Silicon Valley

Finding New Homes for Sale in Silicon Valley

Frequently, people new to Silicon Valley and the San Jose area arrive from places where their last home was new construction, and they hope to find a brand new home here, too.

Unless you are looking to purchase a condominium or a townhome, though, it can be really challenging to find truly new homes for sale here.  (There are tons of fabulous new condos in downtown San Jose, which is enjoying a great redevelopment period.)

For the most part, Silicon Valley had a post World War II housing boom that stretched primarily from the 50s into the 70s.  By the 1980s, even, most of the open space was gone.  Today we do have a few new patches of new homes “here and there”, but there aren’t many.  Unfortunately, too, since most of the best land was built up long ago, some of the newest developments are in less desireable areas such as next to freeways.

For the Silicon Valley new home buyer, I want to suggest a couple of strategies: first, in addition to checking out whatever new homes are currently being built, consider homes that are younger than 20 years of age.  Many of them are still in great shape.  Some have already been remodeled!  Another option is to look for the “fully remodeled” home.  With the latter, you must be extra dilligent to make sure that the house has not just been gussied up to be be flipped, but is truly remodeled in areas you cannot see, such as the wiring and the pipes.

Please also read:
Myths and Misconceptions about Buying a New (or Newer) Home

Some younger neighborhoods:
Introducing a Beautiful Willow Glen Neighborhood, “The Willows”
The Almaden Winery Neighborhood of San Jose

Understanding School Scores in Silicon Valley

If you are coming to the Silicon Valley area from outside of California, you may not know what to make of our school scoring system. It’s actually pretty straightforward: the API scores (Academic Performance Index) are based on a 1 – 1,000 point system. The target number for “good schools” is 800 (that’s the goal for the county). Anything close to 800 is considered decent. Over 800 is good. Over 900 is rare and is the indicator of an excellent school. Here’s an example of a very strong elementary & middle school district:

 

Browse school districts by county in CA:

Santa Clara County Schools (San Jose, Sunnyvale, Los Gatos, Saratoga, Palo Alto & most of Silicon Valley)

San Mateo County Schools (north of Palo Alto along “the peninsula” south of San Francisco, includes San Mateo, Burlingame, Hillsborough, Woodside, etc.)

Alameda County Schools (Fremont and cities & areas along the “east bay” near Santa Clara County)

Santa Cruz County Schools (Scotts Valley, Santa Cruz and areas close to the northern part of the Monterey Bay)

I’m often asked: where are the very best schools in the San Jose area?  The answer depends a lot on your expectations and possibly also the needs of your family.  If you need special services, such as support for autism or learning disorders, you may want to investigate which schools or districts have the best support. If your child plays a musical instrument, you may want to seek out the schools with a strong band program.  Or if you have a serious swimmer, you may be drawn to schools and districts with a great program there.  Not everything is measured by the API scores and sometimes you may just have to do more research to find the very best “fit”.

A note about the various school levels and API scores: while in many areas the elementary schools can be extra strong, sometimes as you go on to middle school and high school those numbers will fall a bit.  What seems to be happening is that unless all the elementary and middle schools are equally high scoring, the lower performing schools’ impact will be to pull the upper schools’ scores down.

In areas where all three sets of schools go into the 900s, home prices tend to be the highest and buyers face the most competition for real estate because so many families put a premium on education. For instance, in the city of Palo Alto (home to Stanford University), there are 18 schools in all levels.  Of those, only 2 are under 900! One of those two is 896!  Homes in Palo Alto are highly prized for many reasons, not the least of which are these outstanding scores.  And they cost a fortune.

Sartoga has more than one school district, but if kids are enrolled in “Saratoga Schools”, they will enjoy schools in the 900s – only in the 900s – all the way from kindergarden through 12th grade. And again, these homes are very, very expensive (upwards of a million dollars for a very small house).

What is a middle class family to do?  To get into a strong school district for under $650,000 is not easy in Santa Clara County, but it is possible if you can be flexible on your home’s size and condition.  There are many 3 bedroom, 2 bath homes in the wonderful Union School District or Cambrian School District in the Cambrian Park area of San Jose.  Kids in these areas get really fine schools, especially at the elementary and middle school levels, but the houses are in the 600s and 700s instead of over $1 million.  If you happen to find a short sale or bank owned home, you might be able to get it in the 500s, depending upon condition.  Most of these homes are on the small size, though, as in 1100 to 1400 square feet (smaller ranch style homes). Typically, homes in the upper 5s or mid 6s will require some updating – so being flexible on the condition is important if you want that tradeoff with the great schools.

There are other areas with high scoring elementary schools too, and some of them are more affordable than Cambrian.  Have a look at the numbers – it can be a helpful starting point in figuring out where you may want to live.

Where are the Silicon Valley luxury homes? Where are the more upscale Silicon Valley neighborhoods?

Know your neighborhoods, Luxury homesIf you are relocating to Silicon Valley and wish to choose an upscale or luxury neighborhood, where should you begin looking?  Where are the very best areas in or near San Jose?

Here are some quick lists of areas in Silicon Valley areas which enjoy beautiful estate properties:

Luxury Home Neighborhoods in Silicon Valley’s west side

Most of the more expensive parts of Silicon Valley are along the “west valley” areas, and these all enjoy excellent public schools.  If you were to look at a topographical map, they would be the cities, towns and neighborhoods close to the coastal foothills (also known as the Santa Cruz Mountains).  Or if you looked at a road map, most of them would be on the west side of Highway 85. Unless otherwise noted, the districts, cities or towns are all in Santa Clara County.

These “west valley communities” are listed from southernmost to northernmost, extending from southwestern San Jose up into the San Francisco Peninsula.

  • Almaden Valley (part of San Jose)
  • Los Gatos
  • Monte Sereno
  • Saratoga
  • Cupertino (foothills area in particular)
  • Los Altos
  • Los Altos Hills
  • Palo Alto
  • Portola Valley (San Mateo County)
  • Woodside (San Mateo County)
  • Hillsborough (San Mateo County)

These are not the only places to find high end real estate in the South Bay area, though – it’s just that most of them are located along the west valley corridor.

More Luxury Home Neighborhoods in Silicon Valley

More communities which are “exclusive” can be found:

  • The Silver Creek area of San Jose (eastside, within the Evergreen district)
  • Part of the Alum Rock neighborhood near the old San Jose Country Club (also on the east side).
  • The Rosegarden area of central San Jose
  • The Naglee Park neighborhood near downtown San Jose
  • Willow Glen enjoys some beautiful old mansions (between downtown SJ and the west side)
  •  Part of the Mission District of Fremont (Alameda County)
  • Eagle’s Ridge community in Gilroy (south part of Santa Clara County)

Something to be aware of is that many of these areas are served by more than one school district. In some cases, the different school districts can be very different in terms of school performance scores.  In Saratoga, for instance, there are 3 different districts. Two have excellent scores and the third has good scores – but very different numbers!  This can be a surprise to people who relocate to Silicon Valley: so be aware of this quirk if you move here!  (Even if you are not interested in utilizing the schools, know that they are a prime driver in home values and pricing.)

Would you like to learn more about luxury real estate & homes in Silicon Valley? I have some other blogs with posts that you might find helpful

Related posts on the Valley of Heart’s Delight blog:

Luxury Real Estate in Silicon Valley

The Silicon Valley Luxury Home Market (browse listings over $2 million in a few areas)

The Luxury Real Estate Market in Almaden, Los Gatos, Monte Sereno, and Saratoga

Monte Sereno Real Estate and Homes for Sale

Saratoga, CA, Real Estate Market Update

What Type of Home Can You Get for $1,000,000 in Silicon Valley?

Almaden Valley Housing Market by Price Point in June 2010

Real Estate Inventory & Sales in Silicon Valley’s “West Valley” Areas of Los Gatos, Saratoga, Campbell and Cambrian Park

Related posts on the Live in Los Gatos blog:

Fewer Sales, but Higher Prices, in Los Gatos & Monte Sereno

What’s Selling in Los Gatos Now? How’s the Market?

A Five Year View of the Los Gatos Real Estate Market (Jan 2005 to June 2010)

Rush Hour Traffic in Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley’s rush hour traffic can begin as early as 6:45 or 7 am and last until 9 or 9:30am most workdays.  The evening commute begins to get congested around 3 or 3:30pm with a knot of traffic in place by 5pm and lasting until around 6:30 or 7pm on some roads.

Looking for a reverse commute?  Many commuters do precisely that!

If you work in Scotts Valley (just “over the hill” in Santa Cruz County), living in Los Gatos, Campbell, Cambrian Park or West San Jose will be a reverse commute for you. You’ll be going against the flow of traffic and your commute will be immensely easier.

Ditto that if you work in the south San Jose or Edendale region and begin your commute in Almaden Valley.  Once you get to 85, it will be a breeze!

Work in Gilroy? Living in Blossom Valley or Almaden, you can engineer a reverse commute on the back roads or take Santa Teresa Blvd going south.

Most employees and workers try to carpool, take light rail, or otherwise beat the rush by using tricks of timing or alternate routes to avoid spending twice as much time on the road as necessary.  Many companies have flexible hours – it’s worth investigating to see if you can shorten the length of your time in the car!

Relocation to Silicon Valley can be a bit of a shock to people in terms of the traffic and commute times if they are not accostomed to suburban living (which is most of the valley). Typical commute times are about 30 minutes, though some people have longer or shorter commutes, of course.

Traffic moves toward downtown San Jose primarily along Highways 87, 680 and 280 and toward the Cupertino – Sunnyvale – Mountain View areas along Highway 85 (and 280). Bringing traffic in from the south county is 101.  Other roads getting a lot of use too are 17 and 880 (same road, different stretches), San Tomas Expressway, Montague Expressway, Lawrence Expressway, Santa Teresa Boulevard, Saratoga-Sunnyvale Road, Stevens Creek Blvd. and Almaden Expressway.

Tools You Can Use When Relocating to the San Jose Area

If you’re moving to San Jose, Santa Clara or Silicon Valley from out of the area, there are a few items you may want to assemble in your “toolkit” as you are choosing a place to live. Some of these you can obtain for free, online or from me. Others you’ll need to purchase.

  • A Barclay’s Locaide will not only give you a detailed view of the area, but it will also outline earthquake faults, flood plains, and other natural hazard zones you might want to know about. You can buy one at most local bookstores or online for $59.95 (see link above)
  • A School District Map of the County with school district boundaies 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
  • A Relocation Guide with community information for our various towns, cities, and neighborhoods will be immensely useful.

    San Jose is a large city, almost 1 million in population, and within it there are many districts, such as Willow Glen, Almaden Valley, Cambrian Park, Evergreen, West San Jose, Japan Town, Naglee Park, Vendome, Rosegarden, Shasta-Hanchett, Blossom Valley, Santa Teresa, Berryessa, Happy Valley, and many, many more! Additionally, there are many other cities and towns and they have their own subdivisions etc. too. So a guide to community information is imperative.  I can email you one on request. If you wish to purchase a book, a good one is the Moon Travel Handbook’s “Silicon Valley Handbook”

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.

Town and City Boundaries in Silicon Valley vs School District Boundaries

School Districts and City BoundariesIn Silicon Valley, or Santa Clara County, we have a relationship between city or town boundaries and school district boundaries that is unusual compared to most parts of the country. They just don’t always line up!

I blogged about this at my Live in Los Gatos blog awhile ago and thought this would be helpful information here for anyone relocating to SIlicon Valley:
http://www.realtown.com/LiveInLosGatos/blog/los-gatos-homes/relocating

So if you are thinking of moving to the Santa Clara Valley, it’s a good idea to get a school district boundary map in hand. Even if you don’t have kids, it’s important to understand that schools drive home values – so it matters to you whether or not you have children!

Thinking of Relocating to Silicon Valley?

If you’re thinking of moving to the San Jose area, or Silicon Valley, you probably have a lot of questions:

  1. What’s the climate like?
  2. How’s the crime?
  3. Are people friendly?
  4. Is there anything fun and interesting to do?
  5. What is the local culture?
  6. Could I be happy there?
  7. How is the cost of living?
  8. Are the schools good?

This blog will attempt to help with these kinds of questions – and others. I invite you to email me your questions and concerns so they can be addressed here!

Microclimates in Silicon Valley

Locals to the San Jose area (Silicon Valley, Santa Clara County) know, and newcomers often do not, that we have mico-climates here. Our weather is mild everywhere, of course – we enjoy a “sub tropical climate” where citrus grows and palm trees thrive – but it varies a lot nonetheless.

What kind of variation exists in Santa Clara County’s weather?

Consider that our terrain is shaped somewhat like a funnel with the San Francisco Bay on the wide end, and the two mountain ranges making up the sides of the funnel, narrowing at its base (near Morgan Hill).

Together with our funnel shaped valley, the Pacific Ocean and the San Francisco Bay are the major influencers on our climate. The Santa Cruz Mountains are warmer and wetter than the eastern foothills in winter. The Pacific Ocean brings in the rain, fog and winds pulling storms in from the ocean to the valley. Much of the weather stops at or near the coastal mountains, though, and the influence lessens as you go east such that the east foothills are very, very different from the Santa Cruz Mountains. The areas close to the bay get more breezes than those sheltered by smaller valleys or nooks.

In general, the further south you go (Gilroy, Morgan Hill, Almaden Valley), the warmer it gets.  The closer to the bay, the cooler it will be.  Areas in smaller valleys in the hills may get mini heat inversions, which trap heat, and will generally be hotter in summer than areas not so protected.

 

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Mary Pope-Handy
Realtor,
CIPS, CRS, ABR, SRES
Sereno Group
214 Los Gatos-Saratoga Rd.
Los Gatos CA 95030
[Silicon Valley, California, USA]
1-408-204-7673
mary (at) popehandy.com
CA BRE # 01153805

CIPS - Certified International Property Specialist
CRS - Certified Residential Specialist
ABR - Accredited Buyer Representative
SRES - Seniors Real Estate Specialist

Helping nice folks to buy and sell homes in Silicon Valley since 1993. Mary Pope-Handy, Realtor, Silicon Valley
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