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Ranch Style Homes

Oster Area Ranch Style HomeLove it or hate it, you can’t escape it: the Ranch.

By far the most abundant architectural style among Silicon Valley homes is the ranch. A recent resurgence in interest in this unique and pervasive house design suggest it is regaining popularity, and there are plenty of reasons to love it! Here we’ll take a peek at the history, how to identify, and the function behind the ranch design. Ready to meet America’s dream home?

New modern ranch homes for town or country living by the National Plan Service, Inc (1956) on Archive.org

by the National Plan Service, Inc (1956) on Archive.org – Click to see

Back on the Ranch: A Brief History

In the early 1930s, San Diego designer Cliff May took the architectural world by storm with his spin on the Spanish colonial revival home. Inspired by adobe ranchos and modern design with an emphasis on comfortable California living, May developed this unique style. This soon evolved into the quintessential California ranch style.

It’s no surprise that the ranch has come to be known as a suburban style. Its popularity was widespread during the booming post-war years through the 1970s, peaking in the 1950s with ranch homes accounting for as many as 9 out of 10 new homes! (Witold Rybczynski, p 207)

Having saturated the market for decades, and with buyers wanting bigger homes, the market shifted away from building the sprawling single-story ranch in the later decades of the 20th century. Still the design retained popularity in the resale market. With more ranch homes celebrating their golden jubilee (some of the earliest are approaching 90) and some gaining historic designations there has been a renewed interest in ranch architecture over the last decade or so.

Design Elements

 “Today, almost any house that provides for an informal type of living and is not definitely marked by unmistakable style symbols is called a ranch house.” (Sunset Western Ranch Houses (1946), IX – 1946).

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Property Tax Basis Transfer for Seniors

Interested in moving your property tax basis when you sell your current home and buy the next one? For those over 55 in California, this is a great one time option.

There are actually two propositions involved.  Prop 60 applies to moves within your own county, and Prop 90 relates to moves between counties which are participating in the transfer arrangement. Unfortunately, of California’s 58 counties, only 10 have the cooperative agreement to accept a property tax basis transfer from other participating counties.

Cooperating Property Tax Basis Transfer Counties (Prop 90)

The counties cooperating in the property tax basis transfer are only these, as of the date of this posting: Alameda, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Tuolumne, and Ventura.

Some of the basics for the property tax basis transfer:

  • Homeowners must be 55 and older at the time of sale of the original property.
  • Homeowner must be on record both for the home that’s sold and the replacement property.
  • The replacement residence must be equal to or lesser in value than the original residence.
  • There are special rules for multi-family (duplex, triplex, fourplex) properties and for mobile homes.

In the most typical scenario, a senior homeowner would sell a house (or townhome or condo) and “downsize” to another, less expensive, smaller house or condo.  If the homeowner had been in the first property for a very long time, then the low tax rate would be hard to give up, but Props 60 and 90 enable that homeowner to go to another, less expensive home and carry the old tax rate along – one time, and either in the home county or in one of the participating counties.

I have known seniors to sell a house in Los Gatos, Saratoga or San Jose and move to The Villages or to gated senior communities out of the area but closer to their grown kids and make use of these two propositions.

It should be noted that while the price of the replacement home must be less than the home being sold, that doesn’t mean that the new home must be smaller. I’ve known people to move out of area and get a larger, newer, nicer home – at a lower price tag. So it’s really an economic downsizing (or “right sizing” as some like to say now).

For more information and to get all the details, please click on the California state page for these two propositions.

The Villages

The Villages

The Villages ClubhouseNestled in the rolling foothills of San Jose’s southeastern Evergreen area is a hidden gem known simply as the Villages.

As you drive up to the secured entrance, you’ll spot a sign: The Villages a Country Club Community. They take that claim to heart. A gated, community-oriented neighborhood centered around numerous country club amenities creates an immersive home for its residents. However this is a senior community, so to live at the Villages you have to be 55 or older. Therefore many residents are retirees who are active, love entertaining guests, and don’t want to mow the lawn every week. But you don’t have to be a resident to enjoy the country club side of things.

 

The Villages

Only about a 20 minute drive from downtown San Jose, this area was once agricultural land with vineyards. It is still home to the impressive William Wehner historic mansion, constructed in 1888 and designed by architect David Burnham (this estate is currently closed to the public). The mansion is sometimes called the Cribari Mansion for its later owners, a name that was adopted by the first Village development. The original stone columns (circa 1891) for the estate’s original drive still stand as a prominent feature on one of the golf courses.

