How do you choose where you’d like to live in Silicon Valley? Especially if you’re relocating here from out of the area, this can be a huge question (for more relocation-specific posts, check out my blog Move2SiliconValley.com). Most Santa Clara County home buyers have strong preferences for low crime, good schools, and pleasant looking, quiet neighborhoods.
My clients often ask me to compare for them areas which are somewhat similar, such as Los Gatos & Los Altos. Off the top of my head, I can give general answers, such as this: Compared to Los Gatos, Los Altos is a more expensive (perhaps 20 or 25% more?), has a very slightly smaller population, is a little more spread out, has slightly milder weather and is overall “quieter” in terms of the downtown night life. Los Altos is more convenient if you want to go to Palo Alto or San Francisco. Los Gatos is more convenient if you like to visit Santa Cruz, Monterey and the coast. Los Gatos is more mixed in terms of housing types (it still has many beautiful historic districts with nicely renovated Victorian homes, but also newer construction). Both are “nice looking” but Los Gatos has more varied terrain as it is nestled into the Santa Cruz Mountains. Both enjoy pleasant neighborhoods, good schools, lower than normal crime and community involvement.
That’s the kind of “ballpark” info I can tell people about various areas of the Santa Clara Valley, whether it’s comparing one part of San Jose to another (Cambrian Park vs Almaden Valley vs Willow Glen) or one city to another (Cupertino vs Saratoga). I can give general info on schools.
What I can’t do (and most agents can’t) is recite from memory school API scores, median household income, housing density, crime statistics, etc. For that we have the web! Here are some very helpful links which can assist you in your search to find the part of Santa Clara County that’s the best fit for you, your wants, needs, and budget:
Want to compare areas in and near San Jose? A great tool for some basic and broad information by zip code is Zip Lookup. Input a zip code and get an easy to read map of population information like density, age, and income. For more official documentation, census data is easily searchable online through Fact Finder – just search by county, city, town, or zipcode. A good overall source for research is Melissa Data.
Want to get information on crime (I suggest that you do!)? Visit CrimeReports.com.
Public school scores often (but not always) drive real estate prices and values (the Willow Glen area seems to be an exception to the rule). In our area, the standardized test scores used for this purpose is the API. Testing has been suspended for the last two years, and is supposed to resume again this school year. You can check the API scores of any public school in Santa Clara County online, or check for any California county here.
Although our weather is pretty similar from one part of the valley to the other, it’s a lot warmer and drier in the south county (Morgan Hill & Gilroy) than it is in the Santa Cruz Mountains (mailing address Los Gatos 95033). That 7 – 10 degree average difference in summer between Los Altos and Almaden Valley or between San Jose and Gilroy might make all the difference to your comfort level, so check out the typical weather numbers on IDCIDE.com
Some consumers want to know who speaks what language and where. Real estate professionals really cannot talk with you about that but you can research it on your own on the Modern Language Association’s website (MLA language map data center). This information is also available through the census, but it may be trickier to navigate.
What about natural hazards, such as earthquake fault zones, flood plains, liquifaction zones, unstable soils areas and more? Santa Clara County has information on its website with some maps. The US Geological Survey has maps as well. It’s almost impossible to avoid all hazard zones but a basic understanding of what these zones are and where they are might be helpful to you. (If there’s a hill, there’s probably an earthquake fault zone nearby. If the land is super flat, it may be in a liquefaction zone. Close to a river? Might be in a flood plain.) The best info will come from an official Natural Hazard & Environmental Hazard Report specific to the property you’re interested in, though, so don’t let the general information scare you off!
Would you like to search for homes using a “lifestyle finder” in Silicon Valley? It does require flash, so won’t work on tablets etc., but is a pretty nifty program otherwise. Please have a look – the link will take you to a page on my Valley of Hearts Delight website: http://www.valleyofheartsdelight.com/Find-Homes
There’s a lot of information you want to track down when moving to Santa Clara County or buying your first home here especially. Don’t feel like you need to do it alone, though. Team up with a great Realtor who can help you to narrow your search and get your priorities lined up with you. Call me for a confidential, non-pushy consultation.
For more reading check out these other posts: