How quickly things can change. The novel coronavirus, or Covid-19, is growing at a quick speed in the US, and in Santa Clara County particularly. With the necessary Shelter in Place order across California, real estate has pretty much ground to a halt (see my related article on the coronavirus impact on real estate sales here).
Coronavirus: is work or a task essential or non-essential?
The crux of the matter comes down to what the government deems essential versus non-essential work or activity.
YES: Grocery stores, pharmacies, police, fire fighters, medical work, bankers, contractors doing home repairs (electrical, roof, plumbing) or residential construction, and title companies fall under essential. Walking one’s dog, getting exercise by walking, jogging, or biking are essential – but individuals must keep that 6′ social distance while doing so. Restaurants are essential but can only operate takeout food (link to article on my Live in Los Gatos blog about eateries offering meals and even groceries at this time). Home sales can get completed, thanks to the county recorder’s office accepting e-recordings. Notaries are allowed to meet with signers (but no real estate licensees or lenders present).
NO: Real estate in-person work is non-essential under this coronavirus order. Real estate agents must stay home, like everyone else. No showings, no appointments in person, no open houses, no meeting appraisers or inspectors. Movers are a no-go, too.
NO for now – may change? Home inspectors seem to be non-essential, but it’s possible that it could be changed a little as the home confinement for everyone continues. It would not surprise me if both inspectors and appraisers could work, but only alone, without buyers, sellers, or agents present sometime in the coming weeks. We Realtors are watching this carefully to see what happens. There’s a push for permitting virtual notarization that I suspect will go through (and become permitted at some point soon).
Appraisers are working for some lenders. Others are not. Today I got an update from my wonderful Wells Fargo lender: “For purchase and no cash out refinance, Wells Fargo will use Drive-By Appraisal report. We will prioritize the purchase appraisal order. ”
Is it possible to buy a home during the Shelter in Place order?
Technically, it is possible to get into contract right now. Closing during this coronavirus Shelter in Place period is another matter. What can happen is:
- you may write an offer with your agent and sign it using DocuSign, Authentisign, or another electronic service
- you can wire your initial deposit to the title company
- you are able to review all of the disclosures, reports, and pre-sale inspections etc. and sign them electronically
- you must meet with a mobile notary or escrow officer to sign the final documents
- the title company can record the deed electronically
All of that is good, but what cannot happen right now, under the current order, is still a big hurdle:
- Appraisers cannot visit the home (perhaps that will change?)
- Inspectors cannot go to the property (may change?)
- your agent cannot do his or her Agent Visual Inspection Disclosure (mandated, no work arounds exist)
- you cannot visit the house or condo
I would not suggest that you buy a house sight unseen, which we call a blind offer. It’s dangerous and unwise. There’s enough danger with coronavirus alone without compounding it!
My belief is that this Shelter in Place will go on for 2 or 3 months as that is what the governor of California said last night. In that case, it would be practical to allow certain real estate functions to move forward in a limited way so that people can buy and sell. It would make sense to permit private showings with clients staying 6′ away from their agents, for inspectors to visit the property with no one else present, and same with appraisers.
There is a lot we do not know. With sales pretty much stopped, we don’t know where values are. Are they falling? Are they rising? There’s no data. With the stock market falling and unemployment rising, it seems like prices should fall in real estate, but we never really know until there’s a look into the past.
We don’t know how long the situation will last. Given that there’s no vaccine, and it will be 12-18 months before we get one, it’s probable that the Shelter in Place will not stretch that whole period. But it seems probable that there will be cycles of sheltering and more liberty based on the number of cases in any given area. I believe that we will have spurts of freedom and being able to sell and close escrows between periods of home isolation.
This is an unfolding situation that seems to be changing almost daily, do expect it to change along with the number of cases of coronavirus, hospitalizations, and deaths from Covid-19. Leaders know that residents do need to buy and sell homes, and they are working on a path forward.
Meanwhile, you can work on your pre-approval, or better yet, a pre-underwritten approval which will enable you to buy faster once that is more possible.
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.
Today I compared several cities and areas using the formula: single family homes of 1800 – 2200 SF, 3-5 bedrooms, 2-3 bathrooms, on lot sizes of 5000 SF to 10,000 SF that have sold within the last 30 days (short window of time due to price changes in the last 6 months or so – first dropping in the 2nd half of 2018, and now nosing up again).
DOM means “Days on Market”, the number of days a home was listed as available before pending.
Please note that this is a rough estimate of home prices. In many areas, cities, or towns, there can be multiple school districts. In those cases, the home price will be impacted by which school district the property is located within. (If you are interested in prices for similar homes a year or two ago, please also scroll down to find similar charts and data.)
