Newcomers to Los Gatos often wonder why there are some houses for sale at low, low prices in the Los Gatos hills. Given how expensive most of the town is, why are some so affordable (or evencheapby local standards)?
The mountain areas of Los Gatos:
Los Gatos is nestled into the base of the Santa Cruz Mountains. “In town” refers to incorporated areas with the 95030 and 95032 zip codes. “In the mountains” means unincorporated, usually accessed only by highway 17 as the main road, and using the 95033 zip code. These mountain areas are more affordable (there are several communities within the mountains, including Redwood Estates – often distinguishing Upper and Lower, Chemeketa Park, Holy City, Aldercroft Heights on the Santa Clara County side of the summit).
The foothills of Los Gatos:
Additonally, though, Los Gatos has quite a few foothills and homes in those areas often do not have the telltale 95033 zip code; depending on how far into the hills these houses are, they can also be less expensive. (Please read more about Los Gatos zip codes here.) Homes “close in” but on foothills will not be less expensive, though – often they are more!
What can make both the mountain community homes and the foothill location homes more reasonably priced is often a combination of the following elements, which are usually viewed as negatives by most consumers:
Surrey Farm is located just off of Kennedy Road on a few streets behind a horse fence and gate: Longmeadow Drive, Blueberry Hill Drive, Clover Way, Olde Drive and Twin Oaks Drive. A number of real estate sites incorrectly include nearby streets, reaching as far as Short Road and including part of Marchmont and the Stoneybrook neighborhood. This is not correct.
Is it Surrey Farm or Surrey Farms?
Locally, people refer to this gated looking community as Surrey Farms. But a look at the county records reveals that local custom has morphed the name. The subdivision was originally dubbed in the singular: Surrey Farm, not Surrey Farms. It seems to have been one ranch or farm to start with – so the singular makes more sense. Either way – same neighborhood.
When were the homes built, how big are they, and how large are the lots in Surrey Farm?
Originally a horse ranch, Surrey Farm was built out with homes between about 1955 and 1960, and most began as ranch style homes between about 2000 and 3000 square feet, on lots of about 1/4 to 1/3 of an acre in most cases, though there are some homes larger than 4000 SF situated on parcels of more than oen acre now. And over the years, many houses have been remodeled, expanded, or fully rebuilt.
What makes the Surrey Farm or Surrey Farms neighborhood so special?
Part of what is unique about Surrey Farm is the more rural feeling that the neighborhood has. Here you don’t find sidewalks or street lamps. But you do find that a number of the yards continue to use the horse fence as at least part of the landscaping. That’s very refreshing in Silicon Valley, where so many of the residential areas just feel like suburban sprawl. You can look around and imagine it being horse country not so long ago.
Also special is the fact that this area is actually close to downtown Los Gatos but only feels farther away. It’s incredibly quiet in most of the neighborhood. One area does back up to Hillbrook School, so of course the sounds of kids at play or school bells ringing will not reinforce the “out in the country” feel. Overall, though, you look around and see open space and the hills nearby – so you do not feel like this is any kind of urban setting.
What are some of the things to know if interested in Surrey Farm (or the Kennedy-Marchmont area of Los Gatos)?
In this area, you are close to a lot of open space and forested land, and that means wildlife is nearby: possums, skunks, racoons, deer, bobcats, and mountain lions all make their home not too far away. And with the forested land there’s also the danger of wildfire, so it’s important to have a plan and be ready — though quite honestly I have never heard of a fire in this “Kennedy Road area.” A bigger issue than fire is water…..
Water issues in and near Los Gatos
Throughout Los Gatos, Almaden, Monte Sereno and Saratoga, anytime you’re near or in a hilly area, water is an issue. Surrey Farm and the Kennedy Road and Marchmont area is no exception. This area is adjacent to larger hills but is a gently sloped area itself. Water flows down off of the hills, but at times it also flows under the hills, following some sort of impervious rock level, and when the ground flattens out, the water may pop up. Sometimes it’s a spring situation. Other times it’s a “high water table” that may come up during heavy rains, such as we have in an El Niño year. In some cases, the water can emerge under a house (like having it come off of downspouts isn’t a big enough challenge).
In winter, it is not at all unusual to find a wet or muddy crawl space if your home is on or near a hill. Less common, but perhaps more worrisome, is finding it in the middle of summer in a drought year.
Water issues can be mitigated with drainage work, so don’t let a little mud put you off – you just need to know about it going into home buying so that you are prepared and budget it in. It is important to not be surprised, and when house hunting, to be on the lookout for drainage work (and appreciate it when you see it) or the need for it if you see a slope.
Original article on the “old” Live in Los Gatos blog can be found here: