How to Choose Where to Live in Silicon Valley or Santa Clara County

How do you choose where you’d like to live in Silicon Valley?  Especially if you’re relocating here from out of the area, this can be a huge question (for more relocation-specific posts, check out my blog Move2SiliconValley.com).  Most Santa Clara County home buyers have strong preferences for low crime, good schools, and pleasant looking, quiet neighborhoods.

My clients often ask me to compare for them areas which are somewhat similar, such as Los Gatos & Los Altos. Off the top of my head, I can give general answers, such as this: Compared to Los Gatos, Los Altos is a  more expensive (perhaps 20 or 25% more?), has a very slightly smaller population, is a little more spread out,  has slightly milder weather and is overall “quieter” in terms of the downtown night life.  Los Altos is more convenient if you want to go to Palo Alto or San Francisco.  Los Gatos is more convenient if you like to visit Santa Cruz, Monterey and the coast.  Los Gatos is more mixed in terms of housing types (it still has many beautiful historic districts with nicely renovated Victorian homes, but also newer construction). Both are “nice looking” but Los Gatos has more varied terrain as it is nestled into the Santa Cruz Mountains. Both enjoy pleasant neighborhoods, good schools, lower than normal crime and community involvement.

That’s the kind of “ballpark” info I can tell people about various areas of the Santa Clara Valley, whether it’s comparing one part of San Jose to another (Cambrian Park vs Almaden Valley vs Willow Glen) or one city to another (Cupertino vs Saratoga).  I can give general info on schools.

What I can’t do (and most agents can’t) is recite from memory school API scores, median household income, housing density, crime statistics, etc.  For that we have the web!  Here are some very helpful links which can assist you in your search to find the part of Santa Clara County that’s the best fit for you, your wants, needs, and budget:

Want to compare areas in and near San Jose?  A great tool for some basic and broad information by zip code is Zip Lookup.  Input a zip code and get an easy to read map of population information like density, age, and income. For more official documentation, census data is easily searchable online through Fact Finder – just search by county, city, town, or zipcode. A good overall source for research is Melissa Data.
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What makes an offer “lowball”?

LowballSilicon Valley real estate offers few simple answers but many recurring questions. One of them is whether or not you should write a “lowball offer“. So the first question is this: what makes an offer a lowball one?

It’s entirely relative to how the market in that area (not the county, not the state, but that particular area) is selling.  If houses in one area of San Jose are selling within 1% of list price and you come in 5% under, the seller may feel insulted.  But if properties are routinely selling at 10% under list price and your offer is at 13% under, that’s not such a big deal. So keep an eye on that.

As a reality check, though – right now, and for the last year or so (as in this glance back to March, 2015), most homes in the Bay Area are selling OVER list price. Houses in Santa Clara County in March 2016 (San Jose, Los Gatos, Saratoga, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, Cupertino etc.) sold, on average, at 105.3% of list price and condos at 105.5% (these numbers come from my ReReport, updated monthly at popehandy.rereport.com/).  If homes are routinely coming in at or over list price, and you bid 3-5% under, and ask for a Section 1 pest clearance, or other contingencies, etc., this could be viewed as “lowball” given the current real estate market conditions in Silicon Valley.

Click through for the rest of the article.

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Saratoga Rotary Art Show

2014 Saratoga Rotary Art ShowIf you enjoy art, wine tasting, festivals, or leisurely time outdoors with food and entertainment, then the Saratoga Rotary Art Show should be on your list of must-do things this weekend.  The 59th annual event takes place on the campus of West Valley College from 10am to 5pm on Saturday, April 30th and Sunday, May 1st.  It is hosted by the Saratoga Rotary and is sponsored by a number of local businesses.  To get all of the details, please go to this link on the Saratoga Rotary’s website:

http://www.saratogarotaryartshow.org/

http://www.saratogarotary.org/

  1. 5 beds, 6 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 6,011 sq ft
    Lot size: 1.08 ac
  2. 4 beds, 3 full baths
    Home size: 2,670 sq ft
    Lot size: 15,768 sqft
  3. 4 beds, 1 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 1,768 sq ft
    Lot size: 1.09 ac
  4. 4 beds, 3 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 3,827 sq ft
    Lot size: 42,950 sqft
  5. 4 beds, 2 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 2,800 sq ft
    Lot size: 42,732 sqft
  6. 5 beds, 3 full baths
    Home size: 4,000 sq ft
    Lot size: 21,780 sqft
  7. 2 beds, 2 full baths
    Home size: 1,276 sq ft
    Lot size: 1,263 sqft
  8. 4 beds, 2 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 2,552 sq ft
    Lot size: 10,193 sqft
  9. 4 beds, 3 full baths
    Home size: 2,520 sq ft
    Lot size: 16,378 sqft
  10. 6 beds, 6 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 6,928 sq ft
    Lot size: 1.29 ac

See all Silicon Valley Real Estate for Sale.
(all data current as of 5/6/2016)

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

How does a multiple counter offer work?

