The swim lessons at Belwood schedule for 2023 has been posted on the Belwood HOA website. Lessons begin in June with 4 sessions and 7 levels of proficiency .
Swim lessons at Belwood – learn more
Click here for the HOA’s newsletter article on all of the details. Look for the FORM to complete and email in to register.
What’s happening in the Belwood, Belgatos, Surmont, and nearby real estate market? Home sales in the neighborhood so far are varied with some fast, some slowly moving! (DOM in the image below stands for Days On Market). Right now there is just one active listing. Use the link to check them out!
Home sales in the neighborhood: summary and link
Please click this link to see the current listings, pending sales, and closed sales over the last 180 days. There are two pending sales right now. The summary is below from the MLS. If you click that image or the link above, you will see the details on the MLS feed. (These are not our listings, but we have seen many and bid with some buyers on one of them.)
Want to buy a house in the Los Gatos neighborhoods of Belwood, Belgatos or Surmont? There are a few things you should know about properties may be flipped that look “turnkey”, especially as the market heats up or inventory more available.
What is a flipped home?
Some contractors buy homes with deferred maintenance, often “off market”, do some quick remodeling (often without permits) and then put it on the open market as soon as possible. This is what we usually think of with flipped homes.
Also, some sellers quickly improve houses for a fast profit, sometimes when a house has been inherited to maximize their net. Some regular property owners do this, too, moving out for a quick rehab rather than remodeling for enjoying the house for their own use, often cut corners. These two categories are a spinoff of the contractor-builder flip. We see all of them in our real estate market.
Whether it’s owners doing a quick makeover or investors remodeling or improving select items, beware! Some of these properties give the impression of being “perfect” but in fact may only have been cleaned up in the most visible areas.
Questions to ask, some things to look for in flipped or similar properties
Here are some questions for you to ask or investigate when looking at homes for sale in east Los Gatos, particularly near the foothills.
Please note, owners or sellers who prepare the home for the maximum return on investment will probably add fresh paint & carpet (or pull up the carpet to expose the hardwood floors), swap out light fixtures, door and drawer or cabinet hardware, and tidy the front landscaping. These are not in the category of flipping, but more like normal refreshing a home to sell.
When does it move from refreshing to flipping? If the kitchen and bathrooms were hastily remodeled in the recent past, you may be looking at a flip of some kind.
- Look for expensive but less seen areas such as
- the electrical system (some electric panels may be at risk of fire)
- furnace (heater)
- water heater
- roof, gutters & downspouts
- drainage system (often needed, seldom there in Los Gatos)
- back yard landscaping
- the foundation (always a potential issue in our east Los Gatos neighborhood if drainage hasn’t been properly addressed)
- insulation in the attic (often minimal)
- plumbing – has the home been re-piped, or are the old galvanized steel pipes still in the walls and under the house, ready to give up the ghost?
- condition of retaining walls, if any
- condition of concrete or hardscape
- large trees – have they been trimmed, or are they an expense which will fall on you?
- Is this an investment property (purchased by investors at a foreclosure auction or as a distress sale)? Or is it a trustee sale where the family or friends inheriting the property are fixing it up for sale (almost like a flipped house)?
- If it’s a house being sold by investors who’ve fixed it up, how experienced are they? Some clients of mine purchased an out-of-area house from first time investors. The kitchen remodel was made such that a full size fridge wouldn’t fit. Fail!(Some trustee sales are in a similar category as first time investors – this isn’t something they have experience with, most likely. They may make costly mistakes by either over-improving the home for sale or not fixing the right things. They may or may not be local and have a true sense of market value, too, so may set themselves up with unrealistic expectations.)
- Were there pre-sale inspections? If so, did the owners or investors do the Section 1 work from the termite report and the health & safety issues called out in the home inspection? The home inspection (not the termite or pest) should flag any major issues with the foundation, electrical, mechanical etc. systems in the home. If there’s no home inspection, prepare for surprises in these older homes.
- In Surmont, Belgatos, Belwood, and all of the east Los Gatos, Cambrian and Almaden hillside areas, water and drainage is an issue, as mentioned above regarding foundations. Left unchecked, water seeps into the crawl spaces under the houses and can create real havoc as our clay soil expands and pushes on the foundation. So look at the downspouts and see if they simply dump the water at the base of the house (which you will see most of the time – but it’s not a good idea, usually), or did the owner take the time and spend the money to handle drainage issues well? How’s the grading? Soil and landscaping should slope away from the house so that any water coming down will run away rather than seep into the crawlspace.
Browse neighborhood homes for sale online on this site. When you visit in person, bring a notepad and jot down concerns or questions. It is so easy to fall in love with remodeling that’s been done that it may be easy to miss the expensive items not easily seen that may have been ignored.
Finally, check the permits to see if improvements that needed permits and finals obtained them. Click here for the online Los Gatos permit search.
