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Erica Nelson's Blog

By Erica | Real Estate Pro in San Jose, CA
  • Customize to Get Your Offer Accepted Now!

    Posted Under: Home Buying in San Jose  |  May 30, 2014 6:15 AM  |  155 views  |  No comments
    I was speaking to a mom from Seattle whose grown daughter couldn't get her offers accepted, and realized that this is happening all over the country in areas with low inventory and high demand. I work with an agent in New York City who is having the same experience -- and Beverly Hills as well.

    Years back, it was all about the money. Could the loan approval be "guaranteed"? Is the percent of down payment higher than the other offers? Can they buy the home?

    Now we are seeing significant numbers of offers where the buyers all clearly have the funds to buy the home.

    So, what makes your offer stand out?

    Customization is the key element that will make your combination "lock" click open and your offer become "the one" that the seller chooses.

    Not that your money doesn't have to look good. Make sure your money looks good first.This is a basic minimum standard now -- it used to be the main indicator of success. Your money looks good when:

    • You provide a 3% earnest money deposit
    • You offer 25% down or greater (or whatever your loan approval indicates, but 25% is nice)
    • You have a direct lender approval on the loan (if there is a loan involved)
    • Your direct lender writes a personalized letter for this particular home dated within a reasonable number of days of your offer
    • You show proof of funds to close the deal
    • Optionally you can show your FICO if it's strong, why not? If your FICO exceeds 700, show a copy of that also
    So now that you clearly show the seller that you have the money to make good on your offer, you can get started personalizing and customizing your offer. Sweeten every indicator by some amount.

    For instance, does the seller want to close escrow quickly or traditionally? Have your agent get the number of days the seller desires and match that. Some prefer 21 days, others prefer 40 days. Just match what the seller wants.

    How much inspection time do you need? Now, how little can you live with? You can get inspectors lined up to come in within a few days of acceptance and keep the contingency days on property inspections to as low of a number as possible.

    Be careful not to write "No property contingency" if the seller's agent doesn't allow that. You might think you are being amazing because you know houses, you have looked at this house carefully, and the inspections from the seller look like a fair match for what you see and your "experts" see if you've already gotten a contractor to look at the house for you. But some brokerages will not accept no contingency days on property, so get clarity from the listing agent on what they seek and again -- match it.

    Now ask for anything the seller wants to keep and be sure to write in the seller gets to take his or her washer dryer or whatever it is he or she wants to keep.

    And one sweetening thing that most sellers love is a few days of free rent back after escrow closes to let them move out more easily. Now, this isn't always something you want to live with, but if you can live with some free rent back so the seller can close escrow, obtain the funds from the close of the sale, and then move out, well this might take your offer and place it right on the top of the deck.

    Once you've done your best, take a strong look at prices and whether the homes are "inclining" or "declining." See if you can find out what some of the local "pending" prices are on homes that are similar. Those numbers are important because you are probably up against the same competitors to buy the home. They may have just offered and lost on a nearby home, and they might have been told what the pending amount was that got that other buyer the home.

    So be educated about what the value is before you offer -- and be as competitive as you can while still being able to live with yourself on the price you offer.

    Good luck!

  • Palo Alto: $8.9 M and YES it has a Garage!

    Posted Under: Home Buying in Palo Alto, Home Selling in Palo Alto  |  May 8, 2014 9:31 AM  |  305 views  |  No comments

    Sunday I toured open houses in Palo Alto, California, where I grew up. I drove past my old schools and looked at the homes for sale in the neighborhoods where I rode bikes, learned to swim, learned to dance, and so many other things in the great Palo Alto schools I attended. 

    Here are some observations:

    The $1M price point is gone! For $1M you might be able to get land but probably not.

    The $2M price point might have a carport and a home with a flat roof on a street that might have some homes that are intermittently attended.

