Thursday, May 31, 2012

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Mountain View Ada Ave Townhouses have been rising since their bottom in 2010

Mountain View Ada Ave Townhouses have been rising since their bottom in 2010.  Here are charts that illustrate this.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Santa Clara Neighborhood: SE of Lawrence & Benton - Who's walking around the block at dusk?

Homebuyers often ask REALTORs, "What do you think of the neighborhood?"  I often tell them, "I think it's a neighborhood, but it matter more how YOU feel."  As an agent, I'm not supposed to give any opinion regarding the demographics, so the best I can do is state FACTS. 

At dusk on a Monday night, I walked around the Santa Clara neighborhood that is South East of Lawrence & Benton, South of Earl Carmichael Park, North of Stratford.School, Monticello Academy, and Curtis Practice Field.  Who are the people walking around the block at dusk?

7:25pm An older couple taking a brisk evening stroll
7:30pm A mom pushing her new baby in a stroller as her older toddler followed close behind.
7:35pm An engineer from Apple

What kind of neighborhood you like is a personal decision.  Your best bet is to do as I do ... walk around the neighborhood and see for yourself what type of people are walking around at that time of day.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Santa Clara Homestead Little League

Santa Clara Homestead Little League is in full swing right now.


Games and practices are usually on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.

Twice a season, the kids in Farm League get to play on the Major Field. The kids enjoy playing on the Major Field because it has the atmosphere of a real playing field with announcers, bleachers, a home run fence, lines, etc.

The Home team's job is to set up the bases and rake before the game.
If you need to dry up some puddles, then throw QuickDry on them.

The Visiting team's job is to remove the bases, return the bases to the storage shack in Minor Field, then and rake after game.

The League provides each child a cap and a T-shirt with the team name + socks

Parents need to provide shoes (cleats for baseball or soccer are both ok), baseball pants (no shorts), belt, athletic supporter. Optional: Buy your own helmet. (Kids can also borrow a helmet every time they are at bat.). Parent can buy all this equipment at Sports Basement, Sports Authority, All Out Baseball (expensive), and/or Big5.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Eaton Elementary, Lawson Middle, Cupertino High Actives, Pendings, Solds

Eaton Elementary, Lawson Middle, Cupertino High listings have been in low supply, so the listings that have been put on the market have all sold quickly.

The exact numbers are:
Actives (3 listings with average days on market = 23)
Pendings (6 listings with average days on market = 11)
Solds in past 90 days (7 listings with average days on market = 10)

The pendings and solds in the past 90 days show that a normal listing in the Eaton Elementary, Lawson Middle, Cupertino High neighborhoods sells after just 10 or 11 days on the market.

The actives are 3 listings that each have some property that makes them harder to sell.

  • 6397 Myrtlewood Drive
  • 20237 Bollinger Road is on a busy street.
  • 10201 Nile Drive is a top floor condo unit.
The 6 pending listings are equally spread out in the Eaton / Lawson / Cupertino High region.  Roughly speaking, the Eaton / Lawson / Cupertino High region is approximately defined by the quadrant bounded by S De Anza Blvd on the west, Stevens Creek Blvd in the north, Miller Ave at the east.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Data that shows Zillow home values lag the real market

Zillow home values lag the real market.

When prices are dropping, Zillow Zestimates don't drop soon enough.
When prices are rising Zillow Zestimate don't rise soon enough.

Right now prices are rising in the good school districts of Silicon Valley, so Zillow Zestimates are too low.  A Zestimate is just a prediction of the market value.  However, the true market value is what a willing buyer willingly paid to a willing seller for the house. 

For 10791 Brookwell Drive, Zillow shows a Zestimate of $875,000.  However, on the open market, this house sold for $938,000.  The actual sales price, and thus market value, was 7% above Zillow.  Zillow is behind.  Zillow underestimates the actual market value by 7% in this Castlewood neighborhood right now.

Assuming Zillow's formula is offset approximately the same percentage in the same neighborhood, a reasonable guess is that 6397 Myrtlewood Drive is worth approximately 7% above the Zillow Zestimate price.  Since the Zestimate for 6397 Myrtlewood Drive is $912,200, if it's true market value is 7% higher, then 6397 Myrtlewood Drive is worth $977,878.  The listing price of $970,000 is just 6% above the Zillow Zestimate, so is reasonable based on comparison to 10791 Brookwell Drive, which sold 7% above Zillow.

The spreadsheet showing both is in this Excel Workbook.




Case Study Cupertino Castlewood Neighborhood up 20% over mid 2005 prices

Many people say that during a real estate downturn, houses in good school districts keep their values better.  Rather than simply trust this logic, I performed a Case Study.

People say that sometimes statistics are manipulated by cherry-picking statistics that show their intended viewpoint.  For instance, data might show housing prices in Sunnyvale increasing by 35%, but maybe that upward shift in prices is simply because more homes are being sold in the more expensive southern part of Sunnyvale rather than the less expensive northern part of Sunnyvale.

To avoid the scenario above, I had to concentrate on one specific neighborhood.  I chose the Cupertino Castlewood Neighborhood.  This is the quiet neighborhood northwest of the intersection of Miller and Bollinger.  The schools in this neighborhood are Eaton Elementary, Lawson Middle, and Cupertino High.

However, even if I restrict to the same neighborhood, the increase in prices might still be due to the change in mix of which particular houses sold.  To eliminate even this argument, I looked at two specific houses in the Castlewood neighborhood -- 10791 Brookwell Drive and 6397 Myrtlewood Drive.

Looking at their historical sales price trend, I extracted the data and entered them into an Excel spreadsheet.  You can see that 10791 Brookwell Drive sold for $806,000 on 12/1/2005 and actually rose 16% during this downturn to actually RISE in price to $938,000 on 4/12/2012.  These are not Zillow predictive prices.  These are ACTUAL sales prices.  A buyer was actually able and willing to pay $938,000 last month for a house that they knew sold for just $806,000 on 12/1/2005, back in one of the peak years.  Based on 10791 Brookwell Drives prices, the asking price of 6397 Myrtlewood Drive of $970,000 is a very close estimate of what 6397 Myrtlewood Drive SHOULD sell for.  The $970,000 asking price is a reasonable 21% over the same property's late 2005 price.

To show this continued rise in home values in Cupertino, I plotted the actual sales data in a 10791 Brookwell Drive Chart and a 6397 Myrtlewood Drive Chart.  Even during this downturn in real estate, Cupertino Castlewood Neighborhood values are up 20% over mid 2005 prices.  

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Prepare your kids for the STAR test to boost your school's API

If you want to boost your home value, boost your school's API.  To boost your school's API, you should start preparing your kids for the California STAR tests.  Actually, the 2011-2012 school year testing has already been completed in Cupertino Union School District, so it may already be too late for this academic year.  You can always prepare your kids for next year.

What kind of questions are in the STAR test?  The questions in the STAR test are actually very good questions to test kids' intuition and underlying understanding of the subject matter.  A student with a deeper understanding of the underlying concept will score better than a student who relies on rote memory.  For example, for 2nd graders, a sample question is:

3 + 2 + 4 = 3 + 4 + [  ]

A student who relies on rote memory and doesn't understand the underlying concept might spend the time to add up the numbers on the left hand side then subtract the numbers on the right hand side.  However, a student who understand the concept better will see right away that the numbers are the same, except for the order, and will quickly know the correct answer.

The reading comprehension section might ask the child to read two separate stories and ask questions that test whether the child really understands the similarities and differences between the two stories.

Overall, the questions seem to have been chosen wisely by the state to test childrens' mental sharpness.  On a humorous note, some of the questions are obviously old because they are outdated.  For example:

If you want to find out where New York is, you should look in
a) a dictionary
b) a thesaurus
c) an atlas
d) a storybook

The correct answer is missing.  Even little 2nd graders know these days that the correct answer should be:
e) Go to Google or Yahoo maps and type in "New York"

STAR testing for Cupertino Union School District's Eisenhower Elementary 2nd graders

If  you are wondering why a bunch of 7 year old kids in Santa Clara near the Cupertino border look to have a sense of relief, it's because Cupertino Union School District's Eisenhower Elementary 2nd graders just completed their STAR tests this past week.


Each spring, all students in California from grades two through eleven take the state's Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) exams, a battery of standardized tests.

The California STAR Program looks at how well schools and students are performing. Based on STAR tests and the California High School Exit Examination (CAHSEE), California assigns an Academic Performance Index (API) rating and growth target to each school and district. Ratings range from 200 to 1000, with a goal of 800 API for all schools statewide.


The STAR Program includes four tests: the California Standards Tests, the California Modified Assessment, the California Alternate Performance Assessment, and the Standards-based Tests in Spanish.

The STAR program used to include the California Achievement Test, Sixth Edition Survey (CAT/6), but this test was eliminated in the 2008-2009 school year.


The test taken by the majority of students is the California Standards Tests (CST).

In 2nd grade through 11th grade, the CST covers English-language arts. In 2nd grade through 7th grade, the test also covers math.

Additional tests are added at various grade levels. The CST adds a history-social science test for 8th grade, 10th grade and 11th grade. The CST adds a science test for 5th grade, 8th grade, and 10th grade. The CST also adds a math and science test for students in 9th, 10th, and 11th grade. The test they take depends on which math and science course they are enrolled in that school year, such as algebra, geometry, physics, or chemistry.

The STAR - CalEdFacts page provides a more detailed overview of the program.
For more information, you can also visit California Department of Education Testing and Accountability.

Google Provides Free WiFi in Mountain View

No-cost wireless Internet (WiFi) services are now available in most areas of the City of Mountain View as a benefit of a five-year agreement the City has entered into with Google, Inc., the Internet search engine company headquartered in Mountain View.

The City authorized Google to place wireless transmitters on City-owned streetlight poles throughout the City to create one of the first city-wide-no-cost WiFi networks in the country.

Google completed installation of the transmitters for the network and the network has been launched.

WiFi users who want a stronger signal inside their homes or offices will need to buy consumer premise equipment (CPE) available from local retailers or on the Internet for $50-$100.


Friday, May 4, 2012

Proposition 58 and Proposition 193 allow transfer of real property from parent (and sometimes grandparent) to child without property tax reassessment

Proposition 58 excludes transfers of real property between parents and children from reassessment .
Proposition 193 excludes transfers of real property from grandparents to grandchildren from reassessment if all the parents of the grandchildren who qualify as children of the grandparents are deceased as of the date of transfer.

In the State of California, real property is reassessed at market value if it is sold or transferred. This can sometimes result in a dramatic increase in property taxes. However, if the sale or transfer is between parents and their children (or from grandparents to their grandchildren, under limited circumstances) the property will NOT be reassessed (if certain conditions are met) and the proper application is filed in time.

These propositions allow the new property owners to avoid property tax increases when acquiring property from their parents (or from their grandparents). The new owner's taxes are calculated on the established Proposition 13 factored base year value, instead of the current market value when the property is acquired.

The transfers of real property excluded from reassessment by Propositions 58 and 193 are:
1)Transfers of primary residences (no value limit)
2)Transfers of the first $1 million of real property other than the primary residences. The $1 million exclusion applies separately to each eligible transferor.

The value of transferred property counted toward the $1 million exclusion limit is the Proposition 13 value (factored base year value) just prior to the date of transfer. Usually, this is the taxable value on the assessment roll. If a property is under a Williamson Act (open space) or Mills Act (historical property) contract, it is the factored base year value that is counted, not the restricted value.

Transfers via sale, gift, or inheritance all qualify for the exclusion.

Transfer via trust also qualifies for this exclusion. For property tax purposes, the state looks through the trust to the present beneficial owner. When the present beneficial ownership passes from a parent to a child, this is a change in ownership that is eligible for the parent-child exclusion.

However, you are not required to claim this exclusion from reassessment if it doesn't help you.  If the current market value under Proposition 8 at time of transfer has fallen BELOW the transferor's original Proposition 13 factored base year value, the new owner may be better off NOT to claim the exemption and instead accept a new Proposition 13 base year reassessment.  In this case, reassessment can result in LOWER property taxes by locking in the lower market value as the property's new base year value on the date of transfer. Otherwise, the higher original Proposition 13 base year value set under the transferor's ownership would some day be reinstated as market conditions improve over time and at a level higher than they would be if the property had received a new Proposition 13 base year value on the date the property was transferred.

In any case, you should consult with an estate planning expert for advice before claiming this exclusion.