This morning I read a comprehensive article assessing the real estate market in California and several key markets within it. Normally I do not publish a post here suggesting that people read analysis elsewhere, but this is an exception, as it includes 2019 predictions that most home owners or home buyers would find of interest.
Some of the 2019 predictions are along the lines of my own thinking, including that we have to see what happens in February to understand the market’s direction, and that it seems that it will continue to be an appreciating market in 2019 (if milder, per many economists). Also the falling prices have spooked home buyers, so rather than rushing at the 20% off sale, some are waiting for prices to be cut by 65% (I wouldn’t hold my breath) or some other extreme number.
California Housing Market Report and Predictions 2018 2019
If you’d like to check out the real estate market data in Santa Clara County and other Silicon Valley communities, please visit my main blog site, ValleyOfHeartsDelight.com/blog or SanJoseRealEstateLosGatosHomes.com (the first link forwards to the second).
Other reading of interest:
Urban Living Neighborhoods in Silicon Valley and San Jose
Silicon Valley’s Apartment Rental Market
The shock of Silicon Valley housing costs: how little you can buy on a huge income
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…)
This website, Move2SiliconValley.com, provides an overview for people thinking of or planning to move to Silicon Valley. If you want to dig deeper and learn about individual Silicon Valley neighborhoods, I want to suggest that you visit some of my other websites and blogs for Silicon Valley real estate resources. Please have a look:
popehandy.com is my flagship site for Silicon Valley real estate – it includes area or neighborhood profiles for all the Silicon Valley communities (in all 4 counties) as well as information for Silicon Valley home sellers and more. Visit popehandy.com and click on “Communities” for a drop down menu listing the 4 counties and learn about the cities, towns, and areas that comprise the Silicon Valley area. (I run several sites and have many articles on them, and this is the one which covers the broadest territory.)
ValleyOfHeartsDelight.com is where I showcase my listings, and it’s the site for general real estate info in Santa Clara County and Santa Clara Valley, once known as the Valley Of Heart’s Delight. Most of Silicon Valley is in this area.
SanJoseRealEstateLosGatosHomes.com covers real estate in the town of Los Gatos and the nearby areas of San Jose, Campbell, Saratoga and more. I think it’s the best part of the Santa Clara Valley or Santa Clara County, but perhaps I’m biased. There are MANY posts with local market trends & statistics, updated monthly, for these areas plus Cupertino, Sunnyvale, Mountain View, Almaden Valley, Blossom Valley, Willow Glen, and so on – areas within Santa Clara County. (Google “real estate market” plus the city or area you’re interested in, and you likely will find an article on this site for your desired corner of the region.) Additionally, there are special research postings on the absorption rate in Los Gatos and Saratoga. Also you’ll find Silicon Valley neighborhoods described in depth, often at the subdivision level for areas such as Cambrian and Almaden. Check it out, it is a wealth of information!
For example, here’s an article on the Happy Valley neighborhood, also known as the Country Lane neighborhood:
Happy Valley neighborhood, Country Lane neighborhood – west San Jose
LiveInLosGatosBlog.com focuses on the town of Los Gatos, its neighborhoods, areas, districts, as well as events, parks, real estate for sale, the arts, schools, businesses, restaurants, and much more. A little more community and a little less real estate, but the BEST site for Los Gatos neighborhoods you’ll find anywhere. Los Gatos was once known as the “gem city” and is still a very beloved corner of Silicon Valley today, with historic neighborhoods and homes, gorgeous architecture, and a vibrant downtown. Before deciding where to live, be sure to investigate this scenic town snuggled at the base of the Santa Cruz Mountains – the gateway to the valley.
popehandy.ReReport.com is all about the statistics for Silicon Valley, including San Mateo County, Santa Clara County, and Santa Cruz County. Overall, it is very comprehensive. It features a way for you to track listings and sales near your own home, or one of interest, too.
Silicon Valley neighborhoods where I focus my real estate sales:
Obviously, 4 counties is a lot of ground to cover, and most Realtors don’t work that huge of an area in urban communities like ours. I have sold in all 4 counties, but the vast majority of my business is in Santa Clara County, where I live and where my office is located.
In general, I avoid taking on buyers in counties outside of Santa Clara County as it’s far with today’s traffic and with buyer clients it’s important to be super responsive and see new listings as soon as they are available. For that reason, I’d be happy to introduce you to a great buyer’s agent in those areas if that’s where you’d like to purchase a home. With listings it’s far fewer trips and I have more control of my time, so I’m happy to assist sellers in all of these counties.
The San Francisco and Silicon Valley unemployment rates are a huge driver of the SF Bay Area’s housing market. Today I saw real estate market info from the California Association of Realtor’s chief economist, Leslie Appleton-Young. One of her slides makes plain why the Silicon Valley real estate market is so crazy: our unemployment rate is extremely low, behind only San Francisco (where trying to buy a home is even worse than on the Peninsula or South Bay). Have a look at the data by California metro area:
San Francisco and Silicon Valley unemployment rates
San Francisco and Silicon Valley unemployment rates plus all of California by metro area
As you can see, San Francisco has a screaming hot jobs market with only 3.4% unemployment. The San Jose metro area is only slightly cooler at 4.1%. (Unfortunately there are no “Cliff Notes” to tell where the San Francisco Metro Area ends and where the San Jose Metro Area begins – so I cannot tell if San Mateo County is lumped in with Santa Clara County to the south or San Francisco County and City to the north.)