    The $4M price point garners a beautiful home on a beautiful street, but on my open house tour Sunday, the $4M home didn't come with a two-car garage. Dang! The small garage looked dubious for one SUV, although a Fiat would fit.

    The $8.9M price point has it all. Great home, great garage, great lot, great garden, great street, feels safe, some lovely architecture, and an extra pool house with a kitchen for mom and dad when they visit.

    Here's the garden at the lovely home on Crescent and that's me in front of the pool!

  • How to Sell a Flawed House - Busy Street? T Intersection? Odd Floor Plan?

    Posted Under: Home Selling in San Jose  |  April 22, 2014 7:22 AM  |  413 views  |  1 comment
    When your house has a major flaw, or even a series of minor flaws, like it's on a busy street; resides at a T-intersection; or the floor plan is awkward and may feel odd, you may have felt trapped like you got in and now you cannot get out.

    I was selling a home that was described as a three-bedroom, two-bath home on a big lot on a pretty street. Unfortunately, the third bedroom was really tiny and had big glass doors on one side leading to the back yard. The room was shaped oddly like a triangle, and the "guest" bathroom was inside of this bedroom.

    So the home functioned like a two-bedroom with an office! Plus, there was no hallway bath -- the house had a huge master bath and then the tiny second bath inside of the tiny triangle-shaped bedroom.

    So what's the easiest way to sell a home that works like this?

    First we cleared all the clutter from the house, especially from the smallest bedroom. Then, we played up the kitchen (it had a wonderful view from the kitchen window) and we staged the family room that looked out on a spacious back yard. So we really looked closely at the home's strength, and played them up as well as we could!

    Then, we looked at all of the homes listed for sale in the area. There was a $699,000 price that seemed to be extremely popular. When I was asked in, another real estate professional had been listing the home for $750,000 and it had been sitting on the market for six months with barely anyone even walking through! Open houses were every weekend, but no action at all.

    I showed the owners all of the $699,000s on the market (there were perhaps 10 homes listed for this price). We wrote $688,888 as our list price. The price had two concepts: one, it was under all of the other three-bedroom two-bath homes in the neighborhood. Second: we knew that eight was a lucky number for many of the buyers in our community. 

    The phone calls and drive-bys began immediately. The open house was packed. The home received 20 offers of which the $722,000 offer was the highest. 

    The flaws were overlooked in the passionate embrace of the list price being lower than any of the other competitors at the time. "That's a strange bedroom, but what a great price," was the comment heard most often.

    So when navigating a flaw, do a few things. Price under the competition that doesn't have flaws. It's likely you bought the home for a bit less than the competition when you bought.

    Play up the strengths. Go through and identify every beautiful thing about the home. Let go of the clutter so people can see and emotionally connect to your home.

    This is the perfect market to list a home with flaws! Go for it!

    Good luck!
  • Palo Alto is HOT right now! Here is a Home Not on MLS!

    Posted Under: Home Buying in Palo Alto, Home Selling in Palo Alto  |  April 20, 2014 9:03 AM  |  379 views  |  No comments
    Home buying in Palo Alto is a challenge right now with 20 offers coming in on so many properties, buyers are left with sweet offers not yet accepted.

    If you could offer "subject to inspection" and you are alright with a home where the occupant has a lease that needs to play out, I have a beautiful newer home near Mitchell Park in Mid-Town that is available and not offered via the MLS.

    The home is 2310 SF on a 6900SF lot! The schools are Fairmeadow, JLS and Gunn High School. Fairmeadow Elementary School is rated 10 out of 10 with an API of 953. JLS is rated 10 out of 10 with an API of 942; and Gunn High School is rated 9 out of 10 with an API of 917.

    For Palo Alto, Mid-Town is typically more affordable than downtown but this home is newer (built in 2002) and the seller is asking in the high $2Ms. So see if it might be a fit! Let me know.

    Good luck!
  • Saratoga, Palo Alto, Mountain View or Cupertino? How Can My Offer Stand Out?

    Posted Under: Home Buying  |  April 18, 2014 6:39 AM  |  282 views  |  No comments
    The home buying season is hot and exciting right now, and if you have kids in schools you are most likely eager to get situated before the next school year begins. When it comes to making decisions between communities with strong school communities, choice can be a challenge.

    In all of the good school communities right now, home buying is competitive so take care of your basic "offer" etiquette. This means make sure your "proof of funds" to close escrow looks nice and solid on paper. Make sure if you need a lender that your lender is a "direct" lender for the approval paperwork. 

    When foreclosures hit the real estate community a few years ago, suddenly many times the seller was a "bank." A bank chooses the buyer based on numbers. Agents representing the banks had to require proof of funds; copies of FICO; all kinds of documentation that a bank would use to choose the buyer.

    This influenced the entire home buying process in our community. Now in areas like Saratoga, Palo Alto, Mountain View and Cupertino you rarely if ever see a foreclosure. However, the influence of the foreclosure process has made its mark and buyers should align all of their paperwork as though a bank were making the decision.

    Next, how do you choose between exceptional communities? I grew up in Palo Alto, and my first real estate position was with Keller Williams in Cupertino. I love Saratoga for the open space and downtown area, and Mountain View is just plain convenient for everything.

    How do you decide between great menu choices? It's kind of like deciding between a great steak or a fresh fish or a barbecue chicken when you are very hungry. In some ways, you cannot go wrong in any of these communities. In other ways, you want to get very familiar with the strengths and weaknesses of each as you are choosing between great communities.

    I like to help my clients build a wheel and give each "spoke" of the wheel points based on their ' values. I like the wheel to add up to 100. So you might give points for:

    • Strength of schools for your child or children
    • Location comparative to your work or commute
    • Future potential for value, investment
    • Size of lot available at your price point
    • % over asking price willing to go to get offer accepted
    • Condition of home and how much you are willing to update or repair it
    I don't just base strength of school on the test scores. I look at the whole school community, and I look all the way through high school even if you have a young child. Then also, you may choose a great house in a lesser school community if you are willing to go for a private school education for your child (or children).

    I know, I haven't really said strongly if you should choose one community over the other. I love them all. I will always love Palo Alto. I have a home for sale in Palo Alto right now, not on the MLS. I love Atherton (not even on my list) and have a $6M estate for sale in Atherton also. I love Saratoga, one of my daughter's dear friends lives in Saratoga and would not live anywhere else! And I love the value of education you find solidly across the Cupertino communities. For Mountain View, I love how easy it is to live there, get there, and get anywhere else even San Francisco.

    Good luck! Feel free to ask any questions!
  • Three Steps to Stay Positive & Get the House in a Multiple Offer Market

    Posted Under: Home Buying  |  April 12, 2014 5:12 AM  |  293 views  |  No comments

    I'm one of those people who can always find a parking place. Parking spaces just open up for me, doors or steps from where I want to be. So when I show up to a high density area and there are cars circling, circling, and circling, I understand that even though I have exceptional "parking karma," it may take me 10 or 15 minutes to find a spot.

    Home buying in today's market is like that. Even when you align yourself right, it may take some time to get the offer accepted and move into your new home. In this kind of market, I recommend three steps to experience success:

    #1 Increase your energy, work on how you come across. Communicate high motivation, dedication, and a commitment to "closing escrow" no matter what.  

    #2 Align with a powerful agent to represent you. This is the time to choose a strong agent who will "have your back" and represent you with intensity. Align with a powerful lender, and get a team of inspectors ready to inspect. 

    #3 Be the early bird. Plus realize that it may take time to get into the right house and have patience with yourself and your support team. 

