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What Zillow Isn't Telling You Could Cost You

As one of the top real estate websites in the country, Zillow plays an important role in our industry. On the one hand, it's a good source for Los Gatos real estate trends. On the other hand, it isn't so good at providing accurate value estimates or up-to-date information on homes for sale. 

Why is Zillow not as accurate as people expect?

For starters, Zillow gathers some data from tax records and some data from the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). While the MLS is the true, accurate market for real estate data, tax records are not a reliable source for home evaluations. For instance, sales that occur off market, such as inter-family transfers, cause property to sell for less than full market value.This skews the data enough to make the Zestimate nothing more than a broad estimate. 

If you're trying to sell your home in Los Gatos, Willow Glen or Saratoga, Zillow isn't going to be much help getting an accurate value estimate. Zillow's algorithm only accounts for things like bedroom and bathroom count and the square footage of the property in relation to the particular neighborhood's market values. If you've made gorgeous improvements to your home - marble counter tops, new cabinets, etc. - they won't be factored into the Zestimate. This could cause your home to be undervalued by as much as 10-15%. 

If you are looking to buy a home, you need to know that Zillow's data is typically delayed anywhere from 24-72 hours. At best, Zillow is a convenient starting point. Once you have your feet on the street shopping for a home, it's time to hire a local expert. We're here to help with real-time market information and listings.

As always, give us a call if you are looking to buy or sell a home in Los Gatos, Willow Glen or Saratoga, or anywhere in the Silicon Valley area. We would be happy to provide you with the most updated and accurate information.

San Jose Mercury News Interviews Brett Jennings on Bay Area Housing Market

Brett Jennings Interviewed by San Jose Mercury News

Pete Carey recently interviewed me regarding the affordability of homes in the Bay Area and Silicon Valley. 

Here's the quote featured in the article:

"I believe we are probably hitting affordability limits," said Brett Jennings of Keller Williams in Los Gatos. He said his typical buyers are a husband and wife in tech, making a combined $240,000 a year, who still can't afford a basic home in some parts of the valley.

"When the median home price is no longer supported by the median income, we're near top," he said.

If you're looking to buy a home in Los Gatos, Willow Glen, Saratoga or anywhere in Silicon Valley, it's important to work with an agent that knows how to locate off-market properties and negotiate the best possible price on your new home.

Click here to access off-market properties for sale. Currently features over 100 properties not available on the MLS, including builders, developers, investors and private parties who are open to offers. 

Contact us today to start your home search, we'd love to help.

5 Home Improvements to Boost Your Home Value

Trouble finding the perfect home?
Click here for off market properties list

5 Improvements Guaranteed to Raise Your Home's Value

Our topic today comes to us from people asking about the recent increase in home values throughout California and Silicon Valley. I wanted to show you 5 different ways that you can increase your home's value through home improvements.

  1. Front Door: You never get a second chance to make a first impression. A new front door can cost anywhere from $700-$5,000 but on average, you can expect a 125% return on the replacement of a front door.
  2. Interior Doors: Interior doors are relatively inexpensive but can add a lot to your home. There is a company in Silicon Valley (Interior Door Replacement Company) that can replace your doors for $100-$200. This is a very inexpensive way to upgrade the look of your home. It's amazing what new door handles can do as well.
  3. Garage Door: This will typically increase your home value and your curb appeal substantially. I recently replaced my aluminum garage door with a wooden one, and it made a world of difference on the curb appeal of my home. This is another project that will return well over 100% of the money invested.
  4. Kitchen Remodel: While this is more extensive than my other suggestions, kitchens sell houses. A kitchen remodel can dramatically upgrade the appeal (and market value) of your home. In my opinion, a good kitchen remodel can return 2-3x the cost, making it one of the best investments you can make in your home.
  5. Bathroom Remodels: Bathroom and kitchen remodels go hand in hand. Consumers love seeing updated kitchens and modern bathrooms. You can spend as little as $3,000 dollars on a half bathroom, or you can spend as much as $15,000 on a full bathroom remodel. Little changes to your bathroom can also add a lot of value.
For a FREE report on the cost vs value of home improvements, visit: 

If you're considering a specific project for your Silicon Valley home, be sure to look at that report and also consult with a professional real estate agent. Most remodels don't raise your home's value and will cost you both time and money. A local real estate expert can help you determine where your home would benefit the most from key improvements.

