Communities

Comparing Real Estate Trends of Local Cities

In order to help visualize the previous posts on the 2010 quarterly updates for Palo Alto, Los Altos, Mountain View and Sunnyvale, the graphs below show each city in comparison of overall home sales, median selling price and average days on market. The graphs cover quarterly results from 2008 to 2010 for single-family homes using data from MLS listings Inc.

homes-sold.jpg

Number of homes sold –

It is hard to see how the cities responded to the crisis within this time frame since most home sales drop off during the winter months and spike in summer. But it is clear that home sales sagged in the first quarter of 2009, were slow to return initially, and then eventually returned to similar or stronger numbers by the end of 2009, which have continued through 2010.

median-selling-price_edit.jpg

Median selling price

All four cities home prices started to slip at the end of 2008, with the exception of Mountain View, which dropped a couple quarters later. Prices rebounded mid-2009, after cities like Sunnyvale had bottomed out in the beginning of 2009, and have begun to stabilize at a depreciated value. Los Altos, which has the most expensive houses of the four cities*, realized a 20 percent drop from the beginning of 2008 to 2010; Mountain View dropped 17 percent, Palo Alto dropped 11 percent, and Sunnyvale dropped 15 percent.

*Los Altos may have a higher median selling price than Palo Alto, but part of that is the wider range of home prices available in each of the 14 Palo Alto neighborhoods, where the lower-end is selling quickly, and a population that is double the size of Los Altos. (Expect a post covering Palo Alto neighborhoods in the future.)

days-on-market1.jpg

Average days on market –

Building up to the crisis, average days on market increased for all four cities until the beginning of 2009. Interestingly, Los Altos and Palo Alto numbers are still increasing today, while Sunnyvale and Mountain numbers are dropping. This may be a result of higher priced homes in Los Altos and Palo Alto that tend to stay on the market longer, especially in a recession, in contrast to the strong demand for the greater supply of low priced entry-level homes in Mountain View and Sunnyvale.

Palo Alto Housing Market – First Quarter 2010 Update

Current Palo Alto real estate market update for 2010. Looks at median sales price, days on market, and the entry-level and high-end market in Palo Alto.

Rivermark Santa Clara Overview and Experience

The Santa Clara community of Rivermark might be considered the jewel of the Santa Clara real estate market.  Where else in Santa Clara's Silicon Valley can you find so many amenities for home buyers? Rivermark offers among other things, a central, self-contained community in Santa Clara of newer single family homes and townhomes intermixed with urban amenities like shopping centers, major restaurants, retailers, service providers, schools, parks, walkways, paths and bike trails.  All within a stone's throw of major Santa Clara commute routes on highways 101 and 880.

You can see many of these amenities in a video we put together for a listing we sold recently on Billings Circle.  Despite a much cooler Rivermark real estate market we sold 4467 Billings Circle in 23 days using a conservative pricing strategy and aggressive marketing campaign.

(video no longer works)

Rivermark of Santa Clara was a master planned community of the City of Santa Clara built on 152 acres of state land that was once the home of the Agnew's hospital complex.  Rivermark is located in Santa Clara between Montague Expressway, Lafayette Street, Hope Drive and the Guadalupe River.

One of the most appealing features to Rivermark is its newness.  Rivermark represents a fresh and timely approach to community development with new homes, shopping centers, public buildings and business parks.  Unlike most homes in Santa Clara country, many of which were built post WWII, construction began along the Guadalupe River in Rivermark in 2002.  Since then major builders like Centex, Shea Homes, Lennar, Greystone and others have built a variety of real estate projects appealing to homebuyers of all ages and in all price ranges from upper end, single family detached luxury homes to basic, first time buyer townhomes and condominiums.

All of these amenities combined with relaxed market conditions make Rivermark a good value for the savvy buyer.  Consider the Rivermark listing I mentioned at 4467 Billings Circle, gem of a home with one of the largest backyards in the development and a great family friendly floor plan.

During the frenzy of the Silicon Valley dot com boom buyers were outbidding each other for an opportunity to live in Rivermark.  Despite stormy real estate market news, well-located, properly priced and marketed Silicon Valley real estate is a good investment.

Although some of the homes in Rivermark are similar in style and size, 4467 Billings Circle was priced at $1,099,000 taking into consideration the additional value of location and lot size in comparison to another home with the same floor plan on a smaller lot and less desirable location which had languished on the market for months priced at $1,010,000.

Today's home buyer is tech savvy and looking online for homes so in addition to the usual open houses, MLS and agent tour, 4467 Billings Circle had a starring role in it's own video debuting on many popular social media sites including YouTube.

Silicon Valley Farmers Markets

Image of Cherries

One great way to spend weekend mornings is to check out the freshest produce, delivered right into your town by the local Northern California farmers.  Not only do you get to pick from the best fruits and vegetables the area has to offer, but you also help your dollars go back into the local community. The Pacific Coast Farmers Market Association publishes a detailed calendar to where you can find the local farmers markets (and what vendors will be there) in your area and the SFGate publishes a more comprehensive list of cities, but no vendor information.

Here's a sampling of the farmers markets in the cities across Silicon Valley and the rest of the Bay Area; many are open year-round and some of them are open during the weekdays too.

List of Many Farmers Markets in Silicon Valley 

You can find their hours of operation and details on how to get there from the Pacific Coast Farmers Market Association Santa Clara list

Since the PCFMA is interested in promoting agriculture, they list the farmers markets that are predominantly about selling produce as opposed to arts and crafts.  Since that's a pretty good indication of whether the market is more about food or being a street fair, you can choose one close by that matches your tastes.

KQED provides more links about Bay Area markets and some background about organic products and sustainable agriculture.

And If You're Around Mountain View...

There is also the Milk Pail Market which provides fresh produce at prices that are considerably less than the Safeway across the street or the Albertsons nearby.  They're open daily and I do a lot of my personal produce shopping there because I prefer to shop in the evenings.  (And nobody paid me to say that!  Or anything else on this site for that matter...)

While Milk Pail compliments this selection with a wide range of cheeses and also have some gourmet pre-cut meats you can choose from, the Dittmer's Gourmet Meats and Wurst-Haus on San Antonio just a block away is truly the place to go for that.  Their list of smoked meats includes an award-winning smoked chicken and a bacon that makes you question what you thought bacon was.  And after you go, everyone will know you were there because your clothes will come out slightly --- but authentically --- smoked!

Walking Tour of Santana Row

Image of Villa Cornet and Lamborghini

Who says startup companies are the only reason Silicon Valley is glamorous?  Who says you need to head up to San Francisco for the urban scene?

Santana Row is a uniquely Northern Californian fusion of design, culture and accessibility, recreating the atmosphere of Paris' Champs Elysees using a distinctly Silicon Valley neo-Mediterranean architecture.

A bustling farmers market lines the streets on Sunday mornings in quaint contrast to the exotic car meets on Saturdays.

But for all the testosterone from the horsepower and club life of the weekends, Santana Row is an amazingly eccelctic place where strollers share the spotlight with Ferraris and people of all walks of life can enjoy the live music.

This walking tour starts from the garage on Olin Avenue, which is most easily accessible from Winchester Blvd.

1.  Park Valencia

2.  Borders and the Hotel Valencia

3.  Straits Cafe at the DeForest Building

4.  Cocola

5.  The Vintage Wine Bar

6.  Chess Courtyard

7.  CineArts

8.  The Vintage Wine Merchants

First stop: Park Valencia, across from the Olin Avenue parking garage

1.  Park Valencia

Live performances and ample seating make the Park Valencia a popular venue for enjoying a latte from the nearby Starbucks or just lounging around with friends on a sunny day.  The hot dog stand adds an ironic, but not self-conscious, sense of authenticity to the metropolitan environment.  And an interesting side note is the secret behind the perennially green grass.

Image of Park Valencia
Image of Park Valencia

Next stop: Walk up Olin Avenue past the Urban Outfitters 

2.  Borders and the Hotel Valencia 

The most evocative image on Santana Row is the tower which presides over the Borders, located in the Villa Cornet building.  The Borders isn't meant as a luxury store like many of the others here, but it's still Santana Row's flagship.  Across from it is the upscale Hotel Valencia whose Vbar is the trendsetter for the rest of the strip.

Image of Borders
Image of Borders

Next stop: Follow sidewalk past Hotel Valencia 

3.  Straits Cafe at the DeForest Building

Unlike its brethren elsewhere in the Bay Area, the Straits Cafe on Santana Row makes an amazing transformation from its roots as a popular Asian fusion restaurant into the epicenter of the weekend nightlife, with karaoke on Wednesdays to live DJs on Fridays and Saturdays, and live jazz and cover bands in between.

Image of DeForest Building
Image of DeForest Building

Next stop: Next door

4.  Cocola

The Cocola Bakery is a popular lunch spot because of its sandwiches served on fresh baguettes.  It has ample outdoor seating in the shade of the corridor under the DeForest Building, across from Straits Cafe.

While the food is a bit pricey for what you get, the convenience, atmosphere and proximity to the Valley Fair side of Santana Row make it a good place to take a load off your feet for a little while.

Image of Cocola
Image of Cocola

Next stop: Cross street and walk past Borders

5.  The Vintage Wine Bar

With its distinctive architecture and outdoor patio, the Vintage Wine Bar could get away on its looks alone.  But this haunt was named The Wave Magazine's "Best Wine Bar" in San Jose because of its abundant selection and precisely chosen pairings.

Image of Vintage Wine Bar
Image of Vintage Wine Bar

Next stop: Walk south down the courtyard

6.  Chess Courtyard

Challenge a friend to a public match in the chess courtyard.  Players of all skill levels are welcome to have a go and can be found there at all hours of the day.  There are also more traditional stone chess tables which you can use for more private matches.

Image of Santana Row Chess
Image of Santana Row Chess

Next stop: Head south to Olsen Drive

7.  CineArts

While you won't find mainstream films at the CineArts here at Santana Row, the latest indie films featured here might just bring out the cinephile in you.  The seating is almost luxurious with clean reclining seats, ample cup holders... and movable arm rests in case you're with that special someone.

Many Saturday mornings, exotic car owners and fellow car enthusiasts flaunt their wheels in the parking lot next to the theater.

Image of CineArts
Image of CineArts

Next stop: Across the street

8.  The Vintage Wine Merchants

As a bonus, after you've had a glass of cabernet at the Vintage Wine Bar and caught the latest foreign flick at the CineArts across the street, you can pick up a bottle of your favorite varietal at the Vintange Wine Merchants.

Image of Vintage Wine Merchants
Image of Vintage Wine Merchants

Villagio Cupertino - Civic Park Lane

Centrally located in Cupertino on Civic Park Lane, the Silverstone Communities Villagio is less than one mile from Symantec world headquarters and less than two miles from Apple's world headquarters and Hewlett-Packard's massive Cupertino complex.

Image of Villagio Cupertino
Image of Villagio Cupertino

The eight-building complex targets high-tech workers with standard connectivity pre-wired.  Cable TV outlets and four telephone lines are wired into every room.  Each unit also comes standard with gigabit-capable CAT-5e ethernet vs. the slower CAT-5.  It's a nod to us techies out there that they knew the difference.

Available configurations include the 1,433 square foot Magnolia town home with 2 bedrooms, 2.5 baths, and a private two-car garage with additional storage, located in the complex sub-level.  The Lotus condominium hosts 3 bedrooms and two bathrooms in its 1,350 square feet.

Several new stores are planned for the commercial spaces that line the sidewalk-level retail units along the central entrance as well as the retail building across the way from the local courtyard, which looks onto Civic Park.

Image of Villagio Park
Image of Villagio Park

Its schools include C.B. Eaton Elementary, Sam H. Lawson Middle School, and Cupertino High School (a California Distinguished School in 1990 and 1994), all of which currently rank in the top 10% of California schools, rated by API score, for their grade level.

The Villagio is about one mile from Cupertino Square and less than five miles from Santana Row and Valley Fair.

Bedford Square Mountain View: Who Needs to Commute?

Image of Bedford Square VTA Stop
Image of Bedford Square VTA Stop

While folks are moving into the Bedford Square master-planned community in July, they've already sold out the first of their six phases.  Its location in Mountain View right along the border of neighboring Sunnyvale is close to many major employers in the Silicon Valley.

Even in the rain that day, it was a noticeably short walk to Verisign headquarters, Symantec (formerly Veritas headquarters), Vernier Networks, and KPMG.  Though driving there from Bedford Square would make even the least green people in California feel guilty, Bedford Square is tucked away so that it doesn't feel like an extension of the office.

The local VTA station and local bus stop pictured above are close as well, right outside the KPMG office, but far enough away where there is no noise impact.  And the Silicon Valley Public Transportation Wizard helps Pultemake using it practical.

These  Homes feature four townhome plans ranging from 1,201 to 1,718 square feet with pricing from $659,000 to $768,000 new.  All units include a two-car garage, a GE washer/dryer, air conditioning, dual pane windows, and what Pulte calls Signature Standard Kitchens and Bathrooms.

The Signature Standards kitchen includes stainless steel GE appliances with a gas cooktop, side-by-side refrigerator, dishwasher, and built-in oven microhood.  The countertops in the kitchen are granite slab and they are augmented by maple cabinetry and a Kohler dual-basin stainless steel sink.

The Signature Standards bathrooms (every townhome includes 2.5 baths except for the largest floorplan which has 3.5) include Corian countertops and accents with Moen chrome plumbing faucets.  The powder (half) bathrooms include Kohler pedestal sinks.

Image of Construction Bedford Square
Image of Construction Bedford Square

Much of the community is still under construction but it will include a pool, spa, and clubhouse.  The neighborhood itself does face 85 but there is a tall set of trees has been planted along the highway to keep road noise from being a factor.  The effect is similar to the concrete noise barriers erected all over Silicon Valley but the natural landscaping keeps the neighborhood looking relatively natural.

It's of note that Bedford Square is "only accepting families who plan on owning and living in the home for at least one year."  In other words, they are not planning to sell to investors.