Silicon Valley Real Estate Info
Like many Cambrian neighborhoods, the Westchester Manor subdivision in the Alta Vista area includes well kept homes and yards, tree lined streets, and wonderful public schools. This neighborhood, though, is unique in that residents can amble to the elementary or middle school without crossing major streets. And the same can be said of getting to the local grocery store, Safeway, coffee shop, and more. For home buyers seeking walkability or easy access, this is a place to check out! But it’s not just walkable. From here it’s an easy jump to both Highway 85 off Union Avenue or a run to Vasona Lake County Park and downtown Los Gatos via Blossom Hill Road. Add to that the close proximity of the hills and you get the feeling that you’re not quite in the middle of a city at all.
Where is Westchester Manor?
Westchester Manor is within the Alta Vista neighborhood.
The Alta Vista neighborhood is part San Jose’s Cambrian district, and part Los Gatos (see a map of the neighborhood and municipal boundaries in the blog post linked). It’s bordered by Los Gatos-Almaden Road to the north, Union to the east, and Blossom Hill to the south. The Westchester Manor subdivision is entirely within San Jose on the northeast end of the neighborhood, next to Union Middle School.
This neighborhood has a very high owner occupancy rate – 87% from the numbers I pulled from Realist (a report available to members of the MLS) today. It’s a low-turnover, stable neighborhood. People move in, and they stay!
What are the homes like in Westchester Manor?
This is a predominantly “ranch style” neighborhood with mostly single story houses, but still quite a few two story ones, in an area with sidewalks, curbs, and gutters. Most houses have 3-4 bedrooms and 2-3 full bathrooms.
There are 3 tracts named within this subdivision. They don’t have exciting labels but instead are called tracts 1481, 1903, and 1997. There are 30-35 lots in each one and 106 in all.
There’s variation in age, but not much. Of the 106 homes which are part of Westchester Manor (there are smaller subdivisions on Coronet that aren’t) approximately 80% were built between 1957 and 1959 although some in tract 1997 (including and near Grey Court) were built as late as 1965 (I found one house built in 1956 also). Most of them have been at least somewhat updated and a handful were rebuilt with new construction in 1980 and 1990.
Home sizes range with the smallest homes at 1,283 SqFt, 1,293 SqFt, 1,308 SqFt, and 1,319 SqFt. The biggest houses are 3,656 SqFt, 3,607 SqFt, 3,171 SqFt, and 3,072 SqFt. The median home size is 1,738 SqFt.
What is an exclusion in a real estate contract? What is an inclusion? Both of these refer to fixtures at the property which is for sale.
What is a fixture?
Generally speaking, a fixture is any item affixed or attached to the house, townhouse, condo or property which is installed with the intention that it be there permanently.
Examples of fixtures (items which stay or are included):
- built in in cabinets (in the bathroom, kitchen, or anywhere else)
- lights mounted from the ceiling
- built-in ovens or other appliances which are built-in
- in-ground (not potted) rose bushes.
- built in fire screens
- a fireplace insert
- window coverings
- wall air conditioning unit
- built in speakers
- built in wine fridge
- hot tub (unless it is a portable model, which most aren’t)
The exception to the rule is anything attached solely for earthquake safety. This would be the case if you have a large hutch which you have bolted to the wall so that it doesn’t topple in the case of a big quake. In Silicon Valley, fixtures are normally included with the sale of the home.
What is an exclusion?
Exclusions refer to fixtures which the seller does not want to include with the sale of the real property (real estate) but which otherwise would or should stay.
- there may be a light fixture in the dining room which is a family heirloom and the seller does not want to leave it with the house
- an in-ground plant, bush, or small tree that the seller wants to take when moving out
- curtains which match a bedspread or other decor
- stereo speakers that are built in
- surveillance equipment, such as a Ring doorbell or camera (I saw this recently where the seller wanted to keep it)
What kind of residential lots and land will hold value the best in Silicon Valley? Your choices may include a corner lot, flag lot, cul-de-sac lot, a zero lot line parcel, oddly shaped land boundaries, and standard lots. If you are concerned about resale value and appreciation, it’s helpful to know what most buyers ordinarily prefer.
Corner and Standard Lots
While some San Jose area home buyers want a corner lot (more light, fewer adjacent neighbors), for most, the extra traffic and noise outweighs the pluses. An issue that home buyers often raise with corner lots involves headlights hitting bedroom or other windows as cars turn. There is some concern about drivers missing the turn and hitting the house, too. (This is also a worry for buyers looking to purchase a home on a busy road.)
The most-desired lot for home buyers, generally, is a normal, interior, standard (rectangularly shaped) lot.
Cul-de-sac lots are also highly valued among many buyers, though not all. With the court location comes a lack of street parking, especially at the end, and a lack of exit routes. A while back I held a listing open in Los Gatos that was on a cul-de-sac and the idea of only one way in or out spooked one buyer who otherwise really liked the location, which was close to Los Gatos schools. Homes at the end of the court also have irregularly shaped lots, and they tend to be harder to utilize as well but offer large backyards. So there are plusses and minuses, especially at the end of the court.
