Edit: this post was originally published July 17, 2010, but the concerns are still as real as ever. Broken links have been updated, but the body of this article is, for the most part, left as it originally was over a decade ago.
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 and create defensible space if you live near open space to make it more resistant to fire. Check out the whole list on the Cal Fire site, “Prepare for Wildfire“.
Mount Umunhum sits high on the Santa Cruz Mountain range, and from there you can enjoy spectacular views. Looking inland, there are vistas of San Jose & most of Santa Clara County, on a clear day even as far north as San Francisco from Mt. Umunhum. Turning toward the Pacific Ocean, from Mount Umunhum’s heights you can see Santa Cruz and Monterey on a fogless day.
This gorgeous peak is part of the mid-Peninsula’s open space holdings, specifically the Sierra Azul Open Space.
Visiting Mount Umunhum
The park is open from a 7 a.m. to about a half hour after sunset (but the gate closes at sunset) per the Sierra Azul Open Space website. The parking lot is not big (just 60 spaces) and it can fill up early on weekends.
It may be warm on the valley floor, but the weather can be quite different, windy and cold, at the summit. Bring layers!
Also, the road up there weaves and winds. If anyone in your party gets motion sickness, you may want that person in the front seat or driving if possible.
The main entrance to the park is at the end of Mt. Umunhum Road, approximately 5.3 miles from the intersection with Hicks Road. There are other places to access the park. You can find all of them on the park’s website under Know Before You Go.
My family and I visited Mount Umunhum on a cold and windy November day in 2017. The views were breath-taking.
For those not able to visit in person, the video below provides information on the work that’s gone into making it available to all of us.
Today we’ll check in with the Los Gatos real estate market, the Monte Sereno real estate market and the Los Gatos Mountains real estate market using Altos Research graphs with a view to the Median List Price of houses for sale. These charts are updated weekly.
An overview of the Real Estate Market in the Los Gatos area by viewing the Median List Price of houses for sale
In the graph below, please find the median list price for four areas: Monte Sereno, Los Gatos 95033 (the mountains), Los Gatos 95032 and Los Gatos 95030 (“in town”).
Monte Sereno is the most expensive of these four areas and it’s having some trouble overall. How’s it faring by price quartile? Let’s view that next, then the mountains and “in town” areas of Los Gatos. (more…)
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
Today on my “Live in Los Gatos” blog, I included 5 images with graphs of the historical sales date for Los Gatos (zips 95030, 95032, and the mountains, zip 95033) and Saratoga 95070. Below is one of the five – to see all, please continue to this article:
Los Gatos & Saratoga real estate sales statistics 2005 – 2014
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). (more…)
Today let’s look at the Santa Clara County real estate market, the days on market (DOM) and the sale price to list price ratio for houses and duet homes (single family homes). This will primarily be graphs that I created using MLSListings.com (our local MLS, to which I am a paying member). We’ll consider the county as a whole and various cities or towns within it, plus areas of San Jose, as it has about a million residents.
First: Santa Clara County homes over the last year. Please note the decreasing days on market, the increasing sale price to list price ratio in recent months. This is exactly what an appreciating market looks like!
Santa Clara County average days on market and sale price to list price ratio
Next, let’s have a peek at how some of the hottest markets in Silicon Valley look, starting with Sunnyvale. It is odd to see any kind of a blip on the sale price to list price ratio. Are buyers giving some push-back? We keep hearing stories of homes selling 30% or more over list price with gobs of offers. So the SP – LP ratio change is a surprise.
Sunnyvale average days on market and sale price to list price ratio Sunnyvale
Palo Alto is always the hottest ticket in town. (more…)
On Sunday afternoon I found myself showing property just beyond the Santa Clara County border near Skyline Boulevard (Hwy 35) and Congress Springs Road (aka Big Basin Way or Hwy 9) in the hills over Saratoga. The valley floor was fogged in and damp, but up at the crest of the Santa Cruz Mountains, the sun was warm and shining beautifully.
I waited for my clients at our meeting place, the large parking lot off Skyline. They were running late so I meandered around, taking in the scenery, snapping some photos and enjoying the warmth of the sun. One delay grew into another and with more time on my hands, I wandered over to the Mr. Mustard hot dog stand and bought myself some lunch: $2 for a hot dog, $1 for a can of Diet Coke. (Also offered were hot links.) Good price, good food!
How’s the move-up real estate market in the west valley areas of Silicon Valley? Today we’ll have a glance at the segment of the realty market (for houses for sale, not condos or townhomes) with list prices between $800,000 and $1,200,000 in Almaden, Cambrian, Los Gatos/Monte Sereno, Saratoga, the LG Mountains, Cupertino and Campbell. (Monte Sereno has very few properties in this price range so it wasn’t helpful to break it out separately.)We will look at a few of the statistics for the area as a whole, but look at the absorption rate or months of inventory area by area.
