Should You Move Out Before You Sell?

Should You Move Out or Vacate Before You Sell?A decade ago, it was the norm for Silicon Valley homeowners to occupy the home they were selling – today a majority of homes are being sold unoccupied or vacant. Why is that? And should you move out before you sell?

A few years ago, around the mid- to late-2010s, we began to see an increasing number of vacant and professionally staged properties for sale. Last year, most sellers simply felt safer moving out before selling due to the pandemic. Today that continues to be the case.

Over time, the reasons for homeowners to move out before marketing a primary residence have increased. While sellers can certainly still occupy a home on the market and sell it successfully, it’s not our recommendation for most people and here’s why.

Seller Stress

First things first, if you are able to move out before you sell it can reduce a lot of stress. And this has almost always been the case.

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How Important are Parking Spaces and Garages in Silicon Valley?

Cambrian Park Home, built by LeepMost homes in Silicon Valley come with some type of parking space for cars beyond street parking.  Home buyers want to know that there will be a place for their vehicles (and often their “stuff” too).   Garages and parking are sometimes under-appreciated aspects of evaluating real estate, and sometimes there are parking surprises after the close of escrow, so it will be the focus of today’s topic.

Parking and resale value

Because a real estate purchase is a big ticket item, it is always important to consider the ability to sell it later.  (Always buy with selling in mind!)  Will the property you have or are considering buying be hard to sell  in the future if it is not a red-hot sellers market?  Parking can greatly impact “resale value and overall desirability to a large portion of consumers, who may look at that space as protection for a beloved vehicle, a safety feature, a future hobby room, or many other possibilities.

If you are evaluating a Common Interest Development (CID) condominium, townhouse, or planned unit development home with private roads and parking, there will be some special concerns that may be a little different than if you were purchasing a single family home. We’ll consider both.

General principle:  In all types of housing in the San Jose area, usually the most highly desired type of parking arrangement is an attached garage with direct access into the home and with side by side parking provided (not tandem).  This is not true in all cases but is generally true.  You would not find home buyers interested in historic homes (Victorian, Spanish, Craftsman) wanting a prominent two car garage at the front of the house, commanding the lion’s share of the view from the street. (So don’t expect to see that in Japantown, Naglee Park, or the the Rose Garden areas of San Jose.) But for the typical buyer of the more common ranch style house, the attached garage is expected and appreciated, and if it’s missing it may be a challenge to sell the property later because the property will be appealing to a smaller pool of buyers.

Regarding direct access: garages are not allowed to have a door entering into a bedroom. This is for safety reasons since bedrooms are where residents are most vulnerable, and garages are an area of increased safety risk.
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Preparing Your Silicon Valley Home to Sell and Return on Investment

If you are preparing your Silicon Valley to sell, you may have concerns about both time and money. You probably don’t want to spend a year getting ready, but you do want to make the appropriate changes which will bring a good return on investment. Some home owners don’t understand the connection between the home’s condition and ultimate sale price – their expectations may be a little off.

Sometimes when I meet prospective clients who are thinking of selling their home, I hear immediately, “we only want to sell As Is” and “we don’t want to have to re-carpet, re-paint, etc.”.  In the next breath, they tell me, “and we want top dollar for our house”.  Those two are often mutually exclusive desires – that is, getting one usually means you won’t get the other.  But not always, and I’ll show you how to increase the odds of doing both.

Preparing your Silicon Valley home to sell and return on investmentTo get top dollar, a Silicon Valley home for sale must appear to be the best value for the money and attract the most qualified buyers who step forward with a strong offer.  Buyers will pay more IF they feel that your home is a better value.

There are a number of things which need to be done for that to occur, but one of the most important has to do with the condition and appearance of the property. Confident buyers write stronger offers than buyers who are concerned about the house or condominium and potentially unknown risks. (Buyers are thinking “risk, risk, risk” and “beware of hidden costs”!) Home buying is both a business decision as well as an emotional decision.  To get top dollar, your home has to make sense and appeal to buyers on both levels, and we’ll discuss both in this post.

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The three greatest temptations for sellers in a raging hot market

House for saleIn a raging hot seller’s market such as we are experiencing today in Silicon Valley, home owners may be subject to some very costly temptations.

Home seller temptation # 1: overconfidence on the market

Because folks read about the dozens of offers on some homes, by extension, it’s easy to believe that every home sells, for top dollar, with no effort or planning on the part of the seller. This is a huge mistake. Perhaps we should even call it a myth since it may be commonly believed.

In today’s wildly hot market, there are still some homes that DO NOT SELL. 

What are the odds that your home won’t sell?

I just pulled some numbers from the MLS today, July 23, 2018. You may find them surprising!

  • In Santa Clara County, there are currently 1274 single family homes on the market
    • 490 of them have been on the market at least 30 days – 38% are not moving quickly & likely need a price reduction, if it hasn’t already been done
    • 211 of the 1274 have been for sale for at least 60 days – 17% have had 2 months worth of open houses, keeping the home spotless, etc.
    • 107 of the 1274 have a “days on market” of 90 days or more – 8% have serious market rejection
  • These are not all luxury homes!
    • 9 are listed at under $1 million
    •  13 are offered between $1 million and $1,499,999 (“normal” houses in our area)
    •  9 are on the market between $1.5 mil and $1,999,999
    • 14 are listed at $2 million to $2,499,999 (these are still not luxury homes in most cases)
    • 11 are priced between $2.5 mil and $2,999,999
    • That’s 56 homes of 107 that are under $3 million. The balance are “high end homes”, which usually are more challenging to sell

The best homes, those which are well priced, well marketed, and are easily shown, sell within 2-3 weeks. After that, home buyers view them as stale listings and assume something terrible is wrong with them. After three weeks, unless the home gets a deep price reduction, it’s unlikely to get multiple offers.

This first temptation is the greatest one, and it often leads to mistakes in areas #2 and #3, listed below. (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)

 

 

 

Wallpaper Wars: Staging and Hurt Feelings

Foil bamboo wallpaper sample found in a bathroomFew things evoke so emotional a response as the suggestion that wallpaper ought to be removed when staging a home to sell for top dollar.

Early in my career, I worked with a nice older couple where this became a huge fight (very uncomfortable to witness).  In that case, the wife had wanted the big brown floral kitchen wallpaper gone for years, but the husband refused to pay to have it done. When I suggested that it would boost their sales price, he was willing to commit to the work, and she was furious and hurt that he would do it at my suggestion – but not her ardent wish.

Most of the time, though, it’s almost the opposite.  One or both sellers desperately love their chosen wallpaper (at the risk of sounding sexist, it’s almost always a female with the wallpaper attachment).  The wall covering, be it grasscloth, baby roses or bunches of flowers, seems to be a particular thumbprint on the the house – to the point where it’s almost a hallmark of what makes the house, condo or townhouse “home”.  When I or other real estate licensees suggest that the best practice is to remove it, the sellers are very often defensive, angry and hurt at there mere idea of taking it down.  It is very difficult for a professional real estate salesperson to tell you what  you need to hear if you don’t want to hear it and staging recommendations become a battleground of wills.   Of course, it is your house and your money – but if you hire a Realtor to give professional guidance it’s good to take it seriously.

One of the key ideas with staging is to depersonalize the home, that is, to make it more neutral – less your taste and more generic.  We do this for many reasons, one of them so that buyers can “see themselves” there and mentally move in.  A vegetarian who looks at wallpaper full of hunting scenes will have trouble with that.  A professional ball player may have just as much difficulty with wallpaper full of rainbows and unicorns.  An article in the New York Times puts it bluntly:  “If the color scheme in the house isn’t neutral — blue walls in the boy’s room, pink walls for the girls and foil and bamboo wallpaper in the bathroom — it may be necessary to repaint with neutral colors.” (more…)

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!

 

 

 

Selling Your Silicon Valley Home? Photo Tips for Better Marketing

color-potsIf you want to sell your Silicon Valley home, you need a good amount of qualified traffic coming through your doors. That is, you want people who really do want to buy a home and who are capable of doing so to have a look at your condo, townhome or house inside as well as out.  Should the photos in the MLS and online be non-existent, scarce, or poor, those buyers may reject your home without ever seeing it.  It is imperative that your home’s photos nicely showcase your property so that buyers want to come and see more in person.

In this post I’ll share a few tips on how to make the front of  your home show well for the photos (and for in-person visits of real estate agents and home buyers), a few things to do or not to do.  This will help you even if someone else is in charge of taking the photos – you can properly set the stage before the photographer ever gets there.

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