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.
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:
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.
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.
Keep reading for updates on the San Mateo and Santa Cruz county markets.
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!
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.
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?
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…)
Silicon Valley retirement can be challenging for those already living in the San Francisco Bay Area, but it’s even more challenging for those hoping to spend their Golden Years here if they are coming from a less expensive area. Today I want to give some info on:
- what does it cost to buy a home here (typical retirement size home)
- what are typical HOA dues
- what are typical property taxes
- what are some of the housing options that retirees or seniors have when relocating to Silicon Valley?
Silicon Valley retirement: what a modest home costs to buy here
The average sale price of a condominium in Santa Clara County is over $1 million (and it’s even more in San Mateo County), and that includes the range from most pricey to most affordable (and often most remote) locations. In most of the Unites States, a million dollars will get you a high end house on a comfortable lot. Houses are averaging around $2 million, so that is out of the question for the majority of retirees who move here from out of the area.
If a family member wants to come here to retire, most likely he or she will want to pay cash for a home so that there is no mortgage payment in retirement. If the budget is $1 million or less, that’s likely to mean purchasing a condo or perhaps a townhouse. In Santa Clara County, here’s where the money would go furthest:
A 2 bedroom, 2 bath unit…
Silicon Valley retirement costs will be vastly different between Palo Alto and Gilroy. San Jose will generally be more affordable than most of the rest of Santa Clara County except for the “South County” areas of Morgan Hill, San Martin, and Gilroy. San Jose is home to about a million people, and it has more and less expensive areas, of course.
The average sale price of a 2 bedroom, 2 bath condominium in San Jose in the last 30 days was $748,797. The average square footage was 1160 SF,
If you’re relocating because you’ve just been hired as a high level executive at Apple, Google, Microsoft or any other high tech or biotech firm in Silicon Valley, you may be coming to the San Francisco Bay Area and Silicon Valley from an enormous home (5,000+ square feet) on an enormous lot (1 acre +). You are a raging success. You are highly regarded. You are on the top of your game. Your house “back home” displays your accomplishments. What about your Silicon Valley Home?
Housing Costs & Relocation
Set Your Expectations
You’ve heard that prices are bad here, but how much worse could they really be? Surely you could downsize a bit to a 3,000 to 3,500 square foot house on a half acre with a 20 minute commute, right? And you’d still have great schools for “resale value,” right? You are prepared to give up the full basement, the pool and tennis court and the 4 car garage. That is enough of an adjustment, isn’t it?
No, I’m sorry to say, it isn’t.
That house you are leaving behind in the suburbs of New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Chicago, Denver, Miami, Seattle, San Diego, or wherever you’re coming from is a super high end luxury home. It’s probably worth $1,500,000 to $2,500,000. But guess what? Here, in a nice area, that’s a 2,000 SF house on a 10,000 lot in a good area that’s a tear down. And in traffic, it could be a +40 minute commute.
Want an acre in an area with really good public schools at all levels? Think $4 million plus. And that doesn’t mean that the house will be turn-key. You will very likely have to remodel or personalize so that you are happy with it, as most of our houses were built between the 1960s and 1980s. (Here a 25 year old home is considered relatively young.)
Why make the sacrifice to live in Silicon Valley?
One of the simplest ways of assessing the real estate market is to check the absorption rate, often called the months of inventory.
In short, it tells you the pace of home sales (beyond the simpler days on market). It informs you:
- if you’re buying, whether or not you need to hurry or if you can take your time!
- if you’re selling, this figure tells you what the odds are of your success in the next month. That could impact your selling strategy.
What is the months of inventory, or the absorption rate?
The absorption rate tells us how quickly the current inventory will be absorbed, or sold off, if sales continue at the same pace and no new inventory were to be added.
The absorption rate could be measured in days, weeks, months, years, or decades – but the most common is the months of inventory. It’s really two data points in one: the available inventory and the number of sales in a particular period of time.
If this is hard to picture, consider a bathtub. If the tub is draining, how long will it take until the water is gone if the faucet is left off and if water continues to exit the tub at the same rate? That is the pace we are considering for homes for sale.
When homes are selling fast, in 30 days or less, often the data is described as days of inventory rather than weeks or months.
What is a fast absorption rate, and what does that mean for home sellers and buyers?
A balanced rate of sales suggests that neither home sellers or home buyers have a real advantage over the other. In the United States, anywhere from 4 – 6 months is considered balanced. Less than that is a seller’s market, and more than that is a buyer’s market. The lower the number, the hotter the market.
In Silicon Valley, though, it’s almost never as high as 4 months – though it can and does happen sometimes.
For us, anything under 2 months is a hot market, and anything under 1 month is a super hot seller’s market.
Here’s a graph displaying the absorption rate for houses in Santa Clara County between January 2005 and now. The highest absorption rate was 14.2 in January 2008. It fell quickly from there with the next month at 12.4, then 10.1 in March, and eventually settling in at around 6-7 months of inventory for a period.
What are the natural hazards in the San Francisco Bay Area and Silicon Valley?
The main natural hazards to consider are:
- 100 or 500 year flood plains
- floods from dam failure or levee failure (includes rising sea and bay water levels)
- liquefaction zones (and compressible soils areas)
- landslide zones
- fire risk areas, such as the Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone
- for those with basements (few homes), radon
There are zones associated with these potential risks and those areas are delineated by the state, county, and local jurisdictions. The state level earthquake faults are those which are considered active in relatively recent years. The county mapped fault zones may not have been active in over 10,000 years and the town or city labelled areas have been dormant for much longer than that.
Where to learn about natural hazards and natural hazard zones in Santa Clara or San Mateo Counties:
Here’s a quick look at home prices by high school district and further below, also by elementary school district. This is a great way to get a broad sense of where it’s more affordable or more costly to buy a home in Silicon Valley! The numbers were for sales in June 2022.
First, the median home prices by high school district for single family homes (houses and duet homes) in Santa Clara County. (Click on the images to view a larger version of each).
The SP/LP figure refers to the sale price to list price ratio. When it says 109%, that means the home sold on average 9% over list price. Med DOM is the median Days on Market.
PLEASE CLICK THE IMAGE BELOW TO VIEW LARGER VERSION
Within each of these high school districts, there are more and less expensive areas. In the Los Gatos-Saratoga Joint Union HSD, for instance, some homes are in Los Gatos, some in Monte Sereno, and some in Saratoga – some have views and acreage, some are more modest. The figures are very broad.
Next, the same data but for condominiums and townhouses in Santa Clara County. These are far more affordable, but still very costly.
PLEASE CLICK THE IMAGE BELOW TO VIEW LARGER VERSION
The condominium and townhouse market has been strong also.
Home prices by Elementary School District
Single family homes (nearly all houses, some duet homes)
Condos and townhouse by elementary school district for June 2022:
Need similar data for San Mateo County or Santa Cruz County? Please let me know and we can get it to you.