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

Thinking of Selling your Silicon Valley Home? Sell it right the first time!You keep reading that it’s still a “seller’s market” in Silicon Valley real estate. You hear about homes recieving multiple offers and prices getting pushed up. Yet with interest rates still threatening to rise and more layoffs, not everyone is ready to take the plunge to sell.

Should you jump in as a San Jose area seller now?

Maybe, but if you do it, do it right! The dirty little secret that no one talks about is that not all Santa Clara County homes for sale are selling like it’s a hot market. They sit on the market, popping up on MLS searches for month after month, lower their prices, and might eventually accept an offer below asking price.

Dangerous Seller Myths

There are quite a few common myths that home owners believe about selling their property. Believe these, and act accordingly, and your chances of selling are dramatically damaged:

  • my price is high, but buyers can always “make an offer”
  • it’s a seller’s market, my home does not have to be perfect
  • if I fix up the home to sell, the buyer may not like the changes (this one is especially common)
  • it was like this when I bought it, so I don’t have to improve it now
  • I have lived with (fill in the blank) forever, there’s nothing wrong with it

Getting the home prepped and pricing right matter tremendously. Today let’s focus on preparing and staging.
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What Are CCRs?

CCRs are the Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions  (sometimes “Covenants, Codes & Restrictions”) for a neighborhood, subdivision, condo or townhouse community.  They are drawn up by the builder or by a board comprised of the builder and a few others who want to set the neighborhood standards. Sometimes you’ll hear them called CC and Rs or CC&Rs.

The CCRs  are put in place, usually for a set number of years such as for 30 or 35 years, with automatic extensions of a prescribed number of years (such as 5 or 10) unless the homeowners in that tract or area vote t hem out.

The weirdest time line I ever saw in CCRs referenced something like “until the death of the last living great grandchild of…” and it mentioned one of the Kennedys. Odd, but apparently legit.

What are the CCRs about?

Ordinarily the CCRs tell us that homes cannot be too small, that livestock cannot be raised at the property, that home owners may not drill for oil or water, and many other kind of common sense things.  The older ones will also state that the house must have a minimum value – often so small it might make us chuckle.

 

CCRs sample one

 

Additionally, the covenants, conditions, and restrictions will state what kind of signage may appear (only for sale and for rent signs, for instance, no billboards), and normally there’s a admonishment against noxious or offensive materials such as rubbish piling up on the property.

Newer CCRs, especially in condo communities or townhouse complexes, may have restrictions on things like what color the curtains or blinds must be if facing the street (white or off white or beige only). Often they state that garage doors must be fully down except when vehicles are entering or exiting. Some communities, like Rinconada Hills in Los Gatos, do not permit you to park your vehicle in the driveway overnight – it needs to be in the garage.

CCRs only one car on the street allowed

Many disallow washing vehicles in the complex. Right now that’s moot since the drought has the water company prohibiting all of us from doing that.

Condo and townhome CCRs

In condominium and townhome complexes, the CCRs are crucially important! Some of them have rules like:

  • no more than 2 pets
  • dogs may not be of these breeds (list)
  • dogs may not weigh more than 20 pounds (or some other number)
  • laundry may not be dried on balconies
  • storage may not be left on balconies
  • laundry and dishwashers may not run after 10 pm
  • only people over the age of 55 (or some other age) may live at the complex

And MANY other clauses. Always always read the CCRs !

Illegal restrictions in the CCRs

Many years ago, some CCRs also had restrictions on who might buy or live in a neighborhood (racial, religious, and other restrictions).  This is illegal today, of course, and so the first page of any CC&R document you see now will have a large disclaimer stating that any fair housing violations are illegal and are null & void. (At least it should be there.)

Click on the following link to download the PDF of the typical CCRs cover sheet.

Since the C C & Rs “run with the property”, until recently we were told that they cannot be amended. Want to see the cover sheet itself? Now, though, thanks to recent legislation, those offensive restrictions can be stricken from the CCRs.  (more…)

Oaktree Park

Oaktree Park Neighborhood in Almaden Valley area of San JoseThe Oaktree Park neighborhood in San Jose is a scenic residential community with wide appeal to home buyers due to good Almaden schools, close proximity to large parks and is one of only a few areas in Almaden Valley which includes a cabaña and swim team. Additionally, this area is very convenient as it’s close to schools, shops and commute routes to downtown San Jose and much of Silicon Valley. It is a fairly intimate neighborhood with 156 homes.

