Realtors are for informed guidance, not order taking

May take your order pleaeIf you go to a fast food restaurant, you probably don’t need an advisor to help you to decide what you may want to eat.  In many cases, it would be wise if you’d consult the nutrition information chart – if it’s readily available – but aside from that, how much help do you need?

Similarly with plane reservations, you most liley don’t need a lot of help in figuring out what flight to book.  There are some nuances, though – perhaps one airline has all kinds of hidden fees for luggage, food, and hey, maybe they even want to charge you to use the restroom! Perhaps some have much better “ontime arrival” statistics or fewer lost luggage complaints. Overall, though, you don’t need an advisor most of the time.

Real estate, though, is a complicated process. It’s not like buying a seat on a plane or an ready-made meal at a fast food joint.

The mistake that some consumers make, and that I see once in awhile, is in assuming that they know as much as a seasoned real estate professional, and that input from a Realtor is of little or no value.  This happens with both home sellers and home buyers at times.  Luckily it’s not too common.

Most of the time, Silicon Valley Realtors have a great desire to help buyers and sellers by sharing their experience, insight, and wisdom.  We don’t just “take orders” and fill out listing agreements or contracts if we are full time and full service.  We are able to offer you guidance.  That’s what an agent is – a fiduciary, someone who cares for you and your interests and puts them ahead of the real estate licensee’s own position or interest (i.e., paycheck). Continue reading

Where are the mercury mines near Los Gatos, Cambrian and Almaden?

San Jose’s New Almaden Quicksilver Mine is well known and needs no introduction.  But did you know that there are many other mercury or quicksilver mines in the area? Several are nearby, just south of the Guadalupe Creek, but others are surprisingly far flung, both in Santa Clara County and throughout California.  My home buyer clients are sometimes concerned about purchasing real estate close to a natural or environmental hazard, so a few times this issue has come up: where are the mercury mines?

Quicksilver Legend for Santa Clara CountyFirst, a disclaimer that there are oodles of unmapped mines of all kinds dotting the San Francisco Bay Area, the delta, and beyond.  Approximately 31% of all mines in California are on private land.  So it may not be possible to know where each and every mine is.  However, mercury mines were big business during the gold rush and the civil war, so they may not have been so secretly guarded as a gold mine.

Today I went hunting for information on the location of mercury mines and found an online map of Santa Clara County with incredible details on not only quicksilver, but many other fascinating things: types of rock, miderals (copper), soil types, earthquake faults and so on.  This map is not all that easy to read as it requires blowing it up to well past 100% to actually decipher the numbers and geographical markers, but for the patient, it’s a gold mine – so to speak!

To see the WHOLE MAP, please click on the following link, which is a bid pdf file:

Geologic Map of Santa Clara County, California, Showing Mines and Mineral Deposits

I blew up part of it, saved it, and annotated it with just the names of the mercury mines closest to Los Gatos and Cambrian.  This is not comprehensive, of course – but I often get the question of “how close are the mines” to either Los Gatos or Cambrian, hence this focus.

Mercury mines near Los Gatos and Cambrian

Related reading on mercury

Mercury Contamination from Historic Gold Mining in Califoria (pdf from USGS)

The Legacy of Mercury Pollution in California’s Bay Area


Related reading for real estate in Almaden, Cambrian, and Los Gatos:

Hacienda Cemetery and Memorial Park in New Almaden

Almaden Valley area of San Jose (on

What Are the Advantages of Buying a Home in Almaden Valley?

Where are the high voltage power lines in Los Gatos? (Live in Los Gatos blog)

Selling a home in one of San Jose’s Almaden Valley neighborhoods? Understand home buyer concerns in 95120

List of Los Gatos neighborhoods (Live in Los Gatos blog)

San Jose – Cambrian Park (an introduction with market stats and homes for sale also, on

Italian Family Festa San Jose

Italian family festaThis weekend is the 35th Italian Family Festa, which will be held at Guadalupe River Park in San Jose, hosted by the Italian American Heritage Foundation.  It’s open to all and offers food, wine, entertainment, a grape stomp, and more.  (Part of the “more” is an arts & crafts section, but it appears to be sold out already.)  There’s bocce ball and “bambino” bocce too!

The festival will begin with the blowing of the “Il Corno Delle Alpi” or Swiss Alphorn, in honor of the rededicated Italian Cultural Village in Guadalupe River Park. A group will perform there, doing Swiss-Italian songs and dances.  Read more about this element on the San Jose Mercury News:

A few words to know:

festa = party
mangia = eat
bocce = a sport somewhat like lawn bowling, but played on gravel or a hard surface, not on grass

(Hope to see you there – I’ve never been, but spent a year of college in Florence, Italy, and traveled around that bel paese, so really feel like I’m an adopted daughter of Italia…. )

Please visit the festival’s website to get ALL the details!

