Home > Blogs > John Souerbry's Blog

John Souerbry's Blog

By John Souerbry | Broker in Palo Alto, CA
  • Words Not To Use With Most Clients

    Posted Under: Agent2Agent  |  August 21, 2014 7:25 AM  |  23 views  |  2 comments

    I’m careful when speaking with clients and try to “mirror” their real estate vocabulary.  Some are savvy investors, most of whom have held a real estate license at some time in their life, and others are simply buying or selling a property and don’t want to learn a new language.  I’ve found that use of common, simple, everyday words to describe what’s happening before, during and after a transaction improves client communication and builds trust.

    Over time I’ve developed a list of words not to use when I’m communicating with anyone who doesn’t work in the real estate industry.  I’ve noted just a few of these words below in the “jargon word > replacement word” format.  I hope you’ll comment and add to the list.  Or tell me why you disagree, whatever floats your boat.

    Listing (noun) > property for sale

    Listing (verb) > hire me as your broker

    Listing price > asking price

    Active listings > properties currently for sale

    Location, location, location > location

    Comps > comparable properties

    Escrow closing > completion of the sale

    Closed sale > completed sale

    And, of course…

    Broker commission > my meager compensation for working 24/7 on your transaction

  • Three Simple Ways To Increase The Sale Price Of Your Home

    Posted Under: Home Selling, Curb Appeal, Agent2Agent  |  August 5, 2014 8:42 AM  |  92 views  |  2 comments

    Increase The Sale Price Of Your HomeThe sale price of a home is often limited by its market value, but that doesn’t always have to be.  Market value, as estimated by brokers and appraisers, usually focuses on market conditions and the property’s location, lot size, and the size, style and condition of structures.  Let’s look briefly at three methods we can use to increase the sale price of your home that are not elements of estimating market value.

    1.  Aesthetics

    Enhancing a property’s outward appearance without making structural changes that require a building permit can significantly increase visual appealcurb appeal and perceived value.  There are four simple actions we can take to increase the aesthetic value of a property.

    De-clutter:  Remove furnishings and personal property that conceal or detract from positive features of the home.

    Clean:  Cleaning should not only remove dirt and debris, it should make features such as windows and fixtures shine.  Items that sparkle are perceived to be in overall good condition and of higher value.

    Re-surface:  Paint and window coverings don’t change the market value of a home, but they do increase its visual appeal.  Refinishing wood floors brings out beauty and style that enhances the overall appeal of an entire space.

    Staging:  Professional staging is the ultimate method of showcasing the aesthetic and functional potential of a home.

    2.  Competition

    An effective marketing campaign should produce interest in the property from multiple buyers.  But just having multiple buyers with the resources to pay above market value doesn’t automatically put upward pressure on our sale price.  We need to leverage the presence of multiple buyers by creating competition between them.  Skilled brokers manage the offer process to create competition and use it to increase the sale price of your home.

    3.  Negotiating Tactics

    Another method to increase the sale price of your home is to negotiate the best possible deal, regardless of market value.  Using the powers of perceived value and competition, experienced brokers can negotiate the many terms within a purchase contract to maximize the bottom line price.


    I hope you found this information on how to increase the sale price of your home interesting and useful.  While market value will always be the primary factor in determining a home’s sale price (or the sale price of any type of property), employing a broker who can assist with using aesthetics, competition and negotiating leverage effectively might help to obtain the best possible sale price.

    If you have questions about maximizing the sale price of your home or need assistance with your sale, drop me a line.  Contact Us


    John A. Souerbry & Associates  (CalBRE 01370983)

  • My Views On Trulia Agent Ratings

    Posted Under: Agent2Agent  |  July 2, 2014 10:23 AM  |  157 views  |  5 comments
    I was saddened to receive the email announcing that Trulia will be implementing an agent rating system.  As has been discussed in this forum and others, several other sites have implemented similar systems - often without agent approval.  The rating information is usually inaccurate and can even be damaging to an agent's reputation without cause.  Trulia's decision to implement agent ratings reaffirms my decision to cancel my PRO account last week and to withdraw from regular participation on the site in general.

    Accordingly, I've added the following to the "About Me" section of my profile.

    PLEASE NOTE:  Trulia will soon be implementing a skill rating system in agent profiles.  These ratings are, I believe, to be based on customer feedback Trulia solicits from consumers who have previously made comments about agents on Trulia.  I have chosen to OPT OUT of this system and have asked my clients NOT to post comments about me on Trulia, good or bad, though they are free to do so if they chose.  I have not provided information to support any rating Trulia might publish about me, therefore, please consider any such rating included in my profile to be incomplete, misleading and false.  These rating systems are generally a gauge of how good a job agents do getting their clients to post comments about them, not how well they perform their duties as agents.  An agent whose clients prefer privacy will generally be rated lower compared to other agents, though their skills might be the best in their specialty.  It also provides the opportunity for some agents to pad their profile with "customer comments" that don't come from actual customers, but still give the agent an inaccurately higher rating than their peers.  If you would like accurate information regarding my services, qualifications, skills, experience and references, please contact me directly.
  • Tips For Buying Residential Lots

    Posted Under: Home Buying in California, Home Selling in California, Investment Properties in California  |  June 10, 2014 9:55 AM  |  561 views  |  2 comments

    Buying Residential LotsIn today’s market, many home buyers are buying residential lots instead and building custom homes.  Improved market conditions in many areas are also allowing investors to return to the business of buying land and building custom “spec” homes or small subdivisions.  If you’re thinking about buying unimproved residential land and building – whether for a home or investment – here are a few tips for finding the right property and closing the sale.

