Do you want or need to sell your Silicon Valley home this year? If so, you ought to take the staging of your home very seriously. Often homeowners hire a Realtor (or other real estate licensee), ask for their advice on preparing the house and yard for sale, and then proceed to disregard all or most of the guidance given.

Why do would sellers hire an agent and then not take the professional advice offered? Especially in THIS market? The result is frustrating for both the homeowner (who will not realize the best possible price) and for the agent (who cannot control the condition, but who is hampered in selling the home because of it).

To be candid, the odds are that you will not be able to sell your home in San Jose, Los Gatos, or Saratoga this year. Countywide, most homes are NOT selling. Actually, let’s look at the numbers for just a moment – you will see that it’s fairly sobering.

In the Cambrian Park area of San Jose (zip codes 95124, 95118 and a little of 95008), there are 241 single family homes and condos or townhomes for sale (the “active listings”). In that same district, just 109 are pending sales. This reflects about a 45% chance of selling.

In Almaden Valley, an upscale collection of neighborhoods comprising the 95120 zip code area of San Jose, it’s much worse. There are 121 houses and townhouses or condominiums for sale, and a mere 34 which are under contract to sell. The odds here are 28% that you’ll sell.

For Los Gatos (95032 and 95030), it’s 203 available vs 50 pending. Down to 24% opportunity to sell.

Saratoga (95070) has 152 active listings and just 33 pendings, or a 21.7% sales success.

So selling is an uphill battle for most of the west valley communities of Silicon Valley. What can you do, in terms of staging and preparing your home, to improve your odds of selling? First of all, I would suggest hiring an agent who will give you staging guidance, and secondly, I advise that you take it to heart and implement as much as possible.

Personalized suggestions aside, below please find a few guidelines for you in prepping your Silicon Valley real estate for sale. The main ideas here are CLEAN, DECLUTTER, REPAIR, and if necessary, REPLACE.

Outside Staging Tips:

  • Clean everything ’til it gleams! The exterior of the home and yard create your “curb appeal”. If you don’t have a power washer to tidy up your house’s exterior, borrow, rent or buy one. Nasty cobwebs on the front of your home are only good for a Halloween decoration. Get rid of ’em! Clean windows and window tracks (which may not have been cleaned in years).
  • Trim everything ’til you feel like a gardener at a theme park. Scruffy shrubs, weedy lawns and dead plants will not convince buyers or their agents that you have well maintained your home.
  • Add color near the front walkway and door. Annuals are good, whether in-ground or in pots. Color is the cheapest “bang for your buck” outside.
  • Do you have peeling paint? Touch it up or repaint entirely, if needed. But do NOT leave peeling paint as the greeting your potential buyers get as they approach your home. You will create worry about all the things they cannot see if what they can see is in lousy shape.
  • Polish the doorknobs and hardware. Get a new doormat if needed. Does the mailbox look tired? Paint or replace it if cleaning isn’t good enough.

Inside Staging Tips:

  • Decluttering is usually more of an inside issue than an outside issue, but once you’ve tackled the yard to your satisfaction and your agent’s, it’s time to whip the inside of your abode into show-worthy shape. That begins with decluttering. Time to sort your stuff for giving away, selling, throwing out, or storing for later. Most homes need about 1/3 to 1/2 of their “stuff” gone for selling the home.
  • Depersonalize. Selling your home means you need to make your property be something that the buyers can mentally see themselves in. The more of your highly personal stuff they see, the harder it is for them to see themselves in your place. It’s best to remove all personal items (or leave only a very few). (I once saw a home decorated with whips and chains. It made for an interesting open house, but the property had trouble selling.)
  • Floors and walls are hugely important. Paint and carpet are often needed. Yes, it’s a pain to recarpet and repaint, but it’s another big “bang for your buck” area. Got wallpaper? It may need to go. Ask your agent for a candid answer on that.
  • If it’s broken, fix it – whether it’s a heating element on your stove, a window that won’t open, cracked glass on the shower enclosure, a noisy fan in the bathroom, you name it.

Once you think your home is in “good shape”, have the pre-sale inspections done. Each situation will be a little different, so hire an agent before hiring your inspectors so that you get good inspectors and neither pay for too many inspections or get too few of them. The pre-sale inspections will give you areas to fix before a buyer ever sees the home. This will provide the peace of mind that buyers need to write a good offer for your property.

Overall, these are not big things to do. What’s the cost? It is not unusual to spend 1-2% of the value of the home in getting ready to sell it for top dollar. Getting ready includes staging but goes beyond it, also encompassing pre-sale inspections and repairs that come up in the course of those inspections (termite work, for instance, or dry rot in the bathroom).

Just this morning I saw a home in Los Gatos that is listed at well over a million dollars and it had peeling paint on the front of the house. It’s being professionally represented by an agent who knows that the home needed a coat of paint, but who could not get the seller to agree to this much-needed improvement.

So why do homeowners so often hear professional advice on staging but not act on it? It happens so often that I think it’s worth discussing.

Sometimes, there’s no money for the repairs and improvements.

Most of the time, though, it does not seem to be about money so much as buy-in. Often homeowners don’t quite believe that the agent is right about staging advice. As homeowners, we tend to tolerate things because they aren’t worth spending time and money on for ourselves. It may be an issue of ugly wallpaper or outdated colors. It varies from house to house. You know you “should” do it, but “is it really THAT bad??”

Other times, the home owner may not realize that what is functional is not ideal for selling. I have seen homes with shag carpeting from the 1970s, in perfect condition, just the way George Day had it installed in the living room along with the textured wallpaper. It’s been perfectly maintained and is functional, but it’s not going to help sell your million dollar Saratoga home for top dollar!

If you interview several agents when listing your home, ask for honest feedback on the property’s condition and appearance. You should get some tips and consensus on general things that need to change. Many Realtors will do a major effort with you on staging once you hire them, and the staging is part of the service they offer so they are not going to devote a lot of time to this when you may still hire someone else. But ask a few questions and be prepared to hear that you need to do some work and spend some money. If you can hire someone with staging expertise, so much the better.

Taking this discussion back to the very beginning, one of your first steps in getting your San Jose area home ready to sell is to hire a great Realtor to assist you. Your Realtor will help you get your home in sellable condition by assisting you in navigating inspections, staging, and and showing issues. You can find more tips on staging at, and also a list of Accredited Staging Professionals such as myself there too.

In this challenging market, most homes are not selling. But a percentage of them are successfully managing to sell and close despite the odds. Hiring a good agent and getting your home in great shape are key to being in the minority of homes that do sell in today’s market.

Call me if you’d like a personalized, no cost and no obligation consultation on your selling and buying needs. I will share with you a copy of my book at our meeting, “Get The Best Deal When Selling Your Home in Silicon Valley” too. It is full of helpful information and is yours to keep just for meeting with me.