How quickly things can change. The novel coronavirus, or Covid-19, is growing at a quick speed in the US, and in Santa Clara County particularly. With the necessary Shelter in Place order across California, real estate has pretty much ground to a halt (see my related article on the coronavirus impact on real estate sales here).
Coronavirus: is work or a task essential or non-essential?
The crux of the matter comes down to what the government deems essential versus non-essential work or activity.
YES: Grocery stores, pharmacies, police, fire fighters, medical work, bankers, contractors doing home repairs (electrical, roof, plumbing) or residential construction, and title companies fall under essential. Walking one’s dog, getting exercise by walking, jogging, or biking are essential – but individuals must keep that 6′ social distance while doing so. Restaurants are essential but can only operate takeout food (link to article on my Live in Los Gatos blog about eateries offering meals and even groceries at this time). Home sales can get completed, thanks to the county recorder’s office accepting e-recordings. Notaries are allowed to meet with signers (but no real estate licensees or lenders present).
NO: Real estate in-person work is non-essential under this coronavirus order. Real estate agents must stay home, like everyone else. No showings, no appointments in person, no open houses, no meeting appraisers or inspectors. Movers are a no-go, too.
NO for now – may change? Home inspectors seem to be non-essential, but it’s possible that it could be changed a little as the home confinement for everyone continues. It would not surprise me if both inspectors and appraisers could work, but only alone, without buyers, sellers, or agents present sometime in the coming weeks. We Realtors are watching this carefully to see what happens. There’s a push for permitting virtual notarization that I suspect will go through (and become permitted at some point soon).
Appraisers are working for some lenders. Others are not. Today I got an update from my wonderful Wells Fargo lender: “For purchase and no cash out refinance, Wells Fargo will use Drive-By Appraisal report. We will prioritize the purchase appraisal order. ”
Is it possible to buy a home during the Shelter in Place order?
Technically, it is possible to get into contract right now. Closing during this coronavirus Shelter in Place period is another matter. What can happen is:
- you may write an offer with your agent and sign it using DocuSign, Authentisign, or another electronic service
- you can wire your initial deposit to the title company
- you are able to review all of the disclosures, reports, and pre-sale inspections etc. and sign them electronically
- you must meet with a mobile notary or escrow officer to sign the final documents
- the title company can record the deed electronically
All of that is good, but what cannot happen right now, under the current order, is still a big hurdle:
- Appraisers cannot visit the home (perhaps that will change?)
- Inspectors cannot go to the property (may change?)
- your agent cannot do his or her Agent Visual Inspection Disclosure (mandated, no work arounds exist)
- you cannot visit the house or condo
I would not suggest that you buy a house sight unseen, which we call a blind offer. It’s dangerous and unwise. There’s enough danger with coronavirus alone without compounding it!
My belief is that this Shelter in Place will go on for 2 or 3 months as that is what the governor of California said last night. In that case, it would be practical to allow certain real estate functions to move forward in a limited way so that people can buy and sell. It would make sense to permit private showings with clients staying 6′ away from their agents, for inspectors to visit the property with no one else present, and same with appraisers.
There is a lot we do not know. With sales pretty much stopped, we don’t know where values are. Are they falling? Are they rising? There’s no data. With the stock market falling and unemployment rising, it seems like prices should fall in real estate, but we never really know until there’s a look into the past.
We don’t know how long the situation will last. Given that there’s no vaccine, and it will be 12-18 months before we get one, it’s probable that the Shelter in Place will not stretch that whole period. But it seems probable that there will be cycles of sheltering and more liberty based on the number of cases in any given area. I believe that we will have spurts of freedom and being able to sell and close escrows between periods of home isolation.
This is an unfolding situation that seems to be changing almost daily, do expect it to change along with the number of cases of coronavirus, hospitalizations, and deaths from Covid-19. Leaders know that residents do need to buy and sell homes, and they are working on a path forward.
Meanwhile, you can work on your pre-approval, or better yet, a pre-underwritten approval which will enable you to buy faster once that is more possible.
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 San Jose 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?
People coming from out of the area to relocate to Silicon Valley might not know what to expect from the weather in the San Jose, Santa Clara County, or Silicon Valley Area. Does this part of California ever rain? How hot is the summer? What is the climate like?
In a nutshell, this is a “sub-tropical” area, or a place that enjoys a mild “Mediterranean climate” that is most heavily influenced by the close proximity of the shoreline and the Pacific Ocean. Temps are mild, we get little rainfall compared to many parts of the country.
More specifically, we usually get about 10-20 inches of rainfall a year (less on the east and more on the west) and enjoy as many as 300 sunny days a year. Winters seldom see many hard freezes (but they can happen).
A typical summer day has highs in the mid to upper eighties but very low humidity – so it feels much cooler. Heat waves and heat inversions can run the temps up to the low to mid 100s in the hottest parts of the valley. Luckily it doesn’t happen much, or stay for long! Once in awhile, a rare storm in summer will bring high humidity and thundershowers, but for the most part, summers are dry. The hottest month is typically August.
The coldest month, usually, is December. A January day will often have a high in the 60s or 50s, depending. A cold day here is when it does not get into the 50s (not too common). By February, though, the worst is usually over and it’s even possible to have freak warm days that hit 80 degrees!
Our weather varies from year to year. Some years we get drought conditions and may require water rationing . Other years we get lots of wet weather from the Pacific – temps are warmer but there’s much too much rain: those are the El Niño years. Most often, though, winters aren’t that bad – evenings can be nippy as temps drop into the 20s on the worst nights in December or January. It will make the news that people should cover their citrus trees so they aren’t damaged by the freezing temps. Continue reading
ApartmentList.com puts out a monthly report with data on the rental market here and all over the U.S. Of most interest is the going rate for rentals. This morning I received their update and below are a few of the main points on the rental housing market. The San Jose metro area’s median rent went up 1% over the last year per the article there. They write:
“Currently, median rents in San Jose stand at $2,113 for a one-bedroom apartment and $2,648 for a two-bedroom. San Jose’s year-over-year rent growth lags the state average of 1.1%, as well as the national average of 1.4%.”
San Jose metro area – cost of an apartment rental
San Jose rental costs as compared to other cities / towns in Santa Clara County:
Apartment list provides lots of interesting tidbits, such as Cupertino’s rent falling slightly this last year and Los Gatos having the fastest growing rental prices. Do check out the full report using that top link. It’s interesting to me how much more costly it is to rent in Cupertino than in other competitive areas such as Palo Alto, which also has great schools.
The median reflects the point at which half sold for more and half for less that price. When the median sale price goes down but the average goes up, it suggests not the homes are losing value, but rather that buyers are purchasing less expensive homes. For the condo and townhouse market, this can happen if the price of houses becomes more in reach. If you can afford a huge townhouse or a smaller house, many house hunters will choose the smaller house. Prices softened here after the peak of May 2018, so likely those on the cusp between the two choices of house or townome/condo opted for the single family home.
How does the rental market compare to other areas?
This chart is from the same source cited above. Here we can see how rental prices stack up in San Jose versus San Francisco (more expensive still) and other major cities – all the rest of which are less expensive. That said, New York City is very close to San Jose, just a hair behind.
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 Report for October 2019
First, Santa Clara County – home to San Jose, Cupertino, Sunnyvale, Mountain View, Palo Alto, Los Altos, Santa Clara, Campbell, Los Gatos, Saratoga, Monte Sereno, Milpitas, Morgan Hill,and a number of other cities and towns. This area has generally come up in price about 1% since last month, but is down 6% from last yaer. Of course, it wasn’t an even slide. Spring and summer saw a rise in sales price, peaking at approximately a 17% increase before slipping back down to our current early autumn cooling.
And the condominium and townhouse report for Santa Clara County:
This year shows about a 4% drop in price for condos and townhomes since last month, but about a 15% drop from last year.
It can be 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 cities and areas using the formula: single family 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.)
I have arranged this chart in descending order by Sales Price. This is usually how I organize the data, and you can see certain markets shifting position, moving up or down the order depending on what’s hot. To compare, below is a report from April 3rd, 2019 using the same formula.
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 22 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
Many relocating families search specifically for neighborhoods with the very best, or at least very good public schools. There are many sites which will give you this information in immense detail, but if you want a “quick answer” on excellent schools in Silicon Valley and San Jose, I can give that to you quickly here.
The finest public schools and districts (with excellent scores at all levels of schooling) tend to be found in the most expensive parts of Santa Clara County, and most of them are along the “west valley” areas, including Almaden Valley (an area of San Jose), Los Gatos, Monte Sereno, Saratoga, Cupertino, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, and Palo Alto. Most of these communities are found along the base of the coastal foothills, aka the Santa Cruz Mountains, are are located not too far from Highway 85. The Silver Creek area (of the Evergreen District of San Jose) on the east side also has some fine schools. There are pockets with great elementary schools scattered throughout the valley too.
What do these homes cost? In the best areas, it is not uncommon to spend a million dollars or more for a “turnkey” home of 1800 square feet with no issues (no high voltage lines, no busy road, etc.). In some areas, like Saratoga, that might be closer to $2 million.
In many parts of Santa Clara County the elementary schools are excellent, middle schools are “very good” and the high schools are good. This is true for parts of west San Jose (bordering Cupertino and Saratoga) and Cambrian Park. These areas tend to be much more affordable than those with excellent schools in all levels. For home buyers not so worried about high schools as cost, these can be a great option for getting more home (and school) for your money.
While many home buyers are reluctant to consider private schools, sometimes it is much less expensive in the long run to purchase a comfortable home in an area you like but which doesn’t have fantastic schools and then send your kids to private or parochial schools. In Los Gatos, where the schools run from very good to exceptional, about one-third of students are not in public schools.
If you are planning a relocation to Silicon Valley and want to know more about local schools (public or private) please email me and I’ll be happy to chat with you about them more in person. I can also help you to find areas which are more affordable and offer strong schools.
Every area has its linguistic quirks or slang, and the San Jose – Silicon Valley – Santa Clara County region is no exception. Some of it is in the words we use, some of it’s the way we pronounce things, and some of it is just the way we think. If you relocate to the South Bay, you may want to know what some of these mean!
The Hill – refers to the Santa Cruz Mountains. Going “over the hill” means going to Scotts Valley, Santa Cruz, or somewhere along the coast.p>
The City – means San Francisco, even though it’s smaller in population than San Jose.
South County – areas such as Gilroy, Morgan Hill, San Martin and Coyote Valley (and outlying areas)
The Bay – is the San Francisco Bay, not the Monterey Bay.
The Airplane Park – this is Oak Meadow Park in the Town of Los Gatos
Read the rest of the post on the Valley of Heart’s Delight blog post, Silicon Valley Local-Speak: A Guide to Understanding Folks in the South Bay
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 SmartAsset 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 are modifications to the residence that can be done to improve earthquake 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.
Earthquake safety and 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: