When people relocating to Silicon Valley get “sticker shock” on our real estate prices, most of the time they look for more affordable places in which to live that are close by. Often finding neighborhoods with good schools comes into play. Or perhaps they simply love the scenic town of Los Gatos but can’t buy in town (95030 and 95032 zip codes are “in town” and 95033 is the unincorporated county areas with a Los Gatos mailing address). The mountains between San Jose and Santa Cruz – the coastal range – is home to a number of communities such as Chemeketa Park, Holy City, Aldercroft Heights, the Lexington Reservoir area (the town of Lexington is under the reservoir now!), Alma, Redwood Estates (Upper Redwood Estates, Lower Redwood Estates) and more.
The Los Gatos Mountains are a specialty area and I don’t usually work them. I frequently will refer them out or team up with someone else who knows a lot more than I do about the unique things you need to worry about if buying up there.
There are many plusses to living in the Los Gatos Mountains: clean air, more open space (less crowding), beautiful vistas, great schools (top rated public schools), lower housing costs. It’s a fabulous place if you have horses or just love more seclusion. The folks who live in the hills absolutely love their communities and homes.
At the same time, there are special consideration if you live in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Here’s a list of potential issues that mountain residents may face:
Many residential roads are private & there are private road agreements in place (so owners must agree on paving, clearing brush or trees too close to the road, pay if the road washes out in a mudslide to clear it or if soil beneath it gives way, etc.)
- Utilities: in the valley, we have Pacific Gas & Electric (PG & E) and public water (most of us have San Jose Water). In the mountains most or many of them have propane gas (not P G & E), they do have electric from PG & E though, and well water. Our recent drought – which ended officially this week – was not severe but with a worse drought the wells can run dry and then mountain residents have to truck water in, which is very expensive. You also must periodically check well water for arsenic and other elements and purity. (Also there’s septic instead of sewer. Not a big deal but it’s one more thing to maintain.)
- Fire concerns – the wildland areas are at risk of fire in summer, so the fire marshall’s regulations are to keep brush cleared a certain distance from your house to help lessen the risk. (Google “fire santa cruz mountains” and you will get a lot of news returns on fire danger and past fires).
- Winter weather issues – the higher elevations can get snow a couple of times a year – doesn’t last long but can make roads impassable (not as low as Chemeketa Park but near the summit and perhaps upper Redwood Estates). Trees sometimes fall and block roads and driveways during heavy rainfall. Our redwood trees have VERY shallow roots and I think this is why they come down in strong winds and rain, but I’m not sure. The lovely trees are green year round, including winter. They can keep the sun away if you’re in a heavily forrested area, though. I had friends who lived near the summit and they said that in winter, sunshine never touched their property. Finally, with all the trees and more severe winter weather in the Mtns, residents there lose electricity more often than we do in the valley (due to trees falling I am sure).
- Beach traffic – the mountain communities are all pretty dependent on Hwy 17 (there are few alternatives) and there’s a wave of traffic tie ups as coast visitors come and go with the warm weather.
- San Andreas Earthquake Fault – runs pretty much down the spine of the coastal range (on or close to Summit Road). The summit is the “sunniest” area in the mountains, so if I lived there I’d want to be where there’s more sunlight – but that would mean straddling one of the most powerful and most scary earthquake faults on the globe. I won’t do it!
- Travel time – hwy 17 can be pretty smooth but once off the road, it can be 10 to 20 or more minutes until you get to the house, so the total travel time to whereever you’re going can be long. That’s especially true if there’s an accident on 17, which is not so uncommon with all the curves in the road. There is a large grocery store on Summit Road so it is not necessary to drive to the valley for the basics.
- Resale issues – even in a “hot” market, it takes far longer to sell a mountain home than one on the valley floor. Agents in my office say that on a typical open house up there they get one or two people per hour. It is not uncommon for a mountain house to take a year to sell. I just checked the average Days on Market and it’s 63. In todays hot sellers market, that’s significantly longer than in the valley but far less than when I last updated this post in March 2011 when the Days on Market were 212.
