Almaden Valley area of San Jose

Almaden Valley view of Mt. UmunhumSan Jose’s Almaden Valley is an area of lush vegetation, upscale, family oriented homes and easy access to quality shopping & schools. Simply defined by San Jose’s 95120 ZIP code, the Almaden Valley has lots to offer.

For recreation, this area is hard to beat. The New Almaden Mines and the New Almaden Quicksilver Mining Museum is a wonderful spot to explore and learn with many historic houses and buildings. Also popular is the Alamitos Creek and the Alamitos Creek Trail. Almaden Lake is a popular place for swimming in season, boating, picnicking, and fishing. For golfers, there is the Almaden Valley Country Club.

Home too many high-tech employees, the Almaden Valley is home to IBM’s Almaden Research Center. Those who commute to work will find easy access to all freeways, plus the convenient Almaden Light Rail Station and the Almaden Expressway.  It is perhaps most ideal for people who are commuting to downtown San Jose.

The public school situation is a little tricky.  Most of Almaden is served by the San Jose Unified School District (with one of four elementary schools, two middle schools and two high schools).  Northern Almaden is served by Pioneer High School and Castillero Middle School (and often Los Alamitos Elementary School).  Southern Almaden, which is more remote and more expensive for real estate purchases, is within the attendance area of Leland High School, Bret Harte Middle School and a number of 900+ API scoring elementary schools.

However, not all of Almaden Valley falls into these school areas.  A small portion of homes (Oak Canyon, Montevideo and nearby subdivisions) are in the Campbell Union High School District & Union School District  (Branham or Leigh – an “open area” where residents may choose). Finally, oddly enough, a tiny sliver of Almaden is within the boundaries of the Saratoga-Los Gatos Union High School District and Los Gatos Union Schools.  These students must hopscotch over the nearer Union Elementary School District areas to get to their campuses (this area is off of Guadalupe Mines Road).

I’ve written quite extensively about Almaden and its schools on my SanJoseRealEstateLosGatosHomes blog:
Schools, API Scores & Maps of School Boundaries in San Jose’s Almaden Valley

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South San Jose

California poppies can be found in South San JoseSouth San Jose is one of the more affordable areas in Silicon Valley. It enjoys convenient freeway and transit access, running alongside Highway 101 and Highway 87 at points, and coming quite close to Highway 85, also. The Tamien light rail station is close to South San Jose – nearly in it. Cal Train can be accessed along Highway 101.

Coyote Creek graces the length of this district, offering lots of open space and park land. Downtown is nearby, and so is shopping at Eastridge Mall, or a visit to Raging Waters. South San Jose is close to just about everything!

Where is South San Jose?

As the name suggests, South SJ is a district south of downtown. The eastern side is bounded by Highway 101. On the northern end, it runs along a portion of Williams, near downtown.  The western border follows Highway 87 in part, then cuts east at Hillsdale and south again on Monterey Street.  The southern tip extends to Blossom Hill Road, where Highway 101 and Monterey Street are very close to one another. That area of South San Jose is part of what was once the town of Edenvale.

The zip codes for this area are 95111, and parts of 95112, 95116, 95121, 95136, and part of 95122.

Adjacent parts of San Jose are downtown San Jose (and specifically Naglee Park) to the north, Willow Glen to the west, Santa Teresa and Blossom Valley to the south, and Evergreen to the east.

Which neighborhoods are in South SJ?

Neighborhoods and subdivisions in South San Jose include Great Oaks, Riverview, Havens, Serenede, Melody, Seven Trees, Hellyer, Los Arboles, Sylvandale East, Rancho, Ramblewood, Locke, Stonegate West, Albanese, Cramer-Umbarger, Brenning, Summerside, Meadows, Rockspring, Kennedy, and Santee, among others.

What are the public schools?

For elementary and middle schools, most of this area is served by the Franklin-McKinley School District. The southern end of South SJ is part of the Oak Grove School District. All of this area is within the East Side Union High School District. Check out the map here:

South San Jose landmarks and popular places

South San Jose includes the much beloved Happy Hollow Park and Zoo and the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds. If you’ve adopted a pet in Silicon Valley, there’s a good chance that you were in South San Jose at the San Jose Animal Care Center. You also know of it for one of the largest, and oldest, cemeteries in the area: Oak Hill. Love to golf? The scenic Los Lagos Golf Course runs alongside Coyote Creek.

Last winter, part of South San Jose flooded during an extraordinarily heavy rainfall over a very short period of time. If you’re local, you heard about the devastating impact of the floods in areas along Coyote Creek. Several areas were hard-hit, including the Rockspring neighborhood.


How’s the real estate market in South San Jose? Check out all the current real estate market statistics and trends at the Silicon Valley Real Estate Report: South SJ real estate market info.

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San Jose – East Valley

Often known simply as East San Jose or the Eastside, the East Valley was once a city of its own, annexed by San Jose, its name sake, in 1911. (Today, the East Valley encompasses more than just the former city bearing the same name.)

A celebrated historic East Valley resident was César Chávez, and the East Valley was the first area to begin the grape boycott.

