Buying Tips

Get weekly market reports by zip code

One of the tools I use in my Silicon Valley real estate practice is Altos Research. My subscription, which generates reports on mls data of homes for sale weekly, covers all the zip codes of Santa Clara County. The market reports by zip code can be a real wealth of information for home buyers trying to figure out how much home they can get for their money as the report breaks down each zip code area listings by price quartiles and provides the average home and lot size, among other items, in each bracket.

Here’s one part of this week’s report for single family homes in 95032

Profile of homes for sale by price quartile inLos Gatos CA 95032

Profile of homes for sale by price quartile in 95032 (Los Gatos CA)

This is a really helpful way to grasp qucikly how much it will likely cost to get you into a certain sized home.  It also provides a sense whether your particular price point is near the bottom or top of the market – or if it’s possible at all.  Want to buy a home here but the budget is $1 million or less? The data above reveals that this is unlikely in a house.  But perhaps a condo or townhouse might work.

Next, please notice the days on market by pricing tier.  It’s a lot hotter of a market in the lowest priced houses than it is in the highest.

It also helps home sellers to understand what part of their local market is hot or cold (if any).

There are many other elements included in the report.  The main summary of “how’s the market?” is found in the upper right corner.  Below is the example from the same Los Gatos 95032 report cited above:

 

Altos Research Report for Los Gatos 95032

Altos Research Report for Los Gatos 95032

The Altos data is strictly by town or zip code, so school districts won’t be covered – and here they are a major driver on home values. Even so, this is a great starting point and a way to get the big picture painlessly.

Please sign up and get the monthly newsletter, too!

The report is free to you – please sign up below to get the market reports by zip code emailed to you automatically each week.  I’ll also add you (unless you request not to be added) to my monthly newsletter, which is based primarily on the RE Report and sold data as opposed to listing data.  You can check out a sample here: Mary Pope-Handy’s monthly RE Report Newsletter  As always, please feel free to email me to set up a time to chat about the market and your buying or selling here.  I’d love to hear from you.

 

Moving to Silicon Valley in fall or winter? A few things to know.

Winter Arrival Graphic - says "Winter Arrival"If you are moving to Silicon Valley, whether San Mateo or Santa Clara County, you should know that things are a little different in fall and winter than they are in spring and summer.  Here are just a few areas that might not be intuitively obvious to the newcomers.

First, a word on appearance.  In Santa Clara County, we have two primary sets of hills – one closer to the Pacific Ocean and Monterey Bay (west side), and one closer to central California (east side).  Because our local weather is dominated in very large part by the Pacific Ocean, much of the weather blows in from the coast.  A lot of the rain gets dumped in the coastal range, also known as the Santa Cruz Mountains.  Less makes it all the way to Los Gatos, less still to downtown San Jose, and a much smaller amount to the east foothills and places such as Alum Rock Park.  The coastal range (also called just “the hill” by locals) is green year round as it is full of redwoods and other trees which love the moisture. The east side, though, is more grassy, fewer trees, and gets far less rain.  In winter the grasses are a lovely green.  With drought or in summer, however, the grass turns brown or pale yellow.

For people coming from the east coast, the hills there are more likely green in summer and brown in winter.  Here, though, it is the opposite.  We don’t usually get rain in summer, so the grasses die and the hills go brown.

Rain, when we get normal patterns, usually begins in November and comes and goes between then and late April.  In a typical year, San Jose gets 15-20″ of rain (Los Gatos more, the Los Gatos Mountains much much more).  If we get an El Nino pattern year, temps will be warmer than usual and rain will be much more common than typical.  It’s not much fun to have an El Nino year, but right now we desperately need the rain, so folks here are all hoping for it.

Second, a word on roads and travel.  Silicon Valley enjoys a sub-tropical climate with mild temperatures and not too much rain, even in a normal year.  With very little rain most of the time, our streets and highways can develop a dusty, oily film.  Whenever we get rain after a dry spell, those highways and roads can be slicker than you might expect.  It’s not that we need a ton of rain for the surfaces to become more slippery, either.  A very small amount of precipitation can do the trick, so be careful!

If your destination requires going over “the hill”, be triply careful!  Too many people, whether regular commuters or first time adventurers, either tailgate or drive too fast, and it can make it too easy for accidents to happen when a little weather is added into the mix. Continue reading

What does it cost to buy a 3-5 bedroom house in an area with good schools in Silicon Valley?