Please don't hesitate to contact us. We'd love to take a look at your property to discuss the improvements you're considering and how they will affect the value of your home.

How to finance your home improvements

David Lawver and Brett discuss three ways to finance your upgrades.

Please don't hesitate to contact us. We'd love to take a look at your property to discuss the improvements you're considering and how they will affect the value of your home. 

How to Move Up: Buy First or Sell First?

Trouble finding the perfect home?
Click here for off market properties list

I am back today with David Lawver from Kal Financial discussing how to get from your current home and into your next one. Should you buy first? Should you sell first? Or should you own 2 homes at once?

There are typically 4 ways to get from your existing home to your new one.


1. Temporary Rental: This might be the simplest, but not the most convenient. You sell your home, rent a property for 3-6 months, and then move into the home you eventually purchase. This involves moving twice, which most people like to avoid. This usually leads to other options.

2. Make a Contingent Offer on Your New Home: This means you start by locating your next home, then write into the offer that the purchase of that property is contingent on the sale of your current home. In the market we're experiencing in Silicon Valley with low inventory and high demand, this offer doesn't stand a good chance of being accepted.

3. Contingent Sale: In this option you would start by listing your home for sale, but the sale would be contingent on locating and purchasing your next home. Basically, you would tell the buyer who presents the final offer that you can only sell your home once you have found another. This option has a higher possibility of working in our Silicon Valley market, but it still puts you at a disadvantage when you're buying because your offer would still be contingent on closing escrow on your current home.

4. Sell Your Home and Rent Back until You Buy: In this option you would sell your current property but request that the buyer rent the home back to you while you find your next home. Usually lenders will not allow rent-backs for longer than 60 days, so you have to be swift if you're going to do this. If you add in the 30-day escrow period, you would have around 90 days to locate and move into a new property, which is manageable with the help of a skilled agent.

The final option would be to utilize a bridge loan. This works best for people who are equity-rich and cash-poor. They get a loan against their equity to provide a down payment on the new purchase. They are then able to buy and close on a home while still living in their existing home. This allows people to sell at their own pace. Neither escrow is contingent upon the other. The downside is that you must qualify for two mortgages.

So, a bridge loan is your best option, but you have to have a large income and great credit. The second best would be to sell your home and then do a rent-back. These are the two best options in our Silicon Valley market, so consult your local real estate expert for the best options if you're operating outside of our local market.

If you're nervous about this process, keep in mind that we are willing and capable to provide you with assistance. Feel free to contact me to discuss your situation, or to talk about real estate in Silicon Valley in general.

Beat the Summer Rush to Reap Huge Savings

Should I sell now or later?
Today I have a special guest with me. His name is David Lawver from Kal Financial and he is nationally recognized as a top-producing mortgage originator, and he has been in this business for 10 years. In addition to this, he's the host of Silicon Valley radio hour, which focuses on finances, real estate and other issues. This program airs on KLIV on Saturdays at 9:00 a.m.

Now, what we're going to focus on today is whether or not you should sell now or wait to list your property in the summer. David gets this question a lot as a mortgage professional, and he has put together some charts to show you where interest rates are headed and how this will affect you if you're thinking about selling your home in the near future.

What will it cost you to wait to sell in the summer?

This analysis covers a person selling & buying a home today, versus a person selling & buying a home in the summer. Home prices often rise 5-10% during the summer, so keep that in mind for now. This is taking a $750,000 starter home with a loan balance of $400,000 and selling it today. That money is then being parlayed into a $1.2 million dollar purchase price, leaving an $850,000 loan from the proceeds of this sale. In the summer scenario we're assuming the previous house of $750K rose in value to $825K, but that also the new purchase price rose proportionally in value to $1.31 million. This leaves a loan amount of $885K with the higher down payment.

After running the numbers, the monthly payment savings from buying today versus waiting until summer is $695 per month. When you buy today, the total interest over the lifetime of the loan is $700,455, and in the summer this amount would jump to $874,000. In total, your savings for purchasing a home today rather than in the summer would be just under $175,000.

