Below please find real estate market reports for three Silicon Valley counties where I’m most active: Santa Clara County, San Mateo County, and Santa Cruz County. First we’ll provide the data for single family homes, then condos and townhomes, for each region. (“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 I don’t usually sell there, so am not covering it in my reports.)
Winter 2020-2021: Three Silicon Valley Counties
Santa Clara County Real Estate Market Report for December 2020
First, 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 area has generally come up in price about 10% since last year, though in December the median sale price is over 13% higher in 2020 than in 2019! Since the month before, but the median sales price and list price remained close to stable with both up by around 10-12% compared to 2019. Homes took about a half-week longer to sell, in December compared to November, but compared to 2019 they’re flying off the shelves! Of course, it hasn’t been even growth. While 2019 had fairly typical seasonal patterns, 2020 experienced major changes putting pressure on the market stifling spring activity and creating a sustained high demand with severely low inventory. We’re currently at a time where seasonal cooling creates a softer market, but activity is stronger than usual driving both prices and the sales to list price ratio above the averages of 2019 without significant cooling compared to summer or autumn.
And the condominium and townhouse report for Santa Clara County:
This year shows about a 8% rise in sales price for condos and townhomes since last year, and about a 2% dip in median sales price and a relatively stable median list price from last month.
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 1,800 – 2,200 SF, 3-5 bedrooms, 2-3 bathrooms, on lot sizes of 5,000 SF – 10,000 SF that have sold within the last 60 days. 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 chart.
The Cost To Buy A 4 Bedroom 2 Bath Home In…
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. Since Los Altos had no sales in the last 60 days, I have left it where it was in the last chart but cannot offer any numbers. Scroll down farther to compare this chart against past years.
Before we get into analysis, here’s a chart from October of 2019 for comparison. Back in 2019 I switched to analyzing the market using a 30 day window instead of the 60 days seen above. This short window of time was due to significant price changes over the course of the year – first dropping in the 2nd half of 2018, and climbing again in the latter half of 2019. You can see a chart from early 2019 down below.
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 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. 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 (or Similar) Areas
We’ll start off with something fairly recent, a report from April 3rd, 2019 using the same formula the October report from the same year.
April 3rd, 2019:
Aerial vew over San Jose looking east – photo by Mary Pope-Handy
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. (more…)
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.
Santa Clara County – Average and Median Sale Prices over time – single family homes only
Next, the same criteria, but for San Mateo County, which also shows rising average and median sale prices :
What can you get for your housing budget? What are you able to afford to buy in Silicon Valley?
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.