While I believe that most who are involved in the San Carlos real estate market have been pleased with the turnaround of 2010, I think that most would also agree that the market is still susceptible on a variety of fronts, not the least of which is buyer and seller errors. From 1997-2007, it was difficult for buyers or sellers to do wrong in San Carlos. If you paid a little over market as a buyer or listed a little high as a seller, the market was robust enough to minimize most errors over time. That is not the case today.
How do buyers and sellers in San Carlos set themselves up for a successful venture in our real estate market? Answer: Educate themselves. Buying a home in San Carlos should be more than running through some open houses on Sundays. Selling a home is more than sticking a sign in the front yard. There should be a well calculated plan in place. Below are just some of the key points that buyers and sellers should be aware of when becoming involved in the San Carlos real estate market:
1. You’re in San Carlos. First, understand that San Carlos plays by its own rules. What is happening in neighboring or nearby towns could be completely different than what is happening in San Carlos. Second, drill down a little deeper. Know the difference between the six areas of San Carlos: Alder Manor, Cordes, Clearfield Park, Beverly Terrace, White Oaks and Howard Park. Educate yourself on the difference in buyer demand between these designated areas of San Carlos. Right now, the difference is significant. For a color coded map, please click here.
2. Ignore the List Price. For the most part, list prices in San Carlos are irrelevant. Outside of giving a hint as to what the seller may be thinking in terms of valuation, they should not have any determination on what you ultimately offer on the property. I have always told all of my buyers that they we need to come to our own, independent evaluation of the property. List prices in San Carlos are all over the map. Currently, 25% of our active inventory has been on the market over 100 days. On the other side of the spectrum, 36% of our pending inventory was on the market for under two weeks (homes used for the percentages above were spread out evenly over all different price zones in San Carlos). The point is that some of the list prices being set in San Carlos right now are not necessarily at market value . A buyer’s ability to understand the true valuation of a property is critical.
3. Staging. For sellers, it’s the ability to put your home in the most favorable light possible to prospective buyers. Many people do not believe in staging. I will reluctantly admit that I did not either prior to starting my real estate career. However, I can tell you that most people walking through an open house or a private tour make up their mind about a particular house within the first minute of being in the house. Either it’s in contention, or they have dismissed it. The old adage of first impressions are everything, is very true. Need further proof? There are a handful of realtors doing a substantial amount of business in San Carlos. All of them either have a personal stager/designer, or one that works for the realtor almost exclusively. Presentation, spacing and design all make a difference.
4. Solving Layout Issues. It’s the number one complaint among San Carlos buyers. Unless they have been substantially remodeled, many San Carlos homes have layout issues. The key is understanding which layout problems are more easily solved. San Carlos homes suffer from layout issues for a variety of reasons. Most homes in the flats were built as two or three bedroom homes in the 1940s. Over time, many of these homes were the victims of weekend warrior projects. A high percentage of these homes also have unpermitted additions and remodeling flaws. Homes falling into this category will almost immediately be dismissed by most buyers. However, if the house has a great lot and happens to be on an ideal street, it may be worth your time to bring a designer through the prospective house. There are a few very knowledgeable designers in San Carlos that can walk through a house with you and your realtor and advise you almost instantly on two items: (1) how to fix the issue and a prospective cost; and (2) what the likely requirements will be from the building department in San Carlos. Once buyers are armed with this information, they can better determine the true value of the house. Having the professional advice from the designer on the two points above will put the buyer in a better position to negotiate the price of the home. On a side note, if you are in need of a designer to accompany you on a tour of a home that you are considering, I am happy to refer you to the two that I have used with good success in San Carlos.
5. Educate Yourself. Times in real estate have changed. Realtors are no longer able to hoard the statistics on the real estate market. Anyone can get comparable sales prices and market trends at the push of a button. Many buyers and sellers looking in San Carlos do gather a lot of their own information. However, few take it the extra step of really understanding the subtle nuances that exist in San Carlos. The advice and guidance that you receive on these subtle nuances will make the biggest difference in the deal you ultimately strike. What do I mean by subtle nuances? Items that do not show up on most comparable market analysis reports in San Carlos, such as: (1) current buyer preference/demand (it seems to change weekly), (2) layout disasters vs. those that are solvable, (3) when a street, or even a block, can make a difference in valuation, (4) prospective distance to downtown, (5) the differences found in the six areas of San Carlos, (6) finding the off-market properties, (7) determining an independent valuation, and much more. All of these are crucial elements that should be taken into account when buying and selling in San Carlos.