Every region of the country has some unique real estate vocabulary and phrases. Here, in Silicon Valley, when we say “you’re out of contract“, it’s another way of saying “you are not doing what you promised to do in the purchase agreement that you signed” (meaning the real estate contract). In other words, there is a seller or buyer default happening.
“Out of contract” is not a legal term. I remember hearing a local real estate educator say “there’s no such thing”. It’s not an official status. But it is a way of describing behavior that’s not in alignment with the contract’s express promises.
Contractual “Save the Dates”
Both sellers and buyers make promises to do certain things and most of these promises are tied to time frames or dates. Here are a few of these time-sensitive promises or contractual obligations:
- sellers agree to leave the utilities on until close of escrow
- sellers promise to maintain the home until close of escrow as it was on the day the property went into contract (so mow the lawn, water it etc.)
- buyers assert that they will get their initial deposit to title within a set number of days (the California Association of Realtor’s form states 3 business days or provides a blank to fill in an alternate number – it’s often 1 business day here)
- buyers promise to remove contingencies within the times they stipulated in the offer
- sellers will move out in according to the date set out in the contract
- indecision over material facts or between buyers may make it hard to decide whether or not to remove any contingencies
- buyers agree to take possession (move in) per the time/day agreed to in the purchase agreement (not before)
- sellers bind themselves to having repairs done in a certain manner (depends on contract and clauses, if promised)
At one time or another, I have seen all of these items not adhered to by the parties who were supposed to make good on their word, and stranger violations that I don’t want to write about here lest I give someone a bad idea. I have seen sellers not move out on time (in some cases, elderly sellers who grossly misjudged the effort required to vacate.) The failure to do so causes stress and anxiety, and sometimes worse: fear and anger.
Out of Contract: Why the Delay?
Sometimes, when either party is consumed with worry, a kind of emotional paralysis can set in. Luckily that is rare, but I have seen it. Buying and selling a home is extremely stressful, and once in awhile it coincides with other things: the death of a family member, a diagnosis of cancer, a divorce, a relocation that one party doesn’t want. So many things can happen at the same time. You may have heard the saying that “a confused mind says no”. With real estate, the confused mind doesn’t write or accept an offer, or doesn’t move forward as planned.
If you are buying or selling a home in Silicon Valley today, you may be considering including the option to have a “seller rent back” after close of escrow. What does this mean? This is often referred to as “seller in possession after close of escrow” (often shortened to SIP) or “seller occupancy after sale” and it’s not uncommon in the San Jose or San Francisco Bay Area now.
Most of all, a rent back means that after the sellers have been paid and the new owner is on record, the seller stays on as a tenant and the buyer takes on the role of a landlord. The buyer as the new owner will carry home owner’s insurance (mandatory if there is a mortgage – the lender will insist) and gets a set of keys.
The terns for this tennancy relationship are drawn out in a separate addendum to the purchase contract. Depending on how long the term will be (less or more than 30 days) and which purchase agreement form is used (PRDS or CAR) the paperwork varies a bit. Whichever form you use and whichever side of the rentback you are on, here are some key points to keep an eye on:
- Amount of security deposit, if any
- Amount of rent being charged, if any
- Length of the rent back or lease (most buyers have loans, and most lenders start attaching fees to rentbacks longer than 29 days and do not permit more than 60 days or they consider the property “non-owner occupied” – if you aren’t careful, you could walk into an expensive mistake here!)
- Who will pay for things like gardening, utilities, pool maintenance, and HOA fees, if any
- Who will hold the deposit (the buyer or the escrow company?)
- Under what circumstances the new owner can enter the property
When the market is super over-heated like it is today, we tend to see nominal security deposits and free, no-cost rent backs. Usually the tenant (seller) takes care of utilities, garden, pool maintenance. (more…)
As 2021 comes to a close, it’s time to start looking forward to 2022. What are your real estate related goals and resolutions for this new year? Do you plan to buy, sell, or remodel your Silicon Valley home? If so, this is a great time to sketch out your objectives and start early preparations to get the wheels in motion.
For South Bay home owners who want to make 2022 the year to sell and move, it’s wise to plan ahead so you can maximize your return on investment of time and money. A clean, well-prepared listing gives buyers greater confidence, and confident buyers tend to make higher offers! Take the time to do it right and you will reap the rewards of your effort.
