Buying Tips

Tips for Silicon Valley Home Buyers

Multiple Offers

You may have heard that the Silicon Valley real estate market is softer now than it was a year ago.  That’s true – at least for most of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties and nearby. In many cases there are now half as many offers as there were then. But it’s still a hot seller’s market, and that means that often there are multiple offers, overbids, and sales with no contingencies.

For my last few listings – which have been in Saratoga, Los Gatos, the Cambrian area of San Jose and the Campbell area of San Jose – there’s been a consistent “spread” of offers.   If there were 6 offers, it might look like this:

  1. Best offer is 5-15% over list price, 25-30% down at least, and has no contingencies for inspection, loan, and most of all, appraisal (the percentage over has to do with whether the home was priced spot on the value or strategically under).  These offers come with all disclosures signed, and the buyer’s agent has even done her or his Agent Visual Inspection Disclosure.  They include the proof of funds and usually also write a nice letter to the sellers about why they want to purchase that home.
  2. Next runner up is usually strong on terms (at least 25% down, no contingencies) but perhaps made an offer price a little under the top value.  Sometimes the next runner up has a good price and mostly good terms, but seems “shaky”.  Maybe they would not include their proof of funds.  Perhaps they would not sign the disclosures yet or otherwise submit an incomplete package.  They don’t come across as certain about buying this property.
  3. Middle of the pack is usually a combination of a price where the home should appraise, at least 20% down, and few or no contingencies.
  4. Bottom offers are barely over list price, have exactly 20% down, and include an appraisal contingency as well as others (one for loan or one for property condition).

If you’ve been writing offers and not succeeding, try to see your own pattern in this spread.  Is there one thing, or perhaps are there two or more things, you’re just not ready to do?

Why it is so hard

Home sellers want to know when they agree to your purchase contract that you won’t back out and that you won’t renegotiate the terms later.  If they have paid for all the presale inspections, they aren’t going to want you to have 7+ days to decide if the condition is to your liking.  They want to know you have read everything and are cool with it.  Likewise with the appraisal. In overheated markets like this one, many times there’s an appraisal shortfall.  Sellers want to sell to buyers who can absorb any deficit, so you need more than 20% down to do that.

We Realtors generally don’t like the kind of market in which buyers get stuck writing offers with no contingencies in order to win the house, but the truth is, that someone in every pack will do it.  And you need to know that if you’re trying to buy a home.   (In my recent Belwood of Los Gatos sale I had 11 offers and 7 had no contingencies, as an example.)

A few years ago, I did a series of articles on multiple offers – everything from financing tips to the value of presenting an offer in person, and much more.  If you’ve been unsuccessful in buying a home and bid more than 2-3 times, please have a read. It may help you a lot:

A summary of tips for multiple-offer situations in Silicon Valley real estate contracts

By the way, in even the hottest market, there are homes that don’t sell.  (Some sellers fall for popular home selling myths that everything sells at every price, but it’s not true.)  If you have feelings of aversion to these bidding wars, do yourself a favor and ONLY look at homes that have been on the market 3 weeks or more.  Often the main thing wrong is an inflated price.  Some sellers won’t do an official price reduction, but may take a lower offer than you may think.  Some homes have just been hit with the Ugly Stick.  Ugly you can fix.  Often the Ugly Home will sell for a lot less because yes, it is not that heart warming and it is a lot of time, money, and effort to fix it up.  But guess what – it can be a great price and you won’t have to deal with competing bids in many cases.

Happy home hunting!

 

Related articles:

What are your cold feet costing you?

Why do sellers care if the offer has a loan or is all cash?

Shopping for what you can afford: how not to depress yourself while house hunting in Silicon Valley

Getting priced out of the market when housing prices rise rapidly

Fear of Peak PricingA question I’m getting a lot lately has to do with when the Silicon Valley real estate market will peak.  We’ve had 4 straight years of very strong appreciaion. In east Los Gatos, houses that were selling in early 2012 for about $1,000,000 may now sell for $1,500,000. Consumers have to ask: where will it end?  When do people simply refuse to pay, and move elsewhere?

