Cost to Buy a Home

April 13, 2007

The town of Los Gatos has several areas, and these impact the cost of buying a home here.  There are two zip codes within the town itself,  95030 (pretty much the center of town) and 95032  (overall the area a little bit away from the very center of town). Additionally, the communities in the Santa Cruz Mountains that are this side of the summit have a Los Gatos mailing address but are actually “county” land and they have the 95033 zip code.

To make matters more complicated, the school district boundaries predate the current town boundaries, so the connection is a little haywire. Closest to the center of town are homes in “the schools” or “the Los Gatos School District” or the “Los Gatos – Saratoga Joint Union High School District”. On the outer edges, it becomes the Campbell Union High School District and varying elementray and middle school districts. They’re all good schools, but the LG School District is prized above the others.

Because the maps were drawn ahead of the town’s boundaries being fully defined, though, you can drive from a neighborhood “with the schools” through another district (Union School District) and go 2-3 miles and then hit another pocket that has Los Gatos Schools but – amazingly – a San Jose address (and an Almaden Valley location).

Yes, it is insane.

So to tell you what you can buy here at what amount, I must begin by stating that it’s all qualified by which school district you’re talking about. Sorry, no easy answers here!!  Most folks who think about moving here would love to be in a “walk to town” location but the difference between homes on the edge of town (bordering Cambrian, Almaden or Campbell) can be a 2-to-1 ratio. In other words, to get a home with a similar amount of square footage and land downtown can cost twice as much as a home in Los Gatos but 2-4 miles out from the center of town.  After the school district and proximity to downtown, it’s about age/condition, land, and view.

With all my disclaimers, here goes. The price link will take you to MLSListings.com, the public branch of our local MLS, so you can have a look at the virtual tours or extra photos if you like.

$249,900 new mobile home with 1328 SF on Oka Road (with “the schools”). Space rent $610/month
$385,000 44 year old, 996 SF condo on Lora Drive
$449,000 2 bed, 1 bath mountain cottage (county, not really in the town) with between 2.5 and 5 acres
$589,000 1334 SF, end unit townhouse on Bascom Avenue
$689,000 1454 SF with 3 beds and 2.5 baths townhome
$800,000 1862 SF single fam home on odd, tiny lot in busy location – but “with the schools”, close to park
$925,000 2600 SF, 2 bed, 2 bath mountain home built on hillside
$998,888 Duplex in Los Gatos (not “in the schools”)
$1,095,000 4/3 40 yrs., 2224 SF in Belwood area of LG (not “LG Schools), 8 – 10k sf lot. Needs updating.
$1,249,000 SF home, “with the schools”, 1653 SF, 9300 sf lot. Needs updating.
$1,359,000 beautiful home, 2339 SF, older but remodeled. Not “the schools”
$1,799,000 cute, near downtown LG, with the schools 2000 SF + cottage
$1,990,000 Restored Victorian, 2914 SF, schools, close to town
$2,195,000 Kennedy Road, 3200 SF, over 1 acre, schools
$2,495,000 Downtown LG, on Bachman (Almond Grove District, prized location), 2645 SF, schools
$2,595,000 4000 SF home (not “the schools”), 17 years old, 4 bed, 3.5 baths, VIEWS
$2,999,999 View home, 5914 SF, (not “the schools”), .93 acres
$3,599,950 New estate home, 4808 SF, over an acre of land (with schools)
$5,950,000 Hilltop home, great views, 9628 SF, 23 yrs old, between 10-20 acres
$6,500,000 New 7000 SF home, over an acre, with some hillside and valley views

$9,998,000 New 8100 SF home, 5-10 acre lot

With these prices, you can understand why so many Realtors want to sell homes in Los Gatos. That said, in a typical month, usually no more than 40 homes sell (for 800 agents).

 

Of Computers and Banana Slugs

April 12, 2007

This charming little town in Silicon Valley that we call home is pretty idyllic with the great scenery, restaurants, shops, parks, and ambiance.

But what is it like to live here, in concrete terms (besides the high mortgage payment)? Aside from all the normal stuff found in Anytown USA, there’s the Silicon Valley Stuff. Here, for one thing, there’s a good chance that in a lot of households, there are more computers than there are people. And that’s the case in our home, too.

