Real Estate Finance Information
In 2012 and 2013, Santa Clara County saw many single family homes selling for all cash, no loans. The peak may have been in March 2012, when the percentage of all cash sales was a whopping 25%. That was the beginning of a long housing boom, and today the percentage of all cash sales in Santa Clara County has settled down significantly, though it is still in double digits in most months.
Today I crunched the numbers on MLSListings.com (first pulling the number of sales per month, then the number of cash sales, and after exporting the data to excel, did the math to get the percentages). The chart below reflects the sales of homes sold with all cash, no loans in Santa Clara County among houses and duet homes, which combined are known as single family homes. (Duet homes are not the same as duplexes.)
All cash sales, month by month, in Santa Clara County (single family homes)
The data from one month alone does not make a trend. Please note that in the percentage of all cash sales, above, we had under 9% in April 2020, but then it did bounce back up into double digits until October. It may well do that in November, too, once we have cleared the election jitters period.
What does the lower percentage of cash sales mean? In Santa Clara County, we saw a declining number of pending sales in October. I believe that together, these point to less buyer confidence, or perhaps more buyer fatigue.
Here’s that chart (posted recently in my newsletter and also in the Santa Clara County market post on this site):
Buyers who are getting slammed out of the Silicon Valley real estate market due to low inventory and multiple offers are extremely frustrated. In many cases, they write offer after offer, and each time not only are their bids rejected, but they never even get a counter offer. Part of the problem may be the amount of cash in their offer. It can be hard to compete with bids with smaller loan amounts.
The question arises all the time: why isn’t my 20% down offer just as good as the 50% down or the all cash offer? Isn’t 20% down good enough? Or for that matter, why wouldn’t a 3.5% FHA backed loan be suitable?
Cash is better because there’s less risk
Twenty percent down is “good enough” if there are no other offers. If it’s multiple offers, though, it’s probably not sufficient for most sellers provided that the all cash offers are written with realistic pricing. Right now, about 15% of home sales in Santa Clara County are all cash, and sellers would far rather deal with an offer that includes no finance or appraisal contingencies. For sellers, the fewer contingencies the better and no contingencies is ideal. Particularly now, when we are seeing a very sudden and dramatic upswing in pricing, appraisal contingencies can kill an offer’s chances of success due to the fear of a low appraisal. With all cash, there is no appraisal at all – it’s a slam dunk on that front. Continue reading
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, it won’t sell.
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. 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. If it’s unlikely that their ranges overlap at all, we’ll have a listing that is difficult or impossible to sell.
Let’s take a hypothetical case of a home worth about a million dollars (see image above). The seller would love for the property to sell close to $1,040,000. The buyer would like to purchase it for $960,000. The agent’s competitive market analysis indicates that similar homes have sold or are selling at around a million dollars, give or take a percent or two. If the buyer and seller can come to a meeting of the minds, and there’s no undue pressure on either one of them, we have (hopefully) a sale and we have market value.
But as we know, sometimes homes sell for much more than they would seem to be worth, and other times much less.
What causes property values to go above or below what would seem to be the probable value? Undue pressure can certainly cause values to rise (desperate buyer who just has to get into a house, even if overpaying or desperate seller who has got to unload a property, even if selling too low).
When are property taxes due in Silicon Valley?
Silicon Valley property taxes are due twice a year. This region is not a governmental area, like the City of San Jose or San Mateo County. Silicon Valley includes virtually all of Santa Clara County, most of San Mateo County, and parts of Alameda County and Santa Cruz County. Property taxes, or real estate taxes, are paid to whichever California county the home or land is located. Luckily, all four of these Silicon Valley counties (Santa Clara, San Mateo, Santa Cruz County, and Alameda) work off the same basic set of dates, so Silicon Valley property taxes do not have complicated due dates overall.
Fiscal year for real estate taxes and due dates:
Here’s how the system works:
The fiscal year for the county tax assessor’s office begins July 1st. Property taxes are billed in two installments. The first one covers July 1st to December 31st, and the second one begins with January 1st and runs through the last day of June.
- The property tax bill for the first installment is due November 1st and is late if not paid (or postmarked) by December 10th at 5 pm.
- The second installment of real estate taxes is due February 1st and is late if payment is not received or postmarked by April 10th at 5pm. (This one fools people because U.S. income taxes are due April 15th, so be extra careful!)
Should the delinquent date fall on a weekend or holiday, the deadline falls to 5 pm the next business day.
What happens if the payment is late?
If your payment is late, there’s a 10% penalty (and an administrative fee may be charged for processing the late payment as well). If taxes aren’t paid by the end of the fiscal year, the property is then “in default”. Eventually, if the tax isn’t paid, the home may be foreclosed on by the tax assessor’s office, though ordinarily this may take years and the owner’s credit can be damaged significantly in the process.
