glassesYou’re browsing through the online list of Silicon Valley homes for sale and only want a turnkey home. How can you tell, from the description, what the home’s true condition is? (Photos are often the biggest help, but some agents don’t post enough of them, or the quality is poor.)

Often it’s not what the Silicon Valley real estate agent says, it’s what he or she doesn’t say.

For example, when a home’s been remodeled, normally the agent will try very hard to convey this in the allowed words in the public remarks section. If anything has been replaced or updated, it will be in the remarks unless the agent is really not good at marketing the home. The comments should say “remodeled kitchen and baths” if that’s the case. If the kitchen and baths aren’t mentioned at all, normally that means that either they are original or are otherwise in need of remodeling now.

What about the word “updated”?   Updated implies that it’s not original, but it’s not completely remodeled either. “Updated kitchen” in a 50 year old home could mean that the kitchen is 15-25 years old with a new oven and disposal. “Remodeled kitchen” suggests that in the last 5 or so years, the kitchen was gutted and remodeled.  But not always!

Other key words: “new” means a year or less old (to most agents), “newer” implies only a couple of years old at most.

Something to beware of is the exaggerated claim. “Completely remodeled” would seem to say 100% replaced. Often, though, this isn’t the case (because there would not be a great return on investment on a flipped home) – though it might be.  In a kitchen remodel, sellers or their agents may believe that replacing the cabinets, counter tops, sink and appliances makes for a “complete remodel”. But if the electrical wasn’t also replaced, and the job wasn’t done with permits, for example, it isn’t really 100% remodeled. Or if the old galvanized steel plumbing was left in the walls, that’s a big job waiting to happen in an older home.  So when you read “completely remodeled”, make a mental asterisk and later find out what wasn’t done. As about electrical, plumbing, and other items.

Another clue is specifics vs. generalities. Here are some examples of home descriptions that indicate whether they are more likely to be remodeled vs not:

(1) Fabulous location near busses and light rail!  Great tree-lined street with pride of ownership. Original owners have lovingly maintained this classic Eichler.  Wonderful radiant heating system is great for folks with allergies!  Step into living history! Open this weekend – hurry!

(2) Eichler remodeled in 2007 by interior designers & architects using top quality materials throughout. Modern Italian style kitchen, imported cabinets & appliances. Bathrooms – fixtures by Toto. All new electrical, plumbing, roof w/permits & finals. Great location too!

Look for specifics with the kitchen, baths, and major systems of the house. The more detailed the description, the more believable the work becomes.