Love it or hate it, you can’t escape it: the Ranch.
By far the most abundant architectural style among Silicon Valley homes is the ranch. A recent resurgence in interest in this unique and pervasive house design suggest it is regaining popularity, and there are plenty of reasons to love it! Here we’ll take a peek at the history, how to identify, and the function behind the ranch design. Ready to meet America’s dream home?
by the National Plan Service, Inc (1956) on Archive.org – Click to see
Back on the Ranch: A Brief History
In the early 1930s, San Diego designer Cliff May took the architectural world by storm with his spin on the Spanish colonial revival home. Inspired by adobe ranchos and modern design with an emphasis on comfortable California living, May developed this unique style. This soon evolved into the quintessential California ranch style.
It’s no surprise that the ranch has come to be known as a suburban style. Its popularity was widespread during the booming post-war years through the 1970s, peaking in the 1950s with ranch homes accounting for as many as 9 out of 10 new homes! (Witold Rybczynski, p 207)
Having saturated the market for decades, and with buyers wanting bigger homes, the market shifted away from building the sprawling single-story ranch in the later decades of the 20th century. Still the design retained popularity in the resale market. With more ranch homes celebrating their golden jubilee (some of the earliest are approaching 90) and some gaining historic designations there has been a renewed interest in ranch architecture over the last decade or so.
“Today, almost any house that provides for an informal type of living and is not definitely marked by unmistakable style symbols is called a ranch house.” (Sunset Western Ranch Houses (1946), IX – 1946).
Saratoga, CA real estate remains in a strong seller’s market with a high volume of sales fighting for a small winter inventory. Detailed data and analysis on the current market is available below and updated monthly. Here is the latest snapshot for what’s happening with single family homes in this city:
- The sales to list price ratio is a scorching hot 109.9% of asking!
- Inventory is growing in early spring, but remains well below 2020 levels.
- Available listings are moving quickly with an average of only 16 days on market, just over 2 weeks.
How’s the Saratoga California real estate market?
This year has been unlike any other, yet the market remains in the seller’s favor for the Saratoga, CA real estate market. Much of the market strength depends on the price point, school district, and condition – today’s buyers generally prefer recently remodeled homes. (Not long ago, I showed a home that was remodeled in 2010 and my buyers found it to be dated.) In response to this strong preference, many sellers have begun moving out and getting their homes updated prior to going on the market.
That being said, the real estate market today is not the same as it was as of March 2020. While the complete impact of the pandemic won’t be seen for a long time, we can see some of the results in the data and analysis below. To learn more about how Covid-19 is affecting the real estate market, please check my post: Coronavirus Impact on Real Estate Sales.
At the start of the shutdown, the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) stopped the timer on all Days on Market (DOM). Therefore these numbers will be off beginning from March 17th through around May 17th 2020. In the data below, this will affect any numbers related to the days on market, the absorption rate, and the days of inventory for those months. Current numbers are accurate.
Orchard and Hills in Saratoga, California
First, a quick glance at the Altos Research market profile for a quick summary of the market conditions. Altos uses LIST prices, not sold prices, for this chart and the others, below.
In the latest update, April 6th, Altos shows a strong seller’s market despite severely low inventory.
Next, let’s turn to the closed sales from last month. This time we’re using data from a subscription service of mine to the RE Report.
Here are the real estate sales statistics for closed sales last month among houses and duet homes (if there are any) in the 95070 zip code (click on link to read the full Saratoga Real Estate Report for houses). Bottom line is that most livable homes in Saratoga will run between $2.5 and $3.5 million if they are mid sized (2000-3000 SF) and in the best schools area (Saratoga or Cupertino). Homes in the Campbell schools area, which have very strong elementary and middle schools, are very rare and generally more affordable, closer to $2 million (and occasionally lower), but depending on size, condition, and location they can be significantly higher (the ones selling between December 2020 – January 2021 averaged selling at $2.4, for instance).
Trends at a Glance for the Saratoga CA Real Estate Market
Saratoga is experiencing some spring warming. Prices are relatively stable month-over-month, but are significantly higher year-over-year. The number of closed and pending sales shot up from last month and are sky-high compared to last year. Active inventory grew a hair again and is persistently low year-over-year, currently under half of March 2020 numbers. The sales to list price ratio rose to a red hot 109.9% of asking! Properties are selling quickly with an average of only 16 days on market. Limited supply with ample demand is adding fuel to a prolonged hot seller’s market in Saratoga, CA.
|Trends At a Glance
|No. of Sales
|Sale vs. List Price
|Days on Market
|Days of Inventory
Today we’re looking at the real estate market for houses in some of the “west valley” communities along the base of the Santa Cruz Mountains – areas where schools are good, crime is low, residents enjoy scenic views of the hills (or of the valley from the hills, depending on the location) and overall, a highly educated population not too far from Highway 85. This will be a real estate market comparison for Los Gatos, Saratoga, Cupertino, and Los Altos.
Of the four municipalities, three are really very similar to each other in several regards. Cupertino has the largest population – about 61,000 people – but Los Altos, Los Gatos and Saratoga are all similarly sized, somewhere between 31,000 residents. The latter three also enjoy a traditional “downtown” area which is popular with pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists alike. (Monte Sereno has under 4,000 residents, which is so small that the statistics are very easily thrown from month to month, so it is omitted in this quick study.) Of the four, Cupertino, then, is the least similar due to size and lack of a central downtown area for now. This may feel different once the Vallco Mall is redeveloped.
We’ll take a quick look at these areas now in terms of the real estate market trends and statistics for each area, considering just “class 1” (houses and duet homes). The charts used below are from Altos Research, to which I have a subscription, and they will be automatically updated each week.
Please note: the Los Gatos data is probably a little artificially low as it will include all 3 zip codes, meaning also the Los Gatos Mountains, which are quite a bit more affordable than the areas “in town”.
In addition, as of this writing we are in the shelter-in-place phase 1 of the pandemic. This post is updated approximately every quarter or half-year, so we’re just starting to see the results of these changes to the market, but it will take a while to see the full picture. For now you can read more about the Coronavirus impact on real estate sales in my post on the topic.
Also, during the shutdown so far, the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) stopped the timer on all Days on Market (DOM). Therefore these numbers will be off beginning from March 17th through around May 17th. In the data below, this will affect any numbers related to the days on market, the absorption rate, and the days of inventory.
Now on with the analysis!
(1) Median List Price (per Altos Research):
A plat map comes with your preliminary title report (provided by your title company with maps from the Santa Clara County tax assessor’s office when you purchase or sell a home in California), tucked away at the back and somewhat mysterious with lots of numbers in small print. It holds quite a bit of helpful information if you know what it is you’re seeing. Today we’ll view a sample of one of these – breaking down the plat map shown as a small thumbnail image on the right to more readable parts so that you can learn how to “read” or understand a plat map.
Quick overview of what’s on a plat map
There’s a wealth of information on the plat map. Take a look and see what you can pick out on your own first.
Mid-century modern homes, including those designed by Joseph Eichler, dot the Silicon Valley & South Bay Area real estate landscape. There are probably more than 5,000 Eichlers in Santa Clara County altogether, plus all the other homes of that genre with the similar modern style, which was influenced by the ranch and prarie styles as well as the dramatic work by Frank Lloyd Wright (open beam ceilings, nearly flat roofs, lots of exposed wood & glass windows stretching from the floor to the ceiling). Eichlers, especially, put a premium on privacy from the street but open to the outdoors otherwise.
Not every community in Santa Clara County has Eichler homes, but most have the mid-century modern style homes & neighborhoods. These homes vary from tiny, modest cottages of 1100 square feet to large & elegant houses of nearly 3,000 square feet, featuring big, central atriums or courtyards. (There are also some co-ops in the valley too.) The quality varies, as the homes were constructed by several different builders with different home buying budgets in mind. Real estate prices range from “entry level” to very expensive, depending on the location (city and schools), size of the home & lot, and condition of the property. Most of them are now about 50 years old, though some are a little younger.
Some of the West Side Silicon Valley Communities which feature Eichler and Mid Century Modern Homes
In Los Gatos there are no Eichlers but there are a small handful of single family homes which are mid-century modern on Eastridge Drive (just off Blossom Hill Road and Hillbrook). There are a couple more at the end of Magnuson Terrace (off Magnuson Loop and Los Gatos Blvd). Additionally, there are some smaller mid-50s homes on El Gato (and adjacent portions of Escobar) off of Los Gatos-Almaden Road. Unfortunately, not all of these homes are “well kept”, though many are.
Monte Sereno is home to 16 Eichler designed houses on Via Sereno beginning at the intersection of Winchester Blvd with Via Sereno. These houses were built in the late 60s to early 70s.
The real estate news is so mixed it’s mind boggling, whether it’s a national perspective, one specific to California, the San Francisco Bay Area, the “south Bay”, Silicon Valley or even San Jose in particular. It is anything but a uniform, monolithic market. Even so, it’s good to look at the big picture along side the hyper local level, and that’s what we’ll do today.
Today’s San Jose Mercury News featured a front page article by Sue McAllister (an excellent reporter) on Santa Clara County housing values. She shares that Zillow says that we’ve hit bottom here in Santa Clara County. That is certainly good news to home owners accross Silicon Valley! And I don’t disagree that countywide, we’re definitely looking up right now. No guarantees for the future, but Zillow says that the threat of a second or double dip no longer seems likely. Whew!
Unfortunately, there’s another real risk to this recovery and it’s not the “shadow industry”. This time it’s homeowners walking away because they’re underwater (not because they can’t afford to stay, but because they choose not to). Sixty Minutes did a segment on this phenomena of home owners walking away last night., which you can watch via this link.
Home sales in Santa Clara County have bounced back, ending the year on an up note! Home sales were up 28.7% in 2009, while the median price dropped 20.2%. The good news? Prices bottomed out in the first quarter and have been rising steadily, albeit slowly, ever since.
To read about the market in particular parts of Santa Clara County (both cities and districts within the city of San Jose), you can read my full on-line report here: http://popehandy.rereport.com.
There is also a 4 page printable version with more insightful articles about the annual market, here: http://rereport.com/scc/print/Mary.PopeHandySCC.pdf
Economists are mixed on what will happen in 2010 and beyond, but many think that this year will be better than last, and 2011 will be a “hot” market again as prices are largely undervalued right now.
This week one of my buyers asked me about the inventory levels in Santa Clara County (San Jose, specificially) and wondered if they’re lower than usual. I get this question a lot lately so wanted to present the numbers to the readers of this Valley of Hearts Delight Blog.
How low is the inventory? It’s way off from last year in most parts of the west valley. But remember, last year was unusual. (Below are the numbers for single family homes, or houses.)
|6 yr average
How much is this year’s inventory off from the average of the last 6 years?
Almaden: down appx 10%
Cambrian: down appx 18%
Campbell: down appx 20%
Los Gatos: up appx 6%
Saratoga: up appx 38%
Once again, “easy answers” allude us.
If we were to push this further, we’d find that certain price points (or bands or strata) in the market are way above or below the typical numbers. It is very hard to generalize accurately. Anecdotally, though, it seems as though there’s very little on the market as far as my buyers are concerned (and right now, my buyers are looking at properties in Santa Clara County ranging from the 400s to between 1 and 2 million).
For information on your particular situation, please contact me.