Hard Work and Smart Work

Hard Work and Smart Work

Every home has a story to tell, with its heroes, its villains, and obstacles. The home at 4649 McCoy Avenue, in San Jose, was no exception to the rule. It came with more surprises than many homes I’ve helped to sell. (Thank goodness I can report that it had a happy ending like all the others. That’s what makes the journey worthwhile!)
The home at 4649 McCoy sits just at the edge of the popular Bucknall neighborhood, in a wonderful part of west San Jose set just a stone’s throw from Campbell and Saratoga. It enjoys fantastic proximity to freeways, Silicon Valley employers as well as multiple grocery stores, restaurants, and all the other amenities people crave and enjoy after work and on weekends. The neighborhood is filled with mostly single-story, single-family homes on comfortable level lots. This home on McCoy offers access to the sought-after Campbell Union School District, and it sits just across the street from Forest Hill Elementary School (recognized as a National Blue Ribbon School in 2019). Joggers pass by with dogs on leashes, and neighbors visit over shared fences. Bucknall feels calm and comfortable.
With all this neighborhood has to offer, it was not too surprising when, in February 2018, NBC News reported that it was “the hottest in the nation” (according to city-data.com), as home prices soared above $1,000 per square foot of interior space. This strong market trend continued through late summer 2022 when the Federal Reserve stepped in and started raising interest rates. While the Fed’s actions put a fairly quick stop to the extreme home price appreciation, a great and popular neighborhood remains a great and popular neighborhood through good and bad markets.
When the owner of 4649 McCoy decided, in late 2022, to put her home on the market, she was aware that we were well into a market slow-down. However, we felt confident that the value inherent in the Bucknall neighborhood would ensure a good sale outcome for her home. As we discussed, many sellers were choosing to postpone listing and selling their homes at that time (and still are), but homes in popular neighborhoods are still commanding multiple offers, and her personal and financial goals made this a good time for her to sell. She bravely entered a somewhat fraught market, with eyes wide open. I walked by her side, offering regular good news/bad news reports on the market, and reminding her that she could always choose not to sell her home if she didn’t get the offer that made sense to her. But I was confident she would get “her number”. I pulled out all the stops on my end to make sure that happened.
The owner moved out of her home of many years and followed her heart to a new home and plans she’d been working to realize for quite some time. She handed me the keys and left me in charge of getting everything done as needed for her sale. In the context of an unpredictable real estate market, with my client’s future financial goals riding on the outcome of my marketing efforts, I defined a strategy to attract the best possible price for her home.
That’s when things got exciting.

Challenge #1:

We started by updating aspects of the home that were most likely to push buyers away. In a challenging market, we couldn’t afford to lose buyers over small details; we needed to make the home as attractive as possible, to as many buyers as possible. Personal touches like accent colors and features that fit a very specific design aesthetic can alienate buyers who don’t like the specific colors or aesthetic style, so we worked to soften the details and make the home more broadly appealing. I brought out my preferred contractor and worked up a scope of repairs and updates that would maintain the home’s character while appealing to the broadest possible pool of buyers. I went shopping to maximize aesthetics while limiting expenditures to my client’s preferences.
The contractor replaced several beautiful cut-crystal light fixtures with stylish but more generic (and cost-effective) fixtures I purchased for my client. He removed some popcorn ceiling material and I had him paint everything a soft neutral shade. The front door was repainted with a great color that popped when seen from the street. Some obvious exterior damage was repaired. I had the floors replaced throughout and updated to an attractive, durable, and popular plank surface. Everything was given a touch of freshness to match the updates the seller had already made to the kitchen and bathrooms. So far, so good.

Challenge #2:

One thing we couldn’t just tweak or update in this home was the fact that this home is a 2-bedroom home in a neighborhood of 3-bedroom and 4-bedroom homes. Families are a large component of the neighborhood buyer pool, and a 2-bedroom home doesn’t offer the options many families seek. This left me with a challenge: how to sell a 2-bedroom home to folks who may be looking for 3 or more bedrooms. At my suggestion, my client secured the services of an architect who prepared a plan showing where a third bedroom could go. He smartly came up with two options for the placement of that third bedroom within the existing footprint. I laminated the schematic, shared it with buyers and agents online, and walked buyers through it at the open houses. Problem solved! Then the storms came.

Challenge #3:

San Jose in early 2023 might as well have been Seattle for all the rain we had. The house downspouts were overwhelmed and clogged with debris. Water was flowing in sheets into the garage, puddling up to the tune of over 1″ over much of the driveway because the rain had nowhere to flow, drain, and release to the street and into the city storm drains. My handyman and I headed over one very wet evening to build a > 50-long drainage culvert to release the water that was ponding in the driveway. As the rain pounded down on us, we dug in the mud, reinforced drainage channel walls, and sculpted the side yard banks, then connected the downspouts to plastic piping. We diverted the incredible water flows to the culvert. The collected water was finally released out to the street.
My handyman came back several times to check on the drainage and maintain and perfect it. I came back to double-check the power, which went out several times during the storms. The crisis averted until the pouring rains came back accompanied by wind storms.

