The Twin Creeks neighborhood in Monte Sereno (and a small number in Saratoga) enjoys an ideal setting away from busy commercial roads, with gently curving streets graced by creeks, an abundance of trees, and the coastal foothills as its backdrop. It’s a more rural community in that you won’t find sidewalks, curbs, gutters, or many street lamps – if any. Property in this area is impeccably presented, with nicely maintained or updated homes and often gorgeous landscaping. Both homes and land tend to be large, though not in every case.
The neighborhood does not come across as pretentious at all, although of course it is a very costly place in which to buy a home. I think it comes across as more low key because the homes seem proportionate to the land, and many are ranch style rather than something trendy. These lovely houses are in sync with the space around them, so you don’t end up with the McMansion effect. The houses are nice but do not crowd the land.
As with most of Monte Sereno, this charming neighborhood is served by the Los Gatos Union School District (or the Saratoga Union School District for the handful in Saratoga) and the Los Gatos-Saratoga Joint Union High School District.
The City of Monte Sereno is quite small, with just about 4,000 residents, so the number of houses sold in any given month will always be extremely small.
For that reason, the data may appear to jump around wildly compared to Los Gatos or Saratoga, which each have about 30,000 people living there. Please take these statistics with a tablespoon of salt, and be sure to view the Los Gatos housing market data to get a more accurate picture of what’s happening with Monte Sereno homes (just add a little to the price tag as homes there tend to sell for a bit more than LG properties).
Also, there are only single family, detached houses in Monte Sereno: no apartments, multi unit housing (2 – 4 plex), no duet homes (attached single family homes). That will be changing soon, however, as the old La Hacienda property (formerly an estate, then a hotel and restaurant) at Hwy 9 and Austin Way will likely become incorporated into Monte Sereno and condos or townhomes built there.
Also, this month’s data will show some of the effects of the pandemic on the real estate market, but not all of it, and plenty has changed since March. To learn more about how Covid-19 is affecting the local real estate market, please check Coronavirus Impact on Real Estate Sales on my other blog.
During the shutdown so far, the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) stopped the timer on all Days on Market (DOM) for a time. Therefore these numbers will be off beginning from March 17th through around May 17th. In the data below, this will affect any numbers related to the days on market, the absorption rate, and the days of inventory from those months, but current numbers should be accurate.
First up for the market analysis is the Altos Research weekly profile for Monte Sereno (uses list prices, not sales – so the median sale price here is much higher than the median sale price on the solds):
This chart shows a strong seller’s market with declining market action. Prices have been holding steady, inventory is extremely low and shrinking, and days on market are up a hair.
In 1940 construction began to widen, straighten, and modernize Highway 9. This was eagerly welcomed by locals who hoped to ease beach traffic and to eliminate the infamous ‘Death Curve’ at Austin Corners. The project was a success and the once bustling, popular, and even notorious, Austin Corners has since become a nearly forgotten by way.
The Austin Corners Namesake
The name Austin comes from Captain Daniel “Dan” Buckley Austin, who purchased 60 acres of land 1.25 mi from Los Gatos around 1882. By 1888 he sold all but the 2.25 acres of his parcel surrounding his home, though the area would keep his name for centuries to come.
Mr. Austin was one of the original stockholders and directors of the Los Gatos and Saratoga Wine and Fruit Company, and his property became the location for the Plant from 1885-1919. The Wine and Fruit Plant was a community effort, “built by local growers… to facilitate the processing of grapes” (LG History Research Collection) and its managers were respected members of the community, such as orchard owner Alfred Malpas and Antone Anderson. Mr. Austin did not live to see the Plant’s destruction due to prohibition in 1919.
Mr. Austin was heavily influential in the creation of a school house and a school district in this part of the county. The original Austin School District’s single room schoolhouse was built on his property in 1884, and was used until a new schoolhouse was built on the same location in 1913 at what is today 19010 Austin Way. This school district was incorporated into the Saratoga School District in the 1920s, and when the highway was straightened the old schoolhouse was raised and replaced with an Arts and Crafts style building that would be used as a nursery school for years (Saratoga History Newsletter March 2009).
A charming Los Gatos neighborhood with diverse architecture in the central part of town, if not quite downtown, is the San Benito Avenue area. This neighborhood sits on a gentle hill, a bit of a ridge, and many of the homes in this section of town enjoy lovely views due to the mild elevation. Here, a small road named Creffield Heightsstarts at San Benito Avenue and slides back into the hill, where the far point of the road stretches into Monte Sereno before looping back into Los Gatos.
The pluses for this neighborhood are huge: proximity to downtown Los Gatos, proximity to Oak Meadow Park and Vasona Lake County Park, the scenic vistas of the hills, the diverse architecture, the well-maintained homes, the highly regarded Los Gatos schools, and much more.
