Listing Agreement, Purchase Agreement Forms: Consumers, You May Have a Choice

May 24, 2009

Most consumers don’t realize that there are two sets of real estate forms used by Realtors and other real estate professionals in Silicon Valley and nearby areas.  The California Association of Realtors provides the paperwork found throughout most of the state (“CAR forms”).  The Peninsula Regional Data Source authors a more regional set (“PRDS forms”).

Did you realize that they are a little different, and each provides different protections and “teeth”? 

Here are a couple  of the key differences within the purchase agreement between buyer and seller:

  • The CAR purchase agreement is an “as is” form; the PRDS purchase agreement states that the home will have certain basic conditions met (no leaks, all systems functional)
  • The CAR purchase agreement allows repairs to be done by a handyman; the PRDS form requires that repairs be done by a licensed contractor
  • One has more penalties built in for defaults; one allows the seller to cancel more easily on a buyer who’s not performing

The listing agreements vary too – one protects the agents’ position better than another.

There are pros and cons to each of these sets.  When you go to list, sell, or purchase a home, be sure to discuss the plusses and minuses of each with your agent. One set is not 100% better for you as a buyer or a seller. There are clauses in each, though, which may protect your interests best. 

One caveat: if you are buying a bank owned home, it is very likely that the bank will require you to use the CAR form.  They cannot get up to speed on regional contracts and they will insist on the “as is” nature of the CAR form (PRDS can also be “as is” if a box for that is selected).  Some banks may use their own forms, or send back an extremely lengthy addendum that may cancel out half the clauses in whichever purchase agreement you use.  Don’t be afraid to seek out a good real estate attorney if that is the case.  Realtors and other real estate salespeople are not attorneys and this would be an ideal time to call in professional legal help.

Something else to consider is that you may be able to use some paperwork of each set.  CAR has a myriad of forms for realty transactions, many more than PRDS does. One of the best addenda in use today is the CAR short sale addendum.  It is exceedingly clear about timeframes and responsibilities.  Just because you are working with a PRDS purchase agreement does not make a CAR addendum unusable in most cases. 

Buying and selling real estate in Los Gatos, Monte Sereno, Saratoga, and San Jose does involve a lot of options and decision making.  This is another element to consider because just like all the other choices you face in home buying or selling in Santa Clara County, the choice you make on the forms you’ll use may impact your outcome.  Hire a good agent who works with both sets, can explain the pros and cons of each in terms of your position, and is not dependent on just one of them alone. 

Update for Los Gatos, Monte Sereno and Saratoga Real Estate Market

January 12, 2009

The real estate sales numbers are in for Los Gatos, Saratoga, Monte Sereno, San Jose and all of Silicon Valley for December 2008 and for the year as a whole.

Santa Clara County Real Estate Report for 2008 (annual report – you may also find on this site the annual reports for Los Gatos, the Los Gatos Mountains, Campbell, Saratoga, etc. as well as quarterly reports and monthly reports – monthly report links found at the bottom of this post).

You already know that things have been bad: money’s hard to borrow, homes are hard to sell, jobs seem to be threatened.

There was some good news to be found, though.

  • Home sales increased in the second half of 2008, and we expect that to continue
  • By the end of 2008, the number of sales were up year-over-year from 2007
  • Prices are down – in some areas prices have “rolled back” two to three years. In other places, it’s closer to four years. This is good news for buyers!
  • If your downpayment is strong and credit is great you can get a loan and the news for you is great: interest rates are very, very attractive now! FHA loans are reappearing! Sellers are considering carrying second loans!
  • Banks are finally getting it together for handling REOs and short sales. New divisions are appearing to handle the increased workload.. These sales should be smoother in 2009.

How about our local market in the west side of Silicon Valley?

The upscale communities of Los Gatos, Monte Sereno, Saratoga, Almaden Valley, Cupertino and other foothill areas with good schools did not fare as badly as most of Santa Clara County in 2008, but they are not immune from the prevailing winds, either.

Los Gatos single family home sales graphs - info courtesy of REReport, used by permission (subscriber).

Overall, inventory is up and time on the market is up while the list price to sales price ratio is down.

Please visit my Real Estate Report at for the complete, interactive report for last month, last quarter, or last year – countywide, by city, or by area of San Jose, or click on the following links to see the most recent monthly report for these areas:

Los Gatos Single Family Homes
Los Gatos Condos/Townhomes

Monte Sereno Single Family Homes (there are no condos or townhomes in Monte Sereno)

Almaden Valley Single Family Homes
Almaden Valley Townhomes & Condominiums

Cambrian Park Single Family Homes
Cambrian Park Condos and Townhouses

Campbell Single Family Homes
Campbell Townhomes and Condos

Willow Glen Single Family Homes
Willow Glen Condominiums and Townhouses

(apparently no homes closed escrow in the LG Mountains in December – in Nov there was one and in Oct one)


What Does It Take to Sell Your Silicon Valley or Los Gatos Home in Today's Market?

