Mary Pope-Handy

Silicon Valley Realtor, selling homes in Los Gatos, Saratoga, San Jose, and nearby since 1993. Prolific blogger with a network of site.

campbell-water-towerThe city of Campbell, California,  was founded by Benjamin Campbell and local history of the region as “Campbell” goes back over 150 years. His first land purchase there occurred in 1851, and he planted it with grain and hay. This was a busy place during the orchard and fruit canning eras of the valley; it boasted three canneries in what is now the city of Campbell. Situated perfectly along the railroad line to Los Gatos, the Campbell area became a shipping center for the prized produce of The Valley of Hearts Delight.

Interestingly, while the city’s origins go back to the orchard era, Campbell was not incorporated until 1952. As with many other incorporations in Santa Clara County at that time, it was largely as a defensive maneuver against being swallowed up by the fast growing city of San Jose.

Today Campbell has a small town feel while offering a quaint downtown area, good schools, and more affordably  priced homes (for our valley, anyway). Crime is low and there’s great community spirit. Downtown Campbell is a destination for many with some excellent restaurants, shops, art galleries and museums. Campbell is also home to several excellent parks and movie theaters and recently became tied in to the light rail system too, making it not just a great place to live, but also a great location for businesses who want to be more “green” and give its employees a better shot at using public transit.

See more articles on Campbell within this blog – the Campbell real estate market, events, photos and much more.

For more information about Campbell, visit the city’s official website at

California-poppiesSitting at the base of El Sereno, part of the Santa Cruz Mountains, Monte Sereno is an upscale residential community snuggled between Los Gatos and Saratoga, California. The population is very tiny with about 4000 folks living in Monte Sereno any given time. It is composed of about one and a half square miles. This small city shares many services with the town of Los Gatos (such as schools and police). There are no businesses in Monte Sereno, only homes, the citys offices and the post office.

Real estate prices are high in this low-crime city, and while there are some modest homes, there are also some palatial estates featuring extreme amenities.

The geography is mostly flat to gentle hills, with much of it wooded. Redwood trees, oak trees, madrone and many others cluster together in the nooks and crannies of Monte Sereno. There are open places too, of course, with grassy fields. Along Daves Avenue, there are several streets that tie in together with a common horse stable, and it has meandering equestrian trails. Most of those homes are on half acre, level lots, with generous ranch style homes that back to the trails. This is a great neighborhood for horse lovers!

If you have a chance to visit Austin Way behind La Hacienda Restaurant and Inn, youll be delighted to find an old brick road, part of the heritage of Monte Sereno. And on the other side of Highway 9 along Austin Way, youll see a historic building recounting the citys agricultural past in Austin Corners.

John Steinbeck once called this area home – but later decided the rural hamlet was too crowded, so moved into the Santa Cruz Mountains to regain his serenity! It is said that he wrote ˜Of Mice and Men while living here.

Official town website
The Town of Monte Sereno
History, population, and more on this tiny town which is nestled between Saratoga and Los Gatos.
Wikipedia on Monte Sereno

Natural Hazard Reports are included in the disclosures when homes are bought and sold here in Silicon Valley. Those reports will indicate whether or not the property is located in areas with known natural hazards, including

  • Flood Plains
  • Liquifaction Zones
  • Earthquake Fault Zones
  • Unstable Soils Areas

But wouldn’t you like to know where those places are before ever writing an offer?

Many Silicon Valley Realtors utilize a tool that combines this natural hazard information with other boundaries that may be of interest to you, such as zip code lines, town boundaries, school district boundaries, district names within San Jose (like Berryessa, Cambrian Park, Evergreen, etc.) and so on. This is the Barclays Locaide and you can buy it online or in Realtor stores in the San Jose area. They arent cheap at just under $60, but they are extremely helpful and worthwhile for having a sense of where the issue areas are in Santa Clara County.


