Nestled against the base of the Santa Cruz Mountains on the west side of Santa Clara County (about an hour south of San Francisco and a few minutes from San Jose), adjacent to the town of Los Gatos, Monte Sereno is a scenic, small city which is semi-rural with neither sidewalks nor street lights. It has, in fact, the tiniest population of the 15 cities within the County, having just about 4000 residents in about 1.6 square miles. There are no businesses in town, just residences, the city office and post office, and Daves Avenue School. It is one of the most highly regarded and upscale communities in Silicon Valley.
Monte Sereno enjoys many rolling hills and green views of the coastal range, particularly El Sereno, the peak of which rises over the the city and has an elevation of 2249 feet. There is an open space preserve there now, with 1415 acres and 7.4 miles of trails. Please see the El Sereno Open Space Preserve website for information on parking, trail maps, equestrian trails, and more. As you might imagine, the city is named for this mountain: monte – mountain, sereno – serene, calm or pleasant. And it is a pretty calm place to be.
Monte Sereno shares schools, police, parks and the library with the town of Los Gatos, so they have much in common.
Monte Sereno Zip Codes
Monte Sereno Public Schools
The Silicon Valley real estate market is very much in the buyer’s favor right now; in Los Gatos, San Jose, Saratoga, Campbell and elsewhere in Santa Clara County, most homes are not sellingat all or only selling after a long time on the market and with several painful price reductions. Prices are falling, year over year, in most of the valley – Monte Sereno appears to be the only possible exception.
In Los Gatos, there are 248 houses and condos currently for sale. In the last month in 95032 and 95030, 21 houses and condos have closed escrow and 23 have gone sale pending in the same timeframe. So the percentage of homes selling is a little under 10%.
The question to ask yourself, if you want to sell your home right now, is “what does it take to sell my Silicon Valley home in today’s market?” You might also ask “how can I get the most money for my home in this market?” What will it take to sell fast and for the best price this market will bear when only ten percent of listed homes are selling in Los Gatos? (It is worse in many other parts of the valley.)
1. Begin By Understanding Market Conditions and Pricing Realities for Your Neighborhood
To maximize your position, it is imperative to begin by understanding today’s Silicon Valley real estate market and the real estate market in your home’s neighborhood. For years we have experienced a seller’s market in which every time a home sold, everyone else’s home rose in value. We could price a little high and the market would catch up sooner or later. But not now.
Now, instead, prices are declining and one of the most important things for Los Gatos home sellers to understand is that they need to get ahead of the curve in pricing and be swift to adjust to changing conditions. (Cyberhomes.com puts the Los Gatos 95030 zip code as having lost 5% since last month and 95032 as having lost 3% since last month.)
Two kinds of homes seem to be selling now: completely remodeled homes which are priced well, or homes needing updating and remodeling that are priced at rock-bottom numbers, possibly even below current market value. Average homes with average prices are not selling. Homes priced in the bottom 10-20% are selling. These are the “shiny pennies”. They are the homes in which owners understand that “it’s a beauty contest and a price war”.
There are several places online where you can get real estate market trends in Silicon Valley as well as home values calculated online. These are automatically generated and do not involve an agent’s input. Among them are these:
Silicon Valley Real Estate Report – Recent Listing & Sales Activity (view by map, no registration)
Because precise home valuations involve things that online estimators can’t factor in (like school district, the presence of power lines, proximity to positive or negative things), your best bet will be to talk with a knowledgeable and experienced Realtor, who will factor in current market conditions for your exact neighborhood and type of home (historic, view property, etc.).
2. Clean, Declutter, and Stage Your Silicon Valley Home to Sell
Buyers respond most favorably to homes in which they can see themselves. Too many of your personal effects and it’s hard for them to see themselves living there. Getting your home sold today requires depersonalizing “your home” and making attractive and easy for buyers to see as “their home”.
Most of us live in a somewhat cluttered way in our homes and yards, and thinning out the extra stuff that won’t help to sell your home can be difficult both physically and emotionally. If you hire a good agent early on, he or she will assist you in knowing what is best to keep out and what’s best to remove for selling.
Also during this stage, you’ll want to get your home and garden into good shape, whether it’s sprinklers that aren’t working or windows that won’t open. Clean and fix!
Sometimes getting through this stage can be overwhelming. Perhaps you’d like a hand? A resource I have used many times is “At Your Service“, a concierge service at no cost to you. Karin Doll-Nichols runs this helpful company and she can hook you up with a handyman, a landscape person, someone to assist you in downsizing, you name it. My experiences with At Your Service have been very positive, and the prices are competitive too.
(For more information on this topic, please read Staging Your Silicon Valley Home, an article on my main website.)
3. Pre-Sale Inspections Are The Norm in the West Valley Communities of Silicon Valley
If you are serious about selling you home in Los Gatos or anywhere in Silicon Valley, it’s important to also do pre-sale inspections. Depending on what type of home you have (condo, townhome, single family home or large estate), you could need anywhere from two inspections to perhaps a half dozen of them. Most sellers will need to have a pest (or termite) inspection and a home (or property) inspection. (For more information on inspections, please see my post on another blogsite of mine, What Kinds of Inspections and Reports Are Needed For Buying and Selling Homes in Silicon Valley? )
Home inspections often uncover surprises and having pre-sale inspections will enable you to repair or replace defective items, or if they are items you do not want to fix, at least give you the knowledge to counter defects out of any offers that come in. My suggestion is to allow a couple of extra weeks, at least, to do any unplanned repairs prior to the home going on the market. Buyers today are picky but they will write stronger offers if they know the condition of the home they want to buy, and stronger offers still if they feel that any issues are already resolved.
The quality of inspectors you hire can impact your transaction greatly, so I strongly advise that you hire your agent first and get recommendations on good inspectors prior to getting an inspector involved. Good Realtors know many inspectors by reputation or through past dealings and can assist you in hiring those who are reputable, honest, and fair.
Finally. . .
It will be helpful to view things with the buyers perspective to understand what makes them choose one home and leave nine others behind. As a seller, view your property as being in competition with the rest of the homes. Ask yourself which home would you choose? Which one is the best value?
There are many important issues to tackle in order to not just sell your home, but to sell it for top dollar in the current market. Today we’ve addressed the initial areas only – this is just the starting point! Perhaps the best thing you can do is get educated about the process and then hire well. There are hundreds of agents in close proximity so there’s no shortage of choice. You can afford to take your time and be picky about selecting an agent who is knowledgeable, experienced, accessible and who will represent you well every step of the way.
If you would like to discuss selling your Silicon Valley home, please call or email me for a free, no cost, one hour consultation. My book, “Get the Best Deal When Selling Your Home in Silcon Valley“, is my gift to you when you meet with me. It’s a highly helpful resource that can get you started in selling your home.