Choosing Vendors When Buying & Selling Homes in Silicon Valley

Choosing Vendors when Buying and Selling Homes in Silicon ValleyRecently a friend asked me about the way in which vendors are selected when people buy and sell homes.  In some cases, Silicon Valley home buyers or home sellers know which title company, home inspector, home warranty provider or other vendor to hire.  Most of the time, though, they don’t. They are hoping that we real estate professionals can put them into contact with good providers to ease the task of choosing vendors.

Trusted Vendors

When working with my clients, for most vendors I provide a trusted  list of sorts.  For the various inspections (roof, chimney, home, pest, etc.) or other service (lender, home warranty, title company) there might be as few as two or as many as six resources listed.  Most often, my clients ask me if I have one or more which I prefer, and most of the time it is one company for each category (I have a favorite termite company, favorite home warranty company, etc.).

The home buyer or seller in Santa Clara can pick or hire anyone or any company he or she pleases for these various jobs. We agents can and will assist with sharing the names and numbers of those whom we know, like and trust, but at the end of the day, it’s the client who chooses. So really it’s up to the client – he or she can do some research or not.  But if they tell me (as they most often do) to go with my preferred vendor, there’s one in each category and I don’t tend to “spread the business around”.  Over the years, agents tend to build relationships with people in these companies and get a sense of whom they can trust and want to work with. (We agents would hate it if a client with six homes to sell picked six different Realtors to rotate through, too. We tend to want and also to give loyalty.)


How to quickly get your Silicon Valley home ready to sell

Tips to Sell FastIf for some reason you find yourself in a very big hurry to get your Silicon Valley home on the market, you may not know where to begin or how to get it done.  Today I’ll give you a quick list of the best things to do, and in order, too!

First, hire a great, full time real estate professional.  This Realtor or other sales person will be your partner from the beginning and can give you insight and advice on the best place to spend your time and money for the best return on investment – and which items are the most important in your house or condo’s particular case, given the time restrictions. Your Realtor can also help you with time lines, managing pre-sale inspections (worst case, they can happen after your home is on the MLS), etc.  Sometimes home owners begin on their own and make less than ideal choices when choosing paint colors and so on.  Since part of the service provided when you sign a listing agreement is good advice, do hire first!

Second, think clean, uncluttered, and “good working order”.  The rest of the tips all fall under the broad umbrella of staging – mostly de-cluttering, cleaning, and making sure that things work as intended.  Perhaps you won’t be able to make everything immaculate and perfect, but in many cases, with even a  few days you can hit the biggest areas fast.

Make a list of everything that needs some kind of minor repair or adjustment. Getting those items fixed will send a message to home buyers that your house or condo is turnkey and not a “fixer”.   It may not be conscious, but if home buyers find doors that squeak loudly, doorbells or lights that don’t work, they begin to wonder if there are any big ticket items that are in need of repair or replacement, too.  Hire a handyman or contractor as needed so that your home gives the right first impression.

Moving at lightening speed, with the listing signed today and the home on the MLS tomorrow? This isn’t fun, but I’ve done it with sellers at times.  In those cases, you may have one frantic 24 hour period. Think of it like you do when entertaining relatives who may go anywhere in your home…

What would you do if you had one hour’s notice before company would be arriving at your doorstep? Here are some quick fixes for the hurry up sale:

  1. Be armed with large boxes or laundry baskets so you can begin to collect things where are where they do not belong and get them at least generally to where they do.
  2. Get the floors, counter tops and surfaces almost completely clear.  If it’s newspapers, throw them out (show no mercy!).  Have a box or basket for each bedroom or room of the house and put the items into the correct basket as you go through the house.  For example, you could have one box for the garage, another for the master bedroom, another for the hall bath, etc.  Bring all boxes into each room that you are “clearing” and take just one room or area on at a time.  You may be moving 6 or 8 boxes or baskets from one room to the next, but it’s a faster way to sort and move things.
  3. If there’s no time to actually put all of these items away, do what most of us did in college: put the basket or box in the closet.  And then close the door.  No, it’s not ideal. It’s a quick fix and it will do the job 90-95% of the way.  If you’re in a rush, it’s got to be good enough.  Ditto that with the garage.  If all else fails, put things into the garage.  Some buyers may chuckle, but yours will most certainly not be the only house where they see this happen.  If you have a truly excessive amount of stuff, get a pod or use a service such as Door to Door, where they bring a container to your driveway, you load it, they then take it away and you get it back when you’re ready to move. (more…)

The three greatest temptations for sellers in a raging hot market

House for saleIn a raging hot seller’s market such as we are experiencing today in Silicon Valley, home owners may be subject to some very costly temptations.

Home seller temptation # 1: overconfidence on the market

Because folks read about the dozens of offers on some homes, by extension, it’s easy to believe that every home sells, for top dollar, with no effort or planning on the part of the seller. This is a huge mistake. Perhaps we should even call it a myth since it may be commonly believed.

In today’s wildly hot market, there are still some homes that DO NOT SELL. 

What are the odds that your home won’t sell?

I just pulled some numbers from the MLS today, July 23, 2018. You may find them surprising!

  • In Santa Clara County, there are currently 1274 single family homes on the market
    • 490 of them have been on the market at least 30 days – 38% are not moving quickly & likely need a price reduction, if it hasn’t already been done
    • 211 of the 1274 have been for sale for at least 60 days – 17% have had 2 months worth of open houses, keeping the home spotless, etc.
    • 107 of the 1274 have a “days on market” of 90 days or more – 8% have serious market rejection
  • These are not all luxury homes!
    • 9 are listed at under $1 million
    •  13 are offered between $1 million and $1,499,999 (“normal” houses in our area)
    •  9 are on the market between $1.5 mil and $1,999,999
    • 14 are listed at $2 million to $2,499,999 (these are still not luxury homes in most cases)
    • 11 are priced between $2.5 mil and $2,999,999
    • That’s 56 homes of 107 that are under $3 million. The balance are “high end homes”, which usually are more challenging to sell

The best homes, those which are well priced, well marketed, and are easily shown, sell within 2-3 weeks. After that, home buyers view them as stale listings and assume something terrible is wrong with them. After three weeks, unless the home gets a deep price reduction, it’s unlikely to get multiple offers.

This first temptation is the greatest one, and it often leads to mistakes in areas #2 and #3, listed below. (more…)

How to fast-track your home buying: 6 steps

StaircaseHome buying is challenging for everyone in Silicon Valley: prices are high, inventory is low, and homes sell fast and usually with multiple offers, so decisions must be made quickly.  Additionally, all the information on properties for sale is given up front, so San Jose area real estate consumers must read and digest hundreds of pages of inspections, disclosures, and reports for each house which is a serious contender.  Most of the time, prospective buyers don’t get the first home on which they bid, so it’s a painful process which may be repeated a few times before success is had.

If you are someone who wants to be decisive without taking 6 months and 5 offers to get into a home, there are ways to wisely shorten the learning curve and the process generally.   Sometimes people relocating here for work don’t want to rent and then buy – they want to buy quickly so that they can get kids into schools, establish neighborhood ties and generally begin their life here fully without having to prolong the house hunt.  Sometimes that is not the case, it’s just a buyer who doesn’t want to make house hunting his or her main hobby for the forseeable future.  No matter the reason, here are some ways you can speed up the process.

First, list your priorities: things you must have, things you’d like to have, things you do not want, things you absolutely will not accept.