Need a good, local Realtor? Call or email me. I’ve been in real estate a long time (since early 1993), am very accomplished and recently was named “best real estate agent in Silicon Valley” by readers of the San Jose Mercury News. I’m also a Belwood resident and I know the area and its values well.
The east Los Gatos community is shaken by the deaths on Blossom Hill Road this year. They were both close together in time and close together in location.
The media isn’t connecting the stories, even though they are only about .15 of a mile apart. One of them was in Los Gatos and the other in San Jose (Blossom Hill Rd is the dividing line). One was a 2 car accident, the other was an auto hitting people in a crosswalk. Both took place in the first quarter of 2023.
The two recent accidents that caused deaths on Blossom Hill Road:
- On January 8th, 2023 at 9:52 a.m., a 19 year old Palo Alto man was driving his vehicle from Belgatos Road and turning left onto Blossom Hill Rd when he was struck by another vehicle and killed. The other driver was injured, also. I haven’t been able to find an update (whether the other driver was arrested or what).
- On March 26th, a mother, daughter, and dog were legally crossing Blossom Hill Road at Leigh when they were struck by a vehicle driving westbound with the driver running the red light. The driver did not stop. The mother died, the daughter was injured, and the dog also perished. The driver was identified, in part by the use of Automatic License Plate Reader cameras (discussed in a Belwood Neighborhood Watch meeting recently). That person was arrested and is now behind bars. There is a GoFundMe for the family of the victim, Limin Cao, who lived in our Belwood neighborhood. The funds will help with the funeral, the dog’s cremation, bringing Limin’s parents here for services, and if anything is left over, for the daughter’s college fund. Please donate if you can. https://gofund.me/72ca558f
I want to add that it seems to be a small miracle that two weeks ago, when we had a multi day power outage, there were no fatalities along this part of Blossom Hill, despite the traffic light being out for days and with no police officer guiding traffic there and no temporary stop signs or orange cones in place. We saw people fly through that intersection as if it didn’t exist.
Part of the challenge for preventing injury and deaths on Blossom Hill Road is the question of jurisdiction. There are places where the northern part of the street is in San Jose and the southern side is in Los Gatos. Here’s a map with the approximate boundary line in green. The two Xs mark the fatal accidents this year.
Last week, during Atmospheric River Storm #11, we had a 70 hour power outage at my house, and we weren’t alone. Our neighborhood largely went black at night except for solar landscape lights in some front yards and a very few houses that had either a gas generator or solar with a battery backup.
When our lights flickered again on Tuesday of this week during storm #12, I had that “never again” resolve. Of course, for any emergency we know it’s imperative to have safety items such as flashlights, batteries, candles and a way to light them, emergency food, water, and first aid kit. What else? A hand crank radio is wise to have, too, not just for a power loss but for a severe emergency, such as after an earthquake.
Additional power outage tips
- Fridge and Freezer: Ice in the fridge and freezer can help preserve the temperatures needed for food to stay safe. The FDA says that a fridge needs to be at 40f or lower for food safety. Freezers should be as close to 0f as possible. And, of course, we should limit how much we open the doors since each time it will warm the interior.
- Ice in your ice maker may melt during a prolonged power outage. We hadn’t thought about it until a puddle appeared by the freezer door. If you can load that ice into large plastic bags and seal them, they may help to keep the freezer a little cooler and not ruin your floor in the process.
- Dry ice keeps longer than regular ice. Some grocery stores do carry it and I wish we had thought to buy it on the first day of the outage.
- Camping tools: I confess that I’m not much of a camper, but I was grateful when my husband pulled out his old camping stove and used it to make me breakfast in our backyard. These stoves and their fuel aren’t too expensive and might be a worthwhile emergency backup tool you’d want to consider having.
- Charging laptops, cell phones, tablets: even with our small backup batteries, most of us cannot go 3 days without charging our devices. Luckily the county was not all out of power at once and perhaps each of us had family or friends or an office where we could power up daily. What if it were more extensive? For about $200 a portable power station (electric) can be bought that will get through quite a number of charges for your devices. Here are two that I like (after way too much research – these are NOT affiliate links):
- BLUETTI EB3A Portable Power Station | 600W 268Wh – on sale today on the Bluetti webbsite for $209, it is $299 on Amazon and in between on most sites. It can be recharged quickly in the loud “turbo mode” setting, or 2-2.5 hours in a quieter one. It can be used in conjunction with solar panels (which are not cheap!).
- A close contender at $199 on Amazon is the EF ECOFLOW Portable Power Station RIVER 2, 256Wh LiFePO4 Battery, which also has a fast charge and can work with solar panels. This one has only one 3 prong AC outlet, and the Bluetti had 2.
- You could also consider buying just the solar panels. I opted not to do that since I didn’t think it would work well during a downpour – but it might during a PG&E summer PSP outage.