I’d like to add that pie shaped lots, or those with many angles, often seem to have the lot size misrepresented on county records. Many times I’ve found that a large parcel on a cul-de-sac will be ascribed the same size as nearby plots even if clearly it’s far bigger. The geometry is a headache, but you can use Google Earth to do an approximation of the actual square footage and then check the perimeter against the perimeter found in the Preliminary Title Report. The odds are good that if you get the correct size of the boundary (perimeter measurements added together) on Google Earth, you’ve got the correct lot size. Own a house with such a situation? Bring it to the county tax assessor’s office and get your property’s record updated. Continue reading
Looking for a convenient residential location in an area with gorgeous tree lined streets? Check out the Cory neighborhood in west San Jose along the Santa Clara border.
One of the first things you’ll notice when arriving to the interior of this established area is that most streets have older, attractive, and large trees along the sidewalk strip. It’s an enormous canopy which creates a very inviting feel. In some sections, trees are younger. The majority of homes provide a front porch. You may also note that nearly every property features a single story ranch style house.
What are homes like in the Cory neighborhood?
There are 1065 houses (by my research on Realist) in the Cory community, plus about a dozen duplexes. Along the outside edge of the neighborhood there are other types of buildings, including religious, restaurant, educational, and business.
The houses were built primarily between 1948 and 1950, although about 200 of the thousand were built after 1950 (and 31 of those after 1991). The majority of the houses were part of the expansive Bascom Gardens tract (579 by my count), but 211 of the approximately 1000 houses were part of the Kaiser Community Homes (also known simply as “The Kaiser Tract”). Others are designated by tract number but not subdivision name. It looks like they all started as a single level ranch style house, but today 65 of them are two stories (that’s about 5%).
Many of these house were constructed with wall furnaces in a central location (often in a living room on one side and in the hallway on the other), a fireplace, hardwood floors, a formal dining room, an attached 2 car garage, a raised foundation (access often found outside, in the backyard, but sometimes indoors via a closet floor). Laundry would be in the garage and a drying yard just outside of the garage, often in a side yard (and near the kitchen). Charming touches can be found in things like the telephone niche in the hall. Some feature a breezeway between the house and garage – a great place to store bikes, or an easy place to add on later.
These tract houses were built modestly and affordably in the post WWII era. Some houses are as small as 806 SF with 2 bedrooms and 1 bath, though most were and still are 3 bedroom homes with 2 baths. More than half are 1300 SF or less. Ninety percent of these properties are under 2000 SF, but over the years with expansion and rebuilding, some are quite big, and one property is a bit over 3000 SF.
Today, many of these properties have been upgraded and enjoy newer wiring, plumbing, heating, and cooling, in addition to dual pane windows and other improvements over the years. Buyers continue to value the hardwood floors, the large picture windows, and practical layouts that these homes provide.
Silicon Valley has a bad case of “urban sprawl”, unfortunately, but there are places in San Jose and nearby where creeks meander through neighborhoods, offering a little extra space between back neighbors. This extra breathing room is valued by homeowners with a creek behind the house. They often cite the pleasantly rural sounds of frogs and birds as an added bonus.
But some home buyers are a little spooked. Are there risks with buying real estate next to a waterway? Would the home flood in heavy rains? Is there an excess of unpleasant wildlife to worry about? One of my buyer clients was concerned that burglers would use the creek’s access path to steal things and get away unseen. Another was afraid of cougars or bobcats or other unwelcome visitors coming in from a creek or tributary.
When Jim and I were newlyweds, we lived in a townhouse on Neary’s Lagoon in Santa Cruz (a bird sanctuary) and I have sold several homes along creeks or ponds, so will make some comments based on my experience.
Creek behind the house: scenic or not?
In general, I would say that being next to or near a creek most often will improve the value of the home because creeks are scenic and also provide a space buffer between rear neighbors. They frequently have beautiful old trees framing their banks and are slightly curved, too, so these are usually quite pretty. I won’t say that living next to a waterway which looks like a Los Angeles flood control channel would be beautiful or enhance a home’s value much, though the space between neighbors would still be appreciated. Each case must be judged on its own merits.
Wildlife at the water’s edge
It is true that there will be more wildlife near water, whether it’s a creek, river, reservoir, pond, or percolation pond. Birds, reptiles and animals need water and will seek it out. If you love nature, you may welcome the sound of frogs and geese, and perhaps secretly hope to see a wayward deer! If you decide to live near water, it is very important to make sure that wildlife cannot enter your home (chimney, attic and crawlspace included) and it will require some ongoing diligence to keep them out because they will be drawn to the water over and over again. I’ve known people adjacent to water to have some challenges with birds, bats, mice, rats, and other creatures trying to make their way in. But that can happen anywhere. At our current home, which is not next to or near a creek, we had a squirrel try to claw its way through flashing on our roof to get into the attic. Another time we had a possum or raccoon get into the attic. Be clear that being away from the water doesn’t mean “no wildlife issues” – but if you are next to water, you will probably face them a little more often.