Quick Tips for Planning to Sell a Home in 2022
- Hire your real estate professional early in the process so that she or he may provide additional guidance from the beginning. It won’t cost more to hire early and you get more help. You may even save money by avoiding costly mistakes. A good agent will help you prepare your listing and determine a timeline to sell, whether you plan on selling this spring, next year, or next month.
- Decluttering is one of the biggest task for home sellers and it can be where you get the most bang for your buck. Presenting a property to buyers in a way that feels like home, but not your home is a balancing act. Some homeowners choose to move out and stage their home to sell, which has been increasing in popularity and is certainly a successful way to declutter! Sellers occupying a listing should commit to depersonalizing the house and creating a marketable space. Some sellers will discover this is a much bigger undertaking than expected, and requires more time and energy than originally planned. This can be particularly challenging for long-term residents, sellers who are downsizing, and seniors. Talk to your Realtor before embarking, as some items may be helpful for staging and you don’t want to totally empty the house! Completely empty homes do not sell as well as those which are thoughtfully furnished.
- Fix everything that is broken or in disrepair. No home is perfect, and buyers will not expect it to be (unless it’s brand new, of course), but everything you can repair is one less thing the buyers will worry about when writing an offer. That lightbulb that’s burnt out? Replace it now so that it doesn’t wind up in inspections or worrying buyers about the electrical system! Low cost repairs are often an excellent investment, but so can some more expensive fixes. I have had sellers who willingly go above and beyond preparing their home, from repiping to reroofing, see a clear return on investment for their efforts! However most sellers don’t want or need to do that much work. A bid with a price for the work from a reputable company is usually enough. Speak with your listing agent before tackling any major projects.
- Clean everything: windows, window tracks, hardware, lamps, mossy patios, etc. A clean home is inviting and feels well cared for. Professional cleaning can make lightly used carpets look new again. Areas that easily show wear, like grout, caulk, and kitchen appliances, can give that “new home” feel when they are looking fresh!
- Plan to have pre-sale inspections, but hire inspectors with your real estate salesperson.
Tips for Silicon Valley Home Buyers This Year
In California, some inspectors are licensed, others are not.
Whether you’re preparing to sell a home or are in contract to purchase real estate in Silicon Valley, you likely will be faced with the prospect of hiring professionals to inspect your home. This can run hundreds of dollars, a thousand dollars or more. The potential liability, though, could be much higher than the cost of paying the professionals to inspect your home, so you’ll want to hire very carefully.
So, what must you know when selecting inspectors in the San Jose & Santa Clara County area?
The Different Types of Inspectors
There are those who focus on particular features of the property, examples being termite or pest inspectors, chimney and masonry specialists, foundation & drainage engineers, pool inspectors, heating & air conditioning and more. Generally, these are all licensed by the state of California, and they may be able to perform repairs on the items they find in need of repair. The two go together – licensing to inspect and being allowed to do repairs.
But this is not true for property or home inspectors. There is no license for doing house, condo, or townhouse inspections in California. Is that good or bad? Part of that package is that they can’t do repairs on problems they find. You can see why it’s good to separate finding problems from being paid to fix them. That’s the plus. There is another side, though.
When 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.
Death, Dying, & Real Estate: Where to begin?
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 adviseable.
You might recieve very different guidance depending on if there was a will, or how ownership was held. They will try to help you to legally minimize capital gains and estate taxes and can advise you on topics such as when might be the best time to sell vis a vis the tax liability. This is extremely important and it can be very expensive to not seek professional council on this point, so I strongly recommend that you or other beneficiaries discuss everything with the attorney or accountant prior to electing whether (or when) the home will be sold, rented etc., even in the short term.
Try not to wait too long before speaking to a tax or legal professional, as there may be a timeline or deadlines for you to consider in regards to settling the estate. I have some wonderful people I can suggest if you would like a referral.
First Steps, and how can a real estate professional help?
Something you’ll need for the lawyer and CPA or other tax professional is a valuation of the home as of the date of death, whether or not there is a surviving spouse or co-owner. You can obtain this by hiring a licensed residential real estate appraiser who will do an appraisal for you. Alternatively, you may be able to engage a real estate licensee (salesperson) to do a competitive market analysis or comparative market analysis (CMA), which would provide the probable buyer’s value for the property. (more…)
The Silicon Valley real estate market tends to have seasonal pricing patterns. They are not rigid, and some years the typical or expected patterns don’t really hold. Generally, though, we expect the Spring market to be hot and the winter period to be cool. Is that true? Let’s take a look at the stats that I pulled today from MLS Listings.