I don’t have a crystal ball, but I have experienced downturns, and on average they seem to happen about every 10 years in the San Jose – Santa Clara County area.  Usually the “runup” between the downturns is a ton more than the correction.  Often the price rollback is about 10%, while the 10 year period between price corrections might be 30-50%.

Yes, a correction is probably coming.  Yes, our prices are out of control due to a lot of hiring locally and fantastic interest rates combined with a terribly tight inventory.

When? When will prices come back down to earth?

My best guess – and that’s all that it is – is that it will be sometime in the next 2 years or so. Probably not this year because Apple and Google seem to be hiring like crazy (and they are not alone).  Maybe it’ll be in 2017.  Maybe 2018.  But I think before spring 2019. That said – I could be wrong.

Should you wait to buy, then?

Nope.  In my opinion, if you want to make a life for yourself here and plan to stay put 5-10 years, go for it.  Interest rates are good now and may not be in 2 years.  Prices are still climbing.  And heck, if you can stay put for 5-10 years, even if you do buy at the beginnig of a correction (which I did in 1989), you’ll be ok if you can buy and hold.  And the bonus is that in the meantime, if it’s an owner-occupied property, you get a nice tax benefit (talk to your CPA or tax professional about that.)

 

What are your cold feet costing you?It remains a strong seller’s real estate market in Silicon Valley, with many properties selling with multiple offers, but there’s an undercurrent of concern that we are the near the peak of pricing.  That has some buyers nervous (though most will quip that Apple and Google and others are still hiring, and the local economy is strong – so they are not too worried).  For those who are a little nervous, sometimes it turns into cold feet – and it’s costing them.

What we are seeing in terms of cold feet with Silicon Valley home buying:

This undercurrent is not being widely reported but we are experiencing it in our real estate practices as a few things have been taking place.

First, a larger than usual number of transactions have been falling through.  Many of these, though, are not recorded on the multiple listing service, as they take place right after an offer is accepted, so the listing agent and sellers turn to one of the other bidders and put them into contract within hours.  Because they aren’t recorded, it’s impossible to track – but the stories are out there of this happening more now than a year or two ago.

In other cases, offers are written and submitted but withdrawn before they could be countered or accepted.

And in others, buyer agents say that they will be submitting an offer, but on the day of offer presentation, the home buyers back out and the offer is never submitted.

In my experience, all of these things are happening “more than normal” right now.  A lot of it is not easily measurable.

Symptoms of cold feet to come

Home sellers want to feel confident when they accept a contract that it will stick, both because they don’t want the work or emotional upheaval associated with a transaction that falls through, but also because often the best price is the first price.  When a home ‘resells’, most of the time it is for less than the origanlly accepted bid.

For that reason, smart listing agents are looking for the symptoms of cold feet.  They’d rather not get their sellers into contract with nervous buyers who will change their mind about buying the house or condo.

Symptoms of nervousness about the property at an open house:

  • Dominating the listing agent’s time with incessant and low-level questions – best to give most of your questions to your own buyer’s agent, who will help you with them.   It’s good to ask about the home, the reports and so on, but you don’t want to take so much of the Realtor’s time that he or she cannot talk with others there.   Think balance both in terms of the time and the nature of the questions.   You want to present yourself as reasonable and easy to work with.
  • We often say that the longer a buyer stays, the more likely he or she is to write an offer.  This is true, up to a point.  Buyers who come to an open house and stay for 2 hours, or who make 4 or 5 trips to see the house go from looking interested to appearing unsure.

