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John Souerbry's Blog

By John Souerbry | Broker in Palo Alto, CA
  • Los Altos May 2014 Home Sales Report

    Posted Under: Market Conditions in Los Altos, Home Buying in Los Altos, Home Selling in Los Altos  |  June 2, 2014 5:38 PM  |  163 views  |  No comments

    The Los Altos May 2014 home sales report reflects strong demand and steady prices.  Sixteen homes closed escrow in May and all were on the market less than 30 days (median time on market – 9 days).

    There are 19 homes active on the market, of which 12 have been for sale less than 30 days. There are presently no short sale or foreclosures listings.

    June 1st Los Altos Market Snapshot:

    (down from 30 on May 1st)

    • Distressed properties for sale:  Short Sale – 0  Foreclosed – 0
    • Price range of active listings:  $1,098,000 to $12,750,000
    • Number of homes now in escrow:  34 (up from 27 on May 1st)

     

    Los Altos May 2014 Home Sales Report – Closed Sales

    Los Altos May 2014 Home Sales Report

     

    Contact Us for more information regarding this Los Altos May 2014 home sales report or for help buying or selling Silicon Valley real estate.

    To search for homes, land and all types of properties in Los Altos and throughout Silicon Valley  – click > Silicon Valley property search.

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    John A. Souerbry & Associates  Call John: (650) 815-6182 (CalBRE 01370983)

  • Los Altos Hills May 2014 Home Sales Report

    Posted Under: Market Conditions in Los Altos Hills, Home Buying in Los Altos Hills, Home Selling in Los Altos Hills  |  June 2, 2014 4:24 PM  |  104 views  |  No comments

    Los Altos Hills May 2014 Home Sales Report The Los Altos Hills May 2014 home sales report reflects steady prices as we enter the prime summer selling season.  Only one home closed escrow in May, which indicates a weaker market for existing homes in the ultra-premium price range (current median list price is $4,850,000).  Driving through the Hills, we see construction underway for many new custom homes.

    Six of the 23 homes currently on the market have been for sale less than 30 days.  There are presently no short sale or foreclosed homes for sale.

     

    June 1st Los Altos Hills Market Snapshot:

    • Homes active on the market: 23 (click to view > Los Altos Hills homes for sale)
    • Distressed properties for sale:  Short Sale – 0  Foreclosed – 0
    • Price range of active listings:  $2,950,000 to $27,000,000
    • Number of homes now in escrow:  13


    Los Altos Hills May 2014 Home Sales Report- Closed Escrows

    Location:        12241 Stonebrook Drive

    Sale Price:     $5,200,000

    Bed/Bath:      4/3.5

    Sq. Feet:        4,550

     

    Contact Us for more information regarding this Los Altos Hills May 2014 home sales report or for help buying or selling Silicon Valley real estate.

    To search for property listings of all types in Los Altos Hills and Silicon Valley, including homes, land, income property and more – click > Silicon Valley Property Search.

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    John A. Souerbry & Associates  Call John: (650) 815-6182 (CalBRE 01370983)

  • Palo Alto May 2014 Home Sales Report

    Posted Under: Market Conditions in Palo Alto, Home Buying in Palo Alto, Home Selling in Palo Alto  |  June 2, 2014 3:10 PM  |  108 views  |  No comments

    The Palo Alto May 2014 home sales report indicates that Palo Alto homes continue to be in high demand, as inventory is stable and overall prices appear to be escalating.  Of the 24 homes that closed escrow in May (down from 58 in April), 22 sold within 30 days.

    Palo Alto homes are not staying on the market long, with 20 of the 34 homes now for sale on the market less than 30 days.  37 of the 42 homes now in escrow sold within 30 days.  Only seven homes have been on the market longer than 90 days.  There is only one short sale on the market and no foreclosed homes.

    June 1st Palo Alto Market Snapshot:

    • Homes active on the market: 34 (click to view > Palo Alto homes for sale)
    • Distressed properties for sale:  Short Sale – 1  Foreclosed – 0
    • Price range of active listings:  $599,000 to $21,500,000
    • Number of homes now in escrow:  42

     

    Palo Alto May 2014 Home Sales Report – Closed Sales

    Palo Alto May 2014 Home Sales Report

     

    Contact Us for more information regarding this Palo Alto May 2014 home sales report or for help buying or selling Silicon Valley real estate.

    To search for property listings of all types in Palo Alto and Silicon Valley, including homes, land, income property and more – click > Silicon Valley Property Search.

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    John A. Souerbry & Associates  Call John: (650) 815-6182 (CalBRE 01370983)

  • Home Selling Tip: Taking Fixtures With Us

    Posted Under: Home Buying in California, Home Selling in California, Agent2Agent in California  |  June 2, 2014 9:56 AM  |  272 views  |  No comments

    Home seller tipsIn a previous home selling tip article we discussed selling personal property with our home, today we’ll discuss taking fixtures with us that we don’t want to sell with it.

    The words “installed” and “attached” can be gray areas when it’s time to sell a home.  During our period of ownership we’ll make many different types of upgrades, from chandeliers to bathroom faucets.  Each of these items was chosen based upon our personal style and some may be hard-to-find or one-of-a-kind pieces.  If they were easily installed with a few screws and bolts, it’s easy to take them with us to our new home, and many sellers choose to do just that.

    Buyers are often surprised when escrow closes and they enter the home for the first time as owners, only to find that several attached or installed fixtures have been removed.  Sometimes items are missing that were actually major reasons affecting the buyer’s decision to purchase the home.  Items that have frequently either disappeared or were exchanged for cheaper models between when an offer was accepted and when escrow closed include:

    • Kitchen and bath faucets
    • Shower heads
    • Toilets
    • Water filtration systems
    • Lighting fixtures of all types
    • Bookshelves that look like built-ins but are actually just separate units screwed to the wall and perhaps even painted to match
    • Mirrored closet doors
    • Light switch and power outlet cover plates
    • Work benches in workshops and garages
    • Small, free-standing storage sheds
    • Custom-built doors (interior and exterior)
    • Free-standing hot tubs and above-ground pools

    If we’re sellers wanting to take any of these or other installed items with us when we sell, what are our options?  There are two:

    1. Remove everything that will be taken and put it in storage before placing the home on the market.
    2. Properly disclose which items will be removed.

    Digital photography makes it simple and inexpensive to create a “photo catalog” of a home’s interior and exterior.  As primarily a listing broker, I take 200 - 300 photos of a property at the time I sign a listing contract.  In addition to featured pictures that will appear in the MLS and marketing materials, I also take photos of identification plates and serial numbers on all appliances and close-up photos of all electrical, plumbing, and other fixtures and features of the home and grounds.  The purpose is to document the existence and condition of these items in the event that they become an issue in the future.  From this “master catalog” it’s very easy to create a second catalog of the items that will not be staying with the home.  That catalog will be an attachment to the seller’s Transfer Disclosure Statement so that buyers will be forewarned IN WRITING of the seller’s plans.  I also recommend that these fixtures are labeled during open houses and lock box viewing hours.

    One last thing about removing fixtures prior to sale – make sure not to leave any damage when removing the items.  Walls, floors and other connecting points should be repaired to match the surrounding area.  If an item, such as a kitchen faucet, will be taken and not replaced, that should be disclosed to the buyer.

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    John A. Souerbry & Associates     (CalBRE 01370983)

  • Where Does Real Estate For Sale Come From?

    Posted Under: Home Buying in California, Home Selling in California, Property Q&A in California  |  May 26, 2014 12:52 PM  |  305 views  |  No comments

    real estate for saleWhen you’re a buyer in the market for a home, business or investment property, one of the first things to consider as you begin your search is where does real estate for sale come from?  We can rule out the stork flying them in or growing properties in a pumpkin patch, since we know that’s where babies come from, not real estate.  Let’s look at some of the most common sources of real estate for sale and how we can access those sources in our property search.

    1.  Multiple Listing Service and Syndication Sites

    The local Multiple Listing Service (MLS) is the most common place to find real estate of all types, including homes, land and commercial properties.  Almost all MLS systems “syndicate” their listings by sharing them electronically with public real estate information sites such as REALTOR.com, Trulia, Zillow and others.  Real estate brokers and their agents can also receive listing feeds onto their web sites through a system called IDX (e.g. mine > Northern California Real Estate) where buyers can search for properties themselves and communicate with the agent to schedule a showing or request more information.

    Strengths:  Most real estate agents list their properties on the MLS and opt to have them syndicated, therefore the MLS is the largest single place to find real estate for sale.

    Weaknesses:  Listing brokers have the option to withhold their listings from syndication and not allow them to be transmitted to competing broker’s web sites.  This means buyers must have direct access to the MLS themselves (most MLS systems now operate their own consumer-accessible listing site) or work with an agent who has MLS access (not all agents do, keep reading...).

