Thinking of Selling your Silicon Valley Home? Sell it right the first time!You keep reading that it’s still a “seller’s market” in Silicon Valley real estate. You hear about homes recieving multiple offers and prices getting pushed up. Yet with interest rates still threatening to rise and more layoffs, not everyone is ready to take the plunge to sell.

Should you jump in as a San Jose area seller now?

Maybe, but if you do it, do it right! The dirty little secret that no one talks about is that not all Santa Clara County homes for sale are selling like it’s a hot market. They sit on the market, popping up on MLS searches for month after month, lower their prices, and might eventually accept an offer below asking price.

Dangerous Seller Myths

There are quite a few common myths that home owners believe about selling their property. Believe these, and act accordingly, and your chances of selling are dramatically damaged:

  • my price is high, but buyers can always “make an offer”
  • it’s a seller’s market, my home does not have to be perfect
  • if I fix up the home to sell, the buyer may not like the changes (this one is especially common)
  • it was like this when I bought it, so I don’t have to improve it now
  • I have lived with (fill in the blank) forever, there’s nothing wrong with it

Getting the home prepped and pricing right matter tremendously. Today let’s focus on preparing and staging.

Buyers often spend everything they have to get into a new home, and usually they can’t afford to improve it once they move in. So the first thing to understand, if you are selling your home in Los Gatos, Saratoga or San Jose, is that your home needs to look “turnkey”. This is what 90% of buyers need. If your home isn’t move-in ready, you will automatically eliminate most of your home buying audience!

Let’s look at some photos to drive the point home. I won’t say where these were taken, only that these were taken at various homes in Santa Clara County (rather than using a single home to preserve the anonymity of the examples used).

Avoid Leaving A Bad Impression: Examples

Cracked DrivewayWhen buyers and their Realtors first arrive at your home, they get a first impression of what kind of shape your house is in.  What does the landscaping say? What does the driveway say?

This driveway has a lot of cracks. Buyers view it as money they’ll have to spend to make it look right. Real estate agents know that this is a “red flag” that the foundation may also be damaged and cracked. Either way, their first experience of your home is not positive. If they’re doing a drive by, they may or may not come back to see what’s inside. Usually a cracked driveway alone won’t kill showings, but if the rest of the front of the home is bad – the yard is weeds, the roof has debris, or the paint needs a touch-up – that may be enough to stop traffic.

If they don’t see your home, they won’t buy your home – so getting good, qualified traffic is top priority.

Fogging or seal failure in living room windowThe next impression isn’t better.  Here are the windows which also face the street. Are they dirty? Has the seal on the dual pane windows failed? No matter what – it’s a horrible “first impression”.

Sure enough, when buyers and agents start spotting flaws they’ll look for (and often find) more. If the outside appears unkempt, expectations hold that the inside will be consistent: just as bad or good as the outside. In many cases it is.

The kitchen was “beat up” looking.  It had been cheaply remodeled and was treated badly by its owners.  Whoever buys this house probably will have to gut and replace the current kitchen. Below is a large, closeup of a kitchen drawer that exemplifies what’s seen in the home.

Damaged Kitchen CabinetWhat to do?  A seller could have refaced or painted the cabinets, or replaced the doors. Damaged countertops can be replaced with an attractive formica or Corian countertop, or refinished to clean it up.  Few buyers worry about the inside of the cabinets – it’s the outside that they care about.

The back yard is the least important of all the areas to worry about, since buyers are braver about tackling a part of the property that isn’t visible to the world and that they can avoid going through for awhile if needed.  Even so, it’s best to at least cut down the tall weeds and remove worn-out personal property!

overgrown backyard

Most homes are not this bad, of course, but they might have one or two of the issues on this list and it doesn’t take nearly so much effort or money to really get a home in shape to sell.


Golden Rules for Seller Home Preparations

Are there any general “rules of thumb” for preparing your home to sell? Yes! The vast majority of times, these items are needed to be done to maximize your home selling price:

  1. Decutter (or better Move Out) – often we live with too much stuff in our homes, in our garages, in our bookshelves, closets and cabinets. How much? Usually, to sell, at least 1/3 of everything must go!  (Donate it, sell it, store it, but get it out of the home!). Now more than ever we’re seeing the greatest seller success with vacant, professionally staged homes!
  2. Repair – if your door sticks, your bathroom fan’s too noisy, your faucet drips, get them fixed.  Small annoyances add up to a bad impression. Your best ROI will likely come from the small, affordable repairs, but rarely larger safety concerns called out in inspection reports will be worth tackling before you list.
  3. Clean – this is no time for dirt, rust, streaks or mildew! Give it the white glove treatment!
  4. Make it Light – trim back bushes that grow in front of windows, pull back curtains (or perhaps eliminate them), and add lights to dark rooms. Whatever the need is, make sure it’s handled so your home is light, bright, and airy! Dark homes are a turnoff to buyers. They often cannot imagine what it will take to lighten up the house, and darkness can have an affect on peoples mood.
  5. Face Forward – focus on an inviting front of the home, make the pathways clear of hoses and debris, etc. If you have yard ornaments or decor in front, declutter. If the front is bland, add a small pop of color, perhaps some flowering annuals near the door. Tidy up the garden landscaping so it looks healthy and appropriately trimmed. And last but not least, make sure the front door is impeccably clean (it may need refinishing, repainting or replacing).

A few years ago I co-authored a book, “Get The Best Deal When Selling Your Home in Silicon Valley“, and would be happy to give you a copy of it when we meet to discuss selling your home (no obligation) or you can find it online. The book contains many more ways to get top dollar when you sell your Silicon Valley house or condo, and my blogs are regularly updated with fresh information for buyers, sellers, and homeowners in the greater Silicon Valley area. Please feel free to email or call me today to discuss selling your home in Los Gatos, San Jose, Saratoga, and beyond!