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

Relocating to Los Gatos

Do you have a high water table?

How high is the water table at your property? (Why would you care?) In Los Gatos, like Almaden, Monte Sereno, Saratoga, and many other parts of Santa Clara County, there are pockets in which the water table, meaning groundwater, is quite high. This can come with some risks.

What are some of the potential issues with high ground water?

In some cases, that groundwater is at such a shallow level that there’s an actual spring with water bubbling up at times. This can happen particularly in times of heavy rainfall. Should it occur directly under your house and into your crawlspace, that would not be good. Water can cause havoc with foundations, so the standard advice from home inspectors and structural engineers is to divert water away from the house. In most cases, that means correct any faulty grading (the soil around the house should case any rainfall to be directed away from the house), to extend downspouts away from the home, etc. If you have a spring bring water up from underground, that is a whole different approach to the challenge.

Another concern with higher water tables is the possibility of environmental problems spreading from the site of a leaking underground storage tank to nearby neighbors (who would get stuck paying the cleanup). Underground plumes of water can carry chemicals from a spill site to some distance away. That’s why home buyers receive a natural and environmental report which includes contamination sites within one mile of the property they’re interested in purchasing.

How can you learn about your neighborhood’s water table?

It seems like experts have mapped just about everything, and one of those things does include the depth at which first groundwater can be found. Today I was curious about this question and was delighted to find a Valley Water map which lays out the various depths of the water table throughout much (but not all) of the Santa Clara Valley.

How shallow is the water in Los Gatos? Per this map, it appears that:

  • At the intersection of N Santa Cruz and Los Gatos-Saratoga Road, it’s 0 – 10 feet on the northwest corner and 10 – 20 feet on the southeast and southwest corner
  • Much of the Almond Grove area appears to have 0 – 10 ft depth for water
  • Old Town seems to have 10 – 20 feet
  • Los Gatos High and the Civic Center look to have 20 – 30 feet (interesting as there was a cleanup  at the Hotel Los Gatos and the high school from a leak at the Dry Cleaner next to the hotel a few years back)
  • The Town Park Plaza is in the 10 – 20 foot area

Click on the link to the Valley Water Open Data site and scroll around to see your part of town! (Unfortunately there are some big pockets missing.)

 

Image of the Valley Water open data map, including Los Gatos and Saratoga - click on image to visit the Valley Water website

Image of the Valley Water open data map, including Los Gatos and Saratoga – click on image to visit the Valley Water website

Los Gatos welcomes new residents

Recently while looking for something on the town’s website, I stumbled upon something new to me – a way in which the town of Los Gatos welcomes new residents. This comes from the FAQ page. Similar info can be found on resident services / welcoming new residents page.

Residents receive packets of useful community information, including letters from the Town Manager and Chief of Police, an overview of Town services, emergency preparedness and home safety information and gift certificates from local businesses. Children receive Town pins, stickers, and police badges.

Read all of the info on the link provided above, or contact the Personnel and Community Services Divison at (408) 354-6842.

ALSO, Los Gatos, Monte Sereno, and Saratoga offers a Newcomers Club. You can check out the membership and activities at http://www.NewComersOfLosGatos.com/

Los Gatos Cat Word Cloud - designed by Mary Pope-Handy

Los Gatos crime score

AreaVibes.com has livability scores that include crime, cost of housing, employment, education, and other factors. Los Gatos scores well in all but housing. How does Los Gatos compare to the rest of California and the rest of the nation in terms of crime?  The AreaVibes.com site gives Los Gatos an A+ for crime:

 

Area Vibes Crime info on Los Gatos

Area Vibes Crime info on Los Gatos

There are links for comparing two cities, too. I had a look at Los Gatos versus Saratoga and it compared favorably, though worst for the cost of housing.  Here’s the AreaVibes livability scoring page for Saratoga CA.

These types of sites can be especially helpful for folks wanting to downsize and who are actively comparing one area to the next.

Pueblo de Los Gatos condos

If you are looking to buy a home in or near downtown Los Gatos, but your budget is less than $1 million, you might consider something in the Pueblo de Los Gatos condos community. It is one of the more affordable housing options anywhere in town, yet enjoys the highly prized Los Gatos Union School District and a very convenient location.

Pueblo de Los Gatos condos community sign

What are homes in Pueblo de Los Gatos like?

