The Monte Sereno real estate market

Elm Park in Monte Sereno, sold by Mary Pope-Handy
Ranch style home on Elm Park in Monte Sereno, sold by Mary Pope-Handy

The City of Monte Sereno is quite small, with just about 4,000 residents, so the number of houses sold in any given month will always be extremely small.

For that reason, the data may appear to jump around wildly compared to Los Gatos or Saratoga, which each have about 30,000 people living there. Please take these statistics with a tablespoon of salt, and be sure to view the Los Gatos housing market data to get a more accurate picture of what’s happening with Monte Sereno homes (just add a little to the price tag as homes there tend to sell for a bit more than LG properties).

Also, there are only single family, detached houses in Monte Sereno: no apartments, multi unit housing (2 – 4 plex), no duet homes (attached single family homes). That will be changing soon, however, as the old La Hacienda property (formerly an estate, then a hotel and restaurant) at Hwy 9 and Austin Way (aka Austin Corners) is under development and incorporation into Monte Sereno with plans to include 7 townhomes and 8 duet homes in addition to single family dwellings. Some of those designs are now for sale, and 1 of the single family designs are currently (as of September 15, 2021) listed on the MLS.

This month’s data will reflect some of the effects of the pandemic on the real estate market, but not the whole picture – plenty has changed since March 2020! To learn more about how Covid-19 is affecting the local real estate market, please check Coronavirus Impact on Real Estate Sales on my other blog.

During the shutdown so far, the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) stopped the timer on all Days on Market (DOM) for a time. Therefore these numbers will be off beginning from March 17th through around May 17th, 2020. In the data below, this will affect any numbers related to the days on market, the absorption rate, and the days of inventory from those months, but current numbers should be accurate.

First up for the market analysis is the Altos Research weekly profile for Monte Sereno (uses list prices, not sales):

 

 

This chart shows a slight seller’s advantage with recent declines in market action. Inventory is extremely small, days on market are slowing, and most indicators suggest it is following seasonal cooling trends.

Below is the Monte Sereno Real Estate Report (click to view the complete Real Estate Report).

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Fiesta de Artes in Los Gatos

Los Gatos Art & Wine Festival poster (formerly known as the Fiesta de Artes) for S ept 18-19, 2021The annual Los Gatos Fiesta de Artes is back and has a new name: Los Gatos Art & Wine Festival. (I don’t see Fiesta de Artes anywhere on the festival’s website except in the URL) In 2020 it was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, but we are delighted that it returns this weekend!

If you’ve never been, it’s a fabulous opportunity to mill around the Civic Center lawn and enjoy art of various types. It’s free! If you’d like to partake of food and wine, the proceeds all go to a very good cause.

What happens at the Fiesta de Artes or the Los Gatos Art & Wine Festival?

Think food & drink, art & shopping, dancing & socializing! Once again, there will be more than 150 vendors with a huge variety of artists and vendors displaying and selling their artwork, plus booths with food and wine and of course loads of music throughout both days. Please check out the musical lineup and food offerings info here:  Fiesta music and food

Fiesta de Artes will be at the Civic Center lawn across the street from Los Gatos High School – 110 E Main Street, Los Gatos CA 95030

Please check out all of the details at the event’s website:

https://losgatosfiesta.com/

 

Los Gatos real estate market trends and statistics

Low inventory has been the headline story in the Los Gatos real estate market since last spring. Here’s a multiple year view of single family homes for sale in Los Gatos 95030 and 95032 since January 2015 – I find this to be enlightening since any one year can be an anomaly. The chart below shows us that the average inventory for Los Gatos in August can vary, but usually sits somewhere between the low to high 70s. This August fell well below that range with only 51 active listings, the lowest across all visible years!

Seasonal trends for 2020 were thrown completely off shortly after the lockdown order. Inventory never grew to the expected level last spring with available listings consistently shrinking from May through January and hardly any growth in spring 2021!

 

Active Inventory August 2021 Los Gatos 95030 & 95032

 

The ultra low number of listings is due to many factors, one of them being the current coronavirus pandemic and health and safety concerns. For a look at how Covid-19 affected the local real estate market today, please check Coronavirus Impact on Real Estate Sales on my other blog.

Covid restrictions have mostly been lifted, and Silicon Valley remains in a hot seller’s market with limited inventory. If you’re interested in selling your home this year, check out my article on how to Sell Your Home in 2021. When you’re ready to talk to an agent I would love to hear from you!

