It’s a hot seller’s market in Silicon Valley, but it’s also a time of great job growth here! Each week I get calls or emails from people considering job offers in Cupertino, Palo Alto, Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Menlo Park, San Jose and nearby. Many of these recruits are interested in areas with superior public schools.
What’s the cost of buying a house of about 2,000 square feet with 3-5 bedrooms and great schools? A few communities with better education are these: Los Gatos, Saratoga, Cupertino, Palo Alto. We’ll consider these to provide a sense of prices in similar areas.
Here’s a quick look at what single family homes have been selling for over the last three months:
- Los Gatos: mostly $1,200,000 to $2,200,000 depending on the school district, averaging about $1,700,000
- Saratoga: mostly $1,400,000 to $2,300,000 depending on the school district, averaging about $1,900,000
- Cupertino: mostly $1,700,000 to $2,100,000 depending on the school district, averaging about $1,950,000
- Palo Alto: mostly $2,000,000 to $3,300,000 depending on the school district, averaging about $2,650,000
If you are new to Santa Clara County, you may be wondering if this is correct. It is…
Please continue reading here:
How do prices compare between Los Gatos, Saratoga, Cupertino and Palo Alto?
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
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
Just read an interesting article on how important tech workers feel it is to live in Silicon Valley: Is Silicon Valley Still the Top Tech Hub? This piece reports on a survey done by Indeed Prime which found that many high tech workers do not believe that living in Silicon Valley is all that important for their careers. For all those polled, 68.3% said that living here is either “not that important” or “not at all important.”
I can almost hear local old timers saying “great, maybe we’ll get our calm environment back if they all go to Seattle, New York, or Austin!”
So what is happening? High housing costs do scare people off of living in the San Francisco Bay Area, and San Jose and nearby specifically. Recently, my 26 year old son (in high tech also – he’s a video game designer currently getting a master’s in that field) informed me that many of his old high school friends don’t feel like they’ll ever be able to afford to live here. And they are all well employed. I can see that, and it’s terribly sad.
But I don’t think you can blame the lack of attachment by tech workers generally to Silicon Valley real estate prices, because the attachment to living in the Santa Clara Valley is not uniform across all types of tech workers.
Further into this article, there’s a breakdown by age – and here it gets interesting. Many younger high tech folks find value in being here, but the interest wanes as the workers age (that could be due to housing and the availability of other alternative locations for work).
For those thinking that having a job in Silicon Valley is important or very important, the generational breakdown is as follows:
Gen X 32.5%
Baby Boomers 10.2%
Will we see a trend toward a younger, more transient population here? Time will tell. But the other places luring Silicon Valley talent share some of our same challenges. Alternative locations for high tech careers include New York (not known for being inexpensive) and Boston (also fairly pricey) as well as more affordable locations such as Austin (where prices have been going through the roof), Seattle (also seeing extremely steep appreciation in real estate costs), Washington DC, Atlanta, and Demver.
It is a very interesting bit of research and I encourage my readers to check it out.
This video is pretty good overall, though it misses some areas which are part of Silicon Valley, mispronounces the names of many areas, and refers to Gordon Moore as George Moore. Despite some errors, it’s entertaining and brief, and I think newcomers will find it helpful as an intro to the San Francisco Bay Area and Silicon Valley regions of California.
Looking for Silicon Valley homes for sale in gated communities? They are nearly non-existent in Santa Clara County, San Mateo County, Alameda County, and Santa Cruz County. But what we do have can be viewed at the search results below. The largest in San Jose will be on the east side in Evergreen – Silver Creek Valley Country Club, and nearby, a retirement community known as The Villages. On the west side there’s Rinconada Hills in Los Gatos, Rancho Deep Cliff in Cupertino, and a few places in south county as well as smaller condo complexes scattered throughout the valley.
The link above goes to a tool of mine which maps current listings taken from the MLS. Please feel free to explore this tool to filter your results and help you in your house-hunting!
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:
- San Jose is located at the southern end of the San Francisco Bay, so is part of the SF Bay Metro Area (and is about 1 hour south of San Francisco, which locals call The City)
- This sprawling city has a number of different districts or communities. 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 recently hit 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 just about the highest in the nation. 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 on housing.
- Weather is often ideal – 300 sunny days per year, so you won’t need that basement if you’re coming from someplace with long, cold winters. 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 the best place to raise a kid. Just google that 🙂
- Next to housing or real estate prices, traffic is the second biggest complaint.
Looking for more info? Here are some links:
Odor problems are a sensitive topic, whether you’re talking about someone just in from exercising or a whole town or neighborhood. Home for sale with a periodic stench? That won’t be listed in the MLS, and it may be down played in the disclosures. This can be very upsetting if you learn it only after you move in.
