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.
The amount of all cash offers in Santa Clara County has been very high for the last couple of years, and I’ve written about it here. But what of the luxury market? At one point, I read that nationwide, 50% of all homes sold at over a million dollars were bought all cash, no loans. So I thought it might be similar here.
Just now I logged onto MLSListings.com to run the numbers for the last 90 days in Santa Clara County. I ran the numbers with the following criteria:
- houses, duet homes, townhouses and condos
- sold within the last 90 days (closed escrow)
- within Santa Clara County
- sale price at or over $2,000,000
The number of properties matching this list over the last 90 days was 351 (it was 306 on 5/24/14).
The number of properties matching this list which were identified as having all cash, no loans financing = 108 (it was 111 on 5/24/14)
The percentage of all cash sales identified as such on the MLS for this period is 30.77% (back on 5/24/14, it was 36%). (For all prices right now, it appears that the average is 16.86% or so. – it was 18% on 5/24/14.)
Disclaimer: for this to be accurate, it requires the listing agent or office admin who closes out the sale on the MLS to accurately represent the financing used. It is possible that this is off, and the more accurate data could be from the county records themselves. If I can obtain that data, I’ll update this article then.
Back to the ratio of cash sales in the luxury market: why does it matter? More than anything, it matters because interest rates are rising and this impacts the buyers’ ability to purchase property. In real estate generally, if interest rates rise, home values are negatively impacted. We’ll want to see what impact the more expensive loan products have on high end or estate housing, not just here in Silicon Valley, but across the country.
See homes currently for sale in Santa Clara County in the map below:
$16,000,000 : 12 Arastradero RD, PORTOLA VALLEY5 beds, 4 baths
$14,500,000 : 470 Boynton AVE, SAN JOSE0 beds, 0 bath
$14,500,000 : 883 Robb RD, PALO ALTO5 beds, 10 baths
$13,800,000 : 750 N 23rd ST, SAN JOSE0 beds, 0 bath
$12,988,000 : 24925 Oneonta DR, LOS ALTOS HILLS6 beds, 8 baths
$12,800,000 : 523-530 N First ST, SAN JOSE0 beds, 0 bath
$11,500,000 : 25055 La Loma DR, LOS ALTOS HILLS4 beds, 7 baths
$10,877,000 : 24020 Oak Knoll CIR, LOS ALTOS HILLS4 beds, 8 baths
$10,495,000 : 650 Lowell AVE, PALO ALTO5 beds, 7 baths
$10,000,000 : 22348 Regnart RD, CUPERTINO4 beds, 4 baths
$9,888,000 : 15690 GLEN UNA DR, LOS GATOS7 beds, 8 baths
$9,800,000 : 0 sierra, SAN JOSE1 bed, 1 bath
$9,750,000 : 12501 Zappettini CT, LOS ALTOS HILLS6 beds, 8 baths
$9,188,000 : 3120 Alexis DR, PALO ALTO7 beds, 11 baths
$8,999,999 : 12190 Padre CT, LOS ALTOS HILLS5 beds, 4 baths
$8,950,000 : 1117 Hamilton AVE, PALO ALTO5 beds, 4 baths
$8,500,000 : 16040 Overlook DR, LOS GATOS5 beds, 7 baths
$8,000,000 : 26990 Taaffe RD, LOS ALTOS HILLS5 beds, 5 baths
$8,000,000 : 1272 Fleming AVE, SAN JOSE4 beds, 5 baths
$7,999,000 : 2215 Liberata DR, MORGAN HILL5 beds, 6 baths
See all Real estate matching your search.
(all data current as of 2/18/2018)
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
Saratoga and Los Gatos are neighbors, but their real estate markets are not the same! Today we’ll consider the condo and townhouse market in these two upscale Silicon Valley areas and view some elements “side by side”. See what you think!
