Houses

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 month shows steady, low inventory with increasing sales, creating a higher MOI. Despite winter cooling, the market just won’t let up, and an overall 2.375 MOI is still a sellers market. By comparing across school districts you can see how different each area’s individual market can be. The overall MOI for different schools this month ranges from 1.8 to 2.778. Small levels of inventory can create big data swings like, and can make for not the most accurate charts. Nonetheless, we can still spot market trends if we know where to look.

 

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Plat map sampleA plat map comes with your preliminary title report (provided by your title company when you purchase or sell a home in California), tucked away at the back and somewhat mysterious with lots of numbers in small print. It holds quite a bit of helpful information if you know what it is you’re seeing. Today we’ll view a sample of one of these – breaking down the plat map shown as a small thumbnail image on the right to more readable parts so that you can learn how to “read” or understand a plat map. By the way, this example we’re using is for a lovely San Jose neighborhood in the Cambrian Park district which borders Los Gatos and is near Carlton Avenue, Los Gatos-Almaden Road and Union Avenue.

First have a quick look at the thumbnail image on the right.  You can tell it’s some sort of map with official looking writing in the lower corners.  Perhaps most salient even in the smallest image, one important feature of the plat map is that it provides the orientation of the properties (north/south/east/west).  That info is now readily findable online, but this used to be the easiest way (and most accurate) to answer the question “which way does the home face?” Look at the map, find the parcel and you’ll know its orientation.

Plat Map with part of Esther Drive in San Jose

The plat map also provides the Tract Number (and often the name given by the builder for the subdivision – in this case, Carlton Terrace). Along the right side, you can see the source of this information: the office of the county assessor for Santa Clara County.
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Mid-century modern homes, including those designed by Joseph Eichler, dot the Silicon Valley & South Bay Area real estate landscape.  There are probably more than 5,000 Eichlers in Santa Clara County altogether, plus all the other homes of that genre with the similar modern style, which was influenced by the ranch and prarie styles as well as the dramatic work by Frank Lloyd Wright (open beam ceilings, nearly flat roofs, lots of exposed wood & glass windows stretching from the floor to the ceiling).  Eichlers, especially, put a premium on privacy from the street but open to the outdoors otherwise.

Not every community in Santa Clara County has Eichler homes, but most have the mid-century modern style homes & neighborhoods. These homes vary from tiny, modest cottages of 1100 square feet to large & elegant  houses of nearly 3,000 square feet, featuring big, central atriums or courtyards.  (There are also some co-ops in the valley too.)  The quality varies, as the homes were constructed by several different builders with different home buying budgets in mind.  Real estate prices range from “entry level” to very expensive, depending on the location (city and schools), size of the home & lot, and condition of the property. Most of them are now about 50 years old, though some are a little younger.

Some of the West Side Silicon Valley Communities which feature Eichler and Mid Century Modern Homes

In Los Gatos there are no Eichlers but there are a small handful of single family homes which are mid-century modern on Eastridge Drive (just off Blossom Hill Road and Hillbrook). There are a couple more at the end of Magnuson Terrace (off Magnuson Loop and Los Gatos Blvd).  Additionally, there are some smaller mid-50s homes on El Gato (and adjacent portions of Escobar) off of Los Gatos-Almaden Road. Unfortunately, not all of these homes are “well kept”, though many are.

Monte Sereno is home to 16 Eichler designed houses on Via Sereno beginning at the intersection of Winchester Blvd with Via Sereno.  These houses were built in the late 60s to early 70s.
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Today we’re looking at the real estate market for houses in some of the “west valleycommunities along the base of the Santa Cruz Mountains – areas where schools are good, crime is low, residents enjoy scenic views of the hills (or of the valley from the hills, depending on the location) and overall, a highly educated population not too far from Highway 85.

Of the four municipalities, three are really very similar to each other in several regards.  Cupertino has the largest population – about 58,000 people – but Los Altos, Los Gatos and Saratoga are all similarly sized, somewhere between 27,000 and 30,000 residents.  The latter three also enjoy a traditional “downtown” area which is popular with pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists alike. (Monte Sereno has 4,000 residents, which is so small that the statistics are very easily thrown from month to month, so it is omitted in this quick study.)  Of the four, Cupertino, then, is the least similar due to size and lack of a central downtown area.