Symptoms of nervousness about the property (your potentially cold feet) when your offer is submitted:

  • Sending in an incomplete offer and supporting documents. If the listing agent requires proof of funds, provide it.  If the disclosures are to be signed, do all of them – not just the cover sheet.  Aim to be thorough, it will present you as serious.  It will also show that you are not a pain to work with, that you and your Realtor can follow directions and that the listing agent won’t have to chase down the paperwork later.  Go the extra mile, it helps!
  • Submitting an offer package “last minute”, without the buyer’s agent giving advance notice that it’s coming.  Related to this is seeing the property and reviewing everything well in advance, but only deciding a few hours before the deadline to actually write, sign, and submit the bid.   The serious buyers who are rock solid are the ones who know early on that they want the property and are committed to it early on.  Their buyer’s agent will let the listing agent know long before offers are due that these home buyers are going to bid on it.  One agent recently told me “my buyers are madly in love with the house” many days before the offer due date.  This makes a big impression on sellers and their agents.
  • If the buyer’s agent needs to call every few days to see how things are looking, it usually hints that the buyers are not too sure or that they will only write an offer if there’s limited competition.  The truly sure buyers plunge ahead despite competing bids or the lack of them.

Want to buy a home?  Try not to come across as skiddish to the listing agent!  Your cold feet may cost you the home, even if your offer’s got the highest price.  Home sellers and their agents want to feel confident that you will close on the sale if your offer is accepted.  Present yourself as serious, capable, reliable, and easy to work with and your odds of success will be increased.  At the end of the day, it is always “price and terms”, but never underestimate the influence that your behavior and your real estate agent’s behavior play into the overall package, because shaky buyers may not close the sale, but home buyers who are rock solid and madly in love with the house will.

Lastly, in an appreciating market, as we have right now, it should be noted that often the next house or townhouse or condo will be more costly or in worse shape than the one you could not decide to get serious about.  Stay nervous too long, and you could ultimately really impact how much home you can buy at all.  Worse yet, take too long and you may price yourself out of the market entirely.

Often the Silicon Valley real estate market takes a bit of a nosedive in December and January, only to make a comeback after the SuperBowl. Just now I ran the stats for the city of San Jose, which is big enough, at about 1 million people, to provide a good sense of the market generally.

Below please find a simple chart reflecting houses sold with the days on market and sale price to list price ratio.  You can see, clearly, that the SP to LP ratio dips noticeably in December & January, and also that the days on market rise.

Even so, how bad was it?  The average DOM was 38 (break-neck speed in any other part of the country) and the average SP to LP ratio fell to “only” 102%.

2016-3-1 San Jose Days on Market and Sale Price to List Price Ratio

 

That was it – that was the “break” that buyers get in winter.  Things are reversing course, as often they do in February, March, and April, and multiple offers with big overbids are again the major story in San Jose and throughout the Silicon Valley region. Just this last week I heard of a home in this valley that got 45 offers.

Home buyers, want to purchase this year?  Your best bet is to be financially well equiped with 25% down or more if you are buying in any of the hotter areas.  This is a nearly impossible market for FHA home buyers or for those with less than 20% down.

Home owners, want to sell this year?  You can maximize your return by doing smart fixes and thorough inspections to make buyers feel confident about purchasing your property.  That confidence can change the game and bring 10 offers where there might have been 5, and with the larger numbers of bidders usually there come also much larger sale prices.

Call me or email me if you would like to discuss working together and getting your best deal in the current Santa Clara County realty market.

Related reading:

Why do sellers care if the offer has a loan or is all cash?

Home selling? Small fixes that make a big, positive difference.

Shopping for what you can afford: how not to depress yourself while house hunting in Silicon Valley

 

Homes for sale in San Jose

  1. 3 beds, 1 bath
    Home size: 1,501 sq ft
    Lot size: 5,998 sqft
  2. 2 beds, 2 baths
    Home size: 922 sq ft
    Lot size: 1,960 sqft
  3. 2 beds, 2 baths
    Home size: 955 sq ft
  4. 4 beds, 2 baths
    Home size: 2,032 sq ft
  5. 4 beds, 3 baths
    Home size: 2,584 sq ft
    Lot size: 5,793 sqft

See all Real estate in the city of San Jose.
(all data current as of 11/18/2017)

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

Why do sellers prefer cashBuyers who are getting slammed out of the Silicon Valley real estate market due to low inventory and multiple offers are extremely frustrated. In many cases, they write offer after offer, and each time not only are their bids rejected, but they never even get a counter offer.