I have arranged this chart in descending order by Sales Price. This is usually how I organize the data, and you can see certain markets shifting position, moving up or down the order depending on what’s hot. To compare, below is a report from April 3rd, 2019 using the same formula.
In the past, I’ve done similar studies, but using a larger window of time to even out any aberrations.
In most cases, the most expensive and desirable places have either the best schools or shortest commute location or both. Had I ranked these for school scores, you’d find that Cambrian is fairly high up and 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).
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 if you didn’t 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. What, then?
Please use the list above 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.)
Finally, 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 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.
Want to do a deep dive on any of these areas? Please visit my Valley of Heart’s Delight Blog to learn about them.
Historical comparisons of home prices in the same / similar areas
Here’s similar info from about 22 months ago (one change is that the lot sizes used before was a range of 6,000 to 10,000 SF, and in 2019 I went down to 5,000). I also thought it would be useful to share the number of sales represented, since obviously a small number may not be truly representative of home values in today’s market.
January 25, 2018: Continue reading
Looking to get a sense of the rental prices in Silicon Valley? Today I’ll show you how to find the median rental price by zip code for homes in Silicon Valley by using my weekly Altos Research real estate market reports for Silicon Valley.
We will use Cupertino’s housing market as an example, because many high tech employees plan to work in that city. My Altos Research report for Cupertino. You can access it at this link Mary Pope-Handy’s Cupertino Market Report. When you click through, it will look something like this:
There are tabs for houses and condos, and you can toggle as desired.
On the right, you will see the market profile. Below, view one for the single family homes and one for condos. I have outlined where the median rental value shows so that you can locate it fast.
Not really wanting to live in Cupertino? Find the “Search Anywhere” field near the top and enter a city name or a zip code and you can spot check areas of interest.
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Not a rental Realtor
NB: I do not work in the rental market as 99.99% of rental homes are “for rent by owner” and there’s not a place for a Realtor in that structure. When folks first move to Silicon Valley, though, they usually want to rent for awhile, so I will sometimes provide rental info because I know it’s needed. Interested in buying or selling? Please do reach out to me! Best to start with email so that a phone call can be scheduled: email@example.com as I get a lot of spam / robo calls. However, feel free to call first if you prefer – 408-204-7673.
San Jose Districts and their Values (Feb 2018)
What’s going on with the Silicon Valley real estate market? Is it as crazy as ever with multiple offers, overbids, and few or no contingencies? Today we’ll consider the regional view, aka The Big Picture, to provide a sense of what is going on. For info on smaller areas or districts, please head over to my main blog, the Valley Of Heart’s Delight Blog – SanJoseRealEstateLosGatosHomes.com. There cities, towns, and districts are looked at in depth.
Seasonal Patterns in Silicon Valley
The quietest time (number of sales, traffic, etc.) and lowest prices in the real estate market tend to fall in January, or sometimes in December. As with most years, this time around January had the lowest prices.
Most years, we see strong buyer activity with multiple offers early in the year – often emerging as a pattern by the middle of February.
Right now, some home sellers have not accepted that home prices have dropped 20% or so since the peak last spring (more or less depending on location, pricing tier, school districts, property condition, and so on). Those properties are not moving quickly.
For sellers who understand the current market conditions and have priced appropriately, home buyers are flocking and multiple offers are back – in force.
In short, there’s a kind of duality right now, so it’s a weird time. Homes that were sitting on the market but get a price reduction may linger awhile, and then sell with multiple offers. This catches buyers and their Realtors off guard.
To provide regional Silicon Valley market conditions, today I’ll post info on the three counties (San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Santa Cruz).
In terms of expense, San Mateo is the most costly of these 3, and overall it becomes less expensive in Santa Clara County, then less expensive still in Santa Cruz County. Alameda County has a little of Silicon Valley, but that area is in a different MLS system so is not part of this analysis.
Next, a look at sale prices an market conditions for single family homes and condominiums / townhomes by county.
What does it cost to buy a house or condo in Silicon Valley?
In Santa Clara County (home to Palo Alto, Cupertino, Sunnyvale, Mountain View, San Jose, and my own Los Gatos), the average sale price is $1,413,000 and the median sale price $1,185,000 – quite a bit lower than last spring.
Santa Clara County
Please click to enlarge:
For condominiums and townhouses, of course, it is a more affordable.
In San Mateo County (home to Redwood Shores, Foster City, Menlo Park, San Mateo), the average sale price is about $1.78 million for houses recently sold. The median is a little lower at $1.425 million. Continue reading
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.
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 :
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.
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.
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.
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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.