We’ll take a quick look at these areas now in terms of the real estate market trends and statistics for each area, considering just “class 1” (houses and duet homes).  The charts used below are from Altos Research, to which I have a subscription, and they will be automatically updated each week.

(1) Median List Price (per Altos Research):

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

Los Altos and Saratoga are neck and neck for most expensive areas in which to purchase a house. Over the last year, though, Los Altos has seen a rise in the median list price. There has been a corresponding rise in demand with the success of several local companies in the region (Apple, Google, Microsoft, LinkedIn, Facebook), some of which have gone public and others of which are on the verge of doing so. Los Altos is more convenient to most of these.

Los Gatos, which is a little more affordable than Saratoga and Los Altos, has seen a very noticeable increase in pricing also, while Cupertino’s prices have declined a little.

(1A) Median list price of the bottom quartile of all four:
Real Estate Market Chart by Altos Research www.altosresearch.com


(1B)
And, very interestingly, same data but for the top quartilethe luxury market:

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

Here we see Los Altos clearly overtaking Saratoga! And also that Cupertino’s pricing is significantly lower than Los Gatos in this tier, and also that it has lost a lot of ground in the second half of 2011.  Continue reading

The real estate news is so mixed it’s mind boggling, whether it’s a national perspective, one specific to California, the San Francisco Bay Area, the “south Bay”, Silicon Valley or even San Jose in particular.  It is anything but a uniform, monolithic market. Even so, it’s good to look at the big picture along side the hyper local level, and that’s what we’ll do today.

Today’s San Jose Mercury News featured a front page article by Sue McAllister (an excellent reporter) on Santa Clara County housing values.  She shares that Zillow says that we’ve hit bottom here in Santa Clara County.  That is certainly good news to home owners accross Silicon Valley!  And I don’t disagree that countywide, we’re definitely looking up right now.  No guarantees for the future, but Zillow says that the threat of a second or double dip no longer seems likely. Whew!

Unfortunately, there’s another real risk to this recovery and it’s not the “shadow industry”. This time it’s homeowners walking away because they’re underwater (not because they can’t afford to stay, but because they choose not to).  Sixty Minutes did a segment on this phenomena of home owners walking away last night., which you can watch via this link.
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Home sales in Santa Clara County have bounced back, ending the year on an up note! Home sales were up 28.7% in 2009, while the median price dropped 20.2%. The good news? Prices bottomed out in the first quarter and have been rising steadily, albeit slowly, ever since.

To read about the market in particular parts of Santa Clara County (both cities and districts within the city of San Jose), you can read my full on-line report here: http://popehandy.rereport.com.

There is also a 4 page printable version with more insightful articles about the annual market, here: http://rereport.com/scc/print/Mary.PopeHandySCC.pdf   

Economists are mixed on what will happen in 2010 and beyond, but many think that this year will be better than last, and 2011 will be a “hot” market again as prices are largely undervalued right now.

This week one of my buyers asked me about the inventory levels in Santa Clara County (San Jose, specificially) and wondered if they’re lower than usual.  I get this question a lot lately so wanted to present the numbers to the readers of this Valley of Hearts Delight Blog. 

How low is the inventory? It’s way off from last year in most parts of the west valley. But remember, last year was unusual.  (Below are the numbers for single family homes, or houses.)

SFH Almaden Cambrian Campbell Los Gatos Saratoga
MLS Areas 13 14 15 16 17
           
11/30/2009 50 86 81 133 86
11/30/2008 93 176 161 184 93
11/30/2007 58 163 130 113 58
11/30/2006 54 92 103 108 54
11/30/2005 56 81 73 104 56
11/30/2004 26 32 58 108 26
           
6 yr average 56 105 101 125 62

How much is this year’s inventory off from the average of the last 6 years?

Almaden: down appx 10%
Cambrian: down appx 18%
Campbell: down appx 20%
Los Gatos: up appx 6%
Saratoga: up appx 38%

Once again, “easy answers” allude us. 

If we were to push this further, we’d find that certain price points (or bands or strata) in the market are way above or below the typical numbers.  It is very hard to generalize accurately.  Anecdotally, though, it seems as though there’s very little on the market as far as my buyers are concerned (and right now, my buyers are looking at properties in Santa Clara County ranging from the 400s to between 1 and 2 million). 

For information on your particular situation, please contact me.

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


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