Meet the Team

Teamwork graphic representing the Mary Pope-Handy Team - cartoons of people in various roles around the spoke of a wheel with the word TEAM at the center of the wheelMeet the Team – Mary Pope-Handy and Clair Handy, a mother and daughter team with Christie’s International Real Estate Sereno.

I, Mary, have been selling homes full time for over three decades. Clair assisted me for years with various clerical and blog tasks, and later did more marketing, article writing, graphic design for some of the post artwork, social media sharing, and real estate errands generally.

In 2021, Clair received her California real estate license to take on a forward facing role in the team and became my junior partner.

We coordinate and do nearly everything together, whether it’s open houses, showings, or marketing efforts, but when there’s a time crunch and we need to be in two locations to accommodate our clients’ schedules, then we divide and conquer.

Learn about the folks supporting our team

Several people, companies, and systems assist us in our work with buyers and sellers in Silicon Valley. Most often, our clients will not see or speak with many of our team members much (if at all), but they are all part of the package, if on the “back end” much of the time. Without them, though, it would be impossible for us to assist our clients in getting their homes bought and sold.
Transaction Coordinator:

We employ a transaction coordinator, Joe Chames (and team) of Serulian Virtual Services, who makes sure that the paperwork is complete when preparing homes to sell or when navigating clients through the sale and escrow period. With a myriad of places to sign and initial and papers not to forget, it’s helpful to have a second set of eyes on the file.

Additionally, other agents also review the file on behalf of Sereno management. When there are legal questions, which can come up from time to time, we have a legal counsel available to make sure that we as agents are walking the straight and narrow. (This is not legal guidance for our clients.) We get answers back within a business day, if not a few hours.

Finally, there are several agents who assist us in some cases (vacation, sickness, family emergencies) as I am part of a Realtor “co op” group in which we support each other when a hand is needed. If you work with Mary and Clair, there are two backup people or groups to make sure you are able to see homes or have things taken care of in case of vacation, illness, or unexpected issue.

We are very well supported on the office or brokerage level. When you hire us, you get a full staff behind us, too.

Our outside specialists

(A) INSPECTORS

Whether buying or selling a silicon valley home or investment property, good inspections are critical. We don’t have one list for buyers and another for sellers – no matter which end of the transaction you’re on, you want excellent information. Surprises tend to sour escrows, so part of the plan in helping you avoid trouble is to avoid surprises. Only with excellent information can you make good decisions and have more control of the way your real estate sale progresses.

1. Home or Property Inspectors. It is crucial that your property inspector be exceedingly well trained, experienced, careful, clear, and through. In California, there is no license for home inspectors. However, there are a couple of trade groups which have a very high standard of practice. One is ASHI (American Society of Home Inspectors) and the other is CREIA (California Real Estate Inspection Association).

You can find a list of ASHI Inspectors in Santa Clara County at this link. On this list, I’ve had extremely positive experiences with Brett Reeder of Compass Home Inspections especially.

2. Logo for Thrasher Termite & Pest Control in Los GatosTermite and Pest Inspectors. In California, especially in our sub-tropical coastal area of Silicon Valley, termites are an ongoing issue. We have both subterranean and drywood termites and sometimes even dampwood termites – plus boring beetles, carpenter ants, and many other wood destroying organisims.

By far and away, the termite company I prefer to work with (and have work on my own home) is Thrasher Termite & Pest Control. They are located in Los Gatos but serve all of Santa Clara County (and I believe occasionally go into nearby counties – they once helped me with a listing in Scotts Valley, which is in Santa Cruz County).

Thrasher Termite & Pest Control has a great website, or you can reach them by phone at 408 354-9944. I’ve learned a lot from the folks at Thrasher and have shared some of what I’ve learned from them in this blog and others. See also my article on How often should you get a termite inspection?

On the rare occasion that Thrasher is not available, there are other termite companies that I may need to use. Or, if I’m working with a buyer and the seller has pre-sale inspections, there are pest control companies whose work I trust to be ethical and thorough. The Pest Control Operators of California can provide a complete list of who does termite and pest work in the San Jose area, but we maintain a list of probably 10 local providers that we trust.

The State of California has a site, The Structural Pest Control Board, which has great information for consumers and agents alike, including a license lookup feature.

There are more inspectors whom I endorse and work with, but these two categories are the main ones.

(B) TITLE & ESCROW

There are a number of excellent title companies in Santa Clara County. The one that we prefer to work with is Fidelity National Title in Saratoga with Colleen Stevens, our escrow officer, and Tania Cheater, our title rep, to help us.

They are all also financially sound, which is critically important in today’s real estate landscape in Santa Clara County.

(C) LENDERS

We have a short list of about 3-4 lenders I can refer to you. Some specialize in one type of loan or home situation, some another. Please contact me and I can give you a couple of names that are most likely to be a good fit for you.

If you have a particular bank that you want to work with, please don’t just call the toll free number on the website of that institution. Not every loan officer is as good as another. If we don’t have a name of someone for that lender, we will ask around and find you someone who’s got a known track record. This is imperative so that your escrow is one that’s as smooth and headache free as possible.

(D) And More….

Depending on your needs, we have assistance from movers to house cleaners to photographers and full-time stagers. The list is extensive, reflecting my many years in the business! (Licensed & full time since early 1993.) If we don’t have someone already on our vendors  list, we’ll do some research and find some resources for our clients.

 

Choosing a Home Inspector in Silicon Valley

Some inspectors are licensed, others are not.

In California, some inspectors are licensed, others are not.

Whether you’re preparing to sell a home or are in contract to purchase real estate in Silicon Valley, you likely will be faced with the prospect of hiring professionals to inspect your home. This can run hundreds of dollars, a thousand dollars or more. The potential liability, though, could be much higher than the cost of paying the professionals to inspect your home, so you’ll want to hire very carefully.

So, what must you know when selecting inspectors in the San Jose & Santa Clara County area?

The Different Types of Inspectors

There are those who focus on particular features of the property, examples being termite or pest inspectors, chimney and masonry specialists, foundation & drainage engineers, pool inspectors, heating & air conditioning and more. Generally, these are all licensed by the state of California, and they may be able to perform repairs on the items they find in need of repair. The two go together – licensing to inspect and being allowed to do repairs.

But this is not true for property or home inspectors. There is no license for doing house, condo, or townhouse inspections in California. Is that good or bad? Part of that package is that they can’t do repairs on problems they find. You can see why it’s good to separate finding problems from being paid to fix them. That’s the plus. There is another side, though.

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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.)

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What Happens When Inspectors Disagree About the Property?

Graphic of tall building, magnifying glass, and words "What happens when inspectors disagree?"Silicon Valley home buyers, sellers, and their real estate agents rely heavily on the professional advice, insights and opinions of home inspectors, whether it’s for the property generally (house, townhouse or condominium inspection) or for some other component, such as the roof, foundation, chimney, pool, heater, etc. One of the most frustrating – and sometimes maddening – experiences for everyone involved happens when inspectors disagree and their inspection reports provide conflicting advice.

Either extreme is bad, either “calling” something when it’s fine or missing something if it’s not.  Often resolution is accomplished by having yet another inspector come out OR by having the two who disagree meet at the property to sort it out.

Here are some real examples I’ve experienced first hand over the years while selling residential real estate in Santa Clara County:

  1. Over-called: General property inspector called for “further inspection” of heater, roof, or chimney because he said something’s wrong. Further inspection ordered by buyer or seller, and paid for by consumer – but the professional for that aspect of the home says it was just fine. Is it fine or not? The home buyer or seller is out some money and one of the two reports says there’s a problem with it but the other says it’s OK.  (This happened a few times where the general inspector “called” things that experts said were in good working order.  For that reason, I had to stop recommending him to my clients and began working with another inspector who wasn’t so over-eager that he called things which were not bad. When inspectors disagree with one particular inspector often, it’s time to find someone else.)
  2. Crawl space nightmare:  many homes have crawl spaces and if yours does, it’s important to either go down there yourself or have someone else do it for you periodically to check conditions there.  My buyers were purchasing a home near Carlton Elementary in Cambrian (Los Gatos border) and the pre-sale pest or termite inspection (the only one available) was from a company with the absolute worst reputation in the valley, and that report said that there was not one thing wrong in a 50 year old house (highly unlikely!).  We ordered new inspections, both home & pest.  Both my inspectors found a lot of damage in the crawl space, amounting to about $10,000 in damage not reported by first inspector.  The seller’s inspector had claimed to go into the crawl but it was evident that either he didn’t go or he didn’t do it thoroughly.  The seller wanted his inspector’s company to do the repairs but we negotiated for a more reputable provider and got it.
  3. My pre-sale chimney inspection, from a reputable inspector, said my listing’s fireplace and chimney were fine (Los Gatos border area, Alta Vista neighborhood).  We got the home sold and the buyers ordered a new chimney inspection, and that mason said it was broken.  My first inspector apologized for his error (after coming back out and looking at it again, verifying that it was, in fact, in need of fixing) and said he would do the repair at a reduced rate, but he couldn’t get to it prior to close of escrow.  We could not use him because this had to be done prior to close of escrow.  Since I had referred this man, I felt partly responsible for his error and offered to split the cost of the expensive chimney rebuilding with my clients. My sellers felt that was fair.  I never, ever hired that chimney guy again.
  4. Another house, another chimney: my pre-sale general inspection cleared the chimney in this lovely Cambrian Park home.  Buyers ordered a chimney inspection to be sure and a young kid (maybe 18 years old?) came out and said the chimney was broken and needed repairing. My sellers paid for another chimney inspection, and a seasoned mason looked at it and said it was fine.  The other agent and I arranged to have our seasoned mason and the boss of the young kid come out and both inspect it with everyone present.  They did and said it was, in fact, fine. The young kid was there and I asked him why he “called” it. He responded, “I wasn’t sure so thought it was safer to have it rebuilt”. (At a cost of about $2000 as I recall!) My sellers were out about $100 for their inspection but did not have to rebuild the chimney.  Sometimes, when inspectors disagree, it’s because one of them may be inexperienced.

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How to prepare for a home inspection in Silicon Valley

Home Inspections Home Sweet HomeWhat needs to be done for a house, townhouse or condominium to be ready for a home or pest inspection?

Inspections 101

The property inspector will need to be able to see what’s being inspected, of course, so the first and most basic thing to do is to make the home and garage accessible and visible.  For people trying to move, some areas under the roof, such as the garage or a spare bedroom, may be packed full of boxes and other stuff, so this may come as a surprise.  Anything inaccessible or covered up will need to be excluded from the inspection and report, often causing pest inspectors in particular to call for “an unknown further inspection” with a cost for a return visit being levied too.

Room by Room

Because most Silicon Valley homes do not have basements to serve for storage, garages tend to accumulate a lot of stuff.  In some cases, the walls cannot be visible due to built in storage cabinets, work benches, etc.  But for non built-in items, such as boxes, it is best to either move them out of the garage for the inspection or at the very least, place them in the center of the floor so that the inspectors can view the walls, particularly where they meet the floor.  Automobiles should be moved out for the inspection too.

This same principle is also true for the outdoors with anything which might be stacked up against the house under the eaves.  The walls need to be seen.

Indoors, if the property is built on a raised perimeter foundation with a crawl space (not a slab foundation), the access hatch needs to be accessible. (more…)