Buying Tips

San Jose Mercury News Headlines April 15 – 16 2014: home prices to buy or rent are rising steeply

Flashback Friday!

As I was going through old blog posts, I found this brief installment from April 17th, 2014. Often I write that the current hot sellers market in the Bay is “prolonged,” “steady,” or “persistent,” but seeing these two headlines from over 3 years ago really shows just how unyielding it has been. It is highly unusual to be in such a strong, drawn-out market, but there’s no clear indicator that things will change anytime soon, either. Buyers and renters might find some relief now that autumn is here in hopes that it brings the usual seasonal cooling.

Find the original post immediately below. – Update October 22nd, 2017

 

Here are the headlines from the San Jose Mercury News in mid April 2014:

Home Prices to buy or rent going up April 15-16 2014

Rental article: Bay Area apartment rents set record 4/16/14

Excerpt:  Bay Area apartment rents are rising at nearly double-digit annual rates and have reached record levels, according to a report released Tuesday, prompting some analysts to warn that the region’s economic boom could be choked off by the relentless rise…..  Among the Bay Area’s three largest cities, San Jose had an average asking rent of $2,066 during this year’s January-March quarter, up 10.3 percent from the same period last year, RealFacts reported. Oakland had an average rental rate of $2,187, up 12.3 percent, while San Francisco posted an average of $3,057, up 9.5 percent.

Home buying article:   Bay Area home prices jump year over year

Excerpt:  March marked more than 20 consecutive months of year-over-year price gains for single-family homes in the East Bay, South Bay and Peninsula, according to real estate information service DataQuick, which released a report on March sales Wednesday…. The San Diego-based company said that prices were up 29.2 percent from the previous March in Alameda County to $575,000. In Contra Costa County, prices rose 22.8 percent to $425,000. Santa Clara County gained 20.3 percent to $800,000, and San Mateo County was up 13.2 percent to $860,000.

Whether you buy or rent, prices have been rising dramatically.  When factoring in what housing will cost, include the trajectory of appreciation per month.

Silicon Valley neighborhoods

This website, Move2SiliconValley.com, provides an overview for people thinking of or planning to move to Silicon Valley. If you want to dig deeper and learn about individual Silicon Valley neighborhoods, I want to suggest that you visit some of my other websites and blogs for Silicon Valley real estate resources.  Please have a look:

popehandy.com is my flagship site for Silicon Valley real estate – it includes area or neighborhood profiles for all the Silicon Valley communities (in all 4 counties) as well as information for Silicon Valley home sellers and more. Visit popehandy.com and click on “Communities” for a drop down menu listing the 4 counties and learn about the cities, towns, and areas that comprise the Silicon Valley area. (I run several sites and have many articles on them, and this is the one which covers the broadest territory.)
popehandy.com Silicon Valley neighborhoods

ValleyOfHeartsDelight.com is where I showcase my listings, and it’s the site for general real estate info in Santa Clara County and Santa Clara Valley, once known as the Valley Of Heart’s Delight. Most of Silicon Valley is in this area.

SanJoseRealEstateLosGatosHomes.com covers real estate in the town of Los Gatos and the nearby areas of San Jose, Campbell, Saratoga and more. I think it’s the best part of the Santa Clara Valley or Santa Clara County, but perhaps I’m biased. There are MANY posts with local market trends & statistics, updated monthly, for these areas plus Cupertino, Sunnyvale, Mountain View, Almaden Valley, Blossom Valley, Willow Glen, and so on – areas within Santa Clara County. (Google “real estate market” plus the city or area you’re interested in, and you likely will find an article on this site for your desired corner of the region.) Additionally, there are special research postings on the absorption rate in Los Gatos and Saratoga. Also you’ll find Silicon Valley neighborhoods described in depth, often at the subdivision level for areas such as Cambrian and Almaden. Check it out, it is a wealth of information!

LiveInLosGatosBlog.com focuses on the town of Los Gatos, its neighborhoods, areas, districts, as well as events, parks, real estate for sale, the arts, schools, businesses, restaurants, and much more.  A little more community and a little less real estate, but the BEST site for Los Gatos neighborhoods you’ll find anywhere. Los Gatos was once known as the “gem city” and is still a very beloved corner of Silicon Valley today, with historic neighborhoods and homes, gorgeous architecture, and a vibrant downtown. Before deciding where to live, be sure to investigate this scenic town snuggled at the base of the Santa Cruz Mountains – the gateway to the valley.

popehandy.ReReport.com is all about the statistics for Silicon Valley, including San Mateo County, Santa Clara County, and Santa Cruz County. Overall, it is very comprehensive. It features a way for you to track listings and sales near your own home, or one of interest, too.