School District MapIt’s a hot seller’s market in Silicon Valley, but it’s also a time of great job growth here! Each week I get calls or emails from people considering job offers in Cupertino, Palo Alto, Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Menlo Park, San Jose and nearby. Many of these recruits are interested in areas with superior public schools.

What’s the cost of buying a house of about 2,000 square feet with 3-5 bedrooms and great schools?  A few communities with better education are these: Los Gatos, Saratoga, Cupertino, Palo Alto. We’ll consider these to provide a sense of prices in similar areas.

Here’s a quick look at what single family homes have been selling for over the last three months:

  • Los Gatos: mostly $1,200,000 to $2,200,000 depending on the school district, averaging about $1,700,000
  • Saratoga: mostly $1,400,000 to $2,300,000 depending on the school district, averaging about $1,900,000
  • Cupertino: mostly $1,700,000 to $2,100,000 depending on the school district, averaging about $1,950,000
  • Palo Alto: mostly $2,000,000 to $3,300,000 depending on the school district, averaging about $2,650,000

If you are new to Santa Clara County, you may be wondering if this is correct. It is…

Please continue reading here:
How do prices compare between Los Gatos, Saratoga, Cupertino and Palo Alto?

Air conditioning & homes

Air conditioning condenser unit newerBack in the 1960’s, when I was growing up in Santa Clara, air conditioning was considered a luxury. I didn’t know anyone who had it in their homes in the immediate San  Jose area.  Hot days often weren’t too terrible, and if they were, we’d find our way to a pool, the beach, or an eatery with A/C.  Besides, locals would insist, “it’s a dry heat“.

Over the last few decades, though, central forced air conditioning has become mainstream.  I do believe that Silicon Valley has grown hotter in recent years and it’s less and less of a reasonable option to go without it for most home buyers.

How common is air conditioning in Silicon Valley?

Today I looked on the multiple listing service to get a sense of how common central air conditioning is in Silicon Valley homes. Here’s what I found:

Single family homes or houses for sale in Santa Clara County (home to about 1.9 million people) = 1408
Of these, houses with central forced air conditioning = 891 (63%)
Houses with central forced air – gas (could be overlapping with the group above but if combined it’s 1010) = 119
With ceiling fans = 254
With wall or window units = 4
With whole house fan = 33
No cooling of any kind = 298

Interesting to see that 21% had no fans or other type of cooling at all and that at least 63% but possibly as much as 72% do have central forced air.  If you are house hunting in the San Jose area, it’s important to realize that at least 25% of the homes on the market will not have A/C. 

How necessary is air conditioning in the San Francisco Bay Area?

This has always been the old debate: do we really need air conditioning?  In places like San Francisco and Santa Cruz, which are right on the ocean or bay, often the cool breezes make A/C absolutely unnecessary.

The further inland you go, the more important having it becomes. This is true both for the coast and the areas closest to the San Francisco Bay.  Morgan Hill and Gilroy, in “south county” are far from the SF Bay and from the Monterey Bay.  They get very hot in summer, and having a cooling system is an absolute must.

If you live in Redwood Shores or Foster City, which jut into the San Francisco Bay, it’s quite a bit cooler. Perhaps it would be a waste of money there to make that home improvement. Los Altos can be 5 or more degrees cooler than Los Gatos because it’s closer to the water. Even in Los Gatos, though, there are many micro-climates.  Downtown may get strong coastal winds bringing fog from the coast, while little valleys or areas tucked behind hills can be warmer and completely calm.

How hard is it, and how expensive, to add air conditioning?

Most of the houses here are served by central forced air heat, and they have ducts for this already.  If the furnace is younger, and if it is pre-plumbed for cooling, it may be simple and not too expensive (possibly around $5000 – $6000 but it depends on many factors, including home size).

It can be more expensive if:
-The furnace is older and needs replacing
-The electric panel is not sufficient – it may be necessary to add a sub-panel
-The condenser is a slim-line unit rather than a standard one
-If your house has radiant heating, electric baseboard or otherwise does not have central heating with ducts, the cost goes up very substantially.

It is always wise to take a few bids and to insist that your A/C contractor make sure that you get both permits and finals when adding it.

Many people with air conditioning find that they can run it much less by using a whole house fan and / or attic fans.  These are substantially less costly to operate, so having both can keep the power bills more reasonable. (That’s what we do at our house.)

San Francisco and Silicon Valley unemployment rates

The San Francisco and Silicon Valley unemployment rates are a huge driver of the SF Bay Area’s housing market. Today I saw real estate market info from the California Association of Realtor’s chief economist, Leslie Appleton-Young. One of her slides makes plain why the Silicon Valley real estate market is so crazy: our unemployment rate is extremely low, behind only San Francisco (where trying to buy a home is even worse than on the Peninsula or South Bay). Have a look at the data by California metro area:

San Francisco and Silicon Valley unemployment rates

San Francisco & Silicon Valley unemployment rates plus all of California

San Francisco and Silicon Valley unemployment rates plus all of California by metro area

As you can see, San Francisco has a screaming hot jobs market with only 3.4% unemployment. The San Jose metro area is only slightly cooler at 4.1%. (Unfortunately there are no “Cliff Notes” to tell where the San Francisco Metro Area ends and where the San Jose Metro Area begins – so I cannot tell if San Mateo County is lumped in with Santa Clara County to the south or San Francisco County and City to the north.)

With all this hiring going on, it’s no wonder that a frequent topic of conversation is Silicon Valley traffic patterns and congestion.  A few years ago, the rush hour traffic in the morning went from about 6:30 or 7am to 9am, and the evening commute times were about 4 to 7pm.  Today both are extended.  I find that Highway 85 in the “west valley” areas along Los Gatos, Saratoga, and Cupertino tends to still be pretty thick with cars even at 10am.  The return trip from Palo Alto (where I have some doctors at Stanford Hospital) can be sluggish as early as 3pm.

Worsening traffic from low Silicon Valley unemployment rates means that Silicon Valley real estate is even more expensive than usual for close-in locations.   Many San Jose area commuters spend an hour driving into work in the morning and 75 or 90 minutes driving home in the evening (for reasons I don’t understand, the evening commute is quite a bit worse than the morning one).   That translates to home prices being much, much more expensive than you’d expect in places like Mountain View, Sunnyvale and Santa Clara.   For a better quality of life, Silicon Valley employees will often pay dearly to get that shorter commute. If they can get the smaller commute and great public schools, the communities are the most expensive places to live, as is the case in Palo Alto, Los Altos and Los Altos Hills in particular.

Find Silicon Valley real estate and homes for sale in “close in” locations below

A sampling of the newest properties on the market – all price ranges – in the following areas:

Los Altos homes for sale

  1. 7 beds, 8 baths
    Home size: 6,329 sq ft
    Lot size: 18,935 sqft
    Year built: 2017
  2. 4 beds, 6 baths
    Home size: 7,683 sq ft
    Lot size: 1.27 ac
    Year built: 1926
  3. 4 beds, 6 baths
    Home size: 4,629 sq ft
    Lot size: 21,997 sqft
    Year built: 2008
  4. 5 beds, 7 baths
    Home size: 5,000 sq ft
    Lot size: 11,761 sqft
    Year built: 2017
  5. 5 beds, 5 baths
    Home size: 4,509 sq ft
    Lot size: 17,641 sqft
    Year built: 2017

See all Los Altos, California Real Estate.
(all data current as of 6/22/2017)

Listing information deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Read full disclaimer.

Palo Alto homes for sale

  1. 5 beds, 7 baths
    Home size: 7,145 sq ft
    Lot size: 23,522 sqft
    Year built: 1927
  2. 5 beds, 7 baths
    Home size: 7,326 sq ft
    Lot size: 26,697 sqft
    Year built: 1927
  3. 6 beds, 5 baths
    Home size: 7,044 sq ft
    Lot size: 19,079 sqft
    Year built: 1906
  4. 6 beds, 6 baths
    Home size: 4,469 sq ft
    Lot size: 12,414 sqft
    Year built: 2006
  5. 6 beds, 8 baths
    Home size: 6,413 sq ft
    Lot size: 9,757 sqft
    Year built: 2017

See all Palo Alto, California Real Estate.
(all data current as of 6/22/2017)

Listing information deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Read full disclaimer.

