A resource for folks living in or moving to Los Gatos, by Mary Pope-Handy

Silicon Valley

Snapshot of Short Sale Listings in Silicon Valley – Updated

April 15, 2008


Why do short sales matter so much? In a nutshell, “Silicon Valley short sales” are a precursor of real estate price drops. That is, where you find a lot of short sales, you will see “downward pressure” on pricing. Where you see few or no short sales, you will not find this same pressure.

Most short sales do NOT sell before going to foreclosure. There’s a lot of hype about buying your first home in San Jose as a short sale to save money, but there’s no savings if you wait three months and the lender never approves the deal. (Or just as bad, the lender waits so long to say yes that the home is no longer worth what you offered on it.)

Below please find a list of homes being marketed as short sales in Silicon Valley.

What trends do YOU see?

 

Active Listings of Short Sale Single Family Homes, Condos, Townhouses
3/26/2008 4/8/2008 4/15/2008
Los Gatos 5 8 9
Monte Sereno 1 0 0
Saratoga 0 0 1
Los Gatos Mtns 3 2 3
Cambrian Park 59 73 53
Santa Clara 56 68 59
Campbell 13 23 28
Cupertino 1 3 2
Los Altos 0 1 1
Sunnyvale 50 69 54
Blossom Valley 196 251 200
San Jose (all) 1534 1882 1667

Want to Sell Your Silicon Valley Home?Biggest Homeseller Mistakes to Avoid

February 09, 2008

 

What are the odds that a home in Silicon Valley
will sell right now?


liveinlosgatos binocs - Want to Sell Your Silicon Valley Home?Biggest Homeseller Mistakes to AvoidMost of the homes for sale in Los Gatos, San Jose, or anywhere in Silicon Valley are not going to sell this month. In Los Gatos, there’s about a 20% chance than any given home will sell. In San Jose generally, it’s a lot worse than that – it’s about a 13% chance that a home will sell. Here’s a quick look at the numbers for these two areas of Santa Clara County:

Los Gatos Single Family Homes (95030, 95032 zip codes)
Active Listings (For Sale) = 118
Pending Sales (Under Contract) = 23
Closed in Last Month = 18
Months of inventory = 6.5

San Jose Single Family Homes (all areas)
Active Listings (For Sale) = 2921
Pending Sales (Under Contract) = 405
Closed in Last Month = 196
Months of inventory = 14.9

The months of inventory, or absorption rate, is a simple calculation of the number of active listings divided by the number of closed sales in the last month. For Los Gatos, that figure is 6.5 months. For San Jose, it’s a whopping 14.9 months. (The National Assn. of Realtors says that at 6 months or more, it’s a buyers market.)

What is also good to measure, though, is the pending sales against the listing volume. In Los Gatos, you can see that the number of pendings is a little higher than the number of closeds. But in San Jose, it’s more than double! This tells us that the market IS improving. But it’s far from being an easy time to sell. Depending on your area and price point, there’s an 80-90% chance that your home would not sell this month.

 

How Can A Seller Improve the Odds
of a Home Selling Now?

Prospective Los Gatos, Saratoga, and west valley sellers – what can you do to improve your chances of selling?

Here’s a short list of the most common seller mistakes, things NOT to do:

liveinlosgatos dice - Want to Sell Your Silicon Valley Home?Biggest Homeseller Mistakes to Avoid(1) Hiring an agent based on the list price he or she suggests (going with the highest number) is the biggest and perhaps most common error. A better practice: interview agents, hire someone, and then together work to establish the probable buyer’s value of the home and work out a pricing strategy from there. It’s fine to discuss pricing with the agents you interview, but do not choose your agent based on pricing, but rather on references, marketing, negotiation ability, experience, and other criteria.

(2) Related to #1 above, a common mistake among sellers is pressuring your agent to tell you what you want to hear rather than what you need to hear. Some sellers believe that if they “sell” the agent on the higher value of their home, or the current condition (which might need some changes to net you the most money), the house will sell for more, and sometimes homeowners actually push agents to state their estimated value higher than is realistic. One key job the real estate professional has is to provide you with objective input on your home, both at the time the listing is signed and as the feedback comes in and the market conditions possibly change. Ultimately, only you can assign the list price on your home. Allow your agent to provide you with objective input so that you can make a good decision.

Put another way, sellers often have an inflated view of what their own home is worth on the market (this is true of agents selling their own homes, by the way). And sellers take it personally when they believe a home is worth 10% more than the agent is telling them it’s likely worth. Sellers frequently feel as though the lower price is insulting, and a response spoken or unspoken may be “I’m not going to give away my home”. Agents occassionally do underprice a home, but 98% of the time, if there’s a pricing error, it’s on the high side.

Please remember that your agent is not the buyer on your home, and you are not negotiating a sales price with your agent. You are not on opposing sides of the table. When you hire a Realtor, you are a team and you share the same goal: getting your home sold in today’s market.

liveinlosgatos computer screen - Want to Sell Your Silicon Valley Home?Biggest Homeseller Mistakes to Avoid(3) Another common error among sellers is simply this: not believing that the market data applies to their home. If the market has corrected X% in the last timeframe, and all the other homes in the area have gone down in sales price, it’s also true that your home has gone down in value in the buyers’ eyes. Home prices or values are not a lot different than those of shares in the stock market. What a share of stock sold for yesterday or last year is interesting information, but it may be totally irrelevant to what that same share will sell for today. Holding on to what the home “used to be worth” is not going to assist you in getting your home into the minority pool of homes that are selling now.

(4) And finally, a very frequently seen seller mistake that causes homes not to sell is in not utilizing their agent’s skills (on pricing of course but also staging, garnering feedback, analyzing the market, etc.).

For example, often Realtors have extra training and experience in staging. Agents know that fresh paint and carpet often will get the seller the most return on the investment, and so will decluttering. Sometimes more is needed in this area too. But sellers don’t always want to hear it. The ultimate sales price of the home is tied to a number of factors, including how well it shows to potential buyers.

HomeFeedback.com is a great system for receiving buyer feedback after showings.Another area to watch out for is feedback. If your Realtor tells you that there’s a problem with the way buyers assess your home (pet odors, cooking or smoking odors, clutter or other issues), take it seriously. You will improve your odds by taking the feedback as useful input (and not as an assault). A great system that I use is HomeFeedback.com; the seller can get both individual responses and compiled statistics of the feedback. Sometimes, sellers take it personally and get upset at their agent for the information offered, even via this type of buyer response. This makes it hard to hear what you need to hear.

 

Put another way, what you CAN and SHOULD do to sell your home in today’s market:

Hire carefully! (Most agents in the Santa Clara Valley have been licensed less than 5 years and have not been through a market like this. Experience is very important. Check references and be very careful here as it is your single most important decision.) Make sure it’s a full marketing plan, using both web and traditional forms of marketing.

Price carefully and realistically! With the vast majority of homes not selling, it is important to not overprice. This is not the market for “trying a price”. Price it to sell. Price it to be the best value among similar homes.

Stage it! Listen to your agent.

Take feedback seriously. Estimating prices and what needs to be offered to buyers in the way of condition, concessions or other thin
gs in falling markets can be tough. Ask your agent for feedback and take it to heart. Sometimes market conditions are a “moving target” and may require readjusting.

To sell your home in this challenging market for the most money and in the fastest time, the home needs to look great and be priced well and be accessible. Recently I was at a real estate educational seminar and it was put this way: “we’re in a beauty contest and a price war”.

And lastly, only put your home on the market if you are serious about selling. It’s a great time to buy a home in Silicon Valley, but it’s not necessarily an ideal time to sell! Rick Campbell, author of The Real Estate Report, opines that we may be “at or near the bottom of the market”. Of course, if you are “moving up”, the overall is most likely a plus even if you take a hit on the sell side of the equation. So sellers, if you want or need to sell now, make sure that you position your home so that it’s not just listed, it’s sold.

Mary

P.S. Buyers, don’t wait. This is about as good as it gets!

Mary Pope-Handy, Realtor, CRS, ABR, e-PRO, SRES, ASP, RECS, CNHS, ACRE
Helping Nice Folks to Buy & Sell Homes Since 1993
Co-Author: “Get The Best Deal When Selling Your Home In Silicon Valley”
408 204 7673
www.DelightHomes.com www.ValleyOfHeartsDelight.com
emailto: Mary@PopeHandy.com
Blog: www.LiveInLosGatos.com

The Los Gatos Real Estate Market:It Isn't So Bad

January 21, 2008

Tired of hearing the doom and gloom regarding the real esate market? Most of that negative press is national news, not local news. Truly, it doesn’t impact home values in Los Gatos if prices are falling in parts of Florida, Vegas, or even in Sacramento. The local market – our town plus neighboring communities here in Silicon Valley – is the crucial one.

Things are just not that bad for home sales in Los Gatos overall.

That said, “the market” consists of several sub-markets. It’s one thing if you are trying to sell a very expensive home with an unpopular architectural style. It’s another if you’re marketing a modest or at least non-extravagent home in a good location with great schools. Still another if you have a view property…or a lot that could be split. And no matter what, overpriced just won’t work.

A view of the big picture in the Los Gatos real estate market reveals that 2006 was a lot tougher on sellers (and folks watching their equity) than 2007 was. The first three quarters of 2007 were remarkably good for single family homes, in fact. Have a look at the “months of inventory” or “absorption rate” by month for last year for single family homes. (As a point of reference, the National Association of Realtors says that less than 6 months of inventory is a sellers market.)

Absorption rate for single family homes in Los Gatos (95032, 95030) in 2007

For the condo and townhome market, it was even stronger. Once again, it was a little more challenging late in the year (not an unusual pattern for any year).

Absorption rate or months of inventory for the condo and townhouse real estate market in Los Gatos for 2007 (95030, 95032)

What about now? How is the inventory of homes in Los Gatos right now?

About one house in four is selling in this area overall. That’s pretty much the case in Los Gatos, Saratoga, and Cambrian Park. In Los Gatos there are 97 single family homes available and 27 sale pending (in Saratoga it’s 61 and 17, and in Cambrian Park it’s 140 and 34).

The condo market, which was much stronger throughout 2007 than the single family market, is now cooler than the single family home market in town. As of today, January 21st, there are 26 townhouses or condominiums for sale and just 2 under contract or sale pending. (So instead of a 1 in 4 chance of selling, it’s closer to 1 in 10.) In Saratoga it’s a little better with 10 available and 3 pending. In Cambrian there are 41 “class 2” (condo/townhome) on the market and 7 which are pending sales.

Every market presents an opportunity for buyers or sellers. Where’s the best real estate opportunity in Los Gatos now?

Late in 2007, it appeared to be an ideal time to be a “move up buyer” – to sell that townhouse and to buy a single family home. Now, early in 2008, the opportunity has shifted. It is now a great time to sell that single family home and to downsize into a townhouse or condominium.

The market is always changing and the micro markets can all be different from the general trends in the town. If you’d like to discuss your home, your neighborhood, or buying and selling, please send me an email or give me a call. I’d be happy to set up a time to talk with you about your unique situation.

Mary Pope-Handy

 

Los Gatos Real Estate Market Review for December and 2007

January 09, 2008

The numbers are in for December 2007 and the real estate market in San Jose, Santa Clara County, Silicon Valley, and Los Gatos, to name a few areas.

liveinlosgatos chart of los gatos homes prices vs sales - Los Gatos Real Estate Market Review for December and 2007

Cliff notes version: prices are holding, or even going up in areas year over year (this last December compared to the one before). But sales are decidedly down. So again, if most homes are NOT selling, it’s not much consolation that values are rising. It’s a mixed message, but that’s precisely what is happening. A great home in a great area with a great price (low) will sell and for “top dollar”. Anything less, no such luck!

If you would like DETAILED information on San Jose (and by district, such as Almaden Valley, Cambrian Park, Evergreen, Willow Glen, West San Jose, etc.) and the cities and towns that comprise Silicon Valley or Santa Clara County, including Los Gatos, Saratoga, Campbell, Santa Clara, Los Altos, etc., please visit my just-updated Real Estate Report. You will find monthly and annual information on all of these areas and more. And if you’d like a commentary on how to make sense of it, please download my newsletter, which is 18 pages long and in pdf format:
http://rereport.com/scc/print/MaryPopeHandySCCannual.pdf

Right now it’s quiet for many of us on the real estate front – and that is not untypical though I usually am busier in January than I am now! Things often pick up in February just after the SuperBowl. (At my house, we are cheering on the Patriots – you may know that I’m related to the Q there, so we are perhaps biased, but not too much.)

I would say to buyers: prices are NOT going down in the best parts of Santa Clara County. Interest rates are good. Inventory favors you. BUY NOW. Homes are not going down in price while you wait!

And to sellers I would say this: yes, prices are going up, but still most homes are not selling. If you wait, you risk having much more competition in the marketplace. If you’re ready to sell, get your home on the market NOW.

Each situation is different. Please email or call me for specific input and assistance. I do offer a free one hour consultation to prospective clients.

Happy New Year!

Mary

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cleaning Up After the California Storms:Trees, Leaves, Fences and Damage

January 05, 2008

Silicon Valley is not alone in being pounded by a fierce Alaskan storm this weekend. The Friday rains – which we desperately need – came in a short period of time, together with strong winds which apparently gusted close to 100mph in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Several storms in a row have battered California, including Los Gatos and Silicon Valley.It’s a mess out there, and it’s not over yet. The roads are filled with fallen leaves and branches. In the Almond Grove District of downtown Los Gatos, a bough actually blocked off an entire street and damaged a car. This is not an uncommon story from one end of the state to the other. Fences are down all over. Emergency personnel are working overtime to handle the accidents and weather related problems. In Southern California, they face mudslides after the fires a few months ago – homes are truly at risk there.

Not surprisingly, power was lost to over a million P, G & E customers in northern California alone. Additionally, cable and internet services are out for many of us too. At our house in the Belwood area of east Los Gatos, we have Comcast cable for high speed internet and television. But they are both out. (The town of Los Gatos requires the cable boxes to be below ground, at least where we live, and every time we get a heavy rainfall, the boxes flood and those services go out. Our neighbors used a sump pump on theirs, and helped us use it on ours, to no avail. We keep dialup as a backup here since my husband and I both work from home and can’t afford to not have internet access.)

The end is in sight. By Monday, the rain should have stopped. Then it will be time to do the cleanup.

Once you take care of the immediately obvious items, let me suggest a few others to protect your home while they are on the top of your mind.

(1) Water Against Your Home: Get It Away

Water is bad for your home's foundation: get it away!Did the water pool up against your house, or come very close to doing so, during these storms? If so, it’s imperative to get the water away from the house. If you live in Los Gatos, Monte Sereno, Saratoga, Almaden Valley, or any of the regions close to the coastal foothills, you may be getting hillside runoff. Or you may have a very high water table – both which are much more serious and will require expert help. (Call or email me if you’d like a recommendation for an inspector.)

Often water pools for two very simple, and easy to remedy, reasons. Fist, it may be there because the downspouts don’t extend away from the house and/or secondly because the dirt around the soil is not properly graded.

If your downspouts don’t have extenders, go get them! They are ugly but functionally very important. They are cheap. Ace Hardware in Los Gatos carries them and the folks there are friendly and will assist you. Next, see if you need to work on the grading around your home to carry the water away from your home’s foundation. (If you lay a marble 1′ away from your house, would it roll toward or away from it? You want it to go away from your house.)

Here in Santa Clara County, in the San Jose area generally, we have clay soil. It expands when wet and is extremely strong – much more powerful than the concrete and rebar in most homes’ foundations. Foundations can be very costly to repair, and a moving foundation can put your home out of level and cause other problems too – most of which are not easy or inexpensive to fix. So if you care about your real estate as an investment, protect your house’s foundation: get the water away from it.

(2) Leaves On Your Roof and In Your Gutters: Get Them Off

A Saratoga, CA home - beautiful trees, but hard to keep the roof clear of leaves and tree debris.We love our trees, especially here in the west valley communities. When they are too close to our residences, though, they can be an issue. (In the photo here, the house has a shake roof, which is dark gray. But there are so many leaves on the roof that it’s almost not visible at all.)

Overhanging branches can be a superhighway for rodents to get onto your roof. Depending on your roof type, from there it may not be a whole lot of effort for them to get into your attic, and then down into your walls, too. Rats munching on electrical wires can spark a fire. The list of why you don’t want your home to be a habitrail go on and on.

But the leaves themselves are a problem too if they pile up on your roof and in your gutters. On the roof, they can trap moisture and cause accelerating aging to the shingles, or encourage the growth of moss (also ages the roof faster). Perhaps worse, when the roof and gutters fill with tree debris, it can cause actual roof leakage as the water does not drain properly but instead backs up into your home from between the shingles or tiles.

Meanwhile, though, we need to wait out this series of storms. Our total rainfall has been off by about half of last year’s, and last year’s was low too. (Not unlike the real estate market…) If we don’t get more rainfall, the folks at San Jose Water are saying we may have a full on drought and rationing next summer. So we are thankful for the precipitation – just wish it wouldn’t all come at once!

Is Now a Good Time to Buy or Sell a Home in Los Gatos?

January 04, 2008

Is January a good month to list your home, or to make an offer on one, in Los Gatos? When is the best time to buy or sell?

In auto sales, it’s said that making an offer on a car the last day of the month, especially if it is a rainy, “slow day”, can result in a good bargain. Is that true in buying a house in Los Gatos too?

Auto sales and real estate sales are not the same, but they can respond to the same economic factors, among others. Predictions for 2008 are very mixed. The weather, though, also impacts sales in both areas.

What about the weather? As I type this, it’s pouring rain, the wind is howling and my power here in Belwood has browned out 3 times in the last 2 minutes. This is not the kind of weather that brings most buyers out to shop! So competition will be less for the best homes. Interest rates, too, often rise in mid-February as demand increases. There’s not a ton of inventory at the moment, but it’s very possible that the “best deal of the year” for getting that condo, townhome or house here in the west valley will be had right now.

No one can say with any certainty whether the realty market will be more or less favorable in a month, but I would say to buyers who are serious about purchasing a home this year: do look now. If you see a home you like, make an offer. And sellers, most of your competition will wait for fairer days. Right now, that’s not much of an issue.

What’s the inventory? And sellers, is this a good time for you? Right now,inventory is low: there are exactly 95 single family homes that are on the market in the 95030 and 95032 zip codes. There are just 22 condominiums or townhouses in the same parts of town. Winter is not usually known as the best season to sell, but there is also far less competition now than there might be later in the year. And buyers who come out to view homes in the middle of January’s weather are usually very serious about writing a contract to purchase a house.

What about pricing? Home sales have been plummeting for 34 solid months. Most homes in most parts of Silicon Valley are not selling. (Believe it or not, even in a hot sellers market, not all homes sell. A percentage are always overpriced, in poor condition, or marketed so badly that they do not procure an offer that goes through.) Los Gatos, and neighboring Monte Sereno, Saratoga, and Almaden Valley, are stronger than many parts of the valley – in large part because of the quality of life in these areas, the low crime, the well-kept neighborhoods, and the great school scores. Those factors make some areas desirable in any market. So while you might find a foreclosure emporium in some parts of Santa Clara County, you won’t find it in this part of the Valley of Heart’s Delight! Short sales and foreclosures pull prices down, perhaps by as much as 10 percent, in areas where those occur. But prices in the town of Los Gatos and the lovely areas adjacent are continuing to rise.

The future of real estate sales in Silicon Valley is a bit uncertain for this new year, perhaps especially since it is an election year. We truly don’t know how long the sales slump here will last. If homeowners need to sell, it is probably best to get the home on the market sooner rather than later since the competition is not very great at the moment. Buyers can gain on this market now by purchasing when no one else is looking and while interest rates are good and before prices rise any more. (I have often heard buyers say “I’m waiting for prices to go down” but in most markets within Los Gatos, they are simply not falling.)

“The Market” is a broad term, and really even within our fair town, there are micro-markets from east Los Gatos to downtown to the areas bordering Monte Sereno, and that is also true as relating to school districts and price points.

Right now – even with this inclement weather – can be a great time to buy and sell in Los Gatos or anywhere in the west valley areas of Silicon Valley.

Please call or email me if you’d like to discuss your particular circumstances.

Best regards,

liveinlosgatos marysignaturefirstnameonlyforwebjpg - Is Now a Good Time to Buy or Sell a Home in Los Gatos?

How Can the Subprime Mortgage MessImpact You in Los Gatos?

August 19, 2007

Here in Los Gatos and in Silicon Valley, Countrywide is a mortgage company – it sells loans. You don’t see Countrywide Bank on street corners here or anywhere in northern California. Recently the lending institution, Countrywide, known to all of us, was “downgraded” and some economists are not seeing a cheery future for that company. Last week, the LA Times wrote that it went from bad to worse as there was a bit of a run on Countrywide bank in southern California. Public vote: no confidence.

How can that impact you?

Countrywide is the largest provider of home loans in the nation. It is having to make fewer and fewer loans (more so now that it had to borrow money to cash out some customers). In short, the money supply is tightening – even more.

With real estate, it is all about supply and demand. Home buyers are really purchasing both a home and a loan (in my career I’ve worked with two “all cash” buyers in 14.5 years). When the money supply shrinks, it gets more expensive. When loans become increasingly costly, it puts pressure on housing prices. Think of it as the balance scales – to a degree, if one side goes down, the other goes up. If interest rates go up, prices may come down. (So buyers who are waiting for homes to become cheaper, take note that if they do, your loan will likely cost more – savings not guaranteed.)

Most recently, the subprime mortgage mess has impacted first time homebuyers and low income buyers the most. In the last several years, very few first time home buyers have been buying with 20% down. It’s too hard to save that much money, especially as prices have risen much faster than a buyer’s ability to save.

So what we’ve been seeing is that now move-up homes are selling much better than entry-level homes because those 100% loans are so hard to come by. East San Jose, which has more affordable housing, has been very adversely impacted by the loan fallout and houses there are generally “sitting” and not selling.

So back to you. How does this impact you, if you are buying or selling a home today?

liveinlosgatos quito@2022@20mph@20skinny(1) - How Can the Subprime Mortgage MessImpact You in Los Gatos?Lenders are nervous. They are making the loan process a lot more difficult and time consuming as they scrutinize every buyer to make sure that he or she is a good risk. It used to be easy, with a pre-approved buyer, to get the final loan approval within a week. No more. Allow a few extra days.

If you are selling, understand that even with a pre-approval, your buyer may need an extra day, two or three. If you are buying, get everything to your lender on double time. If you are not yet in contract to purchase a home, be sure you’ve cleaned up your credit, don’t make any big purchases, and do your level best to assemble 20% down (which has to be “seasoned” in your bank 3 months for the lender to count it).