Further, if that savings of $695 per month is reinvested at 5%, the person who buys today versus in the summer will have a bank account with $578,000 in it. This is on top of the $175,000 in interest savings.
What we can deduce from this is that if you buy today, you can save hundreds of thousands of dollars. However, if you can invest your savings you can actually gain on this transaction. Buying now can make a huge difference for the average buyer. The first few times that David ran this exercise he found it hard to believe how much you could save just by buying earlier rather than later. These numbers don't lie, though.

What you need to realize is that buying before the summer rush is a key long-term financial strategy. If you're thinking of buying or refinancing, be sure to contact David. He can be reached at (408) 834 4571 or email him at david@kalfinancial.com.

How to find a home when there's nothing on the market

How to Purchase When Inventory is Low

Today I'm going to to speak about a problem that a lot of buyers in Silicon Valley have been asking me about lately. Inventory is currently very low in this area, and clients have been asking me how to buy a home with so few properties available. I have three simple things you can do to increase your chances of finding a great home for yourself.
  1. Get Gateway Access to the MLS: A lot of people only look for homes on websites like Trulia or Zillow, and while these are good resources, they do not provide direct access to the MLS. For a property to show up on Trulia or Zillow, it can take anywhere from 24-72 hours to be uploaded, and in a fast-paced market such as the one here in Silicon Valley, it's just not fast enough. The MLS will give you the best chance to find up-to-date properties with accurate information on them.
  2. Get Access to Off-Market Properties: What I mean by this is that you should be looking at private sellers, builders, developers, or perhaps people that are flipping properties. Here at Bret Jennings Real Estate Experts, we've been cultivating a list of more than 100 properties that are not on the MLS. With only 750 properties available on the MLS, our list represents almost 15% of all available inventory in Silicon Valley. Feel free to click the link below to request a copy of our Off-Market List.
  3. Be Proactive in Your Search: Whoever you're working with in your search for real estate, whether it's yourself or another agent, you need to be proactive in your search. What I mean by this is that your realtor should be engaging in a telemarketing campaign, a direct mail campaign, or even a door knocking campaign. You want to contact any and all potential sellers in your neighborhood so that you can put an offer on a property before it hits the MLS. This way you can make an offer on their home and avoid a bidding war before it goes on the open market. Turn over every stone that you possibly can.
These are three great strategies for finding homes when inventory is low. Also, by finding properties not listed on the MLS you have a better chance of finding a good deal with less competition.

Of course, the best thing that you can do to find yourself a great home is to contact your real estate agent. If you need assistance finding real estate in Silicon Valley, allow me to be your resource. I can be reached at (408) 807-4541 or visit www.TheBrettJenningsTeam.com

Should I Sell Now...or in the Summer?

Should I Sell Now...or in the Summer?

This is probably a question that has been nagging at a lot of people's minds recently. There are three key considerations you should think about in making this decision.

  1. Inventory is at an all-time low right now: Real estate prices are driven by supply and demand, and supply is extremely, extremely low right now. Currently, there are less than 1,000 homes and condos available in Silicon Valley. I expect inventory to double once we approach June, so now is a great time to get your home listed and marketed if you want to avoid extra competition.
  2. Interest Rates Will Rise: What this means for you is that waiting will cost you money. The National Mortgage Bankers Association expects rates to rise from 4.5% to 5.4% or 5.3%. This increase could cost you if you wait to buy. For example, on a $700,000 loan, this 1% increase will cost you an extra $420 per month, or an extra $180,000 over the life of the loan! There is no reason not to take advantage of these low interest rates.
  3. Time Your Listing Well: What I mean by this is that you must put your home on the market when buyer activity is peaking. If you take a look at this map from Trulia, search activity for homes peaks in California during March and April, not during the summer as most people would believe. Missing this peak could prevent you from getting the best price on your property.
These three trends are all indicating that you should sell your home as soon as possible to get the best possible price for it. If you need any help in this process feel free to reach out to us and we will give you a complimentary Smart Home-Selling Strategy which includes a free home evaluation as well as tips & advice to increase your home's value before you put it on the market.

Feel free to contact me at (408) 807-4541 or visit www.TheBrettJenningsTeam.com