The Role of the Internet

Mollie Wasserman's internet warningGiven the revolution in technology that we’ve experienced over the last few years we must look  at what technology can  and  cannot do.  This  differentiation is especially crucial when dealing with real estate, an  environment where online companies clutter the bandwidth and your inbox with schemes to save incredible amounts of money and time by using their services.

Now  let’s  be  clear: technology, and specifically the internet, is a wonderful thing! Technology is a fabulous way  to  gather data and can do  functionary tasks  better, faster and cheaper than any  human being ever could. But the danger does  not lie  in understanding that technol- ogy.  The  danger is that by  itself,  the internet can never provide the fiduciary counsel required in services such as mortgage lending, law and real estate.

Functionary, fiduciary—why do  we keep  using these “f” words? Simply, it’s very important to  understand the difference between the data that you  can  get online and the advice, counsel and interpretation of that data that only your  Realtor®  can  provide if you’re  to get the best deal  when you  sell a home.

Information Versus Knowledge

As web-savvy Realtors® who generate a significant portion of our business online, we are big believers in the free  flow  of information. You will  find that both online and off, this new breed of Realtor®  usually provides the most complete sources of  information that you’ll find anywhere.

Yet,  we  have had many of  our  colleagues question why  we give  out so much information, often saying: “If you  give out too  much information, people will have no reason to call you.” We  disagree. Although we  give  out information freely,  we  have never had a shortage of requests to retain our  services for Silicon Valley real estate sales. That’s because there’s a big difference between information and knowledge. Read more ›

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Loma Vista, El Gato, Rancho Padre subdivisions

2015-10-30 15.01.50The Loma Vista, El Gato, Rancho Padre subdivisions in Los Gatos together make up a unique east Los Gatos neighborhood featuring a little bit of everything.

Formally, this area is made up of three distinct subdivisions, developed from the 1940s through the mid 1950s. These are:

  • El Gato Terrace
  • Loma Vista Tract
  • Rancho Padre (adjacent to the creek)

These are made up of the streets Loma Vista Avenue, Linda Avenue, El Gato Lane and a segment of Escobar Avenue. This pocket is sometimes confused as being a part of the neighboring Blossom Hill Manor area, which begins on Longwood Drive to the West. Blossom Manor is a different neighborhood and has a different school district, too.  Situated between Los Gatos-Almaden Road and Ross Creek, residents enjoy great accessibility along with views of the hillside and, in some cases, the creek.

What are the schools for this El Gato, Linda area?

The Loma Vista and nearby area is in the Union School District and Campbell Union High School District, with Leigh High School. The adjacent neighborhood, the Manor, has Los Gatos Schools and Los Gatos High. Both areas have excellent elementary and middle schools. Los Gatos High scores higher than Leigh High, so some home buyers prefer that area.  There’s a noticeable jump in price  when you cross that school district boundary, though.

Map of the Loma Vista, El Gato, Rancho Padre subdivisions

El Gato Terrace, Loma Vista and Rancho Padre areas

This county pocket is slowly being incorporated into the town. Usually, homes incorporate when there are major builds, rebuilds, or updates to the property, and there is a good mix of original structures, updated, and new throughout. If you buy a fixer or original condition home in a county pocket that is immediately adjacent to the town, be prepared to be annexed if you want to rebuild. (And plan on underground utilities and other expenses.)

The oldest homes in this area are modest cottages and bungalows, often two bed, one bath, under 800 square feet, whereas later plans built homes between 1100-1300 square feet with three bed and two bath. Lots are deep and spacious at 8000 square feet with some larger parcels, especially closer to the creek. A number of homes come complete with a detached guest cottage in back as well!

A quiet neighborhood, close to nature and with very few sidewalks or streetlights, this area is considered semi-rural. The location is also very convenient, about a mile from Vasona Lake County Park, and nearer to plentiful shopping along Los Gatos Boulevard and Blossom Hill Road. Freeway access is under two miles away – close for drivers and far enough to avoid noise and traffic.

Read more ›

Campbell CA Real Estate

Campbell water tower and bannerCampbell CA real estate is among the most desirable in Silicon Valley.  This popular town is known for being self contained with a vibrant, walk-able downtown, lots of parks (including a dog park, shared with neighboring Los Gatos), the Los Gatos Creek Trail, movie theaters, a nice variety of restaurants, great shopping (both downtown, at the Pruneyard, and along major roads such as Winchester Boulevard and Bascom Avenue).

Cambpell provides good transportation as Highway 17 / 880 runs nearby (accessed via Hamilton or Camden Avenues) on one side and San Tomas Expressway on the other. Additionally, there’s an especially helpful light rail station in downtown, making Campbell one of the most accessible areas of the valley.