If you do not have 20% down, you are at risk for the lender to change its mind, even if you are preapproved and ready to close escrow soon. In recent weeks, I’m hearing from other agents that fully pre-approved buyers have had their loans rescinded. Why? How? The lender decides that the buyer is too much a risk – finds a technicality and backs out a few days before closing.

My advice is to “double-ap” the loan. Submit it both with the lender who’s promising the better rate AND one who’s more of a sure deal (even if at a higher rate). Think of it like college applications: you apply to the school that’s a sure thing, that’s a probable thing, and a stretch – because you don’t want to be without a school when September rolls around.

First time buyer? Getting an 80% first, 10% second and 10% down loan is not the easy approach it was awhile ago. If you have parents who are offering to lend you part of the downpayment, talk with your mortgage broker about this option. For many, the door is closing on 80/80/10s just as it has on other less-than-conventional loans. Home sellers will feel better knowing that you have 20% or more because you are less likely to have your loan withdrawn.

This has been a rough week in the financial market. The Federal Reserve cut interest rates on Friday to its Discount Rate by 1/2% in an effort to help. Was it enough? No one knows right now. Things are jittery all over.

I remember, as a teen, my mother (a Realtor) selling homes when interest rates were 18%. It wasn’t fun, but somehow people did still buy and sell. When Jim and I bought our first home in 1989, we had an interest rate of 10.25% and paid 2 points to buy it down that far. We still bought, and so did everyone else. Houses were cheaper then, but the money wasn’t.

My final words? If you are ready to buy, buy now – if the economy gets rocked, interest rates will rise and no matter how cheap the housing may get, your loan then will likely eat any difference. If you own your home free and clear, you might consider selling now, and maybe offering to carry some or all of the mortgage. If you can provide some financing, buyers will flock to your home.

Want to buy a home? Save, save, save. My lender friend, Debi Merchain, calls it “power saving”. In this kind of market, the old adage is really true: cash is king.

Do You Have a Los Gatos Ghost Story to Share?

June 16, 2007

Los Gatos Ghost Tour by Mary Pope-HandyDo you have any stories about ghosts in Los Gatos? I would like to hear them. I’m collecting ghost stories to share on my Live in Los Gatos blog. And maybe someday I will put together a book on the area’s haunted places.

So you may be wondering, how did this strange hobby began? (My teens wish I just did needlepoint, or something “normal” instead.)

A few years ago, I began to casually collect local ghost stories because they intrigued me. Next I began to read some books on the subject..then more books. At my office, my manager asked me to share some of them just before Halloween in 2003. To my amazement, the agents in my office loved the stories of Los Gatos’s haunted spots…then several discreetly came up to me and told me their own stories of encounters with a ghost.

That’s usually how it works – people don’t usually share their stories about ghosts unless they think you believe. No one wants to be made fun of.

My interest grew further after a couple of personal experiences and then I began a page on one of my websites devoted to the topic of Haunted Real Estate, and I also got a URL dedicated to the page too: http://www.HauntedRealEstate.com.

At Halloween, and all through October, reporters started contacted me. Then the focus expanded and I had them phoning and emailing me about stigmatized properties too. It’s as if this thing took on a life of its own.

I haven’t sold haunted houses, I kept telling them: I just collect the stories, I read a lot. But I also started assembling information on disclosure laws around the country, about folks who were good at “ghostbusting” or exorcizing a house, places where you could do a ghost tour, haunted hotels… you name it.

And I added an RSS feed on ghost stories.

Frances Flynn Thorsen of RealTown.com asked me to write an article on ghosts. I agreed to do it (though my husband was a little concerned it might scare away potential clients who’d think I was crazy), and “Haunted Real Estate: A Primer for Real Estate Agents” was well received.