Pueblo de Los Gatos condos

Front doors face outside, rather than an interior corridor, so this is not a complex that feels like a hotel.  The development was built in 1970, and you may detect its age here and there, but overall, it seems to be a well kept up complex.  Residents enjoy a community pool and lots of green, open space between the buildings.  Several residents appear to have dogs, but on the many visits I’ve made there, I did not hear any barking.

The individual units vary in the amount of remodeling which has been done inside. Some still have heat pumps for heating and cooling (rather than a forced air furnace), popcorn or acoustic ceilings, original bathrooms, etc. Many have been beautifully updated, though, so you really need to see each one and take it on its own merits.  Gas fireplaces are common – they may be in every unit, but I’m not sure of that.

It appears that the units were all built with Zinsco electric panels and subpanels, and they seem to be widely in use (though individual owners may have replaced them).  Some home inspectors will raise a red flag about Zinsco or Federal Pacific panels, and others do not say a word about them. Please do your own research on this.

Except for one of the homes, which has a garage, all have use of at least one carport space.

Pueblo del Los Gatos carports

How big are the condo units at Pueblo de Los Gatos?

Pueblo de Los Gatos includes 53 condominium units.  I have been in a number of them, and most of the units I’ve seen have good floor plans with very decent space. They have laundry in the unit rather than in an HOA run laundry building.

The bed, bath, and size breakdown is as follows:

  • 8 units have 1 bed, 1 bath, and either 764 SF or 789 SF
  • 44 have 2 bedrooms and 2 or 2.5 baths, with one of 3 layouts – 1032 SF, 1097 SF, or 1120 SF
  • 1 unit features 3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths, 1390 SF and a 2 car garage, while the rest use carports. (I do wonder if originally this wasn’t supposed to be the property manager’s residence? It was last sold in 1980, so if that was the case, it was a very long time ago!)

Continue reading

What do you need to know before buying a house in Los Gatos?

 

What do you need to know before buying a house in Los Gatos? Particularly for people relocating to Los Gatos (or generally to Silicon Valley) from other areas, or from parts of Santa Clara County not close to the hills, there are a few home buying tips you’ll want to know before purchasing a home in our fair town.  (For locals, these may seem obvious!)

1. Los Gatos & Schools

Whether you have school aged kids or not, you’ll want to know that there are several school districts covering the Los Gatos area. School district lines do not follow the town’s boundaries. (Not too long ago I met someone with a home to sell in the Belgatos area and he had no idea that his home did not belong to the Los Gatos Union School District. This caused him to misunderstand the likely market value of his property.)

Santa Clara County Office of Education School District Boundary Map – Sadly the map no longer exists
Town of Los Gatos: List of Schools Serving Los Gatos Students

2. Historic downtown Los Gatos areas

Areas closest to “downtown Los Gatos,” especially the historic neighborhoods (including Almond Grove, Edelen, Broadway, Fairview Plaza) tend to be much more expensive than those further out. The “walk to town” or “close to town” proximity makes them highly desireable, but also these regions of town are very scenic and have some fabulous Victorian and other beautiful architectural styles. Many are tree-lined, too.

Related to both #1 and #2, the public schools are not all that close to downtown Los Gatos. (St. Mary’s Catholic Elementary School is in the downtown area, as is the adjacent Los Gatos Parent Nursery School.)

 

3. Hillside locales

If you buy a house close to a hill, among some hills or on a hill, you will need to pay close attention to issues which are less common in flatter areas further from slopes. Among them are foundation, water and drainage concerns. Some flat areas near the hills may have a high water table, may springs that come seasonally or in very wet years as well as runoff problems.

Water is often far more damaging than termites but it is not really uncommon to find water in a crawl space during the rainy season. Learn about it and pay heed to property inspectors’ suggestions regarding remediation if it’s a condition in a house you want to purchase.

I wrote about this on my Valley of Hearts Delight blog (covering all of Santa Clara County, but mostly the west valley) and suggest these two articles:

What To Consider When Buying a Hillside Home in Silicon Valley

Cracked Foundations, Adobe Clay Soils and Water in Silicon Valley

 4. Los Gatos address

Some homes with a “Los Gatos address” may not actually be in the town of Los Gatos. Many are in a county pocket or area (and may not have all the services of the town). A very few are actually part of either Campbell or San Jose but were assigned the Los Gatos mailing address for ease of the US Post Office.

