Relocation

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

Silicon Valley desirability for tech workers may hinge on age

Just read an interesting article on how important tech workers feel it is to live in Silicon Valley:  Is Silicon Valley Still the Top Tech Hub?  This piece reports on a survey done by Indeed Prime which found that many high tech workers do not believe that living in Silicon Valley is all that important for their careers.  For all those polled, 68.3% said that living here is either “not that important” or “not at all important.”

I can almost hear local old timers saying “great, maybe we’ll get our calm environment back if they all go to Seattle, New York, or Austin!”

So what is happening?  High housing costs do scare people off of living in the San Francisco Bay Area, and San Jose and nearby specifically.  Recently, my 26 year old son (in high tech also – he’s a video game designer currently getting a master’s in that field) informed me that many of his old high school friends don’t feel like they’ll ever be able to afford to live here.  And they are all well employed. I can see that, and it’s terribly sad.

But I don’t think you can blame the lack of attachment by tech workers generally to Silicon Valley real estate prices, because the attachment to living in the Santa Clara Valley is not uniform across all types of tech workers.

Further into this article, there’s a breakdown by age – and here it gets interesting.  Many younger high tech folks find value in being here, but the interest wanes as the workers age (that could be due to housing and the availability of other alternative locations for work).

For those thinking that having a job in Silicon Valley is important or very important, the generational breakdown is as follows:

Millennials  45.5%

Gen X   32.5%

Baby Boomers  10.2%

Will we see a trend toward a younger, more transient population here?  Time will tell. But the other places luring Silicon Valley talent share some of our same challenges.  Alternative locations for high tech careers include New York (not known for being inexpensive) and Boston (also fairly pricey) as well as more affordable locations such as Austin (where prices have been going through the roof), Seattle (also seeing extremely steep appreciation in real estate costs), Washington DC, Atlanta, and Demver.

It is a very interesting bit of research and I encourage my readers to check it out.

Is Silicon Valley Still the Top Tech Hub?

 

Video clarifying Silicon Valley vs San Francisco

This video is pretty good overall, though it misses some areas which are part of Silicon Valley, mispronounces the names of many areas, and refers to Gordon Moore as George Moore. Despite some errors, it’s entertaining and brief, and I think newcomers will find it helpful as an intro to the San Francisco Bay Area and Silicon Valley regions of California.

Relocating to San Jose

Evergreen The Ranch view of Downtown San Jose

Evergreen The Ranch in the East Valley area of Santa Clara County – view of Downtown San Jose

Are you mulling over a job opportunity in the tech capital of the world, Silicon Valley?  If you’re relocating to San Jose, or nearby, there are a few helpful things to know right away.  Here’s a quick primer:

  • San Jose is located at the southern end of the San Francisco Bay, so is part of the SF Bay Metro Area (and is about 1 hour south of San Francisco, which locals call The City)
  • This sprawling city has a number of different districts or communities.  There are also quite a few school districts – school lines are not based on city or zip code boundaries.
  • The beach at Santa Cruz is anywhere from 30 – 60 minutes away from most of San Jose (assuming you don’t go at the peak of “beach traffic” timing on a weekend or holiday).
  • San Jose is also the home of Silicon Valley, which began here in Santa Clara County, but has now spread throughout the area
  • This city is the 10th largest in the United States (though poll most people who aren’t in The Golden State and they couldn’t tell you where it is).  The population recently hit the 1 million mark.  The county has about 1.9 million people and the Silicon Valley region (Santa Clara County, San Mateo County, and a little each of Santa Cruz County and Alameda County)
  • Home prices are just about the highest in the nation.  The average price of a house in the area is $1 million.  And that is not for
  • a big home, in most cases.  Sticker shock is the #1 reason why some people won’t move here – and why others move away.  Rents are, similarly, high.  It’s not uncommon to hear of people spending half their income on housing.
  • Weather is often ideal – 300 sunny days per year, so you won’t need that basement if you’re coming from someplace with long, cold winters.  Winter here is pretty much just December and January, and even in January you’ll see some trees pop alive with beautiful blossoms.
  • San Jose has frequently been named the best place to raise a kid.  Just google that 🙂
  • Next to housing or real estate prices, traffic is the second biggest complaint.

Looking for more info?  Here are some links:

Facts about San Jose, the Capital of Silicon Valley

San Jose is big and sprawling: where the the districts?

