Is There More Value in a Corner Lot, Flag Lot, or Normal Lot?

Lot Shapes: Standard, Corner, Cul-de-Sac, and Flag (or Key)What kind of residential lots and land will hold value the best in Silicon Valley?  Your choices may include a corner lot, flag lot, cul-de-sac lot, a zero lot line parcel, oddly shaped land boundaries, and standard lots.  If you are concerned about resale value and appreciation, it’s helpful to know what most buyers ordinarily prefer.

Corner and Standard Lots

While some San Jose area home buyers want a corner lot (more light, fewer adjacent neighbors), for most, the extra traffic and noise outweighs the pluses. An issue that home buyers often raise with corner lots involves headlights hitting bedroom or other windows as cars turn. There is some concern about drivers missing the turn and hitting the house, too. (This is also a worry for buyers looking to purchase a home on a busy road.)

The most-desired lot for home buyers, generally, is a normal, interior, standard (rectangularly shaped) lot.

Cul-de-sac Lots

Cul-de-sac lots are also highly valued among many buyers, though not all. With the court location comes a lack of street parking, especially at the end, and a lack of exit routes. A while back I held a listing open in Los Gatos that was on a cul-de-sac and the idea of only one way in or out spooked one buyer who otherwise really liked the location, which was close to Los Gatos schools. Homes at the end of the court also have irregularly shaped lots, and they tend to be harder to utilize as well but offer large backyards. So there are plusses and minuses, especially at the end of the court.

I’d like to add that pie shaped lots, or those with many angles, often seem to have the lot size misrepresented on county records.  Many times I’ve found that a large parcel on a cul-de-sac will be ascribed the same size as nearby plots even if clearly it’s far bigger. The geometry is a headache, but you can use Google Earth to do an approximation of the actual square footage and then check the perimeter against the perimeter found in the Preliminary Title Report. The odds are good that if you get the correct size of the boundary (perimeter measurements added together) on Google Earth, you’ve got the correct lot size. Own a house with such a situation? Bring it to the county tax assessor’s office and get your property’s record updated. (more…)

Silicon Valley Homebuyer Tip: Check the Property History of the House You Like

Insights from Prior SalesWhat is the benefit to a home buyer in knowing that the home sold recently? There are really two advantages: first, if it’s a normal sale (not distress), you can get an idea of the sellers’ equity.  If it was a short sale or bank owned property, you may learn that it is a “flipped” house – and that would bear some extra investigating (did they get permits, did they do the important items which you cannot see, etc.).  More importantly, though, if the current owners bought the home not too long ago, you may be able to read the prior inspections and disclosures.

Sometimes sellers – and sometimes even their real estate agents – are reluctant to admit that they saved this type of information. But if they hired the same  Realtor who assisted them in purchasing this property (also reported on the MLS), that agent would have access to all of the disclosures and reports. California state law demands that brokers save all transaction records for three years. Homeowners and their agents usually save them for many more years than that, though. (Sometimes agents move brokerages and this can make it more challenging to get full and complete records.)

So back to the issue of buying a property that sold not too long ago. Let’s say you have found a nice bit of real estate in San Jose (a house, condo, townhouse) which you want to buy, and perhaps there are recent improvements, updating or remodeling, “permits unknown“.  The best way to get clarity on the situation is to then ask for the prior disclosures, inspections and reports. It is imperative to get everything because clues may turn up in any of these documents. Often the current owner will not recall the story if the work was done by prior owners, and will not think to check the original paperwork. But by reading through it, you may learn what the status really is – whether there are permits and finals or not, for instance.

Particularly when buying a home that sold in recent years, you can leverage your knowledge to improve your ability to purchase wisely.

Please call or email me if you’d like to discuss buying (or selling) a home in Los Gatos, Campbell, Saratoga, Cambrian Park, Almaden Valley, or anywhere in San Jose – Santa Clara County.

Is that bathroom or kitchen old, classic or antique? Should I remodel it?

Bathroom 1960s styleKeeping up with the latest trends in home decor and remodeling is a bit like painting the Golden Gate Bridge: by the time you’re done, you need to do it all over again. Styles change, tastes change. How often do you really want to remodel and update your hardware, light fixtures, floor coverings – to say nothing of kitchens and bathrooms? If these items are functional and you like them, there’s no reason to change. Then again, if you’re going to sell your home and want to maximize the return, it might be worth it to do some updating.

The average American kitchen is remodeled about every 17 years – that’s long enough to jump from one trend to the next, one set of materials or colors to the next. If you wait long enough, certain themes actually come “full circle,” not unlike clothes!

To make a point: in the mid 70s, brushed brass was in, and many if not most homes built then in the San Jose, Silicon Valley area were made with brushed brass doorknobs, hinges, drawer pulls, doorbells, you name it. That trend moved to gold, brushed stainless steel and now – full circle – back to brass! Ditto that with colors. “Earth tones” were all the rage in the 70s (olive green, deep brown, tan) and as things moved through the cycles (with a whole lot of white in between), the earth tones have come back again.

Some colors make more infrequent appearances, such as lemon yellow, lime green, bubble gum pink, baby blue….

Let’s just take a look at bathrooms and kitchens for this discussion about colors, materials and being in style. (more…)