What makes a Silicon Valley house a 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 $700,000 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 $700,000 will procure an entry to mid-level single family home in many parts of Santa Clara County. 

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. 

 

Land Value is a Significant Part of What Makes an Expensive House an “Estate” 

In Santa Clara County, which constitutes the lions share of Silicon Valley, the land is the thing that holds value, not the structure (in most cases, unless the home being discussed was designed by a world-famous architect, which is the situation in a few instances – Julia Morgan designed a home in Los Gatos at Fairview Plaza, for example). 

How much land is enough land? It depends on the location, but in many cases, an acre parcel is the minimum needed for a property to be considered as luxury real estate. It may be possible, though, for smaller parcels to qualify. For instance, some homes in Saratoga’s pricey and highly prized Montalvo area (the platinum triangle) may be on lots smaller than an acre, but by virtue of their superior location may be luxury homes even so. 

Location Within Silicon Valley Matters Tremendously 

As mentioned above, Montalvo is one of Saratoga’s finest areas, and homes there are often viewed as luxury homes or estates simply because of their prime location. Conversely, a home in the same city of Saratoga that backs up directly to Highway 85 is highly unlikely to ever be considered a luxury home, no matter how big the house is, no matter how new, no matter how beautifully updated or remodeled. The immediate area, and not just the zip code, will have the greatest impact on how the home or land is perceived by buyers. 

What do buyers want in luxury locations? 

  • quiet, uncrowded areas
  • views are appreciated (of the hills, the valley etc.)
  • golf course views or neighborhoods
  • good to great school districts usually weigh heavily (for resale)
  • conforming areas where all the homes and parcels are large and valuable
  • gated communities may be seen as a plus
  • no issues: no high voltage power lines, no train tracks nearby, no freeway walls, and preferably, no busy streets (in some places along The Peninsula, though, grand old estates on large parcels do front busy roads)
  • some high end buyers will factor in feng shui considerations too, so will not want to drive past a graveyard or have a view of a church when buying a multi million dollar property.
  • some buyers may have specific wants or needs, such as equestrian properties with several acres and a stable to house several horses, access to trails, etc.

Where are Silicon Valley’s luxury home neighborhoods? 

San Jose has several luxury markets, including the lovely old Alum Rock area (near the golf course), the Rosegarden, young Silver Creek and Almaden Valley (all of these are in San Jose). Many of the other high-end areas sit along the foothills on the west side: Los Gatos, Monte Sereno, Saratoga, Cupertino, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, and Palo Alto. Additionally, there are estates to be found in South County too – Morgan Hill and Gilroy (and Coyote Valley) offer some stunning properties for the discerning buyer too. Further north on the Peninsula there are beautiful estates to be found in Woodside, Portola Valley and Hillsborough.  In southern Alameda County, parts of Fremont’s Mission District have stunning high end properties too. 

When High End Homes are Custom Built, It Adds to Value 

Most of the San Jose area is tract housing. Thats not a plus. Saratoga and Monte Sereno are filled with very high end tract housing built by George Day, Gfreenbriar and J. Lohr, and being tract doesnt necessarily mean they aren’t also worthy of the title ˜estate or ˜luxury homes. Almaden has a large number of Shapell homes – very high-end tract houses too. But buyers do care about pedigree, and when they find the custom-built home, or the one-of-a-kind house, they value it. Unique and classy is good. 

What if you own one of the many, many tract homes in high end areas? For instance, George Day built a huge number of homes off Fruitvale Avenue in Saratoga in the 1970s. Those houses are, for the most part, larger than 3000 square feet and sitting on beautiful one-acre lots close to West Valley College and the old Odd Fellows Home (now Saratoga Retirement Community). The houses were well built. They enjoy being in the Saratoga School District. But they are definitely tract homes

Want them to be luxury homes? Customize them. Those houses were built with U-shaped kitchens, shag carpeting, rock fireplaces, white tile countertops with black or brown grouting, single pane windows and (most of the time) wood beamed ceilings. Most of these kitchens were large and could accomodate an island. When you remodel, go to the studs and add an island. Add crown molding and baseboard. Install hardwood floors. (Bamboo floors were the rage for awhile, but they are a soft wood, not hard, and are easily damaged.) Put in some beautiful Anderson or other high-grade windows and French doors. The neighborhoods are multi-million dollar areas, so spending a couple of hundred thousand to customize the home is money that’s usually well-spent. 

Don’t Over Improve Your Silicon Valley Estate Property 

Luxury home buyers may appreciate upscale things like a home theater, a huge, generously appointed kitchen, a butler’s pantry with its own diswasher, and areas that support their hobbies like wine tasting rooms and cellers, sports courts, and the like, but you can go too far and make the property hard to sell later, or at least not recoup what you spent while over-improving. Remember, not everyone can afford, or even wants, a $50 million property. 

Not sure how much is too much? Here are some examples: 

Good: spacious rooms, even in powder rooms.
Too much: putting diamonds into the bathroom fixtures (which I’ve seen in one home which screamed “conspicuous consumption” in Monte Sereno). 

Good: pools, jacuzzis, saunas, sports courts.
Too much: indoor shooting range 

Good: large garage, room for 4+ cars plus storage space.
Too much: 8+ car garages, or garages with expensive flooring. Even the wealthy have oil leaks! 

Good: one or two in-law or au-pair units.
Too much: more than 2 extra units and it looks like a compound. Don’t do it. 

Good: tasteful landscaping & hardscaping. Please consult professionals for design ideas and balance..
Too much: skip an abundance of statuary in the front yard. Whether it”s garden elves, fake deer, or Greek nudes, resist the temptation to have more than a couple of these ornamental elements in your yard. 

Things To Make Sure You Have in a Silicon Valley Luxury Home 

What do buyers want or need if they are spending lots and lots of money on a home? Here are a few items that are pretty much must-haves

  • a good sized pool and jacuzzi or hot tub
  • a beautiful backyard for entertaining, preferably with a “summer kitchen”
  • the kitchen should have at least 2 regular ovens, plus microwave, regular sink plus vegetable sink (both with disposals), and 2 dishwashers (either both in the kitchen or one in the kitchen and one at either a wet bar or butler pantry location) – high end appliances a must
  • a living room with high ceilings, lots of windows and an impressive fireplace
  • a large, formal dining room
  • a good-sized formal entry hall
  • family room, preferably open to or at least near the kitchen, with surround sound and large screen t.v.
  • minimum 3 bathrooms, preferably more
  • three or more car garage
  • home updated within the last 5 years (kitchen, baths) is appreciated; more than 10 or 15 years is considered in need of remodeling
  • nice crown molding and baseboard is often important, though it depends on the style of architecture (it would not fit in so well with mid-century modern, for instance)
  • air conditioning, heating by zones
  • good insulation and “green construction” is a plus

There are many other things that luxury home buyers want or appreciate, from wine cellars and tasting rooms and vineyards to views, tennis courts, acreage, guest cottage, and more. There’s no absolute formula but quality in every detail is normally highly valued. 

Please note: In this Silicon Valley Real Estate blog, the Valley of Hearts Delight blog, I have more than a dozen articles or posts related to the Silicon Valley luxury homes real estate market. I invite you to have a look! 

View a Sampling Silicon Valley Luxury & Estate Homes Online Now!  

  

 Browse luxury homes for sale in Almaden Valley (area of San Jose)

  1. 4 beds, 4 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 4,330 sq ft
    Lot size: 24.59 ac
  2. 5 beds, 5 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 5,403 sq ft
    Lot size: 36.03 ac
  3. 5 beds, 3 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 4,208 sq ft
    Lot size: 15.00 ac
  4. 5 beds, 4 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 4,310 sq ft
    Lot size: 18.81 ac

See all Real estate in the 95020 zip code.
(all data current as of 4/25/2017)

Listing information deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Read full disclaimer.

 

Browse luxury homes for sale in Los Gatos 

  1. 6 beds, 8 full, 2 half baths
    Home size: 10,489 sq ft
    Lot size: 16.10 ac
  2. 5 beds, 5 full, 2 half baths
    Home size: 11,507 sq ft
    Lot size: 3.02 ac
  3. 6 beds, 7 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 8,249 sq ft
    Lot size: 6.25 ac
  4. 5 beds, 5 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 7,175 sq ft
    Lot size: 1.07 ac
  5. 5 beds, 4 full, 2 half baths
    Home size: 7,107 sq ft
    Lot size: 1.81 ac

See all Real estate in the city of Los Gatos.
(all data current as of 4/25/2017)

Listing information deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Read full disclaimer.

