Frequently, people new to Silicon Valley and the San Jose area arrive expecting to find new homes like the ones they left behind. But in reality that’s just not the norm in this market!
Unless you are looking to purchase a condominium or a townhome, or are looking at areas with very long commutes, it can be challenging to find truly new homes for sale here.
Finding New Homes in Silicon Valley
For the most part, Silicon Valley had a post World War II housing boom that stretched primarily from the 50s into the 70s. By the 1980s, most open space in the Valley was gone.
Silicon Valley residents will sometimes refer to “South County”. Where is it? This is the area south of south San Jose where you find Gilroy, Morgan Hill, San Martin and nearby areas.
View the approximate area on Google Maps.
The South County region of Santa Clara County is the last real stronghold of agricultural land in the valley (that plus the eastern range by Mt Hamilton). There you will find many orchards, vineyards, farms and ranches even today.
As you drive through Gilroy you may catch a scent of garlic – particularly if you drive highway 152 toward Pacheco Pass as you go past a garlic processing plant! In summer you may have visited the famous “Garlic Festival” at least once, though the annual event has sadly been discontinued in recent years.
Neighbors and travelers alike can enjoy the roadside fruit stands. Visitors can enjoy seasonal events such as fruit picking, pumpkin patches, cut-your-own holiday tree farms, and more. And for just the adults, of course there are vineyards and wineries as well!
And equestrians from beginner to advanced will find plenty of horse properties here with boarding stables, arenas, and lessons.
Fun for the Family
Gilroy Gardens Amusement Park is another major attraction with fun for the family and seasonal celebrations.
It is home to the discount Outlet Malls (at Hwy 101 at 152 east), so if you live in or near South Bay, it’s likely you will eventually find your way there! Residents can enjoy plenty of shopping and dining areas around the community, including downtown Gilroy which is a hub of community activity and events as well as home to the Historical Museum.
There are plenty of outdoors activities to engage in, such as golfing, hiking, camping, and water sports, to name a few.
Moving to South County
Want to relocate to South Santa Clara County?
The area has plenty of appeal! Homes and land tend to be more affordable in this area, and whether you’re looking for an off-the-grid ranch, vineyard mansion, or a suburban new construction home there’s something for everyone!
But traffic can be an issue. For many people working in the Bay Area the South County is a long commute. In addition, commuters are mostly reliant on 101 which can slow to a crawl in rush hour traffic.
The region also has somewhat harsher weather. This part of the Santa Clara Valley is farther from the Bay and it’s temperate water-front climate, so gets more inland weather. Although air conditioning is becoming more standardized in Silicon Valley, it was adopted in these inland communities first due to the more intense dry summer heat they experience.
Many San Jose area residents consider it a good place to retire since they can downsize to a comfortable home and often pay much less than a comparable home might cost in Los Altos, Saratoga, Los Gatos, Willow Glen or Almaden and at the same time get more home. A number of my clients have spoken of wanting to retire into the Eagle Ridge Golf Course area for that very reason.
What do you need to know if you are shopping for a home in Silicon Valley right now?
First, you need to understand that possibly more than in any other time, it’s a deep seller’s market, meaning you most likely will be competing against multiple offers.
Homes for sale are not as abundant as normal, and there are a lot of buyers trying to purchase a house or condo in the San Jose area. Not enough supply, too much demand equals multiple offers and rising prices. (You can check the current Santa Clara County real estate market statistics at popehandy.rereport.com.)
Secondly, if you want a chance at buying a property in Santa Clara or San Mateo Counties, you must have a great “offer package”.
It is imperative that you have a solid down payment, 20% is a minimum standard in our area, but often it takes 25% or more to convince sellers that they should take your offer over the others. Cash is king and you may get out bid by an all cash offer, especially if it’s also a non contingent offer.
If you include any contingencies for inspections, loan and appraisal, they will have to be fairly short to compete in multiple offers. A 17 day loan contingency is a pretty sure fire way to get eliminated from multiple bids.
Want to avoid a bidding war? You’ll have to be willing to compromise, possibly quite a lot, to be the only offer in this market! But don’t confuse being the only bidder with getting a good deal – homes that have been passed over by other buyers will have problems, some of which may not be “fixable”
Continue reading on the Valley of Hearts Delight blog:
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? In short:
- Density / Sprawl
- Weather / Climate
- Parking / Transit / Traffic
- Events & Dining
- Housing Sticker Shock
We’ll go over each of these below.
Silicon Valley Scenery
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.
