Silicon Valley Homebuying and Bidding Wars

What do you need to know if you are shopping for a home in Silicon Valley right now?

First, you need to understand that possibly more than in any other time, it’s a deep seller’s market, meaning you most likely will be competing against multiple offers.

Homes for sale are not as abundant as normal, and there are a lot of buyers trying to purchase a house or condo in the San Jose area.  Not enough supply, too much demand equals multiple offers and rising prices.  (You can check the current Santa Clara County real estate market statistics at popehandy.rereport.com.)

Secondly, if you want a chance at buying a property in Santa Clara or San Mateo Counties, you must have a great “offer package”.

It is imperative that you have a solid down payment, 20% is a minimum standard in our area, but often it takes 25% or more to convince sellers that they should take your offer over the others. Cash is king and you may get out bid by an all cash offer, especially if it’s also a non contingent offer.

If you include any contingencies for inspections, loan and appraisal, they will have to be fairly short to compete in multiple offers.  A 17 day loan contingency is a pretty sure fire way to get eliminated from multiple bids.

Want to avoid a bidding war? You’ll have to be willing to compromise, possibly quite a lot, to be the only offer in this market! But don’t confuse being the only bidder with getting a good deal – homes that have been passed over by other buyers will have problems, some of which may not be “fixable”

Continue reading on the Valley of Hearts Delight blog:
http://sanjoserealestatelosgatoshomes.com/homebuying-in-silicon-valley-today/

Relocating from San Francisco to Silicon Valley

Coit Tower in San Francisco

Coit Tower in San Francisco

How hard could relocating from San Francisco to Silicon Valley be? It’s the same time zone, the same “San Francisco Bay Area” region, and depending on which part of Silicon Valley you target, the drive time could be all of 20 minutes – or perhaps well over an hour.

Relocating from San Francisco to Silicon Valley can be a little bit of a culture shock, which is surprising given the close proximity of the two areas.  What’s so different? In short:

  • Scenery
  • Density / Sprawl
  • Weather / Climate
  • Parking / Transit / Traffic
  • Events & Dining
  • Housing Sticker Shock

We’ll go over each of these below.

Silicon Valley Scenery

Most noticeably, the scenery is different.

You won’t be seeing the Golden Gate Bridge,  facing frighteningly steep hills, or catching a view of the Pacific Ocean from the Cliff House when you’re in Silicon Valley. Nob Hill, the Wharf, Ghirardelli Square, Union Square, Market Street, Mission Dolores, the SOMA district and so many other colorful parts of the city will be places you visit on weekends rather than drop in on some evening for supper. The scenic beauty of San Francisco may be the thing you will miss the most if you move out of that fabled city.

Beauty isn’t absent from Silicon Valley, though!  There are views of the San Francisco Bay in many places (Foster City and Redwood Shores especially).  Scenic vistas of the beautiful Santa Cruz Mountains can be enjoyed from many locations in the South Bay, especially Los Altos, Cupertino, Saratoga, Los Gatos, and the Almaden Valley in San Jose. Part of Silicon Valley reaches into North San Jose, Milpitas, and Fremont, where views of the eastern foothills can be quite lovely, too.  Some of these communities have a high elevation and can see the bay as well as the valley.
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Relocating to San Jose

Relocating? Evergreen: The Ranch with view of Downtown San Jose.

A view of Downtown San Jose on the valley floor from The Ranch community in Evergreen district on the East Valley area of Santa Clara County.

Are you mulling over a job opportunity in the tech capital of the world, Silicon Valley?  If you’re relocating to San Jose, or nearby, there are a few helpful things to know right away.  Here’s a quick primer:

Relocating to San Jose – Here are Some Quick Facts.

