Santa Clara County
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.)
Late-Summer Early-Autumn 2020: Three Silicon Valley Counties
Santa Clara County Real Estate Market Report for September 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 2-3% since last year, though in September the median sale price is almost 16% higher in 2020 than in 2019! Since last month, sales prices are up a hair and median list price is down approximately 2% from last month, though it is up around 10% compared to 2019. Of course, it hasn’t been even growth. Late summer 2019 and winter saw drops after last year’s highest peak in sales price around late spring. We’re currently nearing the usual seasonal start of cooling, but activity is strong with both prices and the sales to list price ratio coming above the sales averages of 2019, although still below peak prices from May 2018.
And the condominium and townhouse report for Santa Clara County:
This year shows about a 5% drop in sales price for condos and townhomes since last year, and about a 3% dip in median sales price and a stable median list price from last month.
If you’re relocating to the San Jose area, there are a few items you may want to assemble in your “toolkit” 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
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.
- 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.)
- 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
- Local concerns also include environmental ones, such as SuperFund sites. here you can see SuperFund sites in reuse (meaning offices and homes on those 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.
- 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.
In addition to natural and environmental hazards, there are big plusses that will attract new residents.
- A School District Map of the County with school district boundaries will be a big help to you here, as schools are the #1 thing that drive home values. You can buy one at bookstores or online for about $5
- If you want to read about individual communities within Santa Clara, I have an over view in popehandy.com (covers a broad area) and do market updates on many areas within SanJoseRealEstateLosGatosHomes.com (my main blog)
- PG&E’s high transmission gas lines are now mapped for the public to see.
P, G & E’s natural gas transmission pipelines map
(you’ll have to zoom in to your area)
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.
People coming from out of the area to relocate to Silicon Valley might not know what to expect from the weather in the San Jose, Santa Clara County, or Silicon Valley Area. Does this part of California ever rain? How hot is the summer? What is the climate like?
In a nutshell, this is a “sub-tropical” area, or a place that enjoys a mild “Mediterranean climate” that is most heavily influenced by the close proximity of the shoreline and the Pacific Ocean. Temps are mild, we get little rainfall compared to many parts of the country.
More specifically, we usually get about 10-20 inches of rainfall a year (less on the east and more on the west) and enjoy as many as 300 sunny days a year. Winters seldom see many hard freezes (but they can happen).
A typical summer day has highs in the mid to upper eighties but very low humidity – so it feels much cooler. Heat waves and heat inversions can run the temps up to the low to mid 100s in the hottest parts of the valley. Luckily it doesn’t happen much, or stay for long! Once in awhile, a rare storm in summer will bring high humidity and thundershowers, but for the most part, summers are dry. The hottest month is typically August.
The coldest month, usually, is December. A January day will often have a high in the 60s or 50s, depending. A cold day here is when it does not get into the 50s (not too common). By February, though, the worst is usually over and it’s even possible to have freak warm days that hit 80 degrees!
Our weather varies from year to year. Some years we get drought conditions and may require water rationing . Other years we get lots of wet weather from the Pacific – temps are warmer but there’s much too much rain: those are the El Niño years. Most often, though, winters aren’t that bad – evenings can be nippy as temps drop into the 20s on the worst nights in December or January. It will make the news that people should cover their citrus trees so they aren’t damaged by the freezing temps. Continue reading
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.
If you want to buy a Silicon Valley home and you’re coming from outside of the area, a few things are done differently here. Rather than give a lengthy explanation, I’ll just provide a quick list of things which are different from other parts of California, the U.S. or perhaps the world.
1.) The escrow account, where money is held and disbursed by a neutral third party, is ordinarily with a title company in Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area generally. In CA it’s legal for real estate brokers to have the escrow account, but that is not the custom here. By contrast, in southern Calif., there are separate companies which often do the escrow work or a real estate broker may handle the funds, called trust funds.
2.) Santa Clara County is a “seller pay county” by tradition when it comes to the escrow fee and who pays the owner’s policy of title insurance. (Most of California is either buyer pay or split 50/50. Also, SCC is where San Jose and much of Silicon Valley is located.)
3.) Because it’s a “seller pay” county, the seller or the listing agent (the seller’s real estate agent) normally chooses the title company. Most of the time, the home owners do not have a preference and don’t know anyone working at the nearby title companies, so usually the listing agent suggests which one to utilize. If you purchase the property with a loan, you will need to buy lender’s insurance, too – and that’s a buyer cost.
4.) While in many east coast states an attorney is involved with the home buying and selling process, here lawyers are seldom involved with real estate sales – unless there is a big problem.
5.) Surveys are not usually part of the transaction here, with exceptions if there are serious doubts about the property boundaries.
6.) Buyers are provided information on natural hazards, and usually also known environmental hazards and area tax liabilities, in most cases via a professional disclosure company such as JCP Disclosures. Things such as 100 year flood plains, liquifaction zones, earthquake fault lines, underground water contamination will be revealed, if known, in most cases.