Where is the Oaktree Park neighborhood?

The Oaktree Park subdivision is within the boundaries of Meridian Avenue, Redmond Avenue and Mcabbe Road on three sides and the Jeffrey Fontana Park on the north side.

The census bureau (and perhaps also the city of San Jose) has attributed names to some parts of Almaden and this neighborhood falls into the Crossgates section. I do not believe that most residents refer to this area that way, though. Perhaps more likely they’d call it part of the greater Fontana Park neighborhood. Just the other side of Meridian is the vastly larger Almaden Meadows neighborhood.

 

Oaktree Park Neighborhood in San Jose (Almaden Valley area of SJ)

Oaktree Park Neighborhood in San Jose (Almaden Valley area of SJ) – click on image above to go to live Google Map

 

What schools serve the Oaktree Park neighborhood in San Jose?

The public schools for Oaktree Park are within the San Jose Unified School District:

Los Alamitos Elementary School (API 935 in 2013, a, 8 on Great Schools in 2023 )
Castillero Middle School (API 846 in 2013, a 7 on Great Schools in 2023)
Pioneer High School (API 822 in 2013, a 7 on Great Schools in 2023)

Los Alamitos Elementary and Holy Spirit Elementary (Catholic) are both just a couple of blocks from Oaktree Park. Additionally, there are 2 preschools really close too: Precious Preschool and Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Preschool.

For more information and links for schools, school districts, API scores and maps of boundaries lines for schools in the Almaden area of San Jose, please also read:

Schools, API Scores & Maps of School Boundaries in San Jose’s Almaden Valley

What are homes like in Oaktree Park?

Homes in Oaktree Park are single family dwellings – all detached houses (no townhouses or condominiums). These are primarily ranch style or two story ranch style houses, built in the early 1970s  on lots of about 8000 to 9000 square feet, though a few are more than that. Interior size runs between about 1600 square feet to about 3000 square feet (if added on). P

Prices will be impacted by home size, condition, and exact location (such as on a busy road or immediately adjacent to the high voltage power lines that run through the park) at one end of the spectrrum to beautifully updated or rebuilt larger homes in an ideal location within the neighborhood.

Check the listings below to see the current prices and keep reading for more information on the Oaktree Park neighborhood below!

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The Healthy House

Air quality monitor - one way to know if you have a healthy houseIt’s the end of the year and many people are making New Years Resolutions or New Years Goals.  Instead of directly focusing on your own health, how about looking into making a more healthy house? Indoor air quality contributes to the health of residents just as much as that extra serving of vegetables or extra thousand steps per day.

When the summer and autumn fires are raging in California, we are all keenly aware of pollutants. We check PurpleAir.com and replace our filthy air filters faster than usual. Some of us even found ourselves buying air quality monitors for the first time, all in hopes of having a healthy house.  When the fires get put out, we may not think much about having a healthy home until another “Spare the Air” day is called.

Healthy House Challenges

This last summer, we were one of many families purchasing an air quality monitor (seen in photo, it was around $120 online).  We were surprised at the amount of indoor air pollution caused by frying foods.  That was info we tripped into – the monitor was on because of the smoky skies, but it was the friend chicken that sent the PM2.5 score soaring into the 400s. And it took hours for it to come back down to normal (in large part certainly because we could not open our doors and windows to air it out). That was a lesson!

One of the least known but perhaps one of the biggest risks involves gas cooking, as well as the use of other gas appliances, in the home. What many cooking aficionados do not realize is that every single time you cook with gas, you also should be using the vent to clear the gas fumes lest you contribute to a buildup of carbon monoxide (and other pollutants) indoors.  (Venting is also crucial with other gas appliances such as the furnace and water heater.)

Carbon monoxide detectors are now mandatory in California homes if there are gas appliances, not just at the point of resale but in all houses, condos, town homes etc. – but even the best devices can fail or have the batteries die, so best to avoid relying on them alone and make sure to use care in venting all gas devices whenever in use.  There are some studies indicating that gas cooking and the use of other gas appliances indoors may aggravate respiratory conditions such as asthma and increase pulmonary (lung) risk, too. Carbon monoxide is the best known, but not only pollutant, that may come with gas appliances.