Today we’ll provide a few quick graphics to give you a Silicon Valley pricing snapshot on the counties where we sell homes. These will be ranked by the usual order of housing cost, from highest to lowest. (Sometimes they move “out of order”.) After that, we’ll provide more resources from our other sites and blogs with a deeper dive on our main Silicon Valley real estate markets. We don’t cover all 9 of the San Francisco Bay Area counties, but here you’ll find 3 of them covered, and it’s a pretty good primer on the Bay Area housing market analysis.
Silicon Valley Pricing Snapshots
San Mateo County
San Mateo County is “The Peninsula”, the county just south of San Francisco and north of Santa Clara County and Santa Cruz County. About a quarter of Silicon Valley is in this area, generally. It’s normally more expensive than Santa Clara County, but once in awhile those two areas flip for pricing order. It’s a hot market in San Mateo County!
For three of these counties, we have a newsletter with info by city. The data from Sereno (above) is a little different from the RE Report data for the median sale price.
Santa Clara County
Santa Clara County, our home base, is the second priciest area in this region and is the heart of Silicon Valley:
And the city by city market stats (much closer aligned for this county between the two data sets):
We also do monthly market updates on communities within the Santa Clara County and more on our other blogs. Check out some of those market reports through the link.
What does it cost to buy a single family home in the city of San Jose? There are many San Jose districts and their values vary by about 2-to-1 from the highest to lowest priced areas in this large, sprawling city with about 1,000,000 residents.
In this article we’ll take a look at the main, fairly well defined districts and discuss the cost of purchasing a house in each one. After each small description, there’s a link to a post on my popehandy.com website for that area.
You can also find relevant information on my Valley of Heart’s Delight blog, SanJoseRealEstateLosGatosHomes.com – just click on the “Neighborhoods” link.
Lastly, if you’d like to see a map of where these parts of SJ are located, please click on this link to find this article with a helpful map: San Jose is big and sprawling: where are the districts?
A view of Downtown San Jose on the valley floor from The Ranch community in Evergreen district on the East Valley area of Santa Clara County.
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:
Relocating to San Jose – Here are Some Quick Facts.
- San Jose (officially named City of San José) is located at the southern end of the San Francisco Bay, so is part of the SF Bay Metro Area and about 1 hour by car south of San Francisco (which locals call The City).
- It is located within Santa Clara County, and geographically in the Santa Clara Valley and along the foothills of the Santa Cruz and Diablo ranges.
- This sprawling city has a number of different districts or communities, some of which have their own thriving downtown strips. 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 is just shy of 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 reportedly on average the highest in the nation, and 5th highest in the world. 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 or more on housing.
- Next to housing or real estate prices, traffic is the second biggest complaint.
- Weather is often ideal – 300 sunny days per year, and there are many parks and open spaces to make use of it all. 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 one of the best places to raise a kid.
Looking for more info? Here are some links:
Facts about San Jose, the Capital of Silicon Valley
From the City of San Jose: San José at-a-glance
San Jose is big and sprawling: where the the districts?
Browse available listings of San Jose homes for sale
The Silicon Valley real estate market is notoriously expensive. It isn’t easy, but you can find a Silicon Valley house for under $1 million – if you are willing to drive a little further to those tech centers.
Today I did a quick search and found that it’s not too hard to find a 3 bedroom, 2 bath house with at least 1200 square feet in the south county and very scenic communities of Gilroy, San Martin, and Morgan Hill. Other possibilities are in the Santa Cruz or Los Gatos Mountains, south San Jose, Evergreen, and parts of east San Jose – among others. Here’s a map showing houses recently sold with the above listed minimum criteria within the last 90 days.
Most likely areas for finding a Silicon Valley house for under $1 million
The map above shows sales within the greater area many would consider Silicon Valley, but if you’re looking strictly in South Bay, check the map below which shows hits from a similar search in December 2020.
Back in the 1960’s, when I was growing up in Santa Clara, air conditioning was considered a luxury. I didn’t know anyone who had it in their homes in the immediate San Jose area. Hot days often weren’t too terrible, and if they were, we’d find our way to a pool, the beach, or a restaurant, library, or theater with A/C. Besides, as locals would insist, “it’s a dry heat”.
Over the last few decades, though, central forced air conditioning has become more mainstream. I do believe that Silicon Valley has grown hotter in recent years and it’s less and less of a reasonable option to go without it for most home buyers.
How common is air conditioning in Silicon Valley?
Today I looked on the multiple listing service to get a sense of how common central air conditioning is in Silicon Valley homes. Here’s what I found:
Single family homes or houses for sale in Santa Clara County (home to about 1.9 million people) = 743
Of these, houses with central forced air conditioning = 457 (61.5%)
Houses with central forced air – gas = 0
With ceiling fans = 121
With wall or window units = 18
With whole house or attic fan = 17
With multi-zone cooling = 88
“Other” cooling listed = 28
No cooling of any kind = 172 (23.1%)
There may be overlap in some fields. Interesting to see that 23% had no fans or cooling listed at all and that at least 61.5% but possibly as much as 66.5% (if including multi-zone and “other”) do have central forced air. If you are house hunting in the San Jose area, it’s important to realize that at least 23% of the homes on the market will not have any A/C.
And from 2016:
Single family homes or houses for sale in Santa Clara County (home to about 1.9 million people) = 1408
Of these, houses with central forced air conditioning = 891 (63%)
Houses with central forced air – gas (could be overlapping with the group above but if combined it’s 1010) = 119
With ceiling fans = 254
With wall or window units = 4
With whole house fan = 33
No cooling of any kind = 298 (21.1%)
In just 7 years the percentages of homes listed for sale with central A/C or with no cooling haven’t changed much, however we are seeing more homes with alternative cooling advertised. This may indicate an increase in buyer interest in this feature.
How necessary is air conditioning in the San Francisco Bay Area?
This has always been the old debate: “do we really need air conditioning?” Like many things, that depends. microclimates can have a huge impact on weather.
Perhaps you love – even need – a good view in order to feel happy with your new home in a new place. We don’t have a lot of water view homes in Silicon Valley, though there are some of the San Francisco Bay in places – mostly either right on the shorefront or certain hillside areas. What’s easier to find are hill and mountain vistas, or valley views. So what do these Silicon Valley view homes cost?
Silicon Valley View Homes: The Market
Naturally a lot of the answer has to do with location, home size, condition of the property, and land value. If you’re looking for a turnkey +2500 SqFt home with a 20 minute commute and great schools expect to pay upwards of $3 million. In general, it’s difficult to find a house with valley views for less than $2 million unless the property needs a lot of remodeling, repairs, and updating OR is in a very remote location.
You can find plenty of Santa Clara County mountain homes for under $1 million in picturesque settings, as well as luxury ridge-top estates with picturesque valley, bay, and ocean views, however the mountains are a specialty market that’s not for everyone.
While it’s difficult to put an exact number on it, expansive and sweeping views will generally be of higher value than comparable properties with peek-a-boo views. That said, sellers – don’t forget to market your views! A good agent will know how and where to include a pleasant vista in their marketing, whether it’s capturing photos of the scene, drone footage to show off the location, greeting open house guests from the front deck, or a description of the foothills seen out the bedroom window.
I live in the Belwood neighborhood nestled beside the foothills of East Los Gatos close to Belgatos Park. A “close in” location, not out in the boondocks, assigned to the sought-after Union schools. Many of these homes are comfortably sized single family homes around 2,000 SqFt and on 10,000 SqFt lots. Over the last year (March 2022 – March 2023) in Belwood and neighboring Belmont, 14 properties sold between $2M for one of the smallest homes on one of the smallest lots in the area up to $3.65M for one of the larger homes which had been extensively remodeled.
Take that same house and move it to Saratoga with Saratoga schools, and the price would be substantially more expensive, and more still in Los Altos! Compared to some other foothill communities in the South Bay, Los Gatos offers homeowners good “bang for your buck”, at least for Silicon Valley standards. If you haven’t spent much time in this charming town, I’d invite you to check it out!
San Jose also has some popular communites in the foothills. Almaden Valley is surrounded by natural beauty with some of San Jose’s top-rated schools. Berryessa has also seen a more recent surge of interest as a good “bang for your buck” neighborhood, especially for East Bay and Penninsula commuters, with improving schools and foothill views. Cambrian has longstanding popularity for it’s commutability, highly regarded schools, and areas with hill views, as has it’s the neighboring, and slightly more affordable, Blossom Valley district.
Value of a View
Silicon Valley view homes vary in condition, size, parcel size, and many other factors. In most cases, the properties which are move-in ready will run between $2,000,000 at the low end to $5,000,000. Luxury estates and oversized lots may well cost more. We see homes in Santa Clara County priced up to around $20 million at times, and on the Peninsula sometimes much higher ceilings.