Mold in Homes and Real Estate Sales

Mold in homes is not surprising, but it’s also not desirable, particular if there’s a lot of 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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Does the exterior of a townhouse need to be inspected?

Does the exterior of a townhouse need to be inspected? View of townhomes in west Los Gatos.Does the exterior of a townhouse need to be inspected? If you are in the market to purchase a townhome, you may find that often the home and pest inspector are not including the outside areas such as the walls, foundation, or roof.

If you are preparing to sell your unit, you may be asked if you want to include or exclude the outer walls and features, or if you want a roof inspection done.

First, let’s consider why the inspectors may only inspect the interior of the home.

The reasoning frequently seems to be that the HOA will take care of whatever is on the outer walls or roof, so why bother? That assumption may or may not be accurate.

  • If the townhouse is held in condo ownership (as opposed to a PUD, in which homeowners own the outside walls, roof and the land under the unit), the HOA likely will take care of exterior damage.
  • If the townhome is a Planned Unit Development, or PUD, it’s much like a single family home: the homeowner will be responsible for repairs. (HOAs will repaint and reroof all units at the same time for both PUDs and condos, but not fix damaged siding, decks, roofs. It’s imperative to know which one you are buying, and you’ll only know that from  the preliminary title report. It’s also imperative to know what the HOA will do regarding repairs, and for that you’ll need to look through the lengthy HOA documents.)

Another consideration is the price of the inspection, which will be less – in most cases – if only the interior of the home is covered by the inspector.

Does the exterior of a townhouse need to be inspected even if it’s a condo?

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Expired, Canceled, Withdrawn Listings: What Happens If You Take Your Home off the Market?

Expired, canceled, and withdrawn listings are all frustrating situations for both home sellers and the Realtors they worked with. After considerable effort, and likely also significant cost. the property failed to sell (or it went pending, fell through, but did not re-sell). What happens next?

3 Minute Video Overview

 

What is the difference between expired, canceled and withdrawn listings?

Let us begin by discussing the difference between canceled, expired, and withdrawn listings and how each impacts your vulnerability to being swamped with messages from real estate agents.

On the multiple listing service, these are very distinct statuses.

MLS status for listings

  1. A withdrawn listing means that the property is still listed for sale with a real estate agent or broker but is no longer listed on the multiple listing service (MLS).  It’s still a valid listing and other agents should not approach you about working with them since you are still in a contract to sell your home with your current agent.
  2. An expired listing means that the contract for your listing has come to an end and the listing is no longer in place.  Other agents may approach you since there is no valid listing in place.
  3. A canceled listing is one in which the seller and agent or broker agree to terminate the listing. Since the listing has ended, other agents are free to contact you.

In a nutshell, if your Silicon Valley home’s listing becomes either canceled or expired, real estate sales people may contact you, but if it is merely withdrawn, they are not supposed to reach out to you because you still have a valid listing in place. (more…)

What is an exclusion in a real estate contract? What is an inclusion?

What is an exclusion in a real estate contract? What is an inclusion? Both of these refer to fixtures at the property which is for sale. If you want to sell your home, it’s very important to understand the “law of fixtures” as it relates to what you leave and what you take with you – unless the inclusion or exclusion is specified in the contract.

In brief, built in or affixed items become real property and transfer with the sale (or as Realtors say, “conveys”). If something is built in, like a light fixture, but the seller and buyer agree in the contract that the seller can remove it, then it becomes an exclusion, as it is excluded or omitted from the sale.

If something not built in is allowed to remain behind, such as a garden hose, pool table, or curtains, then it’s an inclusion, as it’s included even though it is not real property.

Curtain rods are built in, so they are fixtures and therefore real property. But the curtains that hang on them are not built in, so they are personal property.

 

2 minute video explanation

What is a fixture?

Generally speaking, a fixture is any item affixed or attached to the house, townhouse, condo or property which is installed with the intention that it be there permanently. The only exception is if something is bolted for earthquake safety.

Examples of fixtures (items which stay or are included):

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Landscaping with tanbark or mulch? Use caution!

Some Silicon Valley homeowners spruce up their yards and gardens in spring and summer with tanbark or mulch. While this is a very common practice, and often encouraged as a drought-friendly gardening option, it can be a bad idea if it is too close to the structure, especially the home’s foundation.

Tanbark is simply small bits of wood, and most common mulch is often no more than shredded wood. Why is that bad? Wood is food for termites and piles of tanbark or mulch can invite and hide them as well!

 

Tanbark or Mulch?

Beware Tanbark or Mulch by the foundation!Mulch is the more widely used term and it can cover a broad scope of materials, but the most common type you will find in stores (and in Bay Area gardens) is the woodchip mulch. If you ask for mulch at a hardware store, this is most likely what they will show you. In the local vernacular, we often refer to mulch as the fine, thin, or decomposed stuff – we have a different name for the larger bark and wood chips.

I learned only recently that tanbark is something of a local term that people from other parts of the state or country may not be familiar with. Here in the Bay Area we call the stuff you commonly see underfoot at playgrounds or piled thick on the planted berms around a shopping mall parking lot by the name of tanbark. Some people may reserve the name for the large chunky bark chips while others will call just about any wood chip substrate by that name. So tanbark is, in fact, a mulch.

Homeowners and sellers wanting their home to make a good first impression are often tempted to apply mulch or tanbark in otherwise bare patches around their yard, but you can wind up with far bigger (and more costly) problems if it’s too close to the foundation!

What Was That About Termites & tanbark or mulch?

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How to buy and sell homes at once without losing your mind

Buy and sell homes at once - what comes first - people with moving boxesIt can be a little nerve-wracking to sell one home and purchase another at the same time. How do you buy and sell homes at once – without losing your mind?

Talk to a lender first

It is a very good idea to talk to a great lender upfront and to be pre-approved. That way, you’ll be more certain of what you can truly afford, and no matter which order you plan to do the two house juggle, you’ll be ready.

The main options when you want to buy and sell homes at once

These are the most commonly used strategies to buy and sell homes at once:

  1. If you have equity, pulling money out of the current house may be an option, or perhaps you can use a bridge loan, you may be able to buy the next home first.
    • In that case, you can move to the new home, then stage and sell the current one. For most people, this is less stressful.
  2. Or will you only purchase after you have cash in hand?
    • With this approach, you could move out and stay in a rental, stage and sell the home and then buy the next residence with cash in hand.
    • Or you could live in the home while it is marketed, sold, and closed.
      • You may be able to stay on after the close of escrow as a renter in your home for up to 60 days. That is often enough time to buy and close on the replacement property.
      • You might be able to have a longer close of escrow and be able to purchase the home “subject to the successful close of escrow” of the current place. This is not the most viable way to buy in our current, inventory starved market, though.
  3. Another option is to move out, rent a temporary residence, sell, and then buy. Depending on the rental, your own belongings could furnish it, or you could have your things in storage.

Possible option 1 – buying first & moving out to sell

If possible, many people doing these two major transactions at once prefer to purchase first. the advantages include not having to move twice and not having to live in a home that is being shown, inspected, and requiring a pristine condition at all times.  For people working from home and families with young kids, this is often the way to go, as it is too disruptive to live there during the marketing and sale process.
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Real estate FAQs

Real Estate FAQs - street scene from the Santa Teresa area of San JoseThere are common or frequently asked questions read estate questions, or real estate FAQs, that arise for people buying or selling property here in Silicon Valley or the Central Coast, so I’ve assembled a list of real estate FAQs that I have written about here. Each link goes to an article on this website with more information.

Real estate FAQs relating to offers, contracts, etc.

What is a blind real estate offer?  It’s an offer on a property “sight unseen”

What is a sharp offer or relative bid?  This is when a purchase contract states that the buyer will pay more than competing bids.

Does the contract count calendar days or business days? Most of the time, it’s calendar days. But there are some nuances.

What is a “kick out” clause? This applies to sales contingent on the sale of another property

What Is A Default in a Real Estate Transaction or Contract? Defaults occur when a party to the contract does not perform on something promised in the contract.

What makes an offer lowball?  It’s one thing to be aggressive, it’s another to make a seller so mad that they don’t want to sell to you at all.

What is a backup offer? If the first offer that’s in escrow falls through, a backup offer can go into first position quickly

Seller rent back after close of escrow: what do you need to know? If a seller stays on after close of escrow as a renter (even at no cost), that’a a rent back

 

Real estate FAQs pertaining to ownership and HOAs

What Is the Difference Between CID Ownership in a Condo, Townhouse or PUD? In some cases, you own the land, and in others, air space

What is the difference between a duplex and a duet home? – they might look similar, but ownership is different!

What are CCRs? Covenants, Conditions, Restrictions – they impact what you can and cannot do at your property

If you buy without an agent, can you get a reduction on the sales price of a Silicon Valley home? Short answer: commissions are for licensees who are members of the MLS

Patio Homes or Zero Lot Line Houses in Silicon Valley – properties with the house up against one of the property boundaries

Tools you can use when relocating to the San Jose area (on our relocation site, Move2SiliconValley.com)

 

Real estate FAQs on disclosures and other misc things

Why do real estate agents do a visual inspection of the properties they sell?  It goes back to a lawsuit when agents failed to disclose a landslide on a property.

What is implied agency in real estate? It’s all of the liability and none of the pay, so scary for Realtors!

How to fix incorrect property records in Santa Clara County? Often it’s a matter of reaching out to the tax assessor’s office

Where are the easements? Request a color coded easement map from your title company!  Easements give someone else the right to use your property, or you the right to use someone else’s

What is a preliminary title report? Why does it matter?  The title company provides this to give info on ownership and liens

What is a plat map, and what can you learn from it? This map displays relevant info. Learn how to decipher it in this post.

What Is Cellulose Debris (in a pest or termite report)? Wood and paper where it does not belong, which is a problem because it’s a buffet for pests

 

Do you have a real estate FAQ that isn’t listed here? Please google the question with my last name, Pope-Handy, and there’s a good chance that I’ve addressed it here or on one of my other sites. Still no luck? Please shoot me an email and we can discuss it (and perhaps I’ll write about it).