Other dates to know
Property taxes are mailed in September and October and should arrive before November 1st.
Property tax bills become a lien January 1st. Don’t be offended, it’s just a bill that is always due!
January 1st is also the assessment date, meaning that is the date when the county tax assessor’s office figures out the taxable value of your condo, townhouse, house, multiplex, etc. When you get your assessment, it’s the perceived value as of January 1st that year.
If you just bought your home, the tax rate applied at closing was the former owner’s rate, which normally will be lower than the new rate due. A few months later, when everyone has forgotten about it, a Supplemental Tax Bill comes in the mail. That’s a one-time “catch up” bill and after that you’ll get taxed at the rate you should have been since you bought, which is approximately 1.25% of the purchase price for the first year. After the first year, taxes can rise only 2% per year from that initial value*, even if the home appreciates much more. (This situation inclines people not to sell and is part of the reason for our housing shortage.)
This is Silicon Valley and really we ought to be able to get that calculated at closing, but for some reason, the systems in place cannot seem to muster it.
Did your home drop in value since you purchased it?
*If there’s a decline in value since a home was purchased, home owners may appeal their assessed rate and get a lower tax rate. When values rise again, the 2% constraints will not be in place as such. Real estate property taxes can jump up a lot, but not more than if they had been climbing 2% per year during the correction. But during the “down” time, your property taxes may be reduced.
If you are a past or current client of mine and your property taxes seem to be based on a value that you believe is higher than market value, please contact me and I’ll try to help you by providing “comps” (comparable sales) to bolster your case for lower property taxes.
Read more about high property tax assessments at this related post.
How 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:
What’s My Silicon Valley Home Worth? Estimating the Probable Buyer’s Value (financing impacts market value)
First, let’s explain what it is. Bidding wars happen when multiple home buyers overbid a property that’s on the market and make increasingly stronger offers (improving price and terms) until one of them is accepted by the home owner and the bidding is over. Sometimes home buyers get a counter offer, but return their response with even more than the seller requested. At other times, they may not even wait for a counter offer – but up their contract’s purchase price or adjust the terms to make it more desirable to the seller.
Why does this happen? It is a supply and demand issue. When there’s not enough supply for the demand, buyers feel desperate – especially if they have offered on many homes and been rejected each time. With multiple offers, prices get pushed up – and sometimes up and up while the sellers are still reviewing the contracts in front of them. The process is accelerated (or exacerbated) when multiple offers also become bidding wars.
Digging deeper with bidding wars
When a lot of home buyers want the same property and write purchase offers for it, we have multiple offers. In some markets, multiple offers come in at or under list price (I have seen this in cooler markets, though not for many years). But when the realty market is an overheated seller’s market, inventory is too low for the demand, prices rise with those multiple bids. Additionally, the terms get so aggressive that buyers often have few, if any, rights. Remember, it’s always price AND terms – so things like cash versus a loan, larger downpayments, shorter or no contingencies, and things like free rent backs will also impact the outcome. It is not only price! When the offer process escalates, we have bidding wars. Continue reading
Interested in buying a rental property? Perhaps you were thinking that a 20% rental property down payment would do the trick to get you started as a real estate investor? That may work in some places. In most of the U.S., though, you’ll need 30% down to be “cash flow neutral”, meaning that you aren’t losing money each month. In pricey Silicon Valley, though, often it takes more than a 40% down payment on an investment property just to break even.
Today a friend and past client asked me exactly this question. The investment property in mind, a townhouse, would pull in a monthly rent of about $2600 to $2800 when occupied. (Remember, you have to also factor in at least some vacancy rate.) The list price for this townhouse is about $650,000. (Side note: with a condo or townhouse, insurance coverage is probably going to be a lot less costly than with a single family home. The estimates below are for a townhome.)
Where do you think the cash flow neutral or break even point would be in terms of the down payment? That question is today’s case study. Have a look at the various scenarios of 20% down, 30% down,40% down and 50% down:
If my calculations are correct, you really need to put about 50% down to buy this particular Santa Clara County townhome and have it support itself.
Is that a good deal? Not really. At least not if your main focus is cash flow.
There are other places in the country where you can put a lot less down and break even or have a positive cash flow.
Of course, cash flow is one motivator. Another, though, is appreciation. Depending on your own goals, you may be far more interested in appreciation than cash flow. If that’s the case, Silicon Valley may be exactly what you’re looking for as an investment buyer. Those places where the down payment can be smaller may not have the same upside potential with appreciation as we have here in the San Jose area, or the San Francisco Bay Area as a whole.
Interested in becoming a real estate investor? Have a good down payment saved? Please call or email me and we can chat. If Silicon Valley isn’t the right place for you to make your real estate investment, I can introduce you to wonderful Realtors in other areas where the numbers may be more favorable.