Surrey Farms neighborhood in Los Gatos

Surrey Farm Neighborhood Los Gatos CA (Silicon Valley)A Los Gatos neighborhood which is “close to town” but feels further out is the highly sought after Surrey Farms area, located off Kennedy Road less than a mile from Los Gatos Boulevard, and less than 1.5 miles to all the local public schools:  Van Meter or Blossom Hill Elementary, Fisher Middle, Los Gatos High. Adjacent to Surrey Farms is the independent Hillbrook School.

About Surrey Farms

There are about 70 single family homes or houses in Surrey Farms, most of them on quarter-acre to half-acre lots, but a handful are on over half an acre, and four are over one acre.  The houses were mostly constructed from the mid 1950s into the mid 1960s, though development has continued since with over 30% of homes built between the 1970s and 2010s.  Original construction was all done in the “ranch style” and consisted of about 2,000 to 3,000 SF in most cases.  Today many have been remodeled, enlarged or even fully rebuilt, and the home sizes are bigger, currently with 50% of them over 3,000 SF and more than 15% over 4,000 SF.

More land is slated to be developed soon, with 12 units (2 story homes) proposed for the 12 acre parcel which is currently under contract with some kind of contingency (it is listed at about $16 million). That’s all that I  know as of right now – things could change.

 

Surrey Farms Gate

 

Regarding the name: folks in Los Gatos do call this subdivision “Surrey Farms”, but I did some research on the county records and it appears that the original name was “Surrey Farm” – singular!  My best guess is that it was a farm or horse ranch by that name prior to the housing being built…but that would take a bit more research that I haven’t yet done.

(more…)

When a parent, spouse or loved one dies – what do you need to know or do about the house?

Death and Real Estate - Dealing with a Property after A Loved One DiesWhen a parent, spouse or loved one dies and he or she owned a home, there’s a lot for the survivors to do in addition to the very real and painful process of mourning. I have been through this with my own parents (and their house in Saratoga), a great aunt in Willow Glen, and many clients in San Jose, Los Gatos, Palo Alto, and elsewhere in Silicon Valley.

Quick summary of what to do regarding the home first and soon when a loved one dies:

  1. Engage the help of of an attorney and tax professional within the first 30 days or so. Sometimes there are deadlines or goal dates that will help the beneficiaries, and if people take too long to connect with these professionals, some opportunities may close.
  2. Some attorneys are also tax professionals, but most likely these will be different people.
  3. A professional valuation of the home will be needed, usually done by a licensed appraiser, but sometimes a real estate professional can do a market analysis that is acceptable. The home does not have to be empty or cleaned out to have this done.
  4. If you need the names of good tax and legal professionals, feel free to reach out to your real estate agent (or to me, if you are local). Most of us have worked with trust situations and can provide names. Or ask friends and family who’ve recently gone through the same situation and were happy with the people that they hired.
  5. You will need several copies of the certified death certificate. Discuss how many with your tax and legal professional. If you sell or transfer the home, the title company will need it and it will be recorded with the county.

Death, dying, & real estate: where to begin when a loved one dies?

In terms of settling the estate, it is wise to first speak with an attorney and tax professional about the property to find out what is required and advisable.

(more…)

Cambrian Park: Good Schools, Low Crime, Close to Los Gatos and Campbell

Cambrian Park, or more broadly, Cambrian, is a west San Jose neighborhood or district and is one of the high-value areas in Silicon Valley. The schools are good, the crime is low, and the commute is not too bad.

Cambrian Park Plaza signFor people relocating to Santa Clara County, this is a place to know about since quality education and affordability are often high priorities! Most Silicon Valley home buyers would say that Cambrian Park real estate offers a very good value.

What’s the compromise for the more reasonable prices of homes for sale? Well, Cambrian doesn’t have an interesting, upscale downtown area like Campbell, Los Gatos, Saratoga, or Willow Glen. (It may, when the Cambrian Park Plaza redevelopment takes place.)

But it does have tons of shopping & restaurants and even a Farmer’s Market. It also enjoys a top notch hospital (Good Samaritan) and plenty of parks as well as a fantastic rec center with a large park adjacent to it, the Camden Community Center, which has loads of programs (including an after school program for youth), classes, and a fabulous pool.

Altogether, there are about 75,000 to 80,000 residents in Cambrian, spread throughout part of two zip codes, part of 95124 and some of 95118.

If there is a “central Cambrian Park”, it would have to be near the original Cambrian Park Shopping Center, which was the first actual mall in San Jose! That area is sometimes known as Cambrian Village.  People sometimes use the three names interchangeably: Cambrian, Cambrian Park, Cambrian Village.

 

Where is Cambrian Park? Map of approximate Cambrian Boundaries:

 


View Cambrian Area of San Jose in a larger map

(more…)

Crawlspace access: What is it? Where is it? Why does it matter?

crawlspace access outside First time home buyers may have heard the word crawlspace (or crawl space) but not had a good idea of what it refers to – especially if they have only lived in houses built on slab foundations. So let’s touch on it today.

