Moving to Silicon Valley in fall or winter? A few things to know.

Winter ArrivalIf you are moving to Silicon Valley, whether San Mateo or Santa Clara County, you should know that things are a little different in fall and winter than they are in spring and summer.  Here are just a few areas that might not be intuitively obvious to the newcomers.

First, a word on appearance.  In Santa Clara County, we have two primary sets of hills – one closer to the Pacific Ocean and Monterey Bay (west side), and one closer to central California (east side).  Because our local weather is dominated in very large part by the Pacific Ocean, much of the weather blows in from the coast.  A lot of the rain gets dumped in the coastal range, also known as the Santa Cruz Mountains.  Less makes it all the way to Los Gatos, less still to downtown San Jose, and a much smaller amount to the east foothills and places such as Alum Rock Park.  The coastal range (also called just “the hill” by locals) is green year round as it is full of redwoods and other trees which love the moisture. The east side, though, is more grassy, fewer trees, and gets far less rain.  In winter the grasses are a lovely green.  With drought or in summer, however, the grass turns brown or pale yellow.

For people coming from the east coast, the hills there are more likely green in summer and brown in winter.  Here, though, it is the opposite.  We don’t usually get rain in summer, so the grasses die and the hills go brown.

Rain, when we get normal patterns, usually begins in November and comes and goes between then and late April.  In a typical year, San Jose gets 15-20″ of rain (Los Gatos more, the Los Gatos Mountains much much more).  If we get an El Nino pattern year, temps will be warmer than usual and rain will be much more common than typical.  It’s not much fun to have an El Nino year, but right now we desperately need the rain, so folks here are all hoping for it.

Second, a word on roads and travel.  Silicon Valley enjoys a sub-tropical climate with mild temperatures and not too much rain, even in a normal year.  With very little rain most of the time, our streets and highways can develop a dusty, oily film.  Whenever we get rain after a dry spell, those highways and roads can be slicker than you might expect.  It’s not that we need a ton of rain for the surfaces to become more slippery, either.  A very small amount of precipitation can do the trick, so be careful!

If your destination requires going over “the hill”, be triply careful!  Too many people, whether regular commuters or first time adventurers, either tailgate or drive too fast, and it can make it too easy for accidents to happen when a little weather is added into the mix. Continue reading

Should you find your Realtor first or your lender first? Should they know each other?

A bad lenderIt’s an old question – should you find your Realtor first or your lender first?  I would like to suggest that you find your Realtor first, and then ask your real estate agent for a list of reputable, trusted loan agents or lenders.

Why?

Because as with all professionals, lenders (and Realtors) are not created equally.

You will probably spend a LOT more time with your Realtor in viewing homes, reviewing disclosures, writing the contract, meeting inspectors, and so on – so I do suggest that you begin by very carefully choosing the right real estate licensee or broker for yourself.  A good Realtor can probably give you between 3 and 10 names of trusted, reputable, reliable, knowledgeable lenders. From there you can interview and choose someone.

It is extremely important that your lender be good at what he or she does.  A bad lender – and there are many of them – could cost you the sale, but definitely will create undue stress, will waste your time and ultimately cost you money.  This is no exaggeration.

In our hot Silicon Valley real estate market, when there are multiple offers, many listing agents will phone the buyer’s lender to see how solid the buyers are and how decent the lender seems to be.  The better loan agents will answer the phone when called – because they are anticipating the call.  The lesser ones are not paying attention and don’t pick up.  That small decision, one way or the other, can be critical!  Just today I spoke with a high powered agent out of Saratoga who told me of this very scenario.  She concluded “the lender who didn’t take my call cost the buyer the sale”. Yes, it matters that much.

A poorly organized loan agent may misplace documentation, causing you to miss work so that you can get it to him or her again in a rush (under pressure of the loan contingency removal date). I have known buyers to lose time from work due to the ineptitude of a loan agent (but not one that I suggested).

All deadlines must be agreed to by buyers and sellers in writing, no exceptions.  Can you imagine what it’s like to ask your lender how many days will be needed for the loan contingency, only to have to extend it not once, but a few times, because it’s just not done yet?  A lousy lender will make this happen. Sometimes they are submitting loan packages based on old guidelines rather than current ones.  You and I won’t be involved at that microscopic level – but if the lender messes up, we’ll hear about it later.

In the worst case scenarios, a really terrible mortgage banker or broker will cause so many delays that you close escrow late, causing you, the buyer, to pay some of the seller’s coverage costs.  If the rates go up during all of the delays, you may pay a  higher interest rate too.

That’s the gloom and doom of it.

In my real estate practice, often about half of my clients come to me with their own lender.  Although this is not ideal (it’s better if the Realtor and lender go into it with a good working relationship), often it works out OK.  But sometimes it’s a train wreck.   This doesn’t happen, at least not in my experience, if you get a lender I’ve already vetted. Or if you’re working with another great Silicon Valley Realtor, one that he or she has screened.  I would not suggest someone incompetent or who will screw up the transaction – of that you can be sure!  I want you to buy your home as much as you do, and I want it to be as smooth and hassle free as possible.  A bad lender can put all of that in jeopardy, though.

Visiting Silicon Valley for job interview and considering a relocation: how to get a feel for where to live?

Cruising Silicon Valley CAA few times a month I get phone calls from people considering a relocation to Silicon Valley.  In most cases, a trip out to Palo Alto, Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Cupertino, San Jose, Menlo Park or somewhere else in the South Bay or Peninsula is planned. These questions always arise:

What should we see when visiting Silicon Valley?

What neighborhoods should we consider or tour while there?

First: know which part of Silicon Valley where the possible employer is located

Silicon Valley covers a lot of ground – most of 2 counties (Santa Clara County and San Mateo County) and snippets of a couple more, which the Silicon Valley sprawl now inching north toward San Francisco.  The first thing to know is where the potential job is located.  There’s a huge difference between Oracle in Redwood Shores, Apple in Cupertino or Cisco in North San Jose, let alone some of the more far reaching Silicon Valley areas like Scotts Valley, South San Jose (at the intersection of Hwy 85 and 101), over in Los Gatos (Netflix) or inching up the east Bay in Fremont or Hayward.

Second: know your commute tolerance and have your priorities organized

Everyone would like to live close to work (under a half hour commute) but if you are juggling multiple priorities such as having a house & yard for kids, needing good public schools, and bringing it in at less than $2 million, you may have to sort out which of the important priorities is the very most important and go from there.  For many, the commute gets longer in order to provide the other things (a house not a condo or apartment, better schools, lower price).  Most people say that they would like a commute of 30 minutes or less.  Often they end up with a longer one after seeing a few areas and properties. Continue reading

How do home prices compare between Los Gatos, Saratoga, Cupertino, Campbell, and areas of San Jose such as Cambrian, Almaden and West San Jose?

Yesterday on my Live in Los Gatos blog, I compared a number of “west valley” areas in Santa Clara County, or southern Silicon Valley, to provide a sense of how much home you can get for your money in Los Gatos, Saratoga, Cupertino, Campbell, and areas of San Jose such as Cambrian, Almaden and West San Jose.  I used my Altos Research weekly newsletters, which provide a snapshot view of four real estate pricing tiers for various cities or areas.   In these, you see the median list price per quartile with the type of square footage, lots size, beds and baths found for each one.

Let’s look at Cupertino first, since I get a lot of folks wanting to relocate to Silicon Valley for Apple employment, and many of the new recruits have heard about the wonderful public schools in that city – a major draw.  A few years ago, it was very possible to purchase a small house in Cupertino for under a million dollars.  But have a look at the chart below and check out the days on market as well as the other data….

Cupertino real estate prices by value tier

 

In many areas, the most affordable homes are the ones that get gobbled up fastest.  Why is it that in Cupertino, the lowest priced listings are on the market the longest?  It’s not their size – I can tell you this from two decades of experience selling homes in the Bay Area.  It is very likely that these properties are not too livable as a group.  They probably need serious remodeling or rebuilding (and perhaps expansion as well).  Most buyers do not have the cash to totally “rehab” a house, especially if they are starting at over $1,000,000.  If you want to live in Cupertino and not throw a ton of money into the existing house, or tear down and rebuild, you’re most likely to need a budget closer to $1.3 or $1.4 million as a starting point.  Want to be able to walk to Infinity Loop?  Make that $1.5 or more – and you will still need to do some remodeling unless it’s very small!

What about other nearby Silicon Valley communities and neighborhoods?  Please have a look at the full article with charts for a number of areas (plus one for all of San Jose).

What does a million dollars buy you in Los Gatos 95030, Los Gatos 95032, and nearby areas: Saratoga, Almaden, Cambrian, Campbell, Cupertino?

What do international home buyers need to know about financing a real estate purchase in the United States?

Allen Liang Wells Fargo Bank Private Mortgage Banker contact informationMany of my relocation clients come to Silicon Valley from outside of the U.S.   For them, financing a home purchase may be a big concern.  There are many questions about down payment amounts required, moving money to the United States from abroad, purchasing without a regular credit history here, and many more.

I thought it would be helpful to get some lending and finance information to my global readers and have interviewed Allen Liang, a private mortgage banker with Wells Fargo Home Mortgage,  a very experienced and knowledgeable lender who has worked extensively with global clients and can speak to these issues authoritatively.  Below please find my questions and his answers.

How difficult is it for international home buyers to get financing in today’s market?

Lending to international home buyers is not as hard as many people think.  Most international home buyers are well qualified buyers.  Due to a lack of credit history and income verification system different than in the U.S., the lender normally does require more documents.  With a thorough interview and well prepared paperwork, we can help international buyers obtain the mortgage in the U.S.  However, the processing of international home buyers’ loans might take a slightly longer time to process.  I highly suggest starting the paper work as early as possible, so we can get them pre-approved by the underwriter.  Continue reading

Los Gatos neighborhood videos

As you may know, I have a number of blogs relating to Silicon Valley real estate (I will list them below).  My family and I live in Los Gatos, and my office is in Los Gatos too, so my focus is that town and the nearby areas, such as Saratoga, Cupertino, Campbell, Monte Sereno, and parts of San Jose such as Cambrian and Almaden and Willow Glen.  One area I’m working on for the blogs, as well as for my Facebook business page, Google + and Twitter are video “drive throughs” of neighborhoods.  I’m starting in Los Gatos but eventually hope to get to all of the areas listed above.

Right now, I’ve got 5 Los Gatos neighborhood videos on my YouTube channel, plus slideshows of a few more areas and parks.  Additionally there are some slideshows up of Saratoga and parts of San Jose.  Interested in an up close view of these parts of Silicon Valley?  Please visit my channel:  http://www.youtube.com/PopeHandy Or start with the Los Gatos playlist, below. The first one is a slideshow of Los Gatos as a general intro, and after that there is a mixture of slideshows and drive throughs. Enjoy!

 

Other blogs about Silicon Valley real estate, homes and neigbhorhoods:

 

Live in Los Gatos blog (new site! Just moved to WordPress)

Valley of Hearts Delight blog – aka San Jose Real Estate Los Gatos Homes

Belwood of Los Gatos blog

What are the usual open house times in Silicon Valley?

Open House signs when to whenIf you are house hunting in Silicon Valley and new to the area, you may wonder when the usual open house times are.  Unfortunately, open house times are not perfectly predictable as there is variation both from one brokerage or agent to the next and one region of the counties that comprise Silicon Valley to the next as well.  As an example, in the Blossom Valley area of San Jose, condos or houses are frequently available for viewing between 1:30 and 4:30, but it’s not a rule – some listings may have a totally different schedule!

In general, most open houses will be available between 2 and 4 on weekend days if advertised as open (sometimes Saturday, sometimes Sunday, sometimes both.  Open houses can run from 12-5, 2-4, 1-4, 1:30 – 4:30, 2-5 etc.  If you arrive between 2 and 4 (not “at” 4), you are likely to find it open if it’s advertised as such.  Some real estate agents may hold it open sooner or later, though. If a Realtor has a couple of properties that need to be held open for the public, one could be from 11-1 and the other from 3-5 or some such schedule.

The broker open house, which is usually not intended for the public to come through but occassionally is, takes place on weekday mornings between approximately 9:30am and 12:30pm.  If non real estate professionals (the public) are welcome, it will be advertised on our MLS.

It is always best to check online at www.MLSListings.com for the most accurate schedule for open houses which may be during weekday mornings, twilight tours, or weekend afternoons or mornings.

Finally, do not count on all properties listed for sale in Santa Clara or San Mateo Counties to necessarily be available for viewing at an open house.  Some listing agents and some sellers prefer NO open houses, believing that any qualified buyer who’s serious will be working with a buyer’s agent and can make an appointment to see it privately. (This is yet another reason why every buyer should have his or her own real estate agent rather than planning to work with the listing agent when buying their next home.)

Relocating to Silicon Valley?

What does it cost to buy a 3-5 bedroom house in an area with good schools in Silicon Valley?

School District MapIt’s a hot seller’s market in Silicon Valley, but it’s also a time of great job growth here!  Each week I get calls or emails from people considering job offers in Cupertino, Palo Alto, Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Menlo Park, San Jose and nearby.   Many of these recruits are interested in areas with superior public schools.

What’s the cost of buying a house of about 2,000 square feet with 3-5 bedrooms and great schools?  A few communities with better education are these: Los Gatos, Saratoga, Cupertino, Palo Alto.  We’ll consider these to provide a sense of prices in similar areas.

Here’s a quick looks:

  • Los Gatos: approximately $1,200,000 to $1,675,000 depending on the school district
  • Saratoga: approximately$1,500,000 to about $2,000,000 depending on the schools
  • Cupertino: approx $1,700,000 (some high schools will bring in higher prices and others lower)
  • Palo Alto: approx $2,700,000

If you are new to Santa Clara County, you may be wondering if this is correct. It is…

Please continue reading here:
How do prices compare between Los Gatos, Saratoga, Cupertino and Palo Alto?

San Jose Mercury News Headlines April 15 – 16 2014: home prices to buy or rent are rising steeply

Here are the headlines from the San Jose Mercury News in mid April 2014:

Home Prices to buy or rent going up April 15-16 2014

Rental article: Bay Area apartment rents set record 4/16/14

Excerpt:  Bay Area apartment rents are rising at nearly double-digit annual rates and have reached record levels, according to a report released Tuesday, prompting some analysts to warn that the region’s economic boom could be choked off by the relentless rise…..  Among the Bay Area’s three largest cities, San Jose had an average asking rent of $2,066 during this year’s January-March quarter, up 10.3 percent from the same period last year, RealFacts reported. Oakland had an average rental rate of $2,187, up 12.3 percent, while San Francisco posted an average of $3,057, up 9.5 percent.

Home buying article:   Bay Area home prices jump year over year

Excerpt:  March marked more than 20 consecutive months of year-over-year price gains for single-family homes in the East Bay, South Bay and Peninsula, according to real estate information service DataQuick, which released a report on March sales Wednesday…. The San Diego-based company said that prices were up 29.2 percent from the previous March in Alameda County to $575,000. In Contra Costa County, prices rose 22.8 percent to $425,000. Santa Clara County gained 20.3 percent to $800,000, and San Mateo County was up 13.2 percent to $860,000.

Whether you buy or rent, prices have been rising dramatically.  When factoring in what housing will cost, include the trajectory of appreciation per month.

Mary Pope-Handy

1-408-204-7673
Realtor,
CIPS, CRS, ABR, SRES
Sereno Group
Los Gatos (Silicon Valley)
California, USA
mary (at) popehandy.com
CA BRE # 01153805

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