Italian Family Festa San Jose
August 29, 2015 – 11:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
August 30, 2015 – 11:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Guadalupe River Park – 350 W. Julian Street, San Jose – adjacent to SAP Center – between Santa Clara and Julian Streets

High Voltage Power Lines and Public School Proximity in Los Gatos, Cambrian and Almaden

How close is too close?  For people house hunting in Silicon Valley, the quality of local public schools is often a huge priority – in fact, it’s something that most home buyers insist upon even if they intend to enroll their kids in a parochial or other private school.  Similarly, most home buyers do not want to purchase a house, townhome or condo that’s too close to high voltage power lines. Sometimes it’s just a “resale issue” to them, but other times they have health concerns and not just real estate home value concerns.

But what about the relationship between public schoools and these high voltage power lines?  If your child will be at school 35 hours a week for 9 months of the year, should that be a concern, too?  So far, only two of my buyers have made that a criteria – and when they did, it became apparent that most of the schools in the border areas of Los Gatos, Cambrian and Almaden were going to be eliminated.

A couple of years back, I mapped out the high voltage power lines using Google Maps (click on link to view it).  This morning I added a few public schools to it in a “layer”.  This is not comprehensive, as I only mapped a few in these three areas mentioned already in this article.  For the named schools, many are directly adjacent to the lines (Alta Vista, Union, Leigh, Noddin) usually on the far side of the playing field) and the furthest is about 1/5 of a mile from them (Carlton).

High Voltage Power lines in LG Cambrian Almaden

Mountain View CA real estate market trends and statistics

How’s the Mountain View real estate market? This is one of the very hottest areas within Silicon Valley and is home to a myriad of high tech companies and in a stone’s throw of others. With a charming and walkable downtown, easy access to CalTrain and a vibrant atmosphere conducive to both work and play, it is no wonder that people relocating to the San Francisco Bay Area or Silicon Valley place Mountain View squarely in their target.

All that popularity comes at a cost, though. Prices have been sky high here for years, both for rentals and for home purchasing. The good news, though, for those who take the plunge and buy: it doesn’t look like Mountain View is going to lose its appeal anytime soon.

In this article, which is updated periodically, we will include live Altos Charts which automatically update weekly (so bookmark this page!) as well as monthly insights from the Real Estate Report for Mountain View.  And time to time it will be enhanced with “in the trenches” commentary, too.

Overview of the city of Mountain View’s residential real estate market for houses:

 Here are the statistics for sales in the last two months. You can see that the average days on market have been on the rise and the inventory is steady but fairly low. Prices are up year-over-year and while the average and median prices have dropped, homes are still selling for well over list price, staying steady near 116% above, making this a very difficult market for buyers.  See the whole Mountain View Real Estate Report online here.
Mountain View Citywide Stats At A Glance as of August 18, 2015:


  • Median home prices increased by 8.3% year-over-year to $1,565,000 from $1,445,050.
  • The average home sales price rose by 5.0% year-over-year to $1,612,710 from $1,535,250.
  • Home sales fell by 0.0% year-over-year to 24 from 24.
  • Active listings fell 16.2% year-over-year to 31 from 37.
  • Sales price vs. list price ratio rose by 5.4% year-over-year to 115.5% from 109.5%.
  • The average days on market rose by 108.0% year-over-year to 30 from 15.

Compared To Last Month

  • Median home prices slipped by 17.6% to $1,565,000 from $1,900,000.
  • The average home sales price fell by 17.8% to $1,612,710 from $1,961,550.
  • Home sales down by 17.2% to 24 from 29.
  • Active listings dropped 13.9% to 31 from 36.
  • Sales price vs. list price ratio dropped by 0.6% to 115.5% from 116.2%.
  • The average days on market increased by 150.7% to 30 from 12.

Mountain View real estate market trends and data by neighborhood

My Real Estate Report drills down the data by neighborhood in Mountain View (and also Palo Alto and San Jose – the latter being very understandable as it’s amost 1 million people, rather than Mountain View’s 75,000 people).  Want to check out these areas?  Then visit, select Santa Clara County, then under city choose Mountain View, and under ZIPS select the area you want.  Here are your options there:

Please continue reading to see the data for condominiums and townhouses, plus also the live Altos Research charts for both single family homes and also condos and townhomes.