Campbell has a strong business presence, too, with E Bay offices along Hamilton being noteworthy.

What are homes like in Campbell?

Cameo Park West subdivision street in Campbell - Campbell CA real estate is very popular within Silicon Valey!
The older section of Cambell, near downtown, features beautiful Victorian and other classic, older homes from the turn of the last century. Much of the city offers single story, ranch style houses (as is the case throughout the San Jose area or the San Francisco Bay Area), but it’s not exclusively ramblers or one story houses. Two stories, split level, and other architectural styles can be found, too, including Tudor, French, and Spanish Revival, among others.

Further, condos & townhouses (young and old), multi-family (duplex to fourplex) and newer 2 story houses can be found in this small city, too.

Rental accommodations vary too.  On top of the regular assortment of apartments and other types of homes to rent, downtown Campbell also enjoys senior living opportunities.  A new independent and assisted living place opened not too long ago along Winchester Blvd, Merrill Gardens.  (Disclaimer: I have not been there personally to check it out, but am hearing good things about it.)  Campbell is a place for people of all ages!

What are Campbell CA real estate prices like?

Campbell home prices are a little more than the average for the city of San Jose as a whole.  As of this writing in August 2017, the median sale price for a home in San Jose is $1,175,000 while in Campbell it’s $1,275,000. Please click on this link to view the current Silicon Valley Real Estate Report to see current pricing for Campbell and all the cities and towns in Santa Clara County.

The housing market is extremely competitive right now throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and Silicon Valley. It can be challenging to purchase a home with less than 20% down due to multiple offers and buyers sometimes waiving all contingencies to secure the sale.

Please check out the listings of available homes for sale in the search below.  And please also see



A vibrant community with a prized, walk-able downtown, Campbell California is probably the most popular city in Santa Clara County or Silicon Valley today.

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List of Mary Pope-Handy’s blogs

WritingCan you really have too much of a good thing? Perhaps, but not when it’s in depth real estate information! Below please find a list of my blogs and a description on each one.

Live in Los Gatos  was my first successful blog. Original description: “A blog about Los Gatos real estate, homes, houses, condos, townhomes, housing market, neighborhoods, history, events, businesses, parks, schools, photos, issues, and lifestyle by Mary Pope-Handy, town resident, enthusiast and Realtor.” Also, it’s a place to live, as in “come to live in Los Gatos” (not like in Saturday Night Live).

The back story to Live in Los Gatos: Begun in late 2006, this blog started on the Real Town platform but moved to WordPress in 2014. I built out this blog in 2007 during the Project Blogger competition, which I entered as an apprentice together with my mentor, Frances Flynn Thorsen. We won the nationwide competition and our $5000 winnings were donated to CARE. But more to the point for a Los Gatos Realtor, it did bring me business and within a year or two I was closing some nice sales as a direct result of my writing on LILG.

Number of articles:  About 800 between the old and new platforms.

1 LILG - List of Mary Pope-Handy's blogs (aka the Valley of Hearts Delight blog) – since blogging about Los Gatos took off so well, I decided to experiment and branch out geographically but narrow the topic to more real estate centric. Geographically, the focus is on Los Gatos, Almaden, Cambrian, Campbell, Monte Sereno, Saratoga, and the Los Gatos Mountains (so LG and what’s closest) – but also includes most all of Santa Clara County.

Number of articles:  About 960 as of Aug 2017

2 SJRELGH - List of Mary Pope-Handy's blogs is a relocation website, a resource for people thinking of moving to the Peninsula or South Bay areas or generally to Silicon Valley. Things discussed include area information, cost of housing (mostly to buy but some rental info shared), comparing the cost of homes from one community to the next, traffic patterns, micro climates, schools and more.

Number of articles: about 95

3 M2SV - List of Mary Pope-Handy's blogs is a blog recently added to my very old website,, which began in around 2000. The site is aimed at the broader Silicon Valley real estate market, so includes area info on San Mateo County and Santa Cruz County as well as Santa Clara County. This blog will also include a focus home Selling a home in Silicon Valley.

New in 2015, this blog has just about 105 articles on it so far (in August 2017)

4 blog - List of Mary Pope-Handy's blogs



Belwood of Los Gatos is a site dedicated to the Belwood, Belgatos, and Surmont neighborhoods of east Los Gatos, which has about 500 homes in it. Articles added monthly.

Number of articles: about 110

5 Belwood - List of Mary Pope-Handy's blogs – just for fun stories about real estate with (usually) unseen residents.

Number of articles: 121 (usually most active each October)

6 Haunted - List of Mary Pope-Handy's blogs


Mary Pope-Handy on Active Rain website – not too active here anymore.

