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Where are the high voltage power lines in Cupertino, Saratoga, Los Gatos, and Almaden Valley?

High Voltage Power Lines Collage

High Voltage Power Lines from around the West Valley.

“Location, Location, Location!” The most important element when buying or selling a home is the one thing you can’t change – it’s location. Because of that, you’ll need to know some location-specific things, naturally occurring and man-made. Like high voltage power lines.

What about this location?

If you own or are thinking of buying a home in Silicon Valley, here are a few location-specific things you want to know upfront so that you can make informed decisions:

  • where are the earthquake fault lines?
  • where are the geologic hazard zones, such as liquefaction areas?
  • where are the flood plains?
  • where are man-made things that will negatively or positively impact a home’s value? Things such as
    • train lines
    • freeways
    • electrical transmission
    • school district boundaries
    • zip code boundaries
    • proximity to entertainment venues

When looking at maps, sometimes these items show up and sometimes they don’t. Realtors and other real estate professionals in the San Jose area often use a Barclay’s Locaide and various online resources to locate the natural hazard areas. There are other tools to help locate school districts and zoning restrictions.

Google maps can help uncover some other areas, like distance to shops and freeways, but sometimes it raises more questions than it answers. For instance, a years ago a Realtor who didn’t know the Belwood of Los Gatos area too well phoned me to ask what a large object showing up on satellite view in the hills of Belgatos Park was. It is just a covered reservoir, but since it was not identified on the map it concerned some buyers. Local knowledge is still extremely helpful.

Mapping the Grid: High Voltage Power Lines

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Santa Clara County Real Estate Market

The Santa Clara County home prices continue their meteoric rise. We are hearing about slightly fewer offers, and there’s a slightly lower sale price to list price ratio, but it is not translating to lower prices.

  • Both the average and median sale price set new highs for the month of June, up more than 26% from last year for the average and median price both.
    • I asked Rick Campbell, author of the RE Report, if this was the steepest appreciation we’d ever seen. He responded “34.5% January 2013” – so no!
  • Prices were up between 5 and 6% over the prior month, too.
  • Sales increased 5.5% from the month before, and were up 36.9% year-over-year.

Santa Clara County Real Estate Market Data

The first image below is the brief update on the housing market from my Silicon Valley RE Report – 4 page printable PDF. This is the second month in which the average sale price was over $2 million – and it’s now higher than that amount by a good bit.

Please note: usually the RE Report data is fairly close to the numbers I’m pulling directly from the MLS, but today the inventory data way off for the county (I don’t know why). I’m  getting the inventory for May, single family homes, at 901 and the RE Report has 658. I’m in touch with the producer of the RE Report that I subscribe to, and he’s checking into it with his programmers. As far as I can tell, the rest of the numbers are all pretty close to what I’m pulling myself.

 

Market stats at a glance - simple

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Where are Santa Clara County’s Earthquake Faults and Flood Plains?

Earthquake faults and flood plains are of interest to home buyers throughout the Golden State and to their lenders, too. Part of the home sale and home buying process is to provide information on these risk factors so that consumers (and their lenders) can make an informed decision.

Natural Hazard Reports are included in the disclosures when homes are bought and sold here in Silicon Valley. Those reports will indicate whether or not the property is located in areas with known natural hazards, including

  • Flood Plains (100 and 500 year floods from heavy rainfall)
  • Liquefaction Zones
  • Earthquake Fault Zones
  • Unstable Soils Areas (landslide areas)
  • Flooding from dam failure zones

But wouldn’t you like to know where those places are before ever deciding where to target your next home?

You can! There are loads of tools online, including the Cal My Hazards Awareness Map, which is my go-to resource for many of the zones. This shows the state mapped fault zones, but NOT the county mapped ones. The county mapped fault zones, such as the Shannon Fault, will be listed in a Natural Hazard Disclosure link (though they may not always name the fault, only state that one is there).  You can pull the county mapped geologic sites from this page on the Santa Clara County website (the map is about 30 MB btw).That’s a bit of a pain – you must download it and then read it using Adobe Acrobat to see the “layers” of natural hazards. Sorry – it is a slow process for accessing this information.

Another excellent site from the California Department of Water Resources provides Inundation Maps to let you know where flooding may take place from dam failure.

After doing some research on areas, you may want more information on how to mitigate the danger from seismic threats. There’s a booklet for that which is free: The Homeowner’s Guide to Earthquake Safety & Environmental Hazards. This info is so important that it is required that buyers be given it in escrow or before.

For sellers, it is crucial to understand any local hazards. If your home appears to be in a liquefaction area or flood plain, you need to know that the public may be eliminating your home for that reason. If that is bad info, you need to get the word out so that buyers don’t write off your home or worry about it when there may not be a concern. Or if your home is in a flood plain or fault zone, you need to realize it so that you get your home marketed appropriately, understanding that this could be impacting your market value.

Barclay’s Locaide County Map Books

The tool I miss most for my clients is the Barclay’s Locaide, which is almost impossible to find now.

Many of us Realtors used to utilize it pre-GPS to find our way to homes and neighborhoods, but also to know which zip code it was in, which school district, which MLS area, and of course which natural hazard zones, if any.  On any given page, it shows all of the natural hazard zones except for liquefaction, which is shown on a county wife map at the front of the book. The front of the book also had county view pages showing the county and state mapped earthquake fault zones, unstable soils areas, etc. 

The Barclays Locaide, which I believe was last printed in 2006, is difficult to find now but may be available in Realtor Board stores. As of this writing, it does not appear to be available to buy online, but keep checking just in case. A while back I found a used one that had been printed in 2000 – so they do show up sometimes.

 

Barclays locaide sample of what is included - displays Earthquake faults and flood plains

 

The bottom line is that the info is all out there, but it may be piecemeal. The best solution is to have a great Natural Hazards Disclosure report for the property you want to buy. But before you locate the right house, you may want to target neighborhoods for house-hunting. That’s where it would be helpful to have those locaide maps for sale again.

 

 

 

Santa Clara County Real Estate Market Prices

The Santa Clara County real estate market has been in a cooling trend, but it warmed slightly in October and appears to be warming again with the January sales so far. Prices are certainly down significantly from the peak pricing a few months back, but sellers will welcome the fact that sales prices are moving upward again. If this continues, we may be revisiting the normal seasonal patterns – which many economists have predicted would be the case.

 

2019-1-15 Santa Clara County city and town stats

 

The average sale price to list price ratio is still at 100.1% for the county, but is under 100% in many areas now. (And when I pulled that from the MLS just now for the first 15 days in January, I see that it has sunk to 99.6%. Days on market, though, shrank from 35 in December to 34 so far in January, interestingly.)

Home Prices in Santa Clara County:

The numbers themselves point to a general movement of  values sliding – at least until October, when it ticked up a little, and again here in the first half of January, when we also see upward pricing from sales that went under contract in December. I’ll jot the median sale price for the county here – it’s a large enough pool of sales to be pretty reliable as a gauge of the real estate market in the San Jose area. I pulled this data directly from the MLS:

January 1 – 15  2019  $1,200,000 prices up (so far) 5% from last month
December 2018 $1,145,625
November 2018 $1,250,000
October 2018 $1,290,000 prices up a hair
September 2018 $1,238,000
August 2018 $1,280,000
July 2018 $1,350,000
June 2018 $1,385,000
May 2018  $1,400,000
April 2018  $1,420,000
March 2018 $1,454,000 – PEAK
February 2018 $1,381,000
January 2018 $1,170,000

Between March and July, the median sale price dropped $100,000, or 6.89%. As you can see, it had also jumped considerably between January and March, and even at today’s lower median sales price, it’s still higher than January. It will be interesting to see where it ends up in January of 2019.

 

Median and Average sale prices in recent years

I think this is really interesting. Most years, both the median and average sale price are lowest in January (I have drawn in the pink or red lines at January for each year), but some years the lowest has been December for the average. This year, though, it looks like both the median and average will be lower in December 2018  than in January 2019. Have a look:

 

Median and Average Sale Prices for SFH in Santa Clara County

 

What does that mean? I’m not sure – most years both the median and average hit a low point in January. In a few years, the average hits a low in December while the median is still lower in January. Right now, it looks like both median and average will be lower in December than in January. Are we starting an early spring climb? Maybe so. We’ll have to watch and see.

