Live in Los Gatos

A resource for folks living in or moving to Los Gatos, by Mary Pope-Handy

St Patrick's Day in Los Gatos

March 13, 2007

liveinlosgatos shamrock@20jpg - St Patrick's Day in Los Gatos

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Most joyfully, the feast of St. Patrick falls on a Saturday this year.  That means that things will be hopping in dozens of pubs around the bay!  Are you ready to have a great time? There are tons of opportunities, including right here in Los Gatos!

But first, do you know who St. Patrick was?  And do you know why the date is celebrated? Briefly, St. Patrick was not Irish himself, but was a missionary (and a priest who’d become a bishop) in the land where he was once held a slave after being abducted by pirates.  St. Patrick died on March 17th, in possibly 461 or 493 – as with many saints, we’re not entirely sure. (Catholics celebrate as a feast day not one’s birthday, but one’s death day – as it is considered birth into heaven.)  And yes, how typical for the Irish to celebrate a death with drinking!  I’m sure you’ve heard of Irish wakes. To “wake” the dead is really to lay the person out for a period of grieving (and remembering, and celebrating) before the funeral.  An added advantage is to allow enough time to see if he or she isn’t simply comatose instead of dead. You wouldn’t want to be buried alive!  Enough on drinking and dead people….

So where are the local parties?

Each year, the biggest blowout in Los Gatos for St. Paddy’s Day happens at
C Hannigan’s, located just off N. Santa Cruz Avenue (close to Highway 9) at 208 Bachman Avenue. It’s an all-day Festival with live music and rowdy good times. Tel 395-1223 Hannigan’s actually has events every single day this week leading up to Saturday’s bash. St. Patrick’s Day tickets are $50, must be bought in person at the bar.

Another spot that’s bound to be filled on Saturday is #1 Broadway, located not on Broadway, but near it at 102 S. Santa Cruz Avenue.  The band Sage will be performing at 9:30pm – $10 cover charge. Tel 408.354.4303

There are many more pubs around Silicon Valley with St. Patrick’s Day events too.

And apart from the pubs?

Wonderful performances are always found at nearby Montalvo! The Black Brothers (an Irish family) Concert is on St. Patrick’s Day at 8pm and it sounds great.

And in Sunnyvale, The Golden Bough is being performed at the Sunnyvale Community Theater (550 E. Remington).

For more events in the greater San Jose area this Saturday, click here.

And something fun I stumbled onto is a site which is a bit about the Irish language, with brief audio clips of words & phrases in Irish. It is all on the All About Irish site.

So Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Remember to wear your green!!

Haunted Los Gatos: The Old Cemetery

March 10, 2007

Mary Pope-Handy's Los Gatos, CA, Ghost Tour

One of Los Gatos’s More Haunted Haunts

Yesterday, an article I wrote about Haunted Real Estate was published on Real Town. I have received a ton of emails about ghosts and people’s experiences with them in the last 24 hours!  I have never had so much fun reading email.

So I thought you folks might like to know about some of our haunted spots, right here in beautiful, charming, upscale Los Gatos.  There are so many stories that it’s hard to know where to begin!!  Today I will address just one of these interesting locations. More to follow in later entries, I promise!  This will be “Mary Pope-Handy’s Los Gatos Ghost Tour”. 

Cemeteries tend to give people the creeps, so let’s start there. If you are local to Los Gatos, you probably know that the Los Gatos Memorial Park is actually in San Jose, with a Cambrian Park zip code, out on Los Gatos-Almaden Road.   How did that happen?  Well, usually you want the burial grounds to be a little bit out of town, right?  The Los Gatos Memorial Park began in 1888 (first burials in 1890) and was initially called the Los Gatos Cemetary.  By the late 1800’s, Los Gatos had expanded such that the in-town graveyard was just too close, so it was decided to move folks from their final resting place to a “more final resting place” out in the country. (It has no website, amazingly, but you can see great photos of this park by visiting an “unofficial” site at www.LGMP.com.) 

Where was this old cemetery?  It was located at the corner of Highway 9 and North Santa Cruz Avenue and bordered roughly by Village Lane and the old train tracks.  (The land for the train is now the long parking lot parallel to University Avenue and North S. Cruz Avenue.  As an aside, North Santa Cruz Avenue was called Cemetery Lane easy of Hwy 9 then!)   

It should be noted, too, that not only were there people laid to rest at this location, but it’s also possible that someone was killed there in 1906 when an interurban trolly car jumped its tracks and crashed at the same location – approximately where Double D’s stands today.

The town’s leaders tried to move all the bodies, really they did. From 1890 through 1924, they did a relocation of the town’s dead to the new country location.  But some family members could not be located to obtain permission to move their deceased loved ones.  After the bodies were moved (or most of them), the land was converted to the Hunt Brothers Cannery and housing for cannery workers for awhile. Today it’s a bustling part of our downtown and houses many shops and some restaurants, the most visible of which is Double Ds.  Is it haunted? You’d be surprised if I said no. Several of the businesses there do, indeed, have paranormal experiences and it appears that some of the folks initially buried there still consider this their home.  Yes, it’s haunted. Very haunted.

Blog entry by Mary Pope-Handy,
Los Gatos Enthusiast,
Los Gatos & Silicon Valley (San Jose area) Residential Real Estate Specialist and
Realtor, CRS, ABR, SRES, ASP, CNHS, RECS, E-Pro,
www.PopeHandy.com
Do not use without permission, please.

Time Vs. Money

March 06, 2007
The statistics from February have been crunched now, and we’re finding that the Silicon Valley real estate market is strengthening. Here are the links, if you’d like to review the data yourself:

The Real Estate Report (web based, interactive, clickable links)

The Real Estate Report (printable PDF file)

Interestingly, San Jose is not doing as well as much of the valley, apparently because the entry level housing is so out of whack with incomes that it is difficult for folks to get a toe in the door.

The California Association of Realtors reports that the most expensive median home sales price in the state for January 2007 is none other than our own Los Gatos, beating out the usual suspects of Santa Barbara, Laguna Nigel, etc. (of course they were also on the list of the 10 most expensive cities for January 2007). What does this tell us? Most of all, that we live in a very highly desireable area – and even when the housing market scares folks a little, they are still willing to risk it in buying here.

I think something else is going on, too. There’s an old adage that really, really applies to successfully selling a home in today’s real estate market: Time vs. Money. I think our sellers in Los Gatos are pretty wise overall. Most of them read up on the market and they understand that buyers now want “turnkey” homes, not fixers. So rather than put a house on the market that needs work, most of them are painting, scrubbing, planting, inspecting, and preparing their homes well in advance of selling them. And it’s working. The nice homes are the ones that the buyers want, and they go fairly fast. The homes that are selling are both priced appropriately and they are put on the market in great shape.

So instead of marketing a half-ready home, and then playing catchup with the condition and the price, sellers in Los Gatos who sell (and not just list) their homes are doing the work upfront. They put in the time and effort, and in return, they get a faster sale at a higher price. They understand that “time vs. money” really applies today more than in any other market we’ve had in recent history.

Los Gatos Real Estate Market

February 20, 2007

 

View From Los Gatos

San Jose from Harwood DriveTo the left is a photo I took a few weeks back from the far edge of Los Gatos – up on Harwood Road (where you aren’t allowed to park your car so this shot was taken from the window of my automobile). That’s downtown San Jose in the distance. Behind me are the Santa Cruz Mountains, aka the Coastal Range. Across from me, beyond downtown San Jose, you see the eastern foothills. Beyond them, at some distance, is the Central Valley.

This valley, the Santa Clara Valley, was once known as “The Valley of the Heart’s Delight”. Los Gatos lies at the base of the Santa Cruz Mountains and is a town you’d need to pass through to get to Santa Cruz and the beach. It s a vibrant part of life in SIlicon Valley, though it has only a little industry (Netflix being the biggest Los Gatos employer and tax generator). Most homes don’t have a great view like this, but many do have views of the hills – and those are lovely too.

How’s the Los Gatos real estate market?

So how’s the market in this very scenic corner of the valley? Well, it depends on your price point. For Los Gatos, the most affordable (i.e., really middle class) housing is going fast. Inventory is low. In fact, in January there were 100 homes for sale (not a lot) and as of this moment, there are just 89. We have 36 homes “pending”. Most of these are not at the high end of the spectrum. Prices in our fair town (not a city, but a town – just to be clear) range from a low of $799,000 to over $15 million for single family homes. By and large, the homes under $1.5 million are flying off the market. But there just aren’t that many buyers for homes over $10 million.

In my own neighborhood, Belwood of Los Gatos, there are about 500 homes and last year about 10 of them sold. This is an exceptionally low-turnover neighborhood. Prices in 2006 averaged about $1,230,000 for a home with about 2400 square feet. Right now there’s exactly one home for sale, it’s not far from the average size but it’s listed at $1,380,000. Will it sell for that much? I have no idea. If it does sell close to that price, we will know that prices are rising again. I cannot wait to see this home myself – naturally I want my home to appreciate in value (that is, until I think about my kids hopefully being in the housing market themselves in 10 years…then I hope it just climbs very, very slowly). You can check out the housing situation in Belwood by visiting my site, www.BelwoodOfLosGatos.com and clicking on the “Homes Info” button, or navigate there directly by using this link: http://www.belwoodoflosgatos.com/more/index.cfm?Fuseaction=more_11917
Historical information for recent years is on the following page, which you can reach at the top of the Homes Info page.