You should not depend on getting a 2nd chance, of course.  Just because you write a contract on a San Jose area home does not mean that the seller needs to give you a counter offer.  Some agents and sellers don’t respond at all – not nice, but if you get dozens of offers, sometimes that does happen.  Sometimes they just take the best offer and run. Othertimes they only counter the best offer and forget the rest.

The question arises all the time: why isn’t my 20% down offer just as good as the 50% down or the All Cash offer? Isn’t 20% down good enough? Or for that matter, why wouldn’t a 3.5% FHA backed loan be suitable?

Cash is better because there’s less risk

Twenty percent down is “good enough” if there are no other offers. If it’s multiple offers, though, it’s probably not sufficient for most sellers provided that the all cash offers are written with realistic pricing. Right now, 25% of all sales in Santa Clara County are all cash, and sellers would far rather deal with an offer that includes no finance or appraisal contingencies.  For sellers, the fewer contingencies the better and no contingencies is ideal.  Particularly now, when we are seeing a very sudden and dramatic upswing in pricing, appraisal contingencies can kill an offer’s chances of success. With all cash, there is no appraisal at all – it’s a slam dunk on that front. Continue reading

If you are house hunting in the Cambrian area of San Jose, you are probably aware that home prices and the real estate climate generally differ based on a number of things, but the most important factor of all is the schools.   While it is helpful to view the Cambrian real estate market as a whole, it’s more accurate to look at a smaller segment of that realty market and study it by school district.

One data point we use to analyse the market is the absorption rate, or months of inventory.  The question is this: if no new inventory came on the market, how long would it take for the current supply of houses for sale take to sell, if sales continue at the same rate?  For this we look at the currently available list of homes for sale (some people including pending with contingency in place, but nearly all of these do close, so I omit them) and also those of the same criteria which have sold and closed escrow in the last 30 days.  The same study could be done on a weekly basis rather than monthly, but with such small numbers of inventory, that would likely not be so reliable.  I ran these numbers from MLSListings.com this morning?

Cambrian months of inventory by elementary school district as of 2-5-2016

Cambrian as a whole has 1.07 months of inventory – that’s pretty good if you are a seller, and a bit scary if you are a buyer.  A closer look, though, and you see quite a huge difference between either the Cambrian or Union School District, which both have a very brisk .83 months of inventory, versus the homes in the San Jose Unified School District area, which are moving at 3 months of inventory – a great market for most of the U.S., but sluggish compared to the other areas.

For a home owner wanting to sell in the SJ Unfied section of Cambrian, this is critically important information to understand so that you don’t overestimate the enthusiasm for your house.  It is going to be more important for you to price aggressively, stage well, market thoroughly than in the other areas, which may be more self-selling due to the very high quality of the public schools.

For a home buyer wanting to purchase in any of these areas, knowledge is power!  You might be able to get away with contingencies in your offers in the San Jose Unified neighborhoods as you may be the only offer in some cases, but that may not get you into your next home in the more competitive areas where many people are just trying to get their children into excellent schools and you’ve got multiple offers and overbids in that superheated market.   (We Realtors do not love seeing our buyers get into contract with few or no contingencies, by the way.  We prefer where there’s a little more balance.  This imbalanced situation is a classic case of supply and demand: too much demand, not much supply.)

Finally, it should be noted that schools are a major driver all of Silicon Valley.  I have similar studies, using high school districts, for Saratoga (on this site) and Los Gatos (on the Live in Los Gatos blog),  if you’d like to check those out also.  Because those areas have a really big spread in pricing, the absorption rates have been considered by price point too.