Now? It is still expanding, as if self-propelled. In the last month, I had two different people (whom I don’t know) email me about wanting to sell their haunted homes. Neither one, of course, is in Silicon Valley. Who’d have thought my hobby would lead here? So it seems I need a spot dedicated to “haunted houses for sale” or something along those lines on the site.

My “page” needs more space. Sometime in the next year, I think it will need to branch out from a single, long page on my ValleyOfHeartsDelight.com website into its own website.

Meanwhile, I’m blogging on Los Gatos and part of that effort is to include ghost stories from around the town. I have discussed the most prominent ones so far: The Opera House, Trevese Restaurant (formerly The Chart House and Chart’s), Border’s Bookstore in Old Town, Village Lane (the old cemetery – did they move ALL the bodies?) and Forbes Mill.

I know there are others because sometimes I get calls. A few months ago, a young woman phoned me and wanted to know where, exactly, the old cemetery was located because her new boyfriend refused to stay with her overnight due to a matronly ghost with an attitude that he didn’t belong there. (Her place was not on the old graveyard, but near it. I saw a “for rent” sign outside of her home within two weeks of her phone call to me.)

Some places I really have to wonder about: the Main Street Bridge (there was a lynching there) is one of them. Where was the town’s jail? Did the town do executions (lynching aside)? If so, where? What about the mortuary turned single family house on Main Street? (Not the former Chart House.) Anything doing there? I read something on a message board about a ghost off either Guadalupe Mines Road or Hicks Road – any truth to that? Your input would be much appreciated!

So, residents and friends of Los Gatos, I want to ask for your input: where are the haunted places in our fair town? Please call or email me in confidence. I want your story and I won’t blow your cover!

2008 UPDATE – San Jose State’s “The Spartan Daily” ran a piece on Hicks Road, and included a video, that is worth seeing:
http://media.www.thespartandaily.com/media/storage/paper852/news/2008/03/06/Features/The-Road.That.Makes.Some.Wonder-3254622.shtml

Housing Market Here and There

April 14, 2007

The housing market in Silicon Valley is often different from the rest of the US, as our economy here is fueled by the high tech sector in particular.  Los Gatos is on the expensive end of the spectrum and when the computer industry or biotech here fare poorly, so does our housing market in the west valley.  Right now they’re doing very well, and hence, so is the market in the areas closest to the coastal foothills.  But cross the valley to the less-wealthy areas with poorer schools, and it’s an entirely different experience. A lot of it appears to do with the disaster happening in the mortgage industry right now.

Broderick Perkins, a real estate writer and owner of Deadline News,  lives locally and discusses our strangely bifurcated market in an excellent article in Realty Times titled “Silicon Valley Housing Statistics ‘Freak You Out’“. In a nutshell, Los Gatos has a robust housing market right now, as do the more high-end areas like Cupertino, Palo Alto, Sunnyvale, Saratoga, and Monte Sereno (not an exclusive list).  Broderick always has good, current info on the local real estate market – he is a lot more accurate than our local newspapers, in fact – so I’d encourage you to bookmark his website and check it often to know what is really going on. One tidbit that I’ll tease you with from his article is a fact about the number of foreclosures falling in Silicon Valley.  Click on the link above and check it out. You may be surprised!

Mary Pope-Handy's Valley of Heart's Delight logo

Mary Pope-Handy

Realtor
ABR, CIPS, CRS, SRES
Sereno Group Real Estate
214 Los Gatos-Saratoga Rd
Los Gatos, CA 95030
408 204-7673
Mary (at) PopeHandy.com
License# 01153805

Selling homes in
Silicon Valley, with
special focus on
Los Gatos 

and nearby areas,
including
Monte Sereno,
Saratoga,
Campbell,
and the San Jose areas of
Cambrian and Almaden Valley

Helping Nice Folks to
Buy & Sell Homes
in Silicon Valley
since 1993

 

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