  • San Jose (officially named City of San José) is located at the southern end of the San Francisco Bay, so is part of the SF Bay Metro Area and about 1 hour by car south of San Francisco (which locals call The City).
  • It is located within Santa Clara County, and geographically in the Santa Clara Valley and along the foothills of the Santa Cruz and Diablo ranges.
  • This sprawling city has a number of different districts or communities, some of which have their own thriving downtown strips.  There are also quite a few school districts – school lines are not based on city or zip code boundaries.
  • The beach at Santa Cruz is anywhere from 30 – 60 minutes away from most of San Jose (assuming you don’t go at the peak of “beach traffic” timing on a weekend or holiday).
  • San Jose is also the home of Silicon Valley, which began here in Santa Clara County, but has now spread throughout the area.
  • This city is the 10th largest in the United States (though poll most people who aren’t in The Golden State and they couldn’t tell you where it is).  The population is just shy of the 1 million mark.  The county has about 1.9 million people and the Silicon Valley region (Santa Clara County, San Mateo County, and a little each of Santa Cruz County and Alameda County)
  • Home prices are reportedly on average the highest in the nation, and 5th highest in the world. The average price of a house in the area is $1 million.  And that is not for a big home, in most cases. Sticker shock is the #1 reason why some people won’t move here – and why others move away.  Rents are, similarly, high.  It’s not uncommon to hear of people spending half their income or more on housing.
  • Next to housing or real estate prices, traffic is the second biggest complaint.
  • Weather is often ideal – 300 sunny days per year, and there are many parks and open spaces to make use of it all. Winter here is pretty much just December and January, and even in January you’ll see some trees pop alive with beautiful blossoms.
  • San Jose has frequently been named one of the best places to raise a kid.

Looking for more info?  Here are some links:

Facts about San Jose, the Capital of Silicon Valley

From the City of San Jose: San José at-a-glance

San Jose is big and sprawling: where the the districts?

Browse available listings of San Jose homes for sale

 

Silicon Valley house for under $1 million

The Silicon Valley real estate market is notoriously expensive. It isn’t easy, but you can find a Silicon Valley house for under $1 million – if you are willing to drive a little further to those tech centers.

Today I did a quick search and found that it’s not too hard to find a 3 bedroom, 2 bath house with at least 1200 square feet in the south county and very scenic communities of Gilroy, San Martin, and Morgan Hill. Other possibilities are in the Santa Cruz or Los Gatos Mountains, south San Jose, Evergreen, and parts of east San Jose – among others. Here’s a map showing houses recently sold with the above listed minimum criteria within the last 90 days.

Most likely areas for finding a Silicon Valley house for under $1 million

 

Silicon Valley house for under $1 million - 3 bed 2 bath 1200 SqFt or greater sold for under $1M in 0-90 days

 

The map above shows sales within the greater area many would consider Silicon Valley, but if you’re looking strictly in South Bay, check the map below which shows hits from a similar search in December 2020.

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Air conditioning & homes

Air conditioning condenser unit newerBack 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 a restaurant, library, or theater with A/C.  Besides, as locals would insist, “it’s a dry heat”.

Over the last few decades, though, central forced air conditioning has become more 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) = 743
Of these, houses with central forced air conditioning = 457 (61.5%)
Houses with central forced air – gas = 0
With ceiling fans = 121
With wall or window units = 18
With whole house or attic fan = 17
With multi-zone cooling = 88
“Other” cooling listed = 28
No cooling of any kind = 172 (23.1%)

There may be overlap in some fields. Interesting to see that 23% had no fans or cooling listed at all and that at least 61.5% but possibly as much as 66.5% (if including multi-zone and “other”) do have central forced air.  If you are house hunting in the San Jose area, it’s important to realize that at least 23% of the homes on the market will not have any A/C. 

And from 2016:

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 (21.1%)

In just 7 years the percentages of homes listed for sale with central A/C or with no cooling haven’t changed much, however we are seeing more homes with alternative cooling advertised. This may indicate an increase in buyer interest in this feature.

How necessary is air conditioning in the San Francisco Bay Area?

This has always been the old debate: “do we really need air conditioning?” Like many things, that depends. microclimates can have a huge impact on weather.

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What do Silicon Valley view homes cost?

211 Westhill Drive, Los Gatos in Belwood - gorgeous Silicon Valley view homesPerhaps you love – even need – a good view in order to feel happy with your new home in a new place. We don’t have a lot of water view homes in Silicon Valley, though there are some of the San Francisco Bay in places – mostly either right on the shorefront or certain hillside areas. What’s easier to find are hill and mountain vistas, or valley views. So what do these Silicon Valley view homes cost?

Silicon Valley View Homes: The Market

Naturally a lot of the answer has to do with location, home size, condition of the property, and land value. If you’re looking for a turnkey +2500 SqFt home with a 20 minute commute and great schools expect to pay upwards of $3 million. In general, it’s difficult to find a house with valley views for less than $2 million unless the property needs a lot of remodeling, repairs, and updating OR is in a very remote location.

You can find plenty of Santa Clara County mountain homes for under $1 million in picturesque settings, as well as luxury ridge-top estates with picturesque valley, bay, and ocean views, however the mountains are a specialty market that’s not for everyone.

