What does it cost to buy a house in Santa Clara County? And San Mateo County? Both are home to “Silicon Valley”!
Silicon Valley is a large area, with much of it in Santa Clara County (where San Jose is the largest city with almost one million residents) and most of the rest is in San Mateo County along the San Francisco Peninsula. So what does it cost to buy a house in these areas? Today I spent some time on MLSListings.com, our local multiple listing service, and pulled the data, which I hope that newcomers will find very helpful.
Below is a chart of single family homes purchased between October 1 2013 and the end of January 2014 by price point.
Santa Clara County sales of single family homes:
As you can see, only a tiny fraction of homes sell for less than $400,000. Most people pay between quite a lot more, with many sales happening in the $600,000 to $1,000,000 range (and it’s more in the areas with best schools and short commutes, generally, so many are much higher, too). The average Santa Clara County home sales price was $1,002,119 and the average price per square foot was $526.
How about San Mateo County prices? As you may know, The Peninsula is pricier than it’s warmer neighbor to the south. But how much more will it cost you?
Santa Clara County sales of single family homes:
The average sales price was in San Mateo County for the last three months was $1,254,114 and average price per square foot was $625 (all sizes of houses and lots throughout SMC). This is about 20% than Santa Clara County.
I have been fortunate to have made 5 trips to Europe, one of them lasting 9 months, and will be returning again before the end of 2013 (this time to Belgium). It is so diverse, beautiful and compelling! Having experienced a little culture shock myself (when living in Florence, Italy, for one year of university), I’m very sympathetic about how hard an international move can be, and I understand that for Europeans moving to Silicon Valley, there can be an acute culture shock, particularly for those coming from more rural areas.
The bulk of Silicon Valley is located in Santa Clara County, which is at the southern end of the San Francisco Bay. In this county, there are approximately 1.8 million people, almost a million of them in the city of San Jose. Some areas, or districts, of San Jose have a distinctive character and are almost like towns or small cities themselves. So in this article I’ll mention both cities and towns, but also areas or districts of San Jose, which might appeal to our European transplants. Most of my comments will reference Santa Clara County or “south bay” locations, but I will also mention others on the San Francisco Peninsula and SF Bay Area too.
Architecture, Urban Centers and Charm
It is an unfortunate negative in Silicon Valley that much of our housing consists of ranch style tract homes, and truthfully, they are not exactly a work of art. New or newer homes tend to be on very tiny parcels of land (or “lots”) and for many people may simply feel too congested or crowded. But there are beautiful residential neighborhoods – you just need to know where to look! In many ways, the areas with higher charm can make our global home buyers feel more comfortable than if they were faced with only track, ranch neighborhoods.
Do you value unique, older architecture with Victorian, Craftsman, Tudor or other home styles? Then check out these areas:
- Within San Jose: the Japantown, Vendome, and Naglee Park areas of downtown San Jose. Also in central San Jose are the Rosegarden, Shasta Hanchett and Burbank neighborhoods which all boast some lovely older homes. Or, if you love classic Spanish Revival style homes with views, consider the old Alum Rock area of San Jose near the country club (golf course). The Willow Glen area of SJ (zip code 95120) is full of lovely old established neighborhoods with historic homes and tree lined streets. If your job takes you to downtown San Jose, all of these areas will be fairly close.
- If you want a rural, eclectic atmosphere, check out the “New Almaden” area of San Jose. This is actually a county pocket with a San Jose mailing address.
- Other towns or cities with older, more interesting architecture include the “downtown” ares of Los Altos, Palo Alto, Los Gatos, Campbell, Mountain View, Saratoga and Menlo Park (in San Mateo County, just north of Palo Alto).
- If work will be on The Peninsula, there are many areas nearby that may work. San Mateo has some fantastic neighborhoods! Also San Francisco, which is tiny but full of beautiful areas, may be a strong draw (I do not sell there – it’s too far for me). Warning: the weather in San Francisco is very often COLD in summer!
- Across the bay, Berkeley has some great Victorian and other homes and several really interesting pockets, as does parts of Oakland. (I do not work these areas either as they are too far for me, but I did live in Berkeley in graduate school and can connect you with a great agent there.)
Comparing real estate market conditions in Almaden, Los Gatos, Saratoga, Cupertino, Sunnyvale and Los Altos
For people relocating to Silicon Valley, often there’s not just one city, town or area which seems like a good fit. Sometimes it may come down to what your money can buy or how difficult it is to purchase in one area versus another. This is frequently the case with the “West Valley” areas where schools are good and the neighborhoods are tidy.
There are two statistics which are especially helpful in understanding the Santa Clara County real estate market. One is the “days on market” or DOM. The shorter this is, the hotter the market – and the harder it is to purchase. The second is the sale price to list price ratio, which hints at the existence of multiple offers, overbids, and buyers giving away all of their rights.
Today, then, we’ll have a look at these, starting with Almaden, the southernmost area, and working our way north along the coastal range. The charts below are all for single family homes (houses and duet homes, not condos or townhomes).
Almaden Valley is a district within the city of San Jose. Its boundaries roughly follow the 95120 zip code, though there are some parts of nearby zip codes which somewhat overlap into Almaden too. How’s the Almaden market? Red hot! Days on market is crazy low – a mere 16! And the average sale price is almost 104% of list price…and rising!
Almaden Valley, San Jose, 95120 days on market and sale price to list price ratio
There is most always a big shock when folks relocate to Silicon Valley and start to learn how far their money goes – or doesn’t go – here. This has been the case for a very long time, since long before I got into the business 20 years ago. Prior to to looking online, you may hear that it’s bad, but you don’t really know what people are talking about until you get into a car with a Realtor and go see what $500,000 or a million or more will buy you here.
And now, too add to the already high home prices, the real estate market is overheated due to a severe inventory shortage of homes for sale in the San Jose and “South Bay” areas, too. Most properties are selling over list price – and that was high to start with, particularly for out of state or global buyers.
In most parts of the U.S., a half a million dollars will buy you a great home. Here, not so much. A million dollars will buy you a nice home in a decent area, but it won’t be fancy, and you’re unlikely to have a large lot unless your commute is huge and you’re on the outskirts of the valley. It’s more than a million to have a really nicely remodeled home with great schools; that price point seems to start at about 1.2 million in most parts of the valley. Have a look at the median and average sales prices for houses in Santa Clara County – this will give you a sense of how the market has been behaving, but also of the cost to purchase homes generally.
Sometimes people relocating to Silicon Valley tell me that they’d like to move to an area with a view of the Pacific Ocean. Most of Silicon Valley is inland, though, separated from the ocean by the coastal mountains.
For those truly set on having a view of the Pacific, home can be found in the Santa Cruz area with lovely ocean and Monterey Bay views. The compromise will likely be a long commute over Highway 17. Or similarly, ocean lovers may settle close to Half Moon Bay or Pescadero, but will have to slog over the coastal hills on Hwy 35 each day to get to the Peninsula. (Some lucky souls may find employment in Scotts Valley or along the coast, but most of the jobs are not in these places.) If a faraway ocean view will work, perhaps making the Santa Cruz Mountains home may be the ideal fit.
If you want to live along the waterfront within Silicon Valley, there really are not a lot of neighborhoods from which to choose. Most of the water views involve being near the San Francisco Bay. There are a few rivers, creeks, ponds and lakes to be found as well, but enjoying lovely water views up close is not the easiest criteria to fill. Along the bay, though, it often comes down to Foster City and Redwood Shores, which we’ll discuss next. Continue reading
Sometimes newcomers to Silicon Valley strongly prefer older homes, such as Victorians, Craftsman, or other distinctive architectural styles, preferably surrounded by homes of the same vintage. Most of the valley is filled with ranch style housing, but there are quite a few neighborhoods which enjoy historic home which exude tons of charm. Where to find them?
San Jose’s historic homes
San Jose is a large city (10th largest in the United States, almost 1 million residents) and very spread out with a wide diversity of neighborhoods. Here are a few to consider for classic, older properties:
In central San Jose there are quite a few areas to check out:
(1) Downtown San Jose generally, but within that area
(2) the Shasta-Hanchett neighborhood
(3) the Rosegarden area (close to Shasta Hanchett, both in “central San Jose”)
(4) Alum Rock in east San Jose – up into the foothills there are lovely, older Spanish style homes
(5) Willow Glen – close to downtown SJ, features all sorts of architectural styes, from mid-century modern to Spanish, Victorian, Tudor – you name it. Within Willow Glen, The Palm Haven neighborhood has the added charm of so many palm trees (very visible when flying into the San Jose airport)
There are many more scattered throughout San Jose and nearby suburbs, even in places like Cambrian Park or Almaden (away from the old mercury mining area), where it seems all the houses were built from the 1950s to the 1980s. When we see a hundred year old house in this area, it’s very likely that it used to be the house on a large ranch, orchard or farm.
The town of Los Gatos is far smaller than neighboring San Jose, but has a great assortment of historic districts that are beautifully maintained and tastefully updated, most of them right in downtown. I’ve written about these on my Live in Los Gatos blog, so here are a few links to those neighborhood posts:
Broadway – first subdivision in Los Gatos
Palo Alto enjoys some of the most beautiful, gracious older houses in Silicon Valley, particularly the Professorville and Old Palo Alto areas, but others too. Drive the neighborhoods between Stanford University (El Camino Real) and 101 and you’ll find lots of historic homes to love! The challenge is affordability, as these are the most expensive historic homes in the region.
There are many more lovely older homes throughout Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties and nearby. If you enjoy these classic beauties, watch for a series of spring home tours which become available beginning in around March each year. Most of them will cost a few dollars, with proceeds going to a worthy local charity. If you’re interested in purchasing an historic property, visit my “search by map” page and enter a “built before” year and then scroll around the valley to see what is available.