At Casa de Handy, we hBrian Handy, Los Gatos, age 17 putting together own computerave about three times as many computers as people. This is not meant to be “true confessions” and it’s not to say they are all GOOD computers, but I think it’s a fairly common way of life here to sort of accumulate them and not do a proper purging of the old ones when there’s an upgrade. Just now, I had to ask my husband how many we had – truthfully, I’d lost count. I have two at home (plus one at my office at Intero in downtown LG), the kids each have one, plus three old ones in our guest room, my husband has two, there are a bunch of abandoned ones in our garage.

But that’s not all. Our 17 year old son, Brian, is building a new computer, from parts ordered, as I type. The components began arriving by UPS today.

Yes, this is fairly normal in our quaint town or anywhere in Silicon Valley where there’s an engineer under the roof. We don’t have expensive art or expensive furniture. We don’t take lavish vacations and we tend to avoid expensive restaurants. But we are connected. We have lots of computers and we cannot seem to throw the old ones away.

Computers and “being connected” on the web are simply important here. A lot of my clients met each other (or me) online. Some of them tell me that when they planned their honeymoons, they didn’t want to go anywhere they could not get an internet connection.

Seriously.

Brian, Jim, and Clair Handy at layover in 2004And when the Handy or Pope-Handy family travels, I will admit it is not a whole lot different. We tend to travel with laptops – the kids for fun, the adults for work. It is almost a lifeline and we’re not even talking PC Anywhere.

So it probably comes as no surprise if I tell you that we’re college-shopping with our teens and the oldest one (Mister I Am Building My Own Computer) wants to go into video game design. In our town there is a wonderful video game company, Cryptic Studios. And I’m told that in the corridor between Los Gatos and Santa Cruz, there are a bunch of tiny video gaming companies too. Santa Cruz seems to have some of it also. Finding where this major is offered is a little tricky, though. The University of Southern California makes it easy by advertising it as a Video Game Design Major. The other 99 places in the US all appear to have a different name for the same major, like “Interactive Media Design”. So we’re doing “hunt and peck” for it.

We’re finding that there are places near and far, huge and small, that offer this high tech major. A couple of places are 200 students or less (DigiPen in Redmond, WA and Cogswell in nearby Sunnyvale, CA). A place in Burlington, Vermont, offers the major and a few scattered places in the midwest do too. Some of the big tech institutes either offer classes or full blown PhDs in the subject as well, including my husband’s Alma Mater, Georgia Tech. Interestingly, the University of California at Santa Cruz (just over “The Hill”) will begin to offer this major beginning next year.

UCSC offers a video game design majorWe used to joke about UCSC. Not so many years ago, they didn’t offer grades, only “commentaries”. And yet the place had a great reputation for science and math. Eventually, when UCSC grads couldn’t get into MA or PhD programs due to lack of a GPA, the institution bent and got conventional. What a shock! But the mascot, a Banana Slug, remains. To this day, one of our favorite gifts to family and friends who visit from out of the area remains a Slug shirt. How can you not love a t-shirt or sweatshirt designed with a large Banana Slug who’s sporting glasses and reading Plato?

Just the same, I never envisioned my son going there, being a Slug. Until now.

It’s a short, 30 minute jaunt from high-tech Silicon Valley to laid-back Santa Cruz, and yet a world apart.

The funny thing about Silicon Valley, including Los Gatos, is that people keep expecting it to be conventional, but it just isn’t. Engineers are mis-pegged as being a whole bunch of conformists. Not so. To live here is to understand that with all that knowledge, and all that great Geekiness, there is a massive, funloving and creative streak.

So maybe the slug is a good fit after all. I will keep you posted.

Sports and Exercise

April 11, 2007

Subtropical climate means we have plenty of palm trees in Los GatosLos Gatos is an extremely fit town, and with good reason.  Our sub-tropical climate, with 300 days of sunshine a year, means that most everyone can get at least some exercise, even if it’s taking a walk on a regular basis.  But there are folks who enjoy taking their sports and exercise more seriously, and some of them wear clothing that you could not possibly ignore if you saw it.

Yes, I’m talking spandex.  Forgive me for taking an unpopular stand, but I really and Cycling is very popular in Los Gatostruly believe that spandex should be a controlled substance. Not every healthy American body looks good in the stuff.  And honestly, a lot of times, seeing people  in skin tight clothing qualifies as “too much information”.  To make matters worse, it seems fashionable that spandex comes in packages of striking color combinations – neon orange, electric green – splashed onto black.  If that weren’t enough, ads find their way onto it also.

You don’t just see them in races or on trails. You see them at the coffee shops downtown, or walking through the Farmer’s Market on Sunday mornings.

I try not to look. I really do try. But it’s difficult not to look.

Luckily, a lot of the good people who enjoy cycling in town are fit and that helps the visuals. I can only imagine that those who aren’t are trying hard to get there.  God bless them.

Just shoot me, please, if I ever go out of the house dressed like that.

I admit, unlike some of my relatives, I’m not all that athletic. (The only “A” I ever got in P.E. was for archery. So I’m good at carnival games and “whack a mole” at the pizza parlor.)  So there’s no hope that if I wore spandex, it might not offend someone.  Most days I simply walk our dog or go to Curves to get my heart rate up and try to stave off diabetes.  Ocassionally I walk up the very steep and tall Harwood Road or hike in the hills of Belgatos Park.  When I emerge from the house with sweating in mind, though, I’m not wearing tight fitting clothes and I’m not trying to be noticed.  I hide under loose, dark, old clothes (maybe a Patriots sweatshirt & faded Pats hat), sunglasses in place, and I’m hoping like mad that I don’t see anyone I know. 

But this is a very athletic town. There are lots of opportunities for exercise, whether it’s swimming at one of the many athletic clubs in town, the new Jewish Community Center, or elsewhere.  Hiking is big, of course, as we have an abundance of hills and trails. So’s tennis, so’s running, and so’s roller blading.  We have a beautiful golf course at La Rinconada, and many more courses within a short distance. Surf’s up?  Just over the hill you can catch a wave at Santa Cruz.  If crew or sailing’s your thing, there’s the 57 acre lake at Vasona, the Lexington Resevoir, the San Francisco Bay, the Monterey Bay, and many other lakes nearby.  Snow Skiing (or boarding) is 3 1/2 to 4 hours away.  And don’t forget the dog park – you can throw a Frisbee for Fido and you’ll both get a little fresh air and maybe both get some exercise. There seems to be something for everyone, no matter what level of expertise or dedication. 

A fun and different form of excercise is popular here too: Bocce Ball.  Also called Lawn Bowling, the Italian sport is enjoyed by a group of fans every Saturday morning at Oak Meadow Park (I think at 9am).  Additionally, Bocce Ball part and parcel of a great a Los Gatos restaurant, Campo di Bocce.  I’m anxious to give it a try.  As someone in my office said, “how can you not like a sport in which you can play while holding a glass of wine?”  

I think it’s about my speed.

Project Blogger Blogroll

Project Blogger 2007 Inman Active RainApril 09, 2007

Project Blogger Apprentice Blogroll:

Michael and Barbara Daly Beachamptons Blog Southampton, NY
Vali Wimberly Denver Fresh Denver, CO
London Whitted Future of Commercial Real Estate Commercial RE – West Coast of US
Madison Hildebrand Inside Bu Malibu, CA
Mary Pope-Handy Live in Los Gatos Los Gatos, CA
Julie Ferenzi Living In Plainfield Plainfield, IL
Ines Hegedus-Garcia Miamism Miami, FL
Kevin Tomlinson Miami Beach Condos Miami, FL
Kelly Kilpatrick Rancho Santa Margarita Lifestyles Rancho Santa Margarita, CA
Jackie Colson-Miller Real Estate Sizzle Tampa, FL
Tisza Major-Posner Route 66 Living Claremont, CA
Terri Lussier The Brick Ranch Dayton, OH

Project Blogger Mentor Blogroll:

Joe Ferrara & Rudy Bachraty, coaching Michael & Barbara Daly:Sellsius Real Estate Blog
Teresa Boardman, coaching Vali Wimberly: St. Paul Real Estate Blog
Patrick Kitano, coaching London Whitted: Transparent Real Estate
Dustin Luther, coaching Madison Hildebrand: Rain City Guide
Frances Flynn Thorsen, coaching Mary Pope-Handy: The RealtyGram Blogger
Jeff Turner, coaching Julie Ferenzi: RealEstate Shows Blog
Paul Chaney, coaching Ines Hegedus-Garcia: Blogging Systems
Ardell DellaLoggia, coaching Kevin Tomlinson: Searching Seattle Blog
Joel Burslem, coaching Kelly Kilpatrick: Future of Real Estate Marketing
Jim Cronin, coaching Jackie Colson-Miller: The Real Estate Tomato
Drew Meyers, coaching Tisza Major-Posner: Personal Insights on Web 2.0, ZillowBlog
Greg Swan, coaching Teri Lussier: Bloodhound Blog