    Quick Note:  Since the local MLS initially featured mostly residential properties, other listing systems such as Loopnet featured commercial properties for sale or lease.  Most local MLS system now offer listings for just about any type of property, but Loopnet remains the most popular marketplace for commercial, industrial and special use properties.

    2.  Non-MLS Brokers

    With the development of MLS syndication and Internet search capabilities, some brokers choose not to participate in the local MLS system.  Rather than paying MLS fees and being bound by MLS rules, they post their properties for sale on the public sites I mentioned above, which is also where they often find properties for their buyer clients.  They will also post their listings on their own web sites and use many pre-Internet marketing channels such as print advertising and neighborhood post card mailing campaigns.

    Strengths:  Some non-MLS brokers offer reduced fees commensurate with their reduced level of service.

    Weaknesses:  Since not all MLS listings are syndicated, not having direct access to the MLS means that non-MLS brokers may not find all properties for sale that fit their client’s needs.

    Quick Note:  Real estate brokers and their agents are required to be licensed by the State where the property they’re working with is located, but they are not required to participate in the MLS or to be members of the National Association of REALTORS® or a local REALTOR® association.

    3.  Pocket Listings

    The definition of “pocket listing” varies throughout the country, but in general it’s a listing taken, either in writing or verbally (informally) by an agent that is not published on the MLS.  There can be many reasons why a seller might prefer to sell via a pocket listing, the three most common are: 1) they don’t want neighbors to know their property is for sale and 2) they want the property shown only to a limited market of highly qualified or unique buyers, 3) they are only testing the market and won’t sell unless they receive an offer they can’t refuse.  Whether the broker with the listing is an MLS or non-MLS broker, they will usually circulate information about the property to other agents in their office, selected other agents, and to potential buyers they may know to be looking for that type of property.

    Strengths:  Some non-MLS brokers offer reduced fees commensurate with their reduced level of service.

    Weaknesses:  Not implementing a broad marketing campaign limits the pool or potential buyers, usually resulting in weaker offers – if any.  Also, many agents holding a pocket listing will seek to represent both the seller and the buyer in the sales transaction, a practice known as “dual agency.”  Opinions vary on the ethics and legality of dual agency, though it is illegal in some states.

    3.  For Sale By Owner

    A property owner may choose to sell For Sale By Owner (FSBO), listing their property for sale on the public sites previously mentioned and on FSBO-specific sites such as For Sale By Owner.  They will also usually use other traditional selling methods such as the For Sale yard sign and print advertising.  Many publish a single page web site to advertise their property.

    Strengths:  FSBO sellers with knowledge of the real estate sales process can save a significant amount in commission fees.

    Weaknesses:  Not implementing a broad marketing campaign limits the pool or potential buyers, usually resulting in weaker offers.  It also creates problems due to “commission adjustment.”  For example, if the seller wants $100,000 and the seller won’t pay broker commissions, a buyer might offer $94,000 ($100,000 minus 6% “standard” commission).  If the buyer must pay their broker commission out-of-pocket, rather than financing the commission in the mortgage as is usually done when the seller pays all broker commissions, that could reduce the amount of cash a buyer can put down, again reducing the offer price.  In some cases, it could scare off potential buyers who are on a tight purchase budget.

    Quick Note:  An owner can sell his/her property without a real estate license.

    4.  Auctions/Tax Sales

    While individual property owners seldom sell by auction (though it does happen), lenders and government entities use auctions as their most common method of liquidating foreclosed and seized properties.  Auctions are usually announced well ahead of time and a specific bid submittal date is set.  This provides opportunity for buyers to conduct inspections and prepare a bidding strategy prior to the auction.  Some auctions are now conducted online (example: Bid4Assets), so that bidders aren’t required to physically show up to compete for properties.

    Strengths:  Ability to inspect/analyze properties prior to them going live in the auction.

    Weaknesses:  Many auctions do not allow interior inspections prior to bidding.  While most bidders are hoping to buy properties under estimated market value, the auction process frequently drives the final sale price higher than market value.

    5.  Probate Sales

    In the vast majority of probate sales, the executor or trustee managing the estate will list properties with a local broker of their choice, to be marketed like any other property.  In less frequent instances, the court may assign the property to an auction or to a court-appointed broker (practices vary throughout the U.S.).  Although some investors specialize in purchasing probate properties below market value, those sales are infrequent and usually take place only when the estate in probate has immediate cash needs.  But in most instances, the court or executor is required to accept no less than full market value for probate properties or face opposition to the sale from beneficiaries of the estate.

