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:
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.
February 20, 2007
View From Los Gatos
To 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.
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,
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??
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
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!
January 26, 2007
What’s The Market Doing?
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.
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|
December 27, 2006
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.
December 06, 2006
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
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)
December 01, 2006
Any time of year, a favorite place of mine to hang out is Old Town Los Gatos. A few years ago it was revamped, and in all honesty, I think it lost a lot of its charm then, but much of it does still remain and despite changes, it’s a great place to be and relax. There is a little bit of large topiary that remains – once there was a huge selection of it – and the outdoor theater still invites people to sit around and visit, if not see a show or hear music these days. It’s my hope that some of the “old” benefits of lingering at Old Town will one day return.
Some things don’t change. The Wine Celler is my favorite restaurant, not just in town, but anywhere. It offers a wonderful menu , including fun things like fondu and cheese boards, a nice variety of wines, and even live music. Additionally there’s patio seating upstairs in nice weather, but always a wonderful interior ambiance in the cellar itself. The people who run The Wine Cellar, the Hauck family, are as nice as the food is good.
I began visiting The Wine Cellar as a teenager and pretty much dragged all my friends there, especially on a weekend night if Gritty and Gravel were playing. (Does anyone know whatever happened to those guys?) I was a “regular” and I often asked them to play Desperado. They humored me. And I kept returning with new people week after week. As it turns out, my better half (Jim, now my husband of 21 years) was there many of those nights too. We would not meet until many years later, but now the restaurant is one our kids like too. I guess it was meant to be!
Another wonderful place in Old Town is directly upstairs, and that’s the local Border’s Books. My family and I are there a lot. I have been joking about buying stock in the place, actually. (I was there yesterday – bought Moving The Chains, a book about my famous cousin that happens to mention both my sister and my brother – and then indulged myself by having a latte in the cafe while skimming through the book for awhile.)
And a nice place to take a friend for a drink after work is Steamer’s. This place has a fantastic wine buyer and I’m only sorry that I don’t remember his name to give him credit – but he’s extremely good at matching the right wine to the right food, he’s friendly, and he’s fun to talk with. Steamer’s has some cool food and a nice atmosphere too.
I miss the outdoor shows in the open air theater. I miss the theater where Borders now stands too. I miss all the topiary that used to grace Old Town. But so much of the old charm remains, and so many wonderful people work the restaurants and shops, that even “progress” did not ruin what may be the very best part of our wonderful town. If you haven’t spent time there, please do. Neat shops, neat people, neat place.
November 30, 2006
Holiday Mailing Tip
In the spirit of holiday cheer, I’m going to share with you one of my holiday secrets.
Immediately adjacent to Los Gatos is a very small city named Monte Sereno. (“El Sereno” is the name of the large mountain to the right of the pass to Santa Cruz. “El Sombroso” is the name of the large one to the left.) The Monte Sereno Post Office, located on Hightway 9 (aka Los Gatos-Saratoga Road) and Rose Avenue, is usually the best place around during the holiday season when you need to mail a package. This year they have cut back on their hours and it is only open from 9am – 1pm, Monday through Friday. The lines are typically far shorter than at other nearby post office locations, but it is a small office and they don’t take credit cards or do express mail. So go armed with your simple mail and checkbook, and be delighted that the line is half as long as at other PO stations.