The Project Blogger Contest runs from April 9, 2007 – July 15, 2007 – a long 14 weeks! The winning team will be announced on Wednesday, August 1st at Bloggers Connect in San Francisco. That said, everyone who’s participating is “winning” in that all are learning lots and growing wonderful blogs. There is a fantastic diversity of personalities and markets and clearly several “right ways” to blog for real estate successfully. My hat is off to each apprentice and each mentor. I have learned something from each and every one of you.

Bits of News

April 08, 2007

Usually, there’s not a whole lot of real “news” in this town.  But lately Los Gatos has been making the headlines a bit. Here are a few links to stories you might want to read:

Los Gatos School District teachers will be getting a raise of approximately 7%

Drunk driver kills self in 100 mph, solo car accident on Los Gatos Boulevard

Cryptic Studios expands in Los Gatos

Netflix Headquarters is moving into new digs on Winchester Circle

Controversy over proposed use of old Flames Restaurant location: retail and restaurant, or?

See a news item of interest?  Email me and I’ll post it to share.

When Brains Collide

April 05, 2007

Los Gatos sits between the laid back beach community at Santa Cruz and the faster paced  world of Silicon Valley. For most, Los Gatos is a place to unwind & have fun, and even better, a great place to live.  But it is never all that far from the tech happenings. Many of the town’s residents are engineers or in related industries. We do have some technology related companies in town too, such as the great video game company, Cryptic Studios.   Many ideas raised in SV were born here in The Corner of the Cats. Los Gatos is a part of Silicon Valley, but at times feels like it’s a bit removed.  It’s at the crossroads, with feet in both worlds. What happens in Silicon Valley is definitely felt in Los Gatos

My husband, Jim Handy, is an engineer by training and has been doing market research in the semiconductor industry for years.  Often he’s attending some sort of industry conference locally.  Most of the time, he has to translate for me what the events are all about.  So too, this week he has been in and out of the Imbedded Systems Conference.  I probably gave him a glazed over look when he told me the name of it. I do remember, though, that he heard Al Gore give a presentation and it sounded like one I’d have enjoyed attending, and I know that Jim reconnected with a lot of old colleagues and friends.  He has been impressed with it all around. 

Today Jim shared with me a video clip advertising the Imbedded Systems Conference.  Many of my engineer clients have a playful and wildly creative side  and I thought how typically Silicon Valley this advertisment is. Please take a look at the fun side of high tec and enjoy this video clip, “When Brains Collide”.

You’ve gotta love living in Silicon Valley! These fun minds are the same types you’ll bump into at the Los Gatos Farmers Market on Sunday morning, or on the Los Gatos Creek Trail whizzing by on bikes, or grabbing a latte at one of the town’s zillion coffee shops and typing away on the tablet computer.   You never know what they might really be up to, if brains do collide!

 

A Hike and Photo Tour Through Belgatos Park

April 03, 2007

Bella, the Handy Family black labIn my house, if you ask the question “do you want to take a walk?” outloud, you’d better be prepared to make a quick exit, leash in hand.

Our family dog, Bella, will begin to jump and run to convey her response: “yes! yes! yes, I want to go on a walk and I want to go right now!”   So like with small children and words like “candy”, in our home, sometimes we have to spell out the word or use code to see if other non-dogs under the roof want to come along. “Do you have time for a ‘W’?” usually works, although I suspect that Bella is catching on – just like kids who learn to spell “candy” before anything else.

At Belgatos Park, Brian and Bella enjoy the view. Bella actually wants to find something to chase.The main attraction is Belgatos Park (330 Belgatos Lane, Los Gatos),  which offers a few entrances, including one on our street just about 3 blocks from our front door.  Like most parks, Belgatos has a playground, picnic areas, large grassy areas for frisbee throwing and other games, and benches. It also has a public restroom and a parking lot.  Beyond the useful spots at the main entrance that are fairly common to most parks, though, there lie many many forested and grassy trails stretching up the hill – a full 17 acres plus connections to huge open space preserves and trails as well (those being the Heinz Open Space Preserve, reached off Regent Drive, and the Santa Rosa Open Space Preserve, accessed from either the top of Harwood Road or off Santa Rosa Drive or Madera along the ridge of the hill).  I can’t tell where the park ends and the open space begins – but the combined acreage is enormous and it’s a delight to explore.

Belgatos Park is where nature meets suburbia.  The base looks like any city park but Jim, Tish (Jim's sister), Clair and Bella exploring Belgatos Parkwith a backdrop (the rising hill and winding paths) that beckons: come and see what you can find.

And it also seems to work the other way, too.  The park is a bit of a conduit for nature to find its way into east Los Gatos too.  You don’t always need to go far to find it. 

In a tall eucalyptus tree in the parking lot (as you enter the park, it’s on your left side), there’s a large hawk’s nest.  Depending on the time of day, and perhaps the bird’s mood or appetite, you may hear repeated screetches coming from this tree or another nearby.  The hawk is lovely to watch and it will be fun when the little ones hatch. 

Belgatos Park trail, Los Gatos, CALate in the afternoons or early in the mornings, particularly in winter, deer are seen nibbling on the bright green grass close to the same small parking lot too. There’s a little cluster of trees and bushes down by a neighbor’s fence, perhaps 15 feet from the pavement, and you sometimes find an entire family of deer enjoying pre-prandials.

Jim Handy, volunteer Town of Los Gatos Parks Commissioner, keeping an eye on things in Belgatos Park with Bella, the family poochNot wild, but fun for kids, are the goats which belong to the homeowner living to the right of Belgatos Park. Walk up the hill on the asphalt path and you will hear them, and then, most likely, you will smell them. They are cute!  You can’t touch the two goats, but it’s always a delight to see something so unusual a stone’s throw from a regular neighborhood. 

Continue up the hill on the paved path and you will see the usual assortment of small creatures – squirrels, birds, lizards, and possibly more.  Possum and racoons abound.  My husband, who hikes there frequently, saw a bobcat close to the playground on the trail there.   We’ve seen deer many, many times.  Jim has seen coyotes as well.   Watch for poison oak, rattle snakes, ticks and black widow spiders: these are a part Peeking through the trees at a view of San Jose from Belgatos Park, Los Gatos, CAof nature you want to know about, but not encounter first-hand. Ditto that for the mountain lions who inhabit this land and have been known to walk down past Belwood and into Cambrian Park too. Pay attention.

As you climb, the views become increasingly more lovely with knotted oak and manzanita trees shading the trails, sometimes redwoods too, grassy spots emerging from time to time around bends, and glimpses of the valley below peeking through the openings in the skyline.  Most days, the sky is a bright blue with only a few clouds dotting the horizon for interest’s sake.  Jim and Bella take a break after an uphill hike, and get a view of the Santa Clara Valley as their rewardSome days, though, we have a “heat inversion” and there’s a lid of air sitting atop our valley, holding in what would normally blow off with breezes from the San Francisco Bay each afternoon at around 4pm. That lid keeps the heat – and the poor air – trapped.  When that happens, the sky turns a disgusting shade of brown or taupe.  When you see it, you don’t need to hear the advisory that it is a “spare the air” day.   Luckily, the air has gotten cleaned up considerably since I was a teenager here in the 70’s.  In any event, the view won’t lie. You’ll know, when you get a little elevation, how the environment is doing that day.  No need to read about it online or in print. Take a hike, and you’ll see for yourself.

Where will you go?  Depending on which path you choose, you may end up at the top of Harwood Road or you could be on Santa Rosa Drive.  As mentioned, Belgatos Park also connects with the Heinz Open Space Preserve and View of the Santa Clara Valley and downtown San Jose from a landing in Belgatos Park, Los Gatos, CA (Photo by Mary Pope-Handy)The Santa Rosa Open Space Preserve so there are a myriad of possibilities.  No matter which path you take, it will be scenic.  You may run into mountain bikers or folks on horseback.   Or you may get up close and personal with some wildlife.  I do suggest long pants and shoes, not flip flops  – just last week, our daughter came home from a hike with a tick who decided to hitch a ride.   Since Belgatos Park touches the suburbs, it’s easy to ignore the fact that it is basically untamed land and, as my buddy (a Realtor and fellow blogger) Steve Leung points out, we are then encroaching on their space.   So realize where you are and pay attention.  I happen to think the park is a very photogenic place, so my other suggestion is bring a camera along too.