What is selling best in LG right now?

In general, single family homes listed at or under $2.5 million are selling well, with their sales averaging around 6.7% over list price in August. Those listed upwards of $3 millions are also frequently selling above asking with an average of roughly 4.4% above list price in August. Even so, there are exceptions in both groups.

Certain things can skew the data. For instance, a home in Los Gatos listed just under $2.2 million took 33 days to sell, but sold around 4.6% below list price, while another listed shy of $4 million sold nearly 17.5% above asking (over $700K over) in just 7 days! When planning to buy or sell, it’s best to look at the data within a mile of your home (or the one you want to buy), and across similar properties, excluding the sales which aren’t comparable.

By the numbers: Of the 46 single family home sales in Los Gatos (not including the mountain market) in August on the MLS, none sold under $1 million, 5 sold under $1.5 million, 9 sold between $1.5 and $2 million, 13 sold above $2 and below $3 million, 10 sold between $3 and $4 million, 7 sold over $4 to $5 million, and 2 sold between $6 million and $7 million!

The high end price point tends to be around $3,000,000 and up for this part of Santa Clara County, although it’s been creeping upwards with the overly hot market we’ve been experiencing. The vast majority of what sold would not be considered luxury properties, even though in most areas of the U.S. these would be luxury price tags.

Los Gatos real estate statistics at a glance for 95030 & 95032

Next, data from the RE Report for Los Gatos (“in town”), in the Los Gatos Mountains, and for Los Gatos condos (only in town, none in the mountain communities) – the entire Los Gatos real estate market combined. Below that are the live Altos Research charts, updated automatically each week. Altos uses list prices, not sold prices.

The numbers below analyze data gathered during the first week of each month and cover real estate statistics from the month prior in Los Gatos 95030 & 95032 (all areas / school districts), or MLS “area 16”. See the full RE Report here.

Trends At a Glance Aug 2021 Previous Month Year-over-Year
Median Price $2,950,000 (+3.5%) $2,850,000 $2,475,000 (+19.2%)
Average Price $3,253,780 (+0.9%) $3,224,100 $2,944,000 (+10.5%)
No. of Sales 40 (-7.0%) 43 44 (-9.1%)
Pending 55 (-6.8%) 59 41 (+34.1%)
Active 50 (+8.7%) 46 55 (-9.1%)
Sale vs. List Price 105.4% (-3.0%) 108.6% 100.9% (+4.4%)
Days on Market 20 (+66.8%) 12 31 (-35.2%)
Days of Inventory 38 (+16.8%) 32 38 (0.0%)

Prices for Los Gatos real estate haven’t changed much month-over-month, but compared to last year they’ve risen about 10%-19%! Last year’s market had a higher number of closed sales and active listings, but fewer pending sales. Compared to last month, closed and pending sales fell short while active inventory grew. The sales vs list price ratio fell significantly month-over-month, although still well above last year at a red hot 105.4% of asking.

Overall, despite some seasonal cooling it remains a busy seller’s market in Los Gatos, likely impacted by pent up demand from last year.

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Screen on the Green in Los Gatos

Screen on the green poster 2021Screen on the Green is back, but this year it’s double the fun with two events (and two locations).

The first event will be Friday, Sept 24, 2021 at Oak Meadow Park, which is the normal venue for Screen on the Green. The movie will be Soul. The film will start running at 7:30 p.m., but if you go early, you can enjoy the carousel, the train, and snacks starting at 6 pm.

The second movie night will be Friday, Oct 1, 2021 on the Civic Center Lawn. The showing will be of Hocus Pocus, also beginning at 7:30 p.m.

Attendees, it is important to bring layers and something low to sit on – blankets, cushions, or low backed lawn chairs, are alright. I always bring a flashlight for after the show. The gopher holes in the lawn at Oak Meadow are easy to find by accident with your foot.

For additional details, please see the Los Gatos town website page for Screen on the Green by using the link below or clicking on the image to the right:

http://www.losgatosca.gov/342/Screen-on-the-Green

 

 

 

 

 

Defensible Space for Fire Resistance

Defensible space, combined with home fire hardening, can increase the odds of your house or home surviving a fire that comes onto your property. In Los Gatos, a large portion of our town, and neighboring unincorporated communities, falls under areas where homeowners are required to mitigate the wildfire risk by reducing fuel and taking other actions. We’ll look at where those areas are and what homeowners in them are required to do.