Second, rank them in order.  (Often certain things will tend to go together, such as better schools and lower crime.)  This part can be difficult but is extremely important. Every home purchase involves compromise on something, whether it’s size, condition, location, walkability, price, schools, etc. Home buyers may find themselves with tradeoffs, so this is where you must have your ranking of priorities set.  For instance, perhaps

  • you can get one more bedroom if you’re willing to buy on a slightly busier street OR
  • that same home might be remodeled from top to bottom if it backs to high voltage power lines OR
  • you could buy a 1200 SF house in downtown Los Gatos that needs to be rehabbed or you could get 1800 SF of livable home for the same amount 4 miles away
  • you could have a short commute and buy a condo or a 45 minute commute and get a house

Frequently, people struggle with ranking.  I have often heard people say “I want everything on my priorities list”.  For almost everyone, eventually, something will have to give, so the sooner you know where you will compromise, the better.  Often home buyers who want to purchase in Cupertino, Sunnyvale, or Mountain View recoil in horror when they find what their money can buy there – and end up purchasing in Los Gatos, Cambrian, or Almaden instead, resulting in the longer commute but nicer home for the money. To be successful, it is crucial to rank, so the sooner you can do it, the better.

Third, hire a good Realtor early on.  A lot of home buyers in the South Bay are running around, looking at open houses but getting no personal, professional guidance.  They may not understand what a good buyer’s agent can do for them.  They may incorrectly believe that a Realtor working with a buyer is just a glorified driver, taking them from home to home and then getting a commission when something is bought.  I’ve written about this misperception (and the idea that some buyers have that “everything is on the web” so a buyer’s agent isn’t needed) but would like to simply state that this is an expensive and time-wasting misperception. (more…)

Planning to sell your Silicon Valley home? Hire your Realtor before making any big decisions!

Hire FirstSeveral times in recent years I have represented buyers in transactions where the seller’s side of the escrow seems to be a little messed up.  In most of those cases, the problem was a result (directly or indirectly) of the home seller doing too much prep work before hiring an agent.  That is really putting the cart before the horse, is a waste of money and it can cause harm to you, the seller, down the road.

In a couple of instances, the sellers ordered pre-sale inspections first and hired a real estate licensee later.  What could be wrong with that?  Like all professionals, there are better and worse inspectors (and better and worse companies).  There are firms with fantastic reputations for honesty, thoroughness, and reliability. And then there are the duds.

Most of my real estate colleagues have a preferred vendor or two, but also have a long list of professionals whom they would trust to inspect a property and do a good job of it.  Most home sellers, though, do not have much experience with inspectors and do not know these companies by reputation.  More than once, I’ve heard sellers picking a national brand due to name recognition.  That may be OK some of the time, but it’s sure not how most real estate agents would suggest hiring anyone!

When you hire a Realtor or other real estate licensee in a full service capacity (which is what happens most of the time), you are paying not for just the MLS entry, the negotiations, the fliers etc., but the whole transaction package, from start to finish. You’re paying for advice and guidance and that can begin long, long before there’s a sign in the yard.  Why not take advantage of that guidance from the very beginning, with basic input on decluttering and staging and then which inspections to order – and for those, get a list of trusted sources from the real estate professional you hire.

As for the sales in which the seller made a poor inspection choice, in one case it cost that home owner about $10,000 and in another a lost sale.

There are many decisions you’ll need to make when selling your home.  You don’t have to go it alone!  Hire a great agent or broker to work with you and take advantage of your trusted resource from the very beginning. That will save you time, money and stress in the long run!

If you found this informative, there’s plenty more to read. Try one of these related posts:

Hiring an Agent to Help You Sell or Buy a Home in Silicon Valley

How to get a great buyer’s agent in a seller’s market (when most Realtors would rather assist home sellers)

How do you choose a real estate agent whom you trust?

Thinking of Selling Your Silicon Valley Home? Get It Right The First Time if You Go On The Market!




Why does that real estate agent keep calling me?

Phone nightmare - make it stop!You met a real estate agent – perhaps at an open house, perhaps you saw a few homes with him or her, or perhaps that person did a market analysis on your home and interviewed to list it – and now that person keeps phoning or emailing you.  Why?  Why won’t he or she leave you alone?