    Strengths:  Properties come on the market that may not have been sold if the deceased were still living.

    Weaknesses:  Most probate sales go through normal sales channels, monitoring probate court activities rarely yields opportunities for most buyers.

    6.  Unsolicited Offer

    When a buyer needs a specific type of property in a specific location but none are for sale, they can always approach property owners with an unsolicited offer (see my article: Making An Unsolicited Offer For An Unlisted Home).  This is often the buying method of last resort, but can be our first choice when none of the properties currently on the market are as suitable as a property that we see that is not on the market.

    Strengths:  With luck and persistence we find and buy the property we want.

    Weaknesses:  Most property owners will outright reject the offer or might consider it on their own terms and/or at a later date, which might not be acceptable to us.

    7.  Word Of Mouth

    Letting friends, family, co-workers, golfing buddies, lodge brothers, our dentist, our psychotherapist, and the milkman know that we’re looking for a specific type of property could result in a phone call with a hot lead.  Just putting the word out that we’re in the market is a contribution to “making our own luck.”

    Strengths:  With luck and persistence we may find and buy the property we want.

    Weaknesses:  We could be bombarded with opportunities, but this is not a method to rely on.

     

    If we’re in the market to buy property, these are some of the main sources we’ll look at to find just the right property that fits our needs.  If we’re working with a real estate professional, we’ll want to know that they are using multiple sources to find property for us.

    Also… if we’re selling property, we’ll want to consider the listing sources we discussed here to see which would get us the best bottom line deal on our sale.

    I hope you found this information helpful.  If you have any questions about sources of real estate for sale or buy/sell strategies, drop me a line.

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    John A. Souerbry & Associates (CalBRE 01370983)

  • California Lifestyle Properties - Lake Fishing

    Posted Under: Entertainment & Nightlife in California, Parks & Recreation in California, Home Buying in California  |  May 25, 2014 10:04 AM  |  324 views  |  No comments

    California Lifestyle Properties FishingWhile there are no California lifestyle properties that specifically serve lake fishing communities, there are many quaint and beautiful residential locations around Northern California’s many fishing lakes.  From smaller reservoirs in the metro Bay Area to larger fishing lakes high in the Sierra Foothills, there are many great opportunities for fishing year round in Northern California.

    Here are the major fishing lakes in the Bay Area.  Click on the name of the lake for more information about fishing and facilities.  To see nearby homes and vacation getaways currently for sale, click on the city in the lake’s address.  Click on Northern California Real Estate to search for properties of all types throughout the entire Bay Area.

    Silicon Valley Fishing Lakes

    A. Calaveras Reservoir  East of Milpitas

    B. Lexington Reservoir 17770 Alma Bridge Road, Los Gatos, CA 95032

    C. Stevens Creek Reservoir  11401 Stevens Canyon Road, Cupertino, CA 95014

    East Bay Fishing Lakes

    D. Arroyo del Valle Reservoir 7000 Del Valle Road, Livermore, CA 94550

    E. Lafayette Reservoir  3849 El Diablo Boulevard, Lafayette, CA 94549

    F. San Pablo Reservoir  7301 San Pablo Dam Road, El Sobrante, CA 94803

    G. Shadow Cliff Reservoir 2500 Stanley Boulevard, Pleasanton, CA 94566

    Wine Country Fishing Lakes

    H. Lake Berryessa Pleasure Cove Marina, 6100 Highway 128, Napa, CA 94558

    I. Lake Hennessey  Napa County, north of Napa, east of St. Helena

    J. Lake Sonoma  Near Geyserville and Cloverdale, 100 Marina Drive, Lake Sonoma, CA 95441

    Other California Fishing Lakes Within Driving Distance

    Here are good fishing lakes outside the Bay Area, but within just a few hours drive.

    Clear Lake  Clear Lake, CA

    Folsom Lake Folsom, CA

    Camanche Reservoir  Ione, CA

    Lake Amador  Ione, CA

    New Hogan Lake  Valley Springs, CA

    Pardee Reservoir  Near Buena Vista, CA

    San Luis Reservoir (“Big Louie”) East of Gilroy in Gustine, CA

    Turlock Lake  La Grange, CA

    Loch Lomand Santa Cruz Mountains

     

    NOTE:  Many fishing lakes, especially near metro areas, are currently closed due to low water levels.  Always check first before going.