Along the same lines, home inspectors suggest that fireplaces with gas logs or jets never fully close, but instead have a small block to keep the damper from sealing completely. This is also so that the carbon monoxide can vent out.

Radon is thought to be a non-issue in California, but Silicon Valley is generally a moderate radon area. Care should be taken particularly in properties with basements and in homes where occupants smoke indoors.

Other issues include mold and dust, which are especially hard on people with allergies or lung disease, but can also irritate eyes. For structures built prior to about 1978, lead may be present too.

When buying or selling residential property in California, the Residential Environmental Hazards booklet is provided.  It can be found online via a variety of sources, including the State of California’s website.  If you haven’t seen or read this booklet recently, I would like to suggest that you have a look and consider incorporating some of the suggestions and tips in the coming year to make your own home a healthier one:

http://www.cdph.ca.gov/programs/CLPPB/Documents/ResEnviroHaz2005.pdf

A last point about this fabulous booklet: do not read right before going to bed!! 

Additional information from the World Health Organization can be found here:

WHO Guidelines for Indoor Air Quality: Selected Pollutants (book, 2010)

Here’s to a happy and healthy 2021!

 

 

 

Comparing cost of housing in West Valley communities from Palo Alto to Los Gatos to Blossom Valley: what will a 4 bedroom home cost?

Sketch of houseIt can be really challenging for people moving to Silicon Valley to get a sense of real estate prices, and perhaps more, comparing cost of from one town or district to another.

One question I get a lot is this: what does it cost to buy a 4 bedroom, 2 bath house of about 2000 square feet?

So to answer this question, let’s see what houses like this are selling for (4 bed, 2 bath, appx 2000 SF or 185 square meters) and see how the cost looks in one Santa Clara County / Silicon Valley area versus another.

Comparing Costs

Today I compared several areas and cities using this criteria: single family homes of 1800 – 2200 SF, 3-5 bedrooms, 2-3 bathrooms, on lot sizes of 6000 SF to 10,000 SF. Normally I would chart this over the last 2 months, or 60 days, but because of the low inventory causing the sellers market I have expanded the search to the last 3 months, or 90 days, for a better range. Because some areas have had a scarcity of inventory, I’ve added an addition to the chart titled NoS for Number of Sales within the given range.

Here’s how it shakes out in the “west valley areas” along the Highway 85 corridor, most of which are known to have good to great public schools. What areas are most affordable? One way of analyzing this is the “price per square foot” figure. Whenever I update the chart, I re-arrange the order of the cities from high to low based on the price per square foot, although there’s usually minimal movement.

 

Feb 2020 Sales Comparisons

 

Within this range, Campbell only had one sale over the last 90 days, so data for that segment may or may not be a good average. Both Los Altos and Saratoga had no sales within the last 90 days within these criteria, so their searches have been expanded to 0-180 days (or 6 months / half a year) and 0-120 days (or 4 months / a quarter year) respectively to provide data for comparison for this chart. Now that we have the data, let’s analyze it!

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Who is present at the home inspections?

Photo of house and words "who is present at the home inspection"Who is present at home inspections for Silicon Valley real estate sales? The answer really depends on when the inspections are done and who is paying for them.

Timing of the home inspections

Pre-sale inspections:  In Silicon Valley, many home sellers get pre-sale inspections of the home (property), roof, chimney, and a pest inspection or termite inspection too as they tend to provide an excellent return on investment.  With the seller’s inspections, often the listing agent will be present for either all of the inspection, or, if the seller is there and prefers, only at the summary. Inspectors are not ordinarily left at the property alone in this area – though in some states that is the norm.

Sale pending:  When the home is in contract, both the buyer’s real estate agent and the buyer or buyers will be present for the inspections. The seller and listing agent ordinarily are not there, but may be.  Being present is a great way for the future owners to really learn about the property, so we Realtors strongly encourage them to attend if at all possible.

More than a written report

A lot of time, there are nuances to the home inspections which you will only get in person and not find on the written report. Some inspectors may volunteer info on how to maintain things in the future, such as tips on keeping rain gutters from rusting. If you don’t attend, you won’t get that education.

