Why is a Frosty Roof a Good Thing?

December 14, 2008

snowflakeIt was a cold morning here in Belwood of Los Gatos. Our outside thermometer indicated that temps were just over freezing.  Looking down the street when grabbing the newspaper, I saw many roofs with various degrees of frost covering them.

Did you know that in the case of frost on the roof, more is better? On my Valley of Hearts Delight blog today, I present a few photos and explain why you’ll want to check your roof on icy mornings, whether you are buying a home, selling a home, or maintaining one.

To learn more, please read on:
What Can You Learn from a Silicon Valley Roof on a Frosty Morning?


November Los Gatos Real Estate Market Update

November 17, 2008

How’s the Los Gatos Real Estate Market Faring?

There are many ways of viewing the Los Gatos real estate market. One approach includes looking at the homes which are currently for sale, or the “active listings”. Altos Research, to which I subscribe, uses this data in analyzing the state of things for the realty market in various cities, towns, and zip codes. Today we’ll look at these active listings in all Los Gatos zip codes, both single family homes and condominiums, and view the data by price quartile whenever the trends seem quite divergent from one price point to the next.

Los Gatos Real Estate Pricing for Single Family Homes by Zip Code

First, let’s look at Los Gatos houses in the 95030 area. We’ll begin by viewing list prices by quartile.

Real Estate Market Chart by Altos Research www.altosresearch.com

Except for the highest priced homes, it seems that asking prices are close to flat in this part of Los Gatos. It doesn’t appear to be a market crash when these numbers are viewed.

Next, let’s see how prices are looking in 95032 among single family homes in Los Gatos:

Real Estate Market Chart by Altos Research www.altosresearch.com

Again, it’s fairly close to flat pricing now (after clear declines earlier this year) except in the most expensive homes, which really constitute the luxury or estate market, which looks to be having steeper declines. The luxury market in both 95032 and 95030 appears to be hurting the most.

And finally, the same type of data but for the Los Gatos Mountains (zip code 95033 – this is a broad area which is not actually in the Town of Los Gatos but instead is county area).

Real Estate Market Chart by Altos Research www.altosresearch.com

Interestingly, the luxury homes in the mountains seem to be holding their own better than those “in town”. It appears that all price points in the mountains are doing approximately the same in this realm.

Los Gatos Real Estate Pricing for Condos and Townhomes by Zip Code

The Silicon Valley condominium and townhouse market is often a little different than the market for single family homes, and this is true in Los Gatos as well as in much of San Jose. Below, please note the more chaotic path that pricing has taken in the Los Gatos condo market this year:

Real Estate Market Chart by Altos Research www.altosresearch.com

And oddly, much different in 95032: Real Estate Market Chart by Altos Research www.altosresearch.com

Although these two Los Gatos zip codes are quite different from each other, both have been seeing some rises from a low spot earlier this year. The 95030 prices are higher than they were at the beginning of the year in all quartiles. The 95032 prices are higher for the most expensive condos but lower for the bottom two quartiles. I believe that this is because of school districts – the lowest priced condos (except for The Commons, a senior condominium complex) are most all in the Campbell Union High School District rather than in the Los Gatos – Saratoga High School District. (All of 95030 is in the Los Gatos schools area, and perhaps half of 95032 is in the same district and half is in CUHSD instead.)

Inventory of Los Gatos Homes for Sale

Inventory of Los Gatos homes has been rising in most segments of the market. (There are no townhouses or condominiums in the 95033 zip code.)

Real Estate Market Chart by Altos Research www.altosresearch.com

The lowest priced condos in the 95030 part of Los Gatos seem to be getting absorbed decently – inventory has barely risen there at all this year.

Days on Market for Los Gatos Homes for Sale – All Zip Codes

Los Gatos Houses in 95030:

Real Estate Market Chart by Altos Research www.altosresearch.com

Los Gatos Houses in 95032 are seeing declines in the average days on market:

Real Estate Market Chart by Altos Research www.altosresearch.com

And for condos and townhomes in Los Gatos, 95030, it looks bizarre, with lots of volatility and large ups and downs (not unlike the stock market of late):

Real Estate Market Chart by Altos Research www.altosresearch.com

Lastly, Los Gatos days on market for condos in 95032:

Real Estate Market Chart by Altos Research www.altosresearch.com

So what can we say of the general trends in Los Gatos homes for sale? For most Los Gatos homes:

  • inventory is rising
  • days on market are rising
  • the condo market was faring worse earlier this year, but is improving now
  • the single family home market has been sliding this year, but overall, it has not been steep

How does this compare to nearby areas? The “median market action index” combines the key factors to come up with a market pulse (higher is in the sellers favor, and lower is in the buyers favor). If we look at just single family homes in the two Los Gatos areas plus Saratoga (95070) and the Almaden Valley area of San Jose (95120), it looks like “we’re all in the same boat”:

Real Estate Market Chart by Altos Research www.altosresearch.com

The two Los Gatos zip codes are now in the same place. San Jose is doing a little better and Saratoga better still. But the general trends for almost all nearby Silicon Valley real estate markets is a deepening buyers market.