First, let’s have a peek at how fast things are selling. Saratoga & Los Gatos both are at under 3 week for the “days to sell over time”. Saratoga tends to sell a little better than Los Gatos for condominiums and townhomes, and that’s the case now as well – at least months months, and recently. (Reasons, not sure – perhaps because the location is a little closer to Cupertino and Sunnyvale and the many high tech jobs there. Or it could be related to the school scores or any number of factors.)
Let’s check some other criteria and see how they stack up there. Let’s look at the new listings as opposed to the solds. How far apart are they? (The closer they are, the “hotter” the market. If the solds are going faster than the new listings are coming on, it’s a red hot seller’s market.) For most of the last year, Saratoga condominiums have been selling and closing faster than new ones have entered the market, or have tied it, except for March and April. In Los Gatos, same pattern recently of new listings outpacing sales, and in January the closed sales outpaced new inventory. But overall, it’s close to a tie or there’s a slight leaning toward new listings rather than sales unless you look back to last fall. So a little bit cooler of a market in Los Gatos by this standard.
When Silicon Valley home owners prepare their property for the competitive real estate market, they want to get a good return on their investment of time and money. Often the best staging work is a matter of decluttering, updating or improving floor coverings, wall coverings fixtures and countertops. It’s what I call “lipstick and rouge” rather than cosmetic surgery. Please remember that the shift is from this being “your home” and a reflection of you to a product you wish to sell. So it’s got to be appealing to the market more than anything else – and that means taking your own personal taste out of the equation.
Today let’s talk color.
Years ago, the conventional wisdom was that all San Jose, Los Gatos or Santa Clara County home buyers wanted white walls “because it makes a home look bigger”. It is true that lighter colors tend to help with the light, bright and airy look, but all white is also all boring. All white homes can be difficult to sell and too frequently those homes sell for much less or do not sell at all!
Have a look at the image above. Do you find that the all-white look is the most appealing? Most buyers would say not – that a splash of color makes the room “pop” and more interesting and desirable. Continue reading
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.
Mini update for Santa Clara County as a whole as of September 17, 2012 for houses in SCC:
Actives = 1295
Regular sales for sale = 1157 (89%
Short sales for sale = 95 (7%)
Bank owned houses for sale = 43 (3%)
Sold in the last 30 days = 859
Regular sales closed in last 30 days = 675 (79%)
Short sales closed in last 30 days = 151 (18%)
Bank owned houses sold in last 30 days = 33 (4%)
It seems that although short sales are in increasingly smaller part of the inventory of available homes, they are highly desirable and are showing up in the solds at twice their ratio of actives. Put another way, the absorption rate looks to be higher. Let’s check the math on the moths of inventory:
All houses in SCC: 1295/859 = 1.51 months of inventory
Regular sales in the county: 1157/675 = 1.71
Short sales in SCC: 95/151 = .63 moi (63% of one month!)
Bank owned homes: 43/33 = 1.3
All of these numbers are low, low, low – but the short sales are the lowest of all!
POST FROM APRIL 22, 2011:
Yesterday we looked at the types of home sales around Silicon Valley by price point. Not terribly surprising, most of the short sales and bank owned homes were in the lowest price ranges. Today we’ll look at this type of information not by pricing tier but instead by geography – in other words, by either town, city or district of San Jose (area). This post will not cover every area but will be a sampling a few communities, mostly on the west side of the valley (since that’s primarily where I work).
By way of reminder, the small image to the left reflects Santa Clara County’s houses for sale as a whole – all areas and all price points. (You can see the full sized image by clicking on it.) The green area represents “regular home sales” and the brick red and light orange signify distressed properties listed on the MLS for sale (red is short sales and orange is bank owned or REOs). Next let’s see a few regions within the county to see how things are faring geographically.
1. Almaden Valley area of San Jose – homes listed for sale by type – very few distressed properties on the market!
Almaden is a lovely southwest San Jose suburban community (zip code 95120) that grew up initially with the cinnabar or mercury mining activity. Today it’s an upscale area of more expensive homes than most of the county, it enjoys really good schools and scenic views of the coastal range as well as the Santa Teresa Foothills. Housing here is costly but residents love the quality of life. Since the cost of homes for sale here is high, it’s not super surprising, after seeing yesterday’s post, that there are very few distressed homes on the market here. Next we’ll check the other extreme…. Continue reading
Update as of September 13, 2012: for the last 30 days, the statistic for all cash houses (and duet homes) that closed is up a little to 18.75%. With multiple offers, a home buyer’s worst fear is to compete against the all cash, non-contingent buyer with an aggressive price. We are still seeing this happen, but perhaps not quite as much as a few months earlier in the year.
Posted July 26, 2012:
Just a few months ago, in March 2012, approximately 25% of all residential purchases in Santa Clara County were “all cash, no loans”. (Some of them, of course, got loans after the close of escrow.) This morning I ran the numbers for residential real estate – that is, houses and duet homes, excluding condominiums and townhouses, and that figure appears to have shrunk to about 15%. That’s quite a change in the market statistics for just 4 months!
This is welcome news for weary home buyers, who are frustrated and discouraged from bidding wars against all cash investors and home buyers as well as those with large down payments. Unfortunately, the first time home buyer remains at a disadvantage, as the lowest priced houses continue to draw the most all-cash offers. The move-up price point of $500,000 to $1 million does not seem to have a ton of cash buyers, though – making it far easier for a home purchaser with financing to compete. The highest priced homes (over $2 million) have a large ratio of all cash sales too.
Here’s what I learned, pulling figures from MLSListings.com a few minutes ago:
- In Santa Clara County, in the last 30 days there were 967 single family homes which closes escrow. Of them, 147 were all cash. That’s 15%.
- I looked at sales by bands of $100,000 and $500,000 up to the $2 million price point – see graph below. The band with the highest percentage of all cash sales was between $100,000 and $199,000 with 80% (4 sales out of 5) being all cash.
- Next: $200,000 to $299,999 with 50% selling all cash (20 out of 40 sales, one of the largest volumes of them).
- Jumping up a lot, the $1.6 – $1.7 band was at a surprising 33% all cash. (Below was just 5% and above 15% – is this a fluke?)
- Interestingly, the next highest $100k band was $1,300,000 to $1,400,000 with 27% all cash transactions.
- In fifth place for largest ratio of all cash was $300,000 to $399,999 with 22%.
Taken $100k at a time, the percentage sometimes jumps around – so could be a fluke of this particular 30 day window being viewed. For example, the 1.1 – 1.2 range for these 30 days was a paltry 3%, but just below and just above was 14% each. Looks like an anomaly. So I wanted to see how they looked in larger clusters, the bands of $500k and this is what I saw: Continue reading
In many communities such as Saratoga, Los Gatos, Los Altos, Willow Glen, Campbell and Palo Alto, there is a high premium placed on homes which are close to the downtown area. Many real estate agents advertise these as “walk to town” but the idea is simple: it’s nearby, you can stroll, skate, ride or bike, wheel yourself and forget the car.
Downtown Saratoga, also called Saratoga Village, welcomes residents and visitors to a charming, scenic area with fabulous shops, spas, wine tasting venues, restaurants and more. This part of the city boasts top scoring schools as well as lovely older and historic buildings and a gorgeous park alongside Saratoga Creek. Whether you spend an afternoon or a lifetime in Saratoga, this part of town will call you back again and again!
What do you need to know about buying a house, townhouse or condo in downtown Saratoga?
There are a few points which you are well served to know when purchasing residential real estate in this upscale community. We’ll touch on a few of them here: historic homes, traffic & noise, natural hazards, parking, and special issues with condos, townhouses and PUDs (planned unit developments).
First, this downtown Saratoga Village zone is historic; while not every property is deemed historic, many are and that means that there will be restrictions on remodeling and expansion of single family homes or houses. For instance, original glass in windows may need to remain if you’ve got a Victorian house dating from the 1890s, and expansions may need to be off the back of the home so that the facade keeps its initial look and feel (just examples). This can be frustrating if you buy a luxury home that “needs work” and you are surprised later. If the house was built before 1950 or so, double check the rules! Continue reading