Silicon Valley Real Estate Info
Recently I had a listing in Sunnyvale where an enormous tree graced not only the front yard of my clients’ house, but stretched over a next door neighbor’s yard and even over the neighbor’s roof. We got the home I’d listed sold quickly, but prior to closing, the neighbor complained about the limbs.
The sellers, wanting to close escrow on time, agreed to trim the large bough that threatened her roof. They only wish that she had mentioned it sooner so that it could have been a “non issue” during the time of the sale. Ideal would have been a request in spring, which is the better, healthier time for trimming a tree.
And more recently, something similar happened in Los Gatos (with a home not for sale). A property manager of a tenant-occupied house showed up on the doorstep of a tree owner whose large tree arches over the fence. The property manager demanded that the tree be trimmed and that the tree owners pay for it. “It is your responsibility,” she asserted. (Interestingly, she showed up with a gardener – not a tree professional – and had no business card so that she could later be contacted about this issue. So it wasn’t the most amicable approach.)
My understanding of laws around trees and property lines was simple: the neighbors can cut the tree if they want to back to the property line, but the tree owners don’t have to pay to cut it unless it is truly damaging or about to damage the others’ property. If the neighbors harm the tree while pruning it, they can be liable for damages.
But just to be sure, I phoned the California Association of Realtors’ Legal Hotline and spoke with an attorney about it. My understanding was correct: the lawyer cited case law and verified that the tree owners can’t prevent the neighbors from trimming the tree if they want and that the neighbors cannot force the tree owners to trim it unless it is truly causing (or immediately threatening to cause) damage.
The property manager was mistaken and out of line.
A friendly phone call and inquiry about tree maintenance goes a long way toward neighborliness. Most tree owners will take good care of their trees and do pruning in spring, and will discuss the timing with their neighbors so that it is convenient for the arborist to also clean up any dropped branches in adjacent yards. Open communication is always helpful for neighbor relations. It helps when requests come in a pleasant way without rushing or pressuring. But that would be true about any issue, whether it’s trees, fences, noice, odors, junky cars or anything else.
I’m going to be blunt here: it is really hard to help when we, as agents, don’t know what is truly going on. It’s not a whole lot different than keeping important things from your doctor or lawyer. If you want help, it is imperative that you tell your hired professionals what is going on.
For that matter, if you are interviewing agents to list your home or to help you to buy your next home, expect those agents to ask you about your needs and motivation. Hiring an agent (and the agent agreeing to take you on as a client) is a two way relationship. Both sides need to be clear and honest with each other.
Let me give you an example. Years ago, I had some prospects (not yet clients) in Monte Sereno who inquired off and on for years about selling their home. At one point, it became a “hurry up” situation. Luckily, they told me the truth: one of them had been diagnosed as terminally ill. The sick one did not want to saddle the survivor with selling the home after the death.
A real estate agent is someone who’s taken a course (or more) and passed a state exam and is licensed by the state to sell real estate.
A Realtor (pronounced REEL-TOR, not real-a-tor) is an agent who’s ALSO a member of the National Association of Realtors, which is a voluntary trade group. Realtors promise to abide by and take very seriously their Code of Ethics. Ever wonder what is in it? It’s not short and is quite comprehensive. Take a look:
Please understand that not everything that is legal is also ethical – Realtors have a higher standard of practice. Often non-Realtors (at least in Siliocon Valley) are not full-time agents but dabble in real estate. Realtors are usually full-time and work as professionals.
Finally, if you have a problem with an agent who’s not a Realtor, you have to complain to the state. With a member of NAR, who is almost always also a member of the state association (CAR – the California Association of Realtors) and local (either SILVAR – the Silicon Valley Association of Realtors or SCCAOR – the Santa Clara County Association of Realtors), you can take action locally for most any issue and do not need to go all the way to the state level. Agents work hard to remain in good standing with the local, state, and national boards.
In the San Jose area, most of the large realty firms are “all Realtor” offices. Usually becoming a member of NAR, CAR and either SILVAR or SCCAOR is a requirement for joining the company. In other areas and in other states, in can be different. So it’s mostly the independents where you’ll find a real estate licensee who’s not also a Realtor. But ask!
When you interview an agent, then, the first question to ask is this: are you a Realtor?
August was a little slow, but along the west valley the expectation was that September would be robust. Normally we see a little rally after Labor Day that lasts until about Halloween. That’s our usual real estate market trend in Santa Clara County (San Jose area).
What has happened, though, is a significant slowdown. Few homes seem to be selling since the middle of September.
At this point, we are waiting for the September statistics to roll in. What I’m seeing, though, is that a lot of homes are just plain “sitting” at this time.
The article matches my experience that the wealthier areas of the valley (mostly in the west side communities of Los Gatos, Saratoga, Cupertino, Sunnyvale etc.) have low inventory and multiple offers and prices are rising, wheras lower priced housing on the eastside is much more of a buyer’s market.