Challenge #4:

There came a week when we had reports of little tornados popping up through the South Bay. The winds were so fierce that my seller’s garage roof was stripped of large swaths of roof shingles. I ran over just after the winds came through and – thank goodness – found that the wind hadn’t created openings that had let the rain into the garage interior (at least not yet). The seller agreed to have the roof reshingled – not something she’d planned or wanted to do before the sale, but circumstances didn’t leave her much choice. Selling a garage with a half-destroyed roof wasn’t a viable option. I called my preferred roofing contractor. Everyone else was busy and booked out “until next year” but my roofers committed to run over within a week to do a complete tear-off of the multiple old layers of roof, install new sheathing and a new roof and gutter system – and for a lower price than the competing roofers (the ones who were all too busy to make us a priority, anyway).

Challenge #5:

When the rains finally stopped for a bit, we returned to tidy up the bank into which we’d carved the culvert – a side yard that had been turned into a giant muddy mess by all the rains. That’s when we had to come to terms with the dead tree.
When the seller moved out, she left a tree in the side yard in hopes it might recover from her gardener’s overly ambitious pruning. There were still some green leaves clinging to the branches' ends when she drove away for the last time. By the time the house renovations were done and the weather broke, it was clear that the tree was dead. We discussed the wisdom of hanging some flower baskets on the branches to “dress the tree up” but ultimately decided that the tree was an attractive and functional nuisance we just couldn’t pass on to new buyers. I made another call to my handyman (fortunately a close and trusted friend who makes time for me whenever I call, whatever the emergency). He brought out his chain saw and removed the tree, hauled away the branches and a huge pile of the dead tree trunk and stump wood over a day, and left a roughly 2′ diameter stump cut all the way down to grade level in the side yard.
It took us another few days to bring in two cubic yards of wood chips to top the area, but we got the front and side yards leveled, covered, and tidied up.

Challenge #6:

The weather chose not to give us a break, and as we put the home on the market, we were faced with more drenching rains. The “For Sale” sign leaned at a 30-degree angle as the soil it was planted in turned into wet sludge. Through it all, I visited the home, righted the sign (multiple times), and watched my weather apps for good days to host my open houses. Finally, we found a break!
When the first open house came, we were fortunate to enjoy one of the first genuinely non-rainy days in what felt like forever. I baked coffee cakes to make the house smell sweet and welcoming, set out slices for the buyers to enjoy, and handed out my four-page color brochures boasting about all the features and amenities in this now near-perfect home. A second weekend of open houses was a wet one, with few buyers out looking at homes, but on that first weekend I had signs out on every major street and I welcomed more than two dozen prospective buyers. The home gleamed; the coffee cake enticed; I answered a million questions and buyers fell in love.

Finally, a Victorious Ending!

I requested that offers be submitted a few days after the second weekend of open houses. We received multiple offers for the property. I negotiated for several days on my client’s behalf. (It takes a lot of confidence to negotiate for a higher sale price in a market where some homes aren’t getting any offers, and agents are dropping their prices to try to attract an offer. But I had confidence in the value of my client’s home.) We ultimately reached a satisfying agreement through a contract offer-and-counteroffer process.
The seller did not take the very highest offer submitted. With my support and guidance, she selected an offer from buyers who showed a clear commitment to the home and who provided an offer with terms that indicated they were likely to stay committed and not try to renegotiate the price or terms during the escrow period. We hit a few more bumps during escrow, but I navigated our path through them.
Escrow closed on time. My client got “her number”! Meanwhile, the new buyers ended up with a home they will surely love for many years to come.

The Moral of This Story

This is not how things normally go when you’re planning to put a home on the market, but this is the level of attention I bring to every listing I manage. When the market brings me a unique property to sell, I position that property for its best sale. When the market brings me monsoon rains, raging winds, blown-off roofs, and dead trees, I deal with it so the sale can proceed. I can’t promise you’ll have nearly as many challenges to your home sale – nor would I wish that on anyone – but if you do, I can promise you I’ll know how to deal with it!
Whatever your situation, if you want to have someone in your corner who will fight through any and every obstacle that arises and will deliver the best possible sales results at the end of it all, give me a call!

Work With Lucy

I support my clients with regular and detailed communications for the time we work together (and beyond). I provide clear explanations of the process and options available to you at every step of your real estate journey, and offer recommendations you can trust and rely on.

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