    For the first step, you want to have an awareness that as you are walking through the open house, even in that first moment, you are making an impression. If the listing agent is holding the house open, take advantage right away of the opportunity. Be the first at the open house on both days. Be up front and clear that you want the house. Put yourself in that person's place. Think about what the agent would like to see -- the home closing escrow smoothly for his or her client. So be about that, right from the first moment. Not that you should speak too much -- but just be positive, and clear that you are ready. Then in all subsequent communications, be clear with your own agent to represent your certainty from the beginning. To get into a contract, the mindset of success is paramount.

    For the second step, it's time to choose a strong agent. This means you will most likely have to go to open houses by yourself, and you may need to even find and decide on the house without your agent attending every event with you. Look for agents who communicate well and who can represent you well. If your agent has a relationship with a lender that is exceptional, go the next step and choose an exceptional lender who will call the listing agent for you when you write an offer. You want your money to show up as SOLID to the seller. The lender and the agent should be able to show up as a "united team," so work together with your lender and your real estate agent and make sure they talk and coordinate for the smoothest possible outcomes.

    Now for the third step: be an early bird. Don't be afraid to direct your agent to write an offer within a few hours a property comes on the market (if you've gotten into the house to see it!). Don't be afraid to be early and offer a sweet package that includes short days on market and short contingency days for inspections. See if you can get in with a pest inspector and property inspector who will agree to do the inspections within 48 hours of an offer being accepted. This way you can keep your "contingency" period for inspections to under a week. That's good news to a seller! 

    Finally stay positive and calm, because the right home can happen for you. You may have to circle around a few times. If you are willing and open to buy a home, and you are qualified to buy a home, stay focused, vigilant and clear. Then everything can fall into place for you despite the competition!

    Good luck!
  • Custom Market Your Luxury Home to Expand to Global Market

    Posted Under: Home Selling in San Jose  |  April 11, 2014 5:51 AM  |  339 views  |  No comments
    The world is the market now, not just your neighborhood. At one time, luxury homes would sell by word of mouth to those who liked to visit your home's location -- now the world is all connected online and the photographs tell the story.

    Custom marketing for luxury homes means that you think bigger and ask bigger questions. Ask for more from your home sale than you imagined -- by increasing the amount and intensity of interest in your home.

    I spoke yesterday with a Beverly Hills luxury agent and because there is so little available at the price points in the under $3M range, buyers are frustrated and can't get a home! The market is juicy at the $20 million range, however. So if you've been wondering "when can I sell my mansion to downsize," or "when can I liquidate one of my homes to buy something else I've been dreaming about," the market might be yours for the taking.

    To look globally it's is still essential to go through the home from top to bottom and clear and clean and prepare and update. Take many, many photographs and then look (with your agent) critically at each photograph. How could the home shine better?

    Take photographs at sunrise, sunset and on a very clear day when you can see forever.

    Look for stories within stories -- was the architect inspired by something big or beautiful when he or she designed your home? Can you find out what else your architect designed and promote that with your home promotion?

    On Amazon, when you look for one book, the site automatically shows you other books like the book you are considering. So take a look at homes like your luxury home that sold well over the last four or five years, and then capitalize on those successes. "If you liked (famous person)'s home, you will love this home."

    Choose two to three stories about your home and then make sure you tell those stories very well.

    Hold off on listing 42 pages of the home's precious values at the get go. Would you talk for three hours about yourself on a first date? Show just the teasing amazing aspects of the home (plus lots of photos) and then tell more with words once a person has come to visit the home.

    It's easier to reach the global market than you think!!! 

    To recap:

    Take photos and many of them

    Prepare your home by clearing, cleaning, updating and fussing

    Choose two to three stories (the sexiest stories you can find) about your home

    Compare your home well to others that sold well for like amenities, stories, architectural contributions, or general look and feel

    Identify niche markets (like owners of multiple vehicles if you have a large garage, or equine enthusiasts if you have hores properties) for targeted advertising 

    You're on your way! The buyers would like to feel like they can reach out and touch it before they would actually reach out and touch it.

    Good luck!
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