Insider Tips for Selling a Home in San Jose
Make the Most Money, Reduce Stress, and Minimize Inconvenience
Whether you want to upgrade your square footage, change your school district, or leave the area, you’re ready to sell your house in San Jose.
Selling a house is a big deal! After all, you have to find the right agent to guide you through the process, prepare the property for market (often taking on updates and repairs), and time the listing properly to maximize your earnings.
As a seller, you have one job – sell for the highest price possible with the least amount of stress. Your goal is to position the property in such a way that it gets the biggest possible return. In our 20+ years of selling 200+ homes in San Jose, we’ve had a lot of wins along the way. But we’ve also witnessed a lot of mistakes.
Thankfully, these mistakes are avoidable. By following the insider tips and tricks on how to sell your house with a realtor, you will maximize the amount you get for your home and minimize stress and inconvenience along the way. Learn even more tips and tricks at an in-person San Jose Seller Seminar.
Important note: Though you may be attached to your own ideas on how to sell, you’ll have the most success if you follow this advice. We’ve done it hundreds of times and have a pulse on what buyers in San Jose want in a home. Trust us!
Remember– you’re not alone. We’ll be beside you every step of the way to ensure a seamless transition as you say goodbye to your house in San Jose and hello to your next adventure.
- Phase 1: Prepare to sell (3-6+ months before list)
- Phase 2: Time & finalize the plan for your sale (3 months - 45 days before on market)
- Phase 3: Price and present your home (2 weeks before market)
- Phase 4: Get noticed in the market & negotiate an offer (on market date through an accepted offer)
- Phase 5: Enter escrow, close, and move (after offer)
- FAQS about selling a home in San Jose
(3-6+ months out)
Once you’ve decided to sell your house in San Jose, it’s time to prepare to actually do it. Your job now is to develop your plan, assemble your team, and check your mindset. This typically happens 3-6 months before listing your property. To get a headstart on this planning, consider attending an in-person San Jose Seller Seminar.
First, you’ll need to decide when and where you’re going to move.
Although many factors go into the plan for a move, your financial situation will dictate how flexible you can be. For example, some people are able to buy another property before they sell their house. Others need to live in their home while they’re selling it, using the proceeds from the sale to get into the next property.
Time of year can matter as well, especially if you have school-aged children and want to enroll them in school before the upcoming academic year.
Pinpointing the timeline is the first hurdle you’ll have to jump through, especially if you plan to use the proceeds from the home sale to get into your next property. It can be a delicate dance getting the logistics right. Thankfully, a savvy listing agent can guide you through.
The right real estate agent in San Jose can help you maximize how much you get for your property.
A knowledgeable agent will have insider knowledge on what home buyers want, an established process for listing a home, as well as a team of professionals who can help you make improvements and market the house.
Wondering how to choose an agent? Read our guide for choosing the right listing agent when selling in San Jose.
You can also attend a Home Seller Seminar or set up a personal Home Selling Consult to get more insider tips and recommendations for selling. In the Home Seller Seminar we cover the common questions we hear from sellers including: steps to selling a house in California, California laws for selling a home and tax consequences of selling a house in California.
When it comes to selling, mindset matters. It’s often an emotional process, as you’ve likely lived in your home a long time and made a lot of memories. You’re also used to living a certain way and may be out of your comfort zone. That’s ok– that’s all part of the process.
You want to make sure you’re going into it with the right mindset. Otherwise, you may find yourself inconvenienced, stressed, or overwhelmed. If you’re too attached to certain ideas, you might also leave money on the table.
When it comes to your mindset, you’ll need to:
- Prepare for the work and inconvenience: Moving is a lot of work. If you haven’t done it in a while, you might forget. Plus, when you sell a home, you have to stage it, prepare for open houses, and coordinate repairs. You’re used to living a certain way and this may change as you get your home ready to sell. For some, this is extremely stressful. For others, it’s simply inconvenient. No matter where you fall, it’s best to set the expectation that doing this right takes time and effort. And fear not– we offer different levels of services to help you through this process.
- Emotionally detach from the house: You’ve lived in your house for a long time and are likely attached to it. After all, you have a lot of memories tied to this property. You may have made updates that you’re proud of, as well. In order to maximize profit, you’ll need to emotionally detach from the house, embracing the idea that it is not your house anymore. Your goal is to make it as neutral as possible so that it is attractive to more buyers.
- Embrace the “model home”: When you go visit a model home, it looks extremely tidy and neat. Even though this isn’t really how we live, this neutral palette helps get buyers in the door, as it’s a blank canvas they can imagine themselves living in. This goes along with emotionally detaching– even if you love the backyard furniture, it might not be attractive to buyers.
Biggest mistakes to avoid in Phase 1
- Thinking your home is worth a certain amount, then making plans with the money. For example, buying a home in another location, assuming your home will sell for a certain high price.
- Not accounting for all the costs to sell upfront in your planning.
- Being too hung up on the things *you* love about the home without emotionally detaching from the property so that it’s as attractive as possible to buyers
- Neglecting to hire a solid agent in advance. Hiring an average agent right before you’re ready to go to market, rather than 3-6 months in advance, is likely to cost you.
FAQs for Phase 1
- How do you choose the best listing agent in San Jose?
- What questions should I ask real estate agents that I’m interviewing?
- How do you emotionally detach from a property?
- What is the best time of year to put a house in San Jose on the market?
- How do I learn more about setting up my personal plan?
- What are the costs to sell a property in San Jose?
- What not to fix when selling a house
Now that you’ve prepared yourself for what selling your house in San Jose entails, it’s time to execute. Your job now is to position your home the best it can be in the market, create a detailed calendar, and research pricing.
Make it look like a model
Model homes sell because they look neutral. Buyers can imagine themselves in the home. There aren’t someone else’s personal photos or clutter– the home is a blank canvas that they can see as their own.
No one actually lives in a home as sparse as a model home– we all have the usual clutter of life on our countertops– but your goal when listing is to declutter and stage it so that it’s as neutral as possible.
To make this happen, we recommend pre-packing and storing your belongings. Many of our clients choose to put items into storage– renting a unit or pod to get stuff out of the house.
Make obvious repairs
Make the repairs that you know need to be done. Most people have a running to-do list with small repairs they don’t get to because of the chaos of everyday life.
For example, you might need to touch up paint throughout the house, but never get around to it. When you’re selling your house, you’d take care of this right away. Other examples? Windows that stick, squeaky doors, a toilet that keeps on running, or a gutter that keeps falling off the house.
When buyers see small imperfections, they’re likely to be suspicious that the home needs more work than it actually does. These small imperfections become barriers. We don’t want to give buyers reasons not to buy your house– fix these obvious repairs.
Decide on home updates
Putting in a little bit of time and money into updates before you sell can maximize the amount you get for the property. Our goal here is to get $2 back for every $1 spent. For example, if we spend $3000 on fresh paint, we expect to make $6000 back when we sell.
The bare minimum is to paint, evaluate the landscaping for curb appeal, color, and tidiness, and refresh the flooring. Many sellers do more extensive updates– they refresh the bathrooms, kitchen, and light fixtures.
Consult with an agent to see what today’s buyers are looking for– they’ll be able to guide you through which updates are worth doing. If they're well-connected in the community, they'll have go-to tradespeople ready to help. At Homeowner Experience, we have an extensive network of local contractors we routinely hire.
- Paint - Fresh paint on the interior and exterior of the house can make a gigantic difference in how the property looks to buyers. Even though paint is incredibly inexpensive and easy to change, people walk into a home and immediately fixate on the color of the walls. You want something as neutral as possible. It’s relatively inexpensive and fast to paint a home– you can budget up to $15,000 to professionally paint the interior and exterior of a home.
- Landscaping - The way your house looks from the street is a buyer’s first impression. You need to have good curb appeal. Along with fresh paint, you need landscaping as well. Simple updates like fresh, natural-colored mulch will make a huge impact
- Flooring - Floors are often scratched and worn. Sometimes, flooring is mismatched from room to room– replacing it can make the space feel bigger and flow better. It’s straightforward to update the carpets or lay down new flooring and it will go a long way in improving how the property looks to buyers.
- Room repurposing - Perhaps you have a dining room and use it as an office or have made one of your bedrooms into an art studio. Depending on how you’re using the rooms in your home, it may be worth fully restaging an area. For example, you might need to make that dining room look like a dining room.
More extensive updates:
- Lighting changes - Updating light fixtures to more neutral or modern ones can make a positive impression. Lighting can quickly go out of style– swapping it out is an easy and inexpensive way to make your home look more updated.
- Kitchen update - Our clients take on minor kitchen updates, as well as more comprehensive ones. Updating the kitchen can include painting cabinets, redoing the floor, as well as replacing countertops and fixtures.
- Bathroom update - A new vanity and medicine cabinet, new flooring, and new light fixtures is not as expensive as you think and will be attractive to buyers.
Wondering what kind of updates we help with? Here’s a video about bathroom and kitchen remodels in San Jose. We share costs and show the transformation.
Declutter, purge, and neutralize
You’ll need to take care of your own items, decluttering, purging, and neutralizing so that the home is as empty and clutter-free as possible. Enlist your agent’s help here– they’ll have specific suggestions on what you can do (and how to go about it)– to help you neutralize.
Many sellers hire organization experts or professional stagers to help them through this process. Sometimes, sellers will leave their own furniture in the home. More often, the home will be professionally staged with neutral furnishings to make it look like a model.
Refer to the calendar
There’s a lot that happens when it comes to selling a house, which is why a good agent will create a detailed calendar of what’s happening and when.
At Homeowner Experience, we provide our clients with an online group calendar to plan and coordinate these events so that it’s as easy as possible to keep track. We sketch out the calendar so that it’s easy to see whether it’s an item our team is handling or whether it’s something that you’re responsible for.
Here are some things that will be added to the calendar.
- Pre-home inspection
- Professional photos for listing
- Official move out/movers
- Listing date
- Offer date
- Estimated closing dates
Before you put your house on the market, you’ll want to research pricing to get an idea for what your home might sell for.
Get a market analysis
We recommend starting with a free market analysis– our team will analyze local comparable sales, trends, and market data to provide you with comparable recent sale data in your neighborhood.
Once a current researched value is determined, we set you up to follow your home value each month. You will get two email reports to provide different perspectives: FIRST, an automated value email which includes your total equity change each month, SECOND a neighborhood focused report of immediate sales like your home in your local area.
Keep track of market trends in San Jose
The market in San Jose fluctuates based on the stock market, interest rates, level of inventory, and a number of other factors. As a result, you’ll want to make sure you understand what’s happening in the area as a whole.
To stay informed of the local San Jose Housing Market, watch our video updates and sign up for our newsletter. We’re constantly analyzing what’s happening in the market and updating sellers so that they can have a solid understanding.
Watch automated value models (AVM)
An Automated Value Model (AVM) is a home price generated automatically by algorithms. You’ve likely seen these before– Redfin, Zillow, and Homebot all have tools that give an estimate of the home value.
These estimates are helpful indicators, as they take nearby home sales into account, as well as square footage and number of bedrooms. You should definitely keep track of AVMs, but you also shouldn’t get hung up on them.
Lots of buyers assume that AVMs are accurate and we’ve seen people get hung up on the “Zestimate” without considering other factors. While AVMs provide a solid ballpark estimate, they can't account for many of the nuances such as the traffic on the street. They also don't account for any updates completed on the home.
Biggest mistakes to avoid in Phase 2
- Neglecting to neutralize the property due to emotional attachment
- Leaving personal items in the house instead of staging
- Assuming buyers will look past small blemishes or paint color
- Leaving the home “as is” without taking on some updates to command a higher sale price
(2 weeks before market)
You obviously want to get the highest amount possible for your home in San Jose. But in Silicon Valley’s competitive market, it’s not as simple as listing it at the price you want and immediately attracting a buyer.
Buyers want to feel they are getting a good buy or a deal. The price must be attractive for the house in order to lure people to come in and see what the home has to offer.
You’ll want to price the home right to attract as many buyers as possible. You’ll also want to present it well– in person and online– to get people excited about the property. The more people you get in, the more potential offers.
Thankfully, you can price and present your home just right to create a lot of interest while also maximizing return.
Create the right list price strategy
We often see mistakes during this phase– sellers want to price their property at a certain amount without taking a deep look at the competition or gaining an understanding of the market, often due to emotional attachment to the home. Sometimes, they’re fixated on Zillow’s estimate without exploring the nuances.
