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?
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!
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 closing. What does this mean?
What is a rent back?
A rent back refers to the seller staying in possession of the home after it’s been sold to the new owner. Sometimes it is free, other times there is a cost. Normally, a security deposit is paid and held in escrow or by the new owner. (These are sometimes called rentbacks or rent-back agreements.)
Most of the time, it’s for 60 days or less, because longer than that and the buyer’s lender will consider the property as “non owner occupied” and the interest rate will be higher.
Upon close of escrow, the buyers get a gets a set of keys, but can only enter the property for certain reasons.
Brief video on rent back highlights
Rent back agreements
If you are going to do a rent back in Santa Clara County, you may run into one of three forms that sets this agreement in writing. These can impact each party’s rights and responsibilities.
With the California Association of Realtor forms (CAR forms), there are two distinct addenda depending on the length of stay for the rent-back after closing. (more…)
What is a multiple counter offer, and how does it work?
Brief summary on how multiple counter offers work
Silicon Valley home sellers have an option to issue a Multiple Counter Offer form. This is not the same as a regular counter offer form.
With the standard counter offer form, if the other party accepts it, signs it, and delivers the signed copy back to the party that issued the counter offer, it’s then a ratified offer, a done deal. Not so when there are multiple counters in play.
With the multiple counter offer process, the seller decides after one or more of the buyers accepts (or if they counter back and forth, or if one buyer improves his or her offer). No matter the exact path, the seller ultimately must pick one offer and sign off on it to ratify the sale. In other words, when a buyer agrees to the multiple counter offer terms, it’s not a done deal. The owner must sign again to accept and select that buyer. Only then is the contract ratified.
2 minute video discussion on multiple counter offers – key points
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.
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.
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.
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 supposedto 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? 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):
It 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:
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.
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.
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. (more…)
well cared for (ideally, unless buying distressed)
In a nutshell, buyers want sunny, open, clean, spacious feeling spaces – those make up a welcoming environment.
Rarely do they request cozy (implies small) or private (suggests flag lot or large hedges in the front, blocking view of the street), though most love a private back yard and some buyers really do want privacy in front as well as back (hence the great appeal to those who prefer an Eichler or other mid-century modern style house). To get you the most money for your real estate sale, though, we don’t want to appeal to the few buyers who want one style; instead, to maximize your return we need to aim the staging at what the majority of buyers (or the most probable buyer for your property) will want.
Creating the welcoming environment
How can you transform the home you live in to the house or condo you’re selling so that it appeals to these majority of buyers who want “sunny, open, and uncluttered” interiors and un-scary houses or homes? Here are a few quick tips: (more…)
The percentage of all cash sales (all cash, no loans) rose in July, but the actual number of sales, shown immediately below, shrank a little. I pulled this data from the MLS today and it’s reflective of whatever the listing agent entered into the fields for financing.
Percentage of All cash sales, month by month, in Santa Clara County (single family homes)
Next, the actual percentage of all cash sales in the county for houses and duet homes.
The average for the 11 Julys shown is 13.9%, so July 2023 with 15.7% is interesting to see. Interest rates have skyrocketed over the last 14 months, forcing home prices down in the 2nd half of 2022. It’s a little surprising that we did not see a surge of cash buyers then, but their numbers stayed in the typical range from what I’m seeing.
Now, in mid 2023, we have seen both interest rates and home prices rising – at least for the first 6 months of the year – in most of the valley.
Cash buyers are usually investors, but not always. Sometimes they are homeowners who sold their long held family home and are now downsizing and buying with the proceeds of the larger home that they just sold. We don’t get that piece of data from the MLS, but anecdotally, that’s what I’m seeing with the cash offers I’m seeing and hearing about.
What does it mean that cash buyers are an increasing percentage of the closed sales?
Rising interest rates not only don’t harm the all cash, no loans buyers, it actually helps them as it weakens their competition
Selling your Silicon Valley home this summer? Don’t make the two most common mistakes which cost sellers money when marketing their home in the hottest months of the year!
Common Home Selling Mistakes in Summer
The “Closed Up” House
Many people try to beat the heat by closing up the house, turning off all the lights, and shutting blinds and curtains. I see this all the time in summer, particularly if the San Jose area is enduring a horrendous heat wave. While it’s good practice for homeowners, it can cost home sellers!
Walking into a darkened house, condo or townhouse is a huge turn-off for home buyers. It’s depressing, unflattering, can make a space feel smaller and less inviting. Yes, we can turn on lights and open blinds, but the initial impression is terrible, and that feeling is often the one that sticks with buyers!
As a general rule of thumb, home buyers who have clear criteria and priorities need to see ten houses before they are ready to write an offer. Some may be ready with fewer, say 7 or 8. Some may need a few more showings. On average, per the National Association of Realtors, ten homes is the number that most home buyers need to be ready to write an offer.
Also generally true is that sellers need to have ten showings for one offer.
Ten is almost a magic number for real estate, and it’s a number that can provide a “reality check” on whether a listing is getting enough showings or if a buyer is either seeing enough homes or focusing enough to write on one that fits their stated budget and criteria.
Ten houses over ten weeks
The ten houses will usually be seen over several weeks. The Realtor Magazine article, linked at the bottom, says the average home buyer sees the ten houses over ten weeks.
Most buyers who are focused can know enough to write an offer on something at by the 2.5 month mark. In my own experience, if buyers go 4 months or more without writing, it is unlikely that they will be buying a home soon.
Ten houses and writing an offer on something
Every home buyer will want to be reasonably cautious before purchasing a home. On occasion I’ve had clients who wanted to draft a contract on the first house they see with me. In those cases, I ask them to humor me and see a few more just to be sure that they have a solid footing for this choice. It’s too expensive of a decision to make without that baseline experience of seeing at least a few homes, if not a full ten.
Sometimes, though, buyers are enormously cautious and nervous, and they become somewhat paralyzed and are unable to act. Or they have unrealistic expectations of what is achievable and are holding out for that “really good deal” that is unlikely to exist. If you’ve seen dozens of properties but you’re not getting serious about any of them, something is amiss. (more…)
Christie's International Real Estate Sereno, Los Gatos, CA 95030 408 204-7673 Mary@PopeHandy.com License# 01153805
Clair Handy, Realtor
Christie's International Real Estate Sereno 214 Los Gatos-Saratoga Rd Los Gatos, CA 95030 ClairHandy@sereno.com License# 02153633
Mary & Clair sell homes throughout Silicon Valley: Santa Clara County, San Mateo County, and Santa Cruz County. with a special focus on: San Jose, Los Gatos, Saratoga, Campbell, Almaden Valley, Cambrian Park.
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