Silicon Valley neighborhoods where I focus my real estate sales:

Obviously, 4 counties is a lot of ground to cover, and most Realtors don’t work that huge of an area in urban communities like ours. I have sold in all 4 counties, but the vast majority of my business is in Santa Clara County, where I live and where my office is located.

In general, I avoid taking on buyers in counties outside of Santa Clara County as it’s far with today’s traffic and with buyer clients it’s important to be super responsive and see new listings as soon as they are available. For that reason, I’d be happy to introduce you to a great buyer’s agent in those areas if that’s where you’d like to purchase a home. With listings it’s far fewer trips and I have more control of my time, so I’m happy to assist sellers in all of these counties.

What are the usual open house times in Silicon Valley?

Open House signs when to whenIf you are house hunting in Silicon Valley and new to the area, you may wonder when the usual open house times are. Unfortunately, open house times are not perfectly predictable as there is variation both from one brokerage or agent to the next and one region of the counties that comprise Silicon Valley to the next as well. As an example, in the Blossom Valley area of San Jose, condos or houses are frequently available for viewing between 1:30 and 4:30, but it’s not a rule – some listings may have a totally different schedule!

In general, most open houses will be available between 2 and 4 on weekend days if advertised as open (sometimes Saturday, sometimes Sunday, sometimes both. Open houses can run from 12-5, 2-4, 1-4, 1:30 – 4:30, 2-5 etc. If you arrive between 2 and 4 (not “at” 4), you are likely to find it open if it’s advertised as such.  Some real estate agents may hold it open sooner or later, though. If a Realtor has a couple of properties that need to be held open for the public, one could be from 11-1 and the other from 3-5 or some such schedule.

The broker open house is usually not intended for the public, but for agents to show listings to other agents who are looking for their clients. Occasionally (more frequently now than before), the home is open to the public to view. Broker open home tours take place on weekday mornings, typically Wednesday, between approximately 9:30am and 12:30pm.  If non real estate professionals (the public) are welcome, it will be advertised on our MLS, so check online or with your agent.

It is always best to check online at www.MLSListings.com for the most accurate schedule for open houses, which may be during weekday mornings, twilight tours, or weekend afternoons or mornings.

Finally, do not count on all properties listed for sale in Santa Clara or San Mateo Counties to necessarily be available for viewing at an open house. Some listing agents and some sellers prefer NO open houses, believing that any qualified buyer who’s serious will be working with a buyer’s agent and can make an appointment to see it privately. (This is yet another reason why every buyer should have his or her own real estate agent rather than planning to work with the listing agent when buying their next home.)

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. 5 beds, 6 baths
    Home size: 5,327 sq ft
    Lot size: 25,678 sqft
    Year built: 2008
  3. 6 beds, 7 baths
    Home size: 6,096 sq ft
    Lot size: 22,002 sqft
    Year built: 2017
  4. 5 beds, 5 baths
    Home size: 3,670 sq ft
    Lot size: 9,975 sqft
    Year built: 2009
  5. 4 beds, 6 baths
    Home size: 4,629 sq ft
    Lot size: 21,997 sqft
    Year built: 2008

See all Los Altos, California Real Estate.
(all data current as of 9/24/2017)

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, 10 baths
    Home size: 9,750 sq ft
    Lot size: 43,512 sqft
    Year built: 2017
  3. 5 beds, 7 baths
    Home size: 7,326 sq ft
    Lot size: 26,697 sqft
    Year built: 1927
  4. 8 beds, 4 baths
    Home size: 1,100 sq ft
    Lot size: 19,998 sqft
    Year built: 1941
  5. 6 beds, 5 baths
    Home size: 5,478 sq ft
    Lot size: 14,100 sqft
    Year built: 1935

See all Palo Alto, California Real Estate.
(all data current as of 9/24/2017)