Sunnyvale homes for sale

  1. 0 beds, 0 bath
    Home size: 7,134 sq ft
    Lot size: 21,823 sqft
    Year built: 1953
  2. 3 beds, 3 baths
    Home size: 1,964 sq ft
    Lot size: 15,407 sqft
    Year built: 1954
  3. 0 beds, 0 bath
    Home size: 3,708 sq ft
    Lot size: 9,016 sqft
    Year built: 1955
  4. 4 beds, 3 baths
    Home size: 3,089 sq ft
    Lot size: 8,755 sqft
    Year built: 1986
  5. 0 beds, 0 bath
    Home size: 2,509 sq ft
    Lot size: 6,699 sqft
    Year built: 1947

See all Sunnyvale, California Real Estate.
(all data current as of 6/22/2017)

Listing information deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Read full disclaimer.

Cupertino homes for sale

  1. 1 bed, 1 bath
    Home size: 624 sq ft
    Lot size: 13.69 ac
    Year built: 1953
  2. 6 beds, 0 baths
    Home size: 6,089 sq ft
    Lot size: 10.95 ac
    Year built: 2016
  3. 5 beds, 5 baths
    Home size: 3,727 sq ft
    Lot size: 9,374 sqft
    Year built: 2016
  4. 4 beds, 6 baths
    Home size: 4,714 sq ft
    Lot size: 1.60 ac
    Year built: 2017
  5. 5 beds, 4 baths
    Home size: 3,204 sq ft
    Lot size: 6,969 sqft
    Year built: 1987

See all Cupertino, California Real Estate.
(all data current as of 6/22/2017)

Listing information deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Read full disclaimer.

 

Learn about some of the local Silicon Valley real estate markets:

Cupertino real estate market trends and statistics

Los Gatos real estate market trends by price point and high school district

 

Silicon Valley homes for sale

Graphic image of a magnifierIf you are searching for Silicon Valley real estate, or Silicon Valley homes for sale, you may discover that you get overwhelmed with choices and housing results.

The biggest problem is that the area is simply enormous.  Most agree that Silicon Valley is an area covering Santa Clara County, San Mateo County, part of Santa Cruz County (Scotts Valley) and part of Alameda County (Fremont – and some also add Union City and Newark). It’s a lot of territory – 1,854 square miles.  As of last year, this much territory was home to between just over 3 million people.

So if you are in house hunting mode, the very first thing you need to do is to understand your anchor point. The anchor point is the thing which you want to be near. For most people, that’s a work location (and in many cases, it may be 2 work locations). Sometimes it’s proximity to family members, a place of worship, a particular school or any number of things.  Most of the time, the main anchor point is the place of employment and desired commute time, tempered by things like good schools, shopping, parks, things to do, and quality of life.

Narrowing the home search geographically

Moving here to work in Scotts Valley?  Much of Santa Cruz County may work – but so could living in Los Gatos, Campbell or nearby, where you’d have a reverse commute.

Relocating for a job in Mountain View?  Most likely, you’ll eliminate Santa Cruz County due to distance and commute challenges with Highway 17 going over the Santa Cruz Mountains.

If good public schools matter, that will help to refine your search, as not all parts of the southern San Francisco Bay Area have equally good education.

Below I’ll post sample listings from communities noted for better public schools in Santa Clara County up to 1.2 million, which seems to be a very hot price point that many relocating home buyers can afford. I do also serve San Mateo and Santa Cruz Counties, but most of my clients are looking at Santa Clara Co., so limiting this search here.  Unfortunately, Alameda County (Fremont, Union City, and Newark are there) has a totally different MLS so usually I don’t work there – but am happy to introduce you to a great Realtor who does (please just email me and I will connect  you).

Santa Clara County homes for sale with good schools up to $1,200,000

Palo Alto

Sorry, but we couldn't find any results in the MLS that match the specified search criteria.

Los Altos

  1. 2 beds, 2 baths
    Home size: 1,086 sq ft
    Lot size: 1,306 sqft

See all Real estate in the city of Los Altos.
(all data current as of 6/22/2017)

Listing information deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Read full disclaimer.

Cupertino

  1. 1 bed, 1 bath
    Home size: 1,062 sq ft
    Lot size: 1,681 sqft
  2. 2 beds, 2 baths
    Home size: 1,198 sq ft
    Lot size: 1,045 sqft
  3. 1 bed, 1 bath
    Home size: 786 sq ft
    Lot size: 2.03 ac

See all Real estate in the city of Cupertino.
(all data current as of 6/22/2017)

Listing information deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Read full disclaimer.

