied requirements, and exceptions, depending on whether the home is new construction or a remodel. Additionally, there are different rules for basements and 2nd story bedroom windows. Cities and towns each have their own codes, too.  Your best bet is to check with your particular town or city to see what you must do if remodeling or replacing your windows.

In Los Gatos, ground floor windows must be

  • no more than 44″ off the ground
  • at least 20″ wide
  • at least 24″ tall
  • There are additional requirements, though – please see the link at the bottom of this article to view the details.

San Jose’s requirements are similar.

City of San Jose: Window Replacement Requirements

All sleeping rooms and basements – Must meet these specifications:
– Minimum 5.7 square feet opening*
– Minimum height of 24 inches
– Minimum width of 20 inches
– Maximum height to bottom of clear opening of 44 inches
* In order to meet the required 5.7 square-foot opening, either the width or height or both must
exceed the minimum dimensions shown. If bottom of clear opening is le

When remodeling your home and switching from single pane to dual pane windows, many people will be tempted to use the same sized windows with the new replacement set in order to save money, and in many areas, skip the need for permits and finals by not disturbing the stucco.  But rather than target the least expensive way to upgrade your windows, I’d like to suggest making safety a priority.  Upgrade not just your home’s energy efficiency, but its safety too.

 

Ranch style house with original casement windows

Ranch style house with original casement windows – impossible for ingress by emergency personnel.

 

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Tips for selling your home in an El Niño year

House for sale on a rainy day - Selling your home in an El Nino yearSelling your home in an El Niño year? It’s not impossible, but you may want to do things a little differently!

Home buyers need to buy no matter what the weather is like, and the most serious ones are not put off but inclement weather. The trick is to maximize your sales price and minimize inconvenience and risk to everyone involved.  To that end, here are a few tips from my professional experience.  The rainy season will likely go through March or April, with the spring months being the peak selling season most years.

First, safety tips for selling your home in an El Niño year:

  1. Safety tips for selling your home in an El Niño year: if home buyers come in soaking wet, it’s good to have a non-slip mat (as opposed to a towel on slippery tile) for them to step onto with their wet shoes so they don’t fall and get hurt.  If there’s a back door that they might use to view the yard, have a non-slip mat there too.
    • Also, make sure that there are no obstructions in getting to the house, such as cars in the driveway (if it’s pouring, they want the shortest walk possible), garden hoses where someone may want or need to step over them, toys, or anything that could be a trip hazard or a bad surprise to the face, such as low hanging bushes or trees that reach over the walkway. When it’s raining, sometimes people walk with their heads down and aren’t paying as much attention to their surroundings.
  2. Related to the first point, if you would like them to remove shoes or put on shoe covers / booties, provide a place to sit so that they don’t get injured in the process of respecting your wishes.  Some home buyers will be wearing laced shoes or boots.  Others may be older or have balance problems.  Do not expect them to be able to stand on one foot while trying to get the covers on.  If you have a covered front porch, a bench there is fine – just have the shoe covers available there too.
  3. Please consider adding an umbrella stand, or a place for umbrellas, on the front porch or the entry hall so that your prospective home buyers are not obligated to carry a wet one through your home.

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When a parent, spouse or loved one dies – what do you need to know or do about the house?

Death and Real Estate - Dealing with a Property after A Loved One DiesWhen a parent, spouse or loved one dies and he or she owned a home, there’s a lot for the survivors to do in addition to the very real and painful process of mourning. I have been through this with my own parents (and their house in Saratoga), a great aunt in Willow Glen, and many clients in San Jose, Los Gatos, Palo Alto, and elsewhere in Silicon Valley.

Quick summary of what to do regarding the home first and soon when a loved one dies:

  1. Engage the help of of an attorney and tax professional within the first 30 days or so. Sometimes there are deadlines or goal dates that will help the beneficiaries, and if people take too long to connect with these professionals, some opportunities may close.
  2. Some attorneys are also tax professionals, but most likely these will be different people.
  3. A professional valuation of the home will be needed, usually done by a licensed appraiser, but sometimes a real estate professional can do a market analysis that is acceptable. The home does not have to be empty or cleaned out to have this done.
  4. If you need the names of good tax and legal professionals, feel free to reach out to your real estate agent (or to me, if you are local). Most of us have worked with trust situations and can provide names. Or ask friends and family who’ve recently gone through the same situation and were happy with the people that they hired.
  5. You will need several copies of the certified death certificate. Discuss how many with your tax and legal professional. If you sell or transfer the home, the title company will need it and it will be recorded with the county.

Death, dying, & real estate: where to begin when a loved one dies?

In terms of settling the estate, it is wise to first speak with an attorney and tax professional about the property to find out what is required and advisable.

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What Can You Learn from a Frosty Roof?

Viewing a frosty roof, or a one without frost on an icy morning, can provide useful information about the home’s insulation.

Frosty roof photos (and why it matters)

Here are some homes in Los Gatos viewed early one winter morning when the sun had barely risen.   The home on the left shows some ice over and near the eaves, but not higher up on that roof.  The house on the right  has frost all nearly all of its roof except over the garage where it connects to the 2nd story.   What is happening?

 

Two homes on an icy morning - one with more frost than the other

 

In the left house, the roof is warm and the frost is melting or gone, while on the right the roof is not warm except in one spot.

Frost is a good indicator that the insulation in the attic is keeping the heat in the home and that it’s not being lost to the attic and roof. The house on the right is very well insulated. The one warm spot may be close to the furnace, water heater, washer, or dryer – something in the garage is heating up that corner of the roof.

This has nothing to do with the roof type, by the way. The one on the left is metal and the one next to it is composition shingle. In the photos below, at the left is another comp shingle and to the right of it has a concrete tile roof.

Let’s look at another example:

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Estimating the Probable Buyer’s Value

The probable buyer’s value for a home is very similar to market value, as a home is only worth what a buyer will pay. If the seller wants more than that, it won’t sell. If it’s unlikely that their ranges overlap at all, we’ll have a listing that is difficult or impossible to sell.

Quick summary on the probable buyer’s value:

  • The probable buyer’s value is a range of what most buyers would pay for a particular property if there was no undue pressure on the buyer or seller.
  • The probable buyer’s value will be impacted by many factors, such as the timing (if there are other houses which are more competitively priced or no other inventory), the property condition, the presentation of the property, the accessibility of the property (how hard is it to see – is it vacant or occupied?), the marketing (photos, floor plans, etc.), and many other things.
  • The buyer’s terms weigh heavily on what the buyer can or will pay for any home.

Sometimes it can be tricky to estimate what a home might sell for. I usually talk with my seller clients about trying to find the probable buyer’s value.

In a balanced market, the seller may have a range of prices that he or she anticipates and would accept. So too with the buyer, whose range will likely be lower than the seller’s. The key is finding where the buyer and seller price ranges overlap.

In an overheated market, which we have now, it’s fairly simple to figure out the floor of pricing, a price point that is supported by past sales, but it’s harder to ascertain the ceiling, which is where very capable and driven bidders may take the price. Next, please find a long-ish (12:36 minute) video on price and terms, mostly regarding overheated markets, but some info on balanced markets, too. 

 

 

Balanced Market

In the balanced or more neutral market, buyers and sellers often have some common ground on valuation of the real estate. This chart below was used in the video above (for those of you who will skip the video):

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