Recent sales: In all of these areas combined, there were 146 houses or duet homes which have closed escrow (sold & closed) in the last 30 days. Only 4% total were short sales (2%) or bank owned property sales (another 2%). Bargain hunters trying to scoop up one of these be aware: it’s slim pickings!
Of the 146 houses sold, ten of them went “all cash”, all but one of the rest were “conventional” (could mean any range of down payments but a regular loan) and one was listed as “other” so it could have been owner financing. None, of course, were FHA backed financing – the limits are too high for that.
For all areas combined, the average list price to sales price was 99.68%. Lots of variation from one area to the next, though, just as with the absorption rate or MOI, which is covered below. Cupertino’s ratio was 102.34%, while in Campbell it was 95%.
Absorption rate or months of inventory: It varies on the school district, price point, home type and home sale type (distressed vs regular sale). For example, in Almaden Valley right now, overall it is a strong seller’s market – prices are rising, especially in the lower price points, and the months of inventory is a very brisk 1.8 (6 is said to be “balanced”, more than 6 is a buyer’s market and less than 6 is a seller’s market). Short sales are at 2.6 months of inventory overall. But look at homes selling between 1.2 mil and 2 million and it’s a different story: in that part of the market it’s 5.8 months of inventory – almost “balanced”.
How many of the Silicon Valley homes for sale are listed as short sales? How many are bank owned properties? This morning I did some time pulling the numbers out for my readers so that you can see the actual real estate figures.
What’s being counted below are homes for sale, including houses, duet homes, condominiums and townhouses (or townhomes) in the various areas of Santa Clara County listed below.
Area, City or Town
Los Gatos Mtns
Almaden Valley – SJ
Cambrian Park – SJ
Blossom Valley – SJ
Willow Glen – SJ
San Jose (all areas)
As was the case a year or two ago, most of the short sale activity is taking place in the most affordable price ranges. The higher priced areas are not immune, though – but because there are fewer distressed properties to choose from, they get purchased rather quickly, so we’d see a higher percentage of them among the pending sales rather than the available listings.
Today I did a post on this subject focusing specifically on the Los Gatos real estate market in terms of short sales today vs the last couple of years (and the question of whether or not the trend is to rising numbers of short sales available). To learn more, visit the article on my Live in Los Gatos blog.
For bargain hunting buyers of high end properties, then, it’s slim pickings! In the entry level areas, there’s much more selection but also lots of competition. Last week I was involved with some buyers in a bidding frenzy in a terribly underpriced Cambrian short sale: it got 43 offers! (So please remember that the list price may be completely unrelated to the sales price.)
If you’re looking to buy or sell a home in Silicon Valley, it helps to have the assistance of a Realtor with a pulse on the market. Please contact me for a confidential & no-obligation meeting today!
Christie's International Real Estate Sereno, Los Gatos, CA 95030 408 204-7673 Mary@PopeHandy.com License# 01153805
Clair Handy, Realtor
Christie's International Real Estate Sereno 214 Los Gatos-Saratoga Rd Los Gatos, CA 95030 ClairHandy@sereno.com License# 02153633
Mary & Clair sell homes throughout Silicon Valley: Santa Clara County, San Mateo County, and Santa Cruz County. with a special focus on: San Jose, Los Gatos, Saratoga, Campbell, Almaden Valley, Cambrian Park.
Mary Pope-Handy, Realtor ABR, AHWD, CIPS, CRS, SRES Christie's International Real Estate Sereno DRE License #01153805 408-204-7673 firstname.lastname@example.org “Helping nice folks to buy and sell homes in Silicon Valley since 1993”
Clair Handy, Realtor, GREEN Christie's International Real Estate Sereno DRE License #02153633 408-721-6160 email@example.com “Helping nice folks to buy and sell homes in Silicon Valley”
This is the Valley of Heart's Delight blog , covering Silicon Valley real estate - Santa Clara County, San Jose, Los Gatos, Cupertino, and nearby communities in the South Bay Area and lower Peninsula. Find info on neighborhoods, disclosure issues, buyer and seller tips, and housing market conditions in the west valley and most of the county.Please also see my other websites and real estate market statistics site, which are listed in the sidebar, above.
Mary Pope-Handy, Realtor ABR, CIPS, CRS, SRES Sereno DRE License #01153805 408-204-7673 firstname.lastname@example.org
“Helping nice folks to buy and sell homes in Silicon Valley since 1993”
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