7.) In some parts of the world, buyers do not have their own real estate professionals for guidance and advocacy, but here they do. Most of the time, in the San Jose and Peninsula area buyers have their own real estate agent working on their behalf. Usually the buyers’ agents are paid by the sellers – but they do not represent the sellers. Dual agency is legal in California as long as it is disclosed (and dual agency can mean either the same person or brokerage).
8.) In recent years, it has become the norm to get pre-approved with a lender or bank prior to writing a purchase offer on a house, condo or other home. (If you meet with a Realtor, getting you set up with a reputable lender will be one of the first things he or she asks you to do.) Also it’s pretty normal to have to provide “proof of funds” to demonstrate that you have the down payment available. Sometimes our international clients are surprised at the documentation required here, so it’s good if you are aware of it upfront.
9.) It usually takes 30-45 days to close escrow on a property here (from the time the sellers accept your contract to the time you actually own it).
Finally, it should be noted that the cost of housing in Silicon Valley is truly exorbitant. Most people know that Silicon Valley houses are very expensive, but until they get out and see what things cost, they really don’t understand how extreme it is. Often I tell people to expect to pay twice as much and to get half as much. Unless you are coming from a pricey locale, such as London, Tokyo, Paris, Manhattan or Boston, you may still find yourself in “sticker shock.” A half million dollars buys a fairly small, modest home here, in an average area. A million dollars is better – you can get into a better area and better house. The “luxury market” starts somewhere between 1.5 and 2.5 million, depending on which area you’re considering.
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
- San Mateo County $2884
- Santa Clara County $2552
- The San Francisco Bay Area as a whole (all 9 counties) $2451
- Alameda County $2172
- Contra Costa County $1825
These numbers are the median for the whole county in question – so in Santa Clara County, it will be a lot more if you are in Cupertino or Palo Alto or Los Gatos as opposed to the Alum Rock area of San Jose or Morgan Hill or Gilroy.
Houses are worse still. Small homes may be found for $2500 to $3000 in many areas. Places with better schools may run $4000 to $6000 per month for a home with better schools. Want the best? It’s likely to be $7000 – $8000 for a good sized, comfortable (do not read “elegant”) house with better schools – or more.
Update on August 25: I’m hearing that 1 bedroom apartments in Cupertino are running at around $2300 per month and a 2 bedroom at around $3000 per month.
Read the article in the Merc:
Bay Area rental crisis squeezing out middle class
What does it cost to buy a house in Santa Clara County? And San Mateo County? Both are home to “Silicon Valley”!
Silicon Valley is a large area, with much of it in Santa Clara County (where San Jose is the largest city with almost one million residents) and most of the rest is in San Mateo County along the San Francisco Peninsula. So what does it cost to buy a house in these areas? Today I spent some time on MLSListings.com, our local multiple listing service, and pulled the data, which I hope that newcomers will find very helpful.
Below is a chart of single family homes purchased between October 1 2013 and the end of January 2014 by price point.
Santa Clara County sales of single family homes:
As you can see, only a tiny fraction of homes sell for less than $400,000. Most people pay between quite a lot more, with many sales happening in the $600,000 to $1,000,000 range (and it’s more in the areas with best schools and short commutes, generally, so many are much higher, too). The average Santa Clara County home sales price was $1,002,119 and the average price per square foot was $526.
How about San Mateo County prices? As you may know, The Peninsula is pricier than it’s warmer neighbor to the south. But how much more will it cost you?
Santa Clara County sales of single family homes:
The average sales price was in San Mateo County for the last three months was $1,254,114 and average price per square foot was $625 (all sizes of houses and lots throughout SMC). This is about 20% than Santa Clara County.
I have been fortunate to have made 5 trips to Europe, one of them lasting 9 months, and will be returning again before the end of 2013 (this time to Belgium). It is so diverse, beautiful and compelling! Having experienced a little culture shock myself (when living in Florence, Italy, for one year of university), I’m very sympathetic about how hard an international move can be, and I understand that for Europeans moving to Silicon Valley, there can be an acute culture shock, particularly for those coming from more rural areas.
The bulk of Silicon Valley is located in Santa Clara County, which is at the southern end of the San Francisco Bay. In this county, there are approximately 1.8 million people, almost a million of them in the city of San Jose. Some areas, or districts, of San Jose have a distinctive character and are almost like towns or small cities themselves. So in this article I’ll mention both cities and towns, but also areas or districts of San Jose, which might appeal to our European transplants. Most of my comments will reference Santa Clara County or “south bay” locations, but I will also mention others on the San Francisco Peninsula and SF Bay Area too.
Architecture, Urban Centers and Charm
It is an unfortunate negative in Silicon Valley that much of our housing consists of ranch style tract homes, and truthfully, they are not exactly a work of art. New or newer homes tend to be on very tiny parcels of land (or “lots”) and for many people may simply feel too congested or crowded. But there are beautiful residential neighborhoods – you just need to know where to look! In many ways, the areas with higher charm can make our global home buyers feel more comfortable than if they were faced with only track, ranch neighborhoods.