Saratoga

  1. 2 beds, 2 baths
    Home size: 1,158 sq ft
    Lot size: 1,158 sqft
  2. 3 beds, 3 baths
    Home size: 1,650 sq ft
    Lot size: 10,031 sqft
  3. 3 beds, 2 baths
    Home size: 1,339 sq ft
    Lot size: 1,350 sqft

See all Real estate in the city of Saratoga.
(all data current as of 6/22/2017)

Listing information deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Read full disclaimer.

Los Gatos

  1. 3 beds, 1 bath
    Home size: 2,507 sq ft
    Lot size: 2.02 ac
  2. 2 beds, 2 baths
    Home size: 1,144 sq ft
    Lot size: 40.00 ac
  3. 3 beds, 3 baths
    Home size: 1,800 sq ft
    Lot size: 5,972 sqft
  4. 3 beds, 3 baths
    Home size: 1,953 sq ft
    Lot size: 2,038 sqft
  5. 3 beds, 3 baths
    Home size: 1,533 sq ft
    Lot size: 1,681 sqft

See all Real estate in the city of Los Gatos.
(all data current as of 6/22/2017)

Listing information deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Read full disclaimer.

Milpitas

  1. 4 beds, 2 baths
    Home size: 1,732 sq ft
    Lot size: 5,702 sqft
  2. 3 beds, 4 baths
    Home size: 2,413 sq ft
    Lot size: 1,968 sqft
  3. 3 beds, 4 baths
    Home size: 2,318 sq ft
    Lot size: 3,227 sqft
  4. 2 beds, 3 baths
    Home size: 1,104 sq ft
    Lot size: 1,306 sqft
  5. 4 beds, 3 baths
    Home size: 1,891 sq ft
    Lot size: 7,849 sqft

See all Real estate in the city of Milpitas.
(all data current as of 6/22/2017)

Listing information deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Read full disclaimer.

Almaden area of San Jose

  1. 4 beds, 2 baths
    Home size: 1,796 sq ft
    Lot size: 14,618 sqft
  2. 3 beds, 3 baths
    Home size: 1,739 sq ft
    Lot size: 1,219 sqft
  3. 3 beds, 3 baths
    Home size: 2,454 sq ft
    Lot size: 2,831 sqft
  4. 3 beds, 3 baths
    Home size: 1,672 sq ft
    Lot size: 1,437 sqft

See all Real estate in the Almaden Valley community.
(all data current as of 6/22/2017)

Listing information deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Read full disclaimer.

Want more areas? Please search below, or use the widget in the sidebar.

What’s that smell? Odor problems in some communities

Angry faced iconOdor problems are a sensitive topic, whether you’re talking about someone just in from exercising or a whole town or neighborhood. Home for sale with a periodic stench? That won’t be listed in the MLS, and it may be down played in the disclosures.  This can be very upsetting if you learn it only after you move in.

The most common issues in Santa Clara County seem to relate to either agricultural areas, food processing, or sewer / sewage processing. Other issues can be at dumps, areas with standing water (bad idea as this can breed disease bearing mosquitos), and food or other consumable processing plants (not common in Silicon Valley). A brewery or coffee roasting plant can be stinky at times. Get downwind of any of these and it may be unpleasant.  On a much smaller scale, it’s possible to have a bad neighbor who creates an odor nuisance, making life unpleasant.  I’ve had clients tell me of neighbors who “go out to their back yard and smoke pot every day”, making my client’s back yard an unpleasant place and nearly unusable.  Other bad neighbor problems can be from yards with too many pets and not enough cleanup, or poor composting.

For folks relocating to Silicon Valley, though, it’s important to be aware of smelly or potentially smelly areas.  The locals know about them – and you should, too.

Communities with well known odor problems

Gilroy, in the “south county” area, is well known as the Garlic Capital of the World.  There’s a Garlic Festival late each July.  To be sure, the smell is strong when the garlic ripens in the field.  I can often smell it all the way in Los Gatos on a warm summer morning!  The smell is also strong when it’s getting processed at the plant along Highway 152.  Gilroy has a nice downtown area and is more affordable than most of Santa Clara County. It enjoys a Caltrain stop so offers an easier commute than most places in the San Jose area.

