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.
Often I have clients who are interested in purchasing a 4 bedroom, 2 bath home in a good school district in Silicon Valley, particularly in the South Bay and West Valley areas. Tonight I did a study on the MLS of homes that have sold and closed escrow in the last 4 months with these characteristics:
- single family home (house)
- 4 bedrooms
- 2 bathrooms
- 1800 to 2200 square feet of living space
- 6000 to 10,000 sf lot
Disclaimers aside, here are the numbers for select West Valley Communities in the West/South Bay area with good schools. The first number is the average sales price per square foot, the second number is the average sales price:
And a look at the chart from all back in 2015…
And all the way back in 2011. What’s changed? A lot! The order has shifted some, showing where demand has increased or decreased. Most noticeably, the prices are significantly lower in 2011 than they are now. The 2015 chart shows prices somewhere in-between the 2011 and 2017 levels. Palo Alto and Los Altos remain consistently in the top two positions.
The home prices tend to run with the school district API scores. You can check the 2013, three year average, API scores in Santa Clara County for both the districts and the individual schools online here. Continue reading
In Almaden, Los Gatos, Monte Sereno, Saratoga and anywhere near hills in Silicon Valley, there are homes with cupped hardwood floors. Cupping is when the sides of the plants curl upward a little. If you view cupped floors in lighting at an angle, the “lines” between the pieces of wood are more prominent, as shown in the photo to the right. Should you walk across them barefoot, you will feel the elevated sides. When it is severe, there are very distinct ridges.
What causes cupping? It can be caused by installing hardwood that hasn’t cured or sat in the home for a few days first. But often that’s not the issue. Most of the time, it seems to result from water in the crawl space below. As the moisture evaporates, it moves up through the home and through the hardwood flooring.
This doesn’t happen everywhere, but is most common in hillside locations, places that are flat but have hills nearby (as water can travel underground and then pop up, potentially under your house), locations with high water tables (such as Willow Glen, many areas of Almaden such as Almaden Springs, or Los Gatos), or properties where the grading is wrong and water gets pulled toward the home instead of away from it. Although in many parts of the U.S. the soil is sandy and the water drains through, in most of Santa Clara County, we have expansive clay soils. With clay it’s harder for the water to soak through, but also when the soil gets wet it, it expands and pushes on the foundation and anything else in its way.
Are your floors beginning to cup? If so, it’s a red flag to pay attention and find the cause of the cupping before the damage is permanent, or much harder to fix. Check your crawl space for dampness and efflorescence (this requires going all the way into the crawl space). If you aren’t able or don’t want to go into the crawl, make sure to hire someone competant to evaluate the situation. Having a damp crawl space is not good (and if you find it in summer after a 3 year drought you do have an issue!). I would suggest getting an ASHI or CREIA certified home inspector to check it out and advise you on the cause of the cupping and what to do to remediate it. It may be that a hardwood flooring professional would also address this very well – I cannot speak to that but it may also be worth considering.
$1,899,000 : 5963 Thorntree DR, SAN JOSE5 beds, 4 baths
$1,949,000 : 6826 Shadow Mountain CT, SAN JOSE4 beds, 3 baths
$1,288,000 : 5854 Porto Alegre DR, SAN JOSE4 beds, 3 baths
$1,999,000 : 6609 Broadacres DR, SAN JOSE5 beds, 4 baths
$800,888 : 6398 Menlo DR, SAN JOSE3 beds, 2 baths
$1,525,000 : 6208 Lillian WAY, SAN JOSE4 beds, 3 baths
$3,499,888 : 20601 Via Santa Teresa, SAN JOSE4 beds, 7 baths
$2,999,500 : 6793 Elwood RD, SAN JOSE5 beds, 6 baths
$2,699,000 : 7072 Kindra Hill DR, SAN JOSE4 beds, 5 baths
$1,395,000 : MLS # ML81687529 in SAN JOSE3 beds, 3 baths
See all Real estate in the Almaden Valley community.