    1. Site Selection Criteria

    Buying an existing home or buying land starts with similar criteria – the right location, total cost and ability to use the property as we want.  Here are common selection criteria for buying residential lots.

    1. Location: schools, business center(s) commute, shopping/services, public facilities/services/transportation, public safety (police, fire, medical), Walk Score® (1), crime rate, noise, traffic
    2. Neighborhood value: median prices for comparable properties, escalation forecast
    3. Lot characteristics: Size, topography, view, drainage, exposure, surface features (water, rocks, trees, foliage), soil and sub-surface conditions
    4. Improvement entitlements and restrictions: Zoning, boundaries, easements, encroachments, limits (set-backs, footprint, height, total square footage, type and number of structures), architectural mandates, homeowner association requirements
    5. Utilities and services:  Availability of gas, water, electric, sewer, trash collection and communications.
    6. Ownership, Improvement and Occupancy:  Clear title, total acquisition costs, total construction costs, permit costs and schedules, estimated recurring ownership costs

    (1) Walk Score® is a property rating based upon availability of goods and services within walking distance.  Some property search systems provide a Walk Score® automatically with their listings, click on Northern California Property Search (my site) and look up any property.  You’ll see a Walk Score® tab.  A high score means goods and services are close, a low score means the property is “car-dependent.”  A high or low Walk Score® is usually immaterial to the value of rural properties, but a high score adds value to urban properties.

    2. Property Search

    There are many tools available to conduct a thorough property search.  We can work with a broker to scour the local multiple listing service (MLS), search online, read the real estate section of print publications, and drive neighborhoods looking for For Sale signs on properties that are not otherwise advertised.  We might look at properties that are not for sale and ask the owner if they’ll consider an unsolicited offer.   We can also inform our circle of friends and business acquaintances that we are in the market for residential lots.

    We should also consider tear-down properties in our search.  These are homes in great locations that have outlived their “economic life” and would be costly to repair or rehabilitate.  Sometimes removing the existing structure and replacing it with a modern home that makes best use of the land can be very cost-effective.

    Helpful articles from my blog on where to look for properties and how to make unsolicited offers:

    Where Does Real Estate For Sale Come From?”

     “Making An Unsolicited Offer for An Unlisted Home”

    3. Analysis and Inspection

    Site selection criteria can be used to both screen lot listings and then to confirm that we want to go through with the purchase.  Some analysis and inspection should be done prior to making an offer, some we’ll do during escrow with closing contingent upon favorable results of the inspections.  The chart below identifies typical lot evaluation criteria and suggests when they might be evaluated (list and schedule should be tailored to specific opportunities).


    Residential Lot Analysis Checklist


    4. Structuring The Purchase Contract

    California Real Estate ContractStrategies used to buy a residential lot are similar to those included in a home purchase offer.  The offering price, length of escrow and general closing conditions should take into consideration the seller’s requirements, competition from other buyers, and resources available to buy and improve the land for its intended use.  When the situation provides flexibility to do so, we can look at structuring a winning purchase offer with features that are usually specific to lot contracts.

    Buying With Entitlements.  Most large-scale developers buy only “entitled land.”  This means they must receive written approval of their planned use for the property from the applicable government authority (usually city or county) before escrow closes.  For single family home lot purchases, required entitlements could be a lot survey, approved architectural plans, construction permits, soils analysis or perc test rating – whatever applies to the property and is feasible given the buyer’s plans and resources.  Sometimes sellers will obtain basic entitlements prior to placing their land on the market and roll the cost of obtaining them into the sale price (usually with a slight mark-up).  More entitlements in place at close of escrow means less risk for the buyer.

    Purchasing An Option. If the seller is not in a hurry to close the sale and the buyer needs time to raise development money, secure entitlements or schedule construction, a buyer might offer to purchase an option.  An option is simply the right to purchase the land in the future.  The buyer will normally have access to the land during the option period to conduct pre-approved testing and inspections.

    Installment or “Land” Contract.  This type of purchase agreement can be useful if the seller has the flexibility and willingness to accept installment payments.  There are two major considerations with this type of contract: 1) transfer of ownership doesn’t occur until the final payment has been made and 2) sellers usually won’t allow the buyer to begin improving the land until after transfer of ownership.

