Meet the Oak Canyon Neighborhood of Almaden Valley in San Jose

Almaden Valley in San Jose is comprised of many neighborhoods and subdivisions. One of them, close to the border with Los Gatos and Cambrian Park, is particularly popular: the Oak Canyon neighborhood.

There are many reasons for its draw among Silicon Valley home buyers: the houses were well built by Shea Homes in about 1980, so they are relatively newer by Silicon Valley standards. They’re larger homes on comfortable lots, often 8000 sf or so but some as small as 6500 sf and others larger than a quarter acre in the Oak Canyon corner of Almaden.

Most of the homes boast a 3 car garage, which is a big help with storage of stuff, if not storage of cars. The roads gently turn, which makes a more pleasing look. It’s a very “conforming” neighborhood where everyone keeps up the homes and yards. Much of Almaden is viewed by consumers as somewhat remote, but this section, near the mouth of Almaden, is not too deep into the valley and is a better commute location for most. One of the largest pulls for the area, though, is the nearby elementary school, Guadalupe School, which has an excellent reputation for quality education and ranks exceedingly well on testing.

 

Where is the Oak Canyon neighborhood in Almaden Valley, San Jose?

Oak Canyon is found near the intersection of Camden Avenue and Coleman Road in San Jose but is bordered by Coleman on one side and the Guadalue Creek on the other sides. (The far side of the Guadalupe Creek at this point is Cambrian Park.)  Just the other side of Coleman Road is the Montevideo neighborhood, and next to that is the Almaden Meadows neighborhood.

 

Oak Canyon Neighborhood Map

 

And to provide some bearings, here’s a map of the Almaden Valley district of San Jose generally:

 

Almaden Valley Map

 

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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…)

What is implied agency in real estate?

Implied agency word cloudWhat is implied agency? Unless you are a real estate licensee, it’s likely that you never heard that term before.  If you are in the realty business, you need to understand this concept.  What is it?

Implied agency and agency relationships

Before explaining implied agency, it’s best to start with what an agency relationship is or means. If you hire a real estate licensee or Realtor to assist  you in buying or selling a home, normally you and he or she create an agency relationship.

In California, a licensed real estate professional can be a buyer’s agent, a seller’s agent, or, if disclosed, a dual agent – representing both parties, both buyer and seller. The agent, by the way, references both the individual real estate licensee as well as the broker. If the same broker of record represents both the home buyer and seller, it’s a dual agency situation, even if there are different Realtors involved.

Here, we use a disclosure form (see link at bottom of article for the full text of it) which spells out the agency relationship and duties – it is statutory, meaning that the state dictates the words to be used on the form, whether it’s published by the California Association of Realtors, the Peninsula Real Estate Date Services or any other entity. An agency relationship means several things, but above all, it means that the real estate professional has fiduciary obligations to the seller or buyer being represented, including those of  of “utmost care, integrity, honesty, and loyalty” to that client.

Most of the time, when an agency relationship has been created, there’s a meeting of the minds between consumer and real estate professional that they will be working together.   The relationship is not accidental, but intended and explicit.

Sometimes, though, in the course of casual conversation, it may be possible to accidentally create an agency relationship.  If this happens, it is referred to as “implied agency“. How can this be?  This may occur when the real estate professional casually provides the type of guidance and advice that would be reserved for clients, but that consumer relies upon that advice. (more…)

New real estate law in California in 2015: purchase price cannot be kept private any longer

Sale price confidentialityEach fall, the Realtor community gets alerted by our Realtor associations about upcoming laws that take effect in the new year.  Recently the Silicon Valley Association of Realtors (SILVAR), of which I am a member, provided us with a list of upcoming changes in the law.

Perhaps the most striking one involves the secrecy of the sale price of real estate sold in California.  It used to be possible to withhold the sales price of a home not just on the multiple listing service (MLS) but on the county records as well.  This was done by putting the transfer tax amount on a separate document, not together with the recorded deed. (However, the truly determined could still learn the sales price via a California Public Records Act request.)  By doing a little math, it was possible to obtain the sale price via the amount of transfer tax paid.

No more.   The documentary transfer tax (DTT) must also be visible as of the new year because of the passage of Assembly Bill No. 1888 (“AB 1888”).  The California Association of Realtors supported this measure “because it increases accessible information about closed sales and transparency in public records.”

 

 

 

Home buying in California? Ask a lot of questions!

seagull in stained glassIf you are purchasing a home in California, it would be wise to ask a lot of questions.  You may wonder why, given the absolutely enormous stack of disclosures that sellers must fill out already.  Is it possible that anything at all could be left out?  You bet.

First, a lot of the disclosures are a little bit limited in one way or another.  More than anything, often they are a subjective assessment by property owners who may not feel the same way about something as you do.  For instance, what constitutes a nuisance or something annoying?  Perhaps they love the sight of seagulls (seagulls are overly abundant in San Jose right now) circling over head, but maybe you view them as flying poop monsters, whose droppings will ruin the paint on your prized automobile.  Are they a nuisance? Or do they enhance the sense of closeness with nature?

Another limitation is with some of the questions themselves.  The number of questions and the way they are worded have changed over time in response to problems which arose from lack of clarity.  In the 90s, one of the questions in the PRDS Supplemental Seller’s Checklist asked if there was any landfill on the property.  After a lawsuit involving medical waste in a Willow Glen (San Jose) backyard, the word was changed to just “fill” (sans “land”) to cover a broader meaning.

In some cases, the meaning is still narrow.  For instance, you may want to know if anyone has ever died at the house.  The disclosure forms, though, only ask if anyone has died there in the last 3 years.  If you don’t ask, the seller doesn’t have to volunteer about a death prior to that (some exceptions).  If this would be a concern to you, then, you will have to ask – and the home owner is required to answer truthfully. (more…)

J Lohr Wine Tasting Room in San Jose: worth a visit!

J Lohr Wine Tasting Room in San Jose (about 2 miles from downtown SJ)Awhile back, a Realtor friend, Colleen Kulikowski, was visiting from the Buffalo & Niagara Falls area of New York. Together we attended the California Association of Realtors conference in San Jose, CAR EXPO, where we enjoyed some great sessions and at which I was a panelist one day on social media and real estate blogging.   I very much wanted her to see more than just the inside of a conference center, though, so in the evenings and days before and after we saw some sights along the coast and went wine tasting in Los Gatos, Willow Glen, Monterey and central San Jose at the fabulously convenient J Lohr Tasting Room.

At J Lohr Wine Tasting Rooms, you can choose from available wines which ones you'd like to tryAs we  walked up to the door, I volunteered to pay for our tasting – just before noticing that it’s at no charge!  This is pretty rare today in Santa Clara County, Monterey County or Santa Cruz County wineries.  (When a tasting is free I always buy a bottle anyway if I enjoy the wine, and normally I do.)

Our hostess was very nice and gave us a printout of what could be tried that day and explained that we could select 6 and then she would “put them in order”.  Colleen and I prefer different types of wines so had little overlap in our selections – it was great to have so much variety.We both liked a number of wines and both made purchases (so they did ok on the free tasting by us). (more…)

How Does the Real Estate Agency Relationship Work in Silicon Valley?

Books could be written about agency law in California, but in this post I will try to make the explanation concise and understandable. Please know that agency is different from state to state, so your experience of it outside of CA may be very different from it here.

An agent is essentially a person who or entity which acts on behalf of another in a transaction involving a third party.  In most residential real estate transaction in Silicon Valley, real estate agents are involved.

An agent has not just a duty of “fair and honest dealing”, but much more. The agent has a fiduciary relationship with the client. That is, the agent (or agency or licensee) must do what is in the client’s best interest (even if it is not in the agent’s best interest). It is as if the agent is an informed clone of the client, almost like a power of attorney but without signing ability.  The agent’s job is to protect the client and to negotiate for the client the best possible deal, the smallest possible risk, and so on.

To non-clients (that is, to customers), the agent still has a duty of fair and honest dealing. So the agent should not lie or mislead, but the agent doesn’t have to educate or strategize for the other size. When a Realtor has an open house at his or her listing, for instance, he or she has an affirmative obligation to try to get the client’s home sold at the best possible price. The Realtor may not tell a buyer the lowest amount a seller might take for the property unless the seller has expressly given that permission (preferably in writing).

 

fiduciary-duties

 

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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…)

Historic Topigraphical Maps of Saratoga, Los Gatos, Almaden, and Nearby Areas

Saratoga Historical Map ShadowThe other day I was hunting for local maps of Santa Clara County (Silicon Valley) dating back 100 years or so, and although I didn’t find exactly what I wanted, I did find a treasure trove that I hadn’t expected to find at all.

Here please find a tiny snippet of a USGS Map from the late 1890s (actually part of the Palo Alto Map). According to my husband, who has a hobby of viewing and collecting maps, each “dot” on this image represents a house. If that is the case, you can see how sparcely populated Saratoga and Cupertino were at this time.

And what is that Azule Springs? Was it another hot springs type resort, like Saratoga Springs? A map like this raises a lot of questions!

If you love – or at least enjoy – history, I invite you to visit the USGS website and look at the historic maps there. One section includes Palo Alto, Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Cupertino and the coastal areas such as Santa Cruz and Half Moon Bay. Another section of the map includes Los Gatos, Monte Sereno, Campbell, Almaden, Cambrian Park, Santa Clara and many parts of San Jose.

It’s fun to see where things “used to be” and how they “used to be called”. Take a few minutes and enjoy!

Saratoga, CA, homes for sale in downtown, Saratoga Village location: what you need to know

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! (more…)