Life Planning Made Easy: The Best Tips On Preparing For The Future

Some of us get stressed at the mere mention of the words “life planning”, which can be quite an undertaking, but these days, there are so many ways to plan for the future that it doesn’t have to be an overwhelming task. The resources available to you range from college planning to saving for retirement, and all it really takes is a good plan and some commitment.

Here are some of the best ways to start planning for the future.

Start saving

It’s often easier said than done, but saving money is an important part of planning for your future. If you don’t have a savings account already, open one up with strict instructions to yourself not to access it until you’re ready. Try not to miss a deposit on payday, even if it’s just ten or twenty dollars. Every little bit helps.

You can also set up a 401K at work and have your employer take the money right out of your paycheck, so you’ll never even miss it.

Write down your goals

You can’t plan for the future without clear-cut goals for yourself, your family, and your way of life, so sit down and write out what you hope to accomplish in the next ten or twenty years. Is your biggest goal to buy a home? Start saving for your child’s college education? Get serious about your career, or go back to school? All of these things are attainable with the right preparations.

Plan for higher education

If you have children or you’re thinking about going back to school, the first step is to start saving. Your family may qualify for financial aid, but in many cases there are still out-of-pocket expenses. You can either open up a basic savings account at your bank, or you might consider a 529 college savings plan for your child. These plans are designed to cover school costs only, but you receive a generous tax incentive for opening up an account.

Plan for that move

If you’re thinking about buying a home, do some heavy research before making a decision. Think about which neighborhood you want, which school district the home needs to be in, how much room you need, and whether you’ll still be living there when you reach your retirement years. If you will, some things to consider include whether there are stairs to navigate and how big the lawn is; as a senior, it may be difficult for you to use stairs every day or take care of a big lawn. If the move is in the near future, plan for packing and finding help on moving day and consider whether you need to downsize.

Plan for your career

If you feel as though you’re stuck in a professional rut, it might be time to go to your boss and figure out your future with the company you work for. Don’t be afraid to ask for a raise, promotion, or to be assigned to new projects that challenge you. As an employee, it’s your right to desire to do your best work and be aptly compensated for it.

Author: Jackie Waters |

How New Technology Has Changed the Way We Buy Homes

The way we find and purchase homes has changed a lot throughout the years. Used to be, agents were the only ones in the know about properties and homes; we kept our listings on index cards and waited for buyers to stop by in hopes of finding a home for sale in our area. But the times have changed, thanks to the leaps and bounds technology has made over the years. Nowadays, buyers are the experts who find their own homes and even schedule their own showings.

Here’s how new technology has completely revolutionized the home search… and what has stayed the same.

The Way We Find Properties

searching for homesProbably what’s undergone the most massive overhaul is the home-search process itself. Long gone are the days of flyers, print ads, and index cards. Now, everything is online. Now, you can use an advanced search tool to find homes that fit only your specific criteria for specific features, locations, sizes, styles, prices, amenities, and more. You can even set email alerts for when homes matching your specific criteria hit the market, or search homes from your phone, on the go. It saves you time and narrows down your searches much faster—which is good because, thanks to the Internet, you’re also able to search through a much larger database of properties.

It’s safe to say that buyers are now completely in the drivers’ seats of their home searches.

The Way We View Properties

beautiful finished basementThe old print ads might have had a few photos to give you a general idea of the home, but it was the tour that made or broke the deal. You’d tell your agent what you wanted, we’d find 10 or 20 homes that fit your description, and together we’d go and look. Now, you can determine whether you’re going to like a home without ever even leaving your chair! High-quality high-definition photos, video tours, 3D virtual tours… you can be inside the house from across the world. Buyers have even bought homes without even setting foot inside—though most still prefer to take a look in person.

The Way We Learn About the Area

using google street viewYou find a home you like, seems like the neighborhood is nice… but what about the area? In the past, you might have walked around the neighborhood, talked to some of the residents, asked your agent. Today? You’ll likely be on the Internet, looking up safety ratings, mapping your commute to work, checking out the nearby amenities. You’ll Google schools, taxes, transportation options. You might even use Google Street View to get a firsthand feel for the neighborhood and what’s around it.

The Way We Find Mortgages

comparing mortgages onlineOnce again… it’s all online these days. Thanks to the Know Before You Owe mortgage disclosure rule, you can easily compare mortgage benefits and fees using online comparison tools to ensure you’re getting the best possible deal. The process has become completely streamlined—no more faxing or mailing. Everything is instantaneous and fast. Thanks to home mortgage calculators, you can even figure out how much home you can afford without ever talking to a lender or agent.

The result of all this accessible knowledge and tools? Buyers are actually more in the know because you’re doing more work for themselves, rather than letting a broker or lender talk you into something you don’t completely understand.

The Way We Find & Communicate with Our Agents

buyer texting her agentIn the past, referrals were king for agents. We got our buyers and sellers by word of mouth; past clients would send their friends, family members, and coworkers our way. Now though, buyers search agents online, and with access to online reviews, ratings, and past client testimonials, you can make decisions about working with an agent without any recommendations or referrals. And when you decide you want to work with an agent, you can just fill out a form or send an email to get started. Once you’re working with an agent, you might even keep in communication through text message!

One Thing Has Stayed the Same Throughout the Changing Times: Agents are Still Relevant

Most searches might start online, but 87% of buyers still purchase their home using an agent. You might not need as much help finding properties, but you do still rely on the expert advice of an experienced local Realtor.

If you’re thinking of buying a home and are looking for an expert Realtor in the Silicon Valley, then it’s time to contact Gary & Robert. We want to help you find your dream home!

When It Comes to Home Staging, Start Small

The secret to selling your home for more money in less time is all in how you present it. Your home should look so beautiful—both online and in person—that home buyers can’t help but fall in love at first sight. The best way to create that wonderful first impression? Start small and focus on the details. Here are a few simple home staging tips that can have a significant impact on your home sale.

Start with Your Entryway

front door of a homeHome buyers decide whether a home is worth a visit based on how it looks in listing photos. You can impress buyers in seconds by paying special attention to the area around your front door. Make sure your entryway is well lit, is free of clutter, and looks inviting. (Feel free to ask for a second opinion from a friend, neighbor, or even your real estate agent.)

When it’s time for showings, don’t let a squeaky front door ruin a buyer’s first impression of your home. Spray WD-40 on creaky hinges, tighten any screws that are loose, and take care of any other issues well before the first home buyer steps over the threshold.

Move On to the Kitchen

Kitchens and bathrooms sell homes, as the saying goes. Follow these tips to enhance your kitchen’s appeal:

  • Replace old knobs and handles with stylish new hardware to give your kitchen an updated look.
  • Decorate your counters with bowls of fruit or potted plants to create an artsy pop of color.
  • Store unnecessary appliances and clutter out of sight.
  • Replace any light bulbs that have burned out.
  • Prior to showings, bake cookies to make your kitchen smell like home.

Focus on the Bathrooms

bathroom that is clean and clutter-freeNothing makes a better first impression than a squeaky-clean bathroom. Wipe down all surfaces including the inside of your toilet, eliminate any surface mold and grime from the bathtub or shower, and lay out a stack of carefully positioned hand towels as a finishing touch.

Make Your Windows Sparkle

Clean your windows inside and out, and replace any screens if necessary. Since it’s a smart idea to open your windows and let the natural light in, you can impress potential buyers with how well you have maintained your home.

Want More Home Staging or Home Selling Tips?

When you focus on these small home staging tips, it will be easy to attract home buyers to your front door and impress them with the details. If you would like additional home staging and cleaning tips, or if you’re considering selling your home and want to talk about your plans, contact us. We are happy to help.

6 Easy Tips for Revitalizing Your Silicon Valley Home… Without Spending a Ton

Whether you’re thinking of buying a fixer-upper or a home that’s not quite perfect, or you’re thinking of selling your home but want to make sure you’re getting the most money out of the sale, here are some easy and cost-effective tips for transforming your home in the Silicon Valley.

1. Bring the Outdoors Home

beautiful outdoor areaHere in the Silicon Valley, it’s especially important to keep in mind that good weather means people want to spend time outside. And there’s no easier way to spend time outdoors than with your own at-home outdoor space. If you’ve got a yard or a deck, great! Don’t neglect it. Keep up on the landscaping and gardening. Add some comfortable outdoor furniture and a few planters to your patio. Don’t have a large outdoor area? That’s all right. Make your porch comfortable and scenic with a cozy chair or a porch swing. Have a large concrete area? Consider classing it up by covering the concrete with tile.

