Silicon Valley Pricing Snapshot

Today we’ll provide a few quick graphics to give you a Silicon Valley pricing snapshot on the 4 counties where we sell homes. These will be ranked by order of housing cost, from highest to lowest. 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.

San Mateo County real estate market stats at a glance - Silicon Valley pricing snapshot

 

Santa Clara County

Santa Clara County, our home base, is the second priciest area in this region and is the heart of Silicon Valley:

 

Santa Clara County real estate market trends at a glance - Silicon Valley pricing snapshot

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.

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Absorption Rate

One of the simplest ways of assessing the real estate market is to check the absorption rate, often called the months of inventory.

In short, it tells you the pace of home sales (beyond the simpler days on market). It informs you:

  • if you’re buying, whether or not you need to hurry or if you can take your time!
  • if you’re selling, this figure tells you what the odds are of your success in the next month. That could impact your selling strategy.

What is the months of inventory, or the absorption rate?

Water and a faucet - understanding the absorption rateThe absorption rate tells us how quickly the current inventory will be absorbed, or sold off, if sales continue at the same pace and no new inventory were to be added.

The absorption rate could be measured in days, weeks, months,  years, or decades – but the most common is the months of inventory. It’s really two data points in one: the available inventory and the number of sales in a particular period of time.

If this is hard to picture, consider a bathtub. If the tub is draining, how long will it take until the water is gone if the faucet is left off and if water continues to exit the tub at the same rate? That is the pace we are considering for homes for sale.

When homes are selling fast, in 30 days or less, often the data is described as days of inventory rather than weeks or months.

What is a fast absorption rate, and what does that mean for home sellers and buyers?

A balanced rate of sales suggests that neither home sellers or home buyers have a real advantage over the other. In the United States, anywhere from 4 – 6 months is considered balanced. Less than that is a seller’s market, and more than that is a buyer’s market. The lower the number, the hotter the market. 

In Silicon Valley, though, it’s almost never as high as 4 months – though it can and does happen sometimes.

For us, anything under 2 months is a hot market, and anything under 1 month is a super hot seller’s market.

Here’s a graph displaying the absorption rate for houses in Santa Clara County between January 2005 and now. The highest absorption rate was 14.2 in January 2008. It fell quickly from there with the next month at 12.4, then 10.1 in March, and eventually settling in at around 6-7 months of inventory for a period.

Absorption rate for Santa Clara County houses Jan 2005 - August 2022

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Natural Hazards in Silicon Valley

Natural hazards collage - natural hazard zones to considerWhat are the natural hazards in the San Francisco Bay Area and Silicon Valley?

The main natural hazards to consider are:

  • earthquakes
  • floods
    • 100 or 500 year flood plains
    • floods from dam failure or levee failure (includes rising sea and bay water levels)
  • liquefaction zones (and compressible soils areas)
  • landslide zones
  • fire risk areas, such as the Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone
  • for those with basements (few homes), radon

There are zones associated with these potential risks and those areas are delineated by the state, county, and local jurisdictions. The state level earthquake faults are those which are considered active in relatively recent years. The county mapped fault zones may not have been active in over 10,000 years and the town or city labelled areas have been dormant for much longer than that.

Where to learn about natural hazards and natural hazard zones in Santa Clara or San Mateo Counties:

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Market Reports for Three Silicon Valley Counties

If you’re just moving into the area you may be wondering about the different housing markets for the greater Silicon Valley area. The counties are a perfect place to start!

Here are the real estate market reports for three major Silicon Valley counties (and where I’m most active in my work): Santa Clara County, San Mateo County, and Santa Cruz County. Generally, “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.

Each section below includes first the data for single family homes and then condos and townhomes for each region.

If you’re ready to dive a little deeper, I also provide regular monthly market updates on some of the popular communities within Santa Clara County over at my Valley of Heart’s Delight blog. Scroll the most recent ones here.

Summer 2022: Three Silicon Valley Counties

Santa Clara County Real Estate Market Report for July 2022

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.

If you’re having trouble reading any of the charts on this page, click to open the full size image.

Santa Clara County single family home housing stats for July 2022

The market is clearly cooling with longer days on market, fewer sales, and a falling median sales price.

Here’s a look at the AVERAGE sale price for houses (single family homes) since 2016. Imagine that the “average” home has gained almost $1 million in value in just 6 years!

Santa Clara County SFH average sale price in July 2022

Spring of 2020 experienced a massive slowdown in market activity at the start of the pandemic, but it didn’t last long. Stifled spring activity put added pressure on the market when it opened again, and while fewer sellers chose to list there homes for sale demand shot up! Over the next two years, this buildup of demand with severely low available inventory drove prices sky high as we watched bidding wars and overbids snowballs out of control!

Inflation is finally being checked and we’re seeing that number come down a hair. Despite improving conditions, Santa Clara County remains in a seller’s market.

And the condominium and townhouse report for Santa Clara County

While it had only half the sales of the single family home market, the condo and townhouse market is also experiencing similar trends.

Santa Clara County townhome and condo market for July 2022

Keep reading for updates on the San Mateo and Santa Cruz county markets.

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Waterfront homes in Silicon Valley: are there any concerns?

Beach view from Sunny Cove in Santa Cruz, CASometimes people relocating to Silicon Valley tell me that they’d like to move to a waterfront home, something with a view of the Pacific Ocean or the San Francisco Bay. Most of Silicon Valley is inland, though, separated from the ocean by the coastal mountains.

Ocean View Homes

For those truly set on having a view of the Pacific, home can be found in the Santa Cruz area with lovely ocean and Monterey Bay views. The compromise will likely be a long, winding commute over Highway 17’s mountain pass.

Similarly, ocean lovers may settle close to Half Moon Bay or Pescadero, but will have to slog over the coastal hills on Hwy 35 each day to get to the Peninsula. (Some lucky souls may find employment in Scotts Valley or along the coast, but most of the jobs are not in these places.) If faraway ocean view will work, a home in the Santa Cruz Mountains may be the ideal fit.

Silicon Valley Waterfront Homes

If you want to live along the waterfront within Silicon Valley and not these neighoring communities, there really are not a lot of neighborhoods from which to choose.  Most water-view homes involve the San Francisco Bay.  There are a few rivers, creeks, ponds (mostly man-made or percolation), lakes, and reservoirs to be found as well, but enjoying lovely water views up close is not the easiest criteria to fill and each come with their own concerns. Waterfront bay views often come down to Foster City and Redwood Shores, which we’ll discuss next. (more…)

Home prices by high school district

Here’s a quick look at home prices by high school district and further below, also by elementary school district. This is a great way to get a broad sense of where it’s more affordable or more costly to buy a home in Silicon Valley! The numbers were for sales in June 2022.

First, the median home prices by high school district for single family homes (houses and duet homes) in Santa Clara County. (Click on the images to view a larger version of each).

The SP/LP figure refers to the sale price to list price ratio. When it says 109%, that means the home sold on average 9% over list price. Med DOM is the median Days on Market.

PLEASE CLICK THE IMAGE BELOW TO VIEW LARGER VERSION

2022-07-13 SCC SFH stats by High School District Updated

 

Within each of these high school districts, there are more and less expensive areas. In the Los Gatos-Saratoga Joint Union HSD, for instance, some homes are in Los Gatos, some in Monte Sereno, and some in Saratoga – some have views and acreage, some are more modest. The figures are very broad.

Next, the same data but for condominiums and townhouses in Santa Clara County. These are far more affordable, but still very costly.

PLEASE CLICK THE IMAGE BELOW TO VIEW LARGER VERSION

 

2022-07-13 SCC condo Stats by High School District

The condominium and townhouse market has been strongalso.

Home prices by Elementary School District

Single family homes (nearly all houses, some duet homes)

 

Condos and townhouse by elementary school district for June 2022:

2022-07-13 SCC con do Stats by Elementary School District

 

Need similar data for San Mateo County or Santa Cruz County? Please let me know and we can get it to you.

San Jose Districts and their Values

San Jose Districts Price Rankings Graphic July 2022 Landscape

What does it cost to buy a single family home in the city of San Jose?  There are many districts in this spread out city 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?

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How is buying a home in Silicon Valley different from in other parts of the country?

How is Silicon Valley Different?Every so often I am asked how the San Jose – Silicon Valley area is different from other parts of the US for home buyers. What did they need to be concerned about here versus in the midwest or east coast? They knew about earthquakes, and having to strap water heaters for earthquake safety, but what about earthquake insurance? Are termites a problem here? What things should home buyers worry about here that perhaps are not issues elsewhere?

Silicon Valley Differences

This is a great question, and the answer to it could fill a book! But here are some of the major differences that most relocating buyers, especially those from out-of-state, should be aware of.

