“Why isn’t my Silicon Valley townhouse selling?” wonders the home owner. Even in a seller’s market some properties struggle. Real estate agents know why the home (or townhome, or condo) isn’t getting any offers, or worse yet, any traffic at all. In fact, local Realtors who’ve seen it might wonder if the owner of the property has seen the MLS printout at all!
Why isn’t it selling?
Whether your home has been on the market for a while or you’re just about to list it, here are some of the most common culprits to look out for:
Terrible photos (or not enough of them): in our San Jose area MLS we are allowed 9 photos. How many are in your listing?
More on photos: Would it be so hard to turn the lights on in the home when photographing the property? Real estate looks much better when well lit than when dark. Even beautifully remodeled kitchens can look so-so if the lights are not all on! A bright room will make you money…a dark room will cost you!
Is there a video or virtual tour? **
Is the listing syndicated so that buyers can find it on multiple websites?
How is the pricing? Did you price a 2 bedroom townhouse as if it’s a 3 bedroom? That’s a very common but huge mistake! Compare apples to apples – the buyers are doing that, and when you bought your home, you did too! Did you price the home using comps from 6 months ago, or comps from 3 miles away, or a different school district? Huge mistake!
What’s your competition? Luxury homes will almost always take longer than a mid-priced home nearby – they’re in entirely different markets with entirely different demands. You’ve got to know what market you’re in and what buyers will be comparing your home against! If you’re a short sale, you need to be competitive against other short sales. Don’t be satisfied that your home is less expensive than a “regular sale”. They are two entirely different things!
MLS description and comments: Don’t waste this valuable space! What kind of comments are in the precious few words allowed to describe your home in the multiple listing service? I have seen inane things use up that space. It is imperative that the descriptions be strong. For example, not “nice kitchen” (that could mean almost anything), but instead “slab granite countertops” – specifics that buyers want to hear about!
Commission rate: if your townhome is a “regular sale” and everything in your area is selling with a buyer’s agent commission rate offered at 2.5% or 3% but you’re offering 2%, guess what happens? Little or no traffic, that’s what! Remember that agents are selling homes as their livelihood, and while many will overlook a low commission, many others will not. (When I list homes I run the CR of similar homes so that my sellers can make an informed decision on this point.)
There are many reasons why a Silicon Valley townhouse might not sell, but marketing correctly will give you the best odds for success and, in a sellers market as we are in, may bring you a higher sales price. If yours isn’t selling, have a look at the price, the photos, and the description and see if anything is amiss, and check what’s happening with comparable properties in the market. These are the most important areas to consider. Other issues may be at play, but if these are correct your home should sell despite other challenges. (more…)
Saratoga, CA real estate remains in a strong seller’s market with a high volume of sales fighting for a small winter inventory. Detailed data and analysis on the current market is available below and updated monthly. Here is the latest snapshot for what’s happening with single family homes in this city:
The sales to list price ratio rose to a white hot 108.1% of list price.
Inventory continues to shrink into winter, remaining well below 2019 levels.
Prices remain high compared to last year.
How’s the Saratoga California real estate market?
This year has been unlike any other, yet the market remains in the seller’s favor for the Saratoga, CA real estate market. Much of the market strength depends on the price point, school district, and condition – today’s buyers generally prefer recently remodeled homes. (Not long ago, I showed a home that was remodeled in 2010 and my buyers found it to be dated.) In response to this strong preference, many sellers have begun moving out and getting their homes updated prior to going on the market.
That being said, the real estate market today is not the same as it was at the start of March. We’ll see more of the results of these changes in the April market analysis than we will looking back on March. To learn more about how Covid-19 is affecting the real estate market, please check my post: Coronavirus Impact on Real Estate Sales.
During the shutdown so far, the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) stopped the timer on all Days on Market (DOM). Therefore these numbers will be off beginning from March 17th through around May 17th. In the data below, this will affect any numbers related to the days on market, the absorption rate, and the days of inventory for those months. Current numbers are accurate.
Orchard and Hills in Saratoga, California
First, a quick glance at the Altos Research market profile for a quick summary of the market conditions. Altos uses LIST prices, not sold prices, for this chart and the others, below.
In the latest update, January 7th, Altos shows a strong seller’s market despite inventory shrinking and days on market growing.
Next, let’s turn to the closed sales from last month. This time we’re using data from a subscription service of mine to the RE Report.
Here are the real estate sales statistics for closed sales last month among houses and duet homes (if there are any) in the 95070 zip code (click on link to read the full Saratoga Real Estate Report for houses). Bottom line is that most livable homes in Saratoga will run between $2.5 and $3.5 million if they are mid sized (2000-3000 SF) and in the best schools area (Saratoga or Cupertino). Homes in the Campbell schools area, which have very strong elementary and middle schools, are very rare and generally more affordable, closer to $1.5, but depending on size, condition, and location they can be significantly higher (the ones selling in October 2019 were closer to $2.5, for instance).