Morgan Hill, just a little north of Gilroy, but also in south county, has a mushroom festival (the Mushroom Mardi Gras in late May each year).  Mushrooms are a super food but mushroom farms smell pretty awful.  Currently, there are 3 mushroom farms in Morgan Hill. Buying in that beautiful city?  Visit the area many times, at different times of the day and week.  Talk to neighbors and see if you can find out if this is an issue for them – I want to note that it is not a problem everywhere.   Morgan Hill is also more affordable than most of the San Francisco Bay Area, also includes a very nice downtown, and features a Caltrain stop too. (I’m told that Google and Apple buses have stops there as well.)

Milpitas, on the northeast end of the county, sometimes has problems from the wind carrying smells from a landfill near the bay on the east side of Alviso. There’s also a sewer processing plant in the same general area that may be contributing to the challenge. It’s bad enough that there’s a whole website dedicated to this problem:  http://milpitas-odor.info/  This smell is not confined to just Milpitas but may be experienced in adjacent areas such as Alviso, north San Jose,  northern Santa Clara, and southern Fremont, but Milpitas appears to get the brunt of it. Milpitas has really strong public schools, is “close in” and convenient for many commuters, and is not as expensive as communities on the west side of the valley with similarly high scoring schools.  It’s a very good “bang for your buck” in terms of the amount of home / school you get for your money.  But the odor problems have been enormous ones over the years.

The Shoreline park in Mountain View was a landfill at one time, and years ago was well known to have issues with smells and also with spontaneous combustion fires that began as the gas from composting materials somehow lit.  That was almost 20 years ago and the situation has been corrected for many years now. (You can read more on that here.)

There’s a landfill in the Almaden area of San Jose near the Los Gatos border, the Guadalupe Landfill (that area was originally a mercury mine).  I’m not aware of odor problems coming from this one, but due to Milpitas’s ongoing nightmare with bad smells, some of the waste that might have gone to the Newby Island landfill will now be going to Guadalupe, starting in late 2017.

What can a newby to Silicon Valley do?

First, read the disclosures very, very carefully.  Often home buyers breeze through them and don’t ask probing questions on what something means.  A seller may write “occasional agricultural odors” and that doesn’t sound too bad.  What if that means half the time, you cannot miss the mushroom farm?  Ask questions to get more info on the disclosure answers.  And talk to neighbors as well as local real estate agents.

Second, learn where these items are located, if local: food processing plants, water processing plants, landfills, farms, ranches, homes with farm animals (if any).  You might be surprised that in Silicon Valley you could have a 4-H neighbor who’s raising a goat or some other type of animal – it may smell or be noisy!   In my east Los Gatos neighborhood, I was surprised that a neighbor about 5 houses away had goats for 4-H, and glad they weren’t any closer!

 

What does it take to buy a home in Silicon Valley?

Graphic of people running to an open houseYou’ve probably heard that buying a home in Silicon Valley is a bit like purchasing real estate in Manhatten, London, Tokyo, Paris, or other regions where the prices are in the stratosphere.  It’s true. It’s a strong seller’s market.

And yet, every day, homes are bought and sold in the San Jose – Palo Alto – Foster City area.  They aren’t all cash; perhaps 20-30% are bought without any loan or mortgage, but the rest of the properties are sold with some sort of financing.

Here’s a quick summary of what is needed to buy a house, condominium, or townhouse in Silicon Valley (this list applies MOST of the time and with few exceptions):

  1. A large down payment is needed – usually 25% or more – to win in the multiple offer situations which are the norm right now.
  2. Nerves of steel: it’s scary to buy a house, but here, many homes are purchased without the normal contingencies for loan, appraisal or inspection.  (But home sellers do provide a full battery of inspections that you can review before making your offer in most cases.)
  3. The ability to move quickly and decisively as the best homes sell very, very fast – often in a week to nine days.  In the last 30 days, there were 385 houses which sold and closed in the city of San Jose.  Of those, 282 went under contract and became pending sales in 14 days or less.   That’s 73%.    In Sunnyvale the numbers were 47 and 47, so 79%.  Here you need to be 110% sure.  If you give off signals that you are hesitant, your offer is unlikely to be accepted.
  4. It’s a big help if you have a really good Realtor who’s known, liked and respected in the local real estate community.  Listing agents will prefer to work with an agent who’s trusted. In some areas, like Palo Alto, many homes sell “off market” and then the full inventory tends to be known only by those local and trusted agents.
  5. A strong lender, especially if you are coming from abroad, who’s experienced in tracking work history, credit, etc. in other countries (and in some cases other languages). Don’t just walk into a bank and pick someone.  Get a good recommendation, either from someone at your company who’s had a similar experience or from your Realtor, who should be used to working with international home buyers.
  6. Being clear on priorities and being able to put them in order is crucially important.  It’s usually not possible to get everything on the wish list and also get it in budget.  So decide which is most valuable to you: schools, commute time, home type (perhaps you can get what you want, where you want – but only if you buy a condo?), commute time or?