  1. 0 beds, 0 bath
    Home size: 29,716 sq ft
    Lot size: 1.08 ac
    Year built: 1968
  2. 0 beds, 0 bath
    Home size: 18,824 sq ft
    Lot size: 28,749 sqft
    Year built: 1962
  3. 6 beds, 0 baths
    Home size: 6,685 sq ft
    Lot size: 17,859 sqft
    Year built: 2016
  4. 5 beds, 7 baths
    Home size: 8,451 sq ft
    Lot size: 1.09 ac
    Year built: 2002
  5. 5 beds, 7 baths
    Home size: 7,004 sq ft
    Lot size: 2.37 ac
    Year built: 2005
  6. 6 beds, 7 baths
    Home size: 7,088 sq ft
    Lot size: 22,598 sqft
    Year built: 2013
  7. 3 beds, 2 baths
    Home size: 1,725 sq ft
    Lot size: 13,329 sqft
    Year built: 1948
  8. 3 beds, 1 bath
    Home size: 1,301 sq ft
    Lot size: 13,329 sqft
    Year built: 1948
  9. 7 beds, 6 baths
    Home size: 8,314 sq ft
    Lot size: 3.40 ac
    Year built: 1989
  10. 0 beds, 0 bath
    Home size: 9,963 sq ft
    Lot size: 32,844 sqft
    Year built: 1965
  11. 5 beds, 4 baths
    Home size: 4,107 sq ft
    Lot size: 13.70 ac
    Year built: 2001
  12. 5 beds, 6 baths
    Home size: 6,139 sq ft
    Lot size: 13,068 sqft
    Year built: 1998
  13. 4 beds, 4 baths
    Home size: 4,527 sq ft
    Lot size: 31,877 sqft
    Year built: 2017
  14. 4 beds, 5 baths
    Home size: 3,750 sq ft
    Lot size: 8,298 sqft
    Year built: 1961
  15. 4 beds, 6 baths
    Home size: 5,432 sq ft
    Lot size: 17,424 sqft
    Year built: 1994
  16. 0 beds, 0 bath
    Home size: 5,902 sq ft
    Lot size: 8,755 sqft
    Year built: 1964
  17. 6 beds, 5 baths
    Home size: 5,187 sq ft
    Lot size: 14,592 sqft
    Year built: 1965
  18. 5 beds, 4 baths
    Home size: 3,965 sq ft
    Lot size: 22,651 sqft
    Year built: 1999
  19. 5 beds, 5 baths
    Home size: 5,094 sq ft
    Lot size: 14,461 sqft
    Year built: 1993
  20. 5 beds, 4 baths
    Home size: 3,000 sq ft
    Lot size: 6,699 sqft
    Year built: 2017
  21. 5 beds, 6 baths
    Home size: 4,572 sq ft
    Lot size: 10,280 sqft
    Year built: 2014
  22. 4 beds, 4 baths
    Home size: 3,650 sq ft
    Lot size: 9,452 sqft
    Year built: 2005
  23. 5 beds, 4 baths
    Home size: 3,753 sq ft
    Lot size: 29,228 sqft
    Year built: 1975
  24. 5 beds, 5 baths
    Home size: 4,108 sq ft
    Lot size: 7,230 sqft
    Year built: 2017
  25. 6 beds, 5 baths
    Home size: 5,456 sq ft
    Lot size: 23,173 sqft
    Year built: 2002

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

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

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!

 

Lost in Silicon Valley? A few geographical markers to help you out.

It’s so easy to get lost when you’re new to an area and don’t know what’s where!  Luckily, the San Francisco Bay Area is rich in large landmarks such as the Bay, the coastal range and the east foothills.  At first, the mountains might seem like they all look the same.  But if you know what to look for, you’ll soon get your bearings – assuming that it’s daytime and the weather is cooperative!

Here are my Silicon Valley landmarks and mental tricks or visioning – the ones I use to know where I am or where I am going.  First, imagine that the Santa Clara Valley is a bit like a funnel with mountains that narrow at the bottom on two sides and the San Francisco Bay on top.  OK, it’s not quite straight, but it’s not a bad analogy otherwise.  Next, consider how to tell the two sets of hills apart.  The ones closest to the ocean, the Santa Cruz Mountains (aka the coastal range) are full of redwood trees and another conifers and they stay green year round.  These hills are nearly always a deep, dark green or blue-green.  The eastern foothills, on the other hand, are mostly grassy but dotted with oak tree clusters in the nooks and crannies of the hills where the rain catches.  Those hills are a bright, lighter green in winter (when it rains!) but for much of summer and fall they are blanketed with a yellow-gold grass.

Silicon Valley geographical landmarks

 

Now that you have the basic East – West (or actually South to Soutwest, depending) direction sorted out, it’s time to learn what to look for in each of the mountains to get your location sorted out a little better.  Fortunately, each of them has a large structure perched on a high peak, so as long as the weather is clear and it’s daytime, they tend to stand out from almost anywhere in Santa Clara County.

