Interior floods in the home

Most of the time, when we think of floods, we imagine a natural disaster, and that the people impacted live in a 100 year flood plain.  On the east coast, basements are the part of the home usually impacted by floods.  Interior floods in the home can happen to anyone with plumbing, though. Today I want to share what happened to us in mid December 2012 and hope it can help others to avoid our experience.

Interior floods in the home – our story (late 2012)

A few years back we had a large amount of water intrusion due to a refrigerator water line that broke. One surprise lead to another.

First, the apparent cause may have been a different plumbing issue: dissimilar metals, copper and galvanized steel, not properly separated. It was on one of the to-do lists that just didn’t get done fast enough. We see things like that on home inspection reports and don’t always understand the risks.

I first discovered the water on December 9th, 2012, when I noticed that our dining room’s carpeting didn’t look quite right – and found it damp.  My initial thought was that our elderly dog had had an accident, but there was far too much liquid and it all seemed to be up against the wall backing to the kitchen, so it didn’t take long to realize that the pooch was not to blame.

The first job was finding what was wet so that it could be dried out ASAP, before mold got a foothold. The dining room was carpeted, so it was easy to simply pull the carpet back and check the underlayment.  (In this image, the kitchen is to the left, and the pantry and half bath are behind the wall straight ahead.) I  had a lot of calls to make to flood remediation companies, to our insurance company, etc. I was concerned about mold as I’d taken a 3 hour class in that subject at a real estate conference, so I wanted the leak stopped and the water removed immediately.

 

 

Damage from the flood in our dining room
The dining room at my house, which backs to the kitchen wall where the refrigerator water line leaked. The damage was not fully apparent until the carpet was pulled back.

 

Interior floods in the home built pre-1978

Back to that first task of figuring out what was wet – the dining room was easy due to carpet. The kitchen and other nearby areas were a different story.

Read moreInterior floods in the home

The Monte Sereno real estate market

Elm Park in Monte Sereno, sold by Mary Pope-Handy
Ranch style home on Elm Park in Monte Sereno, sold by Mary Pope-Handy

The City of Monte Sereno is quite small, with just about 4,000 residents, so the number of houses sold in any given month will always be extremely small.

For that reason, the data may appear to jump around wildly compared to Los Gatos or Saratoga, which each have about 30,000 people living there. Please take all the stats with a tablespoon of salt, and be sure to view the Los Gatos housing market data to get a more accurate picture of what’s happening with Monte Sereno homes (just add a little to the price tag as homes there tend to sell for a bit more than LG properties).

Also, there are only single family, detached houses in Monte Sereno: no apartments, multi unit housing (2 – 4 plex), no duet homes (attached single family homes). That will be changing soon, however, as the old La Hacienda property (formerly an estate, then a hotel and restaurant) at Hwy 9 and Austin Way will become incorporated into Monte Sereno and condos or townhomes built there.

First up for the market analysis is the Altos Research weekly profile for Monte Sereno (uses list prices, not sales):

 

 

This chart shows a slight seller’s advantage in the market, which is consistent with the rest of the area.

Below is the Monte Sereno Real Estate Report (click to view the complete Real Estate Report).

Read moreThe Monte Sereno real estate market

Los Gatos real estate statistics and market trends

Los Gatos real estate market graphic with home near downtownThe Los Gatos real estate market had been cooling down, but activity levels have remained up noticeably. At office meetings and with friends in the industry I still hear many stories of multiple offers and overbids. In one case, a property I was watching (near but not in LG) sold for 16% over list price. Many are surprised by the surge in buyer interest, which appears to be strongest in the lowest priced homes which are in good locations and in excellent condition (meaning recently and thoroughly remodeled).

Market upticks in December?

Throughout Santa Clara County and San Mateo County, pending sales increased dramatically in November, and the ratio between active listings and pending sales narrowed. When this happens, meaning that the absorption rate increases, prices often rise. It’s a simple case of supply and demand. Typically, supply shrinks in fall, but demand does not always shrink as much as supply. Hence, selling in autumn can be good in that the odds of selling increase. That’s good for sellers. For buyers, it may be tougher to buy due to limited choices, but prices often are a little softer in the late months of the year than they are in spring. Bottom line: if you need to buy or sell, it can happen in the last quarter of the year. Buyers cannot be too picky, though, as selection is limited. (See similar data for the Santa Clara County real estate market on the Valley of Heart’s Delight blog.)

What is selling best in LG right now?

