Los Altos Price Explanation

There had to be skeptics to my Los Altos Adventure last weekend.

Did you mis-price the house by more than a million dollars on purpose – or just by accident? Come on – you were 440 miles out of your normal market area….dude….you got lucky!!

I like to pay close attention to the market activity in the days before inputting a new listing. This was the latest listing by the guy who has just captured nationwide attention of his lowball $10,000-commission offer to the buyer-agents. As of Wednesday night, this was still active, and I told my sister that I didn’t want to compete directly because mine would help to sell his. If it was still an active listing when I woke up on Thursday, then I’m not coming up and we will postpone the listing for at least two weeks due to weather:

https://www.compass.com/app/listing/764-parma-way-los-altos-ca-94024/1510956913476773969

Miraculously, when I woke up the listing was marked pending – so I left for Los Altos.

All I had to be was the most attractive new listing in a very exclusive area (Nvidia is based in San Jose). There had to be losers from the Parma bidding war who were motivated to buy the next one, and there was nothing else for sale at this price point.

I was talking it up with every agent who came to my open house, and eventually I found an agent who was in the same office as the buyer-agent of Parma – and they confirmed that it sold for $4,150,000! Do you think I told that to every person I met over the next 48 hours….yes!

Let’s note my options: Either price attractively and have buyers bid it up, or price at retail and wait.

Here’s an example. The size of house and lot are pretty similar to mine, and it’s a busy street too. How are they doing? They listed for $3,998,000, and 30 days later they are still unsold:

https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/1107-Covington-Rd-Los-Altos-CA-94024/19533609_zpid/

There is an easy guide for pricing:

The more obstacles that need to be overcome, the more attractive the price needs to be.

I’ve been showing houses to buyers the last couple of days, and this theory has never been more clear.  As we walk into a house that appears to be priced at the top of the range (or higher), the skepticism builds with every step – and we’re looking for any reason NOT to buy.

But when you walk into an attractively-priced home and see defects, they just confirm why the price is attractive – buyers don’t expect perfection when the price is attractive!

What happens once a home hits the open market depends on the listing agent. Yesterday, one was blaring his Jesus music, and another was chatting with the sellers who were still hanging around even though the open house started 15 minutes earier. Most listing agents aren’t implementing any bidding-war strategy – heck, yesterday there was one agent who didn’t even know the price of the home!

In reviewing the Los Altos comps, about half of them had closed over the list price, so I knew it was going to be hot. I knew that I was selling a house that looked all original, and was on a busy street. So we priced it attractively and I aggressively implemented my tried-and-true bidding war strategy that works!

List-Price Accuracy Gauge

Once a home is for sale but not selling, how do you know what to do?

Both buyers and sellers can apply my List-Price Accuracy Gauge:

Once the home is on the open market, if it is……

  • Getting visitors and offers, you are within 5% of being right on price.
  • Getting visitors but no offers, you are 5% to 10% wrong on price.
  • Not getting visitors, then you are more than 10% wrong on price.

It’s nothing personal, it’s just a simple guide to know how close the price is to being right.

The serious buyers rush out the first week to take a look, but after that it’s crickets, with only an occasional visitor. It is tough for sellers to cope, or make adjustments. But once the initial urgency has expired, you have to do something – don’t just sit there.

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How quickly should sellers make adjustments? The DOM clock is ticking!

0-14 days on market – Hot property, and when the sellers have their maximum negotiating power.

15-30 days on market – Buyers get suspicious, want to pay under list.

30+ days on market – Buyers will be expecting deep discounts, or ignore it altogether.

After being unsold for two weeks, sellers will suspect that something is wrong. But it is natural to resist changing the price and instead blame everything else – especially the listing agent.

Sellers, and agents, need to shake that off and act quickly to keep the urgency higher. The first price reduction should be for at least 5% and happen in the first 15-30 days for maximum effectiveness. If the home doesn’t sell in the next two weeks, then another 5% is in order, and by then the fluff is eliminated.

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Where do sellers go wrong?  They don’t properly price in the negatives.

Typically sellers just pick apart the comps to convince themselves why their home is the best around, and then settle on a list price that will show everyone who’s the boss.  If you don’t have any negatives, then you probably will get your price!  But typically sellers are forced to come to grips with the negatives of their house, and adjust accordingly.

Do sellers have to lower their price? No, not neccesarily.

There are other alternatives:

1.  Make your house easier to show.  Listing agents who insist on buyers jumping several hurdles just to see the home aren’t realistic about today’s market conditions. Make the home easy to see!

2.  Fix the problems.  New carpet and paint is the best thing you can do: 1) it looks clean, 2) it smells new, 3) you have to clean out your house to install it, and 4) you are managing a business transaction now – it is the logical solution.  Utilize staging too.

