Select Page

Sell your home the first timeYou keep reading that it’s a “seller’s market” in Silicon Valley real estate.  You hear about multiple offers and home prices getting pushed up.  Interest rates should be inching up in the new year – so competition remains strong.

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 many Santa Clara County homes for sale are not selling.  They sit on the market, popping up on MLS searches for month after month.

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 staging and pricing right matter tremendously.  Today let’s just focus on 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 it.  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 the 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 it’s a Santa Clara County home for sale right now.
Cracked Driveway
When 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 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, 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.
bad windows
The next impression isn’t better.  Here are the windows which also face the street on the same home. Are they dirty?  Has the seal on the dual pane windows failed?  No matter what – it’s a horrible “first impression”.

Sure enough, when I went inside, it was consistent: the inside what just as bad as the outside.  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.


What to do?  A seller could have refaced the cabinets (and replaced the countertop with an attractive formica or Corian countertop) 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!

overgrown backyard

Most homes are not this bad, of course, and it doesn’t take nearly so much effort or money to really get a home in shape to sell.

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 – often we live with too much stuff in our homes, in our garages, in our bookshelves, closets and cabinets.  How much? Usually, to sell, about 1/3 of everything must go!  (Donate it, sell it, store it, but get it out of the home!)
  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.
  3. Clean – this is no time for dirt, rust, streaks or mildew!
  4. Make it light – trim back bushes that grow in front of windows, pull back curtains (or perhaps eliminate them), add lights to dark rooms. Whatever the need is, make sure it’s handled so your home is light. Dark homes are a turnoff to buyers.  They often cannot imagine what it will take to lighten up the house.
  5. Focus on an inviting front of the home, add color, make the pathways clear of hoses, debris, etc.   Declutter.  Add colorful annuals near the front door.  Make sure your front door is impeccably clean (it may need refinishing, repainting or replacing).

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 or in local bookstores.  The book contains many more ways to get top dollar when you sell your Silicon Valley house or condo.  Please email or call me today to discuss selling your home in Los Gatos, San Jose, or Saratoga.


  • Mary Pope-Handy

    Silicon Valley Realtor, selling homes in Los Gatos, Saratoga, San Jose, Silicon Valley, and nearby since 1993. Prolific blogger with a network of sites.