Silicon Valley

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Should you find your Realtor first or your lender first? Should they know each other?

A bad lenderIt’s an old question – should you find your Realtor first or your lender first? I would like to suggest that you find your Realtor first, and then ask your real estate agent for a list of reputable, trusted loan agents or lenders.

Why?

Because as with all professionals, lenders (and Realtors) are not created equally.

You will probably spend a LOT more time with your Realtor in viewing homes, reviewing disclosures, writing the contract, meeting inspectors, and so on – so I do suggest that you begin by very carefully choosing the right real estate licensee or broker for yourself. A good Realtor can probably give you between 3 and 10 names of trusted, reputable, reliable, knowledgeable lenders. From there you can interview and choose someone.

It is extremely important that your lender be good at what he or she does. A bad lender – and there are many of them – could cost you the sale, but definitely will create undue stress, will waste your time and ultimately cost you money. This is no exaggeration.

In our hot Silicon Valley real estate market, when there are multiple offers, many listing agents will phone the buyer’s lender to see how solid the buyers are and how decent the lender seems to be. The better loan agents will answer the phone when called – because they are anticipating the call. The lesser ones are not paying attention and don’t pick up. That small decision, one way or the other, can be critical! A few years back, I spoke with a high powered agent out of Saratoga who told me of this very scenario. She concluded “the lender who didn’t take my call cost the buyer the sale.” Yes, it matters that much.

A poorly organized loan agent may misplace documentation, causing you to miss work so that you can get it to him or her again in a rush (under pressure of the loan contingency removal date). I have known buyers to lose time from work due to the ineptitude of a loan agent (but not one that I suggested).

All deadlines must be agreed to by buyers and sellers in writing, no exceptions. Can you imagine what it’s like to ask your lender how many days will be needed for the loan contingency, only to have to extend it not once, but a few times, because it’s just not done yet? A lousy lender will make this happen. Sometimes they are submitting loan packages based on old guidelines rather than current ones. You and I won’t be involved at that microscopic level – but if the lender messes up, we’ll hear about it later.

In the worst case scenarios, a really terrible mortgage banker or broker will cause so many delays that you close escrow late, causing you, the buyer, to pay some of the seller’s coverage costs. If the rates go up during all of the delays, you may pay a  higher interest rate too.

That’s the gloom and doom of it.

In my real estate practice, often about half of my clients come to me with their own lender. Although this is not ideal (it’s better if the Realtor and lender go into it with a good working relationship), often it works out OK. But sometimes it’s a train wreck. This doesn’t happen, at least not in my experience, if you get a lender I’ve already vetted. Or if you’re working with another great Silicon Valley Realtor, one that he or she has screened. I would not suggest someone incompetent or who will screw up the transaction – of that you can be sure! I want you to buy your home as much as you do, and I want it to be as smooth and hassle free as possible. A bad lender can put all of that in jeopardy, though.

San Jose Mercury News Headlines April 15 – 16 2014: home prices to buy or rent are rising steeply

Flashback Friday!

As I was going through old blog posts, I found this brief installment from April 17th, 2014. Often I write that the current hot sellers market in the Bay is “prolonged,” “steady,” or “persistent,” but seeing these two headlines from over 3 years ago really shows just how unyielding it has been. It is highly unusual to be in such a strong, drawn-out market, but there’s no clear indicator that things will change anytime soon, either. Buyers and renters might find some relief now that autumn is here in hopes that it brings the usual seasonal cooling.

Find the original post immediately below. – Update October 22nd, 2017

 

Here are the headlines from the San Jose Mercury News in mid April 2014:

Home Prices to buy or rent going up April 15-16 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.

Relocating from San Francisco to Silicon Valley

Coit Tower in San Francisco

Coit Tower in San Francisco

How hard could relocating from San Francisco to Silicon Valley be? It’s the same time zone, the same “San Francisco Bay Area” region, and depending on which part of Silicon Valley you target, the drive time could be all of 20 minutes – or perhaps well over an hour.

Relocating from San Francisco to Silicon Valley can be a little bit of a culture shock, which is surprising given the close proximity of the two areas.  What’s so different?

(1) Most noticeably, the scenery is different.

You won’t be seeing the Golden Gate Bridge,  facing frighteningly steep hills, or catching a view of the Pacific Ocean from the Cliff House when you’re in Silicon Valley. Nob Hill, the Wharf, Ghirardelli Square, Union Square, Market Street, Mission Dolores, the SOMA district and so many other colorful parts of the city will be places you visit on weekends rather than drop in on some evening for supper. The scenic beauty of San Francisco may be the thing you will miss the most if you move out of that fabled city.

Beauty isn’t absent from Silicon Valley, though!  There are views of the San Francisco Bay in many places (Foster City and Redwood Shores especially).  Scenic vistas of the beautiful Santa Cruz Mountains can be enjoyed from many locations in the South Bay, especially Los Altos, Cupertino, Saratoga, Los Gatos, and the Almaden Valley in San Jose. Part of Silicon Valley reaches into North San Jose, Milpitas, and Fremont, where views of the eastern foothills can be quite lovely, too.  Some of these communities have a high elevation and can see the bay as well as the valley.

San Mateo County - Crystal Springs path by water

San Mateo County – Crystal Springs path by water

If you are relocating from San Francisco to Silicon Valley, you’ll want to be outdoors more and enjoy the many open spaces available to you. Parks and hiking areas abound on the Peninsula and in Santa Clara County. For example, you’ve probably driven past Crystal Springs Reservoir many times- but did you know that you can hike there?  Santa Clara County has a network of trails following various creeks.  The Los Gatos Creek Trail (with some adjacent percolation ponds) runs from Lexington Reservoir down into the valley, stopping at Meridian Avenue. There are also trails around parts of the bay – and eventually trails should ring the whole SF Bay Area, but that may take quite awhile.

At Vasona Lake County Park in Los Gatos you can rent a paddle boat and roam the lake in style! Or how about sauntering on horseback in the low foothills of Saratoga at Garrod’s? A day at Filoli in Woodside is always good for the soul – lovely places to walk around both outdoors and in. (Really spectacular during the holidays, too.)

Got wine?  You’ll get great views if you take in some wine tasting in Saratoga (several spots, also at Cooper-Garrod’s if you want to sip wine after riding horses) or Cupertino at Ridge Vineyards, too. There are dozens of wineries in Silicon Valley, including J Lohr near the San Jose airport.

Lovely sights are bountiful in The ValleyContinue reading

What does it cost to buy a 4 bedroom, 2 bath home in the West Valley areas of Silicon Valley?

It can be really challenging for people moving to Silicon Valley to get a sense of pricing for home buying. So to compare “apples to apples,” let’s take a hypothetical case of a 4 bedroom, 2 bath home of approximately 2,000 SF house (appx 185 square meters) and see how the cost looks in one area versus another.

Today I compared several areas and cities using the same formula: homes of 1800 – 2200 SF, 3-5 bedrooms, 2-3 bathrooms, on lot sizes of 6000 SF to 10,000 SF that have sold within the last 90 days (120 days when there’s less inventory). Here’s how it shakes out in the “west valley areas” along the Highway 85 corridor. What areas are most affordable? One way of analyzing this is the “price per square foot” figure. How competitive is it? Have a look at the DOM or “Days on Market” figure.  All of these days on market are short, but they range from low to heart-skipping fast. Please also note that while most of these numbers are working on a handful of sales, Saratoga had only one over the last 3 months that fit the criteria, so the data may not be as accurate in that row.

2 - What does it cost to buy a 4 bedroom, 2 bath home in the West Valley areas of Silicon Valley?