Continue reading

The real estate market in San Jose’s Blossom Valley area

The Blossom Valley area of San Jose is on the south end of the city and covers the 95123 and 95136 zip codes.  For our MLS, it’s “area 12”.  A more affordable section of Silicon Valley, Blossom Valley has much to offer in addition to more reasonable housing prices.  Many areas enjoy views of the Santa Teresa Foothills or the Communications Hill knolls or even the coastal foothills in the distance, as with the photo below. One corner of it sits alongside beautiful Almaden Lake, too. One corner is located at the crossroads of Highways 85 and 87, making it an easy commute destination for those working in downtown San Jose.  And there’s an abundance of shopping opportunities.

Blossom Valley from the Church on the Hill

Much more could be written, but let’s now instead turn to the real estate market there.

First, “live”, automatically updating Altos Charts for San Jose 95123 and 95136 and single family homes (houses and duet homes).  These use list prices, not sales prices.

The median list price of both 95123 and 95136, all prices, single family homes (houses and duet homes, if there are any).

Real Estate Market Chart by Altos Research

Next, the median list price for just the San Jose 95123 area of Blossom Valley, and separated by price quartile:

Real Estate Market Chart by Altos Research

And next, the median list price of just San Jose 95136 by price quartile:

Continue reading

How accessible should your Realtor be?

PhoneOne area of conflict with real estate professionals can be communication and expections.  The number one complaint to the National Association of Realtors regarding licensee’s behavior involves communication – or rather, the lack of it.  Too many realty professionals just don’t keep in touch enough.

That said, sometimes consumer expectations can be out of line.   At times I have run into this with people who are not currently my clients, but strangers to me who may be clients later (“prospects”):

  • people I do not know, texting me questions without even saying who they are
  • folks asking for callbacks or response on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday night
  • consumers getting frustrated if they call me, don’t reach me, but don’t leave a message so that I can phone back

Because many Realtors work much more than 5 days per week, some people have the expectation that we are always “on call”.  This is just not true – we are not always waiting by the phone for an incoming inquiry from someone we do not know.  We might be out with clients, working on an offer, preparing for a listing appointment, driving to preview homes, sitting in a signoff or doing any number of other real estate jobs in which we cannot pick up the call or respond to a text.  Training, coursework and continuing education, whether for a day or a week or online also eats into availability.  We might be doing volunteer work with our real estate board or some charitable endeavor.  Or we might be doing something personal that cannot be interrupted, as with a medical appointment.   (See “What do real estate agents do?“)  And just like everyone else, we also do need time off both from physical appointments but also from work email, running comps, and other computer or phone tasks which tend to take up a lot of time too.

A lot of times, the best reglationships happen when there’s been a conversation around availability (yours and theirs both), off time, response time, etc.  Here are some suggestions when you are just beginning to work with someone in real estate.

  1. Most Realtors would prefer that the first interaction not be by text, but instead by email or phone.  If you call, and get your Realtor live and in person, ask if now’s a good time to talk.  Many will pick up the phone not knowing if it will be a 30 second call or a 30 minute one, so do ask – he or she may only have time for the briefest of conversations right then and there.
  2. Do tell the real estate professional your full name (not “Tom from San Jose”), whether you are calling about buying or selling, and why you are reaching out.
  3. For the first call, try to be somewhat concise.  If you want to sell, I need to see your home in person, so telling me the infinite details on floor covering or curtains will not be useful right then – those items can wait.  We never want to cut someone short but if you err on the side of brief, we can always ask you for more details.
  4. If you get a voice mail message, please leave your contact info, the reason for your call, and your return number –  and say it slowly and clearly.  It is really nice if your return number is the same one you call us on.   (Realtors get a LOT of soliciations for web placement, advertising on bus benches and the like, so if you only say “This is Tom from Santa Clara, please call me back”, without anything else, you will sound like a telemarketer to us, and you may not get the call back at all.)
  5. Please allow a few hours for your call to be returned.  Sometimes we have relocation buyers in the car and it’s a marathon day before we have 2 minutes to check messages and return calls.  Most of us will try to get back to you as soon as possible.  I know that I certainly will.
  6. Sometimes, albeit rarely, there’s a lot of phone tag.  That doesn’t need to happen – worst case, set an appointment and talk when you both can clear the time for it.

Continue reading

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Mary Pope-Handy

Sereno Group Real Estate
214 Los Gatos-Saratoga Rd
Los Gatos, CA 95030
408 204-7673
Mary (at)
License# 01153805

Selling homes in
Silicon Valley:
Santa Clara County,
San Mateo County, and
Santa Cruz County.
Special focus on:
San Jose, Los Gatos,
Saratoga, Campbell,
Almaden Valley,
Cambrian Park.

Mary’s Other Sites

ValleyOfHeartsDelight website
Santa Clara County Real Estate,
and a focus on the past (in process)
Silicon Valley relocation info
Silicon Valley real estate,
focus on home selling

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