Today I discovered a cost of living calculator on the MoneyGeek website and thought my readers may find it helpful, whether living here and thinking of retiring somewhere cheaper OR living somewhere less expensive and considering a move here. MoneyGeek includes San Jose in its list of cities, which other sites, such as Nerd Wallet, omit.
This seems to work best between large cities. When I tried to compare the cost of living in San Jose against other California cities or towns, the full info only came up in more populated areas. Give it a spin and see if it’s helpful!
Another good cost of living calculator can be found on the Smart Asset site, and this one factors in taxation:
If you are moving to California, or have recently arrived here, you are no doubt aware that this is Earthquake Country. There modifications to the residence that can be done to improve safety, both inside of the home and in the structure itself. Is your home safe in an earthquake now? If not, it’s always a good time to address it, as quakes are a frequent occurrence here.
General tips and resources
Most injuries from quakes happen things falling on someone, so there’s a great focus on indoor precautions, such as securing book cases and tall pieces of furniture to the walls by bolting them securely in place, strapping water heaters, and so on. If you do a web search for how to make your home earthquake safe or ready, you will find many tips along these lines. If you aren’t familiar with these tips, here is one to get you started:
Required disclosures in California
When you buy or lease a home (for 1 year or more), you are supposed to receive the mandated Homeowner’s Guide to Earthquake Safety, print or digital, as well as information on mold, lead paint, etc. Both the state and also many companies provide these regulatory disclosures, and they are worthwhile reading for anyone living in the Golden State especially. If you implement the home improvement suggestions in these pamphlets, it could not just make your home safe in an earthquake, it could save a life.
Additionally, home owners need to provide a statement they’ve completed regarding earthquake hazards and what is known about them to buyers or those who will lease for 1 year or more. You can see that form here: Residential Earthquake Hazard Report. The questions were written by the state of California, so they are not 100% intelligible to consumers, however, submitting a query to any of the major search engines can provide results on what questions are being asked. Please read and learn to understand what the questions are asking, as they all pertain to safety issues, which for most of us would be paramount.
Sometimes I see sellers answer “don’t know” to every question on the form. That is not helpful. Most sellers do know if their water heater is strapped, and if they have done a pre-sale inspection, the inspector will have told them if the strapping is correct or not. If they don’t know what a cripple wall is, a quick search will tell them whether that question applies at all – and often, it doesn’t. Most houses here do not have brick (aka “masonry”) foundations.
Soft story construction
Question 7 reads of the form listed above says:
If the house has a living area over the garage, was the wall around the garage door
opening either built to resist earthquakes or has it been strengthened?
A a garage or carport with a living area above it is called a soft story (sometimes spelled soft storey) and is more vulnerable to damage from earthquakes because of the large opening at the garage door. This could be a house, a townhouse, a duet home, a condominium, etc. – anywhere there’s a living space over a parking space with a wide opening for cars to pass through. In some cases, there’s only a little overlap between the parking area and the living area above. In others, there are 2 stories above, and no dividers between the carports, so there are a lot of gradations to it. Newer homes, of course, have been engineered better. (I think you are unlikely to see the open carport style in newer construction.)
We see that configuration all the time, yet many people do not understand the vulnerability or that they might want to address it. You can see some scary pics by doing a Google image search for Soft Story Earthquake.
It is possible to improve safety by strengthening or reinforcing the areas on each side of the door frame (if there IS a door frame, sometimes it’s an open carport), and perhaps additional areas, too. The same issue would be at play if you were in a home over a shop with large display windows and not much solid wall directly below you. A structural engineer can give the best advice on home improvements that will make the structure safer in case of a quake.
In some parts of California, there’s a movement to get apartment and soft story building owners to retrofit buildings. Palo Alto has been discussing it in recent years. Los Angeles has been requiring the retrofitting for seismic safety of many buildings mandatory for a couple of years now.
That could be a significant cost but would no doubt save lives in the event of a major seismic strike.
If you are going to purchase a home with a living area over the garage, or have already done so, see if you should bolster the engineering for safety. Some improvements may not be costly, so don’t dismiss it as unfeasible without investigating. If you own a condo with a soft story ground floor, learn what can be done to strengthen the building so there is a lessened risk of collapse.
There are many more issues to making your property more safe in an earthquake that we didn’t touch on here today. Be sure to ask your home inspector or structural engineer how you can make your dwelling more earthquake resistant and more safe in case of shaking and related issues. Read the state guide, linked above, which has great information that every California resident should know.