Mt. Hamilton & the Lick Observatory

On the east side, if you scan the crest, you will see a white blip or two.  That is the Lick Observatory at Mount Hamilton.

Mount Hamilton - the Lick Observatory

 

Here’s a closer view (aerial):

Mount Hamilton closeup

Mt. Umunhum

On the southwest side, in the Almaden Valley area of San Jose, we have Mount Umunhum (which I’ve blogged about previously on my SanJoseRealEstateLosGatosHomes.com site – see http://sanjoserealestatelosgatoshomes.com/tag/mt-umunhum/ ).  It looks like a big, white box sitting on a flat part of the mountaintop.

Mt Umunhum from the Country Club area of Almaden

 

Sometimes all you see is a little snippet of it poking out over some other hill – this is especially true if you are far north of it.

Almaden - Mt Umunhum

 

And here’s an aerial view of it from the Santa Cruz side of “the hill”:

Mount Umunhum - aerial view from Santa Cruz side

 

If you are too far north, you will not see it at all – but if you can see it, you are likely to be fairly close by, on the southern end of Silicon Valley (unless you’re in Los Gatos, Monte Sereno or nearby and another hill is obscuring the view).

My next, and last, tip is to look for “the pass” for highway 17 from Los Gatos and running through the Santa Cruz Mountains.  This is easier to spot than you might think – just remember that any mountain pass is going to come in a natural gap of some kind and in a low point on the hills.  That happens here, too.  The image below was taken from a medical center’s parking garage on Samaritan Drive in San Jose, just on the Los Gatos border.  That low point where you see two hills going way down – that’s it, that’s the pass.  And that’s where you’ll find downtown Los Gatos (or very close to it).

Los Gatos panorama toward the Santa Cruz Mountains

 

Almaden would be to the left of this, by the way – but visible from this spot.

If you can find at least 2 of these landmarks – Mount Hamilton, Mount Umunhum, or the Santa Cruz Mountains pass at Los Gatos, you can likely figure out your approximate location.  Hope this helps!

Silicon Valley housing prices and the emotional stages they’ll put you through

Stages of Silicon Valley real estate sticker shockGetting over Silicon Valley real estate sticker shock happens in stages.

First there is disbelief or denial.  “It cannot be that bad – people are exaggerating.”  That’s followed quickly by “I thought it was bad where I used to live!”

Then there may be outrage (anger is too mild a word): “Why would anyone pay that to live there?”

Next, a little bargaining: “What’s the work around? Are there any bank owned homes?  How about something older – I don’t mind a 15 year old house…” (To us, that’s a young house, by the way.) “What about buying a lot and building?”  Or the commute negotiation “I thought I had to be within 15 minutes, but I could go 30.”  A typical commute might be 30 minutes in the morning, but 45 in the evening.  Many people have worse than typical, though, as they want a bigger, nicer home, better schools, quieter location, etc.

Depression soon follows suit.  This may be accompanied by “We just cannot do it” or “We are not willing to do that” (until they see that rents are $4000 for a smallish house in an only OK area and $6000 per month for a decent sized home in a good area.)

Acceptance comes at last.  It may lead people to decide to go all in, bite the bullet, and buy locally.  It may lead them to move way out of the immediate area and embrace an hourlong commute – or to take the Apple or Google bus to work, if applicable.  It could lead them to move to Seattle, Orange County or somewhere a little less overwhelming in terms of housing costs.

Prices are up 30 from 2 years agoSometimes people think they are at “acceptance” as they write offers which are habitually 5-15% too low.  In reality, they are actually still in the “bargaining” phase, hoping for a good deal amidst our raging seller’s market.  That doesn’t usually happen, so writing a lot of unsuccessful offers frequently leads to depression (and sometimes blaming their agent for their offers not going through, even when it’s clear at closing that their offer price or terms were the issue).

How fast can you get to acceptance and write a realistic purchase offer?  For people who could have bought 12 months ago but are still shopping now, that wait has cost them about 10% of their home price in many cases.  For those looking 2 years, it’s easily double that, and in some cases prices are up a full 30%.  That’s like setting a match to your entire down payment.

If you want to be a successful home buyer in this crazy Silicon Valley real estate market, you will need to get onboard quickly, because the longer you take to get to acceptance, the more expensive your final home will cost when the market isappreciating, as it has been for about 3 years now.  Time is money and nowhere is that more true than in the San Jose, Silicon Valley, or South Bay real estate market.

