The Monte Sereno Real Estate Market

The Monte Sereno real estate market is similar to Los Gatos, but distinct - Monte Sereno shares many features with Los Gatos but is a distinct cityHow is the Monte Sereno real estate market? Because the city is small, with just about 3,500 residents, there usually are few homes listed for sale or selling, and with small numbers we can get seeming volatility. This article is updated monthly with new data and analysis, so scroll down to read the latest and check back regularly. Here are a few details from the latest market update:

  • With so few sales and listings, Monte Sereno real estate data can swing quite wildly, so take it with a grain of salt.
  • This city appears to be in a seller’s market with severely low inventory, just 4 available homes at the end of May. That’s slim pickings!
  • There were just 2 closed and 4 pending sales last month.
  • The sale to list price ratio fell below 100% with the average Monte Sereno property selling at 91.3% of asking price and in over 2 months.

There are ALMOST no condominiums or townhomes in Monte Sereno. As of Febuary 2024, the MLS showed just 6 sales in these two categories in total – and that’s going back to 1998! And one of those, at least, appears to actually be in Los Gatos. One of the major challenges for this city is to ensure that at least some housing units are deemed “affordable.” You can find the city’s housing plan here (an online pdf):  http://www.montesereno.org/DocumentCenter/Home/View/674

Because this is such a small city and there’s a tiny pool of data, please also have a look at the Los Gatos real estate market post on this site.

Below is a quick market profile for the Monte Sereno real estate market. This is updated automatically weekly, so please check back often.

 

Monte Sereno Altos Real-Time Market Profile

(more…)

Saratoga: A Secluded, Classy Corner of Silicon Valley

Saratoga is a highly desirable place in which to live, a great retreat from the hustle and bustle of Silicon Valley. Nestled into the base of the Santa Cruz Mountains, it is just a few miles to the north of Los Gatos. You can’t miss the scenic beauty!

What is Saratoga known for?

Today, this foothill community is best known as an upscale Silicon Valley suburban city with a quaint downtown, excellent restaurants, top notch public schools, low crime, beautiful hillsides, wonderful shops, and some first class entertainment venues – plus, of course, stunning estate properties.

Exceptional entertainment is abundanthere. Take in concerts at The Mountain Winery (formerly called Paul Masson Mountain Winery) and at Villa Montalvo, two lovely outdoor venues for music, or go wine tasting or horseback riding at Cooper-Garrod off Pierce Road. The younger Saratoga Library is a wonderful place to spend a rainy winter day too.

Saratoga’s history, in brief

Toll Gate in Saratoga 1850This city began as a logging town with two communities – one where The Village is today, and one further into the hills where the loggers lived and worked.

The community had several names:  Toll Gate, McCartysville, and Bank Mills before it became Saratoga. The last iteration was due to the hot springs up the hill from the village.

When logging died down, farming emerged as a major factor in the local economy. Vineyards and wineries were big business in the Santa Clara Valley prior to Prohibition. Some remained after, but not so many.

Fruit and nut orchards were also hugely important locally. In fact, the largest prune orchard in the world was once Hume Ranch, which had 680 acres of prune trees! Today, this area is referred to as the Platinum Triangle.

After World War II, things changed throughout the county. Shifts were seen with Food Machinery Corp becoming FMC, pushing out farming equipment in favor of tanks over time. And the changes were just beginning.

Public schools

The highly regarded schools are a big draw for newcomers to this west valley community.

What’s not so well known is that there are a few school districts which serve the 95070 area:

Like most of the cities and towns nearby, the school district lines do not follow the city boundaries (the school boundaries were set first, when most of the area was unincorporated), so there are several districts within the city of Saratoga, and this can be confusing when people relocate here!

Saratoga neighborhoods

The population of the valley grew, land became more expensive from one set of hills to the other, and open space became housing, particularly from the 60s on. Builders developed small and large tracts that had previously been orchards into suburban neighborhoods.

 

Saratoga neighborhoods map by Mary Pope-Handy and Clair Handy, Realtors

(more…)

The percentage of all cash sales in Santa Clara County

The percentage of all cash sales (all cash, no loans) rose in July, but the actual number of sales, shown immediately below, shrank a little. I pulled this data from the MLS today and it’s reflective of whatever the listing agent entered into the fields for financing.

Number of Cash Sales of Single Family Homes in Santa Clara County

 

Percentage of All cash sales, month by month, in Santa Clara County (single family homes)

Next, the actual percentage of all cash sales in the county for houses and duet homes.

Percentage of All Cash Sales in Santa Clara County for Jan 2013 - July 2023

 

The average for the 11 Julys shown is 13.9%, so July 2023 with 15.7% is interesting to see. Interest rates have skyrocketed over the last 14 months, forcing home prices down in the 2nd half of 2022. It’s a little surprising that we did not see a surge of cash buyers then, but their numbers stayed in the typical range from what I’m seeing.

Now, in mid 2023, we have seen both interest rates and home prices rising – at least for the first 6 months of the year – in most of the valley.

Cash buyers are usually investors, but not always. Sometimes they are homeowners who sold their long held family home and are now downsizing and buying with the proceeds of the larger home that they just sold. We don’t get that piece of data from the MLS, but anecdotally, that’s what I’m seeing with the cash offers I’m seeing and hearing about.

 

What does it mean that cash buyers are an increasing percentage of the closed sales?

  • Rising interest rates not only don’t harm the all cash, no loans buyers, it actually helps them as it weakens their competition
  • These buyers may be feeling more confident with the softened market and easier buying conditions generally
  • My thinking when we saw interest rates rising is that it would help the mortgage free buyer more than anyone else – that seems to be the case.

(more…)

Monte Sereno: The Beautiful & Inspiring Home of John Steinbeck

Monte Sereno PoppySitting at the base of El Sereno, part of the Santa Cruz Mountains, Monte Sereno is an upscale residential community snuggled between Los Gatos and Saratoga, California. The population is very tiny with about 4000 folks living in Monte Sereno any given time. It is composed of about one and a half square miles. This small city shares many services with the town of Los Gatos (such as schools and police). There are no businesses in Monte Sereno, only homes, the city’s offices, and the post office.

Real estate prices are high in this low-crime city, and while there are some modest homes, there are also some palatial estates featuring extreme amenities.

The geography is mostly flat to gentle hills, with much of it wooded. Redwood trees, oak trees, madrone and many others cluster together in the nooks and crannies of Monte Sereno. There are open places too, of course, with grassy fields. Along Daves Avenue, there are several streets that tie in together with a common horse stable, and it has meandering equestrian trails. Most of those homes are on half acre, level lots, with generous ranch style homes that back to the trails. This is a great neighborhood for horse lovers!

If you have a chance to visit Austin Way behind La Hacienda Restaurant and Inn, you’ll be delighted to find an old brick road, part of the heritage of Monte Sereno. And on the other side of Highway 9 along Austin Way, you’ll see a historic building recounting the city’s agricultural past in Austin Corners.

John Steinbeck once called this area home – but later decided the rural hamlet was too crowded, so moved into the Santa Cruz Mountains to regain his serenity! It is said that he wrote Of Mice and Men while living here.

 

Official town website
The Town of Monte Sereno
History, population, and more on this tiny town which is nestled between Saratoga and Los Gatos.
Wikipedia on Monte Sereno

 

 

 

 

Market comparison: Los Gatos, Saratoga, Cupertino and Los Altos

Market comparison: Los Gatos, Saratoga, Cupertino and Los AltosToday we’re looking at the real estate market for houses in some of the “west valleycommunities along the base of the Santa Cruz Mountains – areas where schools are good, crime is low, residents enjoy scenic views of the hills (or of the valley from the hills, depending on the location) and overall, a highly educated population not too far from Highway 85. This will be a real estate market comparison for Los Gatos, Saratoga, Cupertino, and Los Altos.

Of the four municipalities, three are really very similar to each other in several regards.  Cupertino has the largest population – about 61,000 people – but Los Altos, Los Gatos and Saratoga are all similarly sized, somewhere between 31,000 residents.  The latter three also enjoy a traditional “downtown” area which is popular with pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists alike. (Monte Sereno has under 4,000 residents, which is so small that the statistics are very easily thrown from month to month, so it is omitted in this quick study.)  Of the four, Cupertino, then, is the least similar due to size and lack of a central downtown area for now. This may feel different once the Vallco Mall is redeveloped.

We’ll take a quick look at these areas now in terms of the real estate market trends and statistics for each area, considering just “class 1” (houses and duet homes).  The charts used below are from Altos Research, to which I have a subscription, and they will be automatically updated each week.

Please note:  the Los Gatos data is probably a little artificially low as it will include all 3 zip codes, meaning also the Los Gatos Mountains, which are quite a bit more affordable than the areas “in town”.