Of the 25 closed single family home sales in December, 12 closed under $2 million (the lowest was a FHA property at $655K, with the next smallest double that at almost $1.29 mil), 9 were between $2 and $3 million, 2 between $3 and $4 mil, 1 between $4 and $5 mil, and 1 over $5 mil (and that one was close to $7 mil).  The high end price point tends to be at around $3,000,000 and up for this part of Santa Clara County. The vast majority of what sold would not be considered luxury properties, even though in most areas of the U.S. these would be luxury price tags.

For the houses under $3 mil, the average days on market was 66, the average list price was $1,923,066 and the average sale price less at $1,909,095. For those transactions, the average living space square footage was 2,185 SF and average lot size 22,150 SF.

 

Los Gatos Trends at a Glance for 95030 & 95032

Next, data from the RE Report for Los Gatos (“in town”), in the Los Gatos Mountains, and for Los Gatos condos (only in town, none in the mountain communities). Below that will be live Altos Research charts, updated automatically each week. Altos uses list prices, not sold prices.

The numbers below analyze data gathered during the first week of each month and cover real estate statistics from the month prior in Los Gatos 95030 & 95032 (all areas / school districts), or MLS “area 16”. See the full RE Report here.

 

Trends At a Glance Dec 2019 Previous Month Year-over-Year
Median Price $2,050,000 (-22.3%) $2,637,500 $2,500,000 (-18.0%)
Average Price $2,532,810 (-6.3%) $2,703,620 $2,818,350 (-10.1%)
No. of Sales 27 (+12.5%) 24 17 (+58.8%)
Pending 15 (-58.3%) 36 22 (-31.8%)
Active 27 (-28.9%) 38 33 (-18.2%)
Sale vs. List Price 98.7% (+1.1%) 97.6% 100.5% (-1.7%)
Days on Market 44 (-5.3%) 46 44 (+0.1%)
Days of Inventory 30 (-34.7%) 46 58 (-48.5%)

 

Prices are down both year over year and month over month, but that doesn’t mean the market’s cooling. The number of sales are up from last month and last year, active listings are shrinking, and both the Days on Market and the Sales vs List Price ratio are heating up a hair since last month. Turnaround is quick and it’s an active market, but it’s still only a mild seller’s market.

 

Read moreLos Gatos real estate statistics and market trends

Blossom Hill Manor Real Estate Market

Map of the Blossom Hill Manor neighborhood of Los Gatos (east Los Gatos)

The Blossom Hill Manor (aka “the Manor” or “Blossom Manor”) is a highly sought after neighborhood with its close proximity to the well regarded Los Gatos schools, parks, shops, grocery stores and major transit routes.  Homes there are nicely maintained, many streets are tree-lined and there’s a good amount of community spirit and involvement in this close-in, walkable area. Explore the area more using my Google Map of Blossom Manor, or take a video drive-through of the neighborhood at my other post, The Blossom Manor neighborhood of Los Gatos.

In this posting, we’ll discuss the Blossom Manor real estate market. The real estate market in Los Gatos has been on fire like the rest of the Bay Area over the last few years, but there’s a great deal of variation from one area, price point, school district, age and condition of home to the next.  As you can imagine, the “fixer” market is very different from the luxury market.

So far in 2019, there have been 15 closed sales in The Manor. A few quick stats on those sales:

  • Average list price $2,150,343
  • Average sale price $2,207,518 (103% of list price)
  • Median sale price $2,060,000
  • Least expensive list price $1,589,000
  • Lease expensive sale price $1,775,000
  • Most expensive list price $2,749,000
  • Most expensive sale price $2,790,000
  • Average price per SF $1,114.61
  • Average days on market 16
  • Average living space 2046 SF
  • Average lot size 9,431 SF
  • Average age of the home 61 years

Of these 15 sales, 9 were over list price, 1 was exactly at list price (an off market sale – the only one not exposed publicly before selling), and the rest sold under list price. 

Read moreBlossom Hill Manor Real Estate Market

Los Gatos real estate market trends by price point and high school district

There are many factors impacting the Los Gatos real estate market, including the price point and the elementary or high school district. This post is updated every month or two. Today we’ll look at the Los Gatos realty market by pricing tiers and high school district using the months of inventory as a data point. The months of inventory, or MOI, is the currently active (for sale, no contract or pending sale) homes for sale divided by the number of homes using the same criteria which have closed escrow in the last 30 days.

These numbers were run today using MLSListings.com and it’s possible that a few more homes will be recorded as closed sales or new homes added to the market after I ran these numbers. One other disclaimer: sometimes the number of closed sales is very low or is at 0. This can be for many reasons. In some cases, there are a few which are sale pending and simply haven’t closed recently. In other cases, the market might actually be empty in those tiers, indicating a possible lack of demand or inventory. That being said, what do the numbers say?