Here are some related links:
The annual Silicon Valley Jewish Music Festival will take place Sun, June 2, 2019 from 2:00 PM – 7:00 PM at the JCC in Los Gatos, and all are welcome. Enjoy live music, food, and family activities at this annual festival on the JCC field. This year’s theme will be camping and there will be song circles around a campfire, in between the headlining bands that will perform on the main stage. There will also be food trucks and a wine & beer vendor.
Get all of the details on the EventBrite page:
All four of these areas are known for good public schools, proximity to the coastal range, and a nice way of life. All but Cupertino have a quaint downtown area, and those three communities each have about 31,000 residents, while Cupertino is more than double that. For folks relocating to the San Jose area for work, most likely, all four will be considered if schools are a priority.
To see how these 4 highly regarded communities compare in terms of market conditions and what you can buy for your money, please visit:
Market comparison: Los Gatos, Saratoga, Cupertino and Los Altos on the Valley of Heart’s Delight Blog.
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 and areas using the same formula: homes of 1800 – 2200 SF, 3-5 bedrooms, 2-3 bathrooms, on lot sizes of 5000 SF to 10,000 SF that have sold within the last 30 days (short window of time due to price changes in the last 6 months or so – first dropping in the 2nd half of 2018, and now nosing up again).
DOM means “Days on Market”, the number of days a home was listed as available before pending.
Please note that this is a rough estimate of home prices. In many areas, cities, or towns, there can be multiple school districts. In those cases, the home price will be impacted by which school district the property is located within. (If you are interested in prices for similar homes a year or two ago, please also scroll down to find similar charts and data.)
In the past, I’ve done similar studies, but using a larger window of time to even out any aberrations.
In most cases, the most expensive and desirable places have either the best schools or shortest commute location or both. 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).
Palo Alto is a gorgeous, exciting area with all kinds of wonderful features – beautiful neighborhoods, lower crime, great schools, short commute. It is usually the most expensive area on this list. But if you didn’t found a successful startup company or inherit a couple of million bucks, it can be hard to buy a single family home there. Many people would like to live in the shadow of Stanford University, but the budget just won’t allow it. What, then?
Please use the list above as a way to get your bearings on nearby areas in the South Bay (southern part of the San Francisco Bay Area). This is not an exhaustive list – it’s just most of the areas closest to Highway 85 or the West Valley Freeway. You can study various cities, downs, and districts within the region at my stats site, popehandy.rereport.com. (Free and you do not have to register unless you want email updates.)
Finally, it should be noted that one of the main drivers of home values is school districts. In the San Jose / Silicon Valley area, the school district boundaries do NOT follow the city or town boundaries. Los Gatos, for example, has 3 different elementary school districts, with varying scores which impact home values. So too with Saratoga and many other areas, San Jose especially! All this to say that the figures above are only ROUGH GUIDES. When you break it down to micro-markets, the picture changes more. But as a starter guide, I think you’ll find the above info helpful to give you a general idea of how far your money can go in home buying for areas in Santa Clara County from Palo Alto to Blossom Valley.
Want to do a deep dive on any of these areas? Please visit my Valley of Heart’s Delight Blog to learn about them.
Historical comparisons of home prices in the same / similar areas
Here’s similar info from about 14 months ago (one change is that the lot sizes used before was a range of 6,000 to 10,000 SF, and in 2019 I went down to 5,000). I also thought it would be useful to share the number of sales represented, since obviously a small number may not be truly representative of home values in today’s market.
January 25, 2018: Continue reading
Looking to get a sense of the rental prices in Silicon Valley? Today I’ll show you how to find the median rental price by zip code for homes in Silicon Valley by using my weekly Altos Research real estate market reports for Silicon Valley.
We will use Cupertino’s housing market as an example, because many high tech employees plan to work in that city. My Altos Research report for Cupertino. You can access it at this link Mary Pope-Handy’s Cupertino Market Report. When you click through, it will look something like this:
There are tabs for houses and condos, and you can toggle as desired.
On the right, you will see the market profile. Below, view one for the single family homes and one for condos. I have outlined where the median rental value shows so that you can locate it fast.
Not really wanting to live in Cupertino? Find the “Search Anywhere” field near the top and enter a city name or a zip code and you can spot check areas of interest.