 

 

Looking for more Silicon Valley real estate resources?  Here are a few of my other sites, blogs, and market stats tooks:

popehandy.rereport.com – real estate statics for San Mateo County, Santa Clara County, and Santa Cruz County

popehandy.com – Silicon Valley real estate, Los Gatos real estate, info on many areas of the realty market in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties

SanJoseRealEstateLosGatosHomes.com – Santa Clara County real estate, special focus on San Jose areas of Almaden & Cambrian and also Los Gatos with info on the real estate market, neighborhoods, and more

LiveInLosGatosBlog – Los Gatos real estate, neighborhoods, events, businesses, parks. Many photos and neighborhood or subdivision profiles.

The shock of Silicon Valley housing costs: how little you can buy on a huge income

If you’ve just been hired as a high level executive at Apple, Google, Microsoft or any other high tech or biotech firm in Silicon Valley, you may be coming to the San Francisco Bay Area and Silicon Valley from an enormous home (5000+ square feet) on an enormous lot (1 acre +).  You are a raging success.  You are highly regarded.  You are on the top of your game.  Your house “back home” displays your accomplishments.

You’ve heard that prices are bad here, but how much worse could they really be? Surely you could downsize a bit to a 3000 to 3500 square foot house on a half acre with a 20 minute commute, right?  And you’d still have great schools for “resale value”, right?   You are prepared to give up the full basement, the pool and tennis court and the 4 car garage.  That is enough of an adjustment, isn’t it?

No, I’m sorry to say, it isn’t.

That house you are leaving behind in the suburbs of New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Chicago, Denver, Miami, Seattle, San Diego, or wherever you’re coming from is a super high end luxury home.  It’s probably worth $1,500,000 to $2,000,000.  But guess what?  Here, in a nice area, that’s a 2000 SF house on a 10,000 lot in a good area that’s a tear down.  And in traffic, it’s a 40 minute commute.  Want an acre in an area with really good public schools at all levels? Think $3 million plus.  And that doesn’t mean that the house will be turn-key.  You will very likely have to remodel or personalize so that you are happy with it, as most of our houses were built between the 1960s and 1980s.  (Here a 25 year old home is considered relatively young.)

Why make the sacrifice to live in Silicon Valley?

Why on earth should you move here to the San Jose area when real estate prices are so insanely high? Santa Clara County is bad, and San Mateo County is worse.  Why would anyone make that kind of sacrifice in living space and prestige?

First, because this is a great place to live because of who’s here.  Great minds have coalesced here.  The spirit of entrepreneurship is alive and well and imbues much of the culture here.  Diversity reigns – fabulous people have converged here from all corners of the earth, bringing with them a richness and vibrancy that is appreciated across the area.  Want Ethiopian food? No problem.  Thai? Easy.  Korean, French, Honruran? Check, check, check.  You name it, we seem to have it, whether it’s middle eastern, African, Asian or European, there’s something for everyone. (OK I haven’t yet seen an Australian restaurant, but I’m not sure that food from there is any better regarded than that from England. But generally, you get my drift.)

Additionally, and part of who’s here, we have a number of great universities in the region: Stanford, UC Berkeley, UCSF (for medical), Santa Clara University, San Jose State, UC Santa Cruz (math, marine biology, astronomy and more).

Second, this is a fantastic place to live because the weather encourages a life where you’re not confined to your house and dependent on a big basement.  Listen: 300 sunny days a year.  As I write this in late January 2015, we had a 75 degree day.  Back in the midwest or northeast, they have beautiful snow. Snow for months and months and months. Yes, it’s lovely, but doesn’t it get old?  Here people are golfing, sailing, biking, hiking year round.  Want snow? No problem, drive to Yosemite, Bear Valley or Tahoe.  Enjoy the snow for the weekend – then drive home to the land of palm trees!

Third, this is an exceptional place to live because of what’s nearby.   Within an hour or two we have San Francisco, the Monterey Peninsula and Carmel, Napa and Sonoma Valleys (wine country).  Within 3-5 hours we enjoy Yosemite, Lake Tahoe, Santa Barbara and much of the California Coast.  (California has an incredible array of climates and a diversity of agriculture and economy seldom seen anywhere.)

Moving here means giving up the palatial house and garden and realizing that your accomplishments are simply not going to be reflected in a ginormous house and yard.   The house and yard are often more reflective of when you bought rather than how you were able to buy.

The good news is that Silicon Valley continues to expand and be in demand.  Hiring is strong.  Economically, tech is leading the way and this area was one of the first to emerge from the Great Recession.   Prices are tough to swallow, but as long as huge companies continue to hire, there’s no reason to think that real estate won’t be a wise investment.

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, which is usually not intended for the public to come through but occassionally is, takes place on weekday mornings between approximately 9:30am and 12:30pm.  If non real estate professionals (the public) are welcome, it will be advertised on our MLS.

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.)

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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