Check out what’s happening in the Cambrian market in the map below.

  1. 4 beds, 3 baths
    Home size: 2,584 sq ft
    Lot size: 5,793 sqft
  2. 4 beds, 2 baths
    Home size: 1,601 sq ft
    Lot size: 6,298 sqft
  3. 4 beds, 2 baths
    Home size: 1,233 sq ft
    Lot size: 5,710 sqft
  4. 3 beds, 1 bath
    Home size: 1,280 sq ft
    Lot size: 5,401 sqft
  5. 3 beds, 2 baths
    Home size: 1,210 sq ft
    Lot size: 6,059 sqft
  6. 3 beds, 3 baths
    Home size: 1,501 sq ft
    Lot size: 1,454 sqft
  7. 4 beds, 2 baths
    Home size: 1,364 sq ft
    Lot size: 6,037 sqft
  8. 4 beds, 2 baths
    Home size: 1,792 sq ft
    Lot size: 8,058 sqft
  9. 4 beds, 2 baths
    Home size: 1,947 sq ft
    Lot size: 5,998 sqft
  10. 3 beds, 2 baths
    Home size: 1,206 sq ft
    Lot size: 6,817 sqft

See all Real estate in the Cambrian community.
(all data current as of 11/18/2017)

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

Missing the markOne of the most frustrating experiences for Silicon Valley home buyers is to spend time and energy looking at homes that they simply cannot afford.  It happens all the time.  I’ll be the first to admit it’s not always easy. In fact, take a look at a couple of my posts (or at least their titles) and you can see the dilemma up front:

Sometimes the list price isn’t the expected sales price, so run comps!

Why looking at the comps may lead you astray in determining market value today

What’s a consumer to do?

YES, you should look at the comps. NO you should not only look at the comps!

Here are a few questions to consider:

  1. How’s the market heat?  Are the open houses packed? Are many homes getting multiple offers?
  2. What’s the list price to sales price ratio for homes in that area?
  3. Is there too much or not enough inventory of available homes?
  4. How many offers will there be? Multiples change everything!

If homes are often selling for over list price, it would be silly to assume that a property that’s only been on the market for a few days will sell for very much under list price. That’s even more true of the open house is packed!

In today’s hot sellers market, homes are not uncommonly listed below the expected sales price. Knowing the true market value is more important than the asking price.

Finding the sales price to list price ratio is easy – you can check it for various areas in Santa Clara County by visiting my Real Estate Report.  Right now, here are the ratios in the San Jose area:

All of Santa Clara County 102.4%
All of San Jose 102.1%
Los Gatos 99.1%
Saratoga 103.4%
Cupertino 106.6%

You get the idea.  Coming in at or under list price in this kind of climate will not make you, the buyer, look serious or knowledgeable if the listing is new and the property is in good shape. The same would be true in a calmer market if an offer came in at 95% or less.

Finally, understand the basics of “supply and demand”. If inventory is high, you can get away with writing a low offer and possibly seeing it work. But if inventory is chronically low, as it has been the past year, this won’t go over so well.  The number of anticipated offers will tell you what you need to know here!

A good real estate agent will assist you in understanding the probable market value for any home you’re thinking about buying. Although it’s an art as much as a science, it’s possible to get at least the right ballpark if you can measure all of these variables correctly.

Looking to buy in the current market? Check out some of my other articles through the links below.

How to fast-track your home buying: 6 steps

Is buying a home in late fall or winter a good idea, or is it better to wait until spring? (Hint: there’s no right or wrong answer)

And stay informed on the markets by following my Market Reports, many updated monthly.

Check out the sales and listings in Santa Clara County through the interactive map below.

