Visiting Silicon Valley for job interview and considering a relocation: how to get a feel for where to live?
A few times a month I get phone calls from people considering a relocation to Silicon Valley. In most cases, a trip out to Palo Alto, Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Cupertino, San Jose, Menlo Park or somewhere else in the South Bay or Peninsula is planned. These questions always arise:
What should we see when visiting Silicon Valley?
What neighborhoods should we consider or tour while there?
First: know which part of Silicon Valley where the possible employer is located
Silicon Valley covers a lot of ground – most of 2 counties (Santa Clara County and San Mateo County) and snippets of a couple more, which the Silicon Valley sprawl now inching north toward San Francisco. The first thing to know is where the potential job is located. There’s a huge difference between Oracle in Redwood Shores, Apple in Cupertino or Cisco in North San Jose, let alone some of the more far reaching Silicon Valley areas like Scotts Valley, South San Jose (at the intersection of Hwy 85 and 101), over in Los Gatos (Netflix) or inching up the east Bay in Fremont or Hayward.
Second: know your commute tolerance and have your priorities organized
Everyone would like to live close to work (under a half hour commute) but if you are juggling multiple priorities such as having a house & yard for kids, needing good public schools, and bringing it in at less than $2 million, you may have to sort out which of the important priorities is the very most important and go from there. For many, the commute gets longer in order to provide the other things (a house not a condo or apartment, better schools, lower price). Most people say that they would like a commute of 30 minutes or less. Often they end up with a longer one after seeing a few areas and properties. Continue reading
Here are the headlines from the San Jose Mercury News in mid April 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.
Although normally I prefer to take photos than be featured in them or in videos, many of my Realtor friends from across the country have been telling me that our blog readers would like to see us on video (and not just read our typed words). So I’m caving in – and saying hello! Hope you enjoy this 4 minute video, shot from my home office in Los Gatos.
- Palo Alto (very costly)
- Cupertino (less expensive for the school scores compared to other areas up to #5 on this list)
- Saratoga (very expensive)
- Los Altos & Los Altos Hills
- Los Gatos & Monte Sereno (95030 & 95032)
- Parts of San Jose in Cambrian 95124 and Almaden 95120 (very good value)
- The Los Gatos Mountains (zip code 95033)
- Parts of Fremont (Mission San Jose area)
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
In many areas of the U.S., real estate agents actively work the rental market. In those areas, owners are willing to pay a commission for the service, and houses and condos are listed in the local multiple listing service.
Not in Silicon Valley, though. Instead, it’s a land of “for rent by owner”. A few properties may be on the MLS (see link below), but hardly any. Far less than 5%.
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.
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.
Two things are happening that create pressure:
- There are a lot of companies hiring, and many high tech people, especially, are moving to Silicon Valley
- People who have lost homes in foreclosure, or who had to do a short sale to avoid it, are not able to buy for at least a few years. They may double up with family or friends for awhile but eventually do rent.
With demand increasing like crazy, rents are increasing like crazy too. It’s the old tale of supply and demand: more demand than supply exists in the rental housing market today.
Just watch out for the scams! If a price sounds too good to be true, it probably is. I wrote about this not too long ago, please have a look:
Finding a place to rent – how do people locate one in Santa Clara County? Where can you find properties to lease or rent? I have a list of resources on my Valley of Hearts Delight blog – please click on the following link.
What about a broker or agent? Can a Realtor help you to find a rental home in Silicon Valley? Most of the time, a real estate sales person will not be of much help in finding rental properties, and that’s because they aren’t usually listed in the MLS (and the MLS is the way in which we are paid).
Sometimes, though, a rental is listed on our Multiple Listing Service (MLS). You can check it out directly at www.MLSListings.com – just select rental under “type”. The vast majority of rentals are online via Craigslist, though, and a real estate agent has no role in that type of rental property. Just beware of the scams, mentioned above, and always google the address of the property that looks interesting to see if it’s for sale also. If it is listed as for sale, the odds are that it’s not really for rent.
On occasion, members of the real estate community will know of a “courtesy rental” property, meaning that a client wants to rent it out but not necessarily put it on Craigslist or the MLS. Instead, it’s word of mouth. You do not need to call every real estate professional in town to ask if they have any courtesy rentals. Instead, turn to your trusted Realtor and ask him or her to inquire for you. Most agents are very happy to send out the request within their company and to top agents or managers of others nearby to ask on your behalf (but it’s no good if 10 Realtors are all circulating the same request, so please don’t give in to temptation and ask everyone for this favor.)
Many people who move to Silicon Valley want to rent initially. Los Gatos is a great place to start! Many newcomers say that Los Gatos is the “most European” of Silicon Valley’s cities and towns. I agree!
In addition to the El Gato Penthouse (in downtown LG on Main Street), a newer complex with some furnished rental units on the edge of Los Gatos next to Netflix is Aventino. It’s a luxurious community with granite counters in the kitchens, a beautiful pool and spa area, and secure parking.
The Bay Tree Apartments are in the Almond Grove District (downtown or “walk to town” Los Gatos) and they have both furnished and unfurnished, but they do not always have vacancies. Here’s their contact info to check back later or see if there’s a waiting list: 347 Massol Aven Los Gatos, CA 95030 (408) 354-7317.
Want to learn more about living in Los Gatos? Please visit my Live in Los Gatos blog and see selected pages on my popehandy.com website devoted to the town of the cats.
Want to purchase a house, condo or townhouse in Los Gatos? Here are some links to help you with your research.
Browse Los Gatos Homes for Sale on my popehandy.com site:
- Los Gatos homes for sale under $1,000,000
- Los Gatos homes for sale priced between $1 and $2 million dollars
- Los Gatos homes offered for sale between $2 and $3 million USD
- Los Gatos homes listed between $3 and $5 million USD
- Los Gatos luxury properties at or over $5,000,000