Selling your home in Spring? Find and hire your agent over the holidays!

Hire your agent over the holidays and hit the ground running in January - business man in front of fireplace fireIt’s mid-November, and it may not be intuitive, but if you want to sell your home next Spring, I’d encourage you to find and hire your agent over the holidays.

Why hire your agent over the holidays?

Thanksgiving is late next week, and you may want to shelve the whole idea of anything related to home selling until sometime after January first, or maybe after Super Bowl. Many home owners determine that in the new year they’ll start decluttering, fixing up the home and yard, and stat thinking about contacting a real estate agent or two (or three).

But that’s backwards from the ideal!

If you can take a few hours now to select and hire (yes, sign the listing contract) your real estate professional, that person can help you make key decisions that will impact your return on investment.

It does not cost more to bring her or him into the process early, and it may save you some money and keep you from making improvements that are counter productive to your goals.

Not only that, but Realtors often have trusted vendors for yardwork, painting, hauling, and even for help with sorting out what stays, what goes, and what gets donated or tossed.  Hire your agent over the holidays, get in touch with those vendors in December, and schedule the help you need for that first week in January and get the job done right the first time.

 

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New Year’s Resolutions and Goals for Silicon Valley Real Estate Purchase, Sale, Remodeling

New Year's Real Estate ResolutionsAs 2021 comes to a close, it’s time to start looking forward to 2022. What are your real estate related goals and resolutions for this new year? Do you plan to buy, sell, or remodel your Silicon Valley home?  If so, this is a great time to sketch out your objectives and start early preparations to get the wheels in motion.

For South Bay home owners who want to make 2022 the year to sell and move, it’s wise to plan ahead so you can maximize your return on investment of time and money. A clean, well-prepared listing gives buyers greater confidence, and confident buyers tend to make higher offers! Take the time to do it right and you will reap the rewards of your effort.

Quick Tips for Planning to Sell a Home in 2022

  • Hire your real estate professional early in the process so that she or he may provide additional guidance from the beginning. It won’t cost more to hire early and you get more help. You may even save money by avoiding costly mistakes. A good agent will help you prepare your listing and determine a timeline to sell, whether you plan on selling this spring, next year, or next month.
  • Decluttering is one of the biggest task for home sellers and it can be where you get the most bang for your buck. Presenting a property to buyers in a way that feels like home, but not your home is a balancing act. Some homeowners choose to move out and stage their home to sell, which has been increasing in popularity and is certainly a successful way to declutter! Sellers occupying a listing should commit to depersonalizing the house and creating a marketable space. Some sellers will discover this is a much bigger undertaking than expected, and requires more time and energy than originally planned. This can be particularly challenging for long-term residents, sellers who are downsizing, and seniors. Talk to your Realtor before embarking, as some items may be helpful for staging and you don’t want to totally empty the house! Completely empty homes do not sell as well as those which are thoughtfully furnished.
  • Fix everything that is broken or in disrepair. No home is perfect, and buyers will not expect it to be (unless it’s brand new, of course), but everything you can repair is one less thing the buyers will worry about when writing an offer. That lightbulb that’s burnt out? Replace it now so that it doesn’t wind up in inspections or worrying buyers about the electrical system! Low cost repairs are often an excellent investment, but so can some more expensive fixes. I have had sellers who willingly go above and beyond preparing their home, from repiping to reroofing, see a clear return on investment for their efforts! However most sellers don’t want or need to do that much work. A bid with a price for the work from a reputable company is usually enough. Speak with your listing agent before tackling any major projects.
  • Clean everything: windows, window tracks, hardware, lamps, mossy patios, etc. A clean home is inviting and feels well cared for. Professional cleaning can make lightly used carpets look new again. Areas that easily show wear, like grout, caulk, and kitchen appliances, can give that “new home” feel when they are looking fresh!
  • Plan to have pre-sale inspections, but hire inspectors with your real estate salesperson.

Tips for Silicon Valley Home Buyers This Year

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Over improving a house for the neighborhood

Beware over improving a house or yard for the neighborhoodOver improving a house for the neighborhood is not a terribly uncommon happening. If you’re going to live somewhere for 30 years, you may not be worried about return on investment or overspending for the neighborhood so much as enjoyment of your property.

How do you know if you’re spending too much on your house, condo or townhouse?  How much is too much?

Over improving a house – some basic concepts

There are no hard and fast rules, but overall, it is best to not have the most expensive home on the street or in the area, either from added square footage, extreme remodeling or  using materials that are too expensive for the neighborhood. It is even worse if yours is the most expensive real estate by a wide margin – the wider it is, the worse!

There are two real estate principles which are helpful to know about and understand. The smaller, less improved or generally lower priced homes will pull down the value of a better home (that is the principle of regression).  Conversely, if your house or condo is less expensive than nearby homes, those more prices properties will raise your home’s value (the principle of progression).  In terms of getting the most back on your improvements, then, it’s best to make sure you can catch the tail wind of better properties and get pulled up by them, rather than have your improvements’ value pulled down by lesser properties.

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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…)

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…)

Home selling? Small fixes that make a big, positive difference.

Drawer and cabinet pulls or hardwareIf you are thinking of selling your home, it can be tempting to tell yourself that it will make no difference whether or not you fix it up prior to marketing it – after all, it’s a seller’s market, right?  This is a costly mistake to make, and it’s far from the truth.

Often, cluttered, tired homes sell for far less than they could with just a little touch up.   Homes with a few inexpensive fix ups can a fantstic return on investment. I’ll name a few today.

Recently I saw the little cabinet handle photographed here.  I remember it from my childhood and if I had to guess, would say it was from the late 1960s to early 1970s.  I’m pretty sure we had the same exact hardware on my parents’ first Saratoga house (a lovely, big, George Day tract home sitting on an acre near West Valley college). I’ve seen these same pulls in Almaden and all over Silicon Valley.