How can you tell if a residence is part of the town of Los Gatos, is unincorporated or part of another city? The website for the county of Santa Clara has a lookup service. First you must accept the terms of service (see link above), then you will be allowed to input an address. If you type in a location’s address and it says “not found”, either you’ve got a typo in the building number or a mistake in the actual city, so perhaps it’s unincorporated or belonging to another adjacent municipality.

What difference does it make? The actual address (not mailing address) will impact a variety of things such as services (sherriff vs Los Gatos Monte Sereno police, free access to Oak Meadow Park), planning (any additions, remodels etc. will need to be approved by your actual city), voting in Los Gatos elections, etc.

5.  Los Gatos is a town, not a city

Los Gatos is a town. (Monte Sereno, with whom we share some services, is much smaller but is a city, not a town.) This means our government is run a little differently. For instance, we don’t vote for mayor.  Instead, we vote for town council members. They, in turn, vote for mayor. (Usually it’s a rotation.)

According to Wikipedia: “There are 481 incorporated municipalities in California, of which 459 are called cities and 22 are called towns.” [Edit: this quote was accurate as of Feb 28, 2011, but has been edited since. On Oct 24, 2017, the page lists 482 municipalities, 22 of which call themselves Towns.] I was surprised that there are so many towns – had thought it was only a handful!

Los Gatos is an interesting, fun, welcoming town. If you’re moving to the area, it’s a vibrant place you should check out. Please call or email me if you’d like more assistance.

 

 

If you love Los Gatos, but it’s not in your budget

Once you have visited Los Gatos – the charming architecture, the backdrop of the hills, the vibrant downtown, the great schools, and all the trees and parks – you may want to call it home. I sure did. But the town is expensive and for some it may be out of range. What if you love Los Gatos, but it’s not affordable? There are nearby areas that may work, so I’ll mention them here. They are all discussed in depth at my Valley of Heart’s Delight blog and mentioned in my Move2SiliconValley or popehandy blogs too – the links will be to any of my own sites.  For people relocating to Silicon Valley especially, where “sticker shock” is a normal part of the welcome package, these other areas which are a little less pricey might be helpful.

Less Expensive Alternatives to Los Gatos

Almaden Valley, San Jose 95120

A little further southeast than Los Gatos, the Almaden Valley is a very scenic suburb with the Santa Cruz Mountains on one side and the Santa Teresa Foothills on the other.  There’s no “downtown”, however you’ll find a large shopping center with a remodeled Safeway, banks, Starbucks, etc., along Almaden Expressway.  This area features the New Almaden neighborhood, which is where the area began with mercury mining operations long ago.    Almaden real estate market post

Cambrian, San Jose 95124

On the north and northeast side of Los Gatos sits the Cambrian area of San Jose (which has 2 zip codes, but the part adjacent to LG is 95124).  The Union School District serves both part of Cambrian and part of east Los Gatos.  There’s a noticeable price drop going into Cambrian, but the hills and the town of LG are still close.   Very good schools and a good “bang for your buck” in terms of what you get in education for the price of the home.   Cambrian real estate market statistics

Willow Glen, San Jose 95125

Willow Glen is closer to downtown San Jose than to Los Gatos, but it has much of the charm that LG is known for, includes a lovely downtown area with its own identity, and boasts some of the most scenic streets in all of Silicon Valley.  The public schools are generally not a drawing factor. Willow Glen real estate market article

Campbell 95008

Campbell is probably the most happening city in Santa Clara County right now in terms of home buyer popularity.  Campbell provides a lovely downtown, light rail access to downtown San Jose and beyond, a great parks system (especially along the Los Gatos Creek Trail), unusually good shopping, and in some areas really excellent schools.  This is a “closer in” location than Los Gatos or Almaden, so it’s an easier commute for that lower price, too.   Campbell housing market trends and stats

Los Gatos Mountains 95033

The 95033 zip code covers a lot of land in Santa Clara County and Santa Cruz County too.  Part of it is just beyond the Los Gatos town border, but the majority of it is quite a bit further.  School scores are high, air is clean, trees are everywhere and valley views (or in the next county over, Monterey Bay views) are not uncommon.  The prices are much better than in town, but the tradeoff is that you have to deal with Highway 17 every day, plus some issues that are particular to the mountains, beach traffic, etc. Please also see this article on the Los Gatos Mountains or Santa Cruz Mountains     And on the market – Altos Live RE Market Charts for the LG or Santa Cruz Mountains area

Chocolate Dream Box – a Los Gatos Treasure!

Chocolate Dream box name and logoChocolate Dream Box has been a part of the Los Gatos landscape, in one location or another, for many years.  It first opened in downtown along North Santa Cruz Avenue, then was located on Los Gatos Boulevard and Blossom Hill Road at King’s Court Shopping Center, and now calls The Downing Center (at the corner of Union & Los Gatos-Almaden Road) home.

Today I stopped in to see the new shop, to buy a gourmet chocolate gift and see how the owner, Holly Westbrook, and staff are doing.  I’d blogged about it in 2011, back at the old location, and thought an update was in order, too, for their new location (and my blog’s new location).

Things seem to be great overall.  The new store is bigger and brighter than the former one was and feels comfortably roomy.  The decor is always beautiful, with a hint of Europe here and there to remind visitors of the inspiration.

What’s selling?  Old favorites, such as the dark and milk chocolate cats, can still be found, and as always, there’s an abundance of specialty candies and exceptionally beautiful and tasty truffles.    There are non-candy gift items too, pretty affordably priced also.  Today I saw a pewter fleur de lis that was quite tempting…

The move was, of course, a lot of work for them, and if you’re local, you know that they hadn’t wanted to move but got forced out by their former landlord.  Any business owner would be concerned about losing customers with a new location, but I imagine in time everyone will find their way to the new shop – it’s only 1.5 miles away from the old one.   An unexpected element, though, happened too – the Yelp reviews from the old location could not transfer to the new one – ouch! If you are a fan, cruise on over there and give them a shout out.  I did that today; it’s great to support our local Los Gatos businesses!

Truffles

 

Truffles, truffles, and more truffles.  The biggest problem with visiting the Chocolate Dream Box is figuring out which one(s) to buy! Continue reading

Home prices in Los Gatos & Monte Sereno: how much home can your money buy?

money blockHow far will your home buying dollar stretch if your goal is to buy Los Gatos real estate or Monte Sereno real estate? Housing prices in these areas are steep, but it’s interesting how different the market is from one price point, zip code, and school district to the next.

Today I spent some time doing the very mundane task of pulling and crunching the data from MLSListings.com to give my readers and clients a sense of the housing market in Los Gatos and Monte Sereno.  I teased it out by zip code and high school district (476 is Los Gatos-Saratoga Joint Union High School District and 473 is Campell Union High School District).  The 95032 zip code stretches to the far east and far west corners of this area  and if there were more sales I’d want to pull out the west vs east parts of the zip code – but with scant inventory and sales, that just wouldn’t work well right now.

The following statistics reflect Los Gatos and Monte Sereno single family home sales in the last 90 days in the 95030 zip code:

There are very very few homes in 95030 with the Campbell Union HSD, but there are a few and in the last 90 days there were two such sales / closings.  Obviously I cannot break 2 sales into 4 pricing quartiles too well, so left them lumped together – but you can see from the price per square foot that this area is selling incredibly well!

For those who insist on 95030 “in the schools”, the good news is that the real estate market is much softer here than in much of the valley – homes are generally selling at or under list price, rather than over, and they are not selling, on average, with just 10 days on the market or less.  Some do, of course – but most do not.  That makes it a great buying opportunity!

95030

 

Los Gatos and Monte Sereno single family home sales in the last 90 days in the 95032 zip code:

Next let’s look at Los Gatos and Monte Sereno 95032.  MOST of Monte Sereno is in the 95030 zip code, but a portion is not and has 95032 and/or Campbell Union HSD.

For the part of 95032 with CUHSD, the market is actually quite hot with most sales at 105-106% of list price.  Please note that in this grouping, there’s a very big jump in what you get for your money between the under $1 million quartile and the next quartile up – the house size about doubles, actually, but the price does not likewise double.  The next tier up has a far smaller jump, but when I was exporting the date from the MLS I saw that there was a very large clustering of homes sold between about 1.3 and 1.9 million and almost just combined them since an awful lot were sitting right around 1.5 – 1.7 million.  In any event, if you want to live in Los Gatos with about 2500 Square Feet with Leigh or Westmont High, the homes are running about $1.5 to $2 million.  Often they are a little higher on the west side of town as opposed to the east – my best guess is that it’s because that end is closer to pricy Saratoga and is a closer commute to many of the high teck work places.

