Smart Side of Real Estate

Silicon Valley Real Estate News, Market Trends...having an investor mindset & a look at what makes a house a home.

You’ll find our blog to be a wealth of information, covering everything from local market statistics, property investing, and home values to community happenings. In Silicon Valley many people are concerned about making it financially - our focus is to encourage an investor mindset, even for residential real estate, at the same time we cover what makes a house a home.

That’s because we care about the community, your Silicon Valley experience, and want to help you find your place in it.

We also have a little bit of fun here! Our team lead Kelsey Lane has been in real estate 16 years, and this is a forum not only for new clients, yet also for friends, family and the many clients and vendors who have become like friends and family.

Please reach out if you have any questions at all. We’d love to talk with you!

Nov. 15, 2019

Kelsey in her car getting coffee: Chat with Fabienne Slama

Kelsey in her car getting coffee - chat with Fabienne Slama

it's always good to take a break from work for a nice collaboration. Fabienne Slama and I had a great time at 1 Oz Coffee in Mountain View talking about our businesses. She knows a lot of Realtors but asked me about what sets me apart - and we talked a lot about her business as well. She helps her clients in a much needed role of removing stress, anxiety, and blocks that hold them back. A true Renaissance woman, Fabienne started as a biochemist and sculptor and now runs a successful coaching business in the valley. 

1 Oz Coffee was the perfect backdrop, and the morning sunlight streaming in paired wonderfully with the coffee. They get their beans from a couple different California roasters and I consulted with the barista for a non-acidic pourover. (they bring the extra in a carafe, too cute.) I'm always on the lookout for cafe's with beans so good they taste amazing black. Fabienne's latte also looked beautiful and delish! 

If you have any local espresso shops you think I should add to my list, or you'd like to grab coffee and chat about our businesses, let me know!

1 oz coffee Mountain View Kelsey chats with Fabienne

Nov. 13, 2019

5 Tips for Decorating for the Holidays

decorating your house for the holidays
With the holidays quickly approaching, now is the perfect time to start thinking about getting ready to decorate!  All the stores are currently stocked with everything you need to design every room in your house.  But don’t wait long, soon the shelves will have less inventory and it's important to get what you need before selection dwindles.  Here are some simple ideas to keep in mind when shopping for decor:   
  • Think of a theme: I usually pick a color scheme such as red and gold, black and white, or pink and white, or a themed tree like a snowman or Santas.
  • More is more: most people don’t purchase enough filler for the trees, ribbon, and decor. Always get more than you think you will need. I always buy in odd numbers like 7 and 9 for everything - if you pick something to fill the tree bigger is also better.
  • Shop at discount stores: Home Goods is my favorite place to find decor for a house when shopping. You can find high quality items for less, however sometimes you can’t find enough when shopping for a certain item so I usually try to hit all stores nearby.  Hobby Lobby is also a great place to shop for tree filler - I usually go there first when starting a new themed tree.  Tuesday Morning is another place to find more upscale items.  Always good to purchase now if you find something you like, then take back the items that aren’t needed. Stores will all run out of stock soon!
  • Don’t forget your entry: The front door is the first place people see when entering your home.  Make sure your door has a wreath or something hanging that matches the theme or colors of your holiday decor! 
  • Set the table: most dining tables should be decorated for the holidays as that is where we share food with family and friends.  Create a centerpiece you can keep on the table while eating.  Use something lower in height on the table, with candlesticks that don't block your view from the person across from you.
Have fun: Put on some holiday music and enjoy putting up your decor with a glass of wine or hot cider!
Guest blogger Kim Cotton is an interior designer in Silicon Valley and is now booking holiday decor sessions. She can be reached at
Many of our clients and friends celebrate various faiths and holidays around the end of the year and beginning of the next. While this particular blog post features Christmas, we honor all traditions equally.
Posted in Heart of the home
Nov. 11, 2019

Flipping Your Own House

Flipping a house - new kitchen

If you're getting ready to sell your house, one option is to take a cue from home flippers who make extra profit off their investments. Often, taking the time to do some repairs and remodeling can make a $50,000, $100,000, or even several hundred thousand difference depending on the home's caliber and location.

An experienced listing agent will have access to reliable contractors and be able to help you secure bids for the project. Seasoned Realtors know instinctively what repairs and remodeling are likely to increase your sales price - walk through your house, tell the agent what your plans are, and listen to their suggestions. Set a working budget together as a team, and create a list of renovations to be competed. Allow your Realtor to secure several bids for each part of the project, so you can compare them together. In our office, we also rely on the annual Cost vs. Value report (we can provide on request) to give us ROI on various fixes.