- Bugs – in addition to drywood termites and subterranean termites, up in the SC Mountains they also have dampwood termites.
If you’re interested in learning more about the mountains, please email me! I can get you more info and partner with a “mountain agent” to get you the best deal on a property in the coastal range near the San Jose area.
Finally, if you are not sure which area is in Los Gatos vs having a Los Gatos mailing address (which can also happen in pockets on the valley floor), the best resource is the map of the town’s boundaries, which you can find here: http://www.losgatosca.gov/DocumentCenter/View/338
What’s available in the mountains today?
Here’s what’s listed in the Los Gatos Mountain area today.
How’s the market in 95033 this week?
It is not at all unusual for the housing market to go flat or even decline a little in the second half of the year. In October, the local Silicon Valley real estate market got an uptick as prices rose from the month before, homes sold a little faster, and basically things inched back into the seller’s favor. Sometimes homes that sell between Labor Day and Halloween seem to be in a second spring of sorts. In November so far, though, the Silicon Valley real estate market softens again – slightly. It’s all slightly more depressed than in October: prices are a little lower, days on market a little longer, etc. It is still a seller’s market, but not nearly to the degree it was in spring.
In other words, it’s a good time to buy (at least compared to 6 months ago).
Home buyers are funny, as a rule. They tend to buy when it’s a frenzy and prices are skyrocketing and multiple offers are in the crazy zone with buyers going in without any contingencies. Once the foot comes off the gas and they can buy with some rights to contingencies and can purchase closer to list price, many buyers freak out and won’t buy at all. It’s like the market has to be against them if they are at all interested.
Let’s look at the numbers for Santa Clara County. I pulled these tonight from MLS Listings and the data reflects single family homes in Santa Clara County. (Remember, closed sales were usually ratified about 30 days prior.)
First – inventory – I think it’s very important to not just view the month-over-month changes, but the year over year. How does it usually look for this month in the past? 2017 was a weird year, so going back a little further in time provides helpful perspective.
How long are homes taking to sell? It is more than 2017, but not unusual compared to 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016.
Price per square foot – year over year, it’s a steady upward progression.
And lastly, sale price to list price ratio – here, we do see that it is softer than prior years.
What to make of all of this? The market is softening, but most indicators are still fairly robust. We are overdue on a correction in the housing market, but I don’t see it coming right away. The thing to watch for will be what happens in Feb – April 2019. The market could surge upward again, it could rise gently, be flat, or fall.
The real question is whether the Silicon Valley real estate softening will continue into the new year or not. If it continues, hesitant buyers will be glad they waited. If not, they will want to kick themselves for a missed opportunity.
It’s hard to know the future, but right now, conditions are the best for buyers I’ve seen in a long time. Prices are lower than spring, and home buyers are able to purchase with contingencies in many cases.
The Silicon Valley market recently seemed to be on the skids from late spring through summer. The question was whether the decline in average and median sales prices was “seasonally normal” or if it was the beginning of a correction. Depending on which way you look at the data (or which data you used), you might come up with a different conclusion. What I did not expect at this point was an uptick in the market.
Today I did a quick study of pricing in Santa Clara County and San Mateo County. To my surprise, it appears that the closed sale prices so far in October are noticeably higher than in August – perhaps the sliding prices are sliding no more? Do we have an uptick in the market? We’ll have to watch and see. There are obviously very few sales so early in the month, but no matter which angle I tried, I did keep getting the same result: higher median and average sale prices in Santa Clara County and San Mateo County for single family homes. It was also strong for the condo / townhome market in Santa Clara County, but there’s a little dip for San Mateo County so far this month.
Here are some charts that I created from MLSListings, using the stats tools, today.
First, Santa Clara County single family homes, average sale price and median sale price. The uptick in sale prices is clear.
Next, the same criteria, but for San Mateo County, which also shows rising average and median sale prices :
What about the condo and townhouse market? Here’s the same criteria but for condominiums and townhomes in Santa Clara County. Once again, the numbers are up – rather than deepening the trend of downward pricing pressure.
