Luxury Homes & Estate Properties in Silicon Valley
How’s the Saratoga California real estate market?
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 a very stable market with minute warming since last month. The overall 1.48 MOI is a hot sellers market showing active Summer conditions. 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 0.25 to 1.875. Small levels of inventory can create big data swings and can make for less accurate charts. Nonetheless, we can still spot market trends if we know where to look.
What makes an expensive house in the San Jose area more than just a pricey bit of real estate, but instead a Silicon Valley luxury home? How is high end real estate different from the rest of the market? When is a property not just a home with land, but an estate?
In other parts of the U.S., spending $1,200,000 may fetch a 4000 square foot home, new construction, in an upscale gated community with country club amenities such as a golf course, tennis courts, and more. Here, that same $1,200,000 will procure an entry to mid-level single family home in many parts of Santa Clara County. It won’t necessarily be a Silicon Valley luxury home.
Luxury connotes a combination of qualities, features, and amenities. And it includes pricing (relative to the nearby market), condition, land, design.
Pricing Luxury Homes in Silicon Valley: What Do They Cost?
Expensive Silicon Valley homes are not necessarily luxury homes. Depending on the city or town, the price tag could be higher or lower. For instance, a fabulous house on a large lot in Gilroy’s Eagle Ridge might sell for 1/3 as much as the identical type of home, land and neighborhood found in Saratoga, Monte Sereno, or Los Gatos, or Los Altos, if a similar home happened to be available. Generally, though, luxury homes could cost as little as $1,000,000 or so in some parts of Silicon Valley or in neighboring counties, but in most parts of Silicon Valley, a true estate type property will be valued at $2,000,000 or $3,000,000 or more. In some areas, such as Palo Alto, that $2 million doesn’t go too far and the home you can purchase at that price tag may need major updating – or it could be “land value”. For our purposes today, we’ll use $2 million as the bottom number for estate properties, but it may or may not be the case in some areas.
Luxury home sales are going like crazy in the west valley areas of Santa Clara County. Right now in Almaden Valley, Los Gatos, Monte Sereno and Saratoga, there are 105 houses for sale listed at or more than two million dollars (just checked MLSListings.com), and in the last 30 days 56 have sold and closed escrow in those same areas and price ranges. For the Almaden – Saratoga region generally, then, there are 1.88 months of inventory in the over two million dollar price range (105/56). That makes it a strong seller’s market. Things have certainly livened up a lot since October. (In the same region, there are 25 pending sales.)
Next we’ll look at these four Silicon Valley communities separately to see how the luxury market in each one is faring overall.
Almaden Valley (San Jose, 95120)
Currently in Almaden there are 9 houses for sale which are listed at or over $2,000,000. In the last 30 days, 8 sold in that price range (with two sales pending). That makes for just over 1.13 “months of inventory.” That would mean this luxury market has rapid turnover and is in a strong seller’s market. It’s a deep seller’s market in Almaden Valley among the most expensive real estate offerings for sale. Five to six months is balanced and over six is a buyer’s market. Continue reading
With fabulous views, exceptionally high ranking schools and beautiful newer construction, the Graystone and Pfeiffer Ranch neighborhoods in San Jose’s Almaden Valley are perennially desirable.
Recently I was in the neighborhood and took a couple of photos which feature Mt. Umunhum.
And one more:
The neighborhood also enjoys a park along the creek with a playground to enjoy on days with better weather.
Not sure if you’ve been to this scenic part of San Jose’s Almaden Valley? Here’s where to find it (this is where I took today’s pictures):
Current listings in Graystone:
Sorry, but we couldn't find any results in the MLS that match the specified search criteria.
Current listings in Almaden Valley:
$1,275,000 : 1459 Kew Gardens CT, SAN JOSE5 beds, 3 baths
$1,399,000 : 6466 Mojave DR, SAN JOSE5 beds, 3 baths
$1,599,999 : 755 Casswood CT, SAN JOSE4 beds, 3 baths
$1,150,000 : 5966 Drytown PL, SAN JOSE3 beds, 3 baths
$1,498,000 : 7012 Burnside DR, SAN JOSE4 beds, 2 baths
$1,428,000 : 1194 Quail Creek CIR, SAN JOSE3 beds, 3 baths
$1,299,000 : 6813 Bluffwood CT, SAN JOSE4 beds, 2 baths
$979,000 : 1290 Chilanian LN, SAN JOSE3 beds, 2 baths
$999,999 : 1143 Silver Hill DR, SAN JOSE3 beds, 3 baths
$1,498,000 : 1252 Big Talk CT, SAN JOSE5 beds, 3 baths
See all Real estate in the Almaden Valley community.
(all data current as of 9/21/2017)
Listing information deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Read full disclaimer.
The luxury homes market frequently behaves very differently than the rest of the real estate market as a whole. If interest rates jump around, the impact is often far less since the home buyers of estate properties may not be nearly as dependent upon financing. Many of these fine homes & estates are paid for “all cash”. (In some cases they do this but later arrange financing, perhaps funding a “charitable remainder” trust rather than a more typical institutional loan.)
How’s the real estate market for high end homes in Los Gatos, Monte Sereno and the Los Gatos Mountain communities? Defining “luxury homes” is a bit tricky because what constitutes luxury can vary from area to area (check out these estate homes for sale in the Buffalo NY area). For now let’s use prices of $2 million or greater as we first look at the Months of Inventory or Absorption Rate – though in fairness, the luxury price point is a little lower in the mountains. (Six months is considered balanced by the National Association of Realtor, less is a sellers market and more is a buyers market.) I first did this study in October of 2012 and will provide those numbers as a window back in time for comparison purposes.
Monte Sereno is having no trouble selling luxury homes compared to the rest of the Los Gatos area right now. The Los Gatos Mountains (Chemeketa Park, Redwood Estates, Aldercroft Heights and other areas) struggles with the over $2 million market.
No matter how you look at it, overall it is a seller’s market in the luxury home strata in Monte Sereno and Los Gatos – but not the Los Gatos Mountains. It is not so crazy as the entry level homes, which have a much faster absorption rate, so buyers, take heart! Three months of inventory is pretty doable and not so far from a “balanced” market here.
Altos charts on the LG area
Next we’ll change gears and use Altos Research and quartiles to evaluate the most expensive listings. We will look at the top quartile of list prices, the high end listings in Los Gatos (zip codes 95030 and 95032 in town), in the Los Gatos Mountains (unincorporated, 95033) and Monte Sereno (99.9% of which is in 95030 but a tiny sliver has the 95032 zip code). The charts I’m using are live and will be continuously updated by Altos Research, to which I have a subscription.
List prices of homes for sale in the topmost price quartile in Los Gatos, Monte Sereno and the Los Gatos Mountains
Fabulous opportunity to purchase a spectacular view home with a close-in location on gated lot in Los Gatos! Ideal for entertaining with oversized rooms, most with valley views.
Unique find! Very spacious, sunny home with open floor plan on gated lot in an easy-to-access location. Nearly all rooms enjoy expansive valley views! Ideal for entertaining!
• 4 bedrooms
• 4.5 baths
• Living space approx. 5,326 SF (per county)
• Lot size approx. 41,382 SF (.95 acre, per county)
• Year built: 1991
• 3 car garage + 2 car carport
• Gently sloping lot with room for pool
Main floor includes
Silicon Valley features a number of upscale communities that enjoy beautiful estate properties. These luxury homes are not simply large houses, but rather they boast qualities generally not seen in regular residential real estate.
What makes a house a “luxury home”?
A luxury property in Santa Clara County often includes a number of elements that set it apart, such as:
- price tag: these homes usually sell for more than three or five million dollars (and may be $10 or $20 million or more, though in some cases as low as $2 million – that largely depends on location)
- close to an acre or more of land
- house larger than 4000 or 5000 sf
- the inclusion of “out buildings” such as a guest cottage, gatehouse, etc.
- views (valley, hill, acreage) or special features of the land (waterfront, riverfront adjacent), a vineyard, or something else special and uniquely beautiful
- amenities such as a pool, tennis court, racquetball court, gym, sports court or facilities for enjoying other sports & exercise on site
- specialized hobby or relaxation rooms, as in a darkroom, library, workshop, conservatory, wine cellar & tasting room
- entertainment centers not commonly found in private homes, like a ballroom, dedicated home theater room for movie viewing, bowling alley, shooting range, or place to practice a golf swing; pool or billiards and “game room”, and ice cream parlor
- safety tools such as a video surveillance system, electronic gates
- neighborhood: it is very hard for an expensive house to be viewed as a luxury home if the surrounding properties are not also high end homes
The (main) house itself is qualitatively different too.
