Silicon Valley features a number of upscale communities that enjoy beautiful estate properties. These luxury homes are not simply large houses, but rather they boast qualities generally not seen in regular residential real estate.
What makes a house a “luxury home”?
A luxury property in Santa Clara County often includes a number of elements that set it apart, such as:
- price tag: these homes usually sell for more than three or five million dollars (and may be $10 or $20 million or more, though in some cases as low as $2 million – that largely depends on location)
- close to an acre or more of land
- house larger than 4000 or 5000 sf
- the inclusion of “out buildings” such as a guest cottage, gatehouse, etc.
- views (valley, hill, acreage) or special features of the land (waterfront, riverfront adjacent), a vineyard, or something else special and uniquely beautiful
- amenities such as a pool, tennis court, racquetball court, gym, sports court or facilities for enjoying other sports & exercise on site
- specialized hobby or relaxation rooms, as in a darkroom, library, workshop, conservatory, wine cellar & tasting room
- entertainment centers not commonly found in private homes, like a ballroom, dedicated home theater room for movie viewing, bowling alley, shooting range, or place to practice a golf swing; pool or billiards and “game room”, and ice cream parlor
- safety tools such as a video surveillance system, electronic gates
- neighborhood: it is very hard for an expensive house to be viewed as a luxury home if the surrounding properties are not also high end homes
The (main) house itself is qualitatively different too.
Kitchens tend to be the most important room for San Jose area home buyers of all price ranges, and this includes homes that cost upwards of ten million dollars. Usually, kitchens in these homes are designed with a very clear purpose in mind and are done beautifully, though recently in Los Gatos I saw a home listed for about ten million with a kitchen that needs to be completely remodeled. This is very unusual, though.
Most luxury homes features kitchens of one extreme or the other. On the one hand, it may be more industrial in nature if those cooking in it are primarily professional chefs, domestic employees or catering services rather than the homeowner. This is not the kitchen of glossy magazines, it’s not meant to impress anyone for all the maple cabinets, stainless steel appliances and granite countertops. This sort of kitchen is functional, not gorgeous, and it may have stainless steel countertops, for instance, alongside the giant gas range. Such a kitchen is usually separate from the living areas and the guests are not expected to visit this part of the home.
Far more commonly found in Silicon Valley is the other end of the spectrum, the kitchen where residents spend most of their time, and it’s meant to impress. Here we see high end materials and appliances in a room viewed as much as art as the meals created in it are. This type of kitchen is often the focal point of today’s upscale or luxury home. The home’s floorplan is “open” to the kitchen – often the kitchen and family room blend together as part of a Great Room. This is a kitchen designed for owners who cook, not those who have servants.
Luxury kitchens in most luxury homes include:
- a large, professional grade oven and stove
- two regular ovens plus a built in microwave
- maple or cherry cabinets, some with glass doors to showcase artistic pieces
- slab granite (or other slab material) countertops (sometimes stainless or concrete)
- an island with vegetable sink and disposal
- two or more dishwashers
- a butler’s pantry, often with a dishwasher and sink area for dishes and cutlery, which are stored in the bulter’s pantry and not in the kitchen itself
- sometimes other appliances and tools such as a built-in espresso machine (trash compactors are not so much in favor today but may still be found)
- special lighting, often imported, plus spotlights and under the cabinet lighting
Very often there’s an elegant breakfast room, often with windows on three or more sides, or nook and a place for stools to sit up close to the counter, frequently at the island but not always.
A formal dining room is to be expected in the ultra expensive, multi-million dollar home. Recently, though, I toured a home in Saratoga listed over five million dollars that was newly constructed and missing a dining room! Apparently the builder thought a corner of the living room or family room could be dedicated to formal dining, but I thought that this was a terrible oversight. Many high end homes feature large dining rooms that can seat 10 or 14 at one table, or in some cases host two tables with a half dozen or more at each. Truly elegant dining rooms will also include a fireplace as well.
I won’t do a room by room analysis, but there are many more features commonly found in expensive, estate properties. If the home is traditional, you can expect lots of crown molding and baseboard, exquisite light fixtures, and built ins. Most styles of luxury homes will include beautiful stone floors, elaborate electronics systems, pools, large master baths with soaking tubs and two-person showers. There are many more amenities can all be hallmarks of fine homes and estates.
Sometimes, people go a little too far in an effort to appear ultra elegant. Usually it’s something overdone, like too many Greek statues or other improvements that may be “over the top”, such as the use of too much black marble, too many chandeliers, or too much gold paint worked into a ceiling or fireplace mantle. These things are easy to fix and to personalize the home so it’s more appropriate, so don’t let the finishing work be a put-off. (Of note to me in the “over the top” category was seeing diamonds built into bathroom fixtures in one Monte Sereno home. What were they thinking?)
Even in homes with a high price tag, it’s always important to carefully examine not just the general condition of the home, but the specifics. Sometimes, despite the acreage or square footage and apparently expensive construction, homes are not always well built – all builders are not the same. It is important to use due diligence and look at the craftsmanship, simple things like grading and drainage, to make sure that the home is built not just to look good today, but to last into the future. Always, always get a home you wish to purchase thoroughly inspected. And if you own a lovely estate property, get it inspected periodically to maintain your property and prevent expensive problems such as foundation cracking and dry rot.
Where are the high end homes of Santa Clara County found? Luxury homes are primarily found near the foothills (but not exclusively so) in the communities of Los Gatos, Saratoga, Monte Sereno, Almaden Valley, Cupertino, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Palo Alto, Silver Creek and a few other areas. There are some luxurious pockets on the valley floor, too, in areas such as San Jose’s Rose Garden or Naglee Park. If you are relocating to Silicon Valley and are looking for a luxury property, you won’t be disappointed at the varied selection of options here!
How is the luxury home market in Silicon Valley today?
Overall, the luxury market in Santa Clara County and Silicon Valley as a whole is relatively healthy. It is not the same “on fire” market of the more affordable homes, but in some areas especially, there’s no shortage of demand or interest.
Next we’ll use Altos Chart and have a look at the top quartile of pricing in Santa Clara County overall (so the medial list price will be lower as it includes non-luxury markets). Looks like the hottest demand for the county was earlier this spring.
As a comparison, here’s the top pricing quartile for Saratoga, CA:
Next, same data but for Los Gatos:
Interested in any other areas? Let me know!
Below, please find homes with at least 4,000 square feet in Santa Clara County which are listed at more than $2,250,000 to give you an idea of properties which in most cases should be “luxury homes” or estates. In others, it will be land value. Enjoy browsing!
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(all data current as of 12/8/2023)
Listing information deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Read full disclaimer.