by Mary Pope-Handy | Jul 15, 2019 | FAQs, Lifestyle
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
by Mary Pope-Handy | Nov 14, 2017 | FAQs, Finances
Is it a good idea for newcomers to Silicon Valley to rent for a year, or smarter for them to purchase right away? There are many factors to consider, and even more if you are coming from another state or country.
Normally, I would suggest deciding where you want to live generally (example, Almaden area of San Jose 95120) and renting there for a bit first just to make sure it’s where you want to be. This is especially true if you have children who will be in public schools, as it can be rough on them if they change again once you’ve been here for awhile. Renting first enables you to learn the area and takes some pressure off. Also, it can take some time to move money from overseas for your down payment, so the little extra time can help there, too.
However, many people want to buy immediately and will make several trips here before the move to find and purchase a home. Often this is because they see the value in owning (tax benefits, getting kids into certain schools). I’ve had many people tell me that it helps them to establish themselves in their new community faster if they buy rather than rent.
The current market remains an impacted, strong seller’s market which has refused to let up over the last few years. With home prices trending on a seemingly endless climb, some buyers are clamoring to purchase before prices rise higher. Other potential buyers sometimes try to rent with the plan to sit out the storm until the market has cooled, but high demand has raised rental costs as well, and there’s no knowing how long it will take for the market to correct, or if it will ever correct below the current trend. For this reason, trying to wait-out the market involves a huge risk.
Back in 2013, when I originally published this post, there was a lot of focus on mortgage interest rates, which were very favorable at the time, hovering between 4.125 and 4.25%. Since most buyers use mortgage loans, the interest rate can be a big factor in budgeting the purchase. To understand the impact, let’s compare the 2013 numbers with the predicted rise that was given for 2014 to 5.4% interest.
What does this rise in interest rates mean in terms of housing affordability?
$500,000 mortgage, 30 year fixed at 4.25% = monthly payment of $2459
$500,000 mortgage, 30 year fixed at 5.4% = monthly payment of $2807
Difference = $348, or a 14% increase in the monthly payment
Or, let’s look at it in terms of buying power.
$2500 mortgage payment, 30 year term at 4.25% = loan amount of $508,192
$2500 mortgage payment, 30 year term at 5.4% = loan amount of $445,211
To summarize, a rise of interest from 4.25% to 5.4% cuts into the buying power of a $2,500 payment to the tune of almost $63,000.
For most people, the cost of waiting is a significant factor in this buy vs rent decision. My concern is that many people who elect to lease or rent for a year do not understand the risk that may accompany waiting. For most folks relocating to the San Jose or Peninsula area, the hardest thing to manage is the cost of housing. This could become substantially worse by putting off the purchase for a year, so right now I cannot recommend doing that.
Want more info? Please see my Valley of Heart’s Delight blog, with the related article
How will rising interest rates impact your home buying power?
by Mary Pope-Handy | Nov 1, 2016 | Buying Tips, FAQs, Lifestyle, Relocation
If you are moving to Silicon Valley, whether San Mateo or Santa Clara County, you should know that things are a little different in fall and winter than they are in spring and summer. Here are just a few areas that might not be intuitively obvious to the newcomers.
First, a word on appearance. In Santa Clara County, we have two primary sets of hills – one closer to the Pacific Ocean and Monterey Bay (west side), and one closer to central California (east side). Because our local weather is dominated in very large part by the Pacific Ocean, much of the weather blows in from the coast. A lot of the rain gets dumped in the coastal range, also known as the Santa Cruz Mountains. Less makes it all the way to Los Gatos, less still to downtown San Jose, and a much smaller amount to the east foothills and places such as Alum Rock Park. The coastal range (also called just “the hill” by locals) is green year round as it is full of redwoods and other trees which love the moisture. The east side, though, is more grassy, fewer trees, and gets far less rain. In winter the grasses are a lovely green. With drought or in summer, however, the grass turns brown or pale yellow.
For people coming from the east coast, the hills there are more likely green in summer and brown in winter. Here, though, it is the opposite. We don’t usually get rain in summer, so the grasses die and the hills go brown.
Rain, when we get normal patterns, usually begins in November and comes and goes between then and late April. In a typical year, San Jose gets 15-20″ of rain (Los Gatos more, the Los Gatos Mountains much much more). If we get an El Nino pattern year, temps will be warmer than usual and rain will be much more common than typical. It’s not much fun to have an El Nino year, but right now we desperately need the rain, so folks here are all hoping for it.
Second, a word on roads and travel. Silicon Valley enjoys a sub-tropical climate with mild temperatures and not too much rain, even in a normal year. With very little rain most of the time, our streets and highways can develop a dusty, oily film. Whenever we get rain after a dry spell, those highways and roads can be slicker than you might expect. It’s not that we need a ton of rain for the surfaces to become more slippery, either. A very small amount of precipitation can do the trick, so be careful!
If your destination requires going over “the hill”, be triply careful! Too many people, whether regular commuters or first time adventurers, either tailgate or drive too fast, and it can make it too easy for accidents to happen when a little weather is added into the mix. (more…)
by Mary Pope-Handy | Aug 17, 2016 | Buying Tips, FAQs
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 an eatery with A/C. Besides, locals would insist, “it’s a dry heat“.
Over the last few decades, though, central forced air conditioning has become 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) = 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
Interesting to see that 21% had no fans or other type of cooling at all and that at least 63% but possibly as much as 72% do have central forced air. If you are house hunting in the San Jose area, it’s important to realize that at least 25% of the homes on the market will not have A/C.
