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.
The Silicon Valley and San Jose areas are seeing a resurgence in the popularity of “urban living” neighborhoods. If you are looking to rent or buy a home in one of these areas, you may wonder where you can find them.
For those not familiar with the “urban living” name, it refers to areas of higher density and mixed use. These are areas where homes and shops are close together, sometimes even stacked, and land tends to be scarce and in high demand. In these areas residents often are not so dependent upon cars, and some sites may refer to them as “walkable” or “walk to town” neighborhoods, although that phrase is less inclusive and is being phased out.
Urban Living Neighborhoods in Silicon Valley
Here’s a quick list of areas to consider if you want the urban living experience:
Today we’ll share the market reports for three Silicon Valley Counties. These are from December 2022.
Santa Clara County, San Mateo County, and Santa Cruz County are the areas covered below. 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 we don’t usually sell there, so we are not covering it in this post.
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, we 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.
December 2022: Three Silicon Valley Counties
Santa Clara County Real Estate Market Report for Dec 2022
The first of the three Silicon Valley counties is 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 county is the heart of Silicon Valley.
If you’re having trouble reading any of the charts on this page, click to open the full size image.
The market is clearly cooling with longer days on market, fewer sales, and a falling median sales price.
The condominium and townhouse report for Santa Clara County
While it had fewer than half the sales of the single family home market, the condo and townhouse market is also experiencing similar trends.
Keep reading for updates on the San Mateo and Santa Cruz county markets.