Once you decide on which contractor to use, team up with your Realtor to oversee the contractors' access to the house and their working schedule. The Realtor can keep the contractors on track, marching toward the big day of going on the market.

Make sure to put the icing on the cake and authorize your agent to hire a stager. Builders of new construction hire designers for their model homes for a reason - it pays, and they have tracked it, so why not take a page out of their book?

Once your home is staged to the nines, make sure to allow as many showings as possible. Vacant staged homes receive the highest amount of showings. If you are still living in your home, consider boarding pets for the week of highest traffic and leaving the house when Realtors visit with their clients. (If you can stay somewhere else as well, even better) The more showings you have, the more offers you'll receive, which results in the highest price.

If you don't yet own a house but are hungry to get into the flipping game, consider what I call the Freshman Flip. You can buy a fixer or underloved property, and live in it for a couple years while you work on it and fix it up. By living in it for two years you can mitigate or even possibly avoid capital gains taxation on the sale profit (talk to your CPA).

Nov. 9, 2019

Tips for more productive home buying: 7 ways to get a deal

Buying a home in Silicon Valley

Home buyers in Silicon Valley may doubt whether there are still deals to be had or not. Granted, we live in one of the most expensive areas in the world for real estate - so how to shave some off the price?

In Santa Clara County properties are currently selling right around list price - and the sales price to "original list price" ratio is 97%, still pretty close to list. So it doesn't seem like negotiating off of the price is the best way to get a deal.

Here's my take on how to come out financially ahead with your home buying:

Buy during the holiday season December/January

The drawback here is that inventory of available homes is lower during December and January. Most sellers assume that buyers don't want to move during those months. However, any sellers who have their properties on the market are motivated to sell. This can present a possible opportunity for a bargain.

Buy a house that is hard to show

There are different ways that homes become hard to show. Sometimes owners have dogs that need to be removed prior to showings and this is posted on the MLS. Also sometimes the owners are under duress or ill and are only allowing limited showings. Limited showings affect how many people will view the property, thus reducing the amount of competition. Some homes are simply cluttered and unprepared for prime time, even though they are on the market. These are the best opportunities, because if you can look past the owners' stuff to see the potential in the property, you may be the only one that can. Most buyers don't have vision for what a property could become.

Ask your Realtor if they know of off market properties

Homes that aren't on the market will also have less competition. Often home owners who are selling don't want to go through the stress and preparation of putting their property on the market. They may be open to an offer from a capable buyer. We show off market properties regularly, which sometimes result in great finds for our clients.

Look at homes where the deal fell through

Ask your agent to keep on top of deals that have fallen out of escrow. Very often there is nothing wrong with the house - sometimes the current buyer has problems with their financing and can't get together the necessary funding. These sellers are very motivated because they got their hopes up about selling their house. When they do go back on the market, not all buyers are alerted like they would be to a brand new listing. So sometimes it takes the general market awhile to catch on to its updated availability.

Ask your Realtor to proactively find prospective sellers

If you know what exact neighborhood you want to live in - e.g. a radius of 200 homes or less, you could ask your agent to send letters to see if anyone wants to sell. Some agents are even willing to go door to door. Or, perhaps they could send a Facebook ad to a specific zip code. It's worth a try. For this level of service, you'd likely need to sign a buyer-broker agreement which is a good idea anyway. Realtors who have made a commitment to you will be willing to go the extra mile. If you are solely working with one Realtor, closely, they can even call all their industry contacts to find out if they have motivated sellers. Agents even have access to title company demographic information. Through these channels mailings can be constructed to certain subsets of sellers such as owners who have been in their homes for more than 20 years, etc. or homes where divorces have been filed.

Days on market tell the loudest story

Work with your Realtor to review all the homes that have been on the market the longest. There may be something wrong with the house, but it is usually solvable if you have some funds set aside for repairs. And most buyers run from problems - this could be your opportunity. The longer houses have stayed on the market, the more discouraged sellers get. Even receiving a low offer could be a boost for them. There's no harm in trying - most buyers don't have the courage to put in a low offer and if it has been on the market for awhile it's an appropriate time to do so.

Future forecasting

Another way to get a deal is not necessarily in the immediate sense. Sometimes the best deals come from appreciation over time. One idea is to look for listings that have a rentable unit (ADU, granny unit, cottage) on the property - over time these will be come more and more in demand. Another one of my favorite ideas for investing well is to buy nearby a train station. For example, think about how Google is going into down San Jose. Of course downtown is super hot right now, but consider also areas a little further out. the Blossom Valleyarea of San Jose is about a 15 minute drive or 15 minute train drive from downtown. Properties in Blossom Valley near the train station will appreciate very well over the long run since it will be a viable option for technology employees going into downtown San Jose. Or, think about how Bart is now going to Tracy, which has raised property values there. Will it ever to Stockton? Some buyers may decide to place a bet that it will, and if it does, they'll be rewarded in spades.

Nov. 4, 2019

Kelsey in her car getting coffee: Chat with Kavita Melwani

kelsey in her car getting coffee - chat with Kavita Melwani The Enlightened Heart

Kavita Melwani from The Enlightened Heart and I both really wanted to try Bluestone Lane in Los Altos. It's a full table service cafe with espresso drinks, pastries, and many gluten free options. Her golden latte (turmeric and almond milk) looked amazing!

Aside from getting caught up, we also chatted about biz. She helps her clients to ease anxiety and stress & she also works with highly sensitive individuals who are developing their careers and businesses. I always love her perspective.

If you have a local espresso shop you think I should add to my list, or you'd like to talk about how we can help each other, let me know!

Oct. 24, 2019

Retiree home selling series: Tale of two sellers

Retiree couples define their goals for staying in current home or selling

In the first few parts of the series we went over how to either stay in your home during retirement, or possibly rent it out or even sell. Here are two stories of those who decided to sell and embark on their own individualized adventures.

The first...we just closed a transaction locally where the sellers were wanting to move to Washington. The husband loved to garden, yet had developed skin cancer and his wife wished for a less sunny location so he could still enjoy his hobby. They had lived in their home for nearly 40 years, and they had not done any remodeling even when they moved in nor since. Plus, over the years, their belongings had accumulated. Looking at the prospect of moving was daunting to say the least. They hoped we could sell first in its current condition, yet after many private showings potential buyers just weren't biting. The sellers decided since they would be moving anyway, they'd move first. It was arduous and involved packing help and many pods on site. However, it allowed us to set a budget together of fixing up and cleaning the property so that they'd get a more optimal sales price. Many of the vendors and contractors even agreed to take their payment after closing. After about $20,000 the house and grounds were ready for market. Through some unique marketing campaigns, we had 350 visitors come through the open house, got 21 offers, and we sold it for $300,000 over the asking price. This, when we had problems selling it to qualified buyers with private showings just a few weeks earlier. This real life story illustrates how sometimes setting a budget and having your Realtor coordinate contractors for marketing your home well can help you reach your goals.

The second...some sellers simply don't want to be bothered with the hassles of moving, fixing, budgeting, and waiting for the market process to take its course. And that's ok. We met with one retiree seller who pretty much said he'd love to just walk away, wave a magic wand, and have it be done. His plan was to move to the southeast US and find his new adventure. In the end, he elected not to use a Realtor and sell directly to a flipper. They handled the paperwork between them, and the flipper offered him what he wanted as far as terms - he was allowed take only what he wanted from the house and the flipper would haul away the rest. The flipper of course went on to fix up the home and garnered the profit. In this case, though, the seller didn't care about the extra profit; his goal was less stress and he achieved it.

And there are even different approaches than these two; the point is no one way is right or wrong, but it is important to define your goals and what's important to you... as you find your next adventure. 

Oct. 19, 2019

Retiree home selling series: Moving and selling your home

Retiree couple moving, selling, and off to their next adventure

As a retiree working on your future real estate plan, you may be deciding to stay in your house or even keep it and rent it out like we discussed in parts one and two of the series. Here we address the benefits of selling and how it can fit into your overall plan.

Retirees who make the decision to sell prefer to cash out in order to have full access to their equity. This allows them to smoothly make a move or use their finances in order to make different types of investment. Should this be your choice, there are a few options for approaching a sale and your move.
You can of course move to a smaller place like a condo or townhouse locally if you'd like to stay near your current friends or local family. ​You can also move to a similarly sized home in a neighboring community that is less expensive or a dedicated 55 years + retirement community which often sell for less than current market value. These options allow you to keep some of your original leftover equity.
California has also made provisions for retirees that if you move within an allowable county or into a reciprocal county, you can keep your tax basis (Propositions 60 and 90). This only works for those 55 years +, and the property must be of equal or lesser value. Of course these come with a littany of rules, so feel free to schedule a call or meeting with our team to discuss what might make sense for you.
People often ask me if they can buy first before they sell? Sometimes it's possible based on assets and income to buy first and do a near concurrent close with the sale in order to move directly. However, usually what people find is that it's more financially feasible and less stressful to sell first, then buy - because they know exactly how much they have and they don't have the time pressure for finding a new place so they can locate what they really want.
I have a couple stories about two different sellers who sold and moved out of our area that handled it completely differently, which are shared in the last part of the series.


Posted in Home selling
Oct. 18, 2019

Area Market Report

Santa Clara County Real Estate Market UpdateOut of 444,000 homes in Santa Clara County, there are 2196 active on the market. Of those, 1472 are single family homes and 724 are condos or townhouses. Average days on market before going into contract is 35, and listings are selling at a rate of 100.2% of the list price - right around the offering price. This days on market is up from several months ago, yet still well within "seller's market" range. Average sales price across property types is $1,393,836, and for single family homes is $1,615,001 for the county. The market has gone from "crazy strong" to "strong" and we have yet to see where it is headed. Low interest rates have still been fueling activity. Some feel now may be a good time to put properties on the market if the market is getting ready to head into a longer shift.

Kelsey Lane & Team's recent real estate activity:

457 Desert Holly, Milpitas $949,000 (Represented Buyer, new construction)

1064 Firth Court, Sunnyvale $1,850,000 (Represented Seller - 21 offers, sold 300k over asking)

Posted in Market Updates
Oct. 18, 2019

5 Helpful Tips for an Organized Holiday Season

From Guest Blogger Carla Whyte, Organizer with Embracing Your Space


No matter what holidays or special events you celebrate, the year-end and New Year's season always brings a change of schedule and typically increased social time. Planning ahead can make a world of difference. Here are 5 tips to get a jump start towards having a more peaceful and enjoyable time:

Organizing for the holiday season

1) Party Planning: Start talking to family and friends about possible party dates and times. Since we're focusing on fun, joy, and calm, pre-planning is important! Starting now allows you to talk about the location, the food (catered, potluck etc.), decorations, and whether or not there will be a theme. This approach also helps you figure out how to organize your other responsilities and schedule around these events -- the goal, of course, being to feel closer to family and friends, not stressing over last minute details. Along with this topic, writing exact dates in your calendar of any time that company is coming to stay with you is also key.

2) Family Photo: This is a great time of year to consider a family photo. Talk to your family - would you like to have a photo taken for seasonal cards or New Year's Cards? Should it be at the beach? Should you get dressed up? Should it be fancy or casual? Alternatively, can it be one you've already taken on a family vacation? Can it be given framed as gifts to extended family members? Decide on print method, size, and purchase frames accordingly.

3) Gift Shopping: This is a fun one! Thinking about gift ideas now will give you time to save money for the expensive gifts like electronics, jewelry, or a trip. Make a list of everyone you'd like to give to, and I'll be you already have ideas about what you'd want to get for them right? Keep your list with you so that when a new idea pops into your head, you can write it down. This is a huge time saver.

4) Seasonal Cards: Will you be sending cards this December or at New Year's? Make out your cardc list and create and print address labels if you decide not to handwrite. As soon as you buy your cards or receive your photo cards, start stamping, labeling, or handwriting. If you have children, you can ask them to do this part! This will free you up to write personal messages in each card if you'd like.

5) Get Organized: Whether you're having a party or having guests stay with you for a week, you'll want your house to be in tip-top shape. Is your kitchen ready for all the cooking and baking you'll do? Is your guest room free of clutter? Let us help you relieve any anxiety you may be feeling about your home so you can have a restful season that is fun, joyful, and calm!

Posted in Heart of the home
Oct. 17, 2019

Does selling during the holidays make sense?

A lot of people ask me when is the best time to sell their home. And most assume that November, December, and January are the worst times. In some ways, that is true. However, not always. The holiday season, or winter season, has its pros and cons for selling real estate.

Home selling during the holidays


One drawback is that some buyers are distracted and concentrating more on family and social events than on looking for homes. And, many buyers don't want to be moving during the actual holidays they celebrate. Keep in mind, buyers are of all different cutural and faith backgrounds, and celebrate various holidays at different times. This is no longer a one-size-fits-all world. Another downside for buyers is that inventory tends to be lower toward the end of the year, so there is less to choose from which may cause them to pause their search until Spring.

However, on the upside, only the most motivated buyers are out and about looking at homes at year end. Some are beginning new jobs in January and must move ahead of time. The truly motivated will be happy to see your home, and once there is more inventory, there will be less demand for what you're offering. Less competition means more money in your pocket, due to higher demand.

Buyers who are looking during the holiday season are also more emotional, and some have more time available due to seasonal corporate shut downs. Some buyers are urgently needing to buy before year-end due to tax reasons.

Only you know whether if makes sense for you to have your home on the market during November, December, or January. Also keep in mind you can control how it is done - you can restrict showings to specific times and days. You can also have a delayed closing or extended occupancy to safeguard personal days and dates that are important for you to not be inconvenienced by showings or signoffs.

We're happy to answer any additional questions that come up for you, to see what timing makes sense. We also have reports and statistics for every month of the year if you're curious about average sales prices, average volume sold, etc. which we can provide on request.

Posted in Home selling