I spot checked the median sale price as well as the average sale price for houses in Santa Clara County, and they both followed the same seasonal pricing patterns. In the chart below, we have data from January 2013 (when the recovery really began) to November 2021. I’ve named the months with the peak prices and also the biggest dip each year. The pattern is a bit like the stock market – it does not only move up or down, but there are a lot of both with a generally upward trend.
This image is best seen on a tablet or desktop computer. If it is too small, please click on the image to view a larger version of it.
If you prefer a data table, here’s one with just the peak bolded (please click to view larger image):
A decade ago, it was the norm for Silicon Valley homeowners to occupy the home they were selling – today a majority of homes are being sold unoccupied or vacant. Why is that? And should you move out before you sell?
A few years ago, around the mid- to late-2010s, we began to see an increasing number of vacant and professionally staged properties for sale. Last year, most sellers simply felt safer moving out before selling due to the pandemic. Today that continues to be the case.
Over time, the reasons for homeowners to move out before marketing a primary residence have increased. While sellers can certainly still occupy a home on the market and sell it successfully, it’s not our recommendation for most people and here’s why.
First things first, if you are able to move out before you sell it can reduce a lot of stress. And this has almost always been the case.
This post on the coronavirus impact on real estate sales here in Silicon Valley is updated periodically, depending on unfolding events, so please check back often.
The market for houses is hot (still)
The coronavirus pandemic caused a worldwide surge of buyers rushing to purchase homes with more square footage, more rooms (home office, room for elderly parents to move in), and more outside space.
Locally, single family home prices rose about 20% over one year, despite the initial lockdown and restrictions on showings. Pools had not been so desirable pre-Covid, but now they are more sought after as buyers want to vacation at home.
Initially, it was challenging to sell a condo or townhouse, particularly if there was no patio, balcony, yard, etc. Those homes did start appreciating, but have not performed nearly as well as detached housing has.
Now, in September 2021, many of the requirements have been lifted. Buyers are still interested, but the steep appreciation has priced some buyers out of the market.
Quick overview of what is and isn’t allowed with real estate listings and sales
The landscape for home sales is complicated and more restricted than pre-pandemic times, but easier than it was in March – May 2020. The market is strange in many ways, but it is possible to buy and sell now and actually is not so hard at this point.
What’s changed with Covid: (more…)
Whether it’s called downsizing or rightsizing, if you are deciding to downsize you’ll want to start by considering a few basic questions.
- What are the main goals with selling your current home and moving to something smaller?
- Do you want less to maintain (home, yard, both?)
- Are the reasons primarily economic? (i.e., smaller home is less expensive to heat, cool, maintain, or cash out , or sell to get rid of the mortgage, or something else)
- Would you prefer to stay close to where you live now, or to relocate?
- What kind of living space would be ideal for your next home? Do you want a yard or patio? Do you want to be in a seniors community? Would you prefer more rural or more urban than what you have currently?
Deciding to downsize can be for people in many different decades of their lives
Some people drastically change their house or move somewhere smaller (or more remote / less expensive) the moment the youngest child has packed up and gone away to college. They may be in their 50s or 60s and still relatively young, working, and saving for retirement. I’ve seen people sell in Los Altos, Saratoga, and Cupertino to economically downsize to Almaden or nearby areas when they no longer wanted to pay to live in a more expensive school district.
Others keep the “family home” as long as possible. My grandparents moved many times in their lives due to my grandfather’s military career, but in their retirement years they enjoyed a large home with room for everyone to visit – and we all did. They were 90 and 92 when they moved from their 5 bedroom house at Pasatiempo in Santa Cruz to Dominican Oaks, a retirement community just a few miles from there. At their ages, more help was needed. (For my grandmother, moving to a community was wonderful socially, as she wasn’t still driving at 90.)
If you are deciding to downsize, you could be at either of these ends of the spectrum, or you could be anywhere in between. It’s a huge gamut and there’s no “one size fits all” or one “right answer” with this topic.
What makes you consider rightsizing?
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 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?