San Carlos has slowly turned into one of the hottest markets in the Bay Area. Its small, hometown feel, outstanding schools, community events, thriving downtown and prime mid-peninsula location has made it competitive for buyers looking to move into San Carlos. Unfortunately, this “competition” has made buyers more susceptible to making careless mistakes.
(1) Permits. Without a doubt, the most common mistake can be summed up in the following quote, “The agent advertised the house as a 3 bedroom, 2 bath home. Later we found out that we only have a permitted 2 bedroom, 1 bath home.” Welcome to the wonderful world of unpermitted construction. San Carlos is filled with it. Sometimes a listing agent will rely on the word of an appraiser or the owner themselves when determining how many bedrooms and baths are permitted in the home. Agents are not supposed to advertise rooms that are not permitted, without stating that they are, in fact, not permitted. In other words, you can’t advertise to sell what you don’t have. Unfortunately, some listing agents will not do their due diligence on the property records prior to listing the home for sale. The result is usually a lawsuit well after the transaction has closed when the buyers realize that they are stuck with unpermitted rooms. When representing buyers I make it a habit to check the city and county records prior to the transaction closing. In just the last year I have discovered two of the San Carlos homes my buyers wished to purchase did not have the permits for the bedrooms and bathrooms as was advertised by the listing agent. Bottom-line, insist that your agent check the permitted bedrooms and bathrooms prior to closing your transaction. The sooner the better.
(2) Schools. San Carlos is well known for outstanding elementary schools. Buyers assume that, for instance, moving into the White Oaks area, will guarantee them a spot at White Oaks Elementary. Unfortunately, moving in to a particular area in San Carlos does not guarantee your child’s placement in your property’s designated school. You may not have realized it, but when you were signing all of your disclosure paperwork to purchase your home, you most likely signed a disclaimer warning about possible impacted schools within San Mateo County. While the overcrowding at particular schools has not been a major problem in San Carlos for the last few years, it could be again soon. The other major issue facing San Carlos residents with high school age kids is the Sequoia vs. Carlmont issue. Both schools are run by the Sequoia Union High School District. Many high school age students in San Carlos have successfully applied for inter-district transfers to Carlmont in recent years. Making this transfer may not be so easy in coming years. In June the District stated that a lottery system may be implemented in order to cap the number of transfers and even out the numbers at both schools. http://www.sanmateodailynews.com/article/2007-6-29-rwc-enrollment
(3) Home Inspections. San Carlos is filled with homes which are 50-60 years old, some of which have very little updating. The most common problems experienced in San Carlos homes are wet/damp crawl spaces, outdated electrical systems and moisture intrusion into the structure due to stucco extending below the ground line. It is very easy to get wrapped up in bidding on a home in a hot market. The problem is that some buyers start to lose track of the immediate improvement needs of the home and instead focus most of their attention on the competitive offer for the home. The bottom-line is that purchasing a 60-year-old home with very little updating is going to require an immediate home improvement fund. This home improvement fund should be factored into each buyers’ finances when considering a home with minimal updating in San Carlos.