So how’s the market? If you are the owner of a high end home and you need to sell, you will say it’s awful. If you own a nicely updated, well priced middle class home, you would say it’s a market that is great for sellers and a little rough on buyers. If your home is not in great shape or is not priced in the bottom third of its competition, you might be convinced it’s a terribly strong buyer’s market. Truth is, it is close to balanced for most homes. It can be a win-win market, but everyone has to be realistic and be prepared to do a little work. But that would be true for most worthwhile things in life: they tend to need a dose of realism and some effort.

Winter In Los Gatos

February 15, 2007

While the East Coast is buried in snow, we have had a week with more than a little rain – but we needed it so no one dared to complain! Today, however, the sun was out and I wanted to capture a little of Los Gatos on film … er, make that on my digital camera. So here are a few shots from around town.

 

To the left is a sign that recently made its way to the Main Street Bridge (which, by the way,

El Camino Real Bell with Penthouse Apartments in Background. Main St. Los Gatos.was once known as The Hanging Bridge – you guessed it, that’s where lynchings and “justice” were carried out). This sign for The King’s Highway surprised me because The El Camino Real (The King’s Highway) is known in this valley as either El Camino Real, The Alameda, or Market Street. It winds through San Jose, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, and on up the Peninsula.

So how or why is the sign

here? Well, the Main Street Bridge crosses over Highway 17, which makes its way over to Santa Cruz – and the Mission in Santa Cruz. So I am presuming that because 17 links the missions (Santa Clara and Santa Cruz) that it constitutes part of the historic route and thus won the right to display this cool Mission Trail bell and sign. Below, please find a more telling view of the bell – with the Penthouse Apartments and the famous Cats on the wall to prove the location (no, it’s not photoshopped- honest!) And next to them are some other shots of Los Gatos today. Not bad for winter, is it??

Gateway to Old Town, Los Gatos, on University Avenue.So you can see, there’s no snow, no rain, no frost (OK you can’t see it, but take my word for it). The weather has been in the mid-60s the last few days and when I take our pooch, Bella, out for a walk it seems I find half the neighborhood doing the same thing. This is winter in Los Gatos – where we have 300 sunny days a year and we

North Santa Cruz Avenue and Main Street, Los Gatos seldom get a hard frost. We are just 30 minutes from the beach, but protected from the fog by “The Hill” (seen in the middle photo above, behind the famous Beckwith Building). We’re an hour from San Francisco, 90 minutes from Monterey and Carmel, and 20 or so minutes to San Jose – the safest large city in the US. This area has a very highly educated population, low crime, great schools, wonderful shops and restuarants – and, possibly the supreme highlight – fabulous weather.
Come visit Los Gatos! Enjoy wine tasting, museums, shops, fine dining, and all the outdoors activities. Or just enjoy the Town Plaza Park and watch the world go by, like the people in the photo below. Los Gatos: always a great place to be, but perhaps especially remarkable in winter!


Town Park Plaza, Los Gatos, Feb 15, 2007

 

What's The Market Doing?

January 26, 2007

What’s The Market Doing?

Date: Jan. 26, 2007
Tags: None

Right now in Los Gatos there are 80 properties for sale. They range in price from $15,950,000 to $795,000 (though the one at $795k is actually a San Jose address but is pulled into the “Los Gatos area” by our mls system). The average list price is $2,979,029 and average “days on the market” is 103 (and 193 for “continuous days on the market”). 

The pending sales (whether a contingent sale, a normal sale with inspection & loan contingencies in place, or all contingencies removed and nearly a closed escrow) amount to 35. For these homes, the average “days on market” is 71 (and 104 for “continuous days on market”). The average list price of these pending sales is much lower $1,774,550. (The average lot size, by the way, is about 3/4 of an acre for these homes.)

So what does that mean? Basically it means that homes which are under $2 million are selling much better than the ultra luxury homes which are at or over $2 million, $2.5 million, or more. There has been one recent sale (still pending) of a home listed at $4,795,950 but this is the exception. Every other home sold in January is at or under $2 million.  There are some higher sales between $2 million and $3 million, but they occurred in December, not January.

What’s most hot is what’s more affordable – by Los Gatos standards.  