Multiple counter offer Word CloudMany Silicon Valley home sellers receive multiple offers on a set day, often 7 to 9 days after the house or condo is first on the market.  What happens if they like a few offers and want to counter them?  One option is to issue a Multiple Counter Offer.  How does that work?

With the multiple counter offer process, the seller decides after one or more of the buyers accepts (or if they counter back and forth, or if one buyer improves his or her offer).  No matter the exact path, the seller ultimately must pick one offer and sign off on it to ratify the sale.   In other words, when a buyer agrees to the multiple counter offer terms, it’s not a done deal.  The owner must sign again to accept and select that buyer. Only then is the contract ratified.

CAR and PRDS multiple counter offer paperwork

We have two sets of contarcts, addsenda, etc. in use in Silicon Valley – the PRDS and the CAR.  The California Association of Realtors (CAR) set is used throughout the state.  The PRDS is employed from about Los Gatos to somewhere south of San Francisco on the Peninsula.  Many areas such as Almaden or Campbell may work with either.

The CAR forms library has a separate document for multiple counter offers. Near the bottom of the page, there’s a place for the seller to sign when selecting a buyer for the sale.  Unless this is signed, the buyer doesn’t have the deal.

CAR Multiple Counter Offer

The Peninsula Regional Data Service (PRDS) form is not separate – it’s the same document used for just a single, binding counter offer.  However, at the bottom, there’s a place to indicate if it is a multiple counter offer.  Here’s how it looks:

PRDS Counter offer and multiple counter offer form

Obviously, it is extremely important to notice whether you’re receiving a regular counter offer or a multiple counter offer.  But either way, it’s clear that the seller must agree to choose one of the willing buyers.  Just pay attention to the details!

Are the price and terms of multiple counter offers all the same?

When a seller responds with a multiple counter offer, the price and terms could be the same for all of the bidders.  Most of the time, though, that’s not the case – the price and terms are not identical between one bidder and the next.  There are many possible reasons for this.

  1. There may be an offer with great terms (
  2. all cash
  3. Another potential buyer may have a strong price but not so hot terms (long contingencies, too many contingencies, less than ideal downpayment or financing).  A good example might be a sky high price with 5% down and FHA backed financing and an appraisal contingency (but money available that the buyer just doesn’t want to put in the down payment).  The seller may only counter out the appraisal contingency.   Other times the offer may be great but the contingencies are just too long, so the seller asks for them to be shortened.
  4. Sometimes all the issues are relatively small, such as whether or not the washer, dryer and fridge stay, or how much to pay for a rent back.
  5. Some sellers approach multiple counter offers the way some high school seniors approach college applications and target a “safety” price, a probably attainable price, and a “reach” price – and put three different numbers out there.
  6. I have seen sellers who were annoyed by rude buyers (or their agents) give the unpleasant people a sky high counter.  (The period before the offer deadline is the courtship, and buyers really need to be on their best behavior with both the seller and the listing agent.)

Anything else to know about multiple counter offers?

Two more things to know:  first, some buyers, when given a multiple counter offer, won’t just say yes or no.  Truly motivated and capable buyers sometimes instead just submit a better offer (redoing page 1 with a larger offer price, for instance).   Don’t assume that you won’t get uprooted, even if the listing agent tells you something leading like “it’s looking good for you” (which shouldn’t happen but sometimes may).  As long as the counter is in play, someone else can come in and get it.

And lastly, a good attitude and looking “rock solid” and sure can sometimes win the bid.  Not every seller does this, but it’s not uncommon for a home owner to take the first multiple counter offer returned with an acceptance.  The reason is that they want to sell to someone who is so sure that there’s no hesitation.

What sells? An infographic from the National Association of Realtors

The infographic below is from my trade organization, the National Association of Realtors.  The statistics are, naturally, national.  What I tell my home buyers is that it’s imperative to look for something with “enduring value” like a short commute, good schools, or both.  But enjoying a nice view or attractive architecture is also enduring.  Check out the national trends.  Do any of these surprise you?

Why types of homes sell best?

Residential Wood Burning: What You Can and Cannot Do

Fireplace with Lone Hill Quarry Stone.pngMore likely than not, you either own or have shopped for Silicon Valley homes with fireplaces. In that case, you’ve likely also heard tale about the new law that would force homeowners to replace older fireplaces with new gas only ones or decommission them entirely before selling. Let me quash those rumors now – homeowners with wood-burning fireplaces do not automatically need to replace them at the sale of the property at this time. But what’s behind the rumor anyway?

History

About a year ago, there were proposed regulations in place that were going to make stipulations for home sellers with older fireplace in the San Francisco Bay Area, including San Jose, Los Gatos, and nearby. Amendments have since been made to the ordinance, removing this requirement. These were part of Regulation 6, Rule 3: Wood-Burning Devices, which was adopted in July 2008 to regulate and improve air pollution levels for the health of the Bay Area community (Wood Burning Regulation). Its immediate effect was to enforce Winter Spare the Air Alerts and Mandatory Burn Bans. The regulation also stated numerous rules that would be effective at future dates (mostly beginning November 1, 2015/6), including many that will be passed this year and in the future, up to 2020. So, while you don’t need to worry about replacing your fireplace before you sell, there’s plenty to be aware of when you use, replace, repair, and install your fireplace – and you may still need to replace it.

Pollution

Smokey sky from fire June 2008With 1.4 million woodstoves and fireplaces around the Bay Area, it’s no surprise they make up a major part in the region’s air pollution – approximately one third of winter pollution! That’s greater than the amount of pollution caused by vehicles. Burning solid fuels produces what is known as soot, or more scientifically, PM2.5, which stands for Particulate Matter with diameter of 2.5 microns or less (Ordinance). These particles in the air are a form of pollution which is so fine that when breathed in it can penetrate deep into the lungs and even enter the blood stream. Wood smoke contains a group of compounds that are similar to second-hand cigarette smoke and are likewise hazardous (2012 flier). Studies show that this type of pollution can cause a variety of health conditions which can put undue stress on individuals with weak respiratory or cardiovascular systems. Apparently 1 in 7 Bay Area residents has a respiratory condition, and these folks of course are more vulnerable to problems from pollution. Immediate effects might be watery eyes and coughing, while long-term exposure to polluted air can permanently harm lung function, capacity, and development – possibly instigating diseases like asthma and bronchitis. “Eliminating residential wood burning during a Winter Spare the Air Alert can reduce soot in the Bay Area by 35 tons each day” (Wood Burning Regulations Flier). On top of the particulate pollution, wood smoke also contains a variety of gases, including toxins like dioxin (Wood Burning Regulations Flier).

But why winter? What about summer barbeques? Weather is important in regard to the displacement of these polluters. Spare the Air Alerts are hardly ever called when it’s been raining. Cold, still weather conditions cause the smoky air to become trapped near the ground, allowing pollution to build up to unsafe levels (Flier). When a Spare the Air alert is not called but data indicates worsening conditions there may be an optional compliance health advisory in the form of a Recommended No-Burn Day. And as for summer barbeques – the weather conditions in summer are more prone to heightening levels of ozone than soot, so Summer Spare the Air Alerts are placed based on very different weather and pollution concerns.

Other than pollution, there are still plenty of reasons to not burn. Fires are not a very efficient form of heating, and many fireplaces actually rob your home of heat, sending hot air up the chimney and out of your home. Prevent heat loss (and the need to burn more fuel or crank the thermostat) by keeping your home well insulated and weatherized. Get more efficient heating with an EPA certified device or alternative natural gas or electric heater. Continue reading

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 fairly stable period. While there was some seasonal cooling in the fall and winter there has still remained a greater demand.  Here are the current numbers, per my Los Gatos real estate report (click on the link for full information). The Los Gatos Mountains are a distinctly different market and as such are covered in a separate market update that shows the live Altos charts.

Los Gatos / Monte Sereno housing values and pricing trends (aka “area 16” for our MLS, zip codes 95030 and 95032)

Los Gatos/Monte Sereno Real Estate Stats At A Glance

Year-Over-Year

  • Median home prices increased by 6.1% year-over-year to $1,955,000 from $1,842,500.
  • The average home sales price rose by 13.3% year-over-year to $2,356,230 from $2,078,890.
  • Home sales fell by 18.8% year-over-year to 26 from 32.
  • Active listings fell 18.7% year-over-year to 74 from 91.
  • Sales price vs. list price ratio rose by 1.0% year-over-year to 105.5% from 104.5%.
  • The average days on market rose by 86.0% year-over-year to 40 from 22.

Compared To Last Month

  • Median home prices slipped by 16.8% to $1,955,000 from $2,350,000.
  • The average home sales price rose by 0.2% to $2,356,230 from $2,350,830.
  • Home sales up by 73.3% to 26 from 15.
  • Active listings increased 34.5% to 74 from 55.
  • Sales price vs. list price ratio increased by 6.0% to 105.5% from 99.5%.
  • The average days on market dropped by 25.2% to 40 from 54.

Do you love Los Gatos, live there now or want to live there? Please also visit the Live in Los Gatos Blog!

Learn about Los Gatos neighborhoods, see photos, videos, pricing information, age of homes and much more!  Get frequent Los Gatos real estate market updates, find out about local events, business, see images of the parks, historic buildings, and get to know Los Gatos even better.  “Live in Los Gatos” is an award winning blog, also written by local Los Gatos Realtor and resident Mary Pope-Handy  – check it out today!

Live in Los Gatos Blog

Please continue reading for info on the Los Gatos condo market, and for real estate market information on Monte Sereno. Continue reading
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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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San Mateo County, and
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:
Special focus on:
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Almaden Valley,
Cambrian Park.

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