by Mary Pope-Handy | May 2, 2023 | Buy a Home, Real Estate
Want to buy a house in the Los Gatos neighborhoods of Belwood, Belgatos or Surmont? There are a few things you should know about properties may be flipped that look “turnkey”, especially as the market heats up or inventory more available.
What is a flipped home?
Some contractors buy homes with deferred maintenance, often “off market”, do some quick remodeling (often without permits) and then put it on the open market as soon as possible. This is what we usually think of with flipped homes.
Also, some sellers quickly improve houses for a fast profit, sometimes when a house has been inherited to maximize their net. Some regular property owners do this, too, moving out for a quick rehab rather than remodeling for enjoying the house for their own use, often cut corners. These two categories are a spinoff of the contractor-builder flip. We see all of them in our real estate market.
Whether it’s owners doing a quick makeover or investors remodeling or improving select items, beware! Some of these properties give the impression of being “perfect” but in fact may only have been cleaned up in the most visible areas.
Questions to ask, some things to look for in flipped or similar properties
Here are some questions for you to ask or investigate when looking at homes for sale in east Los Gatos, particularly near the foothills.
Please note, owners or sellers who prepare the home for the maximum return on investment will probably add fresh paint & carpet (or pull up the carpet to expose the hardwood floors), swap out light fixtures, door and drawer or cabinet hardware, and tidy the front landscaping. These are not in the category of flipping, but more like normal refreshing a home to sell.
When does it move from refreshing to flipping? If the kitchen and bathrooms were hastily remodeled in the recent past, you may be looking at a flip of some kind.
- Look for expensive but less seen areas such as
- the electrical system (some electric panels may be at risk of fire)
- furnace (heater)
- water heater
- roof, gutters & downspouts
- drainage system (often needed, seldom there in Los Gatos)
- back yard landscaping
- the foundation (always a potential issue in our east Los Gatos neighborhood if drainage hasn’t been properly addressed)
- insulation in the attic (often minimal)
- plumbing – has the home been re-piped, or are the old galvanized steel pipes still in the walls and under the house, ready to give up the ghost?
- condition of retaining walls, if any
- condition of concrete or hardscape
- large trees – have they been trimmed, or are they an expense which will fall on you?
- Is this an investment property (purchased by investors at a foreclosure auction or as a distress sale)? Or is it a trustee sale where the family or friends inheriting the property are fixing it up for sale (almost like a flipped house)?
- If it’s a house being sold by investors who’ve fixed it up, how experienced are they? Some clients of mine purchased an out-of-area house from first time investors. The kitchen remodel was made such that a full size fridge wouldn’t fit. Fail!(Some trustee sales are in a similar category as first time investors – this isn’t something they have experience with, most likely. They may make costly mistakes by either over-improving the home for sale or not fixing the right things. They may or may not be local and have a true sense of market value, too, so may set themselves up with unrealistic expectations.)
- Were there pre-sale inspections? If so, did the owners or investors do the Section 1 work from the termite report and the health & safety issues called out in the home inspection? The home inspection (not the termite or pest) should flag any major issues with the foundation, electrical, mechanical etc. systems in the home. If there’s no home inspection, prepare for surprises in these older homes.
- In Surmont, Belgatos, Belwood, and all of the east Los Gatos, Cambrian and Almaden hillside areas, water and drainage is an issue, as mentioned above regarding foundations. Left unchecked, water seeps into the crawl spaces under the houses and can create real havoc as our clay soil expands and pushes on the foundation. So look at the downspouts and see if they simply dump the water at the base of the house (which you will see most of the time – but it’s not a good idea, usually), or did the owner take the time and spend the money to handle drainage issues well? How’s the grading? Soil and landscaping should slope away from the house so that any water coming down will run away rather than seep into the crawlspace.
Browse neighborhood homes for sale online on this site. When you visit in person, bring a notepad and jot down concerns or questions. It is so easy to fall in love with remodeling that’s been done that it may be easy to miss the expensive items not easily seen that may have been ignored.
Finally, check the permits to see if improvements that needed permits and finals obtained them. Click here for the online Los Gatos permit search.
Need a good, local Realtor? Call or email me. I’ve been in real estate a long time (since early 1993), am very accomplished and recently was named “best real estate agent in Silicon Valley” by readers of the San Jose Mercury News. I’m also a Belwood resident and I know the area and its values well.
by Mary Pope-Handy | Oct 15, 2022 | Belgatos, Belwood, Cabaña, Events, Recreation, Surmont
It’s official – the Halloween party is back!
The September 2022 Bellringer, the community’s newsletter, has announced it. After a two-year hiatus, Belwood is ready to have this family-friendly monster bash yet again. This event is held at the cabana club for members. The party will start around 3pm with wrap-up at 7pm on Sunday, October 30, check the Belwood event page and newsletters for updates. Feel free to reach out to Belwood’s Events Coordinator, Mary Schepman, by email through email@example.com if you have ideas or would like to help! Volunteers needed!
Info below is from previous years
Halloween fun in the Belwood of Los Gatos Community!
Put on a costume and celebrate Halloween at the Belwood of Los Gatos cabana club, Sunday Oct 27th, 2019 from 3- 6pm. Enjoy games, prizes, pizza, snacks & the spirit of All Hallows Eve. The featured event will be either a spooky haunted house or a movie, beginning at 6pm. Costumes highly encouraged!
Belwood residents and invited guests only, please. Free admission, donations appreciated.
Learn more at the Belwood Homes Halloween Party event page.
Volunteers needed! Find sign-up information through the link above.
by Mary Pope-Handy | Jul 2, 2022 | Belgatos, Belwood, Cabaña, Events, Recreation, Surmont
The Belwood of Los Gatos community is hosting its annual Independence Day or 4th of July celebration and the details are announced on the Belwood HOA website. The neighborhood festivities run from 1 – 5 at the cabaña. Read all about it on the Belwood HOA site!
The party is open to Belwood residents and their invited guests only. This will be the first July 4th community party since 2019, and it’s a great opportunity for newer residents, especially, to get to know their neighbors.
Please note that since the weather is warm, dry, and windy, the risk of fire danger is high right now. A sign at Belgatos Park warns that viewing fireworks is strictly prohibited.
Got Facebook? If so, you might consider “liking” the Belwood Cabaña page on Facebook. They are great at keeping people updated on neighborhood events (this is not my page, btw). That’s where I first learned that the holiday is being celebrated in traditional fashion.
by Mary Pope-Handy | Nov 19, 2019 | Belwood, History
We happen to live on Bacigalupi Drive in Belwood of Los Gatos, a lovely street you might walk to get to Belgatos Park. A classmate of mine at Saratoga High School was a Bacigalupi and I have noticed that one of the old buildings in downtown Los Gatos is the Bacigalupi Building (it houses Mountain Charley’s, I believe – it is in the La Canada or Hofstra block near the corner of Main and North Santa Cruz). So I wondered, who were these people with the hard to pronounce name? (I can say it, but I speak some Italian!)
The Bacigalupi Family c.1922 – click to visit the Los Gatos Local History Research Collection and see a larger image and info on this family
The Hooked on Los Gatos project was a collaborative project by the Library and History Museum which appears to have since become the Los Gatos Local History Research Collection. This collection includes page after page of online resources, including all the photos in their archives relating to the Bacigalupi clan. Clicking on each image leads to more information. For instance, here I found information on James A. Bacigalupi, Sr.
I was very impressed to learn that he was the first president of the Bank of Italy, and then worked with A.P. Giannini to form the Bank of America. He may not be the most famous Los Gatan, but he’s certainly a big deal! To the right, this photo features Mr. Bacigalupi with his family, in approximately the year 1922. Click on the image to visit the original photo on the Local History Research Collection page, see a larger image and learn more about the family in this image.