The answer to that is simple: that Realtor or other real estate sales person thinks of you as either a client or a potential client (a prospective client or prospect or a “lead”), so is following up to get your business.  Realty professionals are always looking for their next job; perhaps job # 1 is finding people who want to hire them since without clients, they are out of business.  To that end, when real estate agents are trained, they are told to stay in touch lest they lose business.  So those who are serious about being successful will do just that.   Some licensees will try communicating a few times and then give up.  Others will be undaunted for longer. (more…)

You must know lots of real estate agents, so please hire a great one when buying or selling!

Bozo Alert!In our Silicon Valley area there are gobs and gobs of real estate professionals – about 15,000 people are members of our local MLS.  In Los Gatos alone, there are probably about a thousand (for a town with about 30,000 residents, maybe 2/3 of them adults).  So definitely, if you live here, you do know Realtors.  You must.  In Silicon Valley, if you don’t know any real estate licensees, you don’t have any friends, as the saying goes.

So any licensee, like yours truly, knows and understands that when our friends (or even sometimes our family members) go to list a home for sale, or pick a buyer’s agent, we may not be the Realtor of choice.  At times, we get a nice email or call explaining (that is nice, and it is appreciated) why someone else was hired.  Other times,  we aren’t even called, texted or emailed, but instead find out “by accident”. That’s harder.  Lots, lots harder.

In all cases, though, it’s much easier to lose the listing (yes, that’s how we real estate agents feel about it) when the agent who is hired is a great agent, or at least a really good one.  The better agents are well liked in the real estate community: they know what they are doing, they work from strong ethics, are fair and honest to deal with, they work hard in representing their clients’ best interests, their egos aren’t super-sized, they don’t BS sellers with what they “want to hear” but tell them the truth (what they need to hear), and they don’t take stupid shortcuts to save a couple of hundred bucks in marketing…. This is not a comprehensive list, but you get the idea.

If a friend or loved one hires a great agent, I will say right away “good choice!” or  “we are great friends, she will take wonderful care of you!  or “fabulous agent, you’re in good hands!”   Not so good?  I will wish you all the success in the world, a speedy sale and fast and uneventful escrow.  I cannot tell you that you’re hired a super agent when I know better.  And I will not tell you what I wish I could, namely, you just hired someone who’s clueless or massively distrusted / disliked or whatever negative thing might be the case.  No can do. That would be a violation of the Realtor code of ethics. (more…)

How to make sure that real estate agents won’t take you seriously

Real estate professionals usually spend time, effort and money to grow their business, and that means attracting new clients while working with those currently buying and selling homes, or getting ready to do so.  Some consumers believe that realty sales people will give out tons of information, and spend loads of time, without having any kind of commitment from the consumer that they are working together.  In other words, the idea is that they “work for free”.   Better business people won’t do that – they recognise a waste of time when they see it and won’t take you seriously.

If you’d like to be taken seriously by a real estate agent or broker, it’s important that you get started on a good foot together.  If you are cagey, want to remain anonymous, or expect the Realtor or other licensee to do work for you before you ever have a conversation, you’re probably not using a winning strategy.

Here are some common reasons why a prospect (not a client yet) may get eliminated:

  • use a fake name (or only your first name, or other partial name)
  • use an email address that has no connection to your name or appears to go to another name
  • refuse to provide a cell number
  • make appointments but then cancel, reschedule – over and over
  • expect the agent to be available on short notice, but require tons of time (for appointments, to respond, etc.)
  • ask for pricing information or analysis on a property before you establish a working relationship (or meet in person) with the Realtor
  • requesting any other extreme expenditure of time & effort prior to your hiring the agent to help you to buy or sell a home

Anything that smacks of dishonesty, disrespect, or expecting a lot of “something for nothing” will be a big red flag to a real estate professional.

