Updated!: Mount Umunhum, Near South San Jose, Almaden Valley and Los Gatos: When Will The Public Have Access?

Updates at bottom. For original article (May 21, 2010) begin to read below:

Mount Umunhum sits high on the Santa Cruz Mountain range, and from there enjoys spectacular views. Looking inland, you can see San Jose & most of Santa Clara County, on a clear day even as far north as San Francisco from Mt. Umunhum. Turning toward the Pacific Ocean, from Mt. Umunhum’s heights you can see Santa Cruz and Monterey on a fogless day.

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What does a title company do?

Title Companies: people working togetherWhat is the function of a title company or title insurance company in real estate purchases or refinances? In Silicon Valley, and the San Francisco Bay Area and northern California generally, title companies perform two specific services:

  • provide title insurance for real estate being bought or borrowed against
  • provide escrow services, acting as the neutral third party which takes in the deposit money and holds it during the escrow period, disbursing all funds when escrow closes and having someone go to the county recorder’s office to record the deeds to complete the sale
  • Title insurance companies research the title history, find out what recorded easements may exist,reveal any encumbrances (leins, clouds on title, etc.). An escrow officer from the title company is usually the professional with a notary’s license who will sign off home buyers and sellers on the final documents, too.

    There are many other services that title companies provide. Many people wonder how to hold title, and while neither your Realtor nor your escrow officer can advise you on how to do so, the title companies all have a little 1 page handout explaining the major concepts for each option on how to hold title.

    If you need to sign off on the final documents out of town or even out of the country, the escrow officer and her or his support staff will work with you to coordinate it. (It can be a little tricky if overseas and outside of the U.S.).

    If you are selling your house or condo and discover that an old loan that you paid off is still showing up in the preliminary title report, the escrow officer at the title insurance company will work to get it resolved and removed.

    The customer service department at title companies can research the chain of title, too. Sometimes it’s quite interesting as the chain brings you back to the time of patents and land grants, with hand written deeds in a style of cursive which is somewhat foreign to us today.

    There are many other things that title companies do – big and small – and most of them are “behind the scenes” that few of us ever witness directly, but without which no one would be able to close out sales with the safety net of title insurance which we value so much.

    Title insurance can be a confusing concept, but I wrote about it elsewhere on this site.

    What Is Title Insurance and Who Pays For It?
    What is a preliminary title report? Why does it matter?

    Gilroy Garlic Festival

    GGF_2015_Flameup_3Greet the morning with the sweet smell of fresh Garlic in the air – the Gilroy Garlic Festival is back!

    If you’ve ever caught the vivid aroma of the stinking rose early in the day it’s likely a breeze coming over the southern Santa Clara County city of Gilroy, the Garlic capital of the world. Whether you love or hate the pungent allium, this herb is a favorite for many foodies in Silicon Valley and around the world.

    Gilroy celebrates their favorite bulb one weekend of the year during the Gilroy Garlic Festival, the last weekend in July. This year it’s back for the 38th annual event held on July 29, 30, and 31, 2016. So what to should you expect from “summer’s ultimate food fair?” Food, food, food, fun, shopping, music, and more!

    Gourmet Alley is “all about the food” – classics like garlic bread, garlic fries, calamari, scampi, and sausage are available at the booths, and at the end aisle, watch the Pyro-Chefs stoke up five foot tall blazes from their frying pans. Weird food lovers will enjoy a plenitude of flavors from other booths around the festival, including free samples of garlic ice-cream, alligator and buffalo meat, or ice cream in a half cantaloupe. There’s also the range of standard festival food stalls, beer, wine, coolers, and non-alcoholic chilled drinks.

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    Cambrian months of inventory

    Cambrian Park Plaza SignThe months of inventory for any part of the real estate market can vary, depending on many factors, including age of home, house size, lot size, and school district, whether or not there’s a pool, and many other things.  It can be very useful to understand this metric when selling a Silicon Valley home.  I’ve done market numbers crunching tied to the specific characteristics of a property (say, small yard with pool or big yard with no pool) to find the impact of those characteristics on the probability that a home will sell – or how fast.

    The Cambrian area of San Jose is a very “hot market” overall, but it can be confusing to know how hot it really is, just like the rest of Santa Clara County, because there are multiple school districts – and schools are probably the number one driver of home values in this highly educated valley.

    An explanation of “months of inventory”

    What does “months of inventory” mean? This figure references how long it would take to sell a property if homes continued to sell and close at the current pace with no new inventory coming on the market. A good analogy is to consider a bathtub which drains. If you add no new water to the tub, how long will it take to empty out?

    The months of inventory is sometimes called the absorption rate. The question is simple: how long will it take for the current inventory of homes for sale to get absorbed by the home buyers purchasing them?  It doesn’t have to be calculated by months. It could be in days, weeks, or years.  But months is probably most common.

    The Cambrian area of San Jose’s months of inventory as a whole, and in one price point

    Cambrian was once an enormous zone of the Santa Clara Valley. Today we mostly think of it as within San Jose in the 95124 and 95118 zip codes.  Some of it it adjacent to Campbell – a very tiny sliver is IN Campbell, and a tinier still area is in San Jose and is under the Campbell School Union District. Most of this area is in one of three elementary school districts:  Cambrian, Union, or San Jose Unified.

    Here’s the breakdown – first, for ALL of Cambrian (MLS area 14 for my Realtor readers)that’s within the City of San Jose and second, by elementary school district.  The area for Campbell Elementary is so small that the numbers are not significant (no offense to the Campbell school residents). It can just jump around too much to be helpful.  Please have a look:

    Cambrian months of inventory by elementary school district

    I highlighted the Union Elementary School District in both sets as – aside from Campbell, which has numbers too small to be reliable – it’s the hottest ticket in the district.

    The message I’d like to convey is this: you can read about information for your part of Silicon Valley, or your city or zip code, but it’s not until you drill things down to an area that closely matches your own home will you have a better sense of your own home’s “real estate marker”. It’s never “how is the market?” so much as “how’s the market for YOUR home – or the one you want to buy?”

    If you were only tracking Cambrian, you might see 1.29 months of inventory.  That’s a pretty decent seller’s market.  But it’s not nearly as good if you’re selling in the area with San Jose Unified Schools that are priced around $1 million. There, you’re looking at 2 months of inventory, while the same price point with Union Schools is only .88 of a month, or about 26 days – instead of 60!

    Years ago, I had a Willow Glen listing where the whole back yard was the pool. I did a study on the months of inventory and learned that pools in properties with that lot size took substantially more time to be absorbed.  Likewise, I had a Los Gatos estate property on an acre of land, and the reverse was also true: the months of inventory showed that large lots on $2 million and up homes for sale did not sell nearly as well without a pool.

    The math is simple:  active listings divided by the same criteria of homes sold in the last 30 days.  The criteria can be anything you like. Often I include approximately the same home and lot size together with the school district. That usually provides much more accurate info on “how’s the market” as compared to just getting it by zip code alone.

    If you are looking to buy or sell a home in Cambrian, or anywhere in San Jose or Santa Clara County, this kind of information is really important. It is not hard to do, but very few real estate agents will provide this information before you list or before you make the final determination on the list price of your home.

    Looking for a good Silicon Valley Realtor who will get you that extra data? Please call or email me. I would love to chat to see about possibly working together.

    What is earnest money?

    Earnest Money logoEarnest money refers to a home buyer’s deposit on a home that he or she is in contract to purchase.  It’s often called an earnest money deposit, initial deposit, or good faith deposit in Silicon Valley.  The terms are all interchangeable.

    How much is the earnest money?

    In the San Jose & Los Gatos areas, and Santa Clara County generally, the earnest money is usually 3% of the purchase price of the home.  It is placed in an escrow account, which is usually at a title company (in northern California that’s how it is handled – in Southern California, often there is a separate escrow company).

    Ordinarily, funds are due within 3 business days of acceptance of the contract, but that can be changed (it’s one of the few places where the CAR and PRDS contracts reference business days rather than calendar days). Some listing agents will counter back that funds need to be in title the next day after the offer is ratified. Some buyers may request more than 3 days if their funds are coming from abroad.  With competitive, multiple offer situations, buyers should anticipate needing to get the money to title fast and have it ready to go before the offer is presented so that they aren’t at a disadvantage.

    Is a cashier’s check required for the good faith deposit?

    The initial deposit does not have to be a cashier’s check, however, some listing agents and sellers may request that in a counter offer.  That’s most likely to happen in a very competitive multiple offer frenzy, and unlikely to happen if it’s just one or two bids.

    Increasingly, the funds today are wired to title, but in some cases, buyers may instead write a check. For the earnest money deposit, it may be a personal check. (At the end of escrow, it must be either a cashier’s check or a wire to bring the balance of the down payment to title. Both of these are referred to as “good funds”.)  It is important for home buyers to draft the check  correctly (not made out to just “title company”, for instance), and to understand that this isn’t a check that just sits in a drawer.  The check for the initial deposit is cashed by the escrow company as soon as they get it.  Real estate brokerages tend to prefer that Realtors don’t touch the buyer’s funds, so many are encouraging that consumers wire in funds rather than hand a check to a real estate agent.

    Phishing and wire fraud is a concern, so when sending funds in electronically it is extremely important to phone the title company and verify the specific instructions.

    Does the earnest money count as part of the entire down payment?

    Yes, if the buyer is putting 20% down on some real estate, the initial deposit is likely to be 3% and the balance of the down payment will be 17%.  The balance of funds will need to be in escrow a couple of days before closing.  Many lenders will not fund the loan on the property until and unless the buyer’s money is in escrow first.

    Can the buyers get the initial deposit back if they change their minds about buying the home?

    This is not a “one size fits all” question.  If the buyers have contingencies, it may be possible to back out of the transaction and have the full deposit returned.  If the buyer has written an offer with no contingencies, that may be an uphill battle, and time to consult with a real estate attorney, as Realtors are not qualified nor allowed to provide tax or legal advice.

     

    Related Reading:
    What is escrow? (on popehandy.com blog)
    What do international home buyers need to know about financing a real estate purchase in the United States? (on Move2SiliconValley.com – relocation site)

     

    Realtor, Realitor, Realator, Relator, Reeltur, oh my!

    Realtor Logo in BlueIn Silicon Valley, most of the licensed real estate professionals belong to local, state, and a national trade group.  There’s a name for members of these associations, in which dues paying members promise to abide by a code of ethics.  Do you know that the name is?  You’ll hear various things, even out of members: Realtor, Realitor, Realator, Relator, Reeltur.  Which is it? The answer is the first one, REALTOR.  It’s two syllables, pronounced Real-tor. (There is no a, e, i, o, or u between the REAL and the TOR parts.)

    Also, please note that being a member of the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the California Association of Realtors (CAR) and the Silicon Valley Association of Realtors (SILVAR) is not the same as being licensed. The states issue licenses for real estate sales people, brokers, and other professionals. Realtors are first licensed by the state and then voluntarily join the trade group for the industry. In California, it’s now the Bureau of Real Estate which issues the salesperson or broker licnese. (Please see the related article at the bottom of this post for more on that.)

    Looking for a Silicon Valley Realtor? A Los Gatos Realtor? A San Jose Realtor? Please call or email me, Mary Pope-Handy, to chat about your real estate needs, buying and selling a home here in the South Bay area. And please, don’t call me or anyone else Realitor, Realator, Relator, or Reeltur!

    Please also see
    What’s the Difference between a Realtor and a Real Estate Agent or Licensee?

    Do you have an agent or USE an agent?

    Meeting with home buyers to review disclosures and purchase offer documentsWords can be so revealing.

    Recently at an open house, a home buyer said that he and his wife don’t have a buyer’s agent. Later, though, he volunteered that recently they’d written an offer on a property and had “used an agent“.

    What does that tell you?

    Most Silicon Valley real estate professionals would like to have established professional working relationships with home buyers and sellers.  They want clients, not customers. Realtors put in a lot of time reviewing disclosures, pulling comps, analyzing the realty market, looking for red flags at the property and in the paperwork. The real estate salespeople or brokers want to go “all in” to help their home buying clients to buy their next home with the best price and terms possible.

    But do home buyers want the same thing that their Realtors do? I’d say usually yes – but not always. Often you can tell how committed a home buyer is by the way he or she speaks, but sometimes only in the way that person behaves. For those of us working in the industry, it’s very important to understand the client’s motivation and loyalty; spend too much time with buyers who aren’t committed to working with you and you will be in the hole financially.

    List of words that characterize the agent and home buyer relationship, such as client or customer

    Probably 15% or so of San Jose area home buyers really don’t want a relationship with a Realtor.  They’d rather go it alone.  At another open house, someone said to me that she didn’t like “feeling obligated” to anyone, and found that if she did anything with any real estate agent, that person was expecting her ultimate business.