3.  Improve the Internet presence. Have at least a 12-25 hi-res photos and a simple youtube tour.

4.  Wait for the market to catch up.  If unsold for 60+ days, cancel and try again later – probably next year.

5. Reset the Days-on-Market stat.  As long as the MLS allows agents to refresh their listings, then it’s in the best interest of the seller to reset the DOM.  It is a gimmick, and instead sellers should concentrate on creating real value for buyers – that’s what will cause them to pay more.

The longer it takes to sell, the more discount the buyers will be expecting – usually about a 1% off for each week on the market.  When other homes are flying off the market, the buyers’ obvious conclusion is that your price is wrong, and they load up the lowball offers.

Even if you complete one or all of the five ideas above, don’t be surprised if you need to lower the price too. Keep it attractive!

Has Anyone Ever Written Anything for You

Between 1971 and 1978, Joe Walsh was married to Stefany Rhodes. The couple had a daughter named Emma, born in the first year of their marriage. When Emma was just three years old, Rhodes had a car accident which caused Emma to suffer from fatal head injuries. She was pulled out of the life support unit the same night, and her organs were donated. After this tragic incident, Walsh suffered from severe trauma, and the couple decided to break up.

To cope with Emma’s loss, Walsh began to use drugs and alcohol, and he wrote a song as a tribute to his daughter titled ‘Song For Emma.’ He also built a memorial fountain to Emma’s name in North Boulder Park, where Rhodes was taking Emma to at the time of the tragic car accident. Later on, when his relationship with Nicks began, Walsh shared this incident with Stevie. She was deeply affected, and went on to write ‘Has Anyone Ever Written Anything for You’ for Walsh, who is a former resident of Olivenhain!

NSDCC February Sales, Prelim

This month’s housing stats will benefit from an extra business day due to the leap year, but it will just be icing on the cake. The sales this month have already blown by last February, in spite of higher pricing.

I think we can say that we’re back to frenzy-like conditions:

Some agents insist on inputting their listings of attached homes in the SFR category. There has only been ONE house sale under $1,000,000 in the last three Februarys.

This month’s total will probably be around 160-170 sales, which is phenomenal when you consider that we had similar monthly sales counts when pricing was half of what it is today! Not only that, but the number of sales will be close to the total number of listings too – probably closer than during the peak frenzy years.

With declining sales across the country, there are complaints about how bad the market has been, and people are wondering when it will get ‘better’. Better? This is great, relatively, and this is what we’re going to have for the next few years because the boomers are still relatively young (half are still working).

It will take a surge of new listings, and/or a drop in demand, which you’d think would happen naturally as prices go higher. But not yet.

How’s the flow of new listings?

After a hot January that was +18% YoY, the February listings have cooled off – though there will be late-reporters that should get this year’s count up to 220-ish:

NSDCC Monthly Listings

Two months into the new year, I think we have found our groove. The inventory will stay low, and the special homes will keep blowing off the market – with the rest having to find their way.

San Diego Case-Shiller Index, Dec

After mortgage rates went up in 2022, the local Case-Shiller Index was jarred with a 12.1% drop over the subsequent eight months. The end of 2023 held up much better, logging only a slight decline of -1.4% in the last three months of the year:

The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price NSA Index, covering all nine U.S. census divisions, reported a 5.5% annual gain in December, up from a 5.0% rise in the previous month. The 10-City Composite showed an increase of 7.0%, up from a 6.3% increase in the previous month. The 20-City Composite posted a year-over-year increase of 6.1%, up from a 5.4% increase in the previous month.

San Diego reported the highest year-over-year gain among the 20 cities with an 8.8% increase in December, followed by Los Angeles and Detroit, each with an 8.3% increase. Portland showed a 0.3% increase this month, holding the lowest rank after reporting the smallest year-over-year growth.

“U.S. home prices faced significant headwinds in the fourth quarter of 2023,” says Brian D. Luke, Head of Commodities, Real & Digital Assets at S&P Dow Jones Indices. “However, on a seasonally adjusted basis, the S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Indices continued its streak of seven consecutive record highs in 2023.”

“2023 U.S. housing gains haven’t followed such a synchronous pattern since the COVID housing boom. The term ‘a rising tide lifts all boats’ seems appropriate given broad-based performance in the U.S. housing sector. All 20 markets reported yearly gains for the first time this year, with four markets rising over 8%. Portland eked out a positive annual gain after 11 months of declines. Regionally, the Midwest and Northeast both experienced the greatest annual appreciation with 6.7%.”

Los Altos Full Tour

This video includes a tour of the house so you can see what $4,200,000 gets you in Silicon Valley. The eight pine trees are protected, and thankfully, they are isolated into two extreme areas:

What does that money buy around here? Examples:

https://www.compass.com/listing/7949-sitio-redonda-carlsbad-ca-92009/1517092298670492217/

https://www.compass.com/listing/237-la-mesa-avenue-encinitas-ca-92024/1491117530189624585/

https://www.compass.com/listing/3325-jasmine-crest-encinitas-ca-92024/1479802900127867913/

https://www.compass.com/listing/2286-oxford-avenue-cardiff-by-the-sea-ca-92007/1420369672828843897/

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