Lots of people working in Silicon Valley can’t afford to buy a home there.
As a housing shortage in the San Francisco Bay Area continues to drive prices sky-high, some homebuyers are turning their attention to a micro-neighbourhood — called Serra — located between the headquarters of Google and Apple. It’s also known by its main drag, The Dalles.
This southwest corner of the town of Sunnyvale offers relatively affordable houses, proximity to major tech companies, and a small-town suburban feel. Still, Serra has flown under the radar, in part because few people know it exists. Google Maps doesn’t even recognise the name.
Earlier this year, real-estate site Redfin named Serra the third hottest neighbourhood of 2017. The site based the ranking on increases in internet traffic to listings in specific neighbourhoods. Serra homes typically sell in under two weeks at 106% of the listing price.
Here’s what life is like in the neighbourhood.
I had my doubts about Serra, also known as 'The Dalles,' according to Redfin, before setting out for the more desirable neighbourhood in Sunnyvale. Did it really exist?
not totally sure about the first line in the slide hed..are you saying there is a more desirable neighbourhood than Serra? Based on my preliminary Google searches, Serra looked like a realtor's attempt to rebrand an existing neighbourhood with a pleasant-sounding moniker in order to lure prospective buyers -- like New York's made-up SoHa. None of my colleagues in San Francisco had ever heard of it.
Google Maps confirmed my suspicion. Searches for Serra and The Dalles turned up only Serra Park, the neighbourhood park, and The Dalles, the street that bisects the area.
The neighbourhood is gaining popularity as tech workers continue to get priced out of Palo Alto and Los Altos. They can drive from Serra to Google and Apple offices in 20 minutes.
Serra has seen a 1% dip in off-market home values since the beginning of the year, but local realtors are optimistic. Four of out five homes sold in July went for more than asking price.
'Competition has remained fierce,' Redfin Silicon Valley real-estate agent Kalena Masching told Redfin. 'We have been in bidding wars with all-cash offers, sold homes for $A64,155 over the list price, and waived contingencies to win in the area over the past six months.'
I set out to find what else makes Serra so desirable. Serra Park is a quiet enclave that's perfect for a walk with the dog or a picnic with friends. Tables and grills are provided.
Loehmann's Plaza is located just south of the park. It had the standard strip mall fare: a nail salon, a hardware supply store, fast-food chains, and a handful of restaurants.
At the far end, I met Fred, owner of Fred's Jewellery and Watch Repair. He reopened his store in Sunnyvale 12 years ago, after rising rents in Mountain View forced him out.
It's a good time to be in the watch repair business, according to Fred. The growing popularity of smartwatches like the Apple Watch -- which leapfrogged Rolex to become
the best-selling watch in the world in 2017 -- has prompted old-fashioned watches to come back into style.
Fred said he hasn't raised prices in 10 years, because sales have been strong. People working at nearby tech companies bring in Rolex and Paddock Felipe watches for repairs. Fred figures most customers are Bay Area transplants because they leave out-of-state phone numbers.
When asked why Sunnyvale has become so popular among prospective homebuyers, Fred replied, simply, 'It's obvious. Because of the tech companies.'
He had never heard of Serra or The Dalles as a neighbourhood. 'It's just Sunnyvale,' he said.
Another longtime fixture of the community is the Country Gourmet, a family-run restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily. It recently marked its 30-year anniversary.
I tried the house specialty -- Eggs Benedict -- which piles Niman Ranch ham, poached eggs, and hollandaise sauce on a light and flakey buttermilk biscuit made in house. It cost $A16.
With a full stomach, I set out for Serra's residential area. The median sale price in Serra is $A2.26 million, but you might not guess it based on the modest homes that line the streets.
This was one of the larger properties I saw. It had a basketball court in lieu of a front yard.
1497 Samedra Street is a three-bedroom, two-bath home that hit the market in October for $A2.17 million. According to Redfin, there's a 75% chance it will sell in less than two weeks.
Built in 1955, the ranch-style home covers 1,597 square feet and includes new hardwood floors, a two-car garage, and a fenced-in patio. It last sold in 1991 for $A398,000.
New construction is cropping up on the market as well. A stately five-bedroom, four-bath home on Alberta Avenue in Serra will go on sale for $2.34 million in October.
In September, a house in Sunnyvale located just several blocks north of Serra sold for close to $A1 million over its listing price. The four-bedroom, two-bath house went for $A4 million.
Let that sink in. The money the buyers spent over the asking price could purchase about four homes in Central Valley's Bakersfield, the ninth-most populous city in California.
Before leaving Silicon Valley, I drove to the Apple campus in Cupertino. I drove to 1 Infinite Loop in about 13 minutes, which is a pretty sweet commute for employees.
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