While it’s difficult to put an exact number on it, expansive and sweeping views will generally be of higher value than comparable properties with peek-a-boo views. That said, sellers – don’t forget to market your views! A good agent will know how and where to include a pleasant vista in their marketing, whether it’s capturing photos of the scene, drone footage to show off the location, greeting open house guests from the front deck, or a description of the foothills seen out the bedroom window.

Foothill Communities

I live in the Belwood neighborhood nestled beside the foothills of East Los Gatos close to Belgatos Park. A “close in” location, not out in the boondocks, assigned to the sought-after Union schools. Many of these homes are comfortably sized single family homes around 2,000 SqFt and on 10,000 SqFt lots. Over the last year (March 2022 – March 2023) in Belwood and neighboring Belmont, 14 properties sold between $2M for one of the smallest homes on one of the smallest lots in the area up to $3.65M for one of the larger homes which had been extensively remodeled.

Take that same house and move it to Saratoga with Saratoga schools, and the price would be substantially more expensive, and more still in Los Altos! Compared to some other foothill communities in the South Bay, Los Gatos offers homeowners good “bang for your buck”, at least for Silicon Valley standards. If you haven’t spent much time in this charming town, I’d invite you to check it out!

San Jose also has some popular communites in the foothills. Almaden Valley is surrounded by natural beauty with some of San Jose’s top-rated schools. Berryessa has also seen a more recent surge of interest as a good “bang for your buck” neighborhood, especially for East Bay and Penninsula commuters, with improving schools and foothill views. Cambrian has longstanding popularity for it’s commutability, highly regarded schools, and areas with hill views, as has it’s the neighboring, and slightly more affordable, Blossom Valley district.

Value of a View

Silicon Valley view homes vary in condition, size, parcel size, and many other factors. In most cases, the properties which are move-in ready will run between $2,000,000 at the low end to $5,000,000. Luxury estates and oversized lots may well cost more. We see homes in Santa Clara County priced up to around $20 million at times, and on the Peninsula sometimes much higher ceilings.

 

 

Urban Living Neighborhoods in Silicon Valley and San Jose

The Silicon Valley and San Jose areas are seeing a resurgence in the popularity of “urban living” neighborhoods. If you are looking to rent or buy a home in one of these areas, you may wonder where you can find them.

Where to experience Urban Living in Silicon Valley? Downtown San Jose - Italian Family Festa at Guadalupe Park

For those not familiar with the “urban living” name, it refers to areas of higher density and mixed use. These are areas where homes and shops are close together, sometimes even stacked, and land tends to be scarce and in high demand. In these areas residents often are not so dependent upon cars, and some sites may refer to them as “walkable” or “walk to town” neighborhoods, although that phrase is less inclusive and is being phased out.

Urban Living Neighborhoods in Silicon Valley

Here’s a quick list of areas to consider if you want the urban living experience:

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Market Reports for Three Silicon Valley Counties

Today we’ll share the market reports for three Silicon Valley Counties. These are from December 2022.

Santa Clara County, San Mateo County, and Santa Cruz County are the areas covered below. Generally, “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 we don’t usually sell there, so we are not covering it in this post.

Each section below includes first the data for single family homes and then condos and townhomes for each region.

If you’re ready to dive a little deeper, we also provide regular monthly market updates on some of the popular communities within Santa Clara County over at my Valley of Heart’s Delight blog. Scroll the most recent ones here.
December 2022: Three Silicon Valley Counties

Santa Clara County Real Estate Market Report for Dec 2022

The first of the three Silicon Valley counties is 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 county is the heart of Silicon Valley.

If you’re having trouble reading any of the charts on this page, click to open the full size image.

 

Santa Clara County real estate market trends for December 2022

The market is clearly cooling with longer days on market, fewer sales, and a falling median sales price.

The condominium and townhouse report for Santa Clara County

While it had fewer than half the sales of the single family home market, the condo and townhouse market is also experiencing similar trends.

 

Santa Clara County condominium and townhouse real estate market stats for Dec 2022

Keep reading for updates on the San Mateo and Santa Cruz county markets.

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Tools You Can Use When Relocating to the San Jose Area

If you’re relocating to the San Jose area, there are a few tools you can use for resources as you evaluate different parts of the region. When I started this website, I had books listed that you could purchase. Today, mostly I have websites that you should bookmark – for free!

Tools you can use - the Cal My Hazards Awareness map is a wonderful first step for researching natural hazards in California. Map showing San Jose with liquefaction zone.