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hills-over-saratogaSaratoga is a highly desireable place in which to live, a great retreat from the hustle and bustle of Silicon Valley. Nestled into the Santa Cruz Mountains, it is just a few miles to the north of Los Gatos. Its an upscale town noted for great schools, low crime, scenic beauty, fabulous shops and restaurants, and stunning estates. Like most of the valley, this area was largely orchards and also some vineyards & wineries 50 or 70 years ago. In fact, the largest prune orchard in the world was once Hume Ranch, which had 680 acres of prune trees!

Exceptional entertainment is abundant in Saratoga. Take in concerts at The Mountain Winery (formerly called Paul Masson Mountain Winery) and at Villa Montalvo, two lovely outdoor venues for music, or go wine tasting or horseback riding at Cooper-Garrod off Pierce Road. The new Saratoga Library is a wonderful place to spend a rainy winter day too.

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steamers-grillhouse-los-gatos-from-Old-Town-Los-GatosLos Gatos is a charming town snuggled into the base of the coastal range between San Jose/Silicon Valley and Santa Cruz, which is on the other side of ˜the hill as locals call it. Its an upscale community with great schools, shopping, restaurants, and community involvement. Diversity abounds in things to do, from sailing, rollerblading and picnicking at Vasona Lake County Park to wine tasting at the Testarossa Vineyards to strolling down the main streets in search of dining or shopping. Every season offers something in this smallish community of 30,000 or so.

The hills help to define Los Gatos. Facing the coastal range and the pass that leads to Santa Cruz, you see El Sombroso rising on the left and El Sereno on the right. Other well known peaks are Loma Prieta (the epicenter of the 1989 earthquake) and Mt.Umunhum, which rises over Almaden Valley (Ununhum was the Ohlone word for Hummingbird). Closer in, Blossom Hill is a small hill in front of El Sombroso over which you drive on Blossom Hill Road. Behind it is the Kennedy-Shannon Road area, which is delightfully remote feeling while really being close in. Near downtown, St. Josephs Hill overlooks Main Street and is the home to the old Jesuit Novitiate, Sacred Heart, as well as Testarossa Vineyards tasting room (formerly the Novitiate Winery).

A sub-tropical climate makes it easy to enjoy events year-round. While palm trees are not native to northern California, they do thrive here! Our annual rainfall is only about 20 a year. If we get cold temperatures, its because the wind happens to be blowing south from Alaska. On those rare cold snaps, it might even snow – to everyones delight since it only happens about once in every decade, and at most will stick to the ground for an hour or two! Los Gatos does have its micro-climates. The pass through which highway 17 runs to Santa Cruz is a low spot that allows the cooler coastal weather to come through can make downtown a little colder, windier and wetter than parts of town to the south of Blossom Hill or toward the Saratoga limit. In summer this can make downtown more comfortable and in winter it can make the outlying areas more so.

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rocky-roadHomebuyers sometimes call or email me, explaining, ˜I want to buy a home so that my child can go to Williams Elementary in Almaden Valley or ˜I want to buy a house and have my kids attend Alta Vista Elementary School in Los Gatos or ˜If I purchase a condo in downtown Saratoga, my son or daughter will be able to attend Saratoga Elementary School.


But its not guaranteed. Schools tend to drive real estate values here in highly educated Silicon Valley. But we dont have as much control of this slippery issue as most might think.

It is a big mistake to believe that if you purchase a home in a certain location, you’ll be guaranteed that certain school. Lots can happen.
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monopoly-houseBe careful what you wish for. The news stories make it sound so attractive – get a home for 10% less than market value. That may happen. Sometimes. The national average for short sales actually closing is extremely low, by some counts as low as 10 or 11 percent.

What about San Jose area short sales? Lets start with the lay of the land in Santa Clara County specifically (Silicon Valley includes Santa Clara County and a bit of Alameda, Santa Cruz, and San Mateo Counties). Some areas are loaded with short sale listings, others have few, if any. The ˜best deals, in terms of low pricing, are going to be in areas with a lot of the short sales because they sell for less and pull property values down, making them more and more affordable. Those are the areas with lower priced homes, generally, the entry level areas.

In places like South San Jose, the south county areas, and Blossom Valley, for instance, most of the entry level homes are short sales. Values are plummeting there.

In places like Cupertino, Saratoga, and Los Gatos, there are hardly any short sales. Virtually none. And home values are rising.

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Quick facts:

  • Licensed, full time since 1993
  • Second generation Silicon Valley Realtor
  • Education junkie: 8 college real estate courses; multiple professional designations; continuously investing in classes on negotiation, marketing, international real estate, contracts & forms, working with seniors, and countless related real estate topics. Recently completed a negotiation class offered through Stanford University.  Designations included CIPS (Certified International Property Specialist) and CRS (Certified Real Estate Specialist) as well as SRES (Seniors Real Estate Specialist) and ABR (Accredited Buyer Representative).
  • Specialize in Los Gatos and nearby areas of San Jose’sCambrian and Almaden, Monte Sereno, Saratoga, Campbell – but work throughout Santa Clara County
  • Co-author of a book, “Get the Best Deal When Selling Your Home in Silicon Valley”
  • Author of numerous blogs, winner of many awards for blogging / writing
  • Social media focus as it works with writing – well known nationally for success in this arena
  • Top producer: consistently in the top 5%
  • How clients find me:  repeat and referral business plus new clients from my writing & online presence


I entered real estate full time as a licensed professional and a Realtor (a member of the National Association of Realtors, Calif Assn of Realtors and Silicon Valley Assn of Realtors – these are trade groups with high standards demanded and not all licensees are members) in the first few weeks of 1993.  The market was slow and difficult.  I cut my teeth on a couple of short sales, never knowing I’d need to do a lot more of them in 2008 – 2010 and beyond.

My mother, Pat Pope, was a Realtor since before I was born and she logged 40 years in the business when she died in 1996.  I like to joke that my first words were “raised foundation“.  I learned a lot from her and am grateful that we had a few overlapping years. She was a great coach and mentor!

In the course of my career I have worked in several offices (for several brokerages) and know a lot of the local Los Gatos – Saratoga – Almaden – San Jose area agents. This is very helpful with networking.  I also racked up a lot of classes, seminars and conferences and truly am an education junkie.  In that vein, I also worked to earn a number of certifications and designations, the most prized of which is the CRS, Certified Residential Specialist (which is held by only about 7% of all Realtors) and also the CIPS, Certified International Property Specialist.   Many of my clients come from far away lands and I love working with them.  I love to write and in 2004 co-authored a book on selling homes in Silicon Valley.

I’m usually somewhere in the top 3-5% for real estate sales and sometimes top 1%.  I have won many awards for production and also for service.  My main goal is to help my buyers and sellers to be successful and each one matters.  For me it’s not a numbers game, it’s people work.  Our mutual success is what has put me in the list of top ranking agents.

Because I have been exceptionally successful with my websites and writing, I am often asked to speak on panels about blogging and social media, or to teach at conferences.  Public speaking is a lot of fun for me and I’m happy to share what has worked for me in my career.

My real estate sales have centered around the west valley communities of Silicon Valley: Los Gatos, Saratoga, Cambrian Park,  Almaden Valley, Campbell, Willow Glen and nearby areas. I have sold all over Santa Clara County (Los Altos, West San Jose, Morgan Hill, Milpitas, Alum Rock, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, Cupertino, Santa Teresa, Blossom Valley…) and occassionally have sold in neighboring counties too (at my clients’ request).

The price points and home types I work with range from modest 1 bedroom condos listed at under $200,000 to houses or duplexes to multi-million dollar estate properties. I have sold new homes as well as “resale”.  I do not sell apartment buildings, raw land, commercial properties, or mobile homes, but will gladly introduce you to a great Realtor who can  help with those.

Today most of my clients come to me either through my blogs and websites or are repeat or referral based.  I love meeting my blog readers and often they not only become clients, they become friends.

For more information:  To read a complete resume and list of my designations, awards, college level real estate courses and more, please visit my profile on my website:

And please also read testimonials from my cients here:

hills-sunset-watercolorHave you always dreamed of buying a home close to, or in, the western foothills in Santa Clara County, such as Almaden, Los Gatos, Monte Sereno and Saratoga? Some of the prettiest parts of Silicon Valley are snuggled into the base of the Santa Cruz Mountains. With views of downtown San Jose and the southern San Francisco Bay Area on one side, and rolling, grassy and redwood & oak filled hills on the other, its certainly scenic. Additionally, these areas all tend to have very low crime and good schools.