Los Gatos Appreciation

January 16, 2007

 

Los Gatos Annual Real Estate Trends

SINGLE-FAMILY HOMES % Change from Year Before
Area Year Sales Median Price Average Price DOM New Listings Sales Median Price Average Price New Listings
LG 1998 376 $660,000 $735,738 55 687
LG 1999 391 $730,000 $863,248 66 575 4.0% 10.6% 17.3% -16.3%
LG 2000 337 $925,000 $1,157,133 40 538 -13.8% 26.7% 34.0% -6.4%
LG 2001 232 $925,000 $1,164,241 65 731 -31.2% 0.0% 0.6% 35.9%
LG 2002 309 $955,000 $1,096,678 71 706 33.2% 3.2% -5.8% -3.4%
LG 2003 310 $970,000 $1,113,078 90 717 0.3% 1.6% 1.5% 1.6%
LG 2004 466 $1,165,000 $1,294,057 61 905 50.3% 20.1% 16.3% 26.2%
LG 2005 413 $1,251,000 $1,366,305 56 823 -11.4% 7.4% 5.6% -9.1%
LG 2006 299 $1,359,000 $1,504,811 57 662 -27.6% 8.6% 10.1% -19.6%

Luminarias

December 27, 2006
liveinlosgatos luminarias - Luminarias

Lost Los Gatos Luminarias?

Usually on Christmas Eve, my husband and I take our kids on a drive around Los Gatos after dark to take in the pretty Christmas lights that grace homes, yards, and trees. And each time, we make sure to visit the Vista del Monte neighborhood, where we’re treated to a look at homes with luminarias on Worcester Loop and Worcester Lane. Normally, there are a lot of homes that make a huge effort and put these out.

But not this year. What happened? We saw just three homes – all on Worcester Lane – with luminarias this year.

Perhaps it was too much work, or perhaps they thought no one cared or noticed. But our family certainly did enjoy seeing them! They are so pretty, but also they have a religious relevance, which I particularly appreciate with the commercialization of the feast. To me, it’s a great reminder about what Christmas is really about, and I missed it that most of the homes didn’t do it this year.

And my hat is off to the three homes that did do it. Thank you, we noticed and enjoyed seeing them!

I hope the luminarias will be back next year, like so many other wonderful Christmas traditions.

Affordable Housing in Los Gatos

December 06, 2006

liveinlosgatos wreath - Affordable Housing in Los Gatos

Affordable Housing in Los Gatos

Los Gatos is a pricey town. The average single family home sells for about $1,200,000 (starters upwards of $800,000 and it seems there is no upper limit on pricing for large homes on large parcels). So folks struggling to pay the rent, whether employed or retired, might not consider looking in Los Gatos for a below-market rate place to live. But the town has got some affordable housing, and the details are on the town website.  Visit it and learn about both rentals and purchase programs. 

Also, thinking of purchases, there are some great loan programs out there that can help too: Bank of America has an “Acorn program” with great terms (underwritten by a charity), and also there’s a CAL-FHA loan with even more generous guidelines, and then there are also programs for folks buying into zip codes where prices are depressed.  Interest rates have gone down in the last week or two (which is not atypical for December: remember, it’s supply and demand) and this is a great time to buy at a reduced cost.  I can put you in touch with a lender if you want to investigate any of these options.

Renting or buying, Los Gatos is a wonderful place to live.

Hidden Japanese Garden

Hidden Japanese Garden

Date: Dec. 2, 2006
Tags: None

The Kotani-En Japanese Garden is a well kept secret, because this national landmark is on private land – it is not open to the public. I’m a native and only learned of its existence recently!  Even the plaque is on private land and sites that discuss this fascinating place admonish us to not trespass or disturb the owners.

The Saratoga Historical Foundation lists three local Japanese gardens: the well known Hakone Gardens of Saratoga and the lesser known  Nippon Mura, which is halfway between Saratoga and Los Gatos and is now the site of the La Hacienda, and also Kotani-En, which is located at 15891 Ravine Rd (again, private road, do not disturb occupants or trespass).

The California Office of Historical Preservation’s description of Kotani-en is the best I’ve found, so I will quote it here and give attribution:

NO. 903 KOTANI-EN – Kotani-En is a classical Japanese residence in the formal style of a 13th-century estate with tile roofed walls surrounding a tea house, shrine, gardens, and ponds. Constructed for Max M. Cohen in 1918-1924 of mahogany, cedar, bamboo, and ceramic tile by master artisan Takashima and eleven craftsmen from Japan, Kotani-En represents a harmonious union of art and nature in a two-acre rustic environment. Kotani-En is a prominent example of Japanese landscape architecture in America. “

http://ohp.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=21522 (lists all landmarks in Santa Clara County)

Mary Pope-Handy

Realtor
ABR, CIPS, CRS, SRES
Sereno Group Real Estate
214 Los Gatos-Saratoga Rd
Los Gatos, CA 95030
408 204-7673
Mary (at) PopeHandy.com
License# 01153805

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