Kitchens tend to be the most important room for San Jose area home buyers of all price ranges, and this includes homes that cost upwards of ten million dollars. Usually, kitchens in these homes are designed with a very clear purpose in mind and are done beautifully, though recently in Los Gatos I saw a home listed for about ten million with a kitchen that needs to be completely remodeled. This is very unusual, though.
Most luxury homes features kitchens of one extreme or the other. On the one hand, it may be more industrial in nature if those cooking in it are primarily professional chefs, domestic employees or catering services rather than the homeowner. This is not the kitchen of glossy magazines, it’s not meant to impress anyone for all the maple cabinets, stainless steel appliances and granite countertops. This sort of kitchen is functional, not gorgeous, and it may have stainless steel countertops, for instance, alongside the giant gas range. Such a kitchen is usually separate from the living areas and the guests are not expected to visit this part of the home.
Far more commonly found in Silicon Valley is the other end of the spectrum, the kitchen where residents spend most of their time, and it’s meant to impress. Here we see high end materials and appliances in a room viewed as much as art as the meals created in it are. This type of kitchen is often the focal point of today’s upscale or luxury home. The home’s floorplan is “open” to the kitchen – often the kitchen and family room blend together as part of a Great Room. This is a kitchen designed for owners who cook, not those who have servants.
Today we’re looking at the real estate market for houses in some of the “west valley” communities 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):
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:
(1B) And, very interestingly, same data but for the top quartile – the luxury market:
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
What should you look for when buying a luxury home in Silicon Valley? Whether it’s a move-up purchase or a first home, there are a few tips which will be helpful for you to know going into it that will make the whole home buying experience smoother and easier. We’ll hit on 3 areas: first geography & construction, second hyper local factors that impact market value, and finally qualities or features of the property or house itself.
It’s hard to assign an exact price tag on what constitutes an estate or luxury property, but in and near Silicon Valley, in most regions it’s the $2,000,000 and up price point (it will be less in Morgan Hill, Coyote and Gilroy – and likely more in Hillsborough).
1. Geography and Bay Area Construction: it’s different here!
The first and most important thing to understand is that real estate and housing construction vary from one region of the country (or the world) to the next. This is true for all types of homes, actually, but perhaps more obvious in the priciest homes. Luxury real estate in Silicon Valley is a little different from similarly expensive homes in other parts of the country due to our climate, soil conditions, and natural hazards, such as earthquakes. What seems mandatory for a high end home (and might be ideal to have elsewhere) could be a problem here, so it’s helpful to literally understand the lay of the land before you get too far along the home buying path. A couple of quick examples:
- A fabulous home in Boston or anywhere in New England may be built of brick.
- Here, a brick house is seldom seen because of earthquakes – we need our houses to move and bricks are not usually too good at that!
I mention these two upfront because well intentioned friends and relatives may want to stress the importance of this or that in a property – and it may simply not apply here. (Please see article: Qualify The Advice You’ll Accept When Buying or Selling a Home in Silicon Valley) If you are non-native to the San Francisco Bay Area, you may have assumptions about construction or architecture that may not work here. Please just be aware of that possibility.
2. Understand the importance of hyper local factors on the market value of a property
Schools can be a main driver for home values in the luxury market as all other segments. Home buyers may not know that the town or city boundaries are usually irrelevant to school district boundaries. Here are a few examples:
- In Saratoga there are 3 high school districts and 4 elementary school districts. Before buying anywhere in Saratoga, then, you’ll want to know which district is which and where you’re buying. If you want to utilize private schools, you may be delighted to find that you can buy more house for your money in one area of this lovely city than another. Or you may want one school area over another for any number of reasons.
- In Los Gatos there are 2 high school districts and 3 elementary school districts.
- In the Almaden Valley area of San Jose, there are 3 high school districts and 3 elementary school districts
Often the lesser public school districts will have a lower lid on pricing than the very top districts or schools, so it’s important, when analyzing the pricing of an estate home, to factor in the weight of the school. Continue reading
The Los Altos Country Club Neighborhood
Younger, Elegant Mediterranean View Home
The floorplan is flexible. There is a 2 car garage at street level, but a third which is accessed from the rear of the property – ideal for RVs, boats, and extra cars or vehicles. The 3rd garage can be used as built, or as a rec room, extra storage, or a number of other options.