But home buyers in the San Jose area don’t want these relics from 50 years ago.  They want something sleek.  And they don’t want to have to install it themselves after they move in if it can be helped.  Seeing loads of little projects can feel overwhelming.  “It’s too much work”, I’ll hear them say – and that’s before even looking at the disclosures or the inspection reports!  When they think “Silicon Valley real estate”, they want to see something attractive and in today’s styles.

There are many small things that home sellers can do to make a home visually appealling and to give buyers confidence that the home is move-in ready.  In addition to decluttering (it cannot be stressed enough how important this is), providing pre-sale inspections and a complete disclosure package that’s been filled out very thoroughly, there are some simple, fairly inexpensive things that will bring a strong return for your expense and hard work:

  • Fresh paint (get rid of wallpaper in most cases) is almost always needed in every room and at least on the trim outside. Think neutral shades.
  • New carpeting in a neutral shade.
  • If you have hardwood, refinish it or at least get it buffed and cleaned – home buyers love hardwood floors and will pay a premium for them (but don’t install if you do not already have them).
  • Make sure that the entire home is clean, including the windows and the window tracks, the fireplace, the outside spaces, garage, etc.
  • If the cabinets in the bathrooms and kitchen do not look good, consider painting or refacing them, and add new, contemporary looking pulls.
  • If the countertops are old and tired, see about installing slab granite or something more contemporary looking.
  • Got old light fixtures? replace them – the new ones do not have to be expensive, but they lights should not be thirty or more years old
  • Curb appeal matters: buyers do sometimes see a house from the street and decide not to go in. Don’t let that happen to you!
  • The front door, mailbox, and front porch areas need to be clean and inviting – it helps to have colorful flowers near the door, if possible.

Every property will have slightly different needs, but these are the basics.  Staging is a must if the home is vacant!

Want to sell your Silicon Valley home? Please call or email me and we can set up a time to talk (no obligation, of course).

 

Please also read:
Preparing Your Silicon Valley Home to Sell and Return on Investment

Digging deeper with disclosures (4 minute video of me talking –  a discussion about researching red flags and avoiding problems later)

 

 

 

Preparing Your Silicon Valley Home to Sell: What Will It Cost?

Planning and Budgeting to Sell Your Silicon Valley Home

monopoly housePreparing your San Jose area home to sell should be done enough in advance of when you want to have your home go on the market that any unplanned repairs can be completed first (without a lot of time pressures) so that you net the most money possible from the sale. It’s hard to know how much time to allow for the unknown, but my suggestion is to provide yourself a month or two, if possible. Three is even better.  If you want to sell this upcoming spring, it’s smart to get started on your plan now.

In Santa Clara County, we have very mild winters and it’s not usually difficult to get most repairs & remodeling done even in winter (unless they are “outside” repairs and we’re in the middle of a rare El Nino year).  If you start now, you should have no trouble finding inspectors (presale inspections are more than just a good idea!)  and contractors. If you wait ’til March, you may not be on the schedule of your own choosing.

So where to start? What to budget?

dollar-billIn my experience, most Silicon Valley homes that have been lived in for many years often have 1 – 2 % of the value of the home needed in repairs, landscape freshening and staging prior to going on the market. The longer you’ve been in the home without doing periodic inspections for termites and other pests, on the roof or structure of the home, the more likely that number will creep upwards. If your home is young and you’ve been there a short while, chances are good that this doesn’t apply to you. (more…)

Should you sell “As Is” or make repairs and upgrades prior to selling?

Opportunity vs Risk - Higher Risk = Much Lower Prices!

A few years ago, I wrote an article on my Live in Los Gatos blog on the question of whether a Silicon Valley home seller should sell the home in its current condition, or improve it with the hopes of selling for more.  You can find it here: Should You Repair & Update Your Home to Sell? Or Sell “As Is”?

Today I was doing a comparative (competitive) market analysis for a client in the Blossom Valley area of San Jose and was struck by two tract houses which sold at about the same time, same market conditions, on the same street, with the same floor plan, but for very different prices.   We’ll refer to them as Home 1 and Home 2.

Home 1 was nicely remodeled – at least the kitchen and baths were obviously nicely upgraded.  The house was furnished when the photos were taken and it looked very inviting. It was listed for about $630,000 and sold for $670,000 in under 2 weeks.

House 2 appeared to be in original condition – in other words, a “fixer” in the eyes of most Silicon Valley home buyers. A vacant home, it was not staged to sell but instead was starkly empty – and frankly, it was not at all inviting.  This house was offered at around $550,000 and sold for $490,000 after almost 2 months on the market.

There was more than a 10% difference in the list prices of these two homes.  Was that enough? Apparently not.  One got bid up 5% more while the other one got bid down more than 10%.  The difference in their ultimate sales price is a whopping $180,000, or 37% more for the home in better condition.   Did the fixed up home have that much in improvements done to it?  That’s unlikely!  But buyers worry about having to do remodeling and repairs, and the more buyers worry, the less they pay.  It’s a risk-reward ratio.  If they risk more by buying a fixer, there needs to be a monetary reward.  And they almost always get it.

Perhaps as a busy San Jose area home owner, you don’t have a ton of time or money to put into fixes, especially if it’s a rental or investment property which is now vacant.  How can you maximize the return on investment?   I hope that it is clear that it’s in your best interest to tweak the condition of appearance of your property to net more.  If you’d like some insights on this, please continue reading on this subject at another article on this blog: Preparing Your Silicon Valley Home to Sell and Return on Investment. Or call me for a confidential home selling appointment today!