The negatives are few and far between. In some areas, especially some of the streets running between San Benito and North Santa Cruz Avenue, roads are narrow and overcrowded with cars. In some areas, residents may only park on one side of the street. Another issue is the hill itself. Often with hillside properties and neighborhoods, water running off the hill, or under it until it finds level ground, can cause home owners tremendous headaches. See “What To Consider When Buying a Hillside Home in Silicon Valley”
I’ve been curious about the inviting little pocket of homes for over 20 years – who could resist the signs on stucco which announce the street and neighborhood name with so much dignity? When I checked the county records, I found just 10 residences on this street (and some are flag lots), so it’s a very small community. Two of the parcels are in the city of Monte Sereno. The home styles and ages are also all over the place, giving each home a unique charm and personality. It’s kind of a funny pocket! Even so, that area has a little more altitude, so some of the views are delightful.
San Benito Ave Area
This area is much larger and includes the Creffield Heights block. Within this neighborhood are 10 units in condo ownership (built 1981), 6 listed as duplexes (built from 1900 – 1998), and 12 Multi Family Units (built 1918 – 1998). Most of the area is occupied by over 200 single family homes built between 1900 and 2019. The average age for these homes is 62 years and the median age is 69 years old. As you might expect, homes here can vary a great deal, for instance they come in a range of 1 – 7 bedrooms, so buyers looking in this area should expect to be flexible and patient. In the past year (as of writing, March 2020) only 4 homes sold in this area and none are currently listed.
Terrain for the San Benito Avenue area
Below please find a terrain map with the very approximate neighborhood boundaries marked. The outlined and blue-filled area of the map is the greater San Benito Avenue area. The bright green marker is for the appx center of Creffield Heights, and the pale green one is where the impressive “Creffield Heights” sign and entrance may be seen (photos below in slideshow).
Photographs of the Creffield Heights and San Benito Avenue neighborhood
Please enjoy some photos I took recently, mostly on San Benito Avenue in Los Gatos
Real estate prices & homes for sale in the San Benito area
This area has so much diversity that it would be very difficult to give an estimate of what it would take to buy a home in this area. Houses vary in age, size, grandeur, condition, view, and lot size. Many smaller homes on smaller lots will sell for between $1.4 and $2 million. Large homes on large lots, perhaps will views, will sell for considerably more. Over the last year (as of March 2020) only 4 homes sold in this area. They ranged from a tiny home (under 1,000 sqft) on a good sized lot (over 6,500 sqft) for only $1,215,000 to an average sized home on a large lot (almost 7,500 sqft) at $2,210,000. This is a “low turnover” area, but homes that come to market generally sell quickly.
Below please find homes for sale by map for this area, and a list of available homes through the link.
The Loma Serena neighborhood in Monte Sereno is semi-rural, and it enjoys the distinct advantage of being an equestrian community. This community offers horse trails and a stable which can be rented by home owners in the community. This is a wonderful plus, as many equestrian areas feature homes that are perhaps a little more rural, on larger lots, and which feel less like a neighborhood. Loma Serena enjoys both the neighborhood feel and the community trail and stables. It’s the best of both worlds.
Where is the Loma Serena neighborhood?
The Loma Serena subdivision is located partially along and just off of Daves Avenue in Monte Sereno as well as on and near Vineland. It is adjacent to the Twin Creeks neighborhood to the west and is just south of the English Oaks neighborhood (in Los Gatos). Loma Serena is within the Los Gatos Union School District (most of Monte Sereno is, but part is within the boundaries of the Campbell School District).
Loma Serena neighborhood streets include:
Via Palomino (off Vineland)
Plus one home on Alma Jo Ct, and one home on Twin Creeks
What are the homes like in the Loma Serena area of Monte Sereno?
There are 89 parcels (one vacant parcel, the other 88 with a house built), and 85 of them are part of tract number 3393, for those of you interested in doing some research yourself.
Most houses were built between 1964 and 1975 (the marjority in the 60s) as ranch style homes. The living space ranged in square footage from 2100 or 2300 up to about 3200 SF. Many have since been either rebuilt or enlarged and remodeled extensively and may not look like ranch or ramblers today, but driving through the area, it’s predominantly still single story, larger, unpretentious ranch style houses. Today, a few properties have more than 5,000 SF and the average home size is 3286 square feet. Most have 4 or 5 bedrooms, but some have as few as 3 bedrooms, and a handful have 6 bedrooms.
In addition to a more typical ranch style house, in this area you will also find some striking modern and contemporary 2 story homes.
Lot sizes average about a half acre – most homes sit on parcels of 20,000 to 25,000 SF, but a few are bigger. The average, by my calculation, is 25,550 SF.
Loma Serena neighborhood real estate info
What does it cost to buy a home in this scenic community? Like most of Monte Sereno, real estate prices are high here. For most properties, values will run between $3 and $4 million, but larger estate like homes which are rebuilt or extensively remodeled and expanded could fetch more than $4 million. A small, “all original” home needing a lot of work might possibly go for less than $3 million, depending on many factors.