As a saavy foothill-area buyer, you will want to understand some of the unique issues that this geography may present. The most important of these may well be the issue of water control and drainage.

The Santa Clara Valley, and most of the neighboring Silicon Valley areas, is composed of mostly clay soil. This is an extremely strong substance – so much so that settlers used it, mixed only with a little straw and water, to form adobe bricks for building.

The caveat with clay soil is that when it becomes wet, it expands, and when dry, it contracts. In fact, we call this condition ˜expansive. The amazing thing is that the clay is more powerful than concrete. And that is the problem for houses and other buildings if the ground is expanding, contracting, or alternating between the two.

What can a homeowner do? Its imperative to try to control the amount of water near (or under) the home as much as possible.
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sign-both-waysIn many parts of California, there are senior residential communities in which members can purchase a townhouse, condo, or single family house (usually in a gated community). Aside from The Villages in San Joses Evergreen district, there are only a small handful of such areas in Silicon Valley. (There is one small condo community in Los Gatos and another in South County which are ˜buy ins.) For the most part, what is available as dedicated senior housing for folks over the age of 55 or 62 (depending on the community) is primarily rental housing. (Additionally, there are some ˜life care facilities which do involve a buy-in or admission cost, but it functions as an insurance policy too, such that if your money runs out, you would not be asked to leave.) There is not a lot of senior real estate to purchase in the San Jose area.

Types of Senior Residential Communities

Of the main types of senior housing available in Santa Clara County, there are three general types of service available. These could be to rent, or to buy and own in life care or other communities.

1- Independent Living
2- Assisted Living
3- Skilled Nursing (sometimes, when temporary, called Rehab)

Independent Living is for healthy, mobile adults. In many cases, its a lot like hotel living, except the senior typically has an apartment or condo (studio to 2 bedroom) and 1 to 3 meals are provided daily. This type of arrangement offers less work (less housekeeping, meal preparation, shopping) and more security, companionship, and transportation (rides to shopping, banking, worship services, medical appointments). No medical care is provided. If help is needed with administering medicines, for instance, this would not be the solution.

The Villages in San Jose is an example of an Independent Living Community. In that case, people can buy houses, townhomes, or condos, but be in a gated community of seniors. More often in San Jose, though, these communities are apartment rentals with meals, housekeeping, outings, and other non-medical services for seniors. A good example would be The Atrium of San Jose, which is in the Blossom Valley neighborhood near Oakridge Mall on Blossom Hill Road.

Who is it for? If the senior you love is lonely, becoming a bit of a recluse, feeling overwhelmed by taking care of a house and meal preparation, this is a great opportunity to make life easier and more fun for him or her. There is always an adjustment period (not infrequently of about 6 months) but in my own personal experience, a lot of people who move to an Independent Living Community come to really love it as they make new friends and have less stress in their lives. It has been great for my family members.

Independednt Living requires the least staff to resident ratio, the least level of care and therefore is the least expensive, generally. There is usually a lease with the non-buy-in places, and a deposit.

What to ask? Ask what the typical annual increases tend to be, and how hard it is to break the lease if the residents health changes etc. Also inquire about the deposit and what medical conditions would warrant the facility asking you or your relative to move out to a higher level of care.

What are the issues? As with other type of rentals, things can change and the senior may not be allowed to stay there even if he or she wishes to. There is definitely a loss of control. The most common reason for needing to leave is declining health and the need to be more dependent on others for help with the daily tasks of living. Those include things like help with bathing, grooming, eating, or remembering to take medicines. When the resident needs assistance at this level, it will warrant a move out of independent living and into assisted living (or nursing, if the needs are more extreme).

Assisted Living offers more help, whether it is related to taking medicines, assistance with mobility, memory impairment, or overall declining health. Folks in Assisted Living tend to be a little older, more frail, more needy overall than those in Independent Living. More of the residents are confused or have some dementia. This is definitely not a golf course community!

The need to get medicines administered properly is often a driving force in the move to Assisted Living. Sometimes the elderly get forgetful about what has been taken or missed, sometimes poor eyesight makes correct dosing a problem – whatever the case, at Assisted Living, the staff takes over the meds and gets you, your friend or relative on a schedule to make sure everthing is taken as needed. It is a huge relief for many families. But also with Assisted Living, the staff is a little more involved in the day-to-day tasks of everyday living. Some folks may need reminders to go to meals. Others may need an escort. And others still may need help just getting out of a chair or putting on shoes from time to time. Many Assisted Living residences offer a sliding scale so that residents are charged for the level of care they need. Someone who only needs help taking pills will not be charged as much as another who needs help bathing or toileting.

When someone moves to Assisted Living, often the biggest surprise is how many of the residents there have some stage of noticeable dementia. When interviewing at various communities, ask about this. When a relative is ˜sharp and sits at lunch with others who are very, very confused, it can be disheartening and depressing for the new resident.

Equally surprising can be the reasons why one is asked to leave Assisted Living and go to the next level of care, rehab or nursing. When agreeing to move IN, find out the reasons why the facility may ask you, your relative/friend to LEAVE. In my own experience, I have found some places a bit capricious in getting residents out when it seemed that they could have been allowed to remain. Transitions are very hard on the elderly – so its best to keep the number of moves to a minimum! There are state laws about these issues too. For instance, a diabetic with a pressure sore at “stage 1” or “stage 2” is allowed to be at an assisted living facility and be treated there (usually by a home health care nurse or similar professional). The state of California says that if the wound is a stage 3 or stage 4, it requires skilled nursing rather than assisted living.

While some assisted living homes have been accused of keeping residents longer than they should, presumably to keep the monthly income, in my experience, sometimes these residential care facilities for the elderly try to kick out residents prematurely. Why would they do that? Sometimes it’s because the current residents are paying lower rent than the facility could get with a new move-in. Sometimes it seems the reason is that the resident requires too much assistance. This can be the case with the elderly who are large and not so good with transfers. The facilities would rather assist a 100 lb woman than a 200 lb man to get in and out of chairs, for instance. So moving on the larger person to nursing makes life easier for the facility.

To go into the reasons for dismissal a little more…. Usually there is a specific list that the residential care facility has for agreeing to take, or demanding to dismiss, someone. Get a list and have it explained carefully. One place I am aware of required someone to leave because he needed to be on a ventillator a couple of hours a day, but that was never explained upon move-in. Most assisted level places require that the resident be able to ˜transfer – to get in or out of bed or a chair without aid. I believe the idea is that in Assisted Living, the folks who reside there should be able to get out of the building if theres a fire. But some communities will kick a senior out if they feel he or she is not reliable with the transfering – so you have people who can walk with a walker, get in and out of chairs, etc. but are told they are no longer eligible for Assisted Living. Even so, many folks who need to be wheeled in to meals three times a day are permitted to remain, so to me its anything but clear why some can stay and others are asked to leave. Ask, ask, ask.

Something seldom discussed, too, is the concept of a ˜waiver. Different levels of care have different types of licensing and different requirements from the state. If someone belongs in nursing, for instance, but is at a lower level of care and the family or spouse can provide for in-home care, the facility may object that its not allowed and the family must move the couple or person out from assisted living to nursing. This can be devasatating, especially if the one needing the level of care is clearly dying. If the facility is willing, it can apply to the state for a waiver to enable nursing care to be brought in at the familys expense. Some facilities are willing to go this extra mile to spare the elderly person and family the enormous burden of moving a person who is already suffering tremendously. So ask about policies related to waivers and see how ˜humane the place is. And try to get it in writing!

In rental Assisted Living, it is usually month-to-month (no 6 -12 month lease) and there is usually some kind of non-refundable entrance fee ($1000 to $2500 is what I have seen in my own experience, mostly the lower of the two).

Some nice Assisted Living communities include Belmont Village in San Jose (next to Santana Row), Atria in Willow Glen, and Carlton Plaza in Blossom Valley. There are many, many of these type of places in San Jose

A helpful link on Assisted Living: California Assisted Living Association

Skilled Nursing or Rehab is the highest and most expensive level of care. In fact, as you progress through these levels, typically the cost goes up and the living space goes down. By the time someone is in Nursing, it is usually a shared room and no longer an apartment (and at that will cost significantly more than a separate apartment in Assisted Living). Currently, the cost for a shared room may run from $250 to $300 per day. At this level, many long-term residents are extremely dependent, many have advanced dementia and need assistance with almost everything. It can be very hard on the sharp-minded person whos there to nurse a broken hip, or someone who lost the ability to get in and out of chairs alone but is otherwise quite mentally astute.

I have seldom seen a Rehab Facility or SNF (slang ˜sniff for Skilled Nursing Facility) where the family felt the care was very good at all. It just seems to be rare and so it is especially crucial to not just interview carefully, but drop in often and at different times to make sure everything is satisfactory. Elder abuse is a big issue too, especially for patients with dementia – so please make it a point to be there often. Your loved one needs an advocate here more than anywhere!

Multiple Levels of Care in One Campus Setting

A growing tend in Senior Residential Facilities is to offer several levels of care all on the same campus. This is great as long as the care is equally good at all levels! In such a multi-level of care place, though, once a resident lands in Nursing, it can be hard to get back to Assisted Living. Why? Because the Assisted Living facility has to agree that the resident is ˜safe to return. It does not seem to matter what the senior or his/her family members want – if the facility says no, the answer is no. It can be very frustrating. Again, the compassion of the community is at the heart of the situation – so interview carefully and get references before deciding on a move to a community, especially one with multiple levels of care where its hoped that if the need for nursing is short-term, the resident can move back to Assisted Living as soon as possible. Its necessary to look at all the contingency plans, just as if you were buying a house, to use an analogy from my work.

An example of a multi-level campus is Saratoga Retirement Community in Saratoga.

Senior Housing Links

The Best Retirement Residences in California & the West, by Salley Ravel and Lee Ann Wolfe

Assisted Living Facilities in California with links for special circumstances

Realty Times article on Assisted Living

Seniors Real Estate Specialist – Helpful Info for Seniors Buying, Selling, Investing in Real Estate  

More Links for Seniors



Links & Information for Seniors

Entertainment & Fun for Seniors

Los Gatos/Saratoga Dept of Parks and Recreation

Senior Health Issues

Walking Tips for Seniors

Nutritional Guidelines for People 70 and Older

Depression and Seniors

Alzheimers Association of Northern California

Links and Articles of General Interest to Seniors

American Society on Aging California Assisted Living Association

Catholic Health Association of the United States

Catholic Healthcare West

National Alzheimers Association

The Center for Gerontology, Spirituality and Faith

California Homes and Services for the Aging



Senior Varity of Links & Articles of Interest to Seniors  

Congress of California – a plethora of info on political issues, health issues, and much more

Senior Law: This is a Web site where senior citizens, their families, attorneys, social workers, and financial planners, can access information about Elder Law, Medicare, Medicaid, estate planning, trusts and the rights of the elderly and disabled.


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.
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Mary’s Blog Awards
Top 25 real estate blogs of 2018 by RentPrep2018's list of top 25 real estate blogs to follow

Top 25 real estate blogs 2016
2016: Personal Income's list of top 25 real estate blogs.

Best Realtor blog award
2016: Coastal Group OC's list of best Realtor blogs

The 2009 Sellsius list of top 12 women real estate bloggers
2009: Sellsius list of top
12 women real estate bloggers

Mary Pope-Handy's Live in Los Gatos blog won the 2007 Project Blogger contest, sponsored by Inman News and Active Rain

2007: Mary Pope-Handy and Frances Flynn Thorsen win the Project Blogger Contest for Mary's Live in Los Gatos blog. The contest was sponsored by
Active Rain and Inman News.

Non blog award

Best real estate agent in Silicon Valley from the San Jose Mercury News poll of readers in 2011
"Best real estate agent
in Silicon Valley"

2011 readers' poll,
San Jose Mercury News