In addition, as of this writing we are in the shelter-in-place phase 1 of the pandemic. This post is updated approximately every quarter or half-year, so we’re just starting to see the results of these changes to the market,  but it will take a while to see the full picture. For now you can read more about the Coronavirus impact on real estate sales in my post on the topic.

Also, during the shutdown so far, the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) stopped the timer on all Days on Market (DOM). Therefore these numbers will be off beginning from March 17th through around May 17th. In the data below, this will affect any numbers related to the days on market, the absorption rate, and the days of inventory.

Now on with the analysis!

Market Comparisons

(1) Median List Price (per Altos Research):

 

Real Estate Market Chart by Altos Research www.altosresearch.com

(more…)

Saratoga Oaks Townhouse Community Near Downtown Saratoga Village

View of street within Saratoga Oaks townhome community in Saratoga, CAThe exquisite Saratoga Oaks neighborhood is nestled between downtown Saratoga and the beautiful coastal foothills, close to the famed Hakone Gardens.  With both pools and tennis courts and a location just a block or so from tony Saratoga Village (click to see slide show), it is resort living in Silicon Valley at its finest. But this is not just a place for retirees who want to downsize, though they are also drawn here – families with kids also move to Saratoga Oaks to make use of the top rated schools.

Which public schools serve this neighborhood?

Saratoga Oaks is within the very highly regarded Saratoga Union School District. Although many other school districts in Santa Clara County assign children in homes to particular schools, Saratoga does not – it is an “open” school district. If there’s space and if the home is within the district, you may be able to chose which of the excellent Saratoga schools you wish for your student to attend. The nearest public school is Saratoga Elementary on Oak Street, but you may find enrollment instead at Foothill Elementary or Argonaut.  The higher level schools are Redwood Middle School and Saratoga High School.  California has transitioned to new school assessment, away from the old 2010 API scores, but you can check the new Saratoga Union School District “Report Cards” here. Additionally, there are two excellent private elementary schools nearby: Sacred Heart (Catholic) and St. Andrew’s (Episcopalian).

Where is Saratoga Oaks?

Saratoga Oaks Townhouse community in Saratoga, CA (map) - click on image to see live Google mapThe Saratoga Oaks community is within the city of Saratoga, California, and is a part of Silicon Valley and what’s locally referred to as “the south bay” area. It can be reached either via Springer Avenue, off of 4th Street in Saratoga or from Springer off of Big Basin Way (aka Hwy 9 or Congress Springs Road). This townhouse complex is literally where the town meets the hills – so it is not at all uncommon to find deer in the open spaces! Click on the map image to go to the live, interactive Google map. (more…)

Silicon Valley Homes for Sale Near Golf Courses in the Foothill Areas

With our 300 sunny days per year in Silicon Valley (at least most years!), golf is a sport enjoyed year round here in the San Jose area.  Living near a golf course, or having a golf course view, is highly desirable as it provides scenic open space as well as convenience for avid golfers.

Silicon Valley Golf Homes, Silicon Valley Golf Properties

There are beautiful courses throughout the South Bay Area and it’s possible to find small condos with views of them at fairly affordable prices (Sunnyvale’s Sunken Gardens area is one of them).  Today, though, I want to provide a list of homes for sale near golf courses in the foothill areas of Silicon Valley.  Many of these will also be luxury homes. So the MLS list of these houses on the market which you can browse includes these areas:

San Jose areas including Evergreen & Silver Creek, Santa Teresa, Blossom Valley and Almaden; Los Gatos, Monte Sereno, Saratoga, Cupertino, and Los Altos.

There are golf courses to be found in other parts of Santa Clara County too (Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara and more) – let me know if you are interested in these parts and I can send you a link for searching them for similar residential real estate.

Here are a available or recently sold homes near to golf clubs:

 

 

 

 

Selling your Silicon Valley Home? Fix it first!

Selling your Silicon Valley home? Fix it first - image with nice house and advice to sellersSelling your Silicon Valley home this year? At the top of your to do list should be decluttering and fixing the home and yard. These basics are extremely important because they give home buyers confidence, and confident buyers write stronger offers with higher prices. When you do the work upfront, your future home buyers will be far more comfortable with an As Is sale, and you are more likely to get top dollar for your home.