Those are the key ingredients.  Perhaps the hardest one, when getting started, is the last one.  Let’s talk about that.

Priorities list: pick any 2 out of 3

A request I often get is to find a nice sized home and yard in good shape with good schools and a commute to Palo Alto that’s under an hour.  So far, so good.  Then comes the desired price tag: under $1,200,000 or under $1,500,000.    You can get the home, yard, schools, and commute, but it won’t be under $1.5 million for a good sized, remodeled house and a big yard with better schools.   The price tag fitting that description is probably closer to $2 million due to our clogged commute routes.

One of the best areas in terms of schools and pricing is Cambrian, which is a part of San Jose, with either the Union School District or the Cambrian School District.  You can get a Cambrian home with good schools for under $1.4 million and it will have a decent sized lot, be in good condition, etc.  But the morning commute to Palo Alto will likely be a little more than an hour, and the evening commute perhaps 80-90 minutes, depending on where in PA or Cambrian you’re going and what time it is.  A nice house in east Los Gatos with the same schools but more house and yard will probably run around $1,700,000 to $1,800,000 for 2500 SF on a 10,000 SF lot.

Cupertino has great schools but the houses there tend to start at around 1.5 million – so if you are ok with a townhouse or condo, that might work.

The upset as reality sinks in

Most home buyers, even if they’ve studied the market here intensely before arriving, go through some strong emotional stages as they learn the real estate ropes and what their budget can and cannot buy.   Sometimes the main shock hits before arriving, though.  Recently I got an email from someone moving here from the south, who lamented the situation with a question along these lines:  “can you explain to me why home prices in Silicon Valley are 5-6 times more than they are in Atlanta?”  It is that bad, yes, and I am sorry.  It is upsetting.  The faster you can move through the shock and upset, the sooner you’ll be able to clear the emotional clutter and buy that next home and really settle in.

Focus on the positive

The good news is, aside from the cost of housing and the traffic, San Jose – Sunnyvale – Los Gatos and whole Silicon Valley region really is a wonderful place to live.  We enjoy 300 sunny days a year on average.  San Jose has often been named the best place to raise kids.  The intellectual climate cannot be beat as we have great minds from all over the world here.  The coast is close, and so is San Francisco.   If you do buy a home, appreciation may be substantial, far more than in most of the U.S., if you can “buy and hold“. (We’ve had a lot of real estate corrections and downturns since the 1940s, but look at some old Los Gatos real estate home prices then and see the buy and hold value at its best.)

The biggest challenges in moving to Silicon Valley

Finding Affordable HousingMoving across the state, country, or globe always presents opportunities – but also challenges.  What are the biggest hurdles for people moving to Silicon Valley?

The cost of housing is the # 1 challenge for newcomers to Silicon Valley

For most people, the hardest issue is the cost of housing in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Whether buying or renting, it’s extremely costly here.  Depending on where you’re coming from, it could be man, many times more expensive. Finding affordable housing is the # 1 challenge for people relocating to Silicon Valley.

How does it compare to other places?  It is close to on par with New York  City, about 50% more expensive than Austin, TX, and about 1/3 more than Chicago, IL.  Check Sperling’s Cost of Living comparison to get a good sense of how it relates to your current home town.

Not only are the houses, condominiums, townhouses and apartments more expensive, but most of our homes are smaller too.   Continue reading

How’s the Silicon Valley real estate market?

What’s going on with the Silicon Valley real estate market? Is it as crazy as ever with multiple offers, overbids, and few or no contingencies?