Los Gatos real estate months of inventory in 95030 and 95032 combined

The overall MOI for the town as a whole with 95030 and 95032 zip codes shows a mild seller’s market, with post-summer cooling likely in what is a typical seasonal pattern. It is a bit of a mixed market when looking at the town as a whole, but less so when viewed by high school district or price point. We’ll see when the month is over, but already in many parts of Santa Clara County, the real estate market is returning to seasonal patterns with some cool pockets and some which remain hotter.

 

 

And here’s the same chart with data from last February. You can see that in mid-winter the inventory was smaller and moving slightly slower.

 

2019-2-12 Los Gatos Months of Inventory 1 - 95030 95032

 

Looking back farther, here’s the same info for last November – the overall absorption rate isn’t much different from right now, and inventory and sales are neck-and-neck. Almost exactly a year ago, the market doesn’t look too different.

 

Los Gatos 95030 and 95032

 

And a reference from April, when the market was red hot:

 

 

The real estate market for homes with the Los Gatos – Saratoga Joint Union High School District only

Now let’s view just the homes which are in the Los Gatos – Saratoga Joint Union High School District (or homes “in the schools” as locals say).Houses for sale with Los Gatos schools tend to be more pricey than those in neighboring school districts. This isn’t just the schools, but is also a function of being closer to downtown Los Gatos. The lowest priced homes in this area are seldom listed for less than $1 million.

 

 

Once again, we’ll compare it against last February. While the overall market is moving faster today than in February, here we can see that for homes in the Los Gatos School District were moving more quickly in winter. While the number of sales hasn’t changed much, inventory has gone up in this sector.

 

2019-2-12 Los Gatos Months of Inventory 2 - LGSUHSD

 

From last November, again, not a ton different between then and now.

 

Los Gatos 95030 95032 LG Schools

Read moreLos Gatos real estate market trends by price point and high school district

Determining Probable Market Value of a Property

What's My Home WorthThinking of selling your home? One of the first questions a potential home seller has is this: “what’s my home worth?

Real estate professionals will establish the probable buyer value (do a market analysis) by comparing your home to others like it which have sold recently and perhaps also those which are currently under contract (sale pending). These similar homes are called comps (for comparable listing, pending, or sale). They factor in market conditions as well (buyers market, sellers market, inventory shortage or excess).

What is an ideal “comp”? It is a sold home that is:

  • recent (within at least 6 months, but preferably 3, similar market conditions)
  • nearby (same zip code/town, within a mile is best, same schools, within same complex or subdivision is ideal)
  • similar type of location (interior lots vs one backing to a freeway, school, high voltage lines)
  • like condition (similar amount of updating/remodeling)
  • if the subject property has an added family room, the best comp would also have an added family room (original square footage usually sells for more on a price per SF basis than added living space, and additions made without permits and finals are worth less than square footage with permits / finals)

In a tract subdivision or condo complex with many recent sales, this can be easy. If the subject property is very similar to several recently closed sales except for either the level of improvements or the lack of them, an adjustment would be made only for the condition. In my experience, the same tract house may have a range of 10% – 15% of value between completely original and not well maintained to thoroughly remodeled with high quality appliances and upgrades. (Most homes are somewhat updated. Few are either entirely or original, or even more rare, completely run down.)

Let’s do an example of a tract home in which there are several sales nearby of the same floor plan in recent months. And let’s say that a typical home there, somewhat updated, sells for $1,000,000 just to use a round number. The numbers could break down along these lines:

  • typical sale, moderately updated $1,000,000
  • same floor plan, mostly original condition $900,000 – $950,000 “depending” (very original to run down could go lower, depending on market conditions)
  • same floor plan, remodeled, turnkey $1,050,000 – $1,100,000 “depending” (“stunning remodel” could go higher depending on market conditions)

The range of values is often 10% on the same street, but it could be as much as 15% or 20% or more if you have a difference of more than just condition (lot size, precise location, view, a change in market conditions between one sale and the other). As an example, if all the comparable properties were “all original” and your home is “somewhat updated”, it’s likely that your home will sell for 5% more than the others did because of your updates. The range between “all original” and “stunning remodel” is not usually more than 20%.

It is much, much more difficult to establish market value for a home when there are no good comps. Sometimes the property being evaluated is extremely different from those sold recently & nearby.To establish a probable market value, it again will be a matter of adjustments, but when there are no good comps, a lot of adjustments must be made. Real estate professionals will adjust up and down for condition, location, the market’s behavior etc.

Read moreDetermining Probable Market Value of a Property

What is an Easement and Why Should You Care?

What is an easement?What is an easement? In a nutshell, it is the right to use someone else’s property for a particular purpose.