    Yes, that is how it works.  We only get paid if a sale closes.

    In many areas of the United States, it is very common for Realtors to engage with home buyers using a Buyer Broker Contract (buyer broker agreement).  Here, it’s not so common. We prefer to work on a handshake, we prefer to work for our clients with the faith that they will reciprocate our hard work with their loyalty. Silicon Valley Realtors want to guide and assist you all the way through from before, during, and after the sale.  They do want to know that you will work exclusively with them – and not just “use” them. If that’s the working, professional relationship you have with your Realtor, it will give you benefits for years to come as that buyer’s agent can be an ongoing source of advice and guidance.

    Related Reading

    How Does the Real Estate Agency Relationship Work in Silicon Valley?
     
    Silicon Valley Home Buyers: Should You Use a Buyer Broker Agreement?

    Congress Springs Road, Saratoga’s Historic Toll Road and What it is Now

    Did you know that locals in Saratoga  once had a two-day long party to celebrate a road? Those party animals!

    Saratoga Toll Rd

    Congress Springs Road is the name given to a stretch of Highway 9 as it passes through Saratoga, where it is also called Big Basin Way. East of 35, the road follows Saratoga Creek between the Saratoga Gap Open Space Preserve and Sanborn County Park to the edge of downtown Saratoga, or Saratoga Village, near the intersection with Ambric Knolls Road (as indicated on Google Maps).

    The origins of Congress Springs Road (and this portion of 9) came from a committee of private investors in 1863 who wanted to build a road into the Santa Cruz mountains to access the expansive lumber resources around the San Lorenzo River and Pescadero Creek. Constructed between 1865 to June, 1871, the five-year project was a significant engineering feat, built by Chinese laborers through dense forest and undergrowth on steep valley slopes. The final track stretched from downtown to Saratoga Summit and was a road named the Saratoga and Pescadero Turnpike and Wagon Road.

    The project was highly anticipated and its conclusion was met with a two-day, overnight celebration. Over two-hundred attended the festivities, where colorful wagons paraded up to the Summit before stopping at a picnic and camp site to spend the night with music, speeches, and a lavish trout dinner before the trek home next morning.

    Within a year, the road was collecting tolls ranging from 25 cent to 1 dollar (based on vehicle and capacity), and had an established stage route.

    The road was purchased by the county for $5,000 on December 29, 1879 and re-named Congress Springs Road on Feb 2, 1880 after the famous Pacific Congress Springs.Congress Springs

    Don’t know this landmark? Saratoga is home to natural mineral springs, about a mile out of town, which have a similar composition to the renown Congress Springs in Saratoga, NY. A resort was built on 720 acres around the springs and opened the summer of 1866. By the 1870s, the resort was the place to be – popular with the famous, wealthy, fashionable, and elite, the resort also bottled and shipped Congress water internationally as a healthy beverage and cure for numerous maladies. The hotel featured private rooms and cottages with lush lawns, hiking, fishing (the Saratoga Creek was abundant with fish), hunting, and picnicking on the grounds, and by 1872, hot and cold mineral baths, connections with the Southern Pacific Railroad, and its own dairy, orchard, and vineyard.

    On June 15, 1903, a fire broke out in the kitchen during dinner. Despite attempts to control the fire, the hotel was decimated by the blaze. The hotel was never rebuilt and the resort slowly stagnated until it was diminished to a picnic ground and the property was purchased by the San Jose Water Works and closed to the public in 1942.

    So what is left of this many-named mountain road? Portions of it have been widened, re-engineered and paved to be a part of highway 9. Sections of the road were not used to build the highway and have since been repurposed as Saratoga Toll Road and Saratoga Toll Road Trail in Castle Rock State Park. (citation: http://www.trailstompers.com/castle-rock-state-park-trail-runs.html)

    Toll Gate in Saratoga 1850Something to clarify is that a “closer in” stretch of this road already had a toll booth on it, and a sign in Saratoga Village marks that one as having begun in 1850 – 1851. The City of Saratoga has a little historical background on that earlier toll road (see http://www.saratoga.ca.us/about/history.asp), explaining that Saratoga began as a saw mill (Los Gatos has a parallel in Forbes Mill), and that

    “In 1848, William Campbell set up shop on the banks of what is now Saratoga Creek. His sawmill was destined to be the seed of a new community, but before he could complete it, gold was discovered at the western base of the Sierras, touching off the California Gold Rush and delaying Campbell’s plans.Martin McCarty leased Campbell’s mill in 1850, and began improving access to the site by building a toll road.”