The East Valley terrain includes foothills and flat lands at their base. The eastern foothills are part of the Diablo range, and many neighborhoods have views of the range or the valley. The Diablo Range also provides plenty of natural space, and a blend of parks and private ranch land with residential areas in the foothills. Parks include the Mount Diablo State Park, Alum Rock Park, Sierra Vista Open Space Preserve, Joseph D Grant Ranch Park (the largest park in Santa Clara County), and more.

Entertainment and leisure opportunities for the family include Raging Waters water park, Eastridge Mall the Mexican Heritage Plaza, Lake Cunningham, and Kelley Park, which includes Happy Hollow Zoo, the Japanese Friendship Garden, the History Park, and two museums, the Portuguese Historical Museum and Viet Museum, along with plenty of picnic areas, walking paths, lawns, tree groves, and more.

Access to two major lines of public transit, BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) which will be installed in the next couple of years and current VTA (Valley Transit Authority) connection, makes travel simple. This is a more affordable area in the Valley, but as such schools do not rate as highly in this area as in others and the crime rates could be better. CalTrain is accessed along Highway 101, too.

Below please find a live Altos Research chart, showing the median list price of homes for sale – this will give you an idea of what a house might cost there.

Real Estate Market Chart by Altos Research

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Menlo Commons

I recently had the pleasure of closing on a listing in Menlo Commons, a senior community, located at 2140 Santa Cruz Ave in the lovely city of Menlo Park!
Menlo Commons is a 55+ community, meaning that at least one resident must be age 55 or older, but other residents can be any age. Residents enjoy plenty of features in the resort-like community space, with common areas including a large kitchen, a large formal dining or meeting room, an exercise room, plenty of lounge areas with large windows, grass fields, and a pool and hot tub, to name a few. Common areas, grounds, and resident parking are gated with ample open parking to residents and visitors. Units come in one to two bedroom floorplans, each with balconies, and Home Owners Association (HOA) Dues are appx $600-$760 per month for one and two bed units respectively.
What makes Menlo Commons really special is it’s fantastic location. This complex is stationed near the boarder of Menlo Park and Stanford with plenty of benefits to it’s location. Menlo Commons has easy access to both 280 and 82 and is tied into a bus route. Shopping and entertainment abound, with Stanford Golf Course about a block away, a Safeway less than half a mile away, Stanford Shopping Center about 1.5 miles down the road with downtown Menlo Park only a little farther. Living so close to the university makes it a snap to enjoy regular outings to enjoy musical, theatrical, and sports events.
Over the last 6 months or so, units have been selling between $690,000 and $910,000. Only one of these five sales was a single bed unit, and it was the only one which sold below list price. With over 120 units and showing 13 sales in the year 2017, most selling in under a month, there appears to be a slow but regular inventory of units available in Menlo Commons and a similar demand. Who wouldn’t want to live in a place with so much to offer!
Interested in the City of Menlo Park? View the market report, updated monthly, here: Menlo Park condo real estate market
Menlo Commons Community

Some of the community spaces in Menlo Commons.

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Buyer closing costs and property taxes

dollar billOne of the more confusing elements for home buyers attempting to anticipate their closing costs is the property tax prorations, which are referenced in the purchase agreement or contract, but not explained. As most Silicon Valley real estate consumers know, home owners in California do pay property taxes. When a home is being sold, the sellers pay that tax up to the date of closing, and the buyers pay it from the date of closing on. Put another way, the property tax is prorated.
While that seems simple enough in theory, the ins and outs of it are not so straightforward due to the way the county collects the funds and how slowly the county’s system updates the amount owed after the change of ownership. It may be particularly confusing to first time home buyers, but all may be caught off guard.

How property taxes work – the fiscal year in Santa Clara County

The county’s tax assessor’s office works off of a fiscal year that runs from July 1st to June 30th. The property tax bill is issued once a year, in the fall, based on the assessed value as of January 1st of that year. It may be paid twice, once in late fall (due Nov 1, delinquent after Dec 10), and once more a few months later, into the new year (due Feb. 1, delinquent after April 10th (not the 15th, the Federal Income Tax deadline to file and pay, which confuses people).
Please note the long lag time between when the property is assessed and when the real estate taxes may be due. Your home could be assessed on January 1 2018, but the second installment of the tax bill for that assessment is not required to be paid until April 10th 2019.  Now overlay the long lag time on top of home buying and selling in our pricey San Jose area with our equally high real estate taxes for new home owners and you begin to see where trouble may be brewing.

Property taxes prorated at the close of escrow

 Whenever you close escrow, there will be a property tax amount due for the current installment which the home buyer needs to pay at the time of closing. If the seller has already paid that installment (which will be a lower rate than the new home buyer’s rate most years), the buyer must reimburse the seller for all the days after close of escrow for that billing period for which the seller has already paid. If someone closes escrow on June 28, it would be a very small amount, since the tax year begins again on July 1st. If it is at the beginning of the billing period, it would be larger. If it is early in the payment cycle, say, January 10th, and the bill has not yet been paid, there will be a more significant tax bill due to the county, of course, since it is more months being covered. Whether paying the county directly or reimbursing the seller, the payment for the current installment will be made in escrow and will be a part of the closing costs.
Now let’s get into the nuances of it.  If you, the Silicon Valley home buyer, are better prepared, you won’t face a financial surprise later.

Your new property tax rate will be due, but won’t be charged for months after closing

 As I mentioned, the rate that you as a home buyer pays at close of escrow is the seller’s current installment, which is based on a January 1st assessment of the property either the same year (1st installment) or the year before (2nd installment).  If the sellers bought their home 30 years ago, the tax rate charged at closing will be super low. If they bought it 1 year ago, it will be far higher. Either way, it is the old rate – not the buyer’s new rate.
Real property, or real estate, is reassessed when a house or condo is bought or sold.  The new property tax rate will be approximately 1.25% of the purchase price initially. After that, the assessed rate goes up a max of 2% per year. In other words, the property tax which will be due from the date of ownership forward will be based on the sale price, not the current seller’s tax bill.  However, at the time of closing, buyers are not charged their new or real rate. They are charged the seller’s rate, which is lower than the true new rate the buyer will owe. It’s not a gift that you pay less at closing – no such luck! The government will ask for the balance later (usually as soon as the buyer forgets about the taxes that will be due).

Concretely, on a $1,000,000 purchase, that means $12,500 per year, or a little more than $1,000 per month ($1041.67) for property tax will be due in reality, no matter what amount someone buying the property paid at closing. Perhaps the seller’s rate was  $600 per year, and that’s what you are charged at close of escrow. The rest will be due later, when the county catches up.

Supplemental taxes are sometimes called escaped taxes.  This is what will be due when the county catches up to what is truly owed. A few months after close of escrow, another tax bill comes, this time for supplemental taxes due.  The new home owner may already have paid the 2nd installment when the bill for supplemental property taxes arrives in the mail and find the bill very confusing. “How could I owe more? I paid in escrow AND I paid the next bill – early!”  But in fact this is money that the county should have collected upfront, were it more organized.  (We are in Silicon Valley. How can the county not automatically compute the tax due at closing and simply bill people correctly from the beginning? How complicated could that be?)
Also note that if you have an impound account for your mortgage and taxes, you may need to still pay the supplemental tax bill directly. Check with the holder of your impound account on how to handle that.

How to plan for the supplemental property tax bill

When reviewing closing costs for purchasing a new townhouse, condo, or single family home, the actual property tax rate is not covered – it is a hidden cost. It is not due right at closing, so it’s fair to only calculate what must be paid as of closing. But somewhere in the margins, it would be good to know the amount of the bill that will be coming in 3 to 6 months, before that money is spent on new curtains and furnishings for the home or some other worthy cause.  Home buyers can calculate this by making use of the county’s supplemental property tax calculator on the assessor’s website. Or ask the escrow officer to help compute the amount that will be due so there will be no surprise. Put it in your monthly calendar that “X amount” will be due until the bill comes and you’ve paid it.


See also:

When are Silicon Valley property taxes due?

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Los Gatos neighborhood videos

As readers of this site may know, I host a number of Silicon Valley area blogs, including one called Live in Los Gatos.  Over time, I created Los Gatos neighborhood videos to showcase many of the communities within the town.  A collection of the Los Gatos neighborhood drive throughs and pans can be found on my YouTube channel, or you can enjoy them here.

Los Gatos neighborhood videos - Mary Pope-Handy YouTube Channel

Featured Los Gatos neighborhood videos include single family homes right now, but the plan is to expand the list to offer drive throughs to popular townhome communities such as Rinconada Hills, Charter Oaks, Los Gatos Village and more.  For many more neighborhood profiles, see the

  • Glenridge and Bachman Park
  • Ohlone Court (newer neighborhood near Vasona Lake County Park)
  • Heritage Grove (newer Summerhill development in east Los Gatos)
  • Belwood of Los Gatos, Belgatos, and Surmont areas plus Alerche and Harwood
  • Almond Grove (historic district)
  • Blossom Manor
  • Fairview Plaza (historic district)
  • Saratoga Highlands, Rio Rinconada, Granada Way area & La Rinconada Park neighborhood (west Los Gatos)
  • Hillbrook Drive neighborhood
  • Vista del Monte neighborhood
  • Surrey Farm
  • El Gato, Loma Vista and Linda Neighborhood of Los Gatos
  • Alta Vista neighborhood slideshow

Wondering what Los Gatos neighborhoods are like?  Sit back and enjoy the tour!


My Valley of Heart’s Delight blog features neighborhood profiles and real estate market reports for Los Gatos, the Almaden Valley area of San Jose, the Cambrian Park area of San Jose, plus some in Saratoga and various other parts of Santa Clara Valley / Silicon Valley.  My hope is to create a library of neighborhood profiles with videos, photos, maps, and unique information that you won’t find anywhere else. At some point I hope to finish my Los Gatos neighborhood videos, and at that point begin to include other nearby communities as well.

Related Reading:

Los Gatos real estate market trends

Loma Vista, El Gato, Rancho Padre subdivisions

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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. (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 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 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)



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 – just for fun stories about real estate with (usually) unseen residents.

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


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

Number of articles: about 330


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!)

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