How much have prices changed? That really depends on where you live, or where you want to live. Below is a flashback to March 2017.  Do you notice the difference in ordering? A couple of markets have switched places, Sunnyvale and Saratoga, but there’s not too much different. For the most part, rankings have changed very little.

This next chart was from last March.

2a - What does it cost to buy a 4 bedroom, 2 bath home in the West Valley areas of Silicon Valley?

In most cases, the most expensive and desirable places have either the best schools or shortest commute location. Had I ranked these for school scores, you’d find that Cambrian is fairly high up and a good “bang for the buck” location – though not a super short commute for folks who work in Mountain View (though not so bad for people working in Cupertino). None of these is especially close to North San Jose (Cisco).

What about a little longer term? What did this look like in 2013? Click through to see. Continue reading

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

What does it cost to buy a 3-5 bedroom house in an area with good schools in Silicon Valley?

School District MapIt’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?

San Francisco and Silicon Valley unemployment rates

The San Francisco and Silicon Valley unemployment rates are a huge driver of the SF Bay Area’s housing market. Today I saw real estate market info from the California Association of Realtor’s chief economist, Leslie Appleton-Young. One of her slides makes plain why the Silicon Valley real estate market is so crazy: our unemployment rate is extremely low, behind only San Francisco (where trying to buy a home is even worse than on the Peninsula or South Bay). Have a look at the data by California metro area:

San Francisco and Silicon Valley unemployment rates

San Francisco & Silicon Valley unemployment rates plus all of California

San Francisco and Silicon Valley unemployment rates plus all of California by metro area

As you can see, San Francisco has a screaming hot jobs market with only 3.4% unemployment. The San Jose metro area is only slightly cooler at 4.1%. (Unfortunately there are no “Cliff Notes” to tell where the San Francisco Metro Area ends and where the San Jose Metro Area begins – so I cannot tell if San Mateo County is lumped in with Santa Clara County to the south or San Francisco County and City to the north.)

With all this hiring going on, it’s no wonder that a frequent topic of conversation is Silicon Valley traffic patterns and congestion.  A few years ago, the rush hour traffic in the morning went from about 6:30 or 7am to 9am, and the evening commute times were about 4 to 7pm.  Today both are extended.  I find that Highway 85 in the “west valley” areas along Los Gatos, Saratoga, and Cupertino tends to still be pretty thick with cars even at 10am.  The return trip from Palo Alto (where I have some doctors at Stanford Hospital) can be sluggish as early as 3pm.

Worsening traffic from low Silicon Valley unemployment rates means that Silicon Valley real estate is even more expensive than usual for close-in locations.   Many San Jose area commuters spend an hour driving into work in the morning and 75 or 90 minutes driving home in the evening (for reasons I don’t understand, the evening commute is quite a bit worse than the morning one).   That translates to home prices being much, much more expensive than you’d expect in places like Mountain View, Sunnyvale and Santa Clara.   For a better quality of life, Silicon Valley employees will often pay dearly to get that shorter commute. If they can get the smaller commute and great public schools, the communities are the most expensive places to live, as is the case in Palo Alto, Los Altos and Los Altos Hills in particular.

Find Silicon Valley real estate and homes for sale in “close in” locations below

A sampling of the newest properties on the market – all price ranges – in the following areas:

Los Altos homes for sale

  1. 6 beds, 7 baths
    Home size: 6,096 sq ft
    Lot size: 22,002 sqft
    Year built: 2017
  2. 5 beds, 5 baths
    Home size: 5,089 sq ft
    Lot size: 35,209 sqft
    Year built: 2011
  3. 4 beds, 5 baths
    Home size: 5,255 sq ft
    Lot size: 14,078 sqft
    Year built: 2008
  4. 4 beds, 5 baths
    Home size: 3,580 sq ft
    Lot size: 12,501 sqft
    Year built: 2017
  5. 4 beds, 6 baths
    Home size: 4,177 sq ft
    Lot size: 20,699 sqft
    Year built: 2017

