Silicon Valley

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

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?

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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!

 

Slideshow of Silicon Valley neighborhoods

California and Bay Area Real Estate Market at a Glance

Today we’ll take a look at the housing market from a very high overview position, that is, by metro area within California. How’s the San Francisco Bay Area, which includes Silicon Valley, faring in comparison to the rest of the state? And how is the real estate market within the 9 Bay Area Counties? Have a look at the statistics to get a sense of the market at a glance. (Note: SFH stands for Single Family Homes.)

Silicon Valley is found primarily in Santa Clara County, but also substantially in San Mateo County.  There are some pockets, very small, also in Alameda County and Santa Cruz County.  Santa Cruz County is not considered part of the SF Bay Area, but part of the Monterey Bay Area and the Central Coast (the SF Bay area is considered Northern California.)

Statistics for Bay Area Real Estate Market

Statistics for Bay Area Real Estate Market care of the California Association of Realtors

The biggest challenges in moving to Silicon Valley

Finding Affordable HousingMoving across the state, country, or globe always presents opportunities – but also challenges.  What are the biggest hurdles for people moving to Silicon Valley?

The cost of housing is the # 1 challenge for newcomers to Silicon Valley

For most people, the hardest issue is the cost of housing in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Whether buying or renting, it’s extremely costly here.  Depending on where you’re coming from, it could be man, many times more expensive. Finding affordable housing is the # 1 challenge for people relocating to Silicon Valley.

How does it compare to other places?  It is close to on par with New York  City, about 50% more expensive than Austin, TX, and about 1/3 more than Chicago, IL.  Check Sperling’s Cost of Living comparison to get a good sense of how it relates to your current home town.

Not only are the houses, condominiums, townhouses and apartments more expensive, but most of our homes are smaller too.   Continue reading

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!

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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