The lot size may be bigger than you think

Plat Map of Belwood Lane and Belwood Court

Plat Map of Belwood Lane and Belwood Court

Odd shaped lots in older subdivisions are sometimes recorded as having the same amount of land as the smaller, normal rectangular shaped parcels nearby.  I’ve seen this many times – an area with houses on 6,000 SF lots have a few “pie shaped lots” at the end of the cul-de-sac and they are bigger, but for unknown reason are said to have the same 6000 SF lots, even if it’s understating the amount of land.

If you are selling your home, you want credit for the whole lot size.  And if you’re buying one, you’ll want to be on the lookout for undervalued properties which have not marketed the true amount of land in the sale.

Plat maps, lot shapes and area

Plat maps can be a little hard to understand without some deciphering, but one thing that is clear is the length of the sides of the parcel.  If you look along the edge of any lot, you’ll see a number up against it – that represents the distance in feet of that side of the property.

With simple rectangular or square lots, it’s easy for consumers to do the math and see if the lot size represented is correct.  But what happens if the parcel has a more complicated shape? Today we’ll look at this – and a possible solution to double check the figures provided by the MLS, the sellers, the county, or any other source. With irregularly shaped lots, the parcel’s area is very often misrepresented in the records.

With a perfect square or rectangle, the math is easy! Have a look at parcel # 12, circled in red. It has 2 sides with 100′ and 2 sides with 70′ so you simply multiply 100 x 70 to get the lot size of 7000 SF.

If all geometry were only so simple.

Now compare 12 with the other circled parcels:

  • 14 isn’t too bad – 4 sides and almost a triangle (so for estimating, fairly easy)
  • 7 is a flashback to high school geometry with 5 sides and only one right angle
  • 5 boasts 6 sides and is above my pay grade

Odd shaped lots and figuring the true area: software to the rescue

There are pricey real estate programs that can calculate the area of a parcel, but I haven’t had access to them for over 10 years, as most brokerages phased out their subscriptions to it.  Recently, though, I was involved in a transaction in which the parcel my client was buying happened to be irregular, and it seemed to be listed as having a much smaller lot size than it really did.   What to do?

As with all things, I went to Google and did a query for software that could calculate the area of a lot.  And I was in luck – not only did it exist, but it is free.  The name is Google Maps Area Calculator Tool and you can find it here:

https://www.daftlogic.com/projects-google-maps-area-calculator-tool.htm

This is easy to work – you go to the page, input an address, zoom into where you can see what looks like the boundary lines clearly (fences, sidewalks as guides) and click from corner to corner.  You can see the little pins where I clicked.  When I did it for the land in question, it looked like this:

Google area measuring tool

Google area measuring tool

Google then provides both the area and the perimeter measurement.  A nice bonus, it’s in both meters and feet.

After that’s done, how would you know if it is correct or not?

We again turn to the plat map and add up the measurements of all the sides of the parcel.  For the # 12 lot we discussed at first, that’s simple – 100 + 70 + 100 + 70 = a perimeter of 340′.  If the Google mapping effort is accurate, the perimeter it produced should be the same, or at least very close.  When the perimeters match up, you have pretty good validation that you are at least close.

Where you can obtain a plat map

For home owners, sellers and buyers, you may be wondering where you can get this plat map.  It is part of the county records for Santa Clara County, and you can see the plat map of any property in this county here:

https://www.sccassessor.org/index.php/property-information/homeowners/property-search

 

When selling or buying real estate in Silicon Valley, it’s important to stay on your toes and not assume that the county records are always correct.  If you read this blog, you know that I have often written about the county, city and town permit files often being incomplete, and sometimes missing entirely.  Homes and land are very expensive here, and the county offices may not always have accurate information, so ideally consumers keep their own, complete records, and check the facts stated about the property they are buying or selling for accuracy.

Related reading:

How to fix incorrect property records in Santa Clara County?

Monte Sereno Building Permit Nightmare (Live in Los Gatos blog)

Should you double app your loan?

Double app your loanIn this highly competitive seller’s market, some home buyers are choosing to purchase their house, condo or townhouse non-contingent, meaning with no contingencies for inspection, loan, appraisal etc. .  The “non-contingent offer” has been present in the Silicon Valley real estate scene for a few years (since 2012 or so), to the horror of those of us working in the field in 2000 and the years immediately after (it’s a very bad deja vu, given the onslaught of lawsuits that came in its wake last time).  My clients sometimes make this choice, too, explaining to me that they feel it’s the only way to get the property.

With no loan contingency to protect the buyers should the loan not come through (or fail to do so in time), some consumers are electing to “double app” the loan.  Translation: they pursue financing with two or more lenders simultaneously (fill out two loan applications, pay for two appraisals etc.).  Lenders, naturally, don’t like this because only one of them has the possibility of closing the sale or the loan, and only the one who closes the loan will get paid.   In a normal market, with normal contingencies in place, I would not recommend this approach.  But if there are no contingencies to protect the buyer, a second loan may provide a safety net as it increases the odds that a loan will be funded so that the home can close escrow. Continue reading

Saratoga, CA, Real Estate Market Update

How’s the Saratoga California real estate market?