Floods and flood plains – what is the risk if there’s a creek behind the house?
Creekside locations do not all flood; this is perhaps the biggest misconception. When buying a home, you can check the flood plain status via the Natural Hazards Disclosure Report, which the seller provides. You can also check online at the CAL My Hazards Awareness site. And please know that there are different types and levels of flood plains – they are not all the same! The one which requires flood insurance is called a 100 Year Flood Plain and in those locations, water of up to 1 foot may be expected once every 100 years (so not that often). There are 500 year flood plains and areas which are “dam failure inundation” zones (if a dam were to break, water downhill would flood, of course).
Protected species that depend on the waterways
We have a number of protected species in California, including certain frogs and salamanders. If your home (or the one you want to buy) is in the habitat area of those animals, birds, or reptiles, you may have some constraints on landscaping near the creek or water. Most of the time it involves not placing a fence within so many feet of the creek and using only native landscaping in that area close to the creek too. Just know that having a creek behind the house may carry extra responsibilities and restrictions.
As for crime, I would have to say that you want to always check a site like CityProtect.com or similar sources to know what’s happening. We do have crime everywhere, and all kinds, to varying degrees. Most creeks do not have easy access to people’s homes or yards, and often the service road along the creek is a rough gravel, so I have a hard time picturing burglers trying to get in and walk their stolen loot a ways down that path. But check the reports. Realtors are not crime experts and we cannot make promises about any area or location.
This corner of Almaden is located at the end of Serenity Way near Glenview Park and Cathedral Park in the Williams area. The Glencrest patio homes area is shaped like a pentagram (a five sided object) so is easy to spot on the map.
The community enjoys a shared pool. The outside ring of homes are single family houses on large, normal lots of about 10,000 to 13,000 square feet (on Valley Quail Circle, Hollow Lake).
The more modest patio or zero lot line properties are found on the inside streets and have about 6,000 SF lots – the streets are Quail Creek Circle, Mountain Quail Circle, and Quail Cove Way.
The Glencrest homes were built by Shapell, a company which is known for a very high quality. Most were built in 1987 or 1988.
The big draws for these homes are as follows:
- Top Almaden schools are close by: Williams, Bret Harte and Leland
- Shappell is a highly regarded builder, perhaps the most valued in Santa Clara County
- The Glencrest area homes, whether on normal lots or zero lot line / patio homes, are fairly young by local standards
Because the Glencrest patio homes are smaller, they are more affordable. Many people consider them entry level houses for Williams Elementary School. For this reason, real estate sales in the Glencrest area often command surprisingly high prices given that structures are built on one of the property lines and that there are no windows on that side of the home.
There are some negatives to any area. Here, the interior streets are narrow, and of course a zero lot line is not ideal. Water and hillside locations don’t help homes, so it’s important to manage drainage effectively.
Real estate listings and homes for sale in and near the Glencrest neighborhood of San Jose’s Almaden Valley: please view using the following link
A common mistake among real estate agents and consumers both is estimating a home’s probable value using only the living space’s square footage. But what about the total number of rooms? Specifically, what is a bedroom worth?
Clearly other factors have a significant impact, such as remodeling done (or deferred maintenance that’s taken place), whether or not there are special features such as pools or tennis courts, the quality of the landscaping, or the presence of a view. Some of these are challenging for pinning down a value since they may be unique to a particular property and there may be no similar comparable properties or “comps”.
All homes, though, have bedrooms. We know (almost intuitively) that it will be challenging to sell a 1 bedroom home and that 6 or more bedrooms may sound like a boarding house and have diminishing value for most consumers. (I’ve known 6 bedroom homes to be presented as 5 bedrooms plus a den or home office.)
Recently I ran into this issue again, where some lovely people I was discussing the market with appeared to be looking at their house’s likely sales price based only on square footage and not seeing the highly likely limitation of having fewer bedrooms than most home buyers want. I decided it would be a good study to pull up two and three bedroom sales in San Jose over recent years and check on the average sale price of each – keeping the properties within a fairly close band of square footage and lot size so that it would be a level playing field. (Most accurate would be in a very small area with a very tight range of square footage, but going that narrow likely leaves us with too few homes for a decent pool of data.)
I did a spot check of smaller, older houses in San Jose 95126 (roughly the Rose Garden, Shasta Hanchett, and St. Leo’s areas) and used square footage of 1000 SF to 1500 SF and small lot sizes of up to 6000 SF. Also I removed sales on busy roads, such as Hedding. Bottom line: the 3 bedroom houses were selling for an average of $897.72 per square foot, while the 2 bedroom houses were purchased at an average of $837.04 per square foot.
What if we looked at a broader area, and not just older houses? The next section covers all of San Jose and also from 2017 to the present.