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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Mold in Homes and Real Estate Sales

Mold is everywhere, but we don’t always expect to see it.

A few years back, my husband and I went to the Monterey Peninsula for a couple of days to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary.  We had a wonderful time there, but would not return to the hotel where we stayed this time.  The worst issue was the mold in the bedroom along the wall and baseboard.  I brought it to the hotel’s attention and it was “cleaned”, but I think the issue is far from solved.

Mold and Mildew

Mold is often called mildew, and is seen perhaps most often in bathrooms around the shower, tub, or window.  Below is an image of of this substance (tested, verified) in a garage on an outside wall.

 

Mold sample on garage wall

First, I should state that mold is naturally occurring and it is not possible to completely eliminate the spores from your home.  The question is whether or not what is inside the house is the same kind and density as the mold outdoors, or whether something unusual is harbored indoors.

Mildew needs moisture and the right, mild temperatures to thrive – eliminate the source of water and it will go dormant.  Please note that it will not die when the moisture is eliminated – it just goes into a sleepy state.  If water is later reintroduced, the spores will spring back to life.

In my experience, the most common place to find mold in the San Jose area tends to be in bathrooms, particularly around older aluminum windows (which tend to be very cold and collect condensation). Mold on these window frames is easily cleaned by using a solution of water and bleach, and it can be prevented by better ventilation and heat, which allows the window frames to dry out. Likewise it’s very easy for it to grow in showers and tub areas due to the high amount of water present.  That water needs to be able to evaporate, otherwise you’re inviting it to take hold.

Step 1: find the source of the mold

Find growths on sheetrock, wood or carpeting?  First you must discover the source of the moisture.  Most likely, there’s a leak somewhere, either a plumbing leak or around a door, window, roof or flashing.
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Selling your home in Spring? Find and hire your agent over the holidays!

Hire your agent over the holidays and hit the ground running in January - business man in front of fireplace fireIt’s mid-November, and it may not be intuitive, but if you want to sell your home next Spring, I’d encourage you to find and hire your agent over the holidays.

Why hire your agent over the holidays?

Thanksgiving is late next week, and you may want to shelve the whole idea of anything related to home selling until sometime after January first, or maybe after Super Bowl. Many home owners determine that in the new year they’ll start decluttering, fixing up the home and yard, and stat thinking about contacting a real estate agent or two (or three).

But that’s backwards from the ideal!

If you can take a few hours now to select and hire (yes, sign the listing contract) your real estate professional, that person can help you make key decisions that will impact your return on investment.

It does not cost more to bring her or him into the process early, and it may save you some money and keep you from making improvements that are counter productive to your goals.

Not only that, but Realtors often have trusted vendors for yardwork, painting, hauling, and even for help with sorting out what stays, what goes, and what gets donated or tossed.  Hire your agent over the holidays, get in touch with those vendors in December, and schedule the help you need for that first week in January and get the job done right the first time.

 

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The Holidays: Should You Pull Your Home Off The Market?

Should you pull your Silicon Valley home off the market? A different way to do home Sales During the HolidaysAre  you thinking it’s time to pull your home off the market?

  • many sellers in late fall decide to withdraw unsold properties from the active real estate market
  • winter can be a good time to sell as the competition shrinks, and some homes look wonderful in their holiday finery
  • rather than pull your home off the market, you might consider keeping it on, but marketing it differently
  • we’ll suggest some strategies for holiday home marketing below

If you’ve been trying to sell your home in Silicon Valley but haven’t received an offer yet, don’t despair!  With our mild winters, you really can sell real estate any time of year, especially now, when inventory is so low.

When most sellers exit the market after Halloween, we typically see a higher absorption rate as serious buyers will be buying from the available inventory. That means your odds of success are higher!

Should you pull your home off the market? We think not, but don’t keep trying to sell it the same way!
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Gilroy and the South County’s Fruit Stands and Farmland

Fruit stands are ubiquitous in rural Santa Clara County, particularly in the South County communities of Morgan Hill, San Martin, and Gilroy. If you’re driving to Los Angeles, you may not be able to miss the largest of them all, Casa de Fruta, which is just barely inside of Santa Clara County.

Fruit stands and where to find them

Along 152

f you’re driving to Los Angeles from Santa Clara County using Highway 5, you will turn off of Highway 101 and take Hwy 152 in Gilroy to cut across the Pacheco Pass to get to 5. Almost immediately on 152 you’ll encounter produce stands selling fruit, nuts, artichokes, and all sorts of vegetables, and, of course, garlic!

One of these fruit stands along Highway 152 near Gilroy is the Merry Cherry Fruit Stand.  There we have purchased some cherries (naturally!) and pistachios at various times. Here are a couple of photos from there,  taken in a May evening, around 6:15 or 6:30, so there are long shadows – but it was fabulous spring weather and very pleasant out. It’s a pretty typical roadside stand and there are many of them in this region.

Please note: some of the produce stands may take cash only, though I suspect it’s changed as technology has improved.

 

Merry Cherry fruit stand near Gilroy CA along Highway 152 - of of many produce and fruit stands in the South County area of Santa Clara County

 

This next photo was taken from the parking area of the Merry Cherry stand. I loved how the shadows looked in the groves of the ploughed field, waiting for the next planting, or perhaps for sprouts to soon appear.

 

farm field near Gilroy CA along highway 152 (photo taken at Merry Cherry fruit stand)

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