“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.)
**This is more important than ever right now with restrictions on showings and open homes during the pandemic. Read more about how covid-19 is impacting the real estate market in Silicon Valley and how to sell a home during the quarantine in my articles on this blog.
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.
Between Los Gatos-Almaden Road and Ross Creek sits an eclectic east Los Gatos neighborhood, a county pocket, featuring a view of the hills where you can find a little bit of everything.
The homes built on Loma Vista Avenue, Linda Avenue, El Gato Lane and part of Escobar Avenue were first constructed in the 1940s, with many more filling out the neighborhood in the mid 50s.
They were three subdivisions initially:
- El Gato Terrace
- the Loma Vista Tract
- Rancho Padre (Rancho Padre is the one closest to the creek).
Loma Vista Avenue, Linda Avenue, and El Gato Lane
(Please note: these are not part of Blossom Hill Manor, which begins on the adjacent Longwood Drive.)
A few years back I attended a property inspection in San Jose and we found an unwanted resident in the garage: a black widow spider. Needless to say, did not stick around after she was found!
In case you haven’t seen one, I thought I’d share the pic here (click to see more below). Sadly she wasn’t my last encounter with these spooky locals. In fact, I’ve been seeing all too much of them over the last three years! At least this time, we always found her outside.
UPDATE ON APRIL 29: We just learned that the Shelter in Place order for Santa Clara County and San Mateo County will now permit showings of occupied homes as long as the residents are not present during the showing.
This new permission will kick in beginning on May 4th.
It is a challenging task for those selling an occupied home right now. Only vacant properties may be shown to buyers in person. If you are living in the home you want to sell, what can you do to improve your odds of getting the property sold and closed? Here are some tips.
# 1 – Selling an occupied home? Help it to be knowable & virtually shown!
First, buyers cannot purchase it, as in close escrow, if they and their agent cannot see it. Or at least they shouldn’t since many things cannot be known until you go there in person, such as whether or not there are any odors, if the floors are level, if the rooms have enough natural light, and so on. The buyer’s agent has a legal obligation to perform a reasonably diligent visual inspection, which is pretty close to impossible if he or she cannot be on the property.
The best thing you could do would be to move out to sell, but for many that isn’t practical. The second best thing is to provide photos, video, and a floor plan so that buyers have a much clearer sense of the home, yard, view of the street, neighbors, etc.
Photos to help get your home under contract
Whether you take the photos or a professional photographer does, tidy the home as if it were going to be shown in person. Make the beds. Windows need to be clean. Virtually everything should be off of the kitchen and bathroom counters. The toilet lids should be closed. The fireplace should be neat and emptied of ashes. Floors ought to be clear of toys, shoes, and so on. Garden hoses and outdoor items need to be away. Cars should not be seen. (You can find a really good list of preparing your home for real estate photos here.)
Photograph all of the rooms in the home, and include the hallways, laundry area, any pantry, etc. The exterior of the home and the yard(s) are to be included too. De-clutter and organize them just as you would the more interesting parts of the home or yard. Please make sure to snap these non-intuitive elements: (more…)
Listings with few photographs or none at all typically are skipped by most home buyers. The reason is simple: if it’s not showing, the room (or yard, or whole house) is assumed to be in terrible condition.
The seller’s loss, though, is a buyer’s gain. The poorly marketed house can be an opportunity for home buyers who are having trouble in multiple offer situations. With few or no images, the odds of having multiple offers go way down.
Why would there be few photographs, or none at all, in an active listing?
The home may have no or few photographs for other reasons: the seller is extremely private, the home is occupied by tenants, the seller has not yet decluttered or made the home show ready, etc.
It’s also possible that a photographer will be at the home at some point, but has not yet been available.
The bottom line is that a property with no or few photographs online presents a possible opportunity for the home buyer who would like to purchase a home that not so many others are vying for. The home may not show as well as one that is properly staged and marketed, but it could be the thing that gets you into your next home sooner rather than later.
Why didn’t my San Jose home sell?
Selling your home in a declining market
What do you need to know when selling your Silicon Valley home?
Willow Glen is one of the most charming areas of San Jose, consisting of many older homes which feature lovely, classic architecture. Most Silicon Valley home buyers treasure the Willow Glen charm and ambiance, but many are seeking newer homes. A fabulous option is “The Willows“.
KB Homes built “The Willows” in 1999 to 2000. It is tucked away at the southernmost tip of Willow Glen, off of Foxworthy Avenue & close to Almaden Expressway, but only about 2.5 to 3 miles from all the action on Lincoln Avenue.
