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.
Last week I compared several areas using the formula: single family homes of 1,800 – 2,200 SF, 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, on lot sizes of 6,000 SF – 10,000 SF that have sold within the last 120 days. I sometimes will adjust this criteria slightly, usually the days, depending on the market activity. The prices listed are the average from sales in this criteria, so areas with a higher volume of sales will have more stable averages than those with less sales to analyze. DOM means “Days on Market”, the number of days a home was listed as available before pending.
Please note that this is a rough sketch of home prices based on averages taken across large, diverse residential communities. There are many factors that will affect market value beyond these boundaries.
Now, on to the charts.
The Cost To Buy A 4 Bedroom 2 Bath Home In…
I have arranged this chart in descending order by Price per Square Foot. Most of my charts are organized either by Price per Square Foot or by Sales Price, and you can see certain markets shift positions compared to past charts, moving up or down the order depending on what’s hot.
Occasionally one of these markets will have few to no sales within the timeframe, so those will be left in place from where they were when we last checked, but will show “n/a” in place of any pricing or statistics – usually I try to avoid this and will increase the timeframe of my search! Once you’ve reviewed the most recent data, scroll down farther to compare today’s market against past years.
Please use the list below 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.)
Want to do a deep dive on any of these areas? Please visit my Valley of Heart’s Delight Blog to learn about them.
There have been a number of changes to the order since the last time we checked in December 2020 – that time I did arrange it by sales price, however, so some of these changes are due to the sorting system difference. Saratoga jumped to the top of the list with it’s sole sale. Sunnyvale and Cambrian also climbed the ladder, even taking into account the sorting difference.
Most, but not all, areas averaged higher prices compared to last year. The West Valley “typical” home is selling approximately 7% above where they were last June. In areas like Saratoga with few sales it’s normal to see broad fluctuations in the charts for this community, so these may move around without suggesting any major changes in the market.
What we see across the entire chart is sky high spring pricing and extremely low days on market – about 2-3 weeks in most areas. While there are the occasional slow sales the majority are selling quickly, although not at the breakneck speeds of last year.
Cost to Buy in West Valley Varies Widely: What’s the Difference?
This chart shows average sales in West Valley communities above $3M and under $1.5M. Why such a big difference? In most cases, the most expensive and desirable places have either the best schools or shortest commute location or both. Communities like Palo Alto and Los Altos, which are consistently high, tend to have both. Had I ranked these for school scores, you’d find that Cambrian would be fairly high up as it is 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).
Also, 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, Campbell, Sunnyvale, 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.
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 unless you 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!
Now let’s have a look at that June 2021 chart I’ve been referencing. Although overall it was an extremely active market in the West Valley, low inventory meant few sales in most areas!
Now let’s have a look at that some older charts.
Sometimes 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…)
920 Hazelwood Ave Campbell – Home with in-law suite or guest quarters
Looking for a Silicon Valley home with in-law suite and a quarter acre lot? It can be challenging to find a house offering a separate wing of with guest quarters big enough for family, friends, or rental income and still have a nice sized back yard left over. Right now you can find a fantastic place in Campbell, one of the most popular cities within the region, that’s been remodeled and expanded, featuring a spacious guest suite and a large back yard. It is sure to please! Let me introduce you to 920 Hazelwood Avenue, Campbell, CA 95008.
From small bungalow to stunning, remodeled home with in-law suite
Originally built as a small ranch style home in 1945, the house was a modest but thoughtfully designed 3 bed, 1 bath home with a detached 1 car garage at its inception. Long before there was Silicon Valley, this was a quiet county pocket near Campbell with quarter acre lots (today it is incorporated and part of the city.) Previous home owners expanded the house, adding a family – dining area, an office, and a second bath off of the office. Hardwood floors are found throughout all of these areas except for in the bathrooms.
In around 2000 to 2001, current owners did a beautiful kitchen remodel, demolished the 1 car garage and built an over-sized 441 SF attached 2 car garage just off the kitchen, and added a 539 SF guest suite behind the garage. Today it is a 4 bedroom, 3 bath home with 2024 square feet – and it’s move-in ready!
Yesterday on my Live in Los Gatos blog, I compared a number of “west valley” areas in Santa Clara County, or southern Silicon Valley, to provide a sense of how much home you can get for your money in Los Gatos, Saratoga, Cupertino, Campbell, and areas of San Jose such as Cambrian, Almaden and West San Jose. I used my Altos Research weekly newsletters, which provide a snapshot view of four real estate pricing tiers for various cities or areas. In these, you see the median list price per quartile with the type of square footage, lots size, beds and baths found for each one.
