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
Search for rental housing on the MLS on my sites:
1- find a home by map
In lower left corner you’ll see “property types” – scroll down and find Residential Rental and click the box to select it
You can input bedrooms, bathrooms etc. in the fields to the right of it. I input 3 bed or more and 2 bath or more and got just 25 results
2 – simple city or town search on my blog
Scroll down and view the left sidebar – you’ll see Real Estate Search in the left sidebar (just over the list of zip codes) – input the area/size you want and where it says “all property types”, do a pull down and you’ll find “rentals” as one of your choices.
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!.
Property information not available
Moving to Silicon Valley: is it possible to get a house here that’s as nice as the one you currently own?
I am frequently contacted by extremely bright, successful engineers or high tech professionals who are in large homes on large lots with great schools in less expensive areas of the country. They want to move here because Silicon Valley is the hub of innovation, our weather's great, crime's low and there's so much to do in this region. They know that housing costs here are extraordinarily high, but they hope that the salaries are commensurately high such that they can replicate the home & lifestyle they currently have – but put it here.
But that really doesn't work. Unless someone's relocating here from Boston, New York, Tokyo or Paris (or somewhere equally astronomically priced), the salary offered in Silicon Valley will not usually make that kind of housing duplication possible.
To move here normally means downgrading the house and paying more for it. Yes, incomes are a little higher but not nearly enough to match the discrepancy in real estate prices. I tell people, as a rule of thumb, that when you move here you will pay twice as much and get half as much. (Salaries? You get a little more. Not twice.)
Sometimes I get the comment "I don't want to move to Silicon Valley and have my family's lifestyle negatively impacted by having to live in a smaller house. I want the quality of life to go up, not down."
That is completely understandable. People who move here don't do it because of housing. Lifestyle often is better here. Shoveling snow? Forgetaboutit. We have 300 sunny days a year on average – if you love to be outdoors, your lifestyle will be far better here where the weather is subtropical. We have the Pacific Ocean an hour or less away, San Francisco an hour away, about 2 dozen wineries, theatre, museums, the Sharks, parks and trails. Our population is highly diverse and highly educated. Crime is low. There are a thousand reasons why the lifestyle here probably is far better than in other parts of the country… but it's not if you equivocate housing with lifestyle.
Yesterday I was asked how the San Jose – Silicon Valley area is different from other parts of the US for home buyers. What did they need to be concerned about here versus in the midwest or east coast? They knew about earthquakes, and having to strap water heaters for earthquake safety, but what about earthquake insurance? Are termites a problem here? What things should home buyers worry about here that perhaps are not issues elsewhere?
I thought that this was a great question. Here are the big areas that come to mind:
- Earthquakes (of course) and everything related: selling requirements, insurance questions, related natural hazard zones (liquifaction zones, landslide areas, etc.), where fault lines are located, etc. People moving to California generally know that they need to be concerned about seismic occurrences, but perhaps not all the related areas.
- Expansive clay soils: when you read your history, you may have heard that in early California, homes were made of adobe bricks. What may not have been clear is how strong that soil is. I have a couple of blog posts on my Valley of Hearts Delight blog on this topic:
Cracked Foundations, Adobe Clay Soils and Water in Silicon ValleyWhat To Consider When Buying a Hillside Home in Silicon Valley
Termites: in general, there are 2 types of these pests active on the valley floor: drywood termites and subterranean termites. (In the Los Gatos Mountains and closer to the Pacific Ocean you may also encounter dampwood termites.) It may be possible to try to prevent subterranean termites with bait stakes placed underground, but there is no way to prevent drywood termites. You can fumigate your home and within a few days they could be back (but won’t be visible for a year or two at the earliest in most cases). Termites do better here than in many places of the country simply because it’s warmer here. They may swarm twice a year rather than once. Please also read this post for more info:
- No basements – there are very few homes with basements here (the very old ones and those which are newer and extremely expensive). A very common question is “where do people store all their stuff if they don’t have a basement?” For most households, the storage center tends to be the garage. Built in cabinets and storage shelves are highly appreciated. When people purchase homes with 3 car garages, often that 3rd space is not for a car, but for “stuff” – luggage, holiday decor, momentos, old files, etc.
- Foundations – older homes are usually built on a “raised” foundation or perimeter foundation with support beams under the center part of the home. Some types of homes, such as Eichler designed houses (mid-century modern ranch style) were built with slab foundations and actually have radiant heating (heating coils built into the slab). Newer homes now tend to be built on slab also (10-15 years of age or less). Most of our valley has 40-60 year old ranch style homes, though, and these are mostly “raised” foundations with a crawl space.
- Houses are built to move in case of an earthquake – most of our homes are built with wood and are intended to move in the case of an earthquake. It is very rare to find a house made out of brick here because they don’t do well in case of severe shaking.
These are perhaps the most salient differences home buyers relocating to Silicon Valley might want to be aware of. For each of these points, there are things to learn and red flags to watch for.
Frequently, people new to Silicon Valley and the San Jose area arrive from places where their last home was new construction, and they hope to find a brand new home here, too.
Unless you are looking to purchase a condominium or a townhome, though, it can be really challenging to find truly new homes for sale here. (There are tons of fabulous new condos in downtown San Jose, which is enjoying a great redevelopment period.)
For the most part, Silicon Valley had a post World War II housing boom that stretched primarily from the 50s into the 70s. By the 1980s, even, most of the open space was gone. Today we do have a few new patches of new homes “here and there”, but there aren’t many. Unfortunately, too, since most of the best land was built up long ago, some of the newest developments are in less desireable areas such as next to freeways.
For the Silicon Valley new home buyer, I want to suggest a couple of strategies: first, in addition to checking out whatever new homes are currently being built, consider homes that are younger than 20 years of age. Many of them are still in great shape. Some have already been remodeled! Another option is to look for the “fully remodeled” home. With the latter, you must be extra dilligent to make sure that the house has not just been gussied up to be be flipped, but is truly remodeled in areas you cannot see, such as the wiring and the pipes.
Please also read:
Myths and Misconceptions about Buying a New (or Newer) Home
Some younger neighborhoods:
Introducing a Beautiful Willow Glen Neighborhood, “The Willows”
The Almaden Winery Neighborhood of San Jose
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.
Property information no longer available.