As you probably know, the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake did a great deal of damage to many of the older, historic buildings in downtown Los Gatos. The La Canada (Hofstra) block was no exception. The Los Gatos Chamber of Commerce reported on its “walking tour” page (which has since disappeared, but thankfully has been archived) after the quake, that block was restored by the Bacigalupi, Farwell, Brady and VanDalsem families, so we can thank them for their continued love of our town and its history. (On a side note, if you’re interested in a Los Gatos walking tour don’t despair! The old walking tour has been swapped with a high-tech model: LOST Gatos the walking tour App.)
by Mary Pope-Handy | Oct 19, 2019 | Market reports
How’s the real estate market in Belwood of Los Gatos, Belgatos, Surmont, and adjacent areas in east Los Gatos? I thought my neighbors might enjoy seeing how the first three quarters of 2019 have been going. The Silicon Valley real estate market has been decent in 2019, but not like the first half of 2018, which was the peak of the market. You can get info for all of the town’s realty market conditions here (on the Live in Los Gatos blog): Los Gatos real estate statistics and market trends. The map below represents homes for sale (green houses), pending (orange house – hard to see since a red one is on top of it – far left side of the image), and properties which are sold and closed (red houses). They are fairly well spread out.
Map – 2019-10-19 Belwood area real estate activity YTD
Most of the sales, 9 out of 12, were sold for between $1,615,000 and $1,960,000. Two properties sold in the low $2 millions, and one, a large home with acreage, sold for $3.1 million.
In the image below, DOM stands for Days on Market, meaning the number of days between when the house was listed on the mls and seen publicly to when it was a contingent or pending sale. Of the 12 sales, 5 sold in 14 days or less (the 0 for one of them suggests an off market sale). Four others sold within 1 month. With 75% of the solds here pending within a month, it’s a pretty decent real estate market in this corner of Los Gatos.
The houses which usually sell the fastest have a few things in common.
- they are priced aggressively, usually a little low
- they show well – uncluttered, cleaned,in good shape / updated (or remodeled), and frequently professionally staged
- they are easy to show (short notice or vacant “go direct”)
- they are well marketed with professional photographs (after price, photos are the most important element to a successful marketing campaign), solid pre-sale inspections
Want to buy or sell a home in the area in the coming months? Please reach out to me – I’m happy to meet with you confidentially, no obligation, no pushing ever.
Interested in nearby areas in Santa Clara County? Check out neighborhood descriptions and real estate markets for various areas such as Almaden Valley, Cambrian, Campbell, Saratoga, Willow Glen, Cupertino, and more at the Valley of Heart’s Delight blog (https://sanjoserealestatelosgatoshomes.com/).
by Mary Pope-Handy | Jan 1, 2019 | Market reports
Today I pulled the sales info for our corner of east Los Gatos and thought you’d like to see how the year shook out for the real estate market here. There were 21 closed sales of single family homes in 2018.
The first sale listed above with a closing the first week in January of course went under contract in 2017.
There is also one pending sale which is scheduled to close escrow later this month, but went pending in 2018.
Additionally, there were 3 properties which went on the market but did not sell – they were canceled, expired, and / or withdrawn.
What are the odds of selling success?
The odds were pretty good for home sellers here in 2018: of 24 properties listed in 2018 (not the first sold, but including the pending, 21 total), 88% did sell. This includes the large estate style homes and properties with views as well as fixers and houses on busier roads.
Why is it that not every home sells in a strong seller’s market? Each case is different, of course, just as every seller and his or her property is unique. There are a few usual culprits, though, most often being price, but other challenges can be present as well. You can learn more about why some houses get listed but do not sell on my Valley of Heart’s Delight blog: https://sanjoserealestatelosgatoshomes.com/why-didnt-my-san-jose-home-sell/
What do we expect for the 2019 real estate market?
It’s all about supply and demand. Right now, demand is decent and supply is low. Here’s a look at the inventory of single family homes for sale in recent years by month, first in town and then for the county.
Inventory of single family homes for sale in Los Gatos 95030 & 95032 from Jan 2012 – Jan 2019:
In town (not including the Los Gatos mountains area), Los Gatos has extremely low inventory. I ran the numbers and this is lower than any other January since 2002, the longest back that the MLS will let me go. Locally, that bodes well for those looking to sell in Los Gatos. (Currently there are NO homes for sale in the Belwood, Belgatos, Surmont, or nearby areas of LG.)
