How to fix incorrect property records in Santa Clara County?

Professional man working at computer in a sunny room - Fixing incorrect property records in Santa Clara County - what do you need, who do you callWhat do you need to do about incorrect property records in Santa Clara County? Sometimes public property records are wrong or have missing information.

Info needed to rectify errors on the public record

What you need to do about incorrect property records in Santa Clara Co depends on what needs correcting. If your square footage is correct but the number of bedrooms is not, you may be able to phone and just tell the person over the phone what the issue is and it will be changed.

If the square footage of the lot size is not right, you’ll need documentation from a surveyor or another professional qualified to measure the parcel and document the calculations. That paperwork will need to be submitted, probably by email, but possibly in person.

In all cases, you need your parcel number for the most efficient help.  More on that below.

Incorrect property records in Santa Clara Co – who to contact

In Santa Clara County (San Jose, Los Gatos, Saratoga, Campbell etc.), you must go through the county tax assessor’s office to address these errors, and specifically, you need to speak with your property’s assigned appraiser. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. First, find your APN or assessor’s parcel number and keep it handy, as you will need it (also paper & pen).  You will find it on your property tax bill.  You can also find your APN online via the Santa Clara County website.
  2. Phone the Real Property & Appraiser Department at (408) 299-5300.  Someone there will ask you for your APN so that the correct appraiser can be contacted – I was surprised to learn that there are several dozen appraisers on staff! You can also try emailing them at RP@asr.sccgov.org
  3. From there, you’ll need to talk with your assigned appraiser and see what needs to be done.  He or she may need some documentation, may ask you some questions – just call and find out.
  4. More info can be found here, on their FAQ page: Santa Clara County Tax Assessor’s Office FAQ page. The phone directory for that office is here. But do yourself a favor and do not phone any other number besides  the -5300 one. I made that mistake myself and was passed from one department to the next, each person not understanding what needed to be done, and it ate up 40 minutes of my time. If you want to fix incorrect property records in Santa Clara County, it’s imperative that you call the appropriate number and get put in touch with an appraiser, or you may have an unpleasant experience, as I did.

Why are the public records on real property sometimes wrong?

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Tips for selling your home in an El Niño year

House for sale on a rainy day - Selling your home in an El Nino yearSelling your home in an El Niño year? It’s not impossible, but you may want to do things a little differently!

Home buyers need to buy no matter what the weather is like, and the most serious ones are not put off but inclement weather. The trick is to maximize your sales price and minimize inconvenience and risk to everyone involved.  To that end, here are a few tips from my professional experience.  The rainy season will likely go through March or April, with the spring months being the peak selling season most years.

First, safety tips for selling your home in an El Niño year:

  1. Safety tips for selling your home in an El Niño year: if home buyers come in soaking wet, it’s good to have a non-slip mat (as opposed to a towel on slippery tile) for them to step onto with their wet shoes so they don’t fall and get hurt.  If there’s a back door that they might use to view the yard, have a non-slip mat there too.
    • Also, make sure that there are no obstructions in getting to the house, such as cars in the driveway (if it’s pouring, they want the shortest walk possible), garden hoses where someone may want or need to step over them, toys, or anything that could be a trip hazard or a bad surprise to the face, such as low hanging bushes or trees that reach over the walkway. When it’s raining, sometimes people walk with their heads down and aren’t paying as much attention to their surroundings.
  2. Related to the first point, if you would like them to remove shoes or put on shoe covers / booties, provide a place to sit so that they don’t get injured in the process of respecting your wishes.  Some home buyers will be wearing laced shoes or boots.  Others may be older or have balance problems.  Do not expect them to be able to stand on one foot while trying to get the covers on.  If you have a covered front porch, a bench there is fine – just have the shoe covers available there too.
  3. Please consider adding an umbrella stand, or a place for umbrellas, on the front porch or the entry hall so that your prospective home buyers are not obligated to carry a wet one through your home.

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When a parent, spouse or loved one dies – what do you need to know or do about the house?

Death and Real Estate - Dealing with a Property after A Loved One DiesWhen 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.

Quick summary of what to do regarding the home first and soon when a loved one dies:

  1. Engage the help of of an attorney and tax professional within the first 30 days or so. Sometimes there are deadlines or goal dates that will help the beneficiaries, and if people take too long to connect with these professionals, some opportunities may close.
  2. Some attorneys are also tax professionals, but most likely these will be different people.
  3. A professional valuation of the home will be needed, usually done by a licensed appraiser, but sometimes a real estate professional can do a market analysis that is acceptable. The home does not have to be empty or cleaned out to have this done.
  4. If you need the names of good tax and legal professionals, feel free to reach out to your real estate agent (or to me, if you are local). Most of us have worked with trust situations and can provide names. Or ask friends and family who’ve recently gone through the same situation and were happy with the people that they hired.
  5. You will need several copies of the certified death certificate. Discuss how many with your tax and legal professional. If you sell or transfer the home, the title company will need it and it will be recorded with the county.

Death, dying, & real estate: where to begin when a loved one dies?

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 advisable.

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Landscaping with tanbark or mulch? Use caution!

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?

Beware Tanbark or Mulch by the foundation!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!

What Was That About Termites & tanbark or mulch?

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Should You Buy or Sell Your Silicon Valley Home “As Is”?

For Sale As-IsWhat is an As Is Sale?

Many Silicon Valley home sellers want to sell their homes “as is” (or “as-is”). And most homes in today’s market are. But what does that mean, exactly?

Does it mean that the seller has made no repairs or renovations before listing the home? Or that they do not have to disclose if something is broken to a potential buyer? No.

As is means that the home will be conveyed to the buyer at the end of the transaction in the same general condition it was in on the day that the buyers wrote the offer. If the roof has leaks, the crawl space is full of termites, and the appliances do not work, that is how it will be on the day escrow closes.

What it means is that the seller cannot let the property condition deteriorate during the course of the escrow.

The seller must continue to maintain the home and land in the same general condition. So if the lawn was green and well trimmed, the seller cannot suddenly let the grass die and neglect to mow it. If a baseball breaks a window after the buyer and seller have entered into contract, the seller must repair it. The condition will not have to be better, but it should not be worse than it was on the day the buyer and seller agreed on the price and terms of the sale.

While the contracts most agents use in Santa Clara County and nearby today have “as is” as the default sales agreement, that doesn’t mean all sales are as is.

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Should You Move Out Before You Sell?

Should You Move Out or Vacate Before You Sell?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.

Seller Stress

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.

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How Important are Parking Spaces and Garages in Silicon Valley?

Cambrian Park Home, built by LeepMost homes in Silicon Valley come with some type of parking space for cars beyond street parking.  Home buyers want to know that there will be a place for their vehicles (and often their “stuff” too).   Garages and parking are sometimes under-appreciated aspects of evaluating real estate, and sometimes there are parking surprises after the close of escrow, so it will be the focus of today’s topic.

Parking and resale value

Because a real estate purchase is a big ticket item, it is always important to consider the ability to sell it later.  (Always buy with selling in mind!)  Will the property you have or are considering buying be hard to sell  in the future if it is not a red-hot sellers market?  Parking can greatly impact “resale value and overall desirability to a large portion of consumers, who may look at that space as protection for a beloved vehicle, a safety feature, a future hobby room, or many other possibilities.

If you are evaluating a Common Interest Development (CID) condominium, townhouse, or planned unit development home with private roads and parking, there will be some special concerns that may be a little different than if you were purchasing a single family home. We’ll consider both.

General principle:  In all types of housing in the San Jose area, usually the most highly desired type of parking arrangement is an attached garage with direct access into the home and with side by side parking provided (not tandem).  This is not true in all cases but is generally true.  You would not find home buyers interested in historic homes (Victorian, Spanish, Craftsman) wanting a prominent two car garage at the front of the house, commanding the lion’s share of the view from the street. (So don’t expect to see that in Japantown, Naglee Park, or the the Rose Garden areas of San Jose.) But for the typical buyer of the more common ranch style house, the attached garage is expected and appreciated, and if it’s missing it may be a challenge to sell the property later because the property will be appealing to a smaller pool of buyers.

Regarding direct access: garages are not allowed to have a door entering into a bedroom. This is for safety reasons since bedrooms are where residents are most vulnerable, and garages are an area of increased safety risk.
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Preparing Your Silicon Valley Home to Sell and Return on Investment

If you are preparing your Silicon Valley to sell, you may have concerns about both time and money. You probably don’t want to spend a year getting ready, but you do want to make the appropriate changes which will bring a good return on investment. Some home owners don’t understand the connection between the home’s condition and ultimate sale price – their expectations may be a little off.

Sometimes when I meet prospective clients who are thinking of selling their home, I hear immediately, “we only want to sell As Is” and “we don’t want to have to re-carpet, re-paint, etc.”.  In the next breath, they tell me, “and we want top dollar for our house”.  Those two are often mutually exclusive desires – that is, getting one usually means you won’t get the other.  But not always, and I’ll show you how to increase the odds of doing both.