1 – Mandatory defensible space areas

Is your property in a mandatory defensible space zone? In Los Gatos, there are two listed types under this umbrella:

You can see if your Los Gatos home is in either of these zones by checking the town’s online map, a smaller version of which is below. Areas in red require defensible space criteria to be met and are in one area or the other.

 

Los Gatos - defensible space zones for fire risk mitigation
Click on image to view map on the town’s website – Los Gatos. Mandatory defensible space zones for fire risk mitigation are in red.

As you can see, many Los Gatos neighborhoods fall into this zone, including much of the Civic Center area, Vista del Monte, Glenridge, and many more.

What about unincorporated areas, or Monte Sereno?

 

Cal Fire map of hazard severity zones

 

The town’s map is fairly busy and does not cover the unincorporated areas, or Monte Sereno. An easier one to zoom in on, and which is agnostic toward town boundaries, is on the Cal Fire site, but you will need to zoom quite a few times to see your area. I find this one much easier to read.

2 – What do you need to do to create defensible space in the high fire risk zones?

Laws regulating what must be done (and what can be done, in the case of additions and new construction) in the higher risk fire areas come from both the town and the state. Both of them aim to get residents to remove fuel, such as dead leaves, needles, plants, firewood, and so on are a major step. Thinning brush out, or thinning lower tree branches so that it’s harder for fire to spread is also key. Spacing trees and bushes away from each other, and especially from the house and chimney of homes in the high fire risk zones is crucial, too. Read on to get lists of what to clear out if your property is in these areas with increased fire risk.

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Stonybrook neighborhood

The Stonybrook neighborhood of east Los Gatos, just off Kennedy Road, is particularly scenic with its large canopy of trees, big lots, gently curving roads, and mostly understated and sprawling ranch style homes. This area has a semi-rural feel as there are no sidewalks and only soft gutters. It’s also a close in Los Gatos neighborhood, which adds to its appeal.

In December, this area is especially festive with holiday lights, making it a fun part of the season for driving through.

Interestingly, the Stonybrook area is listed in the county’s list of subdivisions as Stony Brook. (Similarly, we refer to a nearby neighborhood as Surry Farms, but the official name is Surry Farm – in the singular. There was in fact just one ranch or farm there!)

 

Stonybrook neighborhood entrance from Kennedy Road

Where is the Stonybrook neighborhood?

You’ll find the Stonybrook (Stony Brook) pocket Los Gatos east of Los Gatos Blvd and north of Kennedy. The streets are Stonybrook Road, Cardinal Lane, Robin Way, plus 3 homes on Kennedy just west of Cardinal. From here it’s a quick trip to downtown LG! All but the 3 with Kennedy addresses are part of tract # 1642.

The zip code here is 95032. It is part of the highly sought after Los Gatos Union School District and the Los Gatos-Saratoga Joint High School District.

Nearby neighborhoods include Kenwood Acres, Surrey Farm (aka Surry Farms), and Vista Del Monte.

 

Los Gatos - Kenwood Acres, Stonybrook, Surrey Farms - Mary Pope-Handy

 

Homes and land in Stonybrook

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Ming Quong: a Los Gatos Monument

Ming Quong Arch appx c.1940
Children playing beneath the arch at the entrance to the Loma Alta Home around 1940.

At the end of Loma Alta Ave in the foothills sits the Los Gatos campus of Uplift Family Services, formerly Eastfield Ming Quong (EMQ) Family First. Tucked away among quiet residential streets, this unassuming establishment often goes unnoticed by locals, but it has deep roots in this Town and across the Bay Area, and especially within the Chinese community.

Origins: “Radiant Light”

Discriminatory laws such as the Chinese Exclusion Act (1882-1943) took their toll on US Chinatowns. Organized crime took hold in US Chinatowns and with it, human trafficking. Tong kidnaped Chinese women, smuggling them through the Golden Gate and into prostitution and slavery. In the late 19th century, Presbyterian missionaries in San Francisco began an effort to help the victims, women and children, escape to safety.

This undertaking expanded, providing safe houses and orphanages: Chung Mei (“China America”) Home for boys and Ming Quong (“radiant light”) Homes for girls.

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