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

Sunnyvale homes for sale

  1. 0 beds, 0 bath
    Home size: 3,724 sq ft
    Lot size: 9,400 sqft
    Year built: 1979
  2. 4 beds, 4 baths
    Home size: 2,800 sq ft
    Lot size: 7,348 sqft
    Year built: 2017
  3. 4 beds, 3 baths
    Home size: 2,387 sq ft
    Lot size: 8,285 sqft
    Year built: 1977
  4. 0 beds, 0 bath
    Home size: 2,509 sq ft
    Lot size: 6,699 sqft
    Year built: 1947
  5. 3 beds, 4 baths
    Home size: 2,307 sq ft
    Lot size: 8,977 sqft
    Year built: 1960

See all Sunnyvale, California Real Estate.
(all data current as of 9/24/2017)

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. 7 beds, 6 baths
    Home size: 4,309 sq ft
    Lot size: 13,690 sqft
    Year built: 2017
  3. 5 beds, 5 baths
    Home size: 3,763 sq ft
    Lot size: 9,456 sqft
    Year built: 2017
  4. 5 beds, 4 baths
    Home size: 3,555 sq ft
    Lot size: 11,099 sqft
    Year built: 2017
  5. 4 beds, 6 baths
    Home size: 4,714 sq ft
    Lot size: 1.60 ac
    Year built: 2017

See all Cupertino, California Real Estate.
(all data current as of 9/24/2017)

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

  1. 1 bed, 1 bath
    Home size: 897 sq ft
    Lot size: 871 sqft
  2. 2 beds, 1 bath
    Home size: 899 sq ft
    Lot size: 801 sqft

See all Real estate in the city of Palo Alto.
(all data current as of 9/24/2017)

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

Los Altos

  1. 2 beds, 2 baths
    Home size: 1,200 sq ft
    Lot size: 1,228 sqft
  2. 2 beds, 3 baths
    Home size: 1,206 sq ft
    Lot size: 2,029 sqft

See all Real estate in the city of Los Altos.
(all data current as of 9/24/2017)

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

Cupertino

  1. 1 bed, 1 bath
    Home size: 786 sq ft
    Lot size: 2.03 ac
  2. 2 beds, 2 baths
    Home size: 994 sq ft
    Lot size: 2,108 sqft
  3. 3 beds, 2 baths
    Home size: 1,430 sq ft
    Lot size: 3,824 sqft

See all Real estate in the city of Cupertino.
(all data current as of 9/24/2017)

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

Saratoga

  1. 2 beds, 1 bath
    Home size: 948 sq ft
    Lot size: 1,319 sqft

See all Real estate in the city of Saratoga.
(all data current as of 9/24/2017)

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

Los Gatos

  1. 3 beds, 1 bath
    Home size: 1,276 sq ft
    Lot size: 5,501 sqft
  2. 2 beds, 2 baths
    Home size: 1,257 sq ft
    Lot size: 11,199 sqft
  3. 3 beds, 3 baths
    Home size: 1,639 sq ft
    Lot size: 2,099 sqft
  4. 2 beds, 2 baths
    Home size: 1,800 sq ft
    Lot size: 2.60 ac
  5. 1 bed, 1 bath
    Home size: 1,059 sq ft
    Lot size: 2,099 sqft

See all Real estate in the city of Los Gatos.
(all data current as of 9/24/2017)

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

Milpitas

  1. 4 beds, 3 baths
    Home size: 1,976 sq ft
    Lot size: 6,507 sqft
  2. 2 beds, 3 baths
    Home size: 1,258 sq ft
    Lot size: 592 sqft
  3. 3 beds, 4 baths
    Home size: 1,981 sq ft
  4. 2 beds, 2 baths
    Home size: 976 sq ft
    Lot size: 814 sqft
  5. 3 beds, 2 baths
    Home size: 1,421 sq ft
    Lot size: 435 sqft

See all Real estate in the city of Milpitas.
(all data current as of 9/24/2017)

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

Almaden area of San Jose

  1. 3 beds, 2 baths
    Home size: 1,824 sq ft
    Lot size: 2,944 sqft
  2. 3 beds, 3 baths
    Home size: 2,913 sq ft
    Lot size: 3,680 sqft
  3. 3 beds, 2 baths
    Home size: 1,155 sq ft
    Lot size: 3,990 sqft
  4. 3 beds, 3 baths
    Home size: 1,739 sq ft
    Lot size: 1,219 sqft
  5. 3 beds, 2 baths
    Home size: 1,155 sq ft
    Lot size: 3,920 sqft

See all Real estate in the Almaden Valley community.
(all data current as of 9/24/2017)

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!

 

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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