Working with a knowledgeable local real estate agent to create a list price strategy will help a lot when it comes to pricing. They’ll not only recommend a listing price based on data, but they’ll also be able to recommend a solid strategy that will attract buyers.
Important note: Your job is to create a list price that is attractive to three parties: (1) the buyer, (2) the buyer’s agent who will be putting together comps, and (3) the appraiser.
Buyers and agents in San Jose are savvy and have often put multiple offers in on a home before securing one. They’re likely to have a good sense of what a competitive offer will be.
Why many sellers underprice
Generally, we recommend underpricing your home. When a home is priced low, sellers are likely to get a lot of activity and multiple offers, which means they can choose from more buyers. Underpricing also means the house will sell faster– this means it’s less of an inconvenience, usually resulting in a week of activity before an offer is accepted.
The only way to know market value is to have the most number of prospective buyers through the door, which is why the goal is to make the home the most attractive to the most number of buyers.
The danger of listing at the “dream price”
In contrast, if you price the home at your “dream price,” it might sit on the market for weeks. Buyers and their agents will see the property, think that it’s way overpriced, and neglect to go see it. Some buyers may be screening out properties above a certain price point, even if they can actually afford your “dream price.”
Sitting on the market for a long time is not a good sign– it makes your property look unattractive, like something is “wrong” with it, even if it’s a great property. As a result, you might get lowball offers from prospective buyers. It may become more difficult to get the “dream price” that you want.
Important note: If you want top dollar, the house must be in top condition. Doing inspections upfront will allow us to know what needs to be done, so we can take care of all possible items to maximize the price you receive.
Present your home
At this stage in the game, you’ll need to make your home as presentable as possible, finishing up the final details to make it attractive in person and online. It should already be clutter free and neutral– now is the time to pay attention to detail.
Online real estate listings are the name of the game. Virtually all buyers and agents are using the internet to look at homes. The better you market online, the more prospective buyers will want to come visit the property. Making the home look good in photos and video is paramount. You’ll need to have:
- Property website - The best properties have websites that showcase the photos, videos, and floor plans altogether in one spot. If you’d like to see an example, visit our featured listings page and click the “virtual tour” button to see a property website.
- Professional photos - Professional photos from a real estate photographer show off your home, making it look as inviting as possible. Photographers know how to use light and depth of field to create a sense of space.
- 3D tour - A 3D tour allows a prospective buyer to get a real sense for the layout. These tours are created by photographers with special cameras and software.
- Floorplan - The floorplan gives buyers a sense of the overall layout, number of rooms, and flow of the home. It also provides measurements so they can gain an understanding of scale.
- Video - A property video brings the home to life. Buyers can see what it looks like inside. Videos generate excitement, as well. A walkthrough video with a real estate agent is particularly helpful as the agent can explain the property.
At the property
This is the time when details matter. Your home needs to be as neutralized as possible, and all details need to be considered.
Remember– very small things will turn buyers away, making them worry that the property is deficient in some way. For example, if the home has a strong smell of food or the trash has not been removed outside, buyers may get distracted and turned off. These seem like small things, but they can make a big difference.
Every visitor to your home could be writing you an offer so you want the home to show its best every time. You can use this checklist every time you leave the property for a showing to make sure every detail is addressed:
BEFORE YOU LEAVE EACH DAY (DAILY CHECKLIST)
- Pick up any clutter around the home. Put it away away or hide in cabinets not likely to be opened (closets will probably be opened)
- Put away mail
- Clean and put away dishes
- Put away towels (hide in dryer or somewhere out of sight)
- Empty trash cans or hide in cabinets. Kitchen trash should be taken out often to avoid smells.
- Ensure that beds are made and in picture perfect condition
- Put all toilet lids down
- Pull up rugs/temporary towels off bathroom floors
- Open window blinds and leave on lights in key areas, kitchen, dining room, master side table lamps etc
- Close closet doors
- Make sure the thermostat is set to a comfortable temperature (68+ in winter or 76 degrees or less in summer). The home needs to be comfortable for guests/buyers who are running around.
