June 26, 2009
The real estate market in the high-end communities of Los Gatos, Monte Sereno, and Saratoga has not been as hard-hit on pricing as in the entry level and more affordable areas like Blossom Valley and Cambrian Park, but not nearly as many homes are selling in these areas for that reason. Areas with huge (30-40%) price drops are seeing first time home buyers and investors swoop down, some paying “all cash” to get in on the fire sale pricing. That is just not happening in the tonier neighborhoods of Silicon Valley.
The west valley foothill communities aren’t at these kinds of price drops, but if you’re a home seller, you certainly aren’t feeling like the real estate market is doing you any favors. Prices are down in varying degrees, but overall it is a “rollback” in sales prices of several years and the discount is perhaps 20-30% from the peak for most homes (worse for the luxury home market).
The charts below are from Altos Research (with whom I have a subscription) and prices are LIST prices, not sales prices. The black line represents Los Gatos, green is Saratoga, and orange Monte Sereno, and the timeframe for all charts below is the last 12 months. Properties are single family homes only (houses, not condos or townhomes).
Monte Sereno tends to have the most expensive homes generally of the three communities, and this small city has been hit the worst with price drops because higher priced homes generally have had the biggest damage done to pricing, and more affordable homes have been less hurt by the price cuts.
Again, Monte Sereno has the biggest struggle with the longest days on the market. Saratoga is experiencing a better market. This does not surprise me because I have some homebuyers for that city and we are having a hard time finding much that’s within their budget and meets their needs. In Los Gatos, where I also have buyers (different from Saratoga), we are finding a lot of homes are still priced too high for the market, so the buyers continue to wait.
The relisted homes chart is a reflection of how many sellers were unsuccessful the first time around, but the owners really do want or need to sell, so they get the house back on the market. Sometimes it’s with a new coat of paint and far better staging, sometimes a much better price, sometimes a new agent and brokerage – or maybe all three.
Inventory levels are climbing in all three of these expensive Santa Clara County areas. Buyers are having a hard time in most cases because if they’re moving up, it’s difficult to sell the home they already own due to negative equity and it’s also very difficult to get a loan for high end real estate. If sellers can offer financing, that could be very helpful to a lot of buyers (get professional assistance from your Realtor, CPA and attorney before attempting this, though).
Most often, when a home doesn’t sell, it’s the pricing that is incorrect for the market, though condition (and staging) can have a big impact too. While a few buyers may be willing to pay “top dollar” for a home in average or worse condition, the majority of home buyers will not. Pricing & condition need to be aimed at the bulk of likely purchasers of the property, not the unlikely, rare homebuyer. In this market, when most homes are not selling in Los Gatos, Monte Sereno and Saratoga, that means staging and pricing aggressively. If there’s a “better deal” than your home, that’s the one the buyer will choose. In this market, the lowest price and best condition “wins” with a sale.
There are things you can do to increase the odds your home will sell and even make your home sell for more:
- get the home cleaned, cleared of clutter, and nicely staged (get help and professional advice on this)
- make the front yard appealing with colorful annuals, nicely trimmed bushes, and a healthy green lawn – if the front yard looks bad, the buyers will not even get out of their car to see inside your home
- make the home easy to show, use a lockbox, do NOT make showings appointment only through the listing agent or yourself
- when the home is being viewed by potential buyers, do not be home – your presence will make the buyers uneasy and unable to speak frankly about the house
- price your home in the lowest 20% of available homes that are similar to yours – all the marketing in the world cannot sell an overpriced home
While the majority of homes are “sitting” and not selling, the best properties are actually selling quite fast. So if something comes on the market that interests you, don’t wait. It may not be there on the weekend for the scheduled open house!
Today’s post is general in nature for each of the towns discussed. The market will vary from one price point to the next, one school district to the next etc. Please contact me for assistance with your own particular situation.
Some homes have been on the market and sellers won’t reduce the listing price but may entertain an offer significantly lower that the list price. So have your agent inquire or just “write it up” if you like a home.