The 95032 area “in the schools” is popular – you get a more affordable zip code with the famed Los Gatos schools. Interesting that again, this area is not as hot a market as the part of LG and MS with the Campbell Union HSD.  Perhaps that is because the elementary and middle schools are now very comparable, and only the high schools have a gap?  Many buyers are not willing to pay a giant premium for Los Gatos High – though some, of course, are.  (And they will also be happy to be in a location closer to downtown.)

95032

 

So where are the opportunities in this market?

Buyers:  If you want to buy in Los Gatos and get a home with Los Gatos Schoools, the market is not as competitive as the areas further from downtown with Union or Campbell schools. It is not cheaper, but it’s not quite so competitive, and you may not need to give away all your rights just to buy a home. Also, many Silicon Valley home buyers will push themselves to get into a home or school or zip code.  If you are able to get out of the bottom tier and into the 2nd from the bottom tier of pricing, you will find less competition and a whole lot more house for the money in most cases (just check the price per SF).

Sellers: Ovviously it’s a great time to sell a home in Los Gatos and Monte Sereno, and some segments are a whole lot hotter than others.  With the right pricing, staging, pre-sale prep and marketing, a solid home in this area can sell in under a month and often in under 2 weeks.  Home buyers are clamoring to live in Los Gatos and are often frightened by biting off more than they can chew, especially after the last mega recession, so having a good plan to ease buyers’ fears is truly imperative for selling fast and at top dollar (those two usually go together).

Interested in buying or selling a house in Los Gatos or Monte Sereno? Please give me a call or shoot me an email and we can set up a time to talk and see if we might work well together.  I’m a Los Gatos resident and a Los Gatos Realtor, a valley native and I appreciate the nuances of our area and market.

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

How far does your money go in Los Gatos, whether 95030 or 95032, and how does that compare to our nearby neighbors of Saratoga, Almaden, Cambrian, Campbell, Cupertino or San Jose, generally? Today I am snagging a chart from my Altos Research Reports which give a good sense of what a million dollars (or other amounts) can get for you in these areas. These charts use LIST PRICES, and remember, the sales prices are often different (frequently more!). Let’s have a look.

Los Gatos 95030

This is the more central part of town, the area closest to downtown Los Gatos and most of it is “in the schools”. Here a million dollars is unlikely to get you a house at all, though it could be something small that needs a lot of work if not in the downtown area…maybe….

Los Gatos 95030 profile of homes by price quartile

 

Los Gatos 95032

Conversely, although about 1/3 of this area is in the Los Gatos Union School District, most of it is not, and this area is usually (though not always) further out so less expensive for both reasons. Interestingly, the high end prices aren’t so far apart between 95030 and 95032 from this vantage, but the gap widens a lot at the bottom quartile. In 95032 a million will get you a small house, most likely in east Los Gatos (west is a little more expensive, usually) – and it will probably need work. Something to note is that all of the elementary and middle schools in Los Gatos, no matter which school district, are high scoring, high performing institutions. The scores do change at the high school level pretty noticeably. But the improving schools in the further out areas of LG, especially in east Los Gatos, is causing the pricing gap to shrink somewhat.

Los Gatos 95032 profile of homes by price quartile

So in Los Gatos, $1 million is unlikely to get you a house, though it may if it is small and not too close in to downtown (or if you are buying land value).

Continue reading

How does crime in Los Gatos compare to other parts of California?

February 15, 2013

There are several websites which allow consumers to compare and contrast things like home prices, cost of living, crime statistics, and other factors.  This morning I was looking on the Neighborhood Scout site and was interested in seeing how various parts of California compared to Los Gatos.  The site has several ways of viewing the info, including a color coded map which indicates the crime rate by shades of blue (darkest being the safest).  Here are a few areas in the state, including our town. 
 
Neighborhood Scout – Los Gatos info (once there, you can also see various parts of LG with their different crime ratings too)
 
 
California 1 in 243
Santa Barbara 1 in 274
San Jose 1 in 297
San Luis Obispo 1 in 332
Los Gatos 1 in 712
Saratoga 1 in 1900 (one of the safest 100 cities in the US)

Another good resource is Sperling’s Best Places: http://www.bestplaces.net/

Mary Pope-Handy's Valley of Heart's Delight logo

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

Selling homes in
Silicon Valley, with
special focus on
Los Gatos 

and nearby areas,
including
Monte Sereno,
Saratoga,
Campbell,
and the San Jose areas of
Cambrian and Almaden Valley

Helping Nice Folks to
Buy & Sell Homes
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since 1993

 

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