In many cases, yes – especially in the more affordable price points in areas with good schools and shorter commutes. Those areas are the ones most in demand.    And as before, comparing the three counties (San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Santa Cruz), San Mateo is the most expensive and overall it becomes less expensive in Santa Clara County, then less expensive still in Santa Cruz County.  Alameda County has a little of Silicon Valley, but that area is in a totally different MLS system so is not part of this analysis.

What does it cost to buy a house in Silicon Valley?

In Santa Clara County (home to Palo Alto, Cupertino, Sunnyvale, Mountain View, San Jose, and my own Los Gatos), the average sale price is about $1,150,000 and the median sale price has been bouncing around in the $900s range for the last few month.

In San Mateo County (home to Redwood Shores, Foster City, Menlo Park, San Mateo), the average sale price is in the range of $1.4 to 1.5 million for houses recently sold.  The median is a little lower, closer to $1.2 million.

In Santa Cruz County (Santa Cruz, Scotts Valley, Aptos, Capitola, Soquel), it’s more affordable.  The average sale price of houses recently has been in the 800s, and the median sale price has been right about $700,000.

How is the year over year appreciation in these different parts of Silicon Valley?

Naturally, it’s easier to buy near Santa Cruz than in San Jose, but the demand tends to remain stronger in the areas with the jobs as opposed to the coastal communities, so appreciation is usually stronger in the areas where it’s hardest to purchase.   That seems to be true in a very similar way in San Mateo County, too – yes, it’s less costly to buy in Half Moon Bay, and in an up market it’s great, but in a down market it will not fare as well as Belmont, San Mateo etc.

Santa Clara County
http://rereport.com/scc/print/Mary.PopeHandySCC.pdf

Santa Clara County – prices up over 2014 by 6-8% appx

RE Report ANNUAL SCC Chart 2016-1-25

  • Median home prices increased by 7.9% year-over-year to $917,000 from $849,975.
  • The average home sales price rose by 6.4% year-over-year to $1,157,360 from $1,088,090.
  • Personal note: appreciation in this range is fairly sustainable, as compared to the appreciation in 2014, which was closer to 20%.  Double digit appreciation is usually a little worrisome since it often is not sustainable.

2016-02-01_Annual RE Report for Santa Clara County

San Mateo County
http://rereport.com/scc/print/Mary.PopeHandySMCannual.pdf

San Mateo County – prices up from last year

  • Median home prices increased by 21.9% year-over-year to $1,170,000 from $960,000.
  • The average home sales price rose by 3.7% year-over-year to $1,482,950 from $1,429,870.

Santa Cruz County
http://rereport.com/scc/print/Mary.PopeHandySZCannual.pdf
Santa Cruz County – prices off year over year

  • Median home prices fell by 0.4% year-over-year to $700,000 from $702,500.
  • The average home sales price dropped by 10.4% year-over-year to $801,516 from $894,204.

Within all of these market areas, there are hotter and cooler locations, school districts, price points, etc.  Often there are work arounds to maximize the sale or purchase of a property.  For instance, some homes have a pool that eats up the whole yard.  That might make a home difficult to sell, so perhaps you can buy it without competing against so many offers – and then remove the pool later.  Often the “fixes” are not as costly as you may think.

Want to buy or sell in Silicon Valley?  Please reach out to me. I’d love to chat with you about it and see if we might work together.

Mary Pope-Handy
Realtor,
CIPS, CRS, ABR, SRES
Sereno Group
214 Los Gatos-Saratoga Rd.
Los Gatos CA 95030
[Silicon Valley, California, USA]
1-408-204-7673
mary (at) popehandy.com
CA BRE # 01153805

CIPS - Certified International Property Specialist
CRS - Certified Residential Specialist
ABR - Accredited Buyer Representative
SRES - Seniors Real Estate Specialist

Helping nice folks to buy and sell homes in Silicon Valley since 1993. Mary Pope-Handy, Realtor, Silicon Valley
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Listings by Price Range
Below please find a list of SOME of the popular Silicon Valley areas with listings offered by price range. This is not a complete list! Please use the "search" app to find ALL properties on the MLS.
Trends & Statistics

Click the link below to get real estate data for Santa Clara County, San Mateo County, and Santa Cruz County (together making up about 98% of "Silicon Valley").

Real Estate Market Statistics and Trends for Santa Clara County


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