As much as possible, Realtors try to get all home inspections to happen at once (same day, same window of time) to minimize the buyer’s time away from work and inconvenience to the seller. In some cases, however, the roof or other inspection may not be able to be scheduled at the same time. Roof inspections normally are not tightly scheduled – the inspector comes during a window of time which is not precise. Since no interior access to the home is required, this is usually not a problem. Even so, it’s nice if the buyer and selling agent (buyer’s agent) can be there to hear the verbal information when the home’s seen.

(Side note: a few years back, I met some Realtors from Utah who said that their inspectors have lock box keys and that they inspect with buyers present but the real estate agents absent. “My broker discourages our being present at home inspections – too much liability”, one of them explained to me.) (more…)

What do you want from your home inspections?

Home Inspections Home Sweet HomeWhat is the purpose of a home inspection? Many real estate professionals would say that it is to uncover defects. While that is certainly true, I’d like to suggest that property inspections can be of much broader use than merely learning what’s wrong.  For new home owners, or soon to be home owners, it’s a great chance to learn about all the components of your house, condominium or townhome, and how to maintain it well going forward. 

Whether you are in escrow to purchase the property or you are a new home owner who purchased without inspections (or contingencies), it is wise to take a half day off from work so that you can be present for the inspections and learn about your home and how to maintain it for the long haul.  A good property inspector will not mind your accompanying him or her throughout the property and will explain to you what you’re seeing.  Many times, you will get helpful tips that will not make it into the written report, so bring along a notepad and pen.  You may hear your inspector say “this is fine now, but you’ll need to replace it in about 5 years” or “if you do such and such, this will last a lot longer”.  These are helpful things to know!  Your inspector may also reveal that some items are functioning now but should be watched carefully.  “Check the crawl space when it rains to see….” or “this is probably not an active leak, but no one has lived here for a year, so recheck this in 6 months” or…. you get the idea.

Home inspectors can only see what’s visible, and some bad conditions may be hidden.  In general, though, you want to have a qualified home inspector out every 7 years (and a pest inspector every 3-5) so that if your home is developing any problems, they can be caught and addressed while more manageable.

Further reading on home inspections:

How to prepare for a home inspection in Silicon Valley
Preparing Your Silicon Valley Home to Sell and Return on Investment

 

 

 

What is a “cool air return”? What are “heat registers”?

Cool air returnWhat is a “cool air return“? Silicon Valley home hunters are very likely to encounter both heating vents (also called heat registers) and cool air returns in houses, townhouses and condos across the South Bay Area. They are found wherever a home enjoys central forced air heat with ducts and vents. (Some Victorian houses have forced air heat but it is only brought to perhaps one main room or area in the house!)

The purpose of a cool air return is to feed the furnace with a supply of cooler air to be heated ad then circulated back into the rest of the dwelling via the heat registers or vents. Often the cool air return is found near the floor. This makes sense when you consider that the hottest air will rise, leaving cooler air nearer the ground. Heat registers are often near the floor (and near a window), but if the home is on a slab foundation and has forced air heat, the vent will be on the ceiling.

How can I tell the difference between the cool air return and a heat register or vent?

Generally speaking, the vents for warm air are long and narrow, and the cool air return is much larger and boxier in shape.  Below please find an image of heating vents.

Heating ventsThe first example of a heating vent is probably the most typical you’ll find in Silicon Valley: it’s metal, kind of a dark gray color.  Older ones (homes from the 50s) have an even narrower shape but still tend to be metal, sometimes painted dark brown.

The next example is usually found where the property has hardwood floors.  The idea is to make the vent blend in and be less noticeable. Naturally, the wooden vents come in a variety of colors to match the many types of woods that might be found in a residence.

By and large, cool air returns and heat registers are pretty ugly. The wooden vents are a nice step above the usual offerings.  Several companies sell nicer cool air returns and heat registers or vents, though. So if you are remodeling and want to get away from that “tract housing feel”, a few custom touches might be just the ticket for a more unique feeling home. (more…)

Viewing Silicon Valley Homes for Sale: What to Expect

What should you expect when you go to visit homes for sale in Silicon Valley? Here are a few quick tips.