- Battery backups for sump pumps and garage door openers: we are fortunate and have a dry crawl space that does not need a sump pump, but that’s not too common in our neighborhood. Some sump pumps will only work with the electricity is on – and you might need it most precisely when it isn’t. If you have a sump pump, it might be wise when replacing it to upgrade to one with a battery backup. Same with the garage door opener. Some people are not able to open the garage door even with a release, and if that applies to you or anyone in your home, it might be worthwhile to upgrade it to one with the battery backup.
- Gas generators: I don’t have much info on gas generators but have several family members who swear by them. I will say that they are loud! Prices vary depending on whether or not you want to backup your entire home or just a few items, whether it’s portable or permanently installed. Please be aware that gas generators will be unavailable to buy in stores in California starting in 2028, though. The sales ban has to do with air quality.
- Portable solar landscape lights are a plus during a power outage. Last summer we purchased some “fairy lights” in mason jars with solar lids that can sit on tables, hang from the handle, or sit atop stakes in the ground. At the time I thought they could be useful during a power outage – and they were. The ones we bought aren’t good for reading, but we moved some from the backyard to the front and put others indoors for lighting in bathrooms, hallways, etc. They stayed bright all night long. This is a good alternative to candles, which should not stay lit when people are asleep in the home.
- Solar on the roof with a battery backup is a solid but expensive option. With the battery, your solar generation can actually power your house during the day even in a power outage, and that can be a lifesaver! Of course, if it’s cloudy and storming there may not be much electricity generated. A battery cannot go for days and days if there’s not enough sun coming through, so choices have to be made about how much to use and when. (See above: portable power station.) The batteries that I have checked out recently are pricey at $17,000 to about $22,000 each. This is a huge ticket in the “home improvement” department.
I wish that we didn’t even need to share tips on power outage readiness, but let’s face it: our grid in California a mess. The PG&E employees who are out there restoring our power in horrible conditions (rain, wind, smoke) are our everyday heroes. But choices have been made for decades which were not good for us, the consumers. We need to put ourselves in the position of being ready to do without power at times, sadly.
Do you have any power outage tips that I’ve missed? Please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll check out any helpful info to see if it should be added.
Have you explored all of our nearby parks? The Belgatos Park Trails connect directly to two open space preserves with a large network of paths, to hike, bike, or venture on horseback: the The Heinz Open Space Preserve and Santa Rosa Open Space Preserve.
Or if you’d like to learn more before you explore, check out the Town’s park guide, or print a copy and bring it with. We have additional details on Belgatos Park here on the Belwood Blog as well as park-related articles and news for neighborhood residents which can be found under the Belgatos Park tag and Trails tag.
Interactive Map of Trails
My husband, Jim Handy, drew out the local trails on Google Maps and this provides a much better sense of what’s where. Enjoy!
View Blossom Hill Trails in a larger map
Last night our corner of Los Gatos had a Neighborhood Watch meeting at the Belwood cabaña with Sergeant Bill Hoyt presenting information to us on recent crime events as well as possible solutions going forward. I’ll share some images and what we learned.
Our neighborhood Nextdoor site has had plenty of information on the break ins. For those not aware, there were 6 of them in the Belwood – Belgatos and nearby areas of Los Gatos in 2022.
Neighborhood watch meeting agenda
We heard at the Neighborhood Watch meeting that there are four different organized groups involved. Sergeant Hoyt shared that one is a criminal gang bringing in teams for brief stints and then returning them back home, the South American Theft Group. They first began operating here in January 2020. Many of the traits listed below also appear to line up with the other criminal groups, too.
- they fly in from South America on tourist visas, are put up in a “safe house”, and don’t stay in the US too long before flying back home
- they hit high net worth areas
- they generally target homes on larger lots or backing to open space, where presumably they’ll be less noticed
- Monte Sereno and the areas off of Kennedy Road have had more problems than we have with these types of break ins
- they drive expensive cars so that they blend in to the surroundings, with Range Rovers or Mercedes SUVs preferred
- he shared that the gang removed a large safe in daylight with neighbors walking and driving past, and residents didn’t bat an eye as it was loaded into the Mercedes Benz SUV
- mostly going for cash and jewelry in the primary bedroom and have been known to remove even heavy safes bolted in place
- dogs do not appear to be a deterrent
- they most often hit between 5:30 pm and 10 pm and break into homes that appear unoccupied – please read Make Your Home Look Occupied (Live in Los Gatos blog) for tips
- they get into backyards, smash sliding glass doors, and enter through the hole without opening that door
- he noted that most alarms don’t have motion sensors, so if the door isn’t opened, the alarm won’t go off
- if there is a motion sensor, the alarm company will call the owners before calling the police, and the thieves know they can spend a certain amount of time before the police will show up