The Silicon Valley real estate market is spread out over a few counties, primarily Santa Clara County but also much of San Mateo County and part of Alameda and Santa Cruz Counties. Santa Clara County is home to about 1.8 million residents, more than half of them in the big city of San Jose. The high tech companies such as Cisco, Apple, Google and more are spread out around the valley, and each neighborhood has a very different set of housing market conditions. Even so, we’ll take a broad view of the county today to give some general indicators on what you might expect when moving here.
As a whole, home prices in Santa Clara are rising due to a dire scarcity of listing inventory. On average, houses sold in December were overbid and the sales price to list price ratio was about 102%. Here are the numbers at a glance:
|Trends At a Glance||Dec 2012||Previous Month||Year-over Year|
|Median Price||$682,500||$685,000 (-0.4%)||$530,000 (+28.8%)|
|Average Price||$908,873||$885,921 (+2.6%)||$714,562 (+27.2%)|
|No. of Sales||899||903 (-0.4%)||903 (-0.4%)|
|Pending Properties||980||1,500 (-34.7%)||1,396 (-29.8%)|
|Foreclosures Sold||25||34 (-26.5%)||112 (-77.7%)|
|Short Sales Sold||154||138 (+11.6%)||229 (-32.8%)|
|Active Listings||534||782 (-31.7%)||2345 (-77.2%)|
|Active Foreclosures||22||27 (-18.5%)||173 (-87.3%)|
|Active Short Sales||39||52 (-25.0%)||980 (-96.0%)|
|Sales Price vs. List Price||102.6%||102.3% (+0.3%)||98.7% (+3.9%)|
|Days on Market||36||32 (+11.3%)||63 (-42.8%)|
Though there was a slight slippage in values from the prior month’s median sales prices, the average price was up 2.6%. More dramatically, though, prices were up 27-28% from the year before! Foreclosures and short sales are way down. Inventory is critically low, off 77% from a year earlier.
It is a very deep seller’s market in Santa Clara County. Some areas, such as Cupertino, are very difficult for buyers right now. Cupertino’s prices are already past the last peak pricing and have only about 2 weeks of inventory.
|Trends At a Glance||Dec 2012||Previous Month||Year-over Year|
|Median Price||$1,343,880||$1,325,000 (+1.4%)||$982,500 (+36.8%)|
|Average Price||$1,304,180||$1,373,820 (-5.1%)||$1,085,210 (+20.2%)|
|No. of Sales||26||27 (-3.7%)||24 (+8.3%)|
|Pending Properties||18||23 (-21.7%)||13 (+38.5%)|
|Foreclosures Sold||0||0 (N/A)||0 (N/A)|
|Short Sales Sold||0||0 (N/A)||0 (N/A)|
|Active Listings||13||26 (-50.0%)||31 (-58.1%)|
|Active Foreclosures||0||0 (N/A)||0 (N/A)|
|Active Short Sales||0||0 (N/A)||4 (-100.0%)|
|Sales Price vs. List Price||102.9%||104.4% (-1.4%)||96.4% (+6.7%)|
|Days on Market||31||33 (-5.8%)||52 (-40.7%)|
To get the full report with much more data and information for all areas within Santa Clara County, please see www.popehandy.rereport.com.
How do you choose where you’d like to live in Silicon Valley? Especially if you’re relocating here from out of the area, this can be a huge question. Most Santa Clara County home buyers have strong preferences for low crime, good schools, and pleasant looking & quiet neighborhoods.
My clients often ask me to compare for them areas which are somewhat similar, such as Los Gatos & Los Altos. Off the top of my head, I can give general answers, such as these: Compared to Los Gatos, Los Altos is a more expensive (perhaps 20 or 25% more?), has a very slightly smaller population, is a little more spread out, has slightly milder weather and is overall “quieter” in terms of the downtown night life. Los Altos is more convenient if you want to go to Palo Alto or San Francisco. Los Gatos is more convenient if you like to visit Santa Cruz, Monterey and the coast. Los Gatos is more mixed in terms of housing types (it still has many beautiful historic districts with nicely renovated Victorian homes, but also newer construction). Both are “nice looking” but Los Gatos has more varied terrain as it is nestled into the Santa Cruz Mountains. Both enjoy pleasant neighborhoods, good schools, lower than normal crime and community involvement.
That’s the kind of “ballpark” info I can tell people about various areas of the Santa Clara Valley, whether it’s comparing one part of San Jose to another (Cambrian Park vs Almaden Valley vs Willow Glen) or one city to another (Cupertino vs Saratoga). I can give general info on schools….
To read more, please see the rest of the article on the Valley of Hearts Delight blog:
Cambrian Park, Santa Clara County
Announcing newly on MLS and at low price for Alta Vista School, quiet street, updated/remodeled condition and oversized lot! 5114 Nerissa Way, a 1,233 sq. ft., 2 bath, 3 bdrm single story “Room to add on!”. Now
– Fabulous price!.
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Almaden Winery, Cambrian Park – We invite everyone to visit our open house at 5641 Le Fevre Dr. on October 17 from 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM.
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