The tree-lined streets are built in something of a loop shape with Rubino Circle being the main access or loop road. Situated on the inner part of the loop are homes with smaller lots that are a little more affordable. The outer part of the circle is built with slightly larger homes on larger lots (but none of the lots are “big”). Sidewalks with soft curbs at the corners accompany the streets and make for a pedestrian-friendly, bike, wheelchair or stroller friendly area. Visit in the early evenings and you will see children and adults walking, strolling, taking dogs for a walk etc. – always a good sign! Because the neighborhood is a bit like an oversized cul-de-sac (no through traffic), it is very quiet in terms of traffic. The area has large street lights, too, making for a safe feeling community.
In Santa Clara County, as in much of California, we have adobe clay soil and it’s expansive. That is, when the dirt gets wet, it expands, and when it dries out, it contracts. Hence it’s sometimes referred to as “shrink-swell” soils. (Every state in the union has areas with this problem – a color-coded map on geology.com shows areas with more and less expansive soils.)
Why is expansive soil an issue for homeowners and would-be homeowners in Silicon Valley?
The trouble is that the expanding and contracting soil is far stronger than concrete and the foundations upon which a home sits. A well written and illustrated six page paper can be found online explaining the mechanics involved for those interested in more detail on the hows and whys of expansive soils. (It states that the ground can life as much as 5,500 pounds per square inch!)
What I’d like to focus on here is mitigating the risks and preventing the problems associated with expansive soils.
The trouble is not so much that the soil is wet or dry. The problem is in the back and forth, the movement. When the soil is kept at an even amount of moisture, it does not expand and contract.
Obviously, rain is seasonal and we cannot control all moisture on or near the house. We can, though, work to move water away from the house and away from the foundation.
Keep rain away from foundations on adobe clay soil!
Winter storms can bring an enormous amount of water onto a home’s roof, and when it channels down gutters and downspouts, there can be a large amount of water exiting in just a few places. Where does that water go?
Convenient to Good Samaritan Hospital, Carlton Elementary School and freeway access to highways 17 and 85, the beautiful “King Street” neighborhood in San Jose’s Cambrian Park district is close to everything. But a drive through the tree-lined streets with tidy homes seems like a relaxing step into the welcoming neighborhoods of yesteryear rather than the hustle and bustle of today’s Silicon Valley.
As with the nearby Alta Vista neighborhood, homes here show a pride of ownership not found everywhere. Holidays include beautiful displays of lights that invite neighbors out to tour after dark. Many home owners wrap the trunk of the trees between the sidewalk and street with blankets of white lights, making for a stunning look down the road.
The “King Streets” enjoy an uncommon appeal that makes homes here perennially desirable to home buyers. The popularity of the area is due partly to the convenience factor (easy to get to a great elementary school with high API scores, easy to get to the freeways, Los Gatos and Good Sam) and the beauty or neighborhood charm factor. It is a winning combination for this west valley community! Many who wish to live in Los Gatos choose this part of San Jose because it’s on the border, so it is not uncommon for the King Streets to be a first home and the move up one is in Los Gatos.
View “The King Streets” in a larger map
Close to the Los Gatos border sits one of the more affordable Cambrian neighborhoods in San Jose and the west valley generally. It enjoys lovely views of the hills, great public schools with high API scores, a neighborhood private school to boot, and convenient access to freeways and stores. There’s no sign, marker or gateway to the area, so many of its residents are probably unaware that the official name to it is Cambrian Gardens.
This neighborhood provides an incredible “bang for the buck” for home buyers wanting excellent schools and not wanting to pay luxury home pricing. In many ways, it’s a “sleeper” – meaning that many people don’t know it’s there, but it’s a good deal!
Where is the Cambrian Gardens area of Cambrian?
The rough borders are Union Avenue, Los Gatos-Almaden Road, Leigh Avenue, and the West Valley Freeway (85).
Not everything within that area is part of the tracts which make up Cambrian Gardens, though. It was developed just south of and directly adjacent to the Cambrian Park area which is so well known, but now separated from it by the freeway. (Click image or here to see live map in Google.)
Cambrian Garden Landmarks
Homes built in this part of Silicon Valley were clustered around the later-built neighborhood public school (bordered by Clarinda, Laurinda, Emeline and Sandy), James De Voss, which is now leased out as a private one, the Global School, as well as Little Oak Preschool. The other major landmark to the neighborhood is Ross Creek, which slides through the middle. With it come frogs, egrets, ducks and other wildlife which are generally welcome. (more…)
Here’s a Campbell house which is always in the spirit of Halloween. If it has a name, as homes in Carmel always do, it should be called the “skull and crossbones house“.
Have you noticed it? Look closely at the porch railing and you’ll spot an unusual design pattern cut into it. This house certainly has personality!
What do you think? Is this good decor for a home year round? (And it’s not even Halloween and this isn’t even my haunted real estate blog since we’re talking decor, not spooks.)