With all this hiring going on, it’s no wonder that a frequent topic of conversation is Silicon Valley traffic patterns and congestion. A few years ago, the rush hour traffic in the morning went from about 6:30 or 7am to 9am, and the evening commute times were about 4 to 7pm. Today both are extended. I find that Highway 85 in the “west valley” areas along Los Gatos, Saratoga, and Cupertino tends to still be pretty thick with cars even at 10am. The return trip from Palo Alto (where I have some doctors at Stanford Hospital) can be sluggish as early as 3pm.
Worsening traffic from low Silicon Valley unemployment rates means that Silicon Valley real estate is even more expensive than usual for close-in locations. Many San Jose area commuters spend an hour driving into work in the morning and 75 or 90 minutes driving home in the evening (for reasons I don’t understand, the evening commute is quite a bit worse than the morning one). That translates to home prices being much, much more expensive than you’d expect in places like Mountain View, Sunnyvale and Santa Clara. For a better quality of life, Silicon Valley employees will often pay dearly to get that shorter commute. If they can get the smaller commute and great public schools, the communities are the most expensive places to live, as is the case in Palo Alto, Los Altos and Los Altos Hills in particular.
Find Silicon Valley real estate and homes for sale in “close in” locations below
You’ve probably heard that buying a home in Silicon Valley is a bit like purchasing real estate in Manhattan, London, Tokyo, Paris, or other regions where the prices are in the stratosphere. It’s true. It’s a strong seller’s market.
And yet, every day, homes are bought and sold in the San Jose – Palo Alto – Foster City area. They aren’t all cash; perhaps 20-30% are bought without any loan or mortgage, but the rest of the properties are sold with some sort of financing.
Here’s a quick summary of what is needed to buy a house, condominium, or townhouse in Silicon Valley (this list applies MOST of the time and with few exceptions):
- A large down payment is needed – usually 25% or more – to win in the multiple offer situations which are the norm right now.
- Nerves of steel: it’s scary to buy a house, but here, many homes are purchased without the normal contingencies for loan, appraisal or inspection. (But home sellers do provide a full battery of inspections that you can review before making your offer in most cases.)
- The ability to move quickly and decisively as the best homes sell very, very fast – often in a week to nine days. In the last 30 days, there were 385 houses which sold and closed in the city of San Jose. Of those, 282 went under contract and became pending sales in 14 days or less. That’s 73%. In Sunnyvale the numbers were 47 and 47, so 79%. Here you need to be 110% sure. If you give off signals that you are hesitant, your offer is unlikely to be accepted.
- It’s a big help if you have a really good Realtor who’s known, liked and respected in the local real estate community. Listing agents will prefer to work with an agent who’s trusted. In some areas, like Palo Alto, many homes sell “off market” and then the full inventory tends to be known only by those local and trusted agents.
- A strong lender, especially if you are coming from abroad, who’s experienced in tracking work history, credit, etc. in other countries (and in some cases other languages). Don’t just walk into a bank and pick someone. Get a good recommendation, either from someone at your company who’s had a similar experience or from your Realtor, who should be used to working with international home buyers.
- Being clear on priorities and being able to put them in order is crucially important. It’s usually not possible to get everything on the wish list and also get it in budget. So decide which is most valuable to you: schools, commute time, home type (perhaps you can get what you want, where you want – but only if you buy a condo?), commute time or?
Those are the key ingredients. Perhaps the hardest one, when getting started, is the last one. Let’s talk about that.
Priorities list: pick any 2 out of 3
A request I often get is to find a nice sized home and yard in good shape with good schools and a commute to Palo Alto that’s under an hour. So far, so good. Then comes the desired price tag: under $1,200,000 or under $1,500,000. You can get the home, yard, schools, and commute, but it won’t be under $1.5 million for a good sized, remodeled house and a big yard with better schools. The price tag fitting that description is probably closer to $2 million due to our clogged commute routes.
One of the best areas in terms of schools and pricing is Cambrian, which is a part of San Jose, with either the Union School District or the Cambrian School District. You can get a Cambrian home with good schools for under $1.4 million and it will have a decent sized lot, be in good condition, etc. But the morning commute to Palo Alto will likely be a little more than an hour, and the evening commute perhaps 80-90 minutes, depending on where in PA or Cambrian you’re going and what time it is. A nice house in east Los Gatos with the same schools but more house and yard will probably run around $1,700,000 to $1,800,000 for 2500 SF on a 10,000 SF lot.
Cupertino has great schools but the houses there tend to start at around 1.5 million – so if you are ok with a townhouse or condo, that might work.
The upset as reality sinks in
Most home buyers, even if they’ve studied the market here intensely before arriving, go through some strong emotional stages as they learn the real estate ropes and what their budget can and cannot buy. Sometimes the main shock hits before arriving, though. Recently I got an email from someone moving here from the south, who lamented the situation with a question along these lines: “can you explain to me why home prices in Silicon Valley are 5-6 times more than they are in Atlanta?” It is that bad, yes, and I am sorry. It is upsetting. The faster you can move through the shock and upset, the sooner you’ll be able to clear the emotional clutter and buy that next home and really settle in.
Focus on the positive
The good news is, aside from the cost of housing and the traffic, San Jose – Sunnyvale – Los Gatos and whole Silicon Valley region really is a wonderful place to live. We enjoy 300 sunny days a year on average. San Jose has often been named the best place to raise kids. The intellectual climate cannot be beat as we have great minds from all over the world here. The coast is close, and so is San Francisco. If you do buy a home, appreciation may be substantial, far more than in most of the U.S., if you can “buy and hold“. (We’ve had a lot of real estate corrections and downturns since the 1940s, but look at some old Los Gatos real estate home prices then and see the buy and hold value at its best.)