The most common issues in Santa Clara County seem to relate to either agricultural areas, food processing, or sewer / sewage processing. Other issues can be at dumps, areas with standing water (bad idea as this can breed disease bearing mosquitos), and food or other consumable processing plants (not common in Silicon Valley). A brewery or coffee roasting plant can be stinky at times. Get downwind of any of these and it may be unpleasant. On a much smaller scale, it’s possible to have a bad neighbor who creates an odor nuisance, making life unpleasant. I’ve had clients tell me of neighbors who “go out to their back yard and smoke pot every day”, making my client’s back yard an unpleasant place and nearly unusable. Other bad neighbor problems can be from yards with too many pets and not enough cleanup, or poor composting.
For folks relocating to Silicon Valley, though, it’s important to be aware of smelly or potentially smelly areas. The locals know about them – and you should, too.
Communities with well known odor problems
Gilroy, in the “south county” area, is well known as the Garlic Capital of the World. There’s a Garlic Festival late each July. To be sure, the smell is strong when the garlic ripens in the field. I can often smell it all the way in Los Gatos on a warm summer morning! The smell is also strong when it’s getting processed at the plant along Highway 152. Gilroy has a nice downtown area and is more affordable than most of Santa Clara County. It enjoys a Caltrain stop so offers an easier commute than most places in the San Jose area.
Morgan Hill, just a little north of Gilroy, but also in south county, has a mushroom festival (the Mushroom Mardi Gras in late May each year). Mushrooms are a super food but mushroom farms smell pretty awful. Currently, there are 3 mushroom farms in Morgan Hill. Buying in that beautiful city? Visit the area many times, at different times of the day and week. Talk to neighbors and see if you can find out if this is an issue for them – I want to note that it is not a problem everywhere. Morgan Hill is also more affordable than most of the San Francisco Bay Area, also includes a very nice downtown, and features a Caltrain stop too. (I’m told that Google and Apple buses have stops there as well.)
Milpitas, on the northeast end of the county, sometimes has problems from the wind carrying smells from a landfill near the bay on the east side of Alviso. There’s also a sewer processing plant in the same general area that may be contributing to the challenge. It’s bad enough that there’s a whole website dedicated to this problem: http://milpitas-odor.info/ This smell is not confined to just Milpitas but may be experienced in adjacent areas such as Alviso, north San Jose, northern Santa Clara, and southern Fremont, but Milpitas appears to get the brunt of it. Milpitas has really strong public schools, is “close in” and convenient for many commuters, and is not as expensive as communities on the west side of the valley with similarly high scoring schools. It’s a very good “bang for your buck” in terms of the amount of home / school you get for your money. But the odor problems have been enormous ones over the years.
The Shoreline park in Mountain View was a landfill at one time, and years ago was well known to have issues with smells and also with spontaneous combustion fires that began as the gas from composting materials somehow lit. That was almost 20 years ago and the situation has been corrected for many years now. (You can read more on that here.)
There’s a landfill in the Almaden area of San Jose near the Los Gatos border, the Guadalupe Landfill (that area was originally a mercury mine). I’m not aware of odor problems coming from this one, but due to Milpitas’s ongoing nightmare with bad smells, some of the waste that might have gone to the Newby Island landfill will now be going to Guadalupe, starting in late 2017.
What can a newby to Silicon Valley do?
First, read the disclosures very, very carefully. Often home buyers breeze through them and don’t ask probing questions on what something means. A seller may write “occasional agricultural odors” and that doesn’t sound too bad. What if that means half the time, you cannot miss the mushroom farm? Ask questions to get more info on the disclosure answers. And talk to neighbors as well as local real estate agents.
Second, learn where these items are located, if local: food processing plants, water processing plants, landfills, farms, ranches, homes with farm animals (if any). You might be surprised that in Silicon Valley you could have a 4-H neighbor who’s raising a goat or some other type of animal – it may smell or be noisy! In my east Los Gatos neighborhood, I was surprised that a neighbor about 5 houses away had goats for 4-H, and glad they weren’t any closer!
Today we’ll take a look at the housing market from a very high overview position, that is, by metro area within California. How’s the San Francisco Bay Area, which includes Silicon Valley, faring in comparison to the rest of the state? And how is the real estate market within the 9 Bay Area Counties? Have a look at the statistics to get a sense of the market at a glance. (Note: SFH stands for Single Family Homes.)
Silicon Valley is found primarily in Santa Clara County, but also substantially in San Mateo County. There are some pockets, very small, also in Alameda County and Santa Cruz County. Santa Cruz County is not considered part of the SF Bay Area, but part of the Monterey Bay Area and the Central Coast (the SF Bay area is considered Northern California.)
The cost of housing is the # 1 challenge for newcomers to Silicon Valley
For most people, the hardest issue is the cost of housing in the San Francisco Bay Area. Whether buying or renting, it’s extremely costly here. Depending on where you’re coming from, it could be man, many times more expensive. Finding affordable housing is the # 1 challenge for people relocating to Silicon Valley.
How does it compare to other places? It is close to on par with New York City, about 50% more expensive than Austin, TX, and about 1/3 more than Chicago, IL. Check Sperling’s Cost of Living comparison to get a good sense of how it relates to your current home town.
Not only are the houses, condominiums, townhouses and apartments more expensive, but most of our homes are smaller too. Continue reading