Please call or email me if you’d like to discuss your particular situation.

What Does It Take to Sell Your Silicon Valley or Los Gatos Home in Today's Market?

The Silicon Valley real estate market is very much in the buyer’s favor right now; in Los Gatos, San Jose, Saratoga, Campbell and elsewhere in Santa Clara County, most homes are not sellingat all or only selling after a long time on the market and with several painful price reductions. Prices are falling, year over year, in most of the valley – Monte Sereno appears to be the only possible exception.

In Los Gatos, there are 248 houses and condos currently for sale. In the last month in 95032 and 95030, 21 houses and condos have closed escrow and 23 have gone sale pending in the same timeframe. So the percentage of homes selling is a little under 10%.

The question to ask yourself, if you want to sell your home right now, is “what does it take to sell my Silicon Valley home in today’s market?” You might also ask “how can I get the most money for my home in this market?” What will it take to sell fast and for the best price this market will bear when only ten percent of listed homes are selling in Los Gatos? (It is worse in many other parts of the valley.)

1. Begin By Understanding Market Conditions and Pricing Realities for Your Neighborhood

To maximize your position, it is imperative to begin by understanding today’s Silicon Valley real estate market and the real estate market in your home’s neighborhood. For years we have experienced a seller’s market in which every time a home sold, everyone else’s home rose in value. We could price a little high and the market would catch up sooner or later. But not now.

Now, instead, prices are declining and one of the most important things for Los Gatos home sellers to understand is that they need to get ahead of the curve in pricing and be swift to adjust to changing conditions. (Cyberhomes.com puts the Los Gatos 95030 zip code as having lost 5% since last month and 95032 as having lost 3% since last month.)

glassesTwo kinds of homes seem to be selling now: completely remodeled homes which are priced well, or homes needing updating and remodeling that are priced at rock-bottom numbers, possibly even below current market value. Average homes with average prices are not selling. Homes priced in the bottom 10-20% are selling. These are the “shiny pennies”. They are the homes in which owners understand that “it’s a beauty contest and a price war”.

There are several places online where you can get real estate market trends in Silicon Valley as well as home values calculated online. These are automatically generated and do not involve an agent’s input. Among them are these:

Silicon Valley Real Estate Report – Recent Listing & Sales Activity (view by map, no registration)

Because precise home valuations involve things that online estimators can’t factor in (like school district, the presence of power lines, proximity to positive or negative things), your best bet will be to talk with a knowledgeable and experienced Realtor, who will factor in current market conditions for your exact neighborhood and type of home (historic, view property, etc.).

(To read more on pricing, please read this article on my main website: Pricing Your Silicon Valley Home Competitively and also Benefits of Realistic Pricing.)

2. Clean, Declutter, and Stage Your Silicon Valley Home to Sell

Buyers respond most favorably to homes in which they can see themselves. Too many of your personal effects and it’s hard for them to see themselves living there. Getting your home sold today requires depersonalizing “your home” and making attractive and easy for buyers to see as “their home”.

BougainvilleaMost of us live in a somewhat cluttered way in our homes and yards, and thinning out the extra stuff that won’t help to sell your home can be difficult both physically and emotionally. If you hire a good agent early on, he or she will assist you in knowing what is best to keep out and what’s best to remove for selling.

Also during this stage, you’ll want to get your home and garden into good shape, whether it’s sprinklers that aren’t working or windows that won’t open. Clean and fix!

Sometimes getting through this stage can be overwhelming. Perhaps you’d like a hand? A resource I have used many times is “At Your Service“, a concierge service at no cost to you. Karin Doll-Nichols runs this helpful company and she can hook you up with a handyman, a landscape person, someone to assist you in downsizing, you name it. My experiences with At Your Service have been very positive, and the prices are competitive too.

(For more information on this topic, please read Staging Your Silicon Valley Home, an article on my main website.)

