Saratoga 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.
Los 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.
Homebuyers 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.
Be 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.
- 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 popehandy.com website: http://popehandy.com/about/
And please also read testimonials from my cients here:
Have 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.
In 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
Links & Information for Seniors
Entertainment & Fun for Seniors
Senior Health Issues
Walking Tips for Seniors
Links and Articles of General Interest to Seniors
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.
The city of Sunnyvale, CA, is known for low crime and high tech. Its a city of about 100,000 residents and many businesses. Its a quick hop to the Cal Train in Mountain View, so is in a good commute location both for Santa Clara County but also for jobs ‘on the peninsula’ too.
Like the rest of California, Sunnyvales history goes back to the days of Land Grants (first Spanish, then Mexican, then US Patents). The first non-native beginnings of this city were in 1842 with the Rancho Pastoria de las Borregas land grant, held by Estrada and Inez Castro and later becoming Mountain View and Sunnyvale. (The arrangement with land grants was that the land was free, but the owner had to occupy it. Such a deal!) Its interesting history, so take a look!
|Wikipedia on the history of Sunnyvale, demographics, facts and interesting trivia.
Great Sunnyvale Info from Wikipedia
|Information on Sunnyvale from my other website, www.PopeHandy.com
Sunnyvale Community Info
|Tonos of information on city resources, city government, permits, and more.
City of Sunnyvale – Official Site
|Great information for folks just arriving to Sunnyvale! From the City itself.
Sunnyvale New Resident Guide
Los Altos, CA
Los Altos is a lovely town with everything to offer but affordable housing. It recently made a list of the best places to live in the US (low crime, great schools, quality of life). Theres a vibrant downtown to boot with superior restaurants, shops, and more. Its a great community for pedestrians and cyclists (lots of paths), and is a quick jaunt to both Palo Alto and Mountain View.
|Great information from my other site, www.PopeHandy.com.
Community Info on Los Altos
|Wikipedia information on Los Altos|
|Official city of Los Altos website
Los Altos – official government site
|The local paper, the Los Altos Town Crier.
Los Altos Town Crier
Several people, companies, and systems assist me in my work with buyers and sellers in Silicon Valley. Most often, my clients will not see or speak with many of them much (if at all), but they are all part of the package, if on the “back end” much of the time.
My daughter, Clair, assists me about half time. She is unlicensed and does not usually interact with my clients. Most of her work is computer related or errands-running: tagging disclosures for electronic signing, duplicating keys, dropping fliers off to listings, research for my blog posts, help with the monthly newsletter, and driving me while I videotape neighborhoods are some of her tasks.
Within My Brokerage:
At my brokerage, Sereno Group in Los Gatos, my escrow coordinator, Sonia Sisto, makes sure that the paperwork is complete. With a myriad of places to sign and initial and papers not to forget, it’s helpful to have a second set of eyes on the file. Additionally, other agents also review the file on behalf of Sereno management. When there are legal questions, which can come up from time to time, we have a legal counsel available through Ryan Iwanaga, my manager, or Chris Trapani, the CEO of Sereno Group, and we get answers back within a business day, if not a few hours. Finally, there are several agents who assist me in some cases (vacation, sickness, family emergencies). So I’m well supported on the office or firm level. When you hire me, you get a full staff behind me.
Whether buying or selling a silicon valley home or investment property, good inspections are critical. I don’t have one list for buyers and another for sellers – no matter which end of the transaction you’re on, you want excellent information. Surprises tend to sour escrows, so part of the plan in helping you avoid trouble is to avoid surprises. Only with excellent information can you make good decisions and have more control of the way your real estate sale progresses.
1. Home or Property Inspectors. It is crucial that your property inspector be exceedingly well trained, experienced, careful, clear, and through. In California, there is no license for home inspectors. However, there are a couple of trade groups which have a very high standard of practice. One is ASHI (American Society of Home Inspectors) and the other is CREIA (California Real Estate Inspection Association).
There are many good home inspectors in the San Jose area, but my #1 choice is Duane Serrano of Tri Star Home Inspections. Duane is an ASHI member with 15 years experience. I have not found him to either miss or over call issues (I have sometimes had inspectors who say a chimney or roof is bad, have the clients hire more experts, only to find out that it was fine – that aggressive over-calling is expensive, time consuming and upsetting). Duane also provides my clients with suggestions as to solutions and how to make the home last longer with proper care. He gets the reports out, with digital photos, on a same-day basis. Duane’s website is http://www.tristarinspections.com/ or he can be reached by phone at 408 266-2706.