Natural Differences

    1. Earthquakes (of course) and everything related: selling requirements, insurance questions, related natural hazard zones (liquifaction zones, landslide areas, etc.), where fault lines are located, etc. People moving to California generally know that they need to be concerned about seismic occurrences, but perhaps not all the related areas.
    2. Expansive clay soils: when you read your history, you may have heard that in early California, homes were made of adobe bricks. What may not have been clear is how strong that soil is. I have a couple of blog posts on my Valley of Hearts Delight blog on this topic:
      Cracked Foundations, Adobe Clay Soils and Water in Silicon Valley
      What To Consider When Buying a Hillside Home in Silicon Valley
    3. Termites: in general, there are 2 types of these pests active on the valley floor: drywood termites and subterranean termites. (In the Los Gatos Mountains and closer to the Pacific Ocean you may also encounter dampwood termites.) It may be possible to try to prevent subterranean termites with bait stakes placed underground, but there is no way to prevent drywood termites. You can fumigate your home and within a few days they could be back (but won’t be visible for a year or two at the earliest in most cases). Termites do better here than in many places of the country simply because it’s warmer here.  They may swarm twice a year rather than once. Please also read this post for more info:
      How Often Should You Get A Termite Inspection?
    4. Fire / Water: more destructive fire seasons have brought about new, stronger safety regulations including mapped fire zones, higher insurance premiums, and construction limitations. On the other end of the spectrum, the Bay Area has tsunami hazard zones (you can spot the evacuation signs around the bayfront) in addition to the usual flood and dam inundation hazard zones. And expect drought to impact water prices plus restrictions on water useage.
      Are Fire Seasons New?

Structural Differences (Houses)

    1. No basements – there are very few homes with basements here (the very old ones and those which are newer and extremely expensive).  A very common question is “where do people store all their stuff if they don’t have a basement?”  For most households, the storage center tends to be the garage. Built in cabinets and storage shelves are highly appreciated. When people purchase homes with 3 car garages, often that 3rd space is not for a car, but for “stuff” – luggage, holiday decor, momentos, old files, etc.
    2. Foundations – older homes are usually built on a “raised” foundation or perimeter foundation with support beams under the center part of the home. Some types of homes, such as Eichler designed houses (mid-century modern ranch style) were built with slab foundations and actually have radiant heating (heating coils built into the slab). Newer homes now tend to be built on slab also (10-15 years of age or less). Most of our valley has 40-60 year old ranch style homes, though, and these are mostly “raised” foundations with a crawl space.
    3. Houses are built to move in case of an earthquake – most of our homes are built with wood and are intended to move in the case of an earthquake.  It is very rare to find a house made out of brick here because they don’t do well in case of severe shaking.
    4. Suburban sprawl – Silicon Valley was built for cars. While BART and VTA are expanding access to some public transit routes, it’s still a very car-dependant area. The median lot size for homes sold in San Jose over the last 2 weeks (as of this writing) was 6,310 SqFt, and the median home size was 1,568 SqFt. Depending on where in the world you are coming from that can sound quite small, but it’s a relatively typical suburban home in this area.

These are perhaps the most salient differences home buyers relocating to Silicon Valley might want to be aware of. Each of these topics could be a blog post of its own, and I have written about all of them! Our blogs offer information on the local market and home buyer, owner, and seller concerns, and we also provide insight into some of the resources and Tools You Can Use When Relocating to the San Jose Area, but an experienced professional Realtor will be your most useful resource for navigating real estate in Silicon Valley. If you’re ready to move to Silicon Valley, we would love to hear from you!

Moving to Silicon Valley: is it possible to get a house here that’s as nice as the one you currently own?

Can You Get the Same Home Relocating to Silicon Valley?“Can I buy the same home in Silicon Valley?”

I am frequently contacted by extremely bright, successful engineers or high tech professionals who are in large homes on large lots with great schools in less expensive areas of the country, or ocasionally outsisde of the country. They want to move here because Silicon Valley is the hub of innovation, a center for jobs in high-tech, our weather’s great, crime’s low, and there’s so much to do in this region. The housing costs here are extraordinarily high here, but often these professionals hope that the salaries are commensurately high such that they can replicate the home and lifestyle they are accustom to elsewhere, but in Silicon Valley. It doesn’t work that way.

Unless you’re relocating here from New York, Tokyo, or Paris (or somewhere equally astronomically priced), don’t expect the salary offered in Silicon Valley will to go as far here as it would elsewhere in the world. I’m sorry.