3. Pre-Sale Inspections Are The Norm in the West Valley Communities of Silicon Valley

If you are serious about selling you home in Los Gatos or anywhere in Silicon Valley, it’s important to also do pre-sale inspections. Depending on what type of home you have (condo, townhome, single family home or large estate), you could need anywhere from two inspections to perhaps a half dozen of them. Most sellers will need to have a pest (or termite) inspection and a home (or property) inspection. (For more information on inspections, please see my post on another blogsite of mine, What Kinds of Inspections and Reports Are Needed For Buying and Selling Homes in Silicon Valley? )

Home inspections often uncover surprises and having pre-sale inspections will enable you to repair or replace defective items, or if they are items you do not want to fix, at least give you the knowledge to counter defects out of any offers that come in. My suggestion is to allow a couple of extra weeks, at least, to do any unplanned repairs prior to the home going on the market. Buyers today are picky but they will write stronger offers if they know the condition of the home they want to buy, and stronger offers still if they feel that any issues are already resolved.

The quality of inspectors you hire can impact your transaction greatly, so I strongly advise that you hire your agent first and get recommendations on good inspectors prior to getting an inspector involved. Good Realtors know many inspectors by reputation or through past dealings and can assist you in hiring those who are reputable, honest, and fair.

Finally. . .

It will be helpful to view things with the buyers perspective to understand what makes them choose one home and leave nine others behind. As a seller, view your property as being in competition with the rest of the homes. Ask yourself which home would you choose? Which one is the best value?

There are many important issues to tackle in order to not just sell your home, but to sell it for top dollar in the current market. Today we’ve addressed the initial areas only – this is just the starting point! Perhaps the best thing you can do is get educated about the process and then hire well. There are hundreds of agents in close proximity so there’s no shortage of choice. You can afford to take your time and be picky about selecting an agent who is knowledgeable, experienced, accessible and who will represent you well every step of the way.

Book - Get the Best Deal When Selling Your Home in Silicon Valley, by Mary Pope-Handy and Ken DeshaiesIf you would like to discuss selling your Silicon Valley home, please call or email me for a free, no cost, one hour consultation. My book, “Get the Best Deal When Selling Your Home in Silcon Valley“, is my gift to you when you meet with me. It’s a highly helpful resource that can get you started in selling your home.



Closed Sales of Homes in Los Gatos: Yes, The Numbers Are Down

November 03, 2008

How is the Los Gatos real estate market doing?

For many homesellers in Los Gatos (and Silicon Valley generally), and for their Realtors, the real estate market is extremely challenging right now. Buyers have been wary for many months already, but now they’re concerned about a recession and job losses, not just the possibility of a real estate sales price that won’t hold its value later. It is a deepening buyers market overall, but especially within the market for single family homes.

So what is happening with Los Gatos home sales?

Inventory is rising among single family homes and condos and townhomes. Right now there are 197 single family homes for sale (it was over 200 last week) and 44 condominiums or townhomes. A year ago, it was 113 houses and 23 condos. A month ago it was 184 SFH and 45 condos, and a year ago October it was 104 SFH and 22 condos.

Sales were down in October. We had a surge of sales in September, but then the meltdown on Wall Street happened and buyers put on the brakes. In Oct 2007 there were 12 condos closed, but in Oct 2008 just 9 (and with far more inventory).  In Oct 2007 there were 17 houses closed, but in Oct 2008 just 13 (and again, more inventory).

Buy a home in Los GatosThe real estate market in Los Gatos is mixed, depending on the type of housing (house, townhouse, mulit family dwelling, mobile home or other), the price point (entry level vs luxury), zip code, school district, and more. Of the 13 homes that closed last month, 3 were over $3 million. Surprisingly, 5 were under $1 million. Most often, the vast majority of sales is between $1 million and $2 mil or $2,5 mil, but the middle seems to be shrinking now. It’s a strange phenomena! Low priced homes are being bought because, I believe, buyers can “get into Los Gatos” at great prices. The luxury home market is often independent of financing, so those homes are still selling fairly well (despite the loss of stock value in Google and Apple) for now. The middle price range, which often represents move-up buyers who do need at least some financing, appears to be the most impacted market right now.


Condos vs Houses: Which Are Selling Better in Los Gatos?

The Los Gatos condo market, which was really struggling earlier this year, has been improving since May. The Los Gatos single family home market, though, is the opposite: it has been worsening steadily since May. The condo market is very small compared to the single family home market, though, so the overall picture is a deepening of the buyers market in Los Gatos.

Below, please find a bar graph that makes these trends clear:  

Absorption rate among condos and single family homes in Los Gatos, CA (Silicon Valley real estate)

The Los Gatos real estate market is made up of many micromarkets. For information on your particular home buying or home selling needs in Los Gatos, please contact me today.


Election 2008 – Voting in Los Gatos

November 02, 2008


Where Do Los Gatos Residents Vote?