Want to have a great agent want to work with you?  Here are some tips:

  • be honest and upfront with your name, your goals, timeframe etc.
  • provide contact info so that the agent you’d like to work with feels you’re on the level, honest and transparent
  • respect the agent’s time, give enough lead time, be on time, understand that he or she has other clients and projects which all have to be part of the day or week
  • it’s fine to interview several real estate sales people, but then decide on one and be loyal

It’s important that on top of all other things, you and your realty expert have a good working relationship.  Buying and selling is stressful.  You and your Realtor are a team – if you begin the relationship with that mindset, the whole experience will be much improved.  And if not, it will seem like a doomed relationship, and you may never even have that first face to face appointment; instead, you’ll be eliminated as a bad prospect.





The Real Estate Questions You Ask Will Largely Determine the Quality of Your Outcome

Good questions lead to bettter choicesThe other day I was in the car with my uncle, a Jesuit priest and a very wise man. Our conversation turned to the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle, and my uncle noted that for Aristotle, the most important thing was the type of question asked.

We chatted about this awhile (I had studied Aristotle in college, but hadn’t remembered this important point) and I realized that this is also very true with real estate and home buyers & home sellers right here in Silicon Valley today.

Let’s look at a few real estate questions and just think about where each one leads:

  • What is the fastest way to…?
  • What is the easiest way to…?
  • What is the cheapest way to…?
  • What is the most thorough way to…?
  • What is the most careful or conservative way to…?

You can see what I mean.  So many times, people wanting to buy or sell homes start with certain questions…and they may or may not be the best questions. The questions above are the “how to” questions – what is the way to do whatever it is.

Here are some very different questions. Instead of the “how to do” questions, they are the “I want this outcome” type of questions:

  • Where is the best school for my kids and their needs (or special needs)?
  • What kind of neighborhood do I want to live in?
  • What kind of agent do I want to hire to guide me?
  • What kind of lender do I want to hire to assist me?
  • When would I like to be in or out of my home?

Oftentimes, I’ll have a listing and will be working with the seller to get the home marketed and sold.  A buyer – who does not know me in the slightest – comes through an open house and asks me to help him or her or them to “write up the offer”.

Agency Question: “Do I have to buy the house from the Realtor who showed it to me?”

Graphic image of a house for sale and a Realtor who showed or previewed the house (person with briefcase)Awhile back, I got an email from someone who’d seen a Silicon Valley house she liked from a real estate agent whom she didn’t like.  She wondered, “do I have to buy the house with the Realtor who showed it to me?”

The answer, of course, is not always clear. It depends on your relationship with the agent.  It may also depend on why you choose to buy the home with someone else’s assistance, if you did so.

(1) Your relationship with the real estate agent

Did you sign a buyer broker agreement with that Realtor? If so, you may owe a commission to her if you buy the home through someone else.

Did you write an offer on that property with the agent? If so, again you may owe a commission to him if you hire someone else to help you purchase it afterwards.

In many cases, there is a verbal contract that you are working with a Silicon Valley real estate professional exclusively. This does “count” too but it may be easier to change your status if it’s a verbal agreement.

(2) Problem agents, problem consumers.  Do you want or need to break the relationship with the Realtor who showed you this or other homes?

Is your agent giving too pushy? Doesn’t seem to know what he or she is doing?  Too hard to reach?  Too busy to really assist you? Or doing something else that you perceive as a “red flag”?  Sometimes agents should be fired.

You most likely can break that agency relationship with a problem agent if it’s a verbal contract only and you haven’t written an offer on the property in question, but you must  clearly tell him or her that you are not going to continue working together and then have a gap in time between then and when you do write an offer on the home (at least a few days, if not a few weeks).  You can break the agency relationship verbally or in an email or both, but it needs to be clear so that there is no misunderstanding. A call or voice mail followed up by an email would be very clear.