Do you value unique, older architecture with Victorian, Craftsman, Tudor or other home styles? Then check out these areas:
- Within San Jose: the Japantown, Vendome, and Naglee Park areas of downtown San Jose. Also in central San Jose are the Rosegarden, Shasta Hanchett and Burbank neighborhoods which all boast some lovely older homes. Or, if you love classic Spanish Revival style homes with views, consider the old Alum Rock area of San Jose near the country club (golf course). The Willow Glen area of SJ (zip code 95120) is full of lovely old established neighborhoods with historic homes and tree lined streets. If your job takes you to downtown San Jose, all of these areas will be fairly close.
- If you want a rural, eclectic atmosphere, check out the “New Almaden” area of San Jose. This is actually a county pocket with a San Jose mailing address.
- Other towns or cities with older, more interesting architecture include the “downtown” ares of Los Altos, Palo Alto, Los Gatos, Campbell, Mountain View, Saratoga and Menlo Park (in San Mateo County, just north of Palo Alto).
- If work will be on The Peninsula, there are many areas nearby that may work. San Mateo has some fantastic neighborhoods! Also San Francisco, which is tiny but full of beautiful areas, may be a strong draw (I do not sell there – it’s too far for me). Warning: the weather in San Francisco is very often COLD in summer!
- Across the bay, Berkeley has some great Victorian and other homes and several really interesting pockets, as does parts of Oakland. (I do not work these areas either as they are too far for me, but I did live in Berkeley in graduate school and can connect you with a great agent there.)
The Silicon Valley real estate market is spread out over a few counties, primarily Santa Clara County but also much of San Mateo County and part of Alameda and Santa Cruz Counties. Santa Clara County is home to about 1.8 million residents, more than half of them in the big city of San Jose. The high tech companies such as Cisco, Apple, Google and more are spread out around the valley, and each neighborhood has a very different set of housing market conditions. Even so, we’ll take a broad view of the county today to give some general indicators on what you might expect when moving here.
As a whole, home prices in Santa Clara are rising due to a dire scarcity of listing inventory. On average, houses sold in December were overbid and the sales price to list price ratio was about 102%. Here are the numbers at a glance:
|Trends At a Glance||Dec 2012||Previous Month||Year-over Year|
|Median Price||$682,500||$685,000 (-0.4%)||$530,000 (+28.8%)|
|Average Price||$908,873||$885,921 (+2.6%)||$714,562 (+27.2%)|
|No. of Sales||899||903 (-0.4%)||903 (-0.4%)|
|Pending Properties||980||1,500 (-34.7%)||1,396 (-29.8%)|
|Foreclosures Sold||25||34 (-26.5%)||112 (-77.7%)|
|Short Sales Sold||154||138 (+11.6%)||229 (-32.8%)|
|Active Listings||534||782 (-31.7%)||2345 (-77.2%)|
|Active Foreclosures||22||27 (-18.5%)||173 (-87.3%)|
|Active Short Sales||39||52 (-25.0%)||980 (-96.0%)|
|Sales Price vs. List Price||102.6%||102.3% (+0.3%)||98.7% (+3.9%)|
|Days on Market||36||32 (+11.3%)||63 (-42.8%)|
Though there was a slight slippage in values from the prior month’s median sales prices, the average price was up 2.6%. More dramatically, though, prices were up 27-28% from the year before! Foreclosures and short sales are way down. Inventory is critically low, off 77% from a year earlier.
It is a very deep seller’s market in Santa Clara County. Some areas, such as Cupertino, are very difficult for buyers right now. Cupertino’s prices are already past the last peak pricing and have only about 2 weeks of inventory.
|Trends At a Glance||Dec 2012||Previous Month||Year-over Year|
|Median Price||$1,343,880||$1,325,000 (+1.4%)||$982,500 (+36.8%)|
|Average Price||$1,304,180||$1,373,820 (-5.1%)||$1,085,210 (+20.2%)|
|No. of Sales||26||27 (-3.7%)||24 (+8.3%)|
|Pending Properties||18||23 (-21.7%)||13 (+38.5%)|
|Foreclosures Sold||0||0 (N/A)||0 (N/A)|
|Short Sales Sold||0||0 (N/A)||0 (N/A)|
|Active Listings||13||26 (-50.0%)||31 (-58.1%)|
|Active Foreclosures||0||0 (N/A)||0 (N/A)|
|Active Short Sales||0||0 (N/A)||4 (-100.0%)|
|Sales Price vs. List Price||102.9%||104.4% (-1.4%)||96.4% (+6.7%)|
|Days on Market||31||33 (-5.8%)||52 (-40.7%)|
To get the full report with much more data and information for all areas within Santa Clara County, please see www.popehandy.rereport.com.