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. ( puts the Los Gatos 95030 zip code as having lost 5% since last month and 95032 as having lost 3% since last month.)

glassesTwo 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.).

(To read more on pricing, please read this article on my main website: Pricing Your Silicon Valley Home Competitively and also Benefits of Realistic Pricing.)

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”.

BougainvilleaMost 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.

Book - Get the Best Deal When Selling Your Home in Silicon Valley, by Mary Pope-Handy and Ken DeshaiesIf 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.



How Did the Los Gatos Real Estate Market Do in August?

August 30, 2008

View of El Sombroso, a hill overlooking the town of Los Gatos, as seen from Vasona Lake County Park in Los GatosWe’ll get the exact, hard data for the Los Gatos real estate market in a week or so from, our MLS provider (formerly known as REInfolink). Meanwhile, though, we can have a look at the closings reported to date and get a feel for how the market is doing.

This month, there were 29 closings, or completed sales, in the town of Los Gatos (zip codes 95030 and 95032) among single family homes and condos/townhomes. Of the 29 Los Gatos homes which sold, 24 were single family homes and 5 were condominiums or townhouses. I was involved in two of those sales – one as the listing agent and one as the selling agent (working with the buyers), both single family homes that were in the $1,000,000 to $2,000,000 price range, and both are in the Los Gatos School District.

How did they homes in Los Gatos do in August?

First, let’s look at single family homes. One sold “off” the MLS, so it’s hard to know how it might have done on the open market. It was extreme in another way – it sold at $5,400,000 – the most expensive closing of the month. Not your typical Los Gatos price, though not unheard of either.

For single family homes in Los Gatos, the multiple listing service, the average “days on market” was 50 and average “collective” or “cumulative days on market” was 71. So typically, it’s taking 71 days for houses to sell in Los Gatos. (My listing, which was on Magneson Terrace, took 66 days to sell – felt much longer for everyone involved, though!) Some homes sold fast (1-10 days) and a few a very long time (longest was 238 days), but most are in the 2-3 month range.

The average list price was $1,915,500 and the average sales price was $1,847,989 among Los Gatos houses. The lowest home sold for $870,000 and the highest for $5,400,000, as mentioned above. Fifteen sold between $1 million and $2 million, 3 below that range and 6 above it

Only 3 of the 24 sold higher than list price. Just 4 sold “at” list price (but of those, 2 were reduced before they sold at list price, so only 2 sold at the original list price) and the vast majority had one or more price reductions prior to selling.

What about townhouses and condos in Los Gatos? There were only five spread between two zip codes which are so far reported as closed in August. Of those, the average Days on Market is 41 (same number for Collective DOM), the average list price is $687,789 and average sales price $676,000.

So it looks like the condo market is faring better than the single family home market in Los Gatos right now, according to closed sales prices.

While pricing appears to be flat by some indicators in July, we have seen many price reductions in homes that appeared aggressively positioned in the market before offers are procured. Buyers are waiting, generally, and prices do seem to be falling somewhat in the under $2 million price range.

The soft real estate market that has been plaguing much of San Jose and Silicon Valley now appears to be impacting the entry level and mid-level homes in Los Gatos.

What can we expect? With an election year, things are always uncertain. Likewise, the interest rate has threatened to rise a bit and if that happens, it will adversely affect home prices for sellers. Think of it like the scales of justice: one side goes down, the other goes up.

Waiting may or may not be a good idea. Prices may go down and interest rates may go up. Or perhaps not – no one knows. As one of my buyer clients said, recently, “prices may go down, but if I wait, it’s like I put my life on hold”. (That buyer is now a homeowner.)

The real estate market in Silicon Valley, including Los Gatos, is comrised of many micro-markets. Please call me for specific assistance in the area where you live or would like to live.


Much of Los Gatos is in the Quarantine Zone for the Light Brown Apple Moth: What Does That Mean to You?

August 06, 2008

Fruits and vegetables are the heritage of Silicon Valley or Santa Clara County, "The Valley of Heart's Delight"Recently I was suprised to learn that there is a quarantine map (click on the image to enlarge it) for most of Santa Clara County, and it includes most of Los Gatos, Saratoga, Monte Sereno and Almaden Valley too, for the Light Brown Apple Moth treatment plan.

What does the quarantine mean?

For most of us, it means that produce (your homegrown fruits and vegetables) can’t move around within the zone. In Los Gatos, if you are northeast of Saratoga Los Gatos Road (Highway 9) or Kennedy Road, it means that you cannot share produce from your garden with your neighbors. (Please see the link above for the exact map boundaries.) That is, unless you’ve cooked or canned it or otherwise rendered it no-longer-fresh. In many neighborhoods, it’s the norm for neighbors to share some of their excess fruits and vegetables with friends and neighbors, so this is counter-intuitive.

So don’t share your garden fresh produce beyond your property boundaries this year if you’re “in the zone”. A recent article by the San Jose Mercury explains why this is so risky, so if this is news to you, as it was to me, have a look.

Taking a Pulse of the Silicon Valley Short Sale Situation

July 19, 2008

What’s happening with the number of short sales in Silicon Valley? Are they rising or falling? How does this impact the real estate market in various parts of Santa Clara County?

Let’s have a look at the numbers over the last few months in selected areas of Silicon Valley. Below, please find the number of active (for sale) short sale listings of single family homes and condominiums or townhomes in Los Gatos, Monte Sereno, Saratoga, and other parts of the San Jose area.


3/26/2008 5/18/2008 7/19/2008
Los Gatos 5 8 7
Monte Sereno 1 0 0
Saratoga 0 1 4
Los Gatos Mtns 3 2 3
Cambrian Park 59 63 68
Santa Clara 56 63 69
Campbell 13 19 23
Cupertino 1 1 0
Los Altos 0 2 1
Sunnyvale 50 58 51
Blossom Valley 196 217 190
San Jose (all) 1534 1777 1708

While there’s a noticeable rise from late March to late May, the numbers are backing down a bit now.

Can we infer anything from this? Yes and no.

Buying a distressed property can be an adventure.First of all, we do not see a worsening of the market overall – the doom and gloomers would like us to think that the sky is falling on the local real estate market, but looking through this lens, it doesn’t appear to be the case. If the numbers of short sales were swelling, it would portend lower prices because short sales themselves tend to sell for less, and most short sales eventually turn into foreclosures – and they also sell for far less than homes which are lived in and loved.

On the other hand, we are not done seeing loans reset. That is, a lot of folks took out mortgages a few years ago with adjustable rate loans that would be level for 3, 5, 7, or 10 years. As some of these get reset, there may well be more people in trouble who scramble to sell with a short payoff to the bank or who otherwise cannot make the new, higher payments. So we may be getting new waves of homes in the short sale pool.

Whenever I do a post on foreclosures, short sales, and bank auctioned homes, I get emails and calls about how to buy one of these homes at a steal of a price. So I’m going to quickly recap my input on what to do if you are a bargain hunting buyer

  1. The biggest problem with short sales is that although the seller wants to sell, the buyer wants to buy, and the agents want to help their respective clients, the success of the transaction depends on the lending institution approving the sale. In my experience, this is where the problem is – most often, the banks either do not respond (at all, ever), or they take so long to respond that the home’s no longer worth what the buyer inititally offered. Worse, some lenders use a servicing company to handle payments, and some of them would rather service a loan through foreclosure than facilitate a short sale. I spent a lot of time in early 2008 putting short sale transactions together, only to have the bank ignore the offers. My advice: save yourself time and effort and buy a home that you can actually close on. (I am not working on short sales any more in this market.)
  2. When short sales fail to produce a closed transaction, the property continues through the foreclosure process. The next step is the auction by the bank. There is no role for the real estate agent here, so we Realtors can’t help you with this stage. With the auction, you’ll need a large percentage of cash on hand and you have NO right of recission – no ability to investigate the property and later change your mind. No congingencies – which I think is very, very dangerous.
  3. Bank owned properties have gone all the way through the foreclosure process. They are usually vacant (in some cases, the bank allows the former owner to stay on as a tenant so that the house is not vacant and vandalized). The bank wants to sell and will permit you to do inspections and to have a reasonable contingency period. The main risk here is that the house may have been beat up by the former owners on their way out. That doesn’t always happen, but it’s certainly a possibility. Bank owned homes are usually offered on the MLS, and a Realtor or other real estate licensee can assist you in purchasing one of these. Agents are not afraid of “working these” because they know that the bank needs and wants to close escrow – so there’s a chance for a happy ending here (unlike with most short sales).

Whether you want to buy a distressed property in Silicon Valley or just want to know how these sales impact your home buying, home selling, or home value, the data is important for understanding how the real estate market is faring here. I’ll continue to keep you updated in the coming weeks and months.

Best regards,


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 (Cell) (
Blog: &

For more posts on short sales and bank owned properties in Los Gatos (and nearby) please see:

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