Luxury Homes & Estate Properties in Silicon Valley
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”.
(1) Median List Price (per Altos Research):
Most homes in Silicon Valley come with some type of parking space for cars beyond street parking. Home buyers want to know that there will be a place for their vehicles (and often their “stuff” too). Garages and parking are sometimes under-appreciated aspects of evaluating real estate, and sometimes there are parking surprises after the close of escrow, so it will be the focus of today’s topic.
Parking and resale value
Because a real estate purchase is a big ticket item, it is always important to consider the ability to sell it later. (Always buy with selling in mind!) Will the property you have or are considering buying be hard to sell in the future if it is not a red-hot sellers market? Parking can greatly impact “resale value“ and overall desirability to a large portion of consumers, who may look at that space as protection for a beloved vehicle, a safety feature, a future hobby room, or many other possibilities.
If you are evaluating a Common Interest Development (CID) condominium, townhouse, or planned unit development home with private roads and parking, there will be some special concerns that may be a little different than if you were purchasing a single family home. We’ll consider both.
General principle: In all types of housing in the San Jose area, usually the most highly desired type of parking arrangement is an attached garage with direct access into the home and with side by side parking provided (not tandem). This is not true in all cases but is generally true. You would not find home buyers interested in historic homes (Victorian, Spanish, Craftsman) wanting a prominent two car garage at the front of the house, commanding the lion’s share of the view from the street. (So don’t expect to see that in Japantown, Naglee Park, or the the Rose Garden areas of San Jose.) But for the typical buyer of the more common ranch style house, the attached garage is expected and appreciated, and if it’s missing it may be a challenge to sell the property later because the property will be appealing to a smaller pool of buyers.
Regarding direct access: garages are not allowed to have a door entering into a bedroom. This is for safety reasons since bedrooms are where residents are most vulnerable, and garages are an area of increased safety risk.
How’s the Saratoga California real estate market?
It’s a slight seller’s advantage in the Saratoga CA real estate market right now, per Altos Research (see below). Much of it 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 are moving out and getting their homes updated prior to going on the market.
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.
As of writing this, January 7th, Altos shows a slight seller’s advantage in the market right now. Prices are rising, but inventory is dropping. Demand is high, but not as crazy as it was in spring or summer so houses are taking longer to sell.
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 and $3 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 $1.5, but depending on size, condition, and location they can be significantly higher (the ones selling in October 2019 were closer to $2.5, for instance).
Trends at a Glance for the Saratoga CA Real Estate Market
As with much of the county, it’s fairly flat right now in Saratoga. Though prices have tended to lag behind 2018, which was the peak of the market, December of 2019 looked quite stable year over year.
|Trends At a Glance||Dec 2019||Previous Month||Year-over-Year|
|Median Price||$2,602,500 (+2.1%)||$2,550,000||$2,598,000 (+0.2%)|
|Average Price||$2,745,590 (+0.9%)||$2,721,480||$2,947,460 (-6.8%)|
|No. of Sales||18 (-14.3%)||21||15 (+20.0%)|
|Pending||14 (-41.7%)||24||12 (+16.7%)|
|Active||22 (-48.8%)||43||26 (-15.4%)|
|Sale vs. List Price||98.9% (-0.2%)||99.0%||100.3% (-1.4%)|
|Days on Market||42 (+9.4%)||38||69 (-39.7%)|
|Days of Inventory||37 (-38.3%)||59||52 (-29.5%)|
And the month before:
Luxury home sales are going like crazy in the west valley areas of Santa Clara County. Right now in Almaden Valley, Los Gatos, Monte Sereno and Saratoga, there are 115 houses for sale listed at or more than two million dollars (just checked MLSListings.com), and in the last 30 days 52 have sold and closed escrow in those same areas and price ranges. For the Almaden – Saratoga region generally, then, there are 2.212 months of inventory in the over two million dollar price range (115/52). That makes it a strong seller’s market. Things have certainly stayed lively since last year. (In the same region, there are 39 pending sales.)
Next we’ll look at these four Silicon Valley communities separately to see how the luxury market in each one is faring overall.
Almaden Valley (San Jose, 95120)
Currently in Almaden there are 12 houses for sale which are listed at or over $2,000,000. In the last 30 days, 3 sold in that price range (with 2 sales pending). That makes for 4 “months of inventory,” which can be considered a balanced market in many areas though is leaning towards being a seller’s market. That would mean this luxury market has good turnover but is not as strong a market as elsewhere. It’s a close to balanced market in Almaden Valley among the most expensive real estate offerings for sale. Five to six months is balanced and over six is a buyer’s market. Continue reading
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.
With fabulous views, exceptionally high ranking schools and beautiful newer construction, the Graystone and Pfeiffer Ranch neighborhoods in San Jose’s Almaden Valley are perennially desirable.
Recently I was in the neighborhood and took a couple of photos which feature Mt. Umunhum.
And one more:
The neighborhood also enjoys a park along the creek with a playground to enjoy on days with better weather.
Not sure if you’ve been to this scenic part of San Jose’s Almaden Valley? Here’s where to find it (this is where I took today’s pictures):
Current listings in Graystone:
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(all data current as of 1/23/2020)
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