Weather, mother nature and home sales

Without stop signSo many variables impact the real estate market, both here in Silicon Valley but across the country.  Employment, interest rates, the stock market, the availability of real estate inventory, the confidence of the buying public (say, in the wake of a terroristic attack, announced layoffs, or global conflicts like the invasion of Ukraine) all can move the housing market one way or the other. But they’re not the only forces that do.

Weather and natural disasters can likewise have a pronounced effect on a local housing market too.

My Experience: The ’89 Quake

Anyone in the San Jose area in September of 1989 will vividly recall the Loma Prieta Earthquake, which occurred in the Santa Cruz Mountain Range between Los Gatos and Aptos. Jim and I were buying our first home at that time, in San Jose’s Cambrian district, and in fact did our “final walk through” just two hours before the quake hit.

Our closing got delayed as the lender refused to fund the loan until the home was professionally checked out by an appraiser. They’d seen images of the Bay Bridge, homes off their foundations, fallen chimneys and other disastrous structural failures and weren’t taking a chance on any home!

Luckily for us, the property we were in contract for was essentially unscathed. It was not a young home, but built by a respectable builder, and more importantly it was on solid ground. Thankfully the house was fully vacant since we were close to the planned close of escrow, so there was no fallen furniture or broken glass in the carpeting and most everything was visible and easy to check later for damages. We did close, though it was about 10 days later than expected.

For listings not yet sale pending, it was already a slowing market and the beginning of a correction, but the earthquake plunged the market more deeply into the doldrums. At least for awhile.

Weather Forecasting the Market Activity

There are similar stories with markets all across the state, country, and globe after similar disasters. More recently here in California we’ve seen major impacts on various markets after fiercly destructive wildfires. But mother nature can effect the housing market in much more subtle ways as well, no disaster necessary.

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Is it too early in the season to be house hunting in Silicon Valley?

Photo of ranch style house with the question - Is it too early to begin house huntingIt’s a January that feels like March, if a dry one.  The weather is clear, mild, and temps are sixty to seventy degrees, the skies are blue and trees are beginning to blossom – a great environment for house hunting. Is it too early in the season to begin your search for the right home in Silicon Valley?

Each prospective home owner’s situation is different, but for many people, January is a great time to jump in with house hunting, before the Super Bowl, Valentine’s Day or some other point a little later in the calendar year.

Weather, Inventory, Interest Rates and Silicon Valley house hunting

First, to note the obvious: there is no weather related reason to wait. (Sellers: pay attention!)

Second, let’s discuss selection. Inventory is horribly low (see the inventory data table in my 2020 predictions article). Most people expect the number of available listings to be higher in Spring.  Seasoned Realtors know that while this often happens, it doesn’t always, so we cannot count on it. (Check the Santa Clara County monthly real estate statistics here.)

How bad is it?  I’m on the MLS right now.  For single family homes (houses and duet homes) in Santa Clara County, there are 411 for sale right this moment which are not sale pending or under contract. This is for the whole county, where there are 1.8 million people residing.

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How to Choose Where to Live in Silicon Valley or Santa Clara County

How do you choose where you’d like to live in Silicon Valley?  Especially if you’re relocating here from out of the area, this can be a huge question (for more relocation-specific posts, check out my blog Move2SiliconValley.com).  Most Santa Clara County home buyers have strong preferences for low crime, good schools, and pleasant looking, quiet neighborhoods.

My clients often ask me to compare for them areas which are somewhat similar, such as Los Gatos & Los Altos. Off the top of my head, I can give general answers, such as this: Compared to Los Gatos, Los Altos is a  more expensive (perhaps 20 or 25% more?), has a very slightly smaller population, is a little more spread out,  has slightly milder weather and is overall “quieter” in terms of the downtown night life.  Los Altos is more convenient if you want to go to Palo Alto or San Francisco.  Los Gatos is more convenient if you like to visit Santa Cruz, Monterey and the coast.  Los Gatos is more mixed in terms of housing types (it still has many beautiful historic districts with nicely renovated Victorian homes, but also newer construction). Both are “nice looking” but Los Gatos has more varied terrain as it is nestled into the Santa Cruz Mountains. Both enjoy pleasant neighborhoods, good schools, lower than normal crime and community involvement.

That’s the kind of “ballpark” info I can tell people about various areas of the Santa Clara Valley, whether it’s comparing one part of San Jose to another (Cambrian Park vs Almaden Valley vs Willow Glen) or one city to another (Cupertino vs Saratoga).  I can give general info on schools.

What I can’t do (and most agents can’t) is recite from memory school API scores, median household income, housing density, crime statistics, etc.  For that we have the web!  Here are some very helpful links which can assist you in your search to find the part of Santa Clara County that’s the best fit for you, your wants, needs, and budget:

Want to compare areas in and near San Jose?  A great tool for some basic and broad information by zip code is Zip Lookup.  Input a zip code and get an easy to read map of population information like density, age, and income. For more official documentation, census data is easily searchable online through Fact Finder – just search by county, city, town, or zipcode. A good overall source for research is Melissa Data.
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