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
It’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?
What’s going on with the Silicon Valley real estate market? Is it as crazy as ever with multiple offers, overbids, and few or no contingencies?
In many cases, yes – especially in the more affordable price points in areas with good schools and shorter commutes. Those areas are the ones most in demand. And as before, comparing the three counties (San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Santa Cruz), San Mateo is the most expensive and overall it becomes less expensive in Santa Clara County, then less expensive still in Santa Cruz County. Alameda County has a little of Silicon Valley, but that area is in a totally different MLS system so is not part of this analysis.
What does it cost to buy a house in Silicon Valley?
In Santa Clara County (home to Palo Alto, Cupertino, Sunnyvale, Mountain View, San Jose, and my own Los Gatos), the average sale price is about $1,150,000 and the median sale price has been bouncing around in the $900s range for the last few month.
In San Mateo County (home to Redwood Shores, Foster City, Menlo Park, San Mateo), the average sale price is in the range of $1.4 to 1.5 million for houses recently sold. The median is a little lower, closer to $1.2 million.
In Santa Cruz County (Santa Cruz, Scotts Valley, Aptos, Capitola, Soquel), it’s more affordable. The average sale price of houses recently has been in the 800s, and the median sale price has been right about $700,000.
How is the year over year appreciation in these different parts of Silicon Valley?
Naturally, it’s easier to buy near Santa Cruz than in San Jose, but the demand tends to remain stronger in the areas with the jobs as opposed to the coastal communities, so appreciation is usually stronger in the areas where it’s hardest to purchase. That seems to be true in a very similar way in San Mateo County, too – yes, it’s less costly to buy in Half Moon Bay, and in an up market it’s great, but in a down market it will not fare as well as Belmont, San Mateo etc.
Santa Clara County
Santa Clara County – prices up over 2014 by 6-8% appx
- Median home prices increased by 7.9% year-over-year to $917,000 from $849,975.
- The average home sales price rose by 6.4% year-over-year to $1,157,360 from $1,088,090.
- Personal note: appreciation in this range is fairly sustainable, as compared to the appreciation in 2014, which was closer to 20%. Double digit appreciation is usually a little worrisome since it often is not sustainable.
San Mateo County
San Mateo County – prices up from last year
- Median home prices increased by 21.9% year-over-year to $1,170,000 from $960,000.
- The average home sales price rose by 3.7% year-over-year to $1,482,950 from $1,429,870.
Santa Cruz County
Santa Cruz County – prices off year over year
- Median home prices fell by 0.4% year-over-year to $700,000 from $702,500.
- The average home sales price dropped by 10.4% year-over-year to $801,516 from $894,204.
Within all of these market areas, there are hotter and cooler locations, school districts, price points, etc. Often there are work arounds to maximize the sale or purchase of a property. For instance, some homes have a pool that eats up the whole yard. That might make a home difficult to sell, so perhaps you can buy it without competing against so many offers – and then remove the pool later. Often the “fixes” are not as costly as you may think.
Want to buy or sell in Silicon Valley? Please reach out to me. I’d love to chat with you about it and see if we might work together.
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.
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.
Here’s a closer view (aerial):
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.
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.
And here’s an aerial view of it from the Santa Cruz side of “the hill”:
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).
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!
How do home prices compare between Los Gatos, Saratoga, Cupertino, Campbell, and areas of San Jose such as Cambrian, Almaden and West San Jose?
Yesterday on my Live in Los Gatos blog, I compared a number of “west valley” areas in Santa Clara County, or southern Silicon Valley, to provide a sense of how much home you can get for your money in Los Gatos, Saratoga, Cupertino, Campbell, and areas of San Jose such as Cambrian, Almaden and West San Jose. I used my Altos Research weekly newsletters, which provide a snapshot view of four real estate pricing tiers for various cities or areas. In these, you see the median list price per quartile with the type of square footage, lots size, beds and baths found for each one.
Let’s look at Cupertino first, since I get a lot of folks wanting to relocate to Silicon Valley for Apple employment, and many of the new recruits have heard about the wonderful public schools in that city – a major draw. A few years ago, it was very possible to purchase a small house in Cupertino for under a million dollars. But have a look at the chart below and check out the days on market as well as the other data….
In many areas, the most affordable homes are the ones that get gobbled up fastest. Why is it that in Cupertino, the lowest priced listings are on the market the longest? It’s not their size – I can tell you this from two decades of experience selling homes in the Bay Area. It is very likely that these properties are not too livable as a group. They probably need serious remodeling or rebuilding (and perhaps expansion as well). Most buyers do not have the cash to totally “rehab” a house, especially if they are starting at over $1,000,000. If you want to live in Cupertino and not throw a ton of money into the existing house, or tear down and rebuild, you’re most likely to need a budget closer to $1.3 or $1.4 million as a starting point. Want to be able to walk to Infinity Loop? Make that $1.5 or more – and you will still need to do some remodeling unless it’s very small!
What about other nearby Silicon Valley communities and neighborhoods? Please have a look at the full article with charts for a number of areas (plus one for all of San Jose).
As you may know, I have a number of blogs relating to Silicon Valley real estate (I will list them below). My family and I live in Los Gatos, and my office is in Los Gatos too, so my focus is that town and the nearby areas, such as Saratoga, Cupertino, Campbell, Monte Sereno, and parts of San Jose such as Cambrian and Almaden and Willow Glen. One area I’m working on for the blogs, as well as for my Facebook business page, Google + and Twitter are video “drive throughs” of neighborhoods. I’m starting in Los Gatos but eventually hope to get to all of the areas listed above.
Right now, I’ve got 5 Los Gatos neighborhood videos on my YouTube channel, plus slideshows of a few more areas and parks. Additionally there are some slideshows up of Saratoga and parts of San Jose. Interested in an up close view of these parts of Silicon Valley? Please visit my channel: http://www.youtube.com/PopeHandy Or start with the Los Gatos playlist, below. The first one is a slideshow of Los Gatos as a general intro, and after that there is a mixture of slideshows and drive throughs. Enjoy!
Other blogs about Silicon Valley real estate, homes and neigbhorhoods:
Live in Los Gatos blog (new site! Just moved to WordPress)
Belwood of Los Gatos blog
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.
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
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