     

    Online California Fishing Information

    California Department of Fish & Wildlife

    NorCalFishing.com

    Nor Cal Fishing News

    Sacramento River Fishing Guide Service – for those who want to try the river

     

    California Lifestyle Properties

    For a list of our other California Lifestyle Properties pages, click here.

  • Five Real Estate Market Statistics That Should Be Questioned

    Posted Under: Market Conditions in California, Home Buying in California, Home Selling in California  |  May 15, 2014 2:34 PM  |  377 views  |  No comments

    Real Estate Market StatisticsWhether buying or selling, we rely on real estate market statistics to help us make many important decisions.  We trust that sources providing market information are reliable, but just how reliable are they?  We certainly hope they’re more accurate than a TV weather man, but in a constantly changing environment market data are a moving target.  Let’s look at a few common real estate market statistics that we may want to look at a little closer before making important decisions based on them.

     

    Price Per Square Foot.

    Price Per Square Foot is the asking or sale price divided by the number of square feet of improvements.  It’s an inaccurate measurement of value because it doesn’t take into account the type and quality of materials and workmanship, the property’s specific location, and the value of non-structural features such view, privacy, landscaping, swimming pool, hot tub or tennis court.  A similar measurement – cost per square foot – is often used to determine the replacement cost of structures, but this is used primarily for insurance purposes and should never be used to estimate market value of the property.

     

    Listing Price versus Sale Price.

    A common strategy now in use by sellers in areas where demand is high is to price a property artificially low - below estimated market value - to attract more buyers and create a competitive bidding environment.  The intent is to attract multiple offers that drive the eventual sale price well above market value.  When multiple bids over the asking price pour in, brokers and market pundits start raving that the market is hot, hotHOT!!!  Well, maybe.  Setting the price below market value invalidates Listing Price versus Sale Price as a reliable market statistic because it’s based on the false assumption that the listing price is the property’s current market value.  Sometimes this strategy works and sometimes it doesn’t.  When it backfires, buyers submit offers at the below-market listing price thinking it’s the market value, resulting in a terrible sale price for the seller.

     

    Days On Market/Combined Days On Market (DOM/CDOM).

    When a property has been on the market awhile, usually 60 days or longer, buyers may assume that it hasn’t sold yet because either the asking price is too high or the property has defects.  They may think the seller is becoming desperate and must be ready to lower the price or make other concessions just to get a deal.  This is sometimes true, but not always.  Other reasons for a high number of days on the market could be that there is generally low demand for real estate in the area due to no nearby jobs, shopping or schools, or that the seller does not need to sell right away and can wait as long as it takes to get his price.  Rather than making these assumptions, it’s better to look closely at the property and find out the real reasons why it hasn’t sold.  It could be a gem that others have missed.

     

    Average and Median.

    There are two major problems with using average and median listing or sale price values to characterize a real estate market or to estimate the market value for a property.

    1)    Calculations are usually based on all properties in a geographical area, with no consideration for differences in property sizes and features.

    2)    If only similar properties are used to calculate average or median, in most markets the number of transactions included in the equation is almost always too small to result in a reliable statistical value.  Statisticians say that “confidence” in a statistic relies on a “sample size” (number of closed transactions) being large enough to represent the total “population” (all properties in the market).  In most markets, the number of recent transactions that have closed escrow just do not provide enough data points to produce an average or median that confidently represents property values in the market.

     

    Comparables.

    Comparable” property values are the granddaddy of all real estate statistics, relied upon by buyers, sellers, investors, brokers, appraisers and lenders.  But are “comps” always accurate?  Of course not, but lacking a better way to arrive at a value to work with – they’re all we have.

    Why question comps?  Using comps to establish a value estimate involves both objective (measurable) and subjective (judgment) data.  Per my previous comments on averages and medians, finding enough objective data from similar comps to calculate reliable market values is frequently next to impossible.  Further, the subjective opinions of one broker versus another broker or one appraiser versus another appraiser can result in a range of values too wide to be useful.

     

    In the end, the market value of a property is what a buyer is willing to pay for it and market conditions are always changing.  The best we can do is make educated guesses, track market activity, and keep an eye on local financial, economic and governmental factors that most affect market conditions.

    I hope you found this information regarding real estate market statistics interesting and helpful.  If you have any questions regarding real estate market statistics or real estate buy/sell strategies, drop me a line.

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    John A. Souerbry & Associates (CalBRE 01370983)

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