Below, I tried to map the neighborhood on the program which allows to to display listed, pending, and sold properties here. My map may not be 100% correct, but the homes showing will give you a general idea of the real estate pricing in Loma Serena.
When Los Gatos, Monte Sereno or other Santa Clara County residents buy or sell homes here, one of the reports provided by the sellers is the Natural Hazard Report. In it, there’s a statement as to whether or not the subject property is in an area of potential flooding if a dam were to give way.
In Los Gatos, most of the zones marked as potential flooding from dam failure are along the path of the Los Gatos Creek. Lexington is a good sized reservoir, so most of the risk comes from there. Vasona Lake is far smaller, but there are a number of houses just below the dam (which, by the way, sits atop the apparently dormant county mapped Shannon Fault).
Most of us are somewhat “downhill” of a reservoir or two, but not everyone is in an area that would be flooded should the dam burst.
The town of Los Gatos has a flood evacuation map and identifies a number of different zones. This map does not show ALL of the town, but presumably all of the areas at risk from flood from dam failure. To view it, click on on this link: Town of Los Gatos Flood Zones
The August real estate market in Los Gatos is usually a bit slow. Inventory, even in a normal year, tends to shrink in August, and with it, a lot of sales activity. Many home buyers and home sellers take the month off, sneak in one last vacation, get kids ready to school, or perhaps deliver older ones to college. Real estate often takes a back seat for a few weeks in August (and sometimes early September, too).
August and the Los Gatos Housing Market: it’s all about inventory levels
This year is worse than most in terms of buyers having any selection with record low levels of inventory throughout Silicon Valley. Have a look at the chart from January 2011 to today for Los Gatos single family homes – zip codes 95030 & 95032 (pulled from MLSListings this afternoon):
Buying and selling homes in Los Gatos and Monte Sereno right now
For home sellers, this August has been a great month to market your home and to get it sold, despite vacations and student issues, because demand is so high for the minuscule amount of housing for sale. For home buyers, it feels like a crazy real estate game of inventory limbo: how low can it go? How many offers can get thrown at a single listing?
One way of looking at it is to consider the ratio of available houses for sale vs those under contract. Right now in Los Gatos 95030 and 95032, there are 55 single family homes on the market, and there are 50 in some stage of “sale pending” (with or without contingencies). That’s pretty close to 100%. (Monte Sereno is such a small market area that the numbers are too wonky to be useful – we need a larger sample for reliability.)
The number sold and closed in the last 30 days is 31. The months of inventory is the actives divided by the closed in the last 30 days, so 55 / 31 = 1.77 months of inventory for ALL houses, all schools, all price points, all conditions, all locations – good and bad alike. That is a red hot sellers’ market! (Every month or two I update this article here on Live in Los Gatos: “Los Gatos real estate market trends by price point and high school district” – please check back for an update on those numbers soon.)
What has been true for most of 2017 still holds true in August: the nicely updated and remodeled homes in the lower prices to move-up prices in Los Gatos continue to sell well (quickly, often with multiple offers) if they are priced right. Specifically, these are homes under $3 million with no special challenges (location issues, lot issues, strangely configured layout, too many stairs, too much deferred maintenance, a combination of a large pool and small back yard, and so on).
What does it take to be a successful home buyer in Los Gatos or Monte Sereno right now? How to maximize buying or selling in the current market conditions
Buyers: For the lower priced homes, you will need to be quick as they usually won’t last more than 8 to 10 days before the offer date and multiple offers pour in. If you can get out to see the property soon after it hits the market, you’ll have enough time to study the disclosures and get guidance from your buyer’s agent on those and the comps. If you wait to see something on a Sunday afternoon and offers are due Tuesday, you will have a very unpleasant couple of days as you rush to be ready and prepared. With the more expensive properties, they may take longer to sell, but at any given moment things could change and suddenly there are 2 offers rather than just your one.
Sellers: Being super well prepared so that you hit the ground running is absolutely key to selling your home quickly and for top dollar. That means doing the presale inspections, ordering HOA docs (if applicable), and having your disclosures completed before a buyer ever sees the home. It also means taking your Realtor’s guidance to heart in regard to staging / decluttering and easy access for buyers. If it’s too hard to see, or it does not show well, you may not sell it for as much. Price carefully! The number 1 problem with homes that do not sell is price. Aim too high and you won’t get the traffic or the offers. If you aim a little low, you may draw multiple offers and push the price higher than you could have imagined.
The market can be a little funny sometimes. I’ll attend an office meeting and hear discussions about multiple offers and once in awhile there’s a particular property that seems to have trouble. When that happens, it’s very important to try to get feedback from the buyer’s agents. While often the problem is a too-high price, sometimes it’s something easier to adjust to effect a sale. Communication between Realtors can be invaluable so that you don’t reduce the price when perhaps a less expensive fix will do.
September is just around the corner, and it promises to be a busy one as a slight influx of inventory should bring a strong flurry of activity.
If you are thinking of buying or selling a home, please contact me for a confidential consultation on what it takes to get the best deal possible in the current market.