Preparing your Silicon Valley home to sell and return on investmentTo get top dollar, a Silicon Valley home for sale must appear to be the best value for the money and attract the most qualified buyers who step forward with a strong offer.  Buyers will pay more IF they feel that your home is a better value.

There are a number of things which need to be done for that to occur, but one of the most important has to do with the condition and appearance of the property. Confident buyers write stronger offers than buyers who are concerned about the house or condominium and potentially unknown risks. (Buyers are thinking “risk, risk, risk” and “beware of hidden costs”!) Home buying is both a business decision as well as an emotional decision.  To get top dollar, your home has to make sense and appeal to buyers on both levels, and we’ll discuss both in this post.

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Selling your Silicon Valley home in a cooler market?

2019 Predictions: milder appreciation

The real estate forecasts point to a softer market with maybe 3% – 5% appreciation. Those “peak and valley” patterns continue, so the 3% may mean it shoots up a bit and then drops, or perhaps is just barely better than flat. One year during the downturn, we had exactly 3 good weeks in March, and the rest of the year it was really hard to sell homes. So we do not know for sure how the market will be, except that no one is expecting it to be anywhere near as strong as 2018 (let alone the hyper on fire 2017).

Home selling in cooler conditions

House Heart Money collageIf you need to sell when the market is not “hot”, it’s imperative to realize that buyers will have much more choice. Perhaps only a few homes will sell each month of all the available homes. What are the odds that your home will sell? One way is to look at the last calendar month and see what became of the listings that came on the market then. Here’s a quick case study:

October 2018 in zip code 95032 (Los Gatos), there were 24 single family homes that came on the market. Of those,

  • 8 are still unsold as of November 20 2018 (1/3 have not sold)
  • 3 are currently pending with contingencies in place
  • 6 are pending with all contingencies removed
  • 7 have closed escrow

So that’s not too bad that only 1/3 have not yet sold. In a buyer’s market, though, it could be the reverse and only 1/3 would sell.

THE BASICS TO HOME SELLING

If the market changes so much that most homes are not selling, how do you make sure that your home will be the one which buyers do want, and which their agents want to show if there can only be a “short list”, since there will be far too many of them out there to see them all? Here are some quick tips, followed by links with more information.

  1. The correct PRICE is paramount. If your price is far too high, buyers won’t see it at all – it won’t make that “short list”. If it is a little too high, they will see your house and not bid on it. (Or you will get low offers.) Should the market be declining, this is a  truly expensive mistake to make and you can find yourself chasing the market down.  (If you hire a good, experienced, and skilled agent, he or she ought to be able to assist you in pinpointing the pricing.)
  2. Good PHOTOS and STAGING are the second most important requirement for getting your home sold. They are tied together because great photos of a horrible looking abode won’t help you to sell the home at all, let alone maximize your return.  Think of the online viewers as being open house viewers. This is how they screen what to see – and what to skip. Take the time to clean thoroughly, clear clutter, close the toilet lid, move the car out of the driveway, and do everything in your power to make the property looks like it would fit in on  magazine spread. OK, that is a slight exaggeration, but in a buyer’s market, you have to sell what you have, and that means making it attractive.  Anything that isn’t photographed, such as a bathroom, will be assumed to be in terrible condition.
  3. Make your property EASY TO SEE. If there are 20 properties that might work for a buyer, and 10 are vacant, staged, and can be seen with little notice, those may pop to the top of the list. If you require 24 hours notice or create even bigger hurdles, not only do you make it harder for buyers, but you send out a message that you and your agent may be a pain to work with.  If you are living there, you might make it easier by giving clear, simple instructions to facilitate showings, such as “Between 10 am and 7 pm, please call with 1 hour notice, all other times by appointment only”.  That way, you won’t be on call 24/7, but can make the house reasonably accessible.

There are many more considerations, including the commission offered to the buyer’s agent (think of it as a marketing dollar), the odors in the home, the presence of pets (which may scare some buyers), needed repairs, and much more.

If you are interested in selling a home anywhere in Santa Clara County, please reach out to me for a confidential, no obligation consultation. We can discuss market conditions, local sales, and much more.

 

Related Reading

What’s My Silicon Valley Home Worth? Estimating the Probable Buyer’s Value

Tips for selling your home in an El Niño year

Lighten up your dark home and sell for more! A few tips for Silicon Valley home sellers.

How To Make People Line Up And Beg To Buy Your Home (on popehandy.c0m)

Things which will make a home buyer RUN from purchasing your home (on popehandy.c0m)

 

 

 

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…)