    Joint Venture.  Although I seldom recommend a joint venture (JV), they can be useful for “spec” home or subdivision development when both parties understand the risks.  In a typical JV, the land owner provides the land and the developer provides the resources to makes the improvements.  The finished property is then sold and the JV partners split the net proceeds per their agreement.  The primary risk is that if the JV is unable to complete improvements and folds, the land owner is stuck with a parcel of land with a partially-built structure on it that diminishes the land’s market value.


    I hope you found these tips for buying residential lots helpful.  As with all my purchase tips, sellers should also consider how they can use the strategies and options discussed.  If you have a question about buying land or need assistance with your next purchase or sale, drop me a line.  Contact Us


    John A. Souerbry & Associates  (CalBRE 01370983)

  • Yountville May 2014 Home Sales Report

    Posted Under: Market Conditions in Yountville, Home Buying in Yountville, Home Selling in Yountville  |  June 4, 2014 7:33 AM  |  615 views  |  No comments

    The Yountville May 2014 home sales report reflects the small, but strong, market for homes in this central Napa Valley village known for fine restaurants, luxurious spas and close proximity to some of the finest wineries in the Valley.  Three properties closed escrow in May, all had been on the market just 2 to 4 weeks before selling.

    There are currently six homes for sale, including one condo.  All homes have been on the market less than two months.

    June 1st Yountville Real Estate Market Snapshot:

    • Homes active for sale: 6 (click to view > Yountville homes for sale)
    • Distressed properties for sale:  Short Sale – 0  Foreclosures – 0
    • Price range of active listings:  $674,000 to $6,495,000
    • Number of homes now in escrow:  3


    Yountville May 2014 Home Sales Report – Closed Escrows

    Yountville May 2014 Home Sales Report


    To search for homes, land and property of all types in Yountville and surrounding Wine Country – click > Wine Country Property Search.

    Contact Us for more information regarding this Yountville May 2014 home sales report or for help buying or selling Wine Country real estate.


    John A. Souerbry & Associates  Call John: (707) 317-0280 (CalBRE 01370983)

  • Napa May 2014 Home Sales Report

    Posted Under: Market Conditions in Napa, Home Buying in Napa, Home Selling in Napa  |  June 4, 2014 7:07 AM  |  625 views  |  No comments

    The Napa May 2014 home sales report reflects an improved market throughout most of Wine Country, with additional inventory coming on the market every week.  Eighty six homes closed escrow in May, including a welcome 12 homes that sold for greater than $1M.  The $2M to $5M price range has lagged in sales the past couple of years, two homes above $2M are included in May’s sales.

    There are 218 homes on the market, down from 230 last month.  The number of short sale listings has increased from 1 to 5 and there are still 5 foreclosure listings.

    June 1st Napa Market Snapshot:

    • Homes active on the market: 218 (click to view > Napa homes for sale)
    • Distressed properties for sale:  Short Sale – 5  Foreclosures – 5
    • Price range of active listings:  $249,000 to $13,950,000
    • Number of homes now in escrow:  156


    Napa May 2014 Home Sales Report – Closed Escrows

    Napa April 2014 Home Sales Report


    Contact Us for more information regarding this Napa May 2014 home sales report or for help buying or selling Wine Country real estate.

    To search online for homes, land and property of all types in Napa and Wine Country – click > Wine Country Property Search.


    John A. Souerbry & Associates  Call John: (707) 317-0280 (CalBRE 01370983)

  • American Canyon May 2014 Home Sales Report

    Posted Under: Market Conditions in American Canyon, Home Buying in American Canyon, Home Selling in American Canyon  |  June 4, 2014 6:32 AM  |  636 views  |  No comments

    The American Canyon May 2014 home sales report reflects a steady southern Napa County real estate market, where prices are generally flat and homes are taking a month and a half on average to sell.  Sixteen homes closed escrow in May.

    There are currently 11 homes for sale, including one short sale and one foreclosed property.  Three of the 11 came on the market in just the past week and 10 of the 11 have been on the market less than 30 days.

    June 1st American Canyon Real Estate Market Snapshot:

    • Homes active for sale: 11 (click to view > American Canyon homes for sale)
    • Distressed properties for sale:  Short Sale – 1  Foreclosed – 1
    • Price range of active listings: $310,000 to $1,495,000
    • Number of homes now in escrow:  28


    American Canyon May 2014 Home Sales Report – Closed Sales

     American Canyon May 2014 Home Sales Report


    To search for homes, land and property of all types in American Canyon and the North Bay – click > Wine Country Property Search.

    Contact Us for more information regarding this American Canyon May 2014 home sales report or for help buying or selling Wine Country real estate.


    John A. Souerbry & Associates  Call John: (707) 317-0280 (CalBRE 01370983)

« Read older posts
Copyright © 2014 Trulia, Inc. All rights reserved.   |  
Have a question? Visit our Help Center to find the answer