(all data current as of 2/19/2018)
Listing information deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Read full disclaimer.
If you arrived into Silicon Valley via Highway 101, driving south from San Francisco, you might believe that the Santa Clara Valley, the San Jose area and Silicon Valley as a whole has got to seem to be the ugliest place on earth. Although heavily traveled, that is not the “scenic route”.
So, too, if you are looking for a place to live and are groping to find a place that is reasonably priced, fairly safe and not a terrible commute distance. You might not even have “is nice looking” on your wish list. You might not think it’s possible if all you ever see are the ugly concrete tilt-up buildings in north San Jose, Santa Clara, Alviso, or anywhere along the 237 corridor. That area is an architectural wasteland.
Let me assure you: there are a lot of beautiful places in Silicon Valley where you can rent or buy a home. But how do you find them? It helps a lot to have a local give you a few pointers. I’ll give you some tips today on finding a scenic place to live.
Hills – An easy way to find a scenic location to make your home is to settle near the hills, especially those in the west valley (the Santa Cruz Mountains or the Coastal Range) as they are green year-round. Communities at the base of the west valley foothills include, in Santa Clara County, Palo Alto, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Cupertino, Saratoga, Monte Sereno, Los Gatos, and the Almaden Valley area of San Jose. All of these areas are adjacent to the hills or mountains and offer far better than average schools (many of them qualify as great – compare costs between these areas). Continue reading
According to the San Jose Mercury News, the San Jose area has now had more than a “normal” amount of rainfall.
Is that it? After 14 solid days of the wet stuff and most every day in March bringing those fabled showers, it seems like we should be well over the normal amount of rainfall year to date.
Santa Cruz is 110% of normal for rain year to date, according to the National Weather Service. Mount Hamilton is 129%. The San Francisco Airport is 121% of normal.
The Santa Cruz Mountains and nearby western foothill areas of Silicon Valley ike Almaden Valley (San Jose), Los Gatos, Monte Sereno, Saratoga, Cupertino, Los Altos Hills and on up the Peninsula all got walloped over these last 2 weeks especially. It’s hard to believe that we are at “just normal”.
But the good news is that this week is supposed to be dry and by late this week temps are supposed to hit the high 70s. Bring it on!
With our 300 sunny days per year in Silicon Valley (at least most years!), golf is a sport enjoyed year round here in the San Jose area. Living near a golf course, or having a golf course view, is highly desirable as it provides scenic open space as well as convenience for avid golfers.
Silicon Valley Golf Homes, Silicon Valley Golf Properties
There are beautiful courses throughout the South Bay Area and it’s possible to find small condos with views of them at fairly affordable prices (Sunnyvale’s Sunken Gardens area is one of them). Today, though, I want to provide a list of homes for sale near golf courses in the foothill areas of Silicon Valley. Many of these will also be luxury homes. So the MLS list of these houses on the market which you can browse includes these areas:
San Jose areas including Evergreen & Silver Creek, Santa Teresa, Blossom Valley and Almaden; Los Gatos, Monte Sereno, Saratoga, Cupertino, and Los Altos.
There are golf courses to be found in other parts of Santa Clara County too (Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara and more) – let me know if you are interested in these parts and I can send you a link for searching them for similar residential real estate.
On Tuesday of this week I was showing some nice folks around the San Jose area. As part of our tour, we stopped in at Valley Christian High School (south San Jose – Santa Teresa area). The sky was clear and the views spectacular! (Disclaimer – in this photo, the sky ended up looking white, so I did tinker with the color.)
From here we were looking at the Santa Teresa Foothills ((lowest, closest hills). In front of them are the Santa Teresa & Blossom Valley areas of San Jose. Behind them is Almaden Valley.
Along the coastal range in back, the peak on the far right (with a flat area) is Mt. Umunhum. To the far left, the higher peaks are where you’ll find Loma Prieta.