Common types of easements

The most common types of easements in Silicon Valley are ones we can’t easily escape: they are for power, water, perhaps phone lines. The utility companies have a right to go onto your land to get to the power or telephone lines in your backyard. They have a right to go there and do not need your permission, generally speaking, if the need arises.  Pacific Gas & Electric can trim the trees under the power lines with or without your permission, but they will notify you that they are doing it.

Unless it’s an emergency, the utility companies don’t go on your property without advance notice.

For the owners of townhouses held in PUD ownership (not condo), the land on which the townhouse sits is owned and not just the airspace inside the unit. If there are private driveways to get to the home, normally that access is via an easement that the townhome owner has over the other parcel (the private driveway).

Less common easements

Easements can be given by the landowner to the person or organization that wants to use it too. This can be done for charitable reasons (such as access to a park being donated) or for a private road or driveway to a parcel that needs to be able to come and go over that road (often for payment of cash).  F

For instance, the right to use a driveway or private road from one parcel to access another might be a great convenience to the person who wants the easement (it might be a much shorter route home than another alternative, or it may be the only possible access to that land).  The Santa Cruz Mountains and the hilly areas of Los Gatos and Monte Sereno have many areas where this type of easement is in use. With shared driveways or private roads, there is normally a private road agreement in place to spell out how repairs are paid for and by what percentage. Some communities collect money annually to fund these driveways or roads, and others do not.

As a charitable example, an easement might be granted by a property owner to the general public to have a shortcut to a park or trail. In this case, the landowner might close the access off once a year and also post a “right to pass by permission” type of notice so that this easement is as a temporary gift and not a permanent loss of rights of the landowner. (An interruption in the use of the easement to make sure it’s still voluntarily given and not taken as a permanent right.)

In my career, I’ve seen odd easements. The strangest one was allowing a neighbor to place an above ground pool on the next door neighbor’s property.

How to learn about recorded easements

When buying or selling a home, easements will be listed on the preliminary title report. Normally these are simply the utility easements. Not every easement is recorded, though, so do not rely on the preliminary title report for assurance that there are no easements. Home or landowners must pay attention to the use of the land and be aware of any risk of the formation of prescriptive easements.  Home buyers should check the land too and see if it appears that the property is being used by others.

Some title companies will automatically provide a color coded easement map. If you feel you aren’t sure about your home’s easement situation, you can request this. With complicated easements, it can be a big help to get a general sense of where the easements are located. Below is part of a color coded easement map – there would also be a “key” telling you which color is for what type of easement.

 

Color coded easement map

Prescriptive easements

Village Lane Los Gatos: Permission to pass is hereby granted at the option of the property owner
Seen on Village Lane, Los Gatos, an effort to prevent a prescriptive easement from being formed.

A “prescriptive easement” is one that happens by accident as far as the landowner is concerned. In this case, others openly and notoriously used the property owner’s land without interruption (as a shortcut, a driveway, etc.) for a period of years without the owner objecting or preventing that use. Eventually, the right to use the land for those purposes can become permanent. To form a prescriptive easement, the use must be open, notorious, for a period of years, and uninterrupted.

Near Village Lane in Los Gatos, there are some shops that sit along a walkway between Village Lane and the public parking lot (in the old train line area). The owner of the shopping center has placed a plaque in the aggregate walkway to make sure that the visitors know that this access is by permission (intending that it can be revoked at any time).  This is important to keep the future use of that land in the owner’s hands. Imagine if in the years to come these owners wanted to tear down the current buildings and put in one large two or three story building with no walkway between Village Lane and the parking lot. Could the public object to the removed access? Perhaps. Will the notice in the ground prevent that from happening? That is up to the attorneys and judges to decide.

To give another example of trying to prevent a prescriptive easement, there were two homes in Cambrian Park with fences and gates – we’ll call them lots A and B.  The the fence for Lot A extended further toward the street than that of Lot B. And the gate for Lot A opened not onto its own front yard, but onto the front yard of Lot B. (The gate was at a 90 degree angle to where it should have been.)

If the homeowner of Lot B did not object, but allowed the folks in Lot A to go through their gate and onto the land of Lot B for a period of time, it would become a prescriptive easement.

What to do? The only thing to do to prevent the prescriptive easement being formed is to object and to request (insist upon) the gate being removed or rebuilt such that no one had to cross onto Lot B anymore. Hopefully that would not require legal action. But to allow someone to cross your property without objection for a period of years is to invite the formation of a permanent prescriptive easement.

Could anything be worse for a homeowner than a prescriptive easement?

Yes.

Adverse possession.

What is adverse possession?

Adverse possession happens when a prescriptive easement is in place AND the person trying to gain access of the land permanently also pays the property tax for that parcel for a period of years. It is a legal way to take someone else’s property in California.