    Related reading:
    Saratoga California neighborhood map

    Want to learn more about Saratoga’s history?  Information for this post was collected from a variety of interesting sources, including these:

    Signposts II by Patricia Loomis  (wonderful book with short articles on local, Santa Clara County history, particular road and place names)

    Blog Posts:

    Online archival newspaper resources: http://cdnc.ucr.edu/cgi-bin/cdnc?a=d&d=SFC19030616.2.35

    And online book, Pen Pictures from the “Garden of the World”

    For an interesting article on the Springs: http://www.fohbc.org/PDF_Files/Saratogas_BGrapentine.pdf

    Sunnyvale real estate market trends & statistics

    Sunnyvale has been an extremely hot seller’s market for many months.   In general, houses in Sunnyvale are selling for about a million four hundred thousand dollars – if they aren’t too small or in terrible shape (or conversely palatial or newly built or remodeled).  Let’s begin with single family homes. The median list price for homes in Sunnyvale CA – all zip codes combined – interestingly, the high end homes are doing the best! (Live charts from Altos Research, which uses LIST prices, not sale prices.)

    Altos Research, median list prices by quartile

    Real Estate Market Chart by Altos Research www.altosresearch.com

    What about the numbers for the closed sales?  Now let’s have a look at the Sunnyvale CA RE Report for last month’s trends and statistics (click on link to get the full report):

    What about the condo and townhome market?

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    The Evergreen area of San Jose

    Evergreen area of San Jose (Silicon Valley)The Evergreen area is in the southeast foothills of San Jose and extends north toward Eastridge Mall. It includes a few zip codes – 95148, 95121, 95135, and a portion of 95138 (part is also “Santa Teresa” or “South San Jose”).  There’s a lot of diversity in this region – the areas in the flatlands near the Mall, Reid-Hillview Airport, and waterpark are more modest and affordable as compared to the areas further south where you’re more likely to see luxury properties (Hillstone, Bel-Aire Estates,  The Meadowlands, The Ranch on Silver Creek, Silver Creek Valley Country Club and nearby). Pricier areas feature larger lots and houses and valley or hillside views set near the golf courses (Silver Creek Valley Country Club, The Ranch Golf Club, and the Villages Golf & Country Club).

    In general, Evergreen is scenic and includes many newer homes and communities.  Many people enjoy the relative newness of construction and whole neighborhoods which are young, compared to the rest of Santa Clara County and Silicon Valley as a whole.

    Evergreen real estate market for single family homes or houses

    Please find the full report on my Real Estate Report for the Evergreen area of San Jose.

    Evergreen Stats At A Glance

    Year-Over-Year

    • Median home prices fell by 11.2% year-over-year to $1,030,000 from $1,160,000.
    • The average home sales price dropped by 10.6% year-over-year to $1,114,810 from $1,247,100.
    • Home sales rose by 14.8% year-over-year to 62 from 54.
    • Active listings fell 27.6% year-over-year to 131 from 181.
    • Sales price vs. list price ratio fell by 1.2% year-over-year to 101.5% from 102.7%.
    • The average days on market rose by 32.5% year-over-year to 32 from 24.

    Compared To Last Month

    • Median home prices slipped by 10.4% to $1,030,000 from $1,150,000.
    • The average home sales price fell by 5.7% to $1,114,810 from $1,182,410.
    • Home sales down by 1.6% to 62 from 63.
    • Active listings increased 6.5% to 131 from 123.
    • Sales price vs. list price ratio dropped by 0.9% to 101.5% from 102.4%.
    • The average days on market increased by 28.3% to 32 from 25.

    Real Estate Market Chart by Altos Research www.altosresearch.com

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    Mary Pope-Handy

    Realtor
    ABR, CIPS, CRS, SRES
    Sereno Group Real Estate
    214 Los Gatos-Saratoga Rd
    Los Gatos, CA 95030
    408 204-7673
    Mary (at) PopeHandy.com
    License# 01153805


    Selling homes in
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    Cambrian Park.

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