2. Spruce Up Your Paint Job

fresh new paintNothing revitalizes a room like a fresh coat of paint! Improve the color scheme in your rooms. Get rid of loud or dark colors. Bring in brighter colors to make rooms feel larger and lighter. You might even consider adding a feature or accent wall.

3. Refinish, Reface, & Replace

beautifully-upraded kitchenYou don’t have to complete a total bathroom or kitchen renovation! Start small to see big changes. Refinish or replace your cupboard doors. Replace old hardware and doorknobs. Replace or refinish your countertops. Add new backsplash and replace old tiling. Refinish wood floors or consider replacing carpet with hardwoods or new carpeting.

4. Upgrade Old Appliances

Kitchen with Island, Sink, Cabinets, and Hardwood Floors in New Luxury Home, with View of Living Room, Dining Room, and Outdoor PatioEveryone loves shiney new appliances! Not only do high-end stainless steel models look professional in a kitchen, they often offer more energy-efficient usage, as well. And that means bigger savings on your energy bill every month.

5. Replace or Cover Furniture

Blue sofa in a window on sunny day with table in foregroundIf it’s in your budget and you want to go all-out on some new furniture, that’s great. But if you don’t want to invest in a whole new living room set, consider reupholstering your existing couches, armchairs, and even dining chairs. Have wooden or painted furniture? Consider a fresh coat of paint with bright new colors.

6. Improve Your Curb Appeal

Front view of a wooden white door on a red house with window. Beautiful roses and bench on the porch. Exterior of a house.Curb appeal is especially important if you’re selling a home (after all, it’s the first impression is the most important for many buyers!), but upgrading your front areas can help bring some new life to your current home, too. So spend some time on the front porch or entryway. Paint the front door and replace the hardware. Add new house numbers. Paint the trim and add matching moulding. Replace the welcome mat. Upgrade or add porch lights.

Step back from the porch and take a glance at the overall house. You might consider painting or replacing an old garage door. Power-washing siding and walkways can make worlds of difference, as can adding or replacing broken shutters. And don’t forget about the yard! Add some flowers, pull the weeds, and mow the lawn.

Thinking of Buying or Selling a Home in the Silicon Valley?

If you’re thinking of buying a home or selling your current home in the Silicon Valley, then it’s time to contact Gary & Robert. As your guides to real estate in the Silicon Valley, we can help you learn more about buying or selling a home, explore the community, search homes for sale, stage your home professionally, or successfully list and sell it. Learn more or get started today.

3 Home Buying Mistakes That are Far Too Easy to Make

potential buyers staring at a houseThis time of year is ideal for looking for homes. Since springtime is a popular home selling season, you have plenty of choices when it comes to finding listings in your preferred location, in your ideal price range, and with your favorite features. With all of these options, it’s going to be a breeze buying your perfect home… right?

There are some common mistakes to be aware of when searching for and buying your next home. But with the right resources and a team of professionals on your side, purchasing a home should be hassle-free.

1. Letting Your Emotions Get the Best of You

Buying a home is an emotional experience. While you’re touring a home, you can’t help but feel an emotional connection as you imagine hanging your photos and decorations in the living room, cooking dinners in the kitchen, and making precious memories with your friends, family, and new neighbors.

But be careful; if your feelings cloud your judgment, you may find yourself overpaying for your dream home, jumping in too quickly to make an offer, or lowballing and risk losing your favorite home.

home buyer tracking financesHow to Avoid This Home Buying Mistake

Arm yourself with facts and objective advice, such as your list of wants and needs, to keep you from making any emotional home buying mistakes.

2. Spending More Than You Can Comfortably Afford

Just because you qualify for a certain mortgage amount doesn’t mean you should spend all of that money on your new home. You don’t want to end up in a situation where you are making monthly payments that you are not comfortable paying.

How to Avoid This Home Buying Mistake

Check your budget to determine the maximum amount you want to pay per month, then talk with a trusted local lender. Contact us and we can make recommendations.

