House hunting? Look not just for what’s there, but for what is missing!

Steps need handrailIf you see a driveway, you may notice that it has cracks.  If you see an air conditioner condenser unit, you may spot some rust and register it as older. There are many items you come across when house hunting in Silicon Valley that you may find to be in good or poor condition.

A little tougher is to notice what’s not there at all.

A good Realtor who’s got plenty of experience will help you find the “hidden costs” in what’s missing in a property.  Many such items may appear in a property inspection report, but wouldn’t it be nice to learn about them while viewing the property, and not while slogging through hundreds of pages?

Backing up, then, ideally you’ll get up to speed by learning, or having your real estate agent, point out to you the un-obvious.  Here are a few things to consider:

  • If there are 3 steps or more, there should be a handrail
  • A water heater in a garage should be on a raised platform
  • If a bathroom or kitchen is remodeled, there should be outlets which are GFCI protected every few feet (telltale sign of remodeling without permits is the lack of outlets)
  • A chimney stack should have a spark arrestor and a rain cap
  • A pool should be fenced (the whole yard can be fenced)
  • Many homes staged to sell have had all window coverings removed.  This makes the living areas sunnier and more appealing, but it also means the new owner will spend hundreds or thousands of dollars to get curtains, blinds, shades, or other window coverings up for needed privacy.
  • If it is a very cold, frosty morning, the roof ought to also have frost! If that is missing, the heat from the home is escaping and warming up the roof to melt it – and insulation needs to be added or improved.

When you begin to house hunt, you will find that every home has some flaws and any home purchase will involve compromises.  Do work with a real estate sales person who can and will educate you every step of the way – there are nuances at every turn.  Some agents will not want to muddy the water by pointing out relatively small items that aren’t quite right.  But learning what they are upfront will help protect you from hidden costs later – so ask to be taught.

The real estate market in San Jose’s Santa Teresa area

How’s the market in the scenic Santa Teresa area of San Jose ?  The part of Silicon Valley is usually a bit “softer” as it’s farther from most work places and the school scores are generally not super strong, either.  Right now it’s showing a somewhat stressed market with the most recent numbers being down both month over month and also year over year – not typical for Santa Clara County as a whole.

Here’s quick view of the real estate statistic and trends for just the Santa Teresa area’s single family homes (houses / duet homes):

You can read the Santa Teresa area real estate market report at this link if you’d like more details.  This particular page goes to the report for houses, but you can navigate home type to see condos / townhomes or any other area in Santa Clara County, San Mateo County, or Santa Cruz County.

 Also, please note that zip codes don’t always relate to the districts.  95138 is a great example of that as part of it is in Santa Teresa and part in Evergreen (pricey and upscale Silver Creek). Pull up the averages for 95138 and you might think all the homes are selling for around $1.4 million.  But if you look in the charming but more affordable Silver Leaf area of the same zip code, you’ll find the cost half as much – or less!  So too with 95123 (though less dramatic) as about half of that is in Blossom Valley and part in Santa Teresa.
It’s good to do a lot of research, but beware the “easy answers” of price per square foot or average sales price per zip code.  Often your best help will come from a highly experienced real estate professional who’s willing to help you to crunch the numbers (boring grunt work but not actually difficult).
Disclaimers made, here are some Altos Research numbers for the four Santa Teresa zip codes:

Real Estate Market Chart by Altos Research

You’ll note that one of the four zips is super high – this is 95138, which has a number of homes in The Ranch, a subdivision in Evergreen near Silver Creek. The part of 95138 which is in Santa Teresa is considerably more affordable, well under $1 million in the vast majority of cases. So let’s take that one out so we can get a better feel for the true pricing of Santa Teresa homes.

Real Estate Market Chart by Altos Research

Here two of the zip codes seem to be on track with each other, but 95123 is going at a different pace. Half of that area is Blossom Valley, which tends to be a stronger market. Regardless, it would seem that overall, the median list price of homes for sale in Santa Teresa has gone from the mid 600 thousands to the mid 700 thousands over the last year.  And that’s about what I have seen, anecdotally, too.

Santa Teresa homes for sale

Interested in buying a house, townhouse or condominium in the Santa Teresa area?  Below, please check out a list of available properties, listed in order of most recently added to the MLS first.


  1. 3 beds, 2 full baths
    Home size: 1,506 sq ft
    Lot size: 6,969 sqft
  2. 4 beds, 2 full baths
    Home size: 1,409 sq ft
    Lot size: 6,000 sqft
  3. 4 beds, 2 full baths
    Home size: 1,308 sq ft
    Lot size: 9,801 sqft
  4. 4 beds, 2 full baths
    Home size: 1,355 sq ft
    Lot size: 4,530 sqft
  5. 2 beds, 2 full baths
    Home size: 850 sq ft
    Lot size: 1,219 sqft

See all Real estate in the Santa Teresa community.
(all data current as of 8/1/2015)

Listing information deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Read full disclaimer.


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

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?

Continue reading

Valley of Heart’s Delight

Fruit tree in bloomThe Valley of Heart’s Delight (or Valley of Hearts Delight) is the old moniker or nickname for the Santa Clara Valley, which loosely follows the boundaries of Santa Clara County, the largest city of which is San Jose with one million residents today.  This area, together with much of San Mateo County to the north, is better known in recent times as Silicon Valley.  Agriculture gave way to high tech, bio tech, and a whole lot of people and homes.

When the first non-native people came to this area, the native people, the Ohlone, were hunter-gatherers who lived in temporary homes which could be moved with the seasons and weather changes.  The newcomers wanted to “settle” the land, plant crops, raise cattle and sheep, and pretty much transport everything from the “old world” to the new, including, of course, religion.  The California Missions and the Presedios for military sprang up throughout Alta California, to the detriment of the Ohlone people here and tribes elsewhere, in many cases.  That said, there were also some good things that happened, so I do not want to paint this whole period as 100% bad.

Eventually logging (Saratoga was a logging town) and wheat became a hugely important crop as it was necessary to feed those immigrating here for gold and a new life.  The redwood trees in the Santa Cruz Mountains were often felled for construction in San Francisco, with the logs or wood making their way north via boats docked at Alviso.  Mercury, or quicksilver, was discovered south of San Jose and the New Almaden Mine (and Guadalupe Mine) extracted it for use in munitions for the Civil War and to get gold out of the rock into which it was embedded.

When the transcontinental railroad broke through in 1869, however, it was easy and relatively cheap to bring wheat from the Midwest.  Meanwhile, fruit, nut trees, vineyards and and vegetables were thriving here: prunes, grapes, citrus of all kinds, cherries, apricots, walnuts, almonds and many more filled the Santa Clara Valley.  Prohibition (1919 1933) was hard for the grape farmers and vintners, and many of the wineries ended in ruin.  Some continued as they could make sacramental wine, and some smaller ones made it through, too, for either table grapes or for “personal use” wine only.

The valley was so beautiful that there were tour companies which would organized drives or rides to view the blossoms, hopefully at their peak. The Blossom Time Tour Company had it finely tuned to viewing the trees at the height of their blooming, which varied by crop. One tour began in Cupertino, ran through part of Saratoga and Monte Sereno, into Los Gatos over “Blossom Hill” (the tip of which is crossed on Blossom Hill Road close to Union Avenue), down Union Avenue through Cambrian Park, through part of Campbell and back into Cupertino where it had begun.

After World War II, the region saw a huge expansion and many orchards were leveled to create subdivisions in Cupertino, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara, San Jose, Los Gatos, Milpitas, Campbell, Saratoga and throughout the area.  Unfortunately, that wasn’t done well in most cases and we have “urban sprawl” with many tract homes and not enough parks in some areas.  With younger neighborhoods, like you find in Almaden and Milpitas, the park situation is a little better, and of course there are beautiful old parks dotting the valley – just not enough in some areas.

Today you will continue to find orchards, though smaller, generally.  Saratoga has its Heritage Orchard at the corner of Fruitvale and Saratoga Avenue.  Some newer neighborhoods, like Heritage Grove, include some fruit trees as part of the community.  More commonly, though, you’ll find that most houses seem to have at least one fruit tree – often a lemon – if not many.  Grapes are popular again, too.  Local fruit can be found in great abundance in the “south county”, too – a quick trip to Morgan Hill and Gilroy, especially, will give you a taste of the local past.

To read more:

The Valley of Heart’s Delight Video Providing a Peek into the Agricultural Past of Silicon Valley

The Valley of Heart’s Delight, Silicon Valley’s Old Nickname

Los Gatos Real Estate Market Trends and Statistics

The Los Gatos real estate market is varied from one price point or school district to the next, but over all, this is a stable period with some appreciation and in many cases, a warm seller’s market (as the sale price to list price ratio indicates). Most of the price gains happened last spring rather than in the last month or two.  Here are the current numbers, per my Los Gatos real estate report (click on the link for full information).

Los Gatos / Monte Sereno area (aka “area 16″ for our MLS)

Please continue reading for info on the LG condo market, and for real estate market information for Monte Sereno and the Los Gatos Mountains too. Continue reading

Saratoga, CA, Real Estate Market Update

How’s the Saratoga California real estate market?

This is a fairly comprehensive article on the Saratoga real estate market that will include the live statistics from Altos Research for listed properties (not closed) in Saratoga CA 95070, the closed sale data from the RE Report for last month in Saratoga 95070, and then the numbers I crunched for Saratoga – overall, and then by price point and high school district, as Saratoga has 3 different high school districts, each with an impact on home values.

First, let’s consider the months of inventory by price point and high school district that I crunched using, our local multiple listing service provider. (For comparison, please also see a similar article on the Live in Los Gatos blog for the town of Los Gatos – real estate market by price point and high school district.)  The months of inventory is a reference to how fast homes, townhomes, and condos, would be absorbed into the market if sales continued at the same pace and no new inventory came onto the market.  It’s often referred to as “the absorption rate” – and that can be months of inventory, weeks of inventory, or days of inventory.  A “balanced” market is somewhere around 4-5 months for us, though the National Association of Realtors says that 6 months is balanced nationwide.  Anything under 3 is a good seller’s market, and under 1 is like saying that homes are “flying off the market”.

Here’s the chart for Saratoga – all price points, all school districts.  The 1.8 months of inventory looks like a very hot market, especially since last month, but comparing across school districts you can see that this might be a bit skewed. Some areas are heating up slightly in their sellers market since last month, while others have slowed down considerably, and the small number of sales makes the average swing drastically.


And for comparison, here’s the chart from May:



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

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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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