  1. 3 beds, 1 bath
    Home size: 1,501 sq ft
    Lot size: 5,998 sqft
  2. 5 beds, 3 baths
    Home size: 2,602 sq ft
    Lot size: 6,355 sqft
  3. 2 beds, 2 baths
    Home size: 922 sq ft
    Lot size: 1,960 sqft
  4. 2 beds, 2 baths
    Home size: 1,290 sq ft
    Lot size: 3,367 sqft
  5. 3 beds, 3 baths
    Home size: 1,680 sq ft
    Lot size: 7,000 sqft
  6. 2 beds, 2 baths
    Home size: 955 sq ft
  7. 4 beds, 2 baths
    Home size: 2,032 sq ft
  8. 4 beds, 3 baths
    Home size: 2,584 sq ft
    Lot size: 5,793 sqft
  9. 5 beds, 3 baths
    Home size: 2,673 sq ft
    Lot size: 6,899 sqft
  10. 4 beds, 2 baths
    Home size: 1,474 sq ft
    Lot size: 5,601 sqft

See all Real estate matching your search.
(all data current as of 11/18/2017)

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

Silicon ValleyWhen are property taxes due in Silicon Valley?

Silicon Valley is not a governmental area, like the City of San Jose or San Mateo County.  Silicon Valley includes virtually all of Santa Clara County, most of San Mateo County, and parts of Alameda County and Santa Cruz County. Property taxes, or real estate taxes, are paid to whichever California county the home or land is located.  Luckily, all four of these counties work off the same basic set of dates.

Fiscal year for real estate taxes and due dates:

The fiscal year for the county tax assessor’s office begins July 1st.  Property taxes are billed in two installments.  The first one covers July 1st to December 31st, and the second one begins with January 1st and runs through the last day of June.

  • The property tax bill for the first installment is due November 1st and is late if not paid (or postmarked) by December 10th at 5pm.
  • The second installment of real estate taxes is due February 1st and is late if payment is not received or postmarked by April 10th at 5pm.  (This one fools people because U.S. income taxes are due April 15th, so be extra careful!)

Should the delinquent date fall on a weekend or holiday, the deadline falls to 5pm the next business day.

What happens if the payment is late?

If your payment is late, there’s a 10% penalty (and an administrative fee may be charged for processing the late payment as well).  If taxes aren’t paid by the end of the fiscal year, the property is then “in default”.   Eventually, if the tax isn’t paid, the home may be foreclosed on by the tax assessor’s office, though ordinarily this may take years and the owner’s credit can be damaged significantly in the process.

Other dates to know

Property taxes are mailed in September and October and should arrive before November 1st.

Property tax bills become a lein January 1st.  Don’t be offended, it’s just a bill that is always due!

January 1st is also the assessment date, meaning that is the date when the county tax assessor’s office figures out the taxable value of your condo, townhouse, house, multiplex, etc.   When you get your assessment, it’s the perceived value as of January 1st that year.

Supplemental taxes

If you just bought your home, the tax rate applied at closing was the former owner’s rate, which normally will be lower than the new rate due.  A few months later, when everyone has forgotten about it, a Supplemental Tax Bill comes in the mail.  That’s a one-time “catch up” bill and after that you’ll get taxed at the rate you should have been since you bought, which is appx 1.25% of the purchase price for the first year. After the first year, taxes can rise only 2% per year from that initial value*, even if the home appreciates much more.  (This situation inclines people not to sell and is part of the reason for our housing shortage.)

This is Silicon Valley and really we ought to be able to get that calculated at closing, but for some reason, the systems in place cannot seem to muster it.

*If there’s a decline in value such as we saw in The Great Recession, people may appeal their assessed rate and get a lower tax rate.  When values rise again, the 2% constraints will not be in place as such.  Real estate property taxes can jump up a lot, but not more than if they had been climbing 2% per year during the correction.

View what’s on the market in Santa Clara County through the map below:

  1. 2 beds, 2 baths
    Home size: 1,290 sq ft
    Lot size: 3,367 sqft
  2. 3 beds, 1 bath
    Home size: 1,154 sq ft
    Lot size: 9,374 sqft
  3. 4 beds, 2 baths
    Home size: 1,489 sq ft
    Lot size: 5,301 sqft
  4. 0 beds, 0 bath
    Home size: 3,737 sq ft
    Lot size: 7,501 sqft
  5. 2 beds, 1 bath
    Home size: 971 sq ft
  6. 2 beds, 2 baths
    Home size: 1,062 sq ft
    Lot size: 1,258 sqft
  7. 3 beds, 2 baths
    Home size: 1,466 sq ft
    Lot size: 5,702 sqft
  8. 5 beds, 4 baths
    Home size: 3,226 sq ft
    Lot size: 8,999 sqft
  9. 3 beds, 2 baths
    Home size: 1,434 sq ft
    Lot size: 17,498 sqft
  10. 2 beds, 2 baths
    Home size: 1,148 sq ft
    Lot size: 1,149 sqft

See all Real estate in the city of Santa Clara.
(all data current as of 11/18/2017)

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

Creek behind a houseSilicon Valley has a bad case of “urban sprawl”, unfortunately, but there are places in San Jose and nearby where creeks meander through neighborhoods, offering a little extra space between back neighbors.  This extra breathing room is valued by homeowners with a creekside location.  They often cite the pleasantly rural sounds of frogs and birds as an added bonus.

But some home buyers are a little spooked.  Are there risks with buying real estate next to a waterway?  Would the home flood in heavy rains?  Is there an excess of unpleasant wildlife to worry about?  One of my buyer clients was concerned that burglers would use the creek’s access path to steal things and get away unseen.   Another was afraid of cougars or bobcats or other unwelcome visitors coming in from a creek or tributary.

When Jim and I were newlyweds, we lived in a townhouse on Neary’s Lagoon in Santa Cruz (a bird sanctuary) and I have sold several homes along creeks or ponds, so will make some comments based on my experience.

Creeks: scenic or not?

In general, I would say that being next to or near a creek most often will improve the value of the home because creeks are scenic and also provide a space buffer between rear neighbors.  They frequently have beautiful old trees framing their banks and are slightly curved, too, so these are usually quite pretty.   I won’t say that living next to a waterway which looks like a Los Angeles flood control channel would be beautiful or enhance a home’s value much, though the space between neighbors would still be appreciated.  Each case must be judged on its own merits.

Wildlife at the water’s edge

It is true that there will be more wildlife near water, whether it’s a creek, river, reservoir, pond, or percolation pond.  Birds, reptiles and animals need water and will seek it out.  If you love nature, you may welcome the sound of frogs and geese, and perhaps secretly hope to see a wayward deer!  If you decide to live near water, it is very important to make sure that wildlife cannot enter your home (chimney, attic and crawlspace included) and it will require some ongoing dillengence to keep them out because they will be drawn to the water over and over again.  I’ve known people adjacent to water to have some challenges with birds, bats, mice, rats, and other creatures trying to make their way in.  But that can happen anywhere.  At our current home, which is not next to or near a creek, we had a squirrel try to claw its way through flashing on our roof to get into the attic. Another time we had a possum or racoon get into the attic. Be clear that being away from the water doesn’t mean “no wildlife issues” – but if you are next to water, you will probably face them a little more often.

Floods and flood plains

Creekside locations do not all flood; this is perhaps the biggest misconception.  When buying a home, you can check the flood plain status via the Natural Hazards Disclosure Report, which the seller provides.  And please know that there are different types and levels of flood plains – they are not all the same!  The one which requires flood insurance is called a 100 Year Flood Plain and in those locations, water of up to 1 foot may be expecte d once every 100 years (so not that often).  There are 500 year flood plains and areas which are “dam failure inundation” zones (if a dam were to break, water downhill would flood, of course).

Protected species that depend on the waterways

We have a number of protected species in California, including certain frogs and salamanders.  If your home (or the one you want to buy) is in the habitat area of those animals, birds, or reptiles, you may have some constraints on landscaping near the creek or water.  Most of the time it involves not placing a fence within so many feet of the creek and using only native landscaping in that area close to the creek too.

Crime?

As for crime, I would have to say that you want to always check a site like CrimeReports.com or similar sources to know what’s happening.  We do have crime everywhere, and all kinds, to varying degrees.  Most creeks do not have easy access to people’s homes or yards, and often the service road along the creek is a rough gravel, so I have a hard time picturing burglers trying to get in and walk their stolen loot a ways down that path.  But check the reports.  Realtors are not crime experts and we cannot make promises about any area or location.

Check out market activity in Santa Clara County:

  1. 3 beds, 1 bath
    Home size: 1,501 sq ft
    Lot size: 5,998 sqft
  2. 5 beds, 3 baths
    Home size: 2,602 sq ft
    Lot size: 6,355 sqft
  3. 2 beds, 2 baths
    Home size: 922 sq ft
    Lot size: 1,960 sqft
  4. 2 beds, 2 baths
    Home size: 1,290 sq ft
    Lot size: 3,367 sqft
  5. 3 beds, 3 baths
    Home size: 1,680 sq ft
    Lot size: 7,000 sqft

See all Real estate matching your search.
(all data current as of 11/18/2017)

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

And in Santa Cruz County:

  1. 2 beds, 2 baths
    Home size: 1,805 sq ft
    Lot size: 5,619 sqft
  2. 3 beds, 2 baths
    Home size: 1,400 sq ft
    Lot size: 28,706 sqft
  3. 5 beds, 3 baths
    Home size: 2,128 sq ft
    Lot size: 9,060 sqft
  4. 3 beds, 3 baths
    Home size: 2,645 sq ft
    Lot size: 5,575 sqft
  5. 3 beds, 1 bath
    Home size: 1,302 sq ft
    Lot size: 38,681 sqft

See all Real estate matching your search.
(all data current as of 11/18/2017)

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

Security guards used to be required on site when a home was fumigated in California, but that has not been the case since the 90s.  Seems that some clever bad guys have decided, in Southern California, that this makes a home “easy pickings” (apparently gas masks are not that hard to come by).  Sadly, crime often comes in waves and ideas catch on, so it would be wise for us to be prepared to have this happen here.  The solution is simple: bring back paid security, or stay on site yourself (rent or borrow a motor home, camper etc.)

Check out the news video from Los Angeles’ KABC TV station and see if you don’t agree that having someone there with watchful eyes isn’t a good idea.

 

  1. 7 beds, 7 baths
    Home size: 6,651 sq ft
    Lot size: 1.95 ac
  2. 4 beds, 3 baths
    Home size: 2,783 sq ft
    Lot size: 1.09 ac
  3. 5 beds, 4 baths
    Home size: 3,025 sq ft
    Lot size: 11,560 sqft
  4. 4 beds, 5 baths
    Home size: 4,655 sq ft
    Lot size: 43,560 sqft
  5. 4 beds, 3 baths
    Home size: 1,999 sq ft
    Lot size: 13,490 sqft
  6. 3 beds, 2 baths
    Home size: 1,352 sq ft
    Lot size: 8,171 sqft
  7. 6 beds, 10 baths
    Home size: 8,410 sq ft
    Lot size: 1.89 ac
  8. 3 beds, 3 baths
    Home size: 2,173 sq ft
    Lot size: 2,295 sqft
  9. 4 beds, 3 baths
    Home size: 2,397 sq ft
    Lot size: 8,080 sqft
  10. 4 beds, 3 baths
    Home size: 2,970 sq ft
    Lot size: 12,479 sqft

See all Real estate in the city of Saratoga.
(all data current as of 11/18/2017)

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

Translation

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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
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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Santa Clara County Real Estate,
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Mary’s Blog Awards
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

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