Natural & Environmental Hazard Information Tools You Can Use

Natural hazards are found throughout the United States, often the major one people consider is the one hundred year flood plain. Here in the Golden State, we have some additional concerns relating to fire and earthquake risks.

  • California MyHazards can display a map anywhere in the state with information relating to liquefaction zones, earthquake faults, 100 year flood plains, and high fire risk areas. (The info for the very high fire hazard severity zone has not been updated, so use the Cal Fire map for that info.)
  • Cal Fire map for all of California with the high fire severity zones shown – zoom in to find the areas of concern
  • Flooding from Dam Failure (potentially caused by earthquakes as well as other possibilities) is scary. Learn more about those zones at the link I’m providing here. (As of this writing, the Approved Inundation Maps link is not working.)
  • A Barclay’s Locaide will outline earthquake faults, flood plains, and other natural hazard zones you might want to know about. This is now out of date, but you may be able to locate a used one online or see if a local real estate association of Realtors bookstore has it available.
  • Earthquake Zones of Required Investigation can be used throughout the state to identify landslide, liquefaction, and other zones relating to quakes.
  • Something else to know is that there are state mapped earthquake faults (the more active ones, such as the Hayward or San Andreas Fault) and also the city, town or county mapped fault zones (for example, the Shannon Fault). The latter may have been dormant for 11,000 years or more.
  • Buying a home? Sellers usually provide a Natural Hazard Report, an Environmental Hazard Report, and a Tax Report from a company such as JCP. This same company / site has a great amount of information on local conditions on its About the Hazards page that newcomers would benefit from.
  • When buying a home in California, consumers are given a link to download brochures, or one combined document, on a variety of hazards. I’m not sure that most of them take the time to read it, but it’s excellent info and I highly encourage anyone living in CA, whether renting or owning, to read it:
    Homeowner’s Guide to Earthquake Safety & Environmental Hazards

Environmental Hazard Zones: Research Tools You Can Use

  • Local concerns also include environmental ones, such as Superfund sites.
  • Some sites with spills, leaking underground storage tanks, or other issues can be found at this Cleanups in my community page (nationwide info)
  • Mercury, or quicksilver, was mined in Almaden (New Almaden and related mines) and east Los Gatos (Guadalupe Mine area) – it is a naturally occurring element in cinnabar. For that reason, creeks in those areas should not be entered or fished in. It can be found in other creeks and rivers, too, but primarily in Almaden. 
  • Asbestos is another naturally occurring element here. It was prized for being somewhat fire resistant and was mined under Communications Hill. It’s something to investigate if you want to live in that area.
  • Oil, gold silver, and other elements were mined here as well as granite (we still have quarries active in Santa Clara County today, a couple in the Cupertino area and one in the hills by Lexington Reservoir just outside of Los Gatos). Some old mines are not mapped if they are on private land, so one of the disclosures we have relates to unmapped, abandoned mines., which may be found in more rural pockets of the county.
  • Flooding from dam failure (dams are human made, hence it’s not a “natural” hazard ) is a risk in a large part of Silicon Valley. Most of the areas at risk from flooding due to dam failure are listed on this site. 
  • Noise pollution: use either How Loud or Noise-Map. We discussed the pros, cons, and shortcomings of these on our main blog: Measuring Noise Pollution

Other Priorities for the Tools You Can Use list

In addition to natural and environmental hazards, there are big plusses that will attract new residents.

It is also helpful to have a knowledgeable Realtor as your resource!  Please call me if you’d like assistance in your move to SIlicon Valley. I’d be happy to help you.

 

Related Reading to Tools You Can Use:

Silicon Valley liquefaction zones (on the Valley of Heart’s Delight blog)

Is there a radon risk in Silicon Valley homes? (Valley of Heart’s Delight blog)

Smoke and air quality

Silicon Valley liquefaction zones (on SanJoseRealEstateLosGatosHomes.com, our Valley of Heart’s Delight blog)

Elevation map – learn your home’s elevation (on SanJoseRealEstateLosGatosHomes.com, our Valley of Heart’s Delight blog)

Do you  have a high water table? (on our Live in Los Gatos blog)

Are fire seasons new?

What does it cost to buy a 4 bedroom, 2 bath home in the West Valley areas of Silicon Valley?

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.

 

2022-11-3 Homes 120D 4 bed 2 bath West Valley

 

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!

 

Comparing West Valley House Prices 2021-06-28

 

Now let’s have a look at that some older charts.

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