Palm TreeFor people relocating to Silicon Valley, there can be some significant surprises (beyond the “sticker shock'” of our home prices in the San Jose area). Here are a few pointers to help you in your transition:

  • The school district boundaries do not follow the boundaries for the city or town
    • For instance, in the Town of Los Gatos there are 3 school districts
    • Saratoga has seven school districts (four elementary and three high school districts). Being in Saratoga could mean having Cupertino Schools or Moreland Schools or Saratoga Schools or, if you’re in the mountains over the village, even Los Gatos Schools. Part of San Jose has San Jose Unified Schools, but in some areas its Union Schools, Alum Rock or other districts. The Cambrian Park area of San Jose, for instance, has 3 elementary school districts: Cambrian, Union and San Jose Unified.
    • The reason for this confusing situation is that the school district boundaries were drawn before all the cities and towns in Santa Clara County were clearly defined (or the boundaries expanded)
    • School performance scores are probably the # 1 driver behind the value of any given location. Many parents choose the home only after deciding upon either a school district or even a particular elementary, middle, or high school. (Read more about understanding school scores on my Silicon Valley relocation blog.)
  • The mailing address city or town may not be the “actual location” of the property
    • This is a rare situation, but sometimes the mailing address will say ˜Los Gatos” when in fact the home is part of San Jose or Campbell or is an unincorporated area of the county. This has to do mostly with postal routes or with unincorporated areas using a mailing address for a long time and then being incorporated.
  • We have “expansive clay soil” here and water is a big issue. (Please see related post on buying hillside homes in Silicon Valley.)
  • Most of our housing is ranch style tract homes. Were sorry about that and apologize in advance for the visual assault that this creates. Developers went nuts in the post WWII boom and created massive urban sprawl, one of the only things that isn’t so delightful in the Valley of Hearts Delight.

A few non-real estate Silicon Valley surprises too:

  • Everyone drives virtually everywhere in the San Jose area, and we measure distance not so much by miles but by time. ˜Its 20 minutes, unless theres traffic is a perfectly normal description of distance here. A half hour commute is considered good.
  • San Jose is larger than San Francisco, but somehow we still refer to the scenic gem to the north as ˜The City“.
  • San Jose is home to one of only three Japantowns left in the US (all of which happen to be in California), and were proud of it.
  • Low crime is the norm. Its not that crime is non-existant, but its on a much smaller scale than most big cities. (San Jose has nearly 1 million people, and Santa Clara County has about 1.8 million total.)
  • The weather here makes up for everything else. This is a sub-tropical climate. To us, a winter day in the 40s is unbearably cold (and rare). We have 300 sunny days a year and about 20 of rain each year. It snows perhaps once every 10 years, and the snow melts almost immediately. It is a funny but beautiful site to see snow on palm trees. We love that. We love blossoms on fruit trees in January, and grabbing oranges from our trees to make fresh juice for relatives visiting from Boston and points east in winter. Because the weather is so mild, we also dont mind (so much) our smaller homes – because we are not cooped up in them so much.
  • There’s a tremendous amount of diversity in the population here and its an amazingly well-educated population too. Entertainment and the arts are bountiful, whether you want to hear jazz at Villa Montalvo in Saratoga, watch the Sharks at the San Jose Arena (aka The Shark Tank), enjoy opera, a play or musical in one of downtown San Jose’s many venues, or hear rock & roll or other music at Mountain Views Shoreline Amphitheater or Saratogas stunningly beautiful outdoor Mountain Winery. You can ride horses in San Jose, Los Gatos, Saratoga, and in south county too. Of course, the beach is only thirty minutes or so away (no traffic), snow skiing is 3-4 hours away, Monterey/Carmel just 90 minutes south, and San Francisco one hour north. You can visit ˜Wine Country up in Napa and Sonoma, or stay local – there are about 20 wineries very nearby, one right near the San Jose airport.

So perhaps its no surprise that the population in Silicon Valley is fairly cheerful most of the time.

If you are relocating to Silicon Valley and would like more information, please contact me. I’m happy to email you a relocation package and any specific information you might need.

More online relocation resources, too:  I also have a small website and blog connected to it, both of which are dedicated to the topic of Silicon Valley relocation.

Silicon Valley relocation website
Silicon Valley relocation blog


  • Mary Pope-Handy

    Silicon Valley Realtor, selling homes in Los Gatos, Saratoga, San Jose, Silicon Valley, and nearby since 1993. Prolific blogger with a network of sites.

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