Relocation & Silicon Valley: Downgrade to Upgrade

Downgrade the House, Upgrade the Price…

Most relocating homeowners can expect a home downgrade and a higher price compared to what they are leaving behind. Yes, incomes are a little higher but not nearly enough to match the discrepancy in real estate prices. This is even more true with the astronomical acceleration of the market that we’ve seen in 2021 and in early 2022. Even without a wild seller’s market I tell people, as a rule of thumb, that when you move here you will pay twice as much and get half as much. (While salaries might be a little higher, they are not usually double what you’d make elsewhere.)

Sometimes I get the comment: “I don’t want to move to Silicon Valley and have my family’s lifestyle negatively impacted by having to live in a smaller house. I want the quality of life to go up, not down!”

That is completely understandable. People who move here don’t do it because of the housing. They do it for the location and the style of living that this area offers.

… to Upgrade the Location and Lifestyle!

We have the Pacific Ocean an hour or less away, San Francisco an hour away, dozens of wineries, theatre, museums, professional sports (go Sharks!), and world-reknown parks and trails. Shoveling snow? Never! San Jose enjoys 300 sunny days a year on average. If you love to be outdoors, you can make the most of it all year long here where the weather is subtropical. Our population is highly diverse and highly educated, crime is low, not to mention it’s the center of the global tech industry! There are a thousand reasons why the South Bay is probably a major upgrade… but it’s not an upgrade if you equivocate your house with your lifestyle.

So if you are considering a move to Silicon Valley, expect to pay more, get less home, and move into an amazing community in a beautiful pocket of the world.

Related Reading from this and my other blogs:

Market Reports for Three Silicon Valley Counties

What can you buy for $1 million in Silicon Valley?

Comparing cost of housing in West Valley communities from Palo Alto to Los Gatos to Blossom Valley: what will a 4 bedroom home cost?

 

Are Fire Seasons New?

Fire season is a concern for all on the West CoastFire season is a concept we are familiar with in the West Coast, but it may be foreign to those moving here or living far away.

Not long ago I was on the phone with a cousin from the East Coast. That area had recently been hit by Tropical Storm Ida and over here we were being smothered by the smoke from the Northern California fires (Caldor, Dixie, Tamarack and some others). Aghast at enormity of it all, my cousin asked the poignant question, “has there always been a fire season, or is that a recent thing?”

Fire Season

Briefly, yes, California has always had a fire season.

One major reason people (myself included) love California is for its mostly dry Mediterranean, subtropical climate. However, that ideal dry hot summer climate is also a perfect tinderbox. Without summer rain, the grasses and annuals die off and many native perennials go dormant. Dry hot winds, frequent from around August through October, dry out the landscape even more. By this time, an open hillside is A-grade kindling – one little spark and it’s a recipe for disaster.

Even in wet seasons with no drought, the summer will always be hot and dry with a high risk of ignition. So while fire season is nothing new, it’s longer and much worse than it used to be.

Fire and California Homes

For California homeowners and buyers, the increasing fire danger is strongly felt. Most buyers tell me they do not want to be in high fire risk zones, but might not always know what to avoid. State and local governments have put more preventative regulations in place to keep homes safe from wildfire, both on builders and homeowners.

If you are relocating to Silicon Valley, you may be wondering what the risks of wildfire are like for this area. There are plenty of resources available online, and I always recommend clients to look at the hazard maps such as those listed in my article Tools You Can Use When Relocating to the San Jose Area. While the mountain and foothill communities may be at risk of wildfire, even the lowlands are experiencing another concern that comes with harsher fire seasons: smoke and air quality.

In my other blogs I have more articles dedicated to the topic, so I won’t go into detail here. I encourage you to view some of my articles about Fire at the Live In Los Gatos Blog or over at the Valley of Heart’s Delight blog under the Natural Hazards and Safety categories if you’re interested in learning more.

Some of the oldest trees living in California have the scars of past fires, sometimes multiple. Native plants have evolved and adapted to fire and can thrive in its shadow. And for as long as people have lived here, they have contended with seasonal fire danger.

Fire season 2021 has come to an end with the arrival of rain – a double bounty since we are in the middle of a severe drought. When the rains come, the problems aren’t over, though. In burned out areas, the next challenge will be mudslides and further damage to the fire zones. This is an old problem also, I remember hearing about the mudslides following the fires as a kid growing up in the 60s and 70s.

Fire hardening” is an important concept for those of us who live in or near large open spaces with hills especially. I suspect it will grow into a cottage industry with new experts appearing to advise or possibly install features which will make our homes and landscaping more resistant to advancing flames.