Starting point: a list of what needs to be fixed

The first and most important thing if you’ll be Selling your Silicon Valley home is to go through your property – both interior and exterior – and get everything into good working order.  This may seem intuitively obvious but it doesn’t always happen.  Once I assisted some buyers with a home in which one of the bathrooms was not fully usable.  The owners just used other bathrooms but to the buyers it raised an enormous red flag and a ton of questions: when did it break? why didn’t you fix it? what’s the cost? are the sellers just hiding something?  This is a typical reaction when there’s deferred maintenance, particularly in a kitchen or bathroom. It happens in condos, townhouses, single family homes and even luxury homes.  But if you’re selling, don’t do it: get your repairs done first and foremost.

Exterior of the home

  1. Grab a clipboard or notepad, a paper and pen and walk around the exterior of your home.  Look for things which don’t work, need cleaning or otherwise need repair.
  2. Check the paint, windows, screens, downspouts, spigots, doorbell, front door, mailbox, door hardware etc. (Wood on the outside of the home tends to need painting every 5 years, by the way.)
  3. Is the house dirty or dusty? Consider power washing (close to when your home will go on the market).
  4. Are there stucco cracks or wood damage to the outside of the home (siding or under the eaves)?
  5. How are the sidewalk, the walkways, patio, or deck? Look for trip hazards.
  6. Exterior lighting – do the lights come on as expected?
  7. Sprinklers – are they working as needed?
  8. Are your downspouts extended so that water flows away from your home when it rains?
  9. Are your gutters cleaned out?
  10. Lawn and landscaping: is there a need for re-seeding, planting annuals?  Are the trees and bushes in need of a trim? You do not want trees hanging over the roof for many reasons, and bushes and other vegetation should not obscure windows as you want as much natural light to flow into the home as possible.

Interior of the home

(more…)

Selling Your Silicon Valley Home: Staging & Color

When Silicon Valley home owners prepare their property for the competitive real estate market, they want to get a good return on their investment of time and money.  Often the best staging work is a matter of decluttering, updating or improving floor coverings, wall coverings fixtures and countertops.  It’s what I call “lipstick and rouge” rather than cosmetic surgery.  Please remember that the shift is from this being “your home” and a reflection of you to a product you wish to sell.  So it’s got to be appealing to the market more than anything else – and that means taking your own personal taste out of the equation.

Today let’s talk staging color.

Color for Staging

Years ago, the conventional wisdom was that all San Jose, Los Gatos or Santa Clara County home buyers wanted white walls “because it makes a home look bigger”. It is true that lighter colors tend to help with the light, bright and airy look, but all white is also all boring.  All white homes can be difficult to sell and too frequently those homes sell for much less or do not sell at all!

Do you find that the all-white look is the most appealing? Most buyers would say not – that a splash of color makes the room “pop” and more interesting and desirable. At the same time, you don’t want to overwhelm them with it!

(more…)

The Silicon Valley Luxury Home Market

El Sombroso peaking over a bridge at Vasona County Park in Los GatosWhat makes an expensive house in the San Jose area more than just a pricey bit of real estate, but instead a Silicon Valley luxury home? How is high end real estate different from the rest of the market? When is a property not just a home with land, but an estate?

In other parts of the U.S., spending $1,200,000 may fetch a 4000 square foot home, new construction, in an upscale gated community with country club amenities such as a golf course, tennis courts, and more. Here, that same $1,200,000 will procure an entry to mid-level single family home in many parts of Santa Clara County. It won’t necessarily be a Silicon Valley luxury home.

Luxury connotes a combination of qualities, features, and amenities. And it includes pricing (relative to the nearby market), condition, land, design.

Pricing Luxury Homes in Silicon Valley: What Do They Cost?

Expensive Silicon Valley homes are not necessarily luxury homes. Depending on the city or town, the price tag could be higher or lower. For instance, a fabulous house on a large lot in Gilroy’s Eagle Ridge might sell for 1/3 as much as the identical type of home, land and neighborhood found in Saratoga, Monte Sereno, or Los Gatos, or Los Altos, if a similar home happened to be available. Generally, though, luxury homes could cost as little as $1,000,000 or so in some parts of Silicon Valley or in neighboring counties, but in most parts of Silicon Valley, a true estate type property will be valued at $2,000,000 or $3,000,000 or more.  In some areas, such as Palo Alto, that $2 million doesn’t go too far and the home you can purchase at that price tag may need major updating – or it could be “land value”.  For our purposes today, we’ll use $2 million as the bottom number for estate properties, but it may or may not be the case in some areas.

(more…)