Number of articles: about 330

7 active - List of Mary Pope-Handy's blogs


Silicon Valley Catholic  (new blog in 2011, very few posts)
In a totally different vein, this blog is about being Catholic in Silicon Valley and reflections on a wide variety of related topics. My background and work prior to real estate was in theology and ministry. Still love it. Only a few posts here. (So much that I could write about our wonderful pope!)

8 SVC - List of Mary Pope-Handy's blogs

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Boulder Creek, California Real Estate

Boulder Creek is filled with towering redwood treesIf you love the idea of living under a scenic canopy of redwoods within easy access of the coast, Boulder Creek is a place to consider. It offers a more rural way of life. It also provides a relatively affordable housing market as compared to Silicon Valley. The trade off for Santa Clara County workers is a lengthy commute over “the hill” into either Saratoga or Los Gatos.

All those gorgeous redwood trees thrive with abundant rainfall, so the weather there is a little different from Silicon Valley generally, which tends to be drier. Boulder Creek gets 43 inches of rain annually on average. (The US average is 39 inches, so no drought conditions there!) How does that compare to nearby areas? Santa Cruz, along the beach of the Monterey Bay and the Pacific Ocean, receives 31.6″ annually. Los Gatos, nestled into the base of the Santa Cruz Mountains but on the inland side, gets 23 inches. San Jose, further east, gets 17 inches per year.

Boulder Creek real estate

Home prices in Boulder Creek may be half that of San Jose, or at least parts of it. For many Silicon Valley workers, that’s compelling enough to make the long drive each work day worthwhile.  If you’re curious about the Boulder Creek real estate market, please check out this link on the market statistics and trends here. It is updated automatically each month, usually between the 5th and the 10th.  It is not easy to find a remodeled or updated house for less than a half million dollars, but it is possible in Boulder Creek.

Want to browse listings of homes for sale in Boulder Creek and nearby areas?  Have a look below at the map search tool, which is updated automatically as new properties come on the market (and others go sale pending).   If you are interested in buying or selling a home there, please reach out to me and we can discuss confidentially and get you started.

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Low flow toilets will be required soon

As of January 1, 2017, all single-family homes in California built before 1994 will be required to have only low flow toilets and certain other water saving fixtures installed.

Homeowners are required to replace older commodes with low flow toilets as of Jan 1 2017

What constitutes a low flow toilet?

Low flow toilets will be designed to use no more than 1.6 gallons on average per flush. Some water conserving commodes will have dual flushes, with one for solids that uses more than 1.6 gallons, and one for liquids which will utilize fewer than 1.6 gallons.

What must be replaced?

Most of the attention has been around Low flow toilets, but they aren’t the only objects of the new law. What fixtures won’t pass the standards of the upcoming law?

  • Toilets manufactured to use more than 1.6 gallons per flush on average
  • Urinals manufactured to use more than one gallon of water per flush
  • Showerheads manufactured to use more than 2.5 gallons of water per minute
  • Interior faucets emitting more than 2.2 gallons of water per minute

You might have anticipated the answer if you’ve been watching Santa Clara County’s water saving efforts during the drought. Showerheads and faucet filters have been offered for free in many instances and there was the HET toilet rebate program, too.

Take note that the law requires the replacement of units manufactured for a high level of water use, so displacing water in your toilet tank with a brick, bottle, or by other means does not make the fixture pass law.

What changes will this effect in real estate transactions?

This is not a point-of-sale law. So what does that mean? Owners must install WCP fixtures (Water-Conserving Plumbing fixtures), including low flow toilets, whether they are selling or not. If you own a home you must comply. If a homeowner does not comply, however, it will not affect a property transaction. Either way the seller is required to disclose.

What should be disclosed when selling a home regarding these devices?

  1. The legal requirements in writing.
  2. Any and all compliant and/or noncompliant fixtures, if any, on the property in writing.
  3. “Seller’s affirmation,” meaning the seller’s confirmation that the disclosures provided are in fact the sellers and not the agents, that they are not part of the contract, nor a warranty, and do not substitute a buyer’s inspection. Mandatory when a TDS is used.

Both the TDS (Transfer Disclosure Statement) and the ESD (Exempt Seller Disclosure) will be (or have been) modified to include the legal language explaining the regulations as required by the new law, which takes care of disclosure #1.

The second disclosure requirement, disclosing compliance and/or noncompliance, will also be covered in the ESD forms. The TDS provides check boxes to disclose compliant fixtures. The law is still being fine-tuned, so it is yet unclear whether an unchecked box on the TDS disclosing replaced fixtures is enough of a disclosure for noncomplying fixtures.