See all Los Altos, California Real Estate.
(all data current as of 12/10/2017)

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

Palo Alto homes for sale

  1. 5 beds, 7 baths
    Home size: 7,145 sq ft
    Lot size: 23,522 sqft
    Year built: 1927
  2. 5 beds, 10 baths
    Home size: 9,750 sq ft
    Lot size: 43,512 sqft
    Year built: 2017
  3. 5 beds, 7 baths
    Home size: 7,326 sq ft
    Lot size: 26,697 sqft
    Year built: 1927
  4. 6 beds, 6 baths
    Home size: 6,495 sq ft
    Lot size: 15,407 sqft
    Year built: 1946
  5. 5 beds, 6 baths
    Home size: 3,962 sq ft
    Lot size: 11,560 sqft
    Year built: 2017

See all Palo Alto, California Real Estate.
(all data current as of 12/10/2017)

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

Sunnyvale homes for sale

  1. 5 beds, 3 baths
    Home size: 2,436 sq ft
    Lot size: 9,361 sqft
    Year built: 1960
  2. 4 beds, 2 baths
    Home size: 1,768 sq ft
    Lot size: 8,350 sqft
    Year built: 1959
  3. 0 beds, 0 bath
    Home size: 2,866 sq ft
    Lot size: 6,821 sqft
    Year built: 1979
  4. 0 beds, 0 bath
    Home size: 3,059 sq ft
    Lot size: 6,865 sqft
    Year built: 1959
  5. 5 beds, 3 baths
    Home size: 2,300 sq ft
    Lot size: 5,497 sqft
    Year built: 2017

See all Sunnyvale, California Real Estate.
(all data current as of 12/10/2017)

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

Cupertino homes for sale

  1. 6 beds, 5 baths
    Home size: 3,377 sq ft
    Lot size: 17,654 sqft
    Year built: 1970
  2. 5 beds, 4 baths
    Home size: 4,531 sq ft
    Lot size: 9,374 sqft
    Year built: 2002
  3. 0 beds, 0 bath
    Home size: 3,621 sq ft
    Lot size: 10,254 sqft
    Year built: 1974
  4. 3 beds, 4 baths
    Home size: 2,647 sq ft
    Lot size: 3,175 sqft
    Year built: 2017
  5. 0 beds, 0 bath
    Home size: 4,080 sq ft
    Lot size: 10,018 sqft
    Year built: 1961

See all Cupertino, California Real Estate.
(all data current as of 12/10/2017)

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

 

Learn about some of the local Silicon Valley real estate markets:

Cupertino real estate market trends and statistics

Los Gatos real estate market trends by price point and high school district

 

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.

Silicon Valley Homes for sale in Gated Communities

Looking for Silicon Valley homes for sale in gated communities?  They are nearly non-existent in Santa Clara County, San Mateo County, Alameda County, and Santa Cruz County.  But what we do have can be viewed at the search results below. The largest in San Jose will be on the east side in Evergreen – Silver Creek Valley Country Club, and nearby, a retirement community known as The Villages. On the west side there’s Rinconada Hills in Los Gatos, Rancho Deep Cliff in Cupertino, and a few places in south county as well as smaller condo complexes scattered throughout the valley.

By the way, you can “move” the map with your mouse and see what else is available in adjacent parts of Silicon Valley

For a list of homes:

Gated Communities

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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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Listings by Price Range
Below please find a list of SOME of the popular Silicon Valley areas with listings offered by price range. This is not a complete list! Please use the "search" app to find ALL properties on the MLS.
Trends & Statistics

Click the link below to get real estate data for Santa Clara County, San Mateo County, and Santa Cruz County (together making up about 98% of "Silicon Valley").

Real Estate Market Statistics and Trends for Santa Clara County


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Listings and Sales Near Any Address in Santa Clara County

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