If you are a first time home buyer and you’ve zeroed in on the Cambrian or Cambrian Park area of San Jose as where you’d like to live, what should you expect?  Assuming that you are purchasing a house (not a condo or townhome), there are some basics you’ll want to know.

Cambrian & Cambrian Park and Zip Codes

First, it’s helpful to understand that most of Cambrian is in the 95124 area, which in general is a little older & more expensive than 95118.  You may be wondering if that’s good or bad.  It’s mixed.  In general, for the same money you’ll get a little more home in 95118 (a larger house, more square footage) but because of the age, you’re also more likely to have the “popcorn ceilings” which were more in style in the early 1970s.   Most of 95118 is also in the San Jose Unified School District, as opposed to most of 95124’s Union School District or Cambrian School District.  All are good but do your research: you may prefer one area over another.  Some of it may depend upon which way you’re commuting, too. Overall,  95118 is closer to downtown San Jose (and Almaden Expressway) and 95124 is closer to 85 going north to destinations such as Cupertino and Sunnyvale and Mountain View.

Both 95118 and 95124 are home to some really upscale neighborhoods that don’t fit the cookie cutter description that follows for the generic sold numbers.  The 95124 area includes both the beautiful “Vista Loop” area which enjoys views and feels like either Los Gatos or Almaden as well as the Alta Vista and original Cambrian Village areas which are bigger homes or lots or both.  The 95118 area offers the Almaden Vineyard neighborhood with beautiful newer homes built around a 5 acre, historic park (and adjacent to the fabulous new San Jose Vineland Library.)  Both areas have some of the same builders too, such as Garcia and Ponderosa, so in some cases you can find the same house but for a different price due to the exact location within Cambrian.

Recent Solds and Numbers by Zip Code

Just now I ran the solds over the last 3 months for “Area 14” (our MLS designated area for Cambrian) by zip code 95124 and by 95118. (There is a very tiny sliver of 95008 but too small to be helpful for our purposes.)  Here’s a quick look at what you can get for your money in Cambrian as of the summer of 2010:

95124 – 81 homes sold/closed, 68 “regular sales”, 8 short sales, 5 bank owned homes (total “distressed sales” accounted for 16% of the closed escrows).  Average sales price was about $660,000 (av list price appx $655,000), average home size 1594 square feet and average lot size 6909 SF.  Average price per square foot $419.

95118 – 60 homes sold/closed, 45 “regular sales”, 10 short sales, 5 bank owned home sales (total “distressed sales” were 25% of the closed sales).  Average sales price was approximately $573,000 and average list price was about $572,000.  Average home size 1494 square feet and average lot size 6620 SF.  Average price per square foot $393.

In general, the 95118 area is a little less expensive and is a bit more impacted by short sales and bank owned homes than the 95124 area (25% to 16%). Take it pocket by pocket, though, or subdivision by subdivision.  If you look at the Almaden Winery neigborhood in 95118, for instance, you’ll find very few distressed homes and listings that go really fast.

Buying Older Homes

If the home you are purchasing is 35-40 years of age or older, here are some things to watch for.

  • Many older homes were built with galvanized steel pipes and those usually only last about 40 years, so the home may need to be repiped with copper
  • Furnaces often need to be replaced by year 30 or 40, so if the heater is original, that may need changing. (The good news: the new furnaces are usually much more efficient!)
  • Many of the 40+ year old homes were built with hardwood flooring.  If the house has carpets, see if you can learn about what’s under them!
    • If the house has forced air heat and the register is on the floor, sometimes you can lift it up just a tad and see if the carpet is covering hardwood.  If the register is on the ceiling, the chances are slimmer that there’s hardwood under that carpet.
  • Is the 50 years or more old?  Linoleum floors that are 50+ years old may have asbestos backing and may require special crews and methods of removal.
  • Does the home have an acoustic, textured ceiling?  The popcorn ceilings may contain asbestos, which was commonly used to insulate and protect against fire. Yes, it was considered a plus!  Some of the “popcorn” ceilings even include little gold sparkles.
  • Most older Cambrian Park houses have breakers rather than tubes but may need the electrical system upgraded.
  • Most older Cambrian area homes are bolted to the foundation, but not with the same level of quality as you’d find in a newly built house today.
  • If the property is 50-60 years of age or more and is on a 10,000 SF lot or greater, there’s a good chance that it was originally on a septic tank.  When houses were connected to sewer, many left the tank in the back yard, buried.  If you’re buying such a house, try to find out if there’s a buried storage tank in the yard before you purchase!
  • Homes built before 1978 may have lead paint. You can test for it if you like.

When buying an older home, it’s important to understand that it wasn’t built to our current building standards and to have a sense of what you are getting and not getting. you will want to watch for red flags.  It is imperative to get a GOOD home inspection (they are not all the same) so you have a sense of what you may need to upgrade for your safety or comfort.

Cambrian  is a wonderful place to call home, whether it’s your first house or your forever house.  Please contact me if you’d like help getting into a Cambrian home!

More information:
Asbestos – more information on my Valley of Hearts Delight website.
Lead paint – more information on my Valley of Hearts Delight site.