- Keep valuables (keys, checkbooks, jewelry, items of importance to you, anything you don’t want a kid to touch) out of plain sight or even better, locked away
- Secure pets– they could be in a side yard, garage, or in the best case, taken out of the home
- Set on some background music if possible to make the home feel relaxing when buyers enter
Biggest mistakes to avoid in Phase 3
- Listing a home for a dream or desired price without analyzing comps and other data
- to take care of details in advance of showings. A full trash can is a no-no
- Getting fixated on a price from Zillow or Redfin without exploring the nuance of the market and property
(on market date through an accepted offer)
Now that you’ve priced and presented your home, it’s time to officially list it. At this stage, you want to get noticed in the market, generate interest and offers, and ultimately negotiate to get the best possible price for your home.
In a low inventory market, many sellers choose to set an offer date, usually a week or so after listing, when they’ll review all offers. Doing so allows buyers to get their offers in at the same time so that sellers have a chance to review them all, rather than simply taking the first one that comes in.
Important note: At this point, most of the work is already done. How you position yourself in Phase 3 is going to give you opportunities (or not) when you actually list the home. If you only wind up with one offer, you won’t have tons of room to negotiate.
Having an experienced agent is critical because they're going to know what is happening in the market and be able to assess market feedback, as well as the offers once they come in. The agent will be able to advise on more than just the price. They’ll also be able to assess the terms to help ensure that the sale is likely to close.
Keep in mind that the goal of a negotiation is for it to be a win-win for all parties. Knowing how to give and take from both sides is important so that everyone winds up happy.
Note and assess feedback
Once you list the home, you’ll want to keep track of market response. For example, you’ll want to know how much activity the house is getting online, how many buyers have booked showings, and how many people came to the open house. You want an agent who is proactive about gathering feedback and keeping tabs on this information.
Assessing feedback gives you the opportunity to anticipate how many offers you might get or how interested buyers are. You might also get feedback that you can respond to. Sometimes, there’s something that’s a simple fix that you can take care of to ease buyer concerns.
Negotiate an offer
Once you have offers in hand, you can begin to negotiate. Having a great real estate agent by your side is critical here. When you work with a savvy and knowledgeable real estate agent, they’ll be able to help you play buyers against each other to create urgency and make sure you have the best terms.
For example, you may have a buyer come in with the top price but with less desirable terms. You can then go to another buyer with better terms and encourage them to offer more to make a deal. You can also share the terms of other offers with the buyer who has the best price to see if they’re willing to negotiate on terms.
You obviously want the most money possible, but you also want to make sure the deal goes through. If one offer is a bit lower but does not have any contingencies, it may be worth taking that offer, as risks are reduced. The last thing you want is to accept an offer, then not be able to close.
Biggest mistakes to avoid in Phase 4
- Failing to negotiate and play buyers against each other once offers come in
- Accepting the first or highest offer that comes in, regardless of terms
- Working with an inexperienced agent who lacks negotiation skills
Congratulations! You’ve assessed your offers and accepted one. Now what?
Even though you’ve signed a contract and entered escrow, the home is not yet sold. The buyer can back out if something comes up especially if they have contingencies. Yes, they would be leaving earnest money on the table if all contingencies have been removed, but they may see that as a small price to pay if something happens in their personal lives or with the property. The property is still yours until you close.
That means it’s still your job to maintain the property, work with the buyer to keep everyone happy, and abide by the terms of the contract. This ensures the buyer remains excited about the property so that they move forward to close.
While you’re waiting to close, you’ll want to make sure you’re fully moved out. Be meticulous to make sure you’ve removed everything– check all corners of the attic and the rafters in the garage. Being very thorough is important as you will be saying goodbye to this home.
In our experience, moving out several days before close of escrow is the best path forward, as it allows time for the unexpected. For more tips on moving, check out our moving guide for top tips on how to make your move as seamless as possible.
Important note: When you leave the home, it should look immaculate. There should not be one dust bunny on the floor!
Biggest mistakes to avoid in Phase 5:
- Assuming the house is sold before you close– the house is still yours until the closing
- Leaving items behind or leaving the home messy
- Failing to maintain landscape or condition and operation of the home for the entire escrow period
FAQs for Phase 5:
What are common mistakes people make when selling their house in San Jose? (coming soon)
Why do some homes sell faster than others? (coming soon)
How much does it typically cost to sell a home in San Jose? (coming soon)
Should you sell your house on your own without an agent? (coming soon)