What about the broader area? Most of the county has looser inventory than we do in LG. Have a look:
Inventory of single family homes for sale in Santa Clara County Jan 2012 – Jan 2019:
I think it is really important to view this month’s inventory for the county not just in relation to January 2018 (“inventory is up 8% from last year, oh no!”) but in the context of all the recent years since we’ve been in recovery from the Great Recession. Yes, inventory IS up from last year for Santa Clara County, when the first 6 months of 2018 saw prices shooting up like a geyser due to highly restricted inventory and ongoing demand. Most of 2017 and early 2018 were off-the-charts into overdrive. From early 2012 through 2016, we had a market that was appreciating at a good pace – too fast for some buyers, who opted to become permanent renters rather than to participate. Current inventory levels are very low relative to 2012 and later.
A return of some of the normal patterns?
Inventory Los Gatos 95030 & 95032 2016-2019
Inventory tends to rise throughout the first half of the year, so I am expecting that to happen again in 2019. To the left, see a chart displaying the inventory of homes for sale in Los Gatos 95030 & 95032 from Jan 2016 to today. This is a pattern we usually see – though of course, it’s not a rule, and it can change.
Prices also tend to rise in the early part of the new year as inventory does not keep pace with demand, and I see no reason why that would not happen again.
Equally important is to understand that in the 2nd half of any given year, prices often soften. Home sellers sometimes believe that “summer is the right time to sell”, so get their homes on the market then. But activity from buyers slackens after the spring buying season, so in many years, inventory is higher than demand – so prices level off or even decline.
In 2018, prices in LG and the county did decline dramatically from the spring peaks, perhaps in the 12-15% range, generally.
Economists tell us that they expect the first half of 2019 to be decent to good, but not as wild a ride as early 2018. (Milder appreciation, 3-5%?) Some believe that the second half of 2019 will be much softer. A real estate correction is expected sometime between now and 2-3 years from now. We do believe that locally, in Silicon Valley, we are at or near the top of this real estate cycle. For those wishing to sell and move out of the area, 2019 could be a good year in which to do that. It’s impossible to pinpoint the exact top or bottom of the market, though. That is something we only know when it’s passed, just like with the stock market.
Silicon Valley real estate market reports (updated the 5th-10th of each month)
Altos weekly market report for Los Gatos 95032
Altos weekly market report for Los Gatos 95030
Altos weekly market report for the Los Gatos Mountains, 95033
by Mary Pope-Handy | Jan 30, 2018 | Market Info
The Belwood of Los Gatos, Belgatos, Surmont, and contiguous neighborhoods in east Los Gatos saw strong appreciation in 2017. With a low amount of available real estate inventory and high buyer demand, properties listed under $2 million often saw multiple offers and good overbids. Over $2 million, the market was cooler, but still not too challenging to sell if done right.
Early 2017 was a bit sluggish, with homes taking longer to sell and recording under list price through February. These homes were priced on the higher end for homes in the area, and they were selling during the typically cooler winter months, both of which might have contributed to the slower turnover. By March the market was heating up again with the large majority selling above list price (likely multiple offers) in under a month through to the end of the year. The three that took longest to sell (from March through November) also sold below list price.
Below is the chart of all home sales in the Belwood & adjoining area listed on the multiple listing service for 2017 organised by date descending oldest to newest. DOM stands for “days on the market”. (There was one off-market or private sale of a 1400 SF house on Bacigalupi for $1,250,000 that is not included. It appears to have been a fixer upper.)
Most challenging to sell are the luxury tier properties offered at $3 million or more. In 2017, the house with the longest days on market was in this category. This is normal for the luxury market in east Los Gatos.
In summary, through most of the year there was high demand and quick turnover for homes in the Belwood area in moderate price points. These fast moving homes provide approximately 3-5 bedrooms and list in the price range of %1.5 to $2 million.
If we remove the luxury tier home, a profile of homes sold in this area in 2017 would be along these lines:
Average list price: $1,719,144
Average sale price: $1,758.263
Average square footage: 2316 SF of living space
Average age of home: 42 years
The last couple of months in 2017, prices began shooting up with the news of Google’s expansion into downtown San Jose. The ripples were felt through Willow Glen, Cambrian, and into Los Gatos. What sold for $1,750,000 in the middle of 2017 is likely to sell for significantly more in 2018.
If you’re interested in buying or selling a home in this beautiful corner of Los Gatos, please reach out to me and we can have a confidential and no-obligation conversation / consultation.