Orchard and Hills in Saratoga, California

Orchard and Hills in Saratoga, California

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 the numbers I crunched for Saratoga – overall and by price point and high school district, since 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 MLSListings.com, our local multiple listing service provider.

The months of inventory is a reference to how fast homes 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”.

(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.)

Here’s the chart for Saratoga – all price points, all school districts.

And for comparison, here’s the chart from last month:

This year, the realty market is having it’s own climate change – a drop in inventory has left the market hot all winter! Normally, seasonal cooling goes both ways – less buyers and less sellers – but with a lingering demand adding up, this year the market just won’t cool down. Now that we’re back in spring with summer just around the corner, the market should be getting even more active! Just about 1.8 months of inventory looks like a hot sellers market, but comparing across school districts you can see how different each market might really be.

 

Continue reading

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 clear sellers market with the most recent numbers slightly higher both month over month and also year over year. The average Days on Market are a blazing 8 days total – barely over a week on average! However, compared to much of Santa Clara County, the sales to list price ratio of about 104% is lower than some in the current market.

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 and statistical analysis.  This particular page goes to the report for houses, but you can navigate home type to see condos/townhomes or any other area in San Jose, Santa Clara County, San Mateo County, or Santa Cruz County.

 Also, please note that zip codes don’t always relate to the districts. Zip code 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).
And don’t forget the condo market! This can be even more difficult to pin down because of the small amount of data and the wide variety of values. Here’s a quick look at the current condo market from the RE Report data:

As you can see in the chart above, the condo market is also doing well, but it’s a cooler market than the housing market is, which is common. In today’s condo market, though, many areas are competing with the housing market and are much hotter sellers markets than usual, so Santa Teresa might be a good place to look for the stressed buyer.

Disclaimers made, here are some Altos Research numbers for the four Santa Teresa zip codes:

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

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 www.altosresearch.com

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, 3 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 1,793 sq ft
    Lot size: 1,132 sqft
  2. 3 beds, 2 full baths
    Home size: 1,137 sq ft
    Lot size: 6,534 sqft
  3. 4 beds, 2 full baths
    Home size: 1,360 sq ft
    Lot size: 6,054 sqft
  4. 4 beds, 2 full baths
    Home size: 1,517 sq ft
    Lot size: 6,141 sqft
  5. 3 beds, 2 full baths
    Home size: 1,072 sq ft
    Lot size: 6,054 sqft

See all Silicon Valley Real Estate for Sale.
(all data current as of 5/30/2016)

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

 

Morgan Hill real estate market

How’s the real estate market in Morgan Hill?  This article will include data, trends and statistics for both houses and condominiums / townhouses.

For the single family home segment in this “south county” town, prices are rising year over year and heating up with the season since last month. The sale price to list price ratio has been hovering between 98% and 100% for months.  The cities of Morgan Hill and Gilroy are usually a bit less in demand than parts of Santa Clara County which are either tech magnets or closer to these big businesses. So while most of the Silicon Valley has a sale price to list price ratio of anywhere from 100% to 110%, it’s generally lower here, making the home buying conditions calmer for weary buyers, though still a sellers market. Below is a chart with basic info, but to see more information, you may click on this link to see the Real Estate Report for Morgan Hill.

Continue reading

The Heritage Grove Neighborhood in Los Gatos and the Heintz Open Space Preserve

Heritage Grove in east Los Gatos blends historic and contemporary architecture and landscape together nicely

An old apricot orchard used to line Blossom Hill Road between Union and Leigh Avenues until the 1990s.  The former owners, Ralph and Sophie Heintz, lived there in their farmhouse until their deaths, at which time the property was willed to the University of California at  Berkeley for eye research.

Sophie and Ralph were interesting people. He ran a small train on their property and was an inventor. She was a ham radio operator.

In 1998, the Heintz land (and house etc.) was sold to Summerhill Homes and a portion developed as housing. That Los Gatos neighborhood is now called Heritage Grove A strip of trees was planted along Blossom Hill Road, reminiscent of the history of the area.  A large section of land was made a permanent open space, now known as the Heintz Open Space Preserve.  This open space connects directly with Belgatos Park, which also connects with the Santa Rosa Open Space Preserve. So the network of trails is quite extensive. (Link to Town of Los Gatos page with pdf files of these three trail maps. Link to Google Maps map of Blossom Hill Trails, drawn by Jim Handy.)

The Heintz’s big, old farmhouse has been renovated and is being lived in.  Ralph Heintz’s old workshop, the Ramohs Laboratory, is preserved with signs explaining the history of the place nearby. 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 www.altosresearch.com

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 www.altosresearch.com

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

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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Santa Clara County,
San Mateo County, and
Santa Cruz County.
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Saratoga, Campbell,
Almaden Valley,
Cambrian Park.

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Valley Of Hearts Delight
Santa Clara County Real Estate,
with an interest in history

Move2SiliconValley.com
Silicon Valley relocation info

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focus on home selling

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