The Williamson Act, also known as the California Land Conservation Act, was passed by our California Legislature in 1965 in order to encourage rural & agricultural lands to remain undeveloped longer. When land owners enter into a contract under the act, they benefit from lower property taxes, which are based on the property’s current use, rather than paying market value based tax rates. In exchange, the property is to remain undeveloped and continue to function the same way for the duration of that contract. The contracts run for 10 years and are automatically renewed unless the farmer or rancher cancels it.
Why does the Williamson Act matter?
According to the Committee for Green Foothills, there are 362,000 acres of land in Santa Clara County under the Williamson Act (that article appears to have been written in 2003, so the numbers may have changed a little since then). Much of it is in the east foothills of east San Jose and the south county areas near Morgan Hill and Gilroy, but there are patches of it in Los Gatos, Saratoga, Cupertino, Almaden Valley, Blossom Valley and throughout Silicon Valley. The tax breaks make it possible for many farmers and ranchers to stay in business and not feel forced to sell their land for development. If they were paying “market rate” taxes, it would not be long before most or all of our rural and agricultural uses gave way to housing and other development.
Since early July, fire danger signs have been out at Belgatos Park in Los Gatos (and I suspect at other parks throughout Santa Clara County too). To the right is the sign at the park’s main entrance. It admonishes the visitors:
“High Fire Danger No Smoking No BBQs”
To anyone who’s lived in Silicon Valley long, this is understood – the fire danger is quite high here in summer. Unlike most of the east coast, it does not rain here in summer (at least not often and not much), and our green grasses and plants of spring turn to kindling very quickly. One stray match, hot cigarette butt or one illegal firework can smolder into a flame which grows fast with the smallest amount of wind to destroy property, animal life and potentially human life, make breathing bad for days and leave a scar on the land.
This sign at the entrance may not feel very compelling to some as the lush green grass in the background would seem to contraindicate restraint. But venture to the park’s side entrance on Bacigalupi Drive (or hike up the trails) and you’ll understand immediately why this is nothing to take lightly.
Except for one little tuft of partially green grass, “cardboard hill” is entirely dry. So is the rest of this beautiful open space.
If you live close to or have open space in San Jose’s Alum Rock, Almaden, or other east foothill areas or the west valley places like Los Gatos, Monte Sereno, Sartoga, Cupertino or anywhere the foothills, your property is likely considered to be in a high risk fire hazard zone. If so, each year you are mailed information from Cal Fire reminding you of your obligation to provide clearance around your home and to cut down the dead brush.
Just outside of the main entrance to the park there’s a large and open lot which has a few trees, some prickly pear, and a lot of grasses and weeds in winter and spring. (It also had a rattlesnake it in by the prickly pear when my daughter walked past with our dog one day a month or two ago.) Below is a pan of two pics I took with my Blackberry and later stitched together – the park entrance is out of sight but is a little to the left of this photo.
These owners have done as needed and disked the field to help prevent fires or the spread of fires.
There are things you can do to “harden” your own home is you live near open space – that is, to make it more resistant to fire. Check out the whole list on the Cal Fire site, “Ready For Wildfire“.
The other day I was previewing for clients all over east and south San Jose: Berryessa, Alum Rock, Evergreen, Santa Teresa and Blossom Valley. It was one of the hundred degree days and I was glad my car has a strong air conditioner. I stumbled upon Canyon Park near Silver Creek as I was obeying my car’s navigation system, and stopped long enough to take a few photos since the views were just perfect. Hope you enjoy seeing them.
Canyon Park is located across from the intersection of Larkspur Canyon Drive and Stoney Creek Place (off San Felipe) in San Jose’s 95109 zip code (near Silver Creek).
Like what you see? Read more about Canyon Park on Yelp & see reviewer’s comments.
Photos, by the way, are not retouched. They were taken with my new Blackberry Tour (as you can see, I have not yet figured out how to focus the pictures!) – these were my first attempt at using the camera function.