Subscribe for the weekly reports
Please click the “Subscribe” button in the upper right corner to get any of the reports emailed to you weekly.
Not a rental Realtor
NB: I do not work in the rental market as 99.99% of rental homes are “for rent by owner” and there’s not a place for a Realtor in that structure. When folks first move to Silicon Valley, though, they usually want to rent for awhile, so I will sometimes provide rental info because I know it’s needed. Interested in buying or selling? Please do reach out to me! Best to start with email so that a phone call can be scheduled: email@example.com as I get a lot of spam / robo calls. However, feel free to call first if you prefer – 408-204-7673.
San Jose Districts and their Values (Feb 2018)
Below please find real estate market reports for three Silicon Valley counties where I’m most active: Santa Clara County, San Mateo County, and Santa Cruz County. First we’ll provide the data for single family homes, then condos and townhomes, for each region. (“Silicon Valley” is 95% within Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties, plus a little of Santa Cruz County and a small part of Alameda County. Alameda County uses a different MLS system, and I don’t usually sell there, so am not covering it in my reports.)
Santa Clara County Real Estate Market for January 2019
First, Santa Clara County – home to San Jose, Cupertino, Sunnyvale, Mountain View, Palo Alto, Los Altos, Santa Clara, Campbell, Los Gatos, Saratoga, and a number of other cities and towns. This area has generally come down in price about 20% between last March or April and today, with the slide starting in June – July, depending on which part of the county you are considering.
And the condominium and townhouse report for Santa Clara County:
This morning I read a comprehensive article assessing the real estate market in California and several key markets within it. Normally I do not publish a post here suggesting that people read analysis elsewhere, but this is an exception, as it includes 2019 predictions that most home owners or home buyers would find of interest.
Some of the 2019 predictions are along the lines of my own thinking, including that we have to see what happens in February to understand the market’s direction, and that it seems that it will continue to be an appreciating market in 2019 (if milder, per many economists). Also the falling prices have spooked home buyers, so rather than rushing at the 20% off sale, some are waiting for prices to be cut by 65% (I wouldn’t hold my breath) or some other extreme number.
California Housing Market Report and Predictions 2018 2019
If you’d like to check out the real estate market data in Santa Clara County and other Silicon Valley communities, please visit my main blog site, ValleyOfHeartsDelight.com/blog or SanJoseRealEstateLosGatosHomes.com (the first link forwards to the second).
Other reading of interest:
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? Today we’ll consider the regional view, aka The Big Picture, to provide a sense of what is going on. For info on smaller areas or districts, please head over to my main blog, the Valley Of Heart’s Delight Blog – SanJoseRealEstateLosGatosHomes.com. There cities, towns, and districts are looked at in depth.
Seasonal Patterns in Silicon Valley
The quietest time (number of sales, traffic, etc.) and lowest prices in the real estate market tend to fall in January, or sometimes in December. As with most years, this time around January had the lowest prices.
Most years, we see strong buyer activity with multiple offers early in the year – often emerging as a pattern by the middle of February.
Right now, some home sellers have not accepted that home prices have dropped 20% or so since the peak last spring (more or less depending on location, pricing tier, school districts, property condition, and so on). Those properties are not moving quickly.
For sellers who understand the current market conditions and have priced appropriately, home buyers are flocking and multiple offers are back – in force.
In short, there’s a kind of duality right now, so it’s a weird time. Homes that were sitting on the market but get a price reduction may linger awhile, and then sell with multiple offers. This catches buyers and their Realtors off guard.
To provide regional Silicon Valley market conditions, today I’ll post info on the three counties (San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Santa Cruz).
In terms of expense, San Mateo is the most costly of these 3, 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 different MLS system so is not part of this analysis.
Next, a look at sale prices an market conditions for single family homes and condominiums / townhomes by county.
What does it cost to buy a house or condo 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 $1,413,000 and the median sale price $1,185,000 – quite a bit lower than last spring.
Santa Clara County
Please click to enlarge:
For condominiums and townhouses, of course, it is a more affordable.
In San Mateo County (home to Redwood Shores, Foster City, Menlo Park, San Mateo), the average sale price is about $1.78 million for houses recently sold. The median is a little lower at $1.425 million. Continue reading
Here’s a 10 or 11 minute interview with Mike Simonsen, Altos Research CEO (whose charts and graphs are found on all my sites) on the 2019 real estate market.