San Mateo Condo and Townhouse market:
Whether you’re a long-term renter, temporary renter looking for a furnished rental, or a landlord, you’re probably wondering how the Silicon Valley’s apartment rental market is today and where it’s heading. Most real estate agents in this area do not deal with rentals, so rental housing is not typically something we track super closely. That being said, the same things that affect the residential resale market frequently effect the apartment rental market as well. So, without the help from my usual sources, such as the MLS (Multiple Listing Services), let’s look at what people are saying about the current trends.
Silicon Valley’s cooling apartment rental market
There are a few good sources for rental home information. One of them is RentCafe, which provides info on many cities and towns in Santa Clara County. The RentCafe page on Mountain View, for instance, provided the average apartment rental for all apartments, for studios, 1 bedrooms, 2 bedrooms, and 3 bedrooms. The overall averages seem to be somewhere between the 1 and 2 bedroom price points. It also shared today’s softened prices relative to last year’s. (I find this curious since buying a home is now more expensive than a year ago.)
RentCafe has similar info for a few cities nearby. You can find Santa Clara here, but change the last part of the URL to get a different city:
Another excellent source of information is Apartment List.
Apartment List does not analyze every city and town, nor do they study the difference between neighborhoods, such as comparing South San Jose with Willow Glen, but where they do give insight helps to show the major trends happening around the bay area. Check out Apartment List for more detailed analysis, and the most up-to-date information on the market. Also check out their Rentonomics page with more articles on renting.
Is there a solution to the lack of low-cost apartment rentals?
Analysts all believe there will be some market turnaround in the not too far future, but there are a few answers to where it may come from. CNBC published an article on the housing shortage dealing with high tech companies. Large industry leaders such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter continue to hire, bringing people into the area more quickly than developers are building, and forcing up the prices in both housing and rental markets. Employees have asked these companies to help, and some are responding. Google and Facebook have both come up with plans to construct affordable housing.
For years, California law has stated that a certain amount of affordable housing must be available in each community. Unfortunately, many communities are ignoring both the law and the need for such developments. If every community were to develop what the law required, the market would be much more balanced. Yet again, it’s the investors that are controlling the development, and it will not likely happen soon.
Below, please find a simple chart which provides a pretty good sense of what homes actually cost – not what they are listed for, but where they sell, here in the Valley of Heart’s Delight.
Often when people relocate to the San Jose area, they are interested in communities with good schools, like Cupertino, Saratoga, Los Altos, and Los Gatos. It can be a real shock to the system to find out that buying power isn’t what was hoped.
This data is courtesy of Sereno Group – thought it would be helpful to folks relocating here as a snapshot on the Silicon Valley real estate market Disclaimer: in many of these cities, there are different school districts within a city’s borders, and they are their own “markets”. Consider this as general information only.
Listed at $2,000,000 and sold with 4 offers for $2,300,000. Closed on August 14, 2018
Original post on this listing is below:
If you’ve been hunting for a move-in ready Cupertino home for sale with Monta Vista High School, this is your lucky week! Set in the beautiful Three Oaks neighborhood, close to Rainbow Drive and S Stelling Road, this sunny house was expanded in 2011 and more updates were done in 2018, including fully remodeling both bathrooms. The addition brought 600 SF of kitchen, family, and office space to the home – and they are exquisite!
The home at 1190 Crestline Drive, Cupertino CA 95014 features 3 bedrooms plus an office (which could be converted to a bedroom), 2 remodeled baths, a spacious living room, dining room, alcove off the dining room (originally the location of the “old” kitchen), a spacious kitchen – family room combination with a large, vaulted ceiling. There are recessed lights in the living, dining, kitchen, and family rooms. The kitchen-family room area offers 2 skylights with retractable shades. Both bathrooms and also the dining room provide sun tunnels. There’s loads of natural light!
Flexible floor plan and more options for another bed, bath, or?
The space which was the original kitchen is now an alcove, but it is possible to create another bedroom there – or use it as a study, music room, hobby room, or play area. It’s got a sewer line there, since it was previously a kitchen, so it may be possible to add a bathroom, too.
- 3 bedrooms + office and alcove
- Office has closet adjacent – could possibly convert office to bedroom
- 2 newly remodeled baths in 2018
- 1715 SF (per county)
- Lot size 6007 SF (per county)
- Built in 1963, expanded in 2011
- No carpeting – mostly hardwood floors, some laminate, some Italian porcelain tile
- Flexible layout—sewer plumbed to possibly add 3rd bathroom and another in original kitchen area
- Schools: Regnart Elementary, Kennedy Middle & Monta Vista High
MLS # ML81714661
OPEN HOUSE SCHEDULE:
Thurs., 7-19-2018 9:30am to 12:30pm (broker tour AND public open house)
Sat., 7-21-2018 2pm to 4pm
Sun., 7-22-2018 2pm to 4pm
You can learn more about this Cupertino home for sale and see all the photos on either of these two sites:
How is the Silicon Valley real estate market? It’s more of the same this month, with too-low levels of available inventory of homes for sale in Silicon Valley. At this point, the low inventory is a chronic problem for everyone. Inventory is up from the beginning of the year, but no where near “normal”, as you can see in the data below.
Home buyers in the county or on the Peninsula have little or nothing to purchase, and sellers feel trapped – they cannot sell their current home as there are bad odds that they would be able to purchase something else if they did sell. Unless they expect to leave the metro area, they are going to hold on tight in most cases.
Have a look at the inventory of houses on the market from 2001 (the earliest year I can pull from the MLS) to today in Santa Clara County – June is highlighted in a pale yellow to make it easy to find and compare the same month over the last 17 years.
The Silicon Valley real estate market – a look at inventory of available homes for sale:
The numbers really say it all. Even if you are new to the San Francisco Bay Area, you cannot help but notice the relative scarcity of homes for sale this month as opposed to last month or any other dating back to 2001. Therefore, it’s no surprise that solid homes here that are not in the luxury tier for their area (and are aggressively priced, beautifully staged, professionally photographed, and easy to view) are getting multiple offers, high overbids, and selling with no contingencies for inspection, loan, or appraisal. It’s more difficult, but not impossible, for anyone trying to purchase with less than 20% down in multiple offer situations. The key is to have extra money, beyond that 10%, for a potential appraisal deficit.
Here’s how the numbers look for various Silicon Valley communities. You can see all the info for them at popehandy.rereport.com or view the PDF newsletter by clicking the link or the image below.
How about the various parts of the county? The Silicon Valley real estate market varies from one area, price point, and school district to the next. The hottest of the hot markets are in the heart of the tech centers in prices under $2 million.
Sunnyvale has the highest sale price to list price average, with a staggering 116.1%, and Santa Clara is just behind at 113.9%. Only Monte Sereno is coming in at under 100% for the sale price to list price ratio (it is a very high end community). There are no “soft” markets in the bottom 50% of pricing anywhere.
Note that it’s very similar to the South Bay in that most communities have average sale price to list price ratios of over 100%, and the super high end areas like Woodside, Portola Valley, and Hillsborough are seeing milder SP to LP ratios than the more moderately priced cities such as Daly City (120.6%), San Bruno (117.7%), or Belmont (116.2%). These areas are not, generally speaking, luxury markets – so there is much more competition.
As is the normal pattern, San Mateo County is the most expensive of these three, followed by Santa Clara County, and then Santa Cruz County. Living by the coast is a dream for many, and with slightly softer prices and competition, this can be a fantastic retirement option for Silicon Valley homeowners looking to downsize.
In Santa Cruz County, like SMC and SCC, affordability is fueling the hottest market activity. Boulder Creek, known for its abundance of redwoods and rainfall, gleaned the most intense overbids in that county at 104.9% sale price to list price ratio and an average sale price of $570,000 – an absolute bargain relative to nearby areas “over the hill”.
Got a luxury budget? You are in luck!
Home buyers looking to purchase over $3 million (at least in most areas) will find it a good market for them to purchase. Selling under $2 or $2.5 million – again, in most areas – is fantastic for most properties. Who’s got it made? The move up luxury home buyer!