Today, the community is still surrounded by untouched rolling hills. And that natural beauty is staying put, as the Villages owns 550 acres of open space with community hiking trails. (more…)

Help for Almaden Senior Home Sellers

Almaden Senior Home Seller with Mt UmFor retirees or senior home owners in Almaden who’ve been in their houses a very long time, the prospect of selling that beloved San Jose home can be quite daunting.  The longer you’ve been there, the more memories you’ve created and most of the time the harder it is to decide to sell and then do all the work needed to maximize that decision. This article is intended as a help for Almaden senior home sellers, their families and friends.

In today’s post we’ll go over the decision to sell the home (or not), the timing elements for selling and getting help in doing so.

Deciding it’s time to sell your Almaden Valley home

Perhaps the biggest hurdle is not the physical work involved with preparing a home for the real estate market or moving, but instead is the difficult decision of whether or not to move (and if so, when to do it).

As people age, there are a lot of losses.  There may be retirement that wasn’t chosen, but forced.  Loved ones pass away.  Vision diminishes.  It may become necessary to limit driving, or worse, give it up altogether. It is not hard for those over 65, 70  or 80 years of age to feel like it’s one unhappy challenge after the next. There’s a lot of change but it’s not all positive.

The prospect of also changing one’s residence can seem like one of the biggest, toughest and most unwelcome of all.     (more…)

When A Parent Has To Sell The House

Typical Saratoga Oaks townhouse, Saratoga CA (Silicon Valley) - living space over garageOne of the hardest things that adult children must sometimes do is to assist their parents in downsizing.  Most of the time, this means also getting the parent(s) to agree to sell the home, perhaps also to move into a seniors facility (independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing, memory care) or perhaps to move in with one of the adult kids. Very often, leaving the house also means leaving a good deal of memories and perhaps independence.  It can be terribly difficult for everyone involved.

Sometimes our older family members can live at their own home until they die, which is what they want and what makes everyone happy.  It may also be the most economical thing to do.   As they age, there are services which can come to them (gardening, cleaning, meals being prepared or dropped off, errands being run, driving services provided when reflexes slow or eyes fail). One company has invented a medicine dispenser which is timed and will alert family members if the meds aren’t taken!   It may be good to utilize some sort of safety device in case there’s a fall.  If you can get all the bases covered, it can be close to worry free for everyone.  In those cases, perhaps worrying about real estate can wait.

For others, though, either medical needs or social needs drive the change to a place with many other seniors. For some, this infusion of new friends can be an emotional lifeline that greatly improves the quality of life.  Particularly for those who lose the ability to drive and move about independently, a transition to a seniors facility can mean a reconnecting with others which was lost due to lack of independence.  I have seen that with some of my own relatives.   Or when a beloved spouse dies, sometimes the loneliness is compounded by remaining in the same home and being mostly alone.  A move can be a big help, and the companionship of others is no small part of it. (more…)

Saratoga Retirement Community, the former “Odd Fellows Home” and a lot more

Saratoga Retirement Community - Odd Fellow's 1912 Manor HouseWhen I was 13 years old, my parents moved from Santa Clara to Saratoga, where our newly built George Day home had been constructed against a pastoral backdrop of orchards plus one small horse ranch directly behind us.  In winter, when many trees lost their leaves, we could see past Fruitvale Avenue and glimpse the towers of the old Odd Fellows Home.  I always wondered what that was about and who those odd fellows were who seemed to retire there, in that stately old building away from the main drag.  It was a mystery to me.

Today that same campus is home to the Saratoga Retirement Community, a continuing care facility. The International Order of Odd Fellows still owns this senior living site, but it’s managed by Pacific Retirement Services.  Best of all, it is open to everyone, and you don’t need to be a member of the IOOF to live there.  And, in fact, in the early 2000s my grandfather rented an apartment in the Assisted Living area for a few years – and loved it.  That was before the Manor House was totally rehabbed and again the pinnacle of the community. (more…)

Santana Row: Upscale, Urban San Jose Neighborhood

A newer “mixed use” neighborhood in San Jose, Santana Row is popular with people of all ages and interests. It is not just a “shopping center”, but is really a community, one which offers a wide variety of dining, shopping and entertainment, suitable for all kinds of budgets too. Best of all, it’s right in the heart of Silicon Valley.

Dining at Santana Row varies from very formal and expensive to casual and snack-like, and the type of food available ranges widely too. A fairly new addition is Pinkberry, which seems to be growing quickly in popularity. There are about thirty cafes, bistros and restaurants and to date I’ve probably visited about one-third of them – all experiences positive.

Entertainment at SR goes beyond window shopping and includes live music and, of course, films at the movie theater. Many chose to simply peoplewatch, take in a good book or catch a game of chess with a friend while enjoying a beverage. A Farmer’s Market features produce, flowers and other goods each week (and there’s a Safeway just a block or two away also) and is a good excuse to browse the offerings. Or maybe splurge a little and enjoy some pampering at a spa or salon: Santana Row’s got that, too.

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Finding scenic places in which to live in Silicon Valley

View from Montevina Road in Los Gatos, Scenic Silicon ValleyIf you arrived into Silicon Valley via Highway 101, driving south from San Francisco, you might believe that the Santa Clara Valley, the San Jose area and Silicon Valley as a whole has got to seem to be the ugliest place on earth. Although heavily traveled, that is not the “scenic route”.

So, too, if you are looking for a place to live and are groping to find a place that is reasonably priced, fairly safe and not a terrible commute distance. You might not even have “is nice looking” on your wish list. You might not think it’s possible if all you ever see are the ugly concrete tilt-up buildings in north San Jose, Santa Clara, Alviso, or anywhere along the 237 corridor.  That area is an architectural wasteland.

Let me assure you: there are a lot of beautiful places in Silicon Valley where you can rent or buy a home. But how do you find them? It helps a lot to have a local give you a few pointers.  I’ll give you some tips today on finding a scenic place to live.

Hills – An easy way to find a scenic location to make your home is to settle near the hills, especially those in the west valley (the Santa Cruz Mountains or the Coastal Range) as they are green year-round. Communities at the base of the west valley foothills include, in Santa Clara County, Palo Alto, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Cupertino, Saratoga, Monte Sereno, Los Gatos, and the Almaden Valley area of San Jose. All of these areas are adjacent to the hills or mountains and offer far better than average schools (many of them qualify as great – compare costs between these areas). (more…)

Senior homeseller resources

Now that many home owners in Silicon Valley have equity again, the possibility of selling and moving has opened up once more.  Seniors have special needs and in many cases could use a little extra help.  Here are a few resources:

AARP.com – this is the # 1 advocacy group for seniors and this website has a tremendous wealth of information.

AgeInPlace.com – find info on creating a safe environment that’s easier to live in, plus monitoring services.

MoveSeniors.com – a resource for downsizing, moving and remodeling plus other helpful avenues.

RetirementHomes.com – a senior living directory for North America (from independent living to assisted to memory care and nursing).

SilverPlanet.com – help with “aging in place” options and more.

TheSeniorList.com – ratings and review site for a wide range of sernior services and living arrangements.

As a Seniors Real Estate Specialist, I enjoy working with and assisting seniors.  Please call me for help with seniors selling (or buying) homes anywhere in Silicon Valley!

 

 

 

Time to downsize but don’t want condo living?

At some point, the family home may become too much work, expense, and worry for seniors and the decision may be looming about when and how to downsize.   There are many decisions to be made, including:

  • What to keep, what to give to relatives and friends, sell, donate or throw out?
  • How big of a space should the next home be?
  • What type of housing should be targeted – a condo, townhouse, apartment, senior living community, duplex, smaller house or cottage, duet or something else?
  • Is a home with stairs an option?
  • Is outside space a requirement?
  • Will the next home be purchased or rented?
  • Is outside care needed?

Particularly for those accustomed to a large house and garden or yard, going to a living arrangement with shared walls and no yard may not be appealing.   An option for those wishing to buy(and are still very independent) that is sometimes missed is a type of housing which is sort of a gray area, and those are houses held in condominium ownership (such as the Villas of Almaden), as well as patio homes (as we see in some of the Almaden Winery neighborhood).  In both cases, as well as in some planned unit developments, there’s a home owner’s association which will usually do all of the front yard landscaping.  If the back yard is small, it’s possible to have it planted in a low-maintenance manner to maximize your enjoyment while minimizing the yard work.

As part of your recon efforts, be sure to sit down and discuss your thoughts, hopes, wants and needs with a good Realtor familiar with the area where you want to live.  He or she can point out potential alternatives or options that you may not even know exist.

Patio Homes or Zero Lot Line Houses in Silicon Valley

What Is the Difference Between CID Ownership in a Condo, Townhouse or PUD?

When A Parent Has To Sell The House