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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Weather, mother nature and home sales

Without stop signSo many variables impact the real estate market, both here in Silicon Valley but across the country.  Employment, interest rates, the stock market, the availability of real estate inventory, the confidence of the buying public (say, in the wake of a terroristic attack, announced layoffs, or global conflicts like the invasion of Ukraine) all can move the housing market one way or the other. But they’re not the only forces that do.

Weather and natural disasters can likewise have a pronounced effect on a local housing market too.

My Experience: The ’89 Quake

Anyone in the San Jose area in September of 1989 will vividly recall the Loma Prieta Earthquake, which occurred in the Santa Cruz Mountain Range between Los Gatos and Aptos. Jim and I were buying our first home at that time, in San Jose’s Cambrian district, and in fact did our “final walk through” just two hours before the quake hit.

Our closing got delayed as the lender refused to fund the loan until the home was professionally checked out by an appraiser. They’d seen images of the Bay Bridge, homes off their foundations, fallen chimneys and other disastrous structural failures and weren’t taking a chance on any home!

Luckily for us, the property we were in contract for was essentially unscathed. It was not a young home, but built by a respectable builder, and more importantly it was on solid ground. Thankfully the house was fully vacant since we were close to the planned close of escrow, so there was no fallen furniture or broken glass in the carpeting and most everything was visible and easy to check later for damages. We did close, though it was about 10 days later than expected.

For listings not yet sale pending, it was already a slowing market and the beginning of a correction, but the earthquake plunged the market more deeply into the doldrums. At least for awhile.

Weather Forecasting the Market Activity

There are similar stories with markets all across the state, country, and globe after similar disasters. More recently here in California we’ve seen major impacts on various markets after fiercly destructive wildfires. But mother nature can effect the housing market in much more subtle ways as well, no disaster necessary.

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Is your home ready for the heavy rains of an El Niño winter?

waterfallFor four years we have worried about the lack of rain and increased our conservation efforts.  Today lawns everywhere are dead, or hanging on by a thread.

Weather experts now say that there’s a 90% chance of an El Niño winter ahead.  Not only that, but they expect it to be a doozy.

My suspicion is that most of us are not really ready for all that water and the flooding that may ensue, so I wanted to suggest a little preparation for the rainy season (and the deepest hopes that it will refill our reservoirs and aquafers).   Here are a few suggestions from me, based on decades of attending home inspections:

  1. If it’s been more than 3 years since your roof was inspected, get a roof inspection done now, during the dry season. (Use a licensed roofing contractor to do it, not a handyman.) It’s better to do it before you discover a leak, and it’s better to do it before the roofers are booked out a few weeks!  The cost is probably going to be around $100 – $150.  Most homes need “tune up” work every few years, and that’s normal, so have the inspection understanding that some of your vent pipes may need resealing, a few shingles may need replacing, or other small items may require adjustment or repair.  If the roof is younger, that’s all it should be.  The old adage that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” applies here.
  2. Make sure that the grading around your house or townhouse is correct and that the land slopes toward the yard & away from your home.  Grading is incorrect a lot of the time – I probably see my home inspector write that up more than half the time.  It matters because the water that comes down will follow the slope of the soil and you do not want it aimed at your structure.  You want the water to go away from your home.
  3. Your downspouts should direct the water away from the house, ideally 6′ or more.  This is super important, as the entire surface of your roof collects water and pushes it off through just a few openings, and in heavy rains this is a ton of water!  You do not want it lingering near your foundation because our clay soils are expansive when wet and that puts unfriendly pressure on foundations and may cause cracking and the exposure of the rebar inside to moisture.  That rebar is important for the foundation’s strength, and if it rusts, the integrity of the foundation is at risk.  So protect the whole system by getting the water away from the home.
  4. If you have a drainage system, make sure that the grates over it are cleared of leaves to allow the water to filter into it.
  5. If you have a sump pump, consider upgrading from the standard type that operates on electricity only to one that works with a battery backup.  In really big storms, we can lose power and then the regular sump pump won’t work, just when you need it most!  If you already have a battery backup, consider keeping a replacement battery on hand.
  6. Most Silicon Valley homes have power lines rather than underground utilities.  Have a look at yours, if applicable, and see if there are tree branches too close to the lines.  Often P, G & E will trim them for free if you spot a problem and let them know.
  7. Do keep spare batteries, water, food, medicines, and other essentials on hand in case of a prolonged power outage.  I recommend getting cell phone or other electronic device battery backups.  Again, if you’re out of power for 3 days, you may need something to juice up your mobile phone!  I have a couple of these “bricks” but my favorite is called a PowerStrip and it has a solar charger.
  8. If you are in an area which is heavily wooded, or the access to your home is heavily wooded, consider purchasing power tools to clear trees that may fall on your route.  Being able to get in and out is crucial in case of an emergency.

Due to an avalanche of spam comments, I have had to turn off comments on this blog, but if you think I have missed anything, please email me and I will edit this article to help others be better prepared for the rains that we hope and pray are coming soon.

 

 

 

Selling your home in rainy weather

WelcomeOur fall weather here in Silicon Valley is acting like spring weather – bouncing back and forth between warm, dry days and cold, wet ones.  Should this impact the way you present your home to the real estate market if it’s for sale?  Absolutely.

If you want to make the best impression on potential home buyers, your house, townhouse or condo needs to be inviting no matter what the weather may be doing.  In the heat of summer, sellers are tempted to close up all the curtains to keep out the sun and heat – it’s a mistake because buyers typically don’t respond well to dark, cave like homes.  The wet weather brings different challenges that also must be handled appropriately if you are to snag that best buyer!  Here are a few tips to make your listing the one that appeals to Silicon Valley home buyers who come out to see it:

  1. Make sure that your downspouts are directing rain water away from your house or any structures (often 6′ or more is suggested); it is imperative that there be no “pooling” of water, especially near the home – this will cause buyers to worry about water in the crawl space and what it may be doing (foundation cracks, mold, etc.)
  2. Trim bushes and vegetation back from walkways and sidewalks.  When it’s wet outside, these lovely bunches of greenery collect water and as visitors go past them, they can spill water onto the passers by. Not pleasant.  Look at your sidewalks, driveway, and walkway and make sure that wet bushes and branches won’t be hitting anyone coming up to your front door.
  3. If your gutters leak, they’ll be noticed and will indicate that your property hasn’t been properly maintained, so repair or replace them.
  4. Indoors, keep the heat on if the temperature would be below the comfortable range – cold buyers don’t linger, and buyers who don’t linger don’t buy! I suggest at least 66-67 degrees. (more…)