This Tuesday is the general election and many in the town may be wondering where can you vote? Click on the link and you’ll be able to input your address and see your assigned polling location.

Vote in Los Gatos Tuesday, November 4, 2008This year, some Los Gatos residents were informed that they are voting by mail or dropping off a completed ballot at a nearby polling place.

For those of us in the east Los Gatos neighborhood of Belwood, Alerche Road and Harwood Road near Belwood, the place to drop off ballots is Noddin School, 1755 Gilda Way (at Harwood Road), San Jose 95124.

I wondered why this time around we got a vote-by-mail ballot when normally we just go to the cabana on Belwood Gateway to vote. The California Elections code determines that if there are fewer than 250 registered voters in a precinct, it must be a “mail ballot” area. (It apparently can vary from one election to the next as to how a precinct will be designated in terms of having a polling place or not. ) This seems to be happening all over the state, particularly in areas where jurisdictions are more complicated.

For more information on voting by mail, or dropping off ballots, please see the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters page on the SCCGOV site. There are multiple ways to get your vote turned in.

Please note, all completed ballots must be received no later than 8:00 p.m. on Election Day, November 4, 2008.

What about the Los Gatos Town Council race?

If you find that the election is looming quickly and you remain undecided about your town council vote, here are some resources for you to check out:

League of Women Voters Information on the candidates for Los Gatos Town Council

Los Gatos Town Council Forum (1 hour video in which each candidate responds to questions and areas of concern)

Peggy Dallas www.Peggy4Council.org

Michael Kane www.MichaelKane4LG.com

Steve Ricewww.SteveRice4LG.com

Barbara Spector www.spector-re-elect-her.org

I would encourage everyone to take time in reading each candidate’s site, view what the League of Women Voters presents, watch the forum online and choose after becoming informed. Some of the candidates put an amazing and helpful amount of information into their sites.

As we go into the election, I can see strengths in each one of the candidates. Some of the plusses in each one as I see it:

Peggy Dallas – will bring a fresh voice and architectural background to the council

Michael Kane – focus on protecting hillsides, wants to stick to the town’s general plan

Steve Rice – very highly experienced volunteer in the town, broad vision of town’s needs

Barbara Spector – incumbant, extremely experienced

Thank you, candidates, for caring so much about our town that you’re running for council, and for all the volunteer work that you do for our town. Best of luck to all of you.

Meet the Blossom Manor Neighborhood of Los Gatos

November 01, 2008

View of Lilac Way in Blossom Manor neighborhood of Los GatosBlossom Manor is a highly popular residential area in Los Gatos which is close to shops, parks and the highly acclaimed Los Gatos schools.  There are many gently winding roads, a few very minor hills and some perfectly tree lined streets. It’s a tidy area where homes old and new all tend to be well kept.

Where is the Blossom Manor Neighborhood?

Located in east Los Gatos, Blossom Manor is bordered by Blossom Hill Road, Los Gatos Boulevard, Los Gatos Almaden Road, and Longwood Drive. Below, please find an enhanced map of the area. I added the location of the shopping centers (3 grocery stores between them, many restaurants, coffee places, video rental, Noah’s Bagels, drug store, banks, etc.) and I added the two nearby public schools for this neighborhood of town. (Google can add schools but adds all of them as dots – but no names.) To see the live Google map and be able to zoom in and out and pan the area generally, use this link.)

Map of Blossom Hill Manor neighborhood in Los Gatos, CA

There are many shops, stores, and restaurants along Los Gatos Boulevard, and especially at the intersection of Los Gatos Boulevard and Blossom Hill Road, but also at Los Gatos Blvd. For instance, there are three grocery stores all within a few blocks: Nob Hill, Lunardi’s and Whole Foods are all along the border of The Manor.. Restaurants run from upscale (Viva)  to grab & go (Chinese take out) with everything in between (new Los Gatos Cafe, Jamba Juice, High Tech Burrito, Japanese food, a chocolate shop)..

A Little History of The Manor

Before the Manor was developed, it was a fruit orchard (I believe apricot and prune). The lots were generous, about a quarter acre or so in most cases. It was a county area, not part of the town of Los Gatos but having a Los Gatos mailing address, which is still the case today for some of it.  The homes that were in this county area have 5 digit addresses.

Because the area was somewhat rural and was in the county, it was not on the sewer system. Yards had septic tanks to handle sewage. (When buying in the area, it’s good to find out if there is a buried septic tank still in the yard.)