  1. Many home sellers in the San Jose area will ask that you remove your shoes. So wearing slip ons of some kind will be a lot easier than footwear with laces, buckles, zippers etc.
  2. Most of the time, sellers will not be home.  They wisely will clear out, when possible, to give you the space to look without feeling like you’re imposing on them.  Sometimes, though, for any number of reasons, this may not happen.
  3. If sellers are home, they will usually answer the door or, worst case, respond when the agent and buyers enter and announce themselves.  Once in awhile, though, there’s a surprise seller somewhere in the house.  (Maybe one time in a hundred?  I have run into people who were in bed, in a shower, on a couch and simply not responding.)  So be alert when viewing homes, be cautious, or it could be like that scene in “E.T.” where ET and the little girl see each other and scream their lungs out.
  4. Pets are usually not present and loose, but again, sometimes there’s a misfire, so be on guard for dogs and cats (more likely the latter).  If dogs are present and loose I usually will not show the home. I love dogs and own one, but they’re not all equally friendly.
  5. Personalization:  usually sellers will have decluttered and depersonalized their homes so that you and other home buyers can “see themselves” in that space.  For some sellers, particularly seniors, it can be very difficult to remove those items until the moving van is in the driveway.  So be prepared to see at least some homes with an inordinate amount of stuff, whether it’s family photos, collections, religious imagery or worship space, rooms not being used for their intended purpose, and so on.  In these places, you’ll need to be able to see past what’s currently there as the personal items can be confusing.  For instance, I have seen family rooms used as dining rooms, dining rooms used as hobby rooms, bedrooms used as prayer or exercise rooms, garages divided into several smaller rooms (with easily removable walls), etc.
  6. Normally, homes are clean and pleasant to see.  Sometimes with distressed properties, tenant occupied (unmotivated residents), homes with invalid residents, or other physical or emotional situations the home may be a wreck.  Know that you will probably see a wide spectrum of care for the house and yard.

What about your behavior in the home?  Most home buyers are very considerate but here are a couple of things to think about.

In addition to removing your shoes if requested to do so, you should plan on making sure any little members of the family stay with you and are “gentle” on the home and belongings.  Children can move fast and not all homes are child-proofed.  (I have seen kids go in the opposite direction as their parents and then jump on the home seller’s furniture, open drawers of furniture, etc. – not good.)  I worry the most when the sellers have a cat and the buyers have a toddler – often not a perfect combination.  In fact, sellers and agents usually want your group to stay together and not go in opposite directions no matter what the ages are.

Home sellers usually understand that someone may need to use the bathroom while there, but in general, of course, they’d rather that this not happen.  If you or your kids need to use the restroom, please check afterward to make sure that everything’s clean.  The other day I visited my listing and when I went into the master bathroom there were big splotches of urine on the toilet seat. Not cool! (And if the seller is home, of course you should ask permission first.)

If the sellers are home, it’s good to keep any feedback to yourself until you have left the property (or to share it quietly so as not to be overheard).

These are the basics. Happy house hunting!

 

 

 

Working toward long term goal of home buying

First time home buyingHow long in advance should you be preparing to buy your first home?  There are a few common obstacles to purchasing property:

  1. Accumulating the down payment 
  2. Cleaning up or creating a good credit history
  3. Deciding your priorities
  4. Budgeting so that you can live within your means while saving and after buying your home

(1) For most people, accumulating the down payment means saving money.  This is very challenging, especially when people are accustomed to living on 100 – 105% of their income!  This is an extremely common phenomena.  It is always tempting to want to “reward” yourself with expensive dinners, lavish travel, luxury cars and other perks that make you feel like you have arrived. It is harder, but smarter, to see the reward as the fruit of discipline and to chart a goal and work toward it steadily.

How much do you need to save?  There are a lot of variables here.  Getting 20% down means saving a lot on the financing costs down the road.  But if you can purchase with a small down payment (really hard to do with multiple offer situations), you can get there faster and perhaps will pay less than if you wait until you have a bigger down.  A few years ago I met someone who saved diligently for more than 20 years to buy a home.  Think about what has happened to the cost of housing in that time!  Prices have about doubled since then.  So don’t spend too long saving, lest inflation eat away at any benefits you get from the larger down payment.

It should be noted that if you are able to buy with FHA backed financing, your down payment can also be gifted from family and friends.  That can speed up the time frame.  (My 20-something kids will find this of particular interest, I am sure!) (more…)