3. Not Relying on a Real Estate Professional

When buying a car, savvy shoppers do their homework to make sure they’re making the best purchase: taking the car for a test drive, asking about the repair history, and having a trusted auto shop inspect the car thoroughly. However, buying a car can be intimidating, since no one is on your side to help you negotiate the best price and understand the paperwork.

Buying a home is very similar to buying a car. But instead of having to make all of your decisions yourself, you can work with a real estate agent who has your best interests in mind.

real estate agent showing a homeYour agent will be able to give you in-depth information about homes and neighborhoods you may like, connect you with trusted service providers when you need to order a home inspection or want to make home improvements, and offer objective advice to help you make the best decisions.

Not working with a real estate agent when buying a home may cause you to lose time and money — and possibly the home that you love.

How to Avoid This Home Buying Mistake

Talk with a reputable local real estate agent about your home buying goals and how the agent will help you find the home of your dreams. An experienced real estate agent will know the area, provide a home’s history, and be a trusted advisor.

Buying a Home? Talk to Our Experts

If you’re considering buying a home in our area, let’s talk about your home buying goals. Have a few listings that you are interested in touring? Contact us and we can schedule a showing!

Here’s How to Effectively List & Market Your Home in the “Hot” Season

The most popular time to list your home in the Silicon Valley in 2017 is coming up… on March 31, in fact. And if you want to stand out amongst the crowd and sell your home (without having to drop the price), you’ll need to employ the best home-selling and marketing tips out there. Are you prepared?

To help get your ready to list your home during the busy season, we’ve got some tips to keep you competitive and sell your home quickly—and for more!

Price Your Home to Sell

sold sign on a houseWant to sell your home quickly yet still make the most money on it? Start with the right price. There are a lot of resources out there to help you find that sweet spot, like a neighborhood sold report, which will give you an idea of what other homes in your neighborhood are selling for, or even just searching homes for sale in your neighborhood to see prices at which similar homes are listed.

To really get an accurate read of your home value and the correct price, however, it’s always best to request a full home analysis that will take into account any renovations, improvements, or modifications you’ve made.

Make a Wow-ing First Impression

beautiful new kitchenNothing sells a home like… the home! So make your home stand out from the crowd. Start with home improvements and easy fixes that will clean up, declutter, and showcase your home. Make it look its very best, inside and out. Professional photography will give your home an outstanding online appeal (most buyers are starting their home searches online nowadays), curb appeal will welcome visitors to your front door, and superior staging will make your home’s best features stand out.

Set a Stage to Welcome, Showcase & Impress

Young couple searching for an apartmentStart with the outside and work your way in. Make your home neat, bright, colorful, and welcoming to visitors who drive up to the front of your home. Make sure your yard is neat, your front walkways and driveway are clear and easily-accessible, and everything is in good repair.

Inside, remove your personalized decor, decorations, and photos. Make your home look like anyone’s home—because it could be. Give your buyers the opportunity to imagine their own furniture and decor in your home.

And of course, make sure your home is clean, tidy, and free of clutter.

Too Much Work? Let Us Sell Your Home for You!

beautifully-staged living roomDon’t want to be bothered with pricing, home improvements, staging, or marketing? Let a top Silicon Valley team do it for you! We’ll determine the RIGHT selling price for your home, then stage it to really impress buyers. Our respected name and top-notch marketing gives us the networking and credibility to sell homes in even the most competitive markets. And of course, we’ve got the experience—and the numbers—to back our claims. Contact Gary & Robert today to get a #1 Team of agents working to sell your Silicon Valley home.

Say “Hello” to Warmer Weather: Spring Home Décor Tips for 2017

Nothing says spring quite like a bouquet of fresh flowers sitting on the coffee table and the sun streaming through the windows. Homeowners love any excuse to freshen up their home décor and welcome the new season, and if Pinterest is any indication, people love to bring the latest trends into their living spaces.

Stay on Top of the Trends with Your Spring Home Décor

vase of flowers in a homeFlowers, plants, and cheerful colors are traditional staples of springtime, but 2017 has a few unexpected twists for interior decorating. Looking for inspiration for your own home? Here are just a few home décor ideas to try.

Decorate Your Home with “Greenery”

Pantone’s Color of the Year is a vibrant, nature-inspired hue called “Greenery,” and it’s sure to liven up your living spaces.

Showcase Soft Textures

Velvet, cotton, and plush yarns are textures of choice this year. Bringing these soft, luxurious textures into your home, either with new furniture or decorations, will make you feel even more cozy and comfortable.

Use Navy as an Accent Color

One hot spring home décor idea for 2017 is using navy as an accent color for cabinets, walls, or couches. Rather than black, which can make rooms look small and uninviting, navy enhances your living spaces and creates a modern look.

living room with navy walls and beige floorsGo Neutral with Your Home Décor

Out with the bold, in with the new—muted colors, that is. A popular spring home décor trend that’s on the rise is using neutral colors like white, beige, pale gray, or even a faint pink.

These colors will help you create clean, sophisticated, and welcoming spaces that will impress both you and your guests day after day.

Spring Home Décor Impresses Home Buyers, Too

Since spring is a popular time for selling homes, many homeowners turn to spring home décor trends for home staging and curb appeal ideas.

Are you selling your home this spring? We can help! Contact us for more tips to prepare your home for showings and increase your home’s value. When you’re ready to put your home on the market, just give us a call.

7 Signs You’re Ready to Buy a Place of Your Own

Living in an apartment or rental home does have its perks: You can test out different neighborhoods and locations, you have the flexibility to move, and you have access to great amenities like a gym or pool. But there’s a reason that owning a home, rather than renting one, is a highly desired achievement.

Maybe the thought of having your own place has crossed your mind only recently, or maybe you’re regularly saving a chunk of your paycheck for that future down payment. No matter where you are in the process of considering homeownership, here are the unmistakable signs that you’re ready to buy your first home.

new friends hanging out

1. You Want to Get to Know Your Neighbors

Because renters don’t tend to live in one apartment for very long, it can be difficult to meet people who live in your building. But when you buy a home and are more invested in your community, it’s easier to forge lasting friendships.

homeowner customizing his house

2. You Want to Customize Your Space

Many rental communities have limits on what you can customize in your unit. You may be able to paint your walls a different color, but you may not be able to replace the countertops or appliances that come standard in your apartment.

homeowners in a spacious room

3. You Want More Space or Amenities

You daydream about having a home with a large kitchen, dining room, basement, garage, or maybe even a home office or bonus room for your hobbies.

sign pointing to home for sale

4. You Regularly Drive by Your Favorite Neighborhoods

You have a list of at least three communities (or maybe even houses) that you would love to live in when you’re ready to buy a home. You might even attend an open house or two.

two parents and a child

5. You’re Eager to Put Down Roots

A home is more than a financial investment. It’s your own space, a private retreat, and the start of a new chapter in your life. You’ll love being able to make lasting memories with your new neighbors and enjoying all the amenities near your home.

woman scrolling through a laptop

6. You’re Constantly Browsing Home Improvement Sites

Instead of scrolling through social media, you’re scrolling through home decor websites or binge-watching HGTV. You now have dozens of ideas for how you’re going to decorate everything from the bathrooms to the entryway.

home buyers searching for homes

7. You Have Money Saved Up for a Down Payment

A down payment is essential to buying the home of your dreams. But once you see your savings account grow, you know your new home is just within reach.

We Can Help You Buy Your First Home

You have plenty of decisions to make when considering homeownership, but we can help you with all of the details. Let’s talk about your plans, and we can work together to search for homes, make an offer on your favorite property, negotiate the best price, and navigate all the steps to closing. Call us and let’s get started!

This Silicon Valley Neighborhood Makes Redfin’s Hottest Neighborhoods List!

housing market is risingThe housing market is booming—especially around some of the high-growth job cities like San Francisco, Seattle, and San Jose. The job markets are growing in these areas, so new residents are flocking. However, because prices directly within the city are also growing, more and more buyers are searching in the smaller, more affordable communities around these areas, says a recent study by In fact, Redfin predicts this will be the “year of the second-tier city”.

America’s Hottest Neighborhoods of 2017

Redfin calculated its “hottest” neighborhoods by number of neighborhood page views and searches, as well as saved favorites. Unsurprisingly, the hottest neighborhoods of 2017 are not in the major cities of San Francisco, Seattle, and San Jose, but around them. Ranked #1 was Bushrod in Oakland, CA. And at #3 was the Silicon Valley’s own Serra of Sunnyvale, CA!

An African American couple walking on a residential street, with a young man holding a folder.  He is a real estate agent, pointing at a house, talking.What’s drawing residents to these areas? Lots of shopping and dining, access to public transportation and major commuter highways, and larger homes with more affordable price tags.

Welcome to Serra in Sunnyvale

Also referred to as “The Dalles”, Serra is located just south of Downtown Sunnyvale along the Junipero Serra Freeway (towards San Jose) and Route 85. Besides a quiet and charming neighborhood of single-family homes, buyers are drawn for the neighborhood’s access to top schools, as well as the amenities and attractions of both Downtown Sunnyvale and nearby Cupertino.

Its home sales numbers are also pretty impressive—such as a median sale price of $1,760,000, an average list time of just 13 days, and a high sale-to-list ratio of 106.8%.

Other Top Neighborhoods in the San Jose Metro Area

Besides Serra of Sunnyvale, local amenities draw residentsthe other top neighborhoods of the Silicon Valley include Sunnyhills in Milpitas (which offers a unique blend of outstanding outdoor recreation, plenty of shopping and dining, and highway access to San Jose or Fremont) and Miramonte-Springer of Mountain View (which is centrally located for access to plenty of shopping and dining, community parks and recreation, and a highway commute to San Jose or San Francisco).

Thinking of Buying or Selling a Home in the Silicon Valley?

In case you hadn’t guessed, the market is hot and the time is now! Learn more about buying or selling a home in the Valley, explore its beautiful communities, or start searching homes for sale today. If you have any questions or you’re ready to get started, just contact Gary & Robert any time.

7 Crucial Questions to Ask Before Choosing a Seller’s Agent

talking with a real estate professionalYour home is likely the largest financial investment you have, so it makes sense to carefully choose the right agent to represent you when you sell it. The best real estate agent will walk you through the whole process, showcase your home in the best light, give you feedback from showings and open houses, and let you know whether you should accept a buyer’s offer up front or negotiate for a higher price.

It’s a good idea to talk to more than one listing agent before you sign on with one. As you’re interview listing agents, ask these questions so you can determine which agent will best help you sell quickly and for the most money possible.

1. What’s Your Real Estate Experience?

A listing agent who has been in real estate for several years or has sold plenty of properties has seen all kinds of scenarios. If this agent has overcome challenging home-selling hurdles before, he or she will know how to avoid or mitigate these stressful situations during your home sale, should they arise.

2. What’s Your Sale-to-List-Price Ratio?

This percentage will tell you if this agent consistently sells homes close to or over the list price, which is the price that’s set when the home goes on market.

3. What are Your Average Days on Market Stats?

In other words, how quickly do sellers’ homes go under contract with this agent? Agents who sell homes quickly often use advanced marketing or advertising techniques and are highly skilled negotiators.

seller texting her real estate agent4. How—And How Often—Will You Contact Me?

How frequently does the agent you’re interviewing provide updates or check in with his or her sellers? The best real estate agent will keep you updated about everything that’s going on with your listing—and contact you over your preferred method of communication, whether it’s email, phone call, or text.

5. When are You Available?

If you contact your listing agent after office hours or on the weekend, is your agent going to get back to you before Monday morning? If you work regular 9-to-5 hours, getting in touch with an agent who also only works those hours might prove difficult or inconvenient.

6. How Do You Plan to Market My Home?

Marketing is key to getting your listing in front of as many buyers as possible, including those searching online for properties, glancing at magazine and newspaper ads, and driving by homes that are for sale. During the interview phase, ask for the specifics of each agent’s marketing plan.

7. Can You Give Me at Least Three References?

Ask the agent you’re interviewing for testimonials from past home sellers—which can include online reviews or video testimonials—or a list of references. Call the agent’s past clients and ask general questions about their experiences to get an idea of the agent’s responsiveness, helpfulness, and tech-savviness.

We’re Available to Answer All of Your Questions

We’d be happy to answer your questions about listing your home, whether they’re these seven essential interview questions or general questions about the home selling process. Just give us a call or shoot us an email.