What and the Where?

When homes are built on a raised foundation, also called a perimeter foundation, rather than slab foundation, there’s space between the dirt under the house and the house itself – often 3′ (but not always), sometimes more.  Unless the structure is built on a hillside, there won’t be enough height to walk around in that space, hence the need to crawl in the crawlspace.

Most of the time, access to this space is indoors and specifically on the floor of a closet, where there appears to be a flat opening of about 3′ by 3′, sometimes smaller.  This can make entry tight.  At other times. the access is via the outside, as with the photo at the left (more likely the case in properties built before 1950 in Silicon Valley than in newer properties.)

Here it’s a lot easier for homeowners, inspectors and repair people to enter – but also easier for animals and pests, such as rats, to make their way in.  Care must be taken, as with the vent screens, to keep unwanted visitors out!

Crawlspace Video

Auditory learner? Or TLDR, and just want a quick-take? Watch this 1min 46 second video to get the summary:

Monitoring the crawlspace

If your home has a crawlspace, you will want to monitor it. (more…)

Why is inventory so low, and when will it get better?

Why is inventory so low? As of today, October 26, 2023, there are 796 single family homes for sale in Santa Clara County (population appx 2 million people). A year ago it was about 1165 and the end of October. Where have all the listings gone? And when will it get better for home buyers? (You can check Santa Clara County inventory and other real estate stats on this blog.)

Why is inventory so low: historical perspective, how low IS it?

Here’s a look at our houses for sale from Jan 1999 to today. Please note that the MLS has a problem with its data sharing feeds, and if I pull this same info in a month, some of the numbers (not just this month) will likely change.

Inventory 1999 - Oct 2023 for single family homes in Santa Clara County

 

Inventory Averages:

  • Inventory Oct 1999 through October 2022 (only Octobers, 24 months) = 2640.  Inventory was bloated during the Great Recession, so that’s not representative of “normal”.
  • If we consider just 2013 – Oct 2022 (10 Octobers), which I think is much more typical, the average inventory is 1403.5
  • The current inventory level is 57% of the last 10 years and 30% of the last 24 years (not including 2023 in the averages).

The lack of inventory is causing a lack of sales, layoffs in various real estate related industries, and pretty much economically challenging for Realtors, lenders, title and escrow people, inspectors, stagers, photographers, and anyone else involved in the buying and selling of homes.

We have a supply and demand imbalance, with demand outpacing supply but available homes for sale low.

Why is inventory so low?  What is causing the shortage?

Next, let’s consider the root causes of the problem, and which ones may not be ongoing.
(more…)

Cupertino: Highly Regarded for High Tech, High Public School Scores

Cupertino - view from Ridge Vineyards

A view from Ridge Vineyards along Montebello Road

The City of Cupertino, often considered the heart of Silicon Valley, offers shorter commutes, strong public schools, abundant parks and open space, an active community center, and more. This city is home to both small and large tech companies, both startups and Apple Inc. It attracts professionals and entrepreneurs from around the world. All of this, in turn, creates a competitive real estate landscape.

This city is vibrant and offers fabulous restaurants and shops. These are sometimes not mentioned as they are overshadowed by the fame of the schools and the job centers, but are noteworthy as they contribute to a high quality of life for everyone there.

Cupertino schools

The public schools in Cupertino are outstanding, often at the top of the list in state rankings for test scores, 4 year college admissions, and notable academic awards earned by students here. Off campus, there are private schools that teach other languages, dance, art, religion, and culture on off hours or weekends.

Within the districts, some schools are more sought after than others. Monta Vista High and Lynbrook High are often the most desired by home buyers. But not all. Some parents prefer good schools that are not as competitive as these two may be. Each family should research the offerings and see what is the best fit for them and their needs.

Students are served by these districts:

Cupertino Union School District (K – 8)

Fremont Union High School District (9 – 12)

De Anza Community College

A tiny sliver of northeastern Cupertino is served by the Santa Clara Unified School District.
(more…)

Preparing to buy your first home in Silicon Valley

Preparing to buy your first home - couple looking at computer at their dining room tableIf you’re mulling around a home purchase, it’s a good idea to formulate a plan. Preparing to buy your first home will take some time, even before you see any homes. Just thinking about it can be a little overwhelming!

In this article we’ll share tips for folks interested in buying how to get started:

  • video discussion of the first three steps
    • online research (various areas of interest to you)
    • talk to folks you know who have recently purchased about their experience so that you can learn what to anticipate
    • talk with a Realtor (or a few of them) and learn how they work
  • a list of things to consider researching when considering home buying
  • a list of other resources at the end

Preparing to buy your first home: 3 steps

 

When preparing to buy your home, slow down, make a plan, do some research online, talk with recent home buyers, and then speak with a Realtor (or two or three).