Trends at a Glance for the Saratoga CA Real Estate Market
Saratoga remains fairly stable. The median prices are stable month over month and looking up year over year. Sales dipped but remain above last year’s numbers, as did pending sales. Active inventory dropped significantly again and remain well below 2019 levels. The sales to list price ratio continued to skyrocket to a white hot 108.1%! The days on market are consistent with last year, though days of inventory are significantly less. Limited supply with ample demand is creating a sustained strong seller’s market in Saratoga, CA.
A plat map comes with your preliminary title report (provided by your title company with maps from the Santa Clara County tax assessor’s office when you purchase or sell a home in California), tucked away at the back and somewhat mysterious with lots of numbers in small print. It holds quite a bit of helpful information if you know what it is you’re seeing. Today we’ll view a sample of one of these – breaking down the plat map shown as a small thumbnail image on the right to more readable parts so that you can learn how to “read” or understand a plat map.
Quick overview of what’s on a plat map
There’s a wealth of information on the plat map. Take a look and see what you can pick out on your own first.
Fabulous opportunity in west San Jose – a beautifully remodeled 4 bedroom, 2 bath house with top Cupertino schools and exquisite English country garden is now for sale, offered at $1,099,000 at 1486 Larkin Avenue, San Jose CA 95129. This is not just any ranch style home in Silicon Valley, but a lovingly and impeccably updated, remodeled and maintained home on a scenic, tree lined street. A visit will convince you that this house has been cared for and upgraded with a tremendous level of detail and sophistication.
Top Cupertino schools, all with API scores well over 900!
Schools are a major driver of real estate desirability in Santa Clara County, and nowhere is that more true than in Cupertino and the parts of San Jose which enjoy its schools. All three educational levels of school enjoy extremely high Academic Performance Index or API scores.
The grammar or elementary school for this property is John Muir Elementary School (API 944). The middle or junior high school is Joaquin Miller Middle School (API 981) and the secondary or high school is Lynbrook High School (API 943). All three of these schools are very highly regarded, and in fact prestigious.
Not just a school district – this is a marvelous West San Jose home and yard!
Lest we treat this as though buyers were only interested in schools, let’s talk about this wonderful house too.
The kitchen is an absolute showpiece with a professional grade Viking range, Vent-a-hood, granite counters, ultra hard maple cabinets (painted white), dramatic vaulted ceilings with 2 large, electronically operated skylights, and much more! Throughout the home you’ll find high quality elements, including dual pane windows, hardwood floors (some under carpeting), remodeled baths, and on and on. I invite you to have a look at the virtual tour, embedded below, and to read the description on each page. There’s even more information immediately below that with the MLS information added too.
We're sorry, but we couldn't find MLS # 81217609 in our database. This property may be a new listing or possibly taken off the market. Please check back again.
In many communities such as Saratoga, Los Gatos, Los Altos, Willow Glen, Campbell and Palo Alto, there is a high premium placed on homes which are close to the downtown area. Many real estate agents advertise these as “walk to town” but the idea is simple: it’s nearby, you can stroll, skate, ride or bike, wheel yourself and forget the car.
Downtown Saratoga, also called Saratoga Village, welcomes residents and visitors to a charming, scenic area with fabulous shops, spas, wine tasting venues, restaurants and more. This part of the city boasts top scoring schools as well as lovely older and historic buildings and a gorgeous park alongside Saratoga Creek. Whether you spend an afternoon or a lifetime in Saratoga, this part of town will call you back again and again!
What do you need to know about buying a house, townhouse or condo in downtown Saratoga?
There are a few points which you are well served to know when purchasing residential real estate in this upscale community. We’ll touch on a few of them here: historic homes, traffic & noise, natural hazards, parking, and special issues with condos, townhouses and PUDs (planned unit developments).
First, this downtown Saratoga Village zone is historic; while not every property is deemed historic, many are and that means that there will be restrictions on remodeling and expansion of single family homes or houses. For instance, original glass in windows may need to remain if you’ve got a Victorian house dating from the 1890s, and expansions may need to be off the back of the home so that the facade keeps its initial look and feel (just examples). This can be frustrating if you buy a luxury home that “needs work” and you are surprised later. If the house was built before 1950 or so, double check the rules! (more…)
Looking for two Almaden houses for two different buyer families:
I am working with two wonderful cash buyer couples looking for homes to call their own in San Jose’s Almaden Valley district (95120 area). We’ve seen everything listed for sale on the multiple listing service so I’m hoping one of my readers will be able to point us to something not currently online.
Budget is up to appx 1 million in both cases. Both are looking for houses with good floorplans and locations with no big issues (no busy roads, not too close to schools etc.). Decent to large backyard sought – regular lots, no patio homes. Prefer homes that have been maintained but open to distressed properties. Location and layout are more important than the amount of updating & remodeling. Both are exceedingly serious and ready to buy now. Both will be owner occupied properties, not investment homes.
They want similar but not identical homes – 3 to 5 bedrooms (3 + den minimum), 2-3 baths, prefer no pool but will consider one with it….
How’s the inventory? This is key to both home buyers and sellers in Santa Clara County. Too little inventory of homes for sale pushes prices up, too much housing inventory pushes them down. Today we’ll have a look at the county level for the general Silicon Valley trends. Please understand that smaller areas (zip codes or even subdivisions) can be vastly different from the larger trends.
Our MLS no longer provides much historical data – it only goes back a couple or three years. My I have a subscription to the Real Estate Report, which stretches back a decade. The most current report covers January 2011 (February’s numbers will be there by the 10th of March) so I pulled these numbers plus those of the same month for prior years.
So what is really a “normal” level of inventory for Santa Clara County houses & duet homes on the market? I would say that anything in the 2000 to 3000 range is fairly normal. More than that is overheated, less than that is constricted. (In the early 90s it was many thousands of homes – if I recall correctly, it was over 8,000.)
Right now is not an extreme market in terms of the availability of homes to purchase in the South Bay. It feels tough because lending standards are stricter, as are appraisals, and because we are all jittery from the market crash and touch-and-go recovery. Sellers feel beat up over pricing and the new “requirement” that homes need to be about perfect to sell (or have the price slashed to an extreme, as they see it).
But the numbers are really not so bad, when you view them statistically. The inventory is a little low, but still within fairly normal ranges, historically.
Today we’ll look at the ratio & relationship between real estate listings and sales of houses and duet homes in Silicon Valley over the last eighteen months. The goal is to get a sense of the market trends in terms of the overall absorption of homes for sale. (We’ll give a glance at condo and townhome sales but the focus is on single family homes.) How hard is it to sell a home? The answer has to do with supply and demand – the number of listings and the number of sales.
In the graphs below, the reddish brown line represents the number of pending sales. The blue line indicates the number of listings or homes for sale. Put simply, the closer these two lines are together, the hotter the market – that is, the more of a seller’s market it is. When they are far apart, it’s more cold, more of a buyer’s market. If the lines cross, it is a wild frenzy (that does happen in one case, as you will see). Below please find the graph for the homes in Santa Clara Countyoverall (all areas).
Santa Clara County listings to sales Jan 2009 to June 2010
You can see that these two lines pinch together in about December 2009 to January 2010. Prices had dropped and investors were swooping in! The market has cooled since then.
Santa Clara County condo & townhome listings to pending sales Jan 2009 to June 2010
For condos and townhouses, all of Santa Clara County:Here the two lines – or the market – were close together for about 3-4 months. Buyers understood that condominiums in Silicon Valley were bargain priced, and they responded by buying.Now let’s look at various areas around the county. We’ll take these in Alphabetical order, beginning with Almaden Valley.
Almaden Valley listings to pending sales Jan 2009 to June 2010
As you can see, the market improved but never got as “hot” as in the county generally. This is because it’s a more expensive area, and most of what was selling in winter consisted of entry level housing.
In Almaden Valley, like in other parts of San Jose and Silicon Valley, some parts of “the market” are hotter than others. The real estate sweet spot appears to be homes priced in either the entry level or move-up markets – but things cool considerably as the homes become more elegant, grand and luxurious. (This appears to be true across all of Santa Clara County: the most affordable homes are still the hottest segment of the realty market.)
Months of Inventory in Almaden Valley
Here’s how the current inventory and sales breaks down, together with the months of inventory, for the Almaden Valley part of San Jose (95120 zip code). Info from MLS Listings deemed accurate but not guaranteed. The “closed” column represents homes closed (houses & duet homes) in the last month.
Almaden Houses & Duet Homes
Months of Inventory
$900,000 and under
$900,000 – $1,200,000
$2,000,000 and up
As you can see, up to about $1,200,000 it’s a very strong seller’s market with less than 2 months of inventory. But beyond that price point, it’s suddenly a completely different market and is instead a very strong buyer’s market.
What about distressed property sales in Almaden?
There are almost no bank owned properties currently for sale or recently closed in Almaden – just 1 in the entry level price band which is currently listed for sale.
There are not many short sales in Almaden: right now just 5 for sale: 3 in the lowest of these five price groups, 1 in the 2nd lowest and one in the highest. Closings among short sales are also few in number: 2 in the lowest price point and one in the second lowest. The absorption rate or months of inventory among short sales was 1.5 in the lowest price point and 1 month in the second lowest. No closings among higher priced homes that were also short sales in the last month. (more…)
Welcome to the Valley of Heart’s Delight blog
Hi, I’m Mary Pope-Handy, the author of this blog and a Silicon Valley Realtor with Sereno in the Los Gatos office. I help nice folks to buy & sell homes in Silicon Valley, mostly in Santa Clara County.
Abr, CIPS, CRS, SRES
Sereno Real Estate
214 Los Gatos-Saratoga Rd
Los Gatos, CA 95030
Mary (at) PopeHandy.com
Selling homes in
Santa Clara County,
San Mateo County, and
Santa Cruz County.
Special focus on:
San Jose, Los Gatos,
The real estate search
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