 

 

A quick look at the numbers for this month’s Santa Clara County RE Report:

Trends at a Glance

 

Trends At a Glance Dec 2018 Previous Month Year-over-Year
Median Price $1,163,000 (-7.0%) $1,250,000 $1,293,690 (-10.1%)
Average Price $1,437,380 (-7.1%) $1,547,350 $1,556,330 (-7.6%)
No. of Sales 548 (-23.8%) 719 704 (-22.2%)
Pending 528 (-26.3%) 716 515 (+2.5%)
Active 682 (-38.0%) 1,100 271 (+151.7%)
Sale vs. List Price 100.1% (-0.3%) 100.4% 109.3% (-8.4%)
Days on Market 34 (+13.0%) 30 21 (+62.0%)
Days of Inventory 37 (-15.8%) 44 12 (+223.3%)

 

Please view the online, interactive RE Report here: http://popehandy.rereport.com
Or pull up the four page, printable PDF here:  http://rereport.com/scc/print/Mary.PopeHandySCC.pdf

 

Bottom line, I still think we need to see what happens in February before we’ll know if we are returning to seasonal patterns or not. Right now, I don’t see anything that makes me think we are going into a correction right now.

 

 

 

When are property taxes due in Santa Clara County?

Currency_DollarThe schedule for when property taxes are due in Santa Clara County is not intuitive and confuses most people, at least initially.  The tax calendar is as follows:

  • Beginning of fiscal year: July 1st
  • First installment of taxes due covers July 1 – December 31st
  • Second installment of taxes due covers Jan 1 – June 30

Although you might expect the two bills to be due & payable 6 months apart, that’s not how it works!

Installment # 1 is due November 1 and is delinquent December 10th

Installment # 2 is due February 1 and is delinquent April 10th

Please note that the April deadline is very, very close to that for personal income taxes (April 15) and many homeowners accidentally send in their property taxes on the latter day.  This results in a costly penalty, so don’t be confused!!    (Also, do not count on mailing your payments by 11:59pm on the deadlines either – the tax assessor’s office does not work like the IRS! Payments are due by 5pm that day!)  Make sure you don’t cut it too close or you’ll find yourself paying 10% plus $20 more than necessary.

It is possible to pay your bill for your property taxes online, but the cost is significantly more than a postage stamp, so I don’t recommend it unless you are out of the area and cannot make your payment the normal way. (It’s 2.5% via credit or card – minimum $2.50 convenience charge.) You can also pay by eCheck for free, so that’s another good option if you are in a hurry.

 

Other articles of interest:

Home inspection vs appraisal

Appraisal value does not equal market value

What Do Silicon Valley Seniors Need to Know About Moving Their Property Tax Basis When Selling a Home?

 

 

 

Gilroy Garlic Festival

GGF_2015_Flameup_3Greet the morning with the sweet smell of fresh Garlic in the air – the Gilroy Garlic Festival is back!

If you’ve ever caught the vivid aroma of the stinking rose early in the day it’s likely a breeze coming over the southern Santa Clara County city of Gilroy, the Garlic capital of the world. Whether you love or hate the pungent allium, this herb is a favorite for many foodies in Silicon Valley and around the world.

Gilroy celebrates their favorite bulb one weekend of the year during the Gilroy Garlic Festival, the last weekend in July. This year it’s back for the 38th annual event held on July 29, 30, and 31, 2016. So what to should you expect from “summer’s ultimate food fair?” Food, food, food, fun, shopping, music, and more!

Gourmet Alley is “all about the food” – classics like garlic bread, garlic fries, calamari, scampi, and sausage are available at the booths, and at the end aisle, watch the Pyro-Chefs stoke up five foot tall blazes from their frying pans. Weird food lovers will enjoy a plenitude of flavors from other booths around the festival, including free samples of garlic ice-cream, alligator and buffalo meat, or ice cream in a half cantaloupe. There’s also the range of standard festival food stalls, beer, wine, coolers, and non-alcoholic chilled drinks.

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Endangered Species and Habitat in Santa Clara County and Silicon Valley

Please NoteIf you are shopping to buy a home in Silicon Valley, you will be given a report, once in contract, regarding any endangered species‘ habitats on or near the property. How does this impact your use of the land, should you complete the purchase?

You might be surprised at how many at risk or endangered species there are in Silicon Valley. The Bay Checkerspot Butterfly has several areas in Santa Clara County which are impacted, including Communications Hill, areas near Coyote Valley and San Martin, the Silver Creek area of Evergreen and many other areas along the east foothills and south county. Others include: Golden Eageles, Tri-Colored Blackbirds, Western Pond Turtle, San Joaquin Kit Fox, Steelhead Trout, California Tiger Salamander, Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse, and many more animals, fish, birds and plants.  A couple of days ago, I was reading that the threatened  marbled murrelet, a sea bird which can roost up to 70 miles inland, is in Los Gatos (near Highway 9 and Daves, if not more places as well).  They nest in old growth redwood trees – something that Los Gatos, Monte Sereno, and Saratoga have in abundance near the hills!