The third provision is only required with a TDS and will be part of the Seller Property Questionnaire (form SPQ) update in December.


Many local laws do have point-of-sale WCP fixture requirements, which this law will grandfather in so long as they were in effect before July 1st, 2009. Even if the requirements are less severe, such as allowing a higher gallon limiter, these local laws will continue to apply.

Newer local ordinances, those established any time after July 1st, 2009 or in the future, are allowed to establish or promote stricter regulation and will not be supplanted by the state law.

In conclusion

Plan to update old fixtures, but check local law before you do for more or less stringent laws. Homeowners, plan to invest in thsee updates between now and the new year (plumbers might be busier than usual for a while). And look for freebies and rebates which are becoming less frequently available.

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Earthquake Insurance

Earthquake damaged house in Santa Cruz after the Loma Prieta quake in 1989 (San Andreas fault) - earthquake insurance would help to pay for rebuilding here

Earthquake damaged house in Santa Cruz after the Loma Prieta quake in 1989 (San Andreas fault)

Do you need earthquake insurance?  If you live in Los Gatos, Saratoga, San Jose, or anywhere in Silicon Valley, you are probably aware that it is very likely that we’ll experience a violent quake within the next 30 years.  The San Francisco Bay Area is woven with a number of different faults, some very active, others quiet for thousands of years: San Andreas, Hayward, Calaveras, San Gregorio, Greenville, Silver Creek, Monta Vista – Shannon, and many more.  It is not hard to imagine one of them letting off some serious pressure.

What are the odds of a very severe earthquake in the Bay Area?

I looked up the stats on the USGS site, and there’s a 72% chance of an earthquake of 6.7 on the Richter Scale or more between now and 2043.  The most likely area is the Hayward fault (33%), followed by the San Andreas (22%), per this USGS report: that same report, page 1, it says there’s a 98% chance of a 6.0 quake somewhere in the Bay Area between now and 2043.   So it’s wise to take it seriously (this is reminding me to update my emergency supplies!) Click the image below to go to the pdf referenced above.

San Francisco Bay Area Earthquake Faults and Probability of Major Quake by 2043

San Francisco Bay Area Earthquake Faults and Probability of Major Quake by 2043

What does earthquake insurance cost?

Your premium for earthquake insurance varies based on many factors, including the age of the home, whether or not it is bolted to the foundation, the size of the structure, the exact location, etc.  For instance, if you buy a house in the Santa Cruz Mountains which sits directly on top of the San Andreas Fault, or in Fremont along the Hayward Fault, you would expect to pay more than if you were many miles away from either of these areas.  Further, the amount of your deductible will impact the cost, too – the lower your deductible, the higher your premium.
Also, it should be noted that earthquake insurance covers the structure and may not include the contents of the home.  The point of it is to make sure you can rebuild or repair after a major temblor.    There are separate policies or riders for possessions, but primarily for the essentials, not the frills.  Things such as fine Belleek china (which we lost in the 1989 Loma Prieta shaking) will not be covered.
Most people who obtain this type of insurance will get it from the State of California (even if it’s offered via their regular insurance agent).


Here’s a great resource for info from the California Dept of Insurance:
There’s a link on the page above that goes to the actual CA state insurance site, and there you’ll find a calculator for the cost of premiums from the California Earthquake Authority. [The CEA site says “CEA is a not-for-profit. We are privately funded, and publicly managed by a governing board. We are not tied to the state budget. We are financially strong, with a total claim-paying capacity exceeding $12 billion. Our participating insurance companies sell and service our policies (Homeowners, Mobilehome owners, Condo unit owners, and Renters) on our behalf.]  This is pretty cool as it allows you to change the deductible to as low as 5% and to increase or decrease things like “loss of use” coverage.
For most people, this type of insurance is very costly, perhaps running $2,000 to $3,000 per month with a large deductible and no possessions covered.  Prior to the Loma Prieta (1989) and Northridge (1994) quakes, this type of insurance was more affordable and was more commonly bought by home owners.  Today, the reverse is true.  Statewide, only about 10% of home owners opt to purchase this coverage.

More resources on earthquake insurance

Consumer Reports article from 2014: Should you buy earthquake insurance, is it worth it?

MarketWatch article from 2014, updated June 2016: Despite quakes, most California homeowners don’t have earthquake insurance

What is a cripple wall? (on this site)

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San Mateo County listings of homes for sale on the MLS

Foster City, California Real Estate

Hillsborough, California Real Estate