How necessary is air conditioning in the San Francisco Bay Area?
This has always been the old debate: do we really need air conditioning? In places like San Francisco and Santa Cruz, which are right on the ocean or bay, often the cool breezes make A/C absolutely unnecessary.
The further inland you go, the more important having it becomes. This is true both for the coast and the areas closest to the San Francisco Bay. Morgan Hill and Gilroy, in “south county” are far from the SF Bay and from the Monterey Bay. They get very hot in summer, and having a cooling system is an absolute must.
If you live in Redwood Shores or Foster City, which jut into the San Francisco Bay, it’s quite a bit cooler. Perhaps it would be a waste of money there to make that home improvement. Los Altos can be 5 or more degrees cooler than Los Gatos because it’s closer to the water. Even in Los Gatos, though, there are many micro-climates. Downtown may get strong coastal winds bringing fog from the coast, while little valleys or areas tucked behind hills can be warmer and completely calm.
How hard is it, and how expensive, to add air conditioning?
Most of the houses here are served by central forced air heat, and they have ducts for this already. If the furnace is younger, and if it is pre-plumbed for cooling, it may be simple and not too expensive (possibly around $5000 – $6000 but it depends on many factors, including home size).
It can be more expensive if:
-The furnace is older and needs replacing
-The electric panel is not sufficient – it may be necessary to add a sub-panel
-The condenser is a slim-line unit rather than a standard one
-If your house has radiant heating, electric baseboard or otherwise does not have central heating with ducts, the cost goes up very substantially.
It is always wise to take a few bids and to insist that your A/C contractor make sure that you get both permits and finals when adding it.
Many people with air conditioning find that they can run it much less by using a whole house fan and / or attic fans. These are substantially less costly to operate, so having both can keep the power bills more reasonable. (That’s what we do at our house.)
by Mary Pope-Handy | Jul 4, 2016 | Buying Tips, FAQs, For Sale, Homes for sale, Real Estate, Relocation, Silicon Valley geography
If you are searching for Silicon Valley real estate, or Silicon Valley homes for sale, you may discover that you get overwhelmed with choices and housing results.
The biggest problem is that the area is simply enormous. Most agree that Silicon Valley is an area covering Santa Clara County, San Mateo County, part of Santa Cruz County (Scotts Valley) and part of Alameda County (Fremont – and some also add Union City and Newark). It’s a lot of territory – 1,854 square miles. As of last year, this much territory was home to between just over 3 million people.
So if you are in house hunting mode, the very first thing you need to do is to understand your anchor point. The anchor point is the thing which you want to be near. For most people, that’s a work location (and in many cases, it may be 2 work locations). Sometimes it’s proximity to family members, a place of worship, a particular school or any number of things. Most of the time, the main anchor point is the place of employment and desired commute time, tempered by things like good schools, shopping, parks, things to do, and quality of life.
Narrowing the home search geographically
Moving here to work in Scotts Valley? Much of Santa Cruz County may work – but so could living in Los Gatos, Campbell or nearby, where you’d have a reverse commute.
Relocating for a job in Mountain View? Most likely, you’ll eliminate Santa Cruz County due to distance and commute challenges with Highway 17 going over the Santa Cruz Mountains.
If good public schools matter, that will help to refine your search, as not all parts of the southern San Francisco Bay Area have equally good education.
Below I’ll post sample listings from communities noted for better public schools in Santa Clara County up to 1.2 million, which seems to be a very hot price point that many relocating home buyers can afford. I do also serve San Mateo and Santa Cruz Counties, but most of my clients are looking at Santa Clara Co., so limiting this search here. Unfortunately, Alameda County (Fremont, Union City, and Newark are there) has a totally different MLS so usually I don’t work there – but am happy to introduce you to a great Realtor who does (please just email me and I will connect you).
Current Santa Clara County homes for sale in areas with good schools
by Mary Pope-Handy | Jun 14, 2016 | FAQs, Lifestyle, Recreation, Santa Cruz
One of the many lures to the San Jose area and Santa Clara County generally is the fairly close proximity of the beach at Santa Cruz, Capitola, Rio del Mar, and other scenic places that line the Monterey Bay. From most of Santa Clara County, it’s under a one hour drive. If you live in Los Gatos, it could be just half of that. That said, not all days are created equally when it comes to beach traffic. Go on a regular weekday in summer and it’s pretty much a piece of cake. Go on a weekend or holiday and it’s a whole other matter.
Capitola Beach as seen from the Pier – photo by Mary Pope-Handy
Most of the locals know this about holidays or weekends and the shore: go early or don’t go.
How early is early enough?
If you want to get over the hill before it’s stop and go traffic, I suggest 9:30am or earlier. It can be backed up as early as 9:30 or 10. Coming home from the coast, the line of cars may move sluggishly as early as 3 or 4pm if the fog rolls in early.
If you go early, you can enjoy breakfast with a bay view in Capitola on the esplanade. Or hit wonderful Gayle’s Bakery in that same town with some piping hot coffee before taking in a walk at the coast. Sometimes there may be a marine layer (fog), but it usually burns off by late morning. The beach will be fairly quiet if you arrive before the crowds. Or go a little later and have an early lunch at the Crow’s Nest at the harbor. Play in the surf and sand and return around 3:30 or so, and it will be a lot easier than a 5pm trek across the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Related reading on MPH’s other sites:
Spending Summer Days In Santa Cruz? Some Tips & Favorite Places to Share (Valley of Heart’s Delight blog)
Beach towns in Santa Cruz County (from popehandy.com)