Browse luxury homes for sale in Monte Sereno 

  1. 5 beds, 5 full, 2 half baths
    Home size: 5,356 sq ft
    Lot size: 1.11 ac
  2. 4 beds, 3 full, 2 half baths
    Home size: 5,035 sq ft
    Lot size: 1.92 ac
  3. 6 beds, 5 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 5,871 sq ft
    Lot size: 1.16 ac
  4. 3 beds, 3 full baths
    Home size: 4,363 sq ft
    Lot size: 1.38 ac
  5. 4 beds, 4 full baths
    Home size: 4,582 sq ft
    Lot size: 1.02 ac

See all Real estate in the city of Monte Sereno.
(all data current as of 4/25/2017)

Listing information deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Read full disclaimer.

Browse luxury homes for sale in Saratoga, CA 

  1. 8 beds, 8 full, 2 half baths
    Home size: 8,244 sq ft
    Lot size: 1.04 ac
  2. 5 beds, 6 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 7,002 sq ft
    Lot size: 35,022 sqft
  3. 6 beds, 6 full, 2 half baths
    Home size: 7,951 sq ft
    Lot size: 1.31 ac
  4. 5 beds, 5 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 6,013 sq ft
    Lot size: 1.08 ac
  5. 6 beds, 6 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 6,427 sq ft
    Lot size: 43,560 sqft

See all Real estate in the city of Saratoga.
(all data current as of 4/25/2017)

Listing information deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Read full disclaimer.

Browse luxury homes for sale in the Los Gatos Mountains 

Sorry, but we couldn't find any results in the MLS that match the specified search criteria.

Browse luxury homes for sale in Cupertino 

  1. 1 bed, 1 full bath
    Home size: 624 sq ft
    Lot size: 13.69 ac
  2. 6 beds, 7 full, 5 half baths
    Home size: 6,089 sq ft
    Lot size: 10.95 ac
  3. 7 beds, 5 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 4,309 sq ft
    Lot size: 13,677 sqft
  4. 5 beds, 5 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 6,017 sq ft
    Lot size: 4.65 ac
  5. 0 beds, 0 baths
    Home size: 5,396 sq ft
    Lot size: 9,670 sqft

See all Real estate in the city of Cupertino.
(all data current as of 4/25/2017)

Listing information deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Read full disclaimer.

Browse luxury homes for sale in Los Altos 

  1. 4 beds, 4 full, 4 half baths
    Home size: 7,683 sq ft
    Lot size: 2.02 ac
  2. 5 beds, 7 full baths
    Home size: 6,214 sq ft
    Lot size: 15,246 sqft
  3. 5 beds, 4 full baths
    Home size: 4,136 sq ft
    Lot size: 15,594 sqft
  4. 4 beds, 3 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 3,895 sq ft
    Lot size: 22,651 sqft
  5. 6 beds, 4 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 4,306 sq ft
    Lot size: 15,594 sqft

See all Real estate in the city of Los Altos.
(all data current as of 4/25/2017)

Listing information deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Read full disclaimer.

Browse luxury homes for sale in Los Altos Hills 

  1. 7 beds, 8 full, 3 half baths
    Home size: 10,800 sq ft
    Lot size: 1.26 ac
  2. 5 beds, 4 full baths
    Home size: 6,800 sq ft
    Lot size: 1.16 ac
  3. 5 beds, 4 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 6,217 sq ft
    Lot size: 1.44 ac
  4. 6 beds, 7 full baths
    Home size: 6,922 sq ft
    Lot size: 1.31 ac
  5. 6 beds, 5 full, 3 half baths
    Home size: 6,417 sq ft
    Lot size: 4.40 ac

See all Real estate in the city of Los Altos Hills.
(all data current as of 4/25/2017)

Listing information deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Read full disclaimer.

 Thank you for reading this Silicon Valley real estate blog.  Please remember that information found on the web is not the same thing as knowledge. For guidance with buying or selling luxury homes in Silicon Valley, San Jose, Los Gatos and nearby areas, please contact an experienced, ethical, full time Realtor to be your buyer’s agent or your listing agent. 
 
If you are searching for a good Silicon Valley Realtor to assist you, please contact me. I’m happy to talk with you by phone or in person for a no-cost, no-obligation initial consultation. 

 

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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