To get more details on the real estate market in Santa Clara County , San Mateo County, or Santa Cruz County, please visit http://popehandy.
One of the tools I use in my Silicon Valley real estate practice is Altos Research. My subscription, which generates reports on mls data of homes for sale weekly, covers all the zip codes of Santa Clara County. The market reports by zip code can be a real wealth of information for home buyers trying to figure out how much home they can get for their money as the report breaks down each zip code area listings by price quartiles and provides the average home and lot size, among other items, in each bracket.
Here’s one part of this week’s report for single family homes in 95032
This is a really helpful way to grasp qucikly how much it will likely cost to get you into a certain sized home. It also provides a sense whether your particular price point is near the bottom or top of the market – or if it’s possible at all. Want to buy a home here but the budget is $1 million or less? The data above reveals that this is unlikely in a house. But perhaps a condo or townhouse might work.
Next, please notice the days on market by pricing tier. It’s a lot hotter of a market in the lowest priced houses than it is in the highest.
It also helps home sellers to understand what part of their local market is hot or cold (if any).
There are many other elements included in the report. The main summary of “how’s the market?” is found in the upper right corner. Below is the example from the same Los Gatos 95032 report cited above:
The Altos data is strictly by town or zip code, so school districts won’t be covered – and here they are a major driver on home values. Even so, this is a great starting point and a way to get the big picture painlessly.
Please sign up and get the monthly newsletter, too!
The report is free to you – please sign up below to get the market reports by zip code emailed to you automatically each week. Yo
But wait, there’s MORE! Two monthly newsletter options, too!!
I also offer a couple of monthly newsletter than you can sign up to receive. The Silicon Valley RE Report comes out between the 5th and 10th of each month, and that site automatically generates an update for particular addresses or areas, depending on what someone signs up for. If interested, go to http://popehandy.rereport.com/market_reports and navigate to the report you want (by city, the county, or part of San Jose, for instance) and sign up to receive updates by clicking on the “Subscribe to report” button.
Additionally, once a month I send out a personalized newsletter via Mail Chimp that includes some data from the RE Report as well as other information, such as stats I’ve pulled directly from the MLS or what I’m hearing about market conditions at office meetings, or changes to the purchase contract or disclosure paperwork, etc. You can see a sample with my May 5, 2018 newsletter and also view the past mailings (upper left side “Past Issues”) & sign up if you like to get these each month. The sign up button is on the upper left side and simply says “subscribe”. There will be a little overlap with the RE Report, but it will provide info that isn’t available on that site.
LendingTree, a company which helps match people to loans (think: dating app for mortgages), took the data received from over 1.5 million purchase mortgage loan requests from the 100 largest cities of the United States in 2017 and ranked their real estate markets in a unique way: by competitiveness. Spoiler alert: the top two most competitive cities in this study were San Francisco (#1) and San Jose (#2)!
Three criteria were used to determine the ranking for each city. The first was the number of buyers shopping for loans before finding the property. Next, the average down payment percent. And finally, the percentage of buyers who have prime credit scores (over 680).
Why were these criteria chosen? The more competitive the market, the more competitive buyers offers must be. In a strong seller’s market, having loan contingencies or a lower offer price will hurt your chances at having your offer accepted.
Keep reading below for a snipet of the top 10 most competitive markets from LendingTree’s article, and what it means.
With soaring housing prices in Silicon Valley, newcomers and folks potentially relocating here may wonder what can you buy for $1 million in Silicon Valley? This article will provide a snapshot in time and provide a sense of whether your million dollar budget can get you into a house, a townhouse, or a condo – or perhaps “none of the above” – on the valley floor. (Homes in the Los Gatos or Santa Cruz Mountains are generally more affordable, but will of course be farther out.) Not included will be mobile homes, as the space rents are often close to or more than $1,000 per month. Also not included are duplexes, which you’be hard pressed to find many of under that $1 million mark.
If you absolutely must buy a house, and the budget must be under $1 million…
If you absolutely must have a house or single family home, as opposed to a condominium or townhouse, there are a number of areas for you to consider in Santa Clara County, including
- Morgan Hill
- the Alum Rock area of San Jose
- South San Jose
- the Evergreen area of SJ
- the Berryessa area of SJ
- Downtown and Central San Jose
- the Blossom Valley area of San Jose
- and the Santa Teresa area of San Jose
- the Los Gatos 95033 (mountains) area – which is vast and contains many small communities
The Los Gatos mountains area varies in price from one community to the next and right now that is a hopping market, I’m told. (Please find info on a list of neighborhoods at the link above.)
To determine where someone could get into a house for under $1,000,000, I pulled the sales from the last 90 days (as of March 1, 2018) and looked at how many of the sales of houses for any given area were under that budget amount. In many places, there were zero – even if I looked back a full year! The areas below are listed in order of the average sale price for these “in budget” properties, though you might prefer to rank them by the average square footage or some other criteria.
Areas in Santa Clara County where a house is possible but unlikely, but a townhouse or condominium may work:
There are some areas in the valley where a few properties that sell under a million are single family homes or houses. When you see ratios of something like 3% of the houses sold are under that price point, it’s important to understand that those homes may be major fixer uppers, tear downs, or have a location issue or some other big challenge. But – perhaps you are handy, do not mind the property condition, location, extremely small size, or whatever the presenting issue may be.
These long-shot, but perhaps possible, areas include Willow Glen (area of San Jose), Cambrian (area of San Jose), Santa Clara, and Campbell. In most of these desirable locales, a townhouse or condo is very doable, but a house – not too likely.
What about condos or townhomes? Except for areas which stratospheric pricing like Palo Alto and Los Altos, a condo or townhouse under $1 million should be possible in virtually all of Santa clara County.
Areas where you will NOT find a house for under $1 million
If you absolutely must buy a house, and not a condo or townhome, skip Palo Alto, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Saratoga, Los Gatos, Monte Sereno, Sunnyvale, Cupertino, and West San Jose. Also skip Santa Clara where the schools are Cupertino. It just isn’t going to be in budget.
What about San Mateo county?
In general, San Mateo County is more expensive than Santa Clara County. However, there are some pockets that may work.
Silicon Valley really includes the bayside areas of SMC, not the side that is along the Pacific Ocean. The beachside areas are far more affordable, but you will find the commute to be a bit arduous if you are working in central Silicon Valley. If you don’t mind a longer drive, do check into Pacifica (a pretty good value area) and other communities by the shore. that said, Half Moon Bay is super popular, and that price point won’t work there.
Redwood City is a good value area overall. The schools do not rank as highly as some other areas, and the plus to that is that home prices are a little more affordable. In the last 90 days, 7 of 103 sold houses were under $1 million. That’s not a high percentage, but it may not be impossible. More likely, you’ll get a far nicer townhouse with more space than you would a house in RC. Keep your options open there!
Inland, East Palo Alto has been coming into its own, steadily improving, and showing itself to be a good value area. In the last 90 days, 12 of the 17 homes sold went for $1 million or less. Yes, that’s hardly any inventory, but it is in range – so keep your eye on it.
Daly city had 33 of 70 homes go for $1 million or less. That’s definitely worth checking out, especially if your work takes you to Redwood City or South San Francisco.
Brisbane had 2 of 6 sales sold for $1 million or less. (Inventory so small that you shouldn’t count on it.)
South San Francisco had 16 of 43 homes sell in range.
The rest of the areas were either highly unlikely or a slam dunk “no” to selling in budget for a house.
What about the East Bay?
The east bay tends to be more affordable than the south bay or Peninsula. I did not check into those areas as I don’t know them as well (though I did live in Fremont for a year when I was in grad school). The bridges can get quite backed up. Over time, I believe that “Silicon Valley” will creep more and more into the east bay, both Alameda and Contra Costa Counties.
Some home buyers just must have land, a yard, a detached home. For them, it will be imperative to not spin wheels trying to locate a single family home in areas where they simply won’t be “in budget”. In Silicon Valley, the usual remedy is “drive a little, save a lot”. Hopefully, once BART comes through, the driving will be a whole lot less!
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