Newer streets in Blossom Manor are Cherrystone Drive, Cherrystone Court, Lilac Way and a ittle of Cherry Blossom Lane, which are part of the Stonehedge development. These streets look and feel a little different then the rest of the neighborhood and were built being part of the town of Los Gatos, so have sidewalks, curbs, gutters, and uniform looking trees linking the streets. Also they have a private cabana club – a pool for the folks whose homes are part of Stonehedge. Many of these lots are closer to 8000 SF than a quarter acre. These homes have 3 digit addresses (e.g., 123 Street Name Drive).

What Are Homes Like in Blossom Manor?
What Does It Cost to Live in Blossom Hill Manor?

The original homes in the older part of the Manor offered 3 to 4 bedrooms, a living room with brick fireplace, sometimes a small family room or formal dining room area that had the backside of the fireplace used as an indoors barbeque, 2 tiled bathrooms and an attached two car garage.

Today, most homes average around 1800 to 3000 square feet and sell between the low 1 million range to about  $2 million range or $650 per square foot to $750 per square foot on average. Homes do go higher or lower but they are the exception. It is possible to find a home in the neighborhood but which borders a busy road selling for around $1 million to $1.1 million, or a tear-down (or big fixer upper project) in that price range, and it’s also possible to find a completely new, super sharp, very large home with all high end amenities offered at $2.2 mil but those are the extremes.

Also, there are a few duplexes around the edge of Blossom Manor. They can be found on Blossom Hill Road, Camilia Terrace, and Los Gatos – Almaden Road. These are not often on the market, but they make good investment properties for all the same reasons why homes in the Manor are ever desireable.

Have a look at some photos taken the last week in October, 2008:

It’s Often About the Great Los Gatos Schools

The schools are a major reason why this neighborhood has enduring popularity: Blossm Hill Elementary, Fisher Middle School, and Los Gatos High School all serve Blossom Manor students.  Fisher is about a mile away and Blossom Hill is just a few blocks. The schools for the younger kids are close enough to walk or ride a bike so the convenience factor is very high. Combine that with outstanding API scores and a huge amount of parental involvement and the appeal is clear!

Other Things to Know About the Manor

Downtown Los Gatos has lots of charm and fantastic shops. This area of east Los Gatos though, where Los Gatos Blvd meets Blossom Hill Road and also Los Gatos-Almaden Road, is where a lot of the “practical living” stuff takes place in town. This is the area where you’ll find Trader Joes, fast food (mom and pop varieties as well as chains), Affordable Treasures, car part shops, pet supply stores, and the everyday things that families need from grocery stores and banks to Peets and Starbucks.

From Blossom Manor to Vasona Park it’s about a mile. From the Manor to a freeway entrance (85 or 17) it’s about a mile. To downtown Los Gatos, it’s about two miles. Everything is close.

View of Blossom HIll Elementary School in Los Gatos from Cherry Blossom Lane in The Manor - the hill in the background is called El Sombroso.

The issue of county vs town areas has been hotly contested in recent years. Some neighbors who are in the county want to be made part of the town. Others feel the opposite. Feelings are strong because of a number of factors. One is the less restrictive nature of improvements, remodeling and rebuilding homes in the county (the town tends to be pickier). Folks who want to tear down and rebuild would often prefer to work with the county so they have more leeway in what they want to do. On the opposite side, some folks prefer more conformity – and perhaps less of the “monster house” effect that can happen.

Another factor may be policing. The town of Los Gatos and city of Monte Sereno are served by the Los Gatos – Monte Sereno Police Department. But the county pockets in Los Gatos and elsewhere in the county are usually serviced by sheriffs, not police, and their turf may be so large as to make response times slow and coverage difficult.

Voting may be a reason why some want to become part of the town of Los Gatos. Living in the Manor but not being able to vote on local polical representatives may be very frustrating for some.

In terms of natural hazards, there may be a little of the Shannon Fault running through one corner of the Manor, according to the Barclay’s Locaide. The locaide is not always correct and at least a couple of times I’ve sold homes that appeared to be on fault zones when in fact they were not. The JPC company, which provides geologic and natural hazard reports, has geologists on staff and can tell you, when you buy their report for a particular property, if the home is truly on a fault (or has other n
atural hazard issues)or not and c
an explain the ramifications of it.  Do not simply rely on the maps in the locaide. Whether buying or selling in Blossom Manor, this is an important thing to understand.

Find Homes for Sale in the Blossom Hill Manor Neighborhood of Los Gatos

Browse homes for sale in the Blossom Manor area on my popehandy.com website. No registration, easy viewing by map!

If you would like to discuss or plan buying or selling a home in the Blossom Manor neighborhood of Los Gatos, or anywhere in or near Los Gatos, please contact me today!

Mary Pope-Handy
Mary@PopeHandy.com  408 204-7673