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Cinnabar winery sign (Big Basin Way, Saratoga)

Cinnabar winery sign (Big Basin Way, Saratoga)

In many communities such as Saratoga, Los Gatos, Los Altos, Willow Glen, Campbell and Palo Alto, there is a high premium placed on homes which are close to the downtown area.  Many real estate agents advertise these as “walk to town” but the idea is simple: it’s nearby, you can stroll, skate, ride or bike, wheel yourself and forget the car.

Downtown Saratoga, also called Saratoga Village
, welcomes residents and visitors to a charming, scenic area with fabulous shops, spas, wine tasting venues, restaurants and more.  This part of the city boasts top scoring schools as well as lovely older and historic buildings and a gorgeous park alongside Saratoga Creek. Whether you spend an afternoon or a lifetime in Saratoga, this part of town will call you back again and again!

What do you need to know about buying a house, townhouse or condo in downtown Saratoga?

There are a few points which you are well served to know when purchasing residential real estate in this upscale community. We’ll touch on a few of them here: historic homes, traffic & noise, natural hazards, parking, and special issues with condos, townhouses and PUDs (planned unit developments).

First, this downtown Saratoga Village zone is historic; while not every property is deemed historic, many are and that means that there will be restrictions on remodeling and expansion of single family homes or houses. For instance, original glass in windows may need to remain if you’ve got a Victorian house dating from the 1890s, and expansions may need to be off the back of the home so that the facade keeps its initial look and feel (just examples).  This can be frustrating if you buy a luxury home that “needs work” and you are surprised later. If the house was built before 1950 or so, double check the rules!

Second, traffic and noise can be an issue and vary from day to day as well as from one time of day to another; there are a variety of traffic related concerns.  Big Basin Way is an alternate route to Highway 17 for access to Skyline Boulevard and the coast.  Cars and motorcycles may be thick on Saratoga Avenue, Saratoga-Sunnyvale Road and Saratoga-Los Gatos Road when the weather is good.  Motorcycles can be especially loud when large groups go on a road trip together!  Of course there will be extra cars when a concert is featured at The Mountain Winery (off Big Basin Way) or Montalvo (off Saratoga-Los Gatos Road).  If you have a serene view property it might surprise you how much motorcycle noise can carry – so be sure to visit the property on a warm weekend afternoon or two to check it out.

Additionally, because Big Basin is an alternate route to Highway 17, it can also get a lot of traffic if there’s a problem on 17 in winter due to weather such as with downed trees, mudslides, car accidents with severe backups, etc. So when weather is good and when weather is bad, Big Basin and nearby roads can get very congested and move slowly.

Commuters who live in the mountains as well as others choke Saratoga Avenue at rush hour.  This is slowed further by having to pass two schools (Sacred Heart and St. Andrews) before getting to Highway 85.  Saratoga Avenue has just one lane in each direction through the historic zone, but after the freeway it’s much better.  (Saratoga-Sunnyvale isn’t bad as there are 2 lanes but remember to slow down at Saratoga High – the road is wide so the temptation is to go too fast.)

Natural hazards:  Depending on the location of the home in relation to the village, you could be in a wildland fire zone, in an unstable soils zone, a seismic zone or other “natural hazard” areas.  Also, if you are closer in to the hills or near a creek (and there are 2 in downtown Saratoga), there will of course be an increased contact with wild life, such as deer – but potentially also mountain lions, bobcats, racoons, possum, skunks, etc.  Most people love seeing the deer but others find it upsetting that their beloved garden is viewed as a buffet!

Finally, as with many downtown areas, parking can be a little tricky at times.  Valet parking can be a big help but no matter what, do pay attention to how long you’re in a spot and what the limit is – it can be expensive if you forget!

Are there special issues with Condos, Townhomes or PUDs in downtown Saratoga, CA?

In some cases, yes, PUDs, condominiums and townhouse communities may have special issues due to any of the items listed above.  In 2010 I had a great listing at Saratoga Oaks, a lovely and luxurious townhouse resort community.  Because of their proximity to the hills, the home owner’s association had earthquake insurance and that was quite costly.  The HOA dues covered not just the multiple pools, tennis courts, pool house, roads etc. but also fairly expensive blanket and earthquake  insurance as well. (That listing of mine on Placida Court is sold and closed but you can check the photos out here to get an idea of the area.)

A problem throughout Silicon Valley is condo, PUD and townhouse home owners defaulting on their monthly dues (and any special assessments).  Whenever you purchase one of these types of homes it is very important to know how financially sound the community is.  If there are many defaults, it is possible that the reserve account will run too low, resulting in either deferred maintenance, raised dues or special assessments  for those who are paying.  (With a short sale, some of the owed monies may be forgiven, and with a foreclosure there may be no recouping of debts owed at all.)

There are very few distressed sales in Saratoga, relative to the rest of Silicon Valley, so this risk should be lower in downtown Saratoga or anywhere in that city, but do check the situation out so that yo aren’t later handed a big bill to pay!  Here are a couple of related articles that you might find helpful:

Why are those Silicon Valley HOA dues so high?

Does your HOA have enough in reserves?

Want to learn more about living in this piece of paradise?  Browse listings below – no need to register, just have a look!  And if you want to buy or sell real estate in Saratoga, please contact me.  I grew up there (graduate of Saratoga HS), I sell there, and I’m happy to assist you in making it your home!

Find a home for sale in Saratoga, CA (all of Saratoga, not just downtown):

Saratoga California condominiums or condos for sale

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Saratoga California townhouses or townhomes for sale

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Saratoga CA houses for sale – single family homes for sale in Saratoga California

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