Let’s look at Cupertino first, since I get a lot of folks wanting to relocate to Silicon Valley for Apple employment, and many of the new recruits have heard about the wonderful public schools in that city – a major draw. A few years ago, it was very possible to purchase a small house in Cupertino for under a million dollars. But have a look at the chart below and check out the days on market as well as the other data….
In many areas, the most affordable homes are the ones that get gobbled up fastest. Why is it that in Cupertino, the lowest priced listings are on the market the longest? It’s not their size – I can tell you this from two decades of experience selling homes in the Bay Area. It is very likely that these properties are not too livable as a group. They probably need serious remodeling or rebuilding (and perhaps expansion as well). Most buyers do not have the cash to totally “rehab” a house, especially if they are starting at over $1,000,000. If you want to live in Cupertino and not throw a ton of money into the existing house, or tear down and rebuild, you’re most likely to need a budget closer to $1.3 or $1.4 million as a starting point. Want to be able to walk to Infinity Loop? Make that $1.5 or more – and you will still need to do some remodeling unless it’s very small!
What about other nearby Silicon Valley communities and neighborhoods? Please have a look at the full article with charts for a number of areas (plus one for all of San Jose).
What does a million dollars buy you in Los Gatos 95030, Los Gatos 95032, and nearby areas: Saratoga, Almaden, Cambrian, Campbell, Cupertino?
The beautiful Beckwith Building in downtown Los Gatos, California
I have been fortunate to have made 5 trips to Europe, one of them lasting 9 months, and will be returning again before the end of 2013 (this time to Belgium). It is so diverse, beautiful and compelling! Having experienced a little culture shock myself (when living in Florence, Italy, for one year of university), I’m very sympathetic about how hard an international move can be, and I understand that for Europeans moving to Silicon Valley, there can be an acute culture shock, particularly for those coming from more rural areas.
The bulk of Silicon Valley is located in Santa Clara County, which is at the southern end of the San Francisco Bay. In this county, there are approximately 1.8 million people, almost a million of them in the city of San Jose. Some areas, or districts, of San Jose have a distinctive character and are almost like towns or small cities themselves. So in this article I’ll mention both cities and towns, but also areas or districts of San Jose, which might appeal to our European transplants. Most of my comments will reference Santa Clara County or “south bay” locations, but I will also mention others on the San Francisco Peninsula and SF Bay Area too.
Architecture, Urban Centers and Charm
It is an unfortunate negative in Silicon Valley that much of our housing consists of ranch style tract homes, and truthfully, they are not exactly a work of art. New or newer homes tend to be on very tiny parcels of land (or “lots”) and for many people may simply feel too congested or crowded. But there are beautiful residential neighborhoods – you just need to know where to look! In many ways, the areas with higher charm can make our global home buyers feel more comfortable than if they were faced with only track, ranch neighborhoods.
Do you value unique, older architecture with Victorian, Craftsman, Tudor or other home styles? Then check out these areas:
- Within San Jose: the Japantown, Vendome, and Naglee Park areas of downtown San Jose. Also in central San Jose are the Rosegarden, Shasta Hanchett and Burbank neighborhoods which all boast some lovely older homes. Or, if you love classic Spanish Revival style homes with views, consider the old Alum Rock area of San Jose near the country club (golf course). The Willow Glen area of SJ (zip code 95120) is full of lovely old established neighborhoods with historic homes and tree lined streets. If your job takes you to downtown San Jose, all of these areas will be fairly close.
- If you want a rural, eclectic atmosphere, check out the “New Almaden” area of San Jose. This is actually a county pocket with a San Jose mailing address.
- Other towns or cities with older, more interesting architecture include the “downtown” ares of Los Altos, Palo Alto, Los Gatos, Campbell, Mountain View, Saratoga and Menlo Park (in San Mateo County, just north of Palo Alto).
- If work will be on The Peninsula, there are many areas nearby that may work. San Mateo has some fantastic neighborhoods! Also San Francisco, which is tiny but full of beautiful areas, may be a strong draw (I do not sell there – it’s too far for me). Warning: the weather in San Francisco is very often COLD in summer!
- Across the bay, Berkeley has some great Victorian and other homes and several really interesting pockets, as does parts of Oakland. (I do not work these areas either as they are too far for me, but I did live in Berkeley in graduate school and can connect you with a great agent there.)
If what you want is a “walk to town“, urban experience, many of the areas above will work for you. Additionally, there are a couple of more recently built areas that might appeal to you – Santana Row in San Jose (along the Santa Clara border) or the Rivermark area of Santa Clara off of highway 237, close to the bay.