Once you select a Realtor, he or she can help you to create a path forward. Often they’ll ask you about setting priorities (and as much as possible, for you to rank them), your budget, your tolerance for doing repairs, your desired timing, and a few other things.

The folks who get into the most trouble with a real estate purchase are those who do it spontaneously.

What kind of research should be done when preparing to buy a home?

There are many areas you’ll want to investigate:

(more…)

Gilroy and the South County’s Fruit Stands and Farmland

Fruit stands are ubiquitous in rural Santa Clara County, particularly in the South County communities of Morgan Hill, San Martin, and Gilroy. If you’re driving to Los Angeles, you may not be able to miss the largest of them all, Casa de Fruta, which is just barely inside of Santa Clara County.

Fruit stands and where to find them

Along 152

f you’re driving to Los Angeles from Santa Clara County using Highway 5, you will turn off of Highway 101 and take Hwy 152 in Gilroy to cut across the Pacheco Pass to get to 5. Almost immediately on 152 you’ll encounter produce stands selling fruit, nuts, artichokes, and all sorts of vegetables, and, of course, garlic!

One of these fruit stands along Highway 152 near Gilroy is the Merry Cherry Fruit Stand.  There we have purchased some cherries (naturally!) and pistachios at various times. Here are a couple of photos from there,  taken in a May evening, around 6:15 or 6:30, so there are long shadows – but it was fabulous spring weather and very pleasant out. It’s a pretty typical roadside stand and there are many of them in this region.

Please note: some of the produce stands may take cash only, though I suspect it’s changed as technology has improved.

 

Merry Cherry fruit stand near Gilroy CA along Highway 152 - of of many produce and fruit stands in the South County area of Santa Clara County

 

This next photo was taken from the parking area of the Merry Cherry stand. I loved how the shadows looked in the groves of the ploughed field, waiting for the next planting, or perhaps for sprouts to soon appear.

 

farm field near Gilroy CA along highway 152 (photo taken at Merry Cherry fruit stand)

(more…)

Verbal offers to buy real estate are a bad idea

Verbal offers - are they real? Image of a house with those words and a real estate agent on the phone in front3What  are verbal offers to buy a home?

Simply put, these are when a home buyer and his or her or their agent write up a bid on a proper form such as the PRDS or CAR contracts, but orally or otherwise casually tells the seller or the listing agent of a price that the buyer would offer for the property.

  • Communication from a buyer or buyer’s agent that the client would like to purchase the property for a particular amount of money.
  • Sometimes they also include some of the contract terms, such as “all cash offer” or “no contingencies” or “30% down”.
  • Most of the time, the buyer doesn’t want to spend the time to write it up unless there’s a verbal assurance that the seller will accept the offer.
  • With a verbal offer (which could be in person, by phone, by email, by text, etc.), there’s no proof of anything – no proof of funds, proof that the disclosures have been reviewed, and so on.

This is a terrible idea, whether you’re a buyer or seller.  But why?

Verbal offers are not serious offers

First, there are a LOT of terms in the offer besides just the price.  They include things like the loan amount and percentage (80% loan to value ratio or something else), the amount of the initial deposit and when it will go to title, whether the buyer is preapproved or not, the number of days for various contingencies, how long the escrow should be, what personal property should be included, and much more.

Often those terms are extremely important.  Consider just one: all cash versus financed!  Verbal offers are usually only the price being floated by.

Written offers, not verbal offers, come from committed home buyers

If a home buyer is sincere and serious about purchasing property, he or she will get it in writing and be specific about the myriad of terms that are part and parcel of the agreement. A seller cannot fairly even consider a verbal offer because so many of the terms are simply missing in action.
(more…)

Expired, Canceled, Withdrawn Listings: What Happens If You Take Your Home off the Market?

Expired, canceled, and withdrawn listings are all frustrating situations for both home sellers and the Realtors they worked with. After considerable effort, and likely also significant cost. the property failed to sell (or it went pending, fell through, but did not re-sell). What happens next?

3 Minute Video Overview

 

What is the difference between expired, canceled and withdrawn listings?

Let us begin by discussing the difference between canceled, expired, and withdrawn listings and how each impacts your vulnerability to being swamped with messages from real estate agents.

On the multiple listing service, these are very distinct statuses.

MLS status for listings

  1. A withdrawn listing means that the property is still listed for sale with a real estate agent or broker but is no longer listed on the multiple listing service (MLS).  It’s still a valid listing and other agents should not approach you about working with them since you are still in a contract to sell your home with your current agent.
  2. An expired listing means that the contract for your listing has come to an end and the listing is no longer in place.  Other agents may approach you since there is no valid listing in place.
  3. A canceled listing is one in which the seller and agent or broker agree to terminate the listing. Since the listing has ended, other agents are free to contact you.

In a nutshell, if your Silicon Valley home’s listing becomes either canceled or expired, real estate sales people may contact you, but if it is merely withdrawn, they are not supposed to reach out to you because you still have a valid listing in place. (more…)