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Palo Alto : Real Estate Advice

  • All334
  • Local Info27
  • Home Buying162
  • Home Selling21
  • Market Conditions42

Activity 345
Tue Jun 5, 2012
Stephanie Hart answered:
You should have a form titled WPA with your purchase contract. It will state who is responsible for the Section 1/ Section 2 work in CA.
Most often the seller pays for section 1, buyer Section 2. However many different terms can be written in the WPA. For condos, when I'm the listing agent, I get interior only reports. That is all my seller is responsible for (walls in no attic space). As everyone else already, walls-out is the responsibility of the HOA (usually).
Definitely ask your agent. I'm sure they will be able to better understand your particular situation.
Stephanie Hart
Broker Associate
Forecast Realty
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Sat May 19, 2012
Stu Carson answered:
Those that are in the Henry Gunn High School district boundaries. For more information on the best school districts in the Bay Area check out this resource there are links in that document that will help you determine what addresses are in which schools districts.

If you are interested in having access to something that just does NOT exist on the MLS, a tool that will allow you search and receive alerts for homes that are only in a specific high school district visit this link and sign up an indicate what you want.

That kind of tool will be available by the end of this week.
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Mon May 14, 2012
Mindy answered:
I live in Palo Alto, therefore I will provide the information on Palo Alto Unified School District aka PAUSD. In theory, it is possible to transfer schools since there is a "process" defined in the district office to request transfer. However, many schools -- and particularly schools with highest GPA -- are experiencing an overflow in enrollment and as a result, had lotteries to draw *out* kids from their neighborhood school boundary to be placed into other PAUSD schools. As a result, there are no guarantees that you will get placement in the school of your choice any more.

It is true with a few Elementary schools and my neighbors with high school going kids tell me it's been the case with Gunn High for past few years. A tough fact of being a Palo Alto homeowner is that your child is not guaranteed a spot for being in your own neighborhood school, therefore I would not base my property purchase decision based on that assumption at all.

My close friend tried to get a transfer for her child last year -- for a legitimate reason for her and her kid. However, she was given a lot of "attitude" at the district office, and was treated quite condescendingly. She decided to drop the ball but that should illustrate the extent to which the administration can act rude in such circumstances.
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Thu May 3, 2012
John Souerbry answered:
I work with many rentals in Palo Alto, both as a property manager and a broker.
In most areas of the city, rents have kept pace with rapidly-increasing prices for residential property. Single family homes are often rented based upon bids rather than advertised rent rates and apartment rents are approaching monthly ownership costs for condos.
The forcast for residential property values is very strong over the next 24 to 48 months due to expanding employment opportunities throughout Silicon Valley. Despite the difficult development process in the City of Palo Alto, builders are still anxious to work in town, mostly on urban infill projects for rentals and re-sale (condos and small lot single family).
See my current Trulia listing - 595 Maybell. This 2.46 acre lot is being sold for residential development and we have multiple offers at or above the $16M listing price (seller to pick an offer this week).
Palo Alto can be an excellent investment target, given the right property and purchase terms.
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Thu May 3, 2012
Juliana Lee MBA LLB answered:
Of course the top most goal of a buyer agent has to be the buyers best interests. Those best interests are best taken care of by understanding the buyer and not just listening.

Some buyers are not comfortable until they feel they themselves understand real estate prices even if the time spent can cost them money in a rising market. Many others try to understand prices in a changing market and ultimately become frustrated, leading to less thought given about what they really want.

A great buyer agent can understand the buyer and guide them on the path which is best for them. Experience is the key. But without the desire to understand buyers, experience won't give an agent the skill to make the best choices nor possibly even to know the choices available.

A good buyer agent will have all of the technical skills and desire to do the right things but a great buyer agent will also have the human skills to be a great guide.

If the buyer agent is not part of a team, the agent will also have to have great negotiating skills.

Many buyers don't think they need a guide. They think they only need to be able to see houses. Even if the negotiations are completely removed from the buyer agent, a top buyer agent will provide a lot of value to her buyers. A buyer agent is working full time year after year whereas the buyer will seldom have the time to understand the market to the same depth as the agent.
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Wed Apr 25, 2012
Elena Talis answered:
I assume you don't need schools for now... Both Palo Alto and SF are really expansive for either rent or purchase. I would rent somewhere in San Mateo or Redwood City with easy access to CalTrain. ... more
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Tue Apr 10, 2012
Elena Talis answered:
1. Move out.
2. Run home and termite inspection and fix the problems they found.
3. Paint inside and out.
4. Replace front door
5. Trim/upgrade landscaping
0 votes 4 answers Share Flag
Fri Apr 6, 2012
Elena Talis answered:
See my partner's article in Palo Alto Patch - It is definitely personal choice to buy or to rent but with current market run up, it seems that buying will fix your housing cost for the foreseeable future. ... more
0 votes 18 answers Share Flag
Wed Mar 7, 2012
Chris Schilling answered:
Tip #1
Make sure that you have "diplomatic clause". Different markets call it different things, but ultimately this is the portion of the contract that spells out clearly what the terms are for both notice and cost for you to be able to get out of your lease early. Life change jobs, win the lottery, get married, get divorced, lose a job....or need to move because your just hate the place. Whatever happens, know ahead of time what it takes for you to break your lease and how much it will cost you to do so.

Tip #2
Ask them which floor plans they have in the greatest quantity. Most apartments keep track of which units are in shorter supply and adjust their pricing upwards as demand increases. They also lower prices when they have an abundance of a particular floor plan. You can find a great deal by asking about their current inventory!

If you like my answer, give me the "Thumbs Up" if you really liked it, honor me with awarding me the "Best Answer". I really do appreciate it!

Chris Schilling, ABR, CRS, GRI, GREEN
Turbo Realty
Cell: 832-607-8073
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Wed Mar 7, 2012
Juliana Lee MBA LLB answered:
The process is similar to a normal purchase except the lender has to approve the sale.

A "short sale" is still a purchase made from the property owner. What distinguishes it is that the lender(s) is willing to lose money now rather than carry the loan longer. Perhaps the biggest issue is that the lender decides how much money he is willing to lose depending on the current offer, how the real estate market is doing, his money supply, etc. A short sale will probably take longer than a normal sale. It is not too unusual for a lender to demand more money at the last moment. You may think you have made a purchase, but after a long wait find that the lender will not approve the sale. If you pursue a short sale, be ready and willing to accept dissappointment and move on to the next opportunity.

Juliana Lee
Top 3 agent at Keller Williams nationwide
More sales completed in Palo Alto over the last 10 years than any other agent.
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Wed Mar 7, 2012
Rene' De Blanco, MBA answered:
Closing Costs! Once you factor in the prepaid items (interest, insurance, escrow account), it can become sticker shock. This is why it is best to work with a reputable DIRECT LENDER (like a credit union) that can give you the most precise scenario possible. Hope this helps.

Rene Joseph De Blanco
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Tue Mar 6, 2012
Juliana Lee MBA LLB answered:
I have to echo the importance of getting pre-approval very early in your home search. The approval process will help discover any financing issues so that you can be prepared. Many buyers have support from their family and know that they can probably borrow some money from them. Lenders are not happy to see money suddenly appear.

Think about what is important to you in a home. Be ready to ask your buyer agent about the tradeoffs. This will alert your agent how to help you search and also to make sure you haven't overlooked something important.

Next find an agent to help you even if you don't think you need one yet. Searching for a home is most successful if you are focused. An experienced agent will help you become productive very quickly. You don't want to pick a house because you are tired of looking. An agent will also help you get everything lined up so that when you've found the house you want, you know what you can offer, and there are few if any surprises. When you are buying a home you are competing with other buyers. Using the advice of your agent to be well prepared is important.

Please take a look at my web page I've referenced below. It provides an overview. I would also like to talk with you to help you have the best plan for buying your home.

Juliana Lee
Cell: 650-857-1000
Top 3 agent at Keller Williams nationwide
More Palo Alto home sales completed in the last 10 years than any other agent.
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Sat Mar 3, 2012
Tina Lam answered:
The prior definitions of different closing costs are useful. But, to address your question: you can shop for lower closing costs from individual vendors, since negotiating rates with each is rather tedious, except for your loan origination fees.

While there are "conventions" that people follow to closed deals quickly, the simple truth is that all costs are negotiable between buyer and seller. The standard real estate contract is designed to reflect that reality. Either the buyer or seller can pay all the closing costs. It's all up to you and the negotiating skills of your Realtor. Of course, for practical purposes, you may not bother to quibble about more trivial cost items like $30 recording fees and such.

If you're purchasing from a bank, however, you should expect to deal with a very inflexible seller who'll demand you pay for more of the closing costs than convention. In those cases, you just have to adjust your bid accordingly.
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Sun Feb 26, 2012
Hassan Sabbagh answered:
Your real estate agent could run CMA (Comparative Market Analysis) for property you are considering to buy.
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Sat Feb 4, 2012
John Souerbry answered:
Yes - you can build a separate living unit in Palo Alto. Look at 4197 Baker in Palo Alto (94306), on the corner of Maybell Avenue and Baker. I sold this house for the owner almost 3 years ago and the new owner tore down everything but a small garage. They built a new house and also a guest house. This lot is slightly larger than most in the neighborhood, which overcame the obstacle of the minimum set-back distance between the new structure and the property line. The three numbers that often restrict whether or not you can build a guest house in Palo Alto are the total square feet that can be built on the lot, the vertical height of the tallest part of the structure, and the set-back distance to the property line. If you can come within the limits for all of those, it's usually possible to build a second structure. ... more
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Sun Jan 29, 2012
Judi Monday, CRS answered:
I always tell them to consult an attorney/tax person etc to make sure they understand the ramifications of their vesting decision.
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Mon Jan 2, 2012
Stephen Keese answered:

Foreclosures and short sales seldom happen in Palo Alto. There are more buyers than sellers here and prices have been holding up, so financially distressed homes are scarce.

Because of the demand for houses in town there are a significant number of sales that occur off market, meaning that they are not advertised publicly. They are known as exclusive listings. Buyers find them usually through their agents who know about them in two ways: an agent who has an exclusive listing usually tells the other agents in her/his company about it and there is a new cross-company data service for exclusive listings that is open to agents only.

Listings (homes for sale) are exclusive for a couple of reasons. Sometimes the seller does not want to have a sign out front and agents bringing buyers in all the time. Most times the home is being prepared for going onto the MLS to be sold publicly. In the meantime, usually a week or two, the agent offers it for sale as an exclusive.

To find out about exclusives, choose an agent to work with you that you like. (If you are a first time home buyer, your agent's fee will be paid by the seller.)

To toot our horn, Alain Pinel Realtors is the dominant agency in Palo Alto, and we tend to have the largest number of exclusive listings in town. Unfortunately for buyers (but fortunately for sellers) that number is never big because the homes usually sell quickly.

I am helping several buyers right now find homes that are not on the market yet, exclusive or public. If you would like to find out how I do that or talk about our market or the process of finding and buying a home, give me a call. The number should be in the Contact Me box on the right.

Good luck. Palo Alto is a great town to live in and to own a home in, as you probably already know.
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Tue Dec 20, 2011
Juliana Lee MBA LLB answered:
A buyer can withdraw his offer within the contingency period without penalty. The risk of this can be avoided if the seller provides inspection reports and asks for the reports to be accepted when an offer is made. An experienced real estate agent judges both the offer and the person presenting the offer. Knowledge is an important part of any transaction. Try not to make any assumptions. Review the offer for what it says in writing. ... more
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Thu Dec 15, 2011
I have not been an agent for a couple of years as all I do is lending. I have had a couple of agents pull that one. I generally told them to take a flying leap, I did keep in mind it was usually the result of a lame real estate agent, and it did not seem fair to make they borrower suffer on t hat. I got in the habit of sending over a notice when the contingencies expired, asking them to sign something removing the contingency,
You really do not have much leverage as if you back out you lose your down payment and be subject to being sued.
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