Suppose that the area in which you want to buy a home is within the habitat of an endangered species such as the red legged frog, the famous subject of Mark Twain’s The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County and our official state amphibian. This is information that will be listed within one or more of the property reports, so read the Natural Hazard Report, Environmental Hazard Report and Tax Report you get in escrow very carefully. Now that you know where to find this information, what does that mean? (more…)

In Santa Clara County, homes do sell in November!

Door knockerToday is the first of November. For many Santa Clara County home buyers and sellers, it marks the beginning of “the holiday season” and the end of the home buying & selling season. But is that always the case?

In my real estate practice (San Jose, Los Gatos and all over the county), normally I do have sales activity in November and December. Many times, clients want to be in their new home before the December holidays and the new year. Sometimes it’s for tax reasons. Other times it’s a late year relocation. Once in awhile, someone just wants Christmas, Hanukkah or some other major date in the new home.

This morning I logged onto MLS Listings to see the numbers of sales of single family homes in the month of November over the last dozen years or so to see what we could learn about November home sales in Santa Clara County. We don’t have a crystal ball for November 2014, but if annual patterns hold true again, around 800 homes are likely to sell this month. The lowest number in recent history was 510, and that was during the recession.  Here, then, are the counts for houses sold in SCC in the last 17 years (as far back as I could go on the MLS):

2013 – 762

2012 – 810

2011 – 834

2010 -856

2009 – 853

2008 – 672

2007 – 510

2006 – 853

2005 – 992

2004 – 1146

2003 – 1136

2002 – 933

2001 – 996

2000 – 926

1999 – 1051

1998 – 1080

People still need to buy houses, for whatever reason it may be. The statistics tell us that they continue to do so here in November.  If you are thinking of selling your Silicon Valley home, don’t believe that you must wait until the new year.  A good, well priced, well presented, and well marketed home really can sell here at any time of year.  Unlike the northeast, we do not have terrible weather that makes showings difficult or unappealing.   If you’re interested in a fall or winter home sale, please call or email me.  We can discuss it, your home’s pricing and everything else relevant to give you good information on which to base your decision.

 

Related reading:  Holiday Home Selling: Good or Bad Idea?

 

 

 

Santa Clara County Market Update By School District Q1 2014

Today I’m sharing with you Silicon Valley real estate statistics which were presented to me by my company, Sereno Group. These are “by school district” and I think you will find them immensely insightful! First, though, a brief commentary on the overall findings, then statistics for single family homes (mostly houses but a few “duet homes”) in Santa Clara County, and lastly, the same info but for condominiums and townhouses.

 

Sereno Market Report Intro May 10 2014

 

Please find the real estate market statistics by school district in the Santa Clara County area next.  Please note that the San Jose Unified School District is extremely large and varied, and the numbers would be very different if you were narrowing it to Almaden Valley with Leland High School as opposed to some areas which are not performing nearly as well.

 

Market Report By School District Quarter 1 2004 Single Family Homes

 

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How Long Does It Take to Sell a Silicon Valley Home in Today’s Market?

How long does it take to sell a Silicon Valley home in today’s market?  As always, it depends on how you slice and dice it!  “Silicon Valley” is not a super tightly defined area, but roughly includes most of Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, with a smattering of Alameda, Santa Cruz, and even San Francisco counties to boot.  Since the vast majority of it is in 2 counties, let’s have a look at them first.

The charts below were created from MLSListings.com, the real estate agent supported multiple listing service for our region.

(1) Single Family homes in San Mateo County and Santa Clara County – the days to sell is at a very low figure of 25!

 

 

San Mateo County & Santa Clara County single family home average days to sell

San Mateo County & Santa Clara County single family home average days to sell

 

(2) Condominiums and townhouses  in San Mateo County and Santa Clara County – the days to sell also sitting at 25, though the pattern has been a little different from single family homes.

 

SMC and SCC condos and TH - average days to sell

SMC and SCC condos and TH – average days to sell

 

The very broad, 2 county view looks amazing with the sale pending properties popping at an average of 25 days on the market. What happens if we narrow it to San Jose, the largest city in Santa Clara County, which has about 60% of the county’s homes? (more…)