Buy a Home
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 that look “turnkey”, especially as the market heats up or inventory more available.
Home sellers who quickly improve houses for a fast profit, rather than for enjoying the house for their own use, often cut corners. 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.
Here are some questions for you to ask or investigate when looking at homes for sale in east Los Gatos, particularly near the foothills :
- 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. But what about expensive but less seen areas such as
- the electrical system
- furnace (heater)
- water heater
- roof, gutters & downspouts
- drainage system (often needed, seldom there)
- back yard landscaping
- the foundation (always a potential issue in our east Los Gatos neighborhood if drainage hasn’t been properly addressed)
- 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.
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.
As of late January, 2010, there are no single family homes available in the Belgatos, Belwood or Surmont areas. If you are thinking of selling your home but don’t want to have to do the typical staging and pre-sale work, please contact me. We may have a buyer for your home without having to go through the usual gearing up for the market….
First, Describing the “Parts” of Belwood
The Belwood area of east Los Gatos is very popular as the homes tend to sit on good-sized lots, the streets are tree-lined and meandering, a huge park provides abundant outdoor activity and exercize space, and the neighborhood is friendly.
There are actually three neighborhoods within what is typically referred to as simply Belwood, though. This matters because it helps to explain the pricing differences from one part of Belwood to the next. So first, a quick into to this part of east Los Gatos. (See photo slideshow of Belwood/Begatos and our park.)
Surmont is the oldest and is on the part closest to downtown Los Gatos along much of Westhill Drive, Old Orchard Drive, Old Orchard Court, Campos Verde, Surmont Drive, and Surmont Court. It cuts off just before Belblossom Drive. These homes are semi-custom and they enjoy tree-lined streets; some of them along Westhill and Surmont even have views. There were several builders who constructed homes here. Homes are mostly on 10,000 to 15,000 SF lots. These houses often sell for the highest prices because they are larger, custom or semi-custom homes on larger lots and sometimes have views.
The next area was not originally part of Belwood proper so is often referred to as “Belgatos area”. It includes part of Westhill, part of Belblossom, and part of Belvue – leading up to Belgatos Road. Mostly 10,000 SF lots and semi-custom homes.
Belwood of Los Gatos originally encompassed (mostly) the streets between Belgatos Road and Harwood Road, with the cabana in the middle on Belwood Gateway. (The cabana used to be ONLY for this area and the annual dues are mandatory there. Now it is open to all three areas but the outlying sections do not, of course, have mandatory membership or dues – it’s optional there.) These are mostly “Bel” streets, except for Bacigalupi Drive and Jaime Court. Of the three areas, Belwood tends to be the most affordable; it is almost exclusively tract housing (though very nice) and the streets are not quite as tree-lined for the most part. Homes here range, generally, from 1700 SF to 2500 SF, with exceptions (Westhill in this stretch has some larger homes, some may be custom built), and usually sell between 1 and 1.4 million, again with some exceptions.
One notable exception: recently a tiny, 1400 SF house in Belwood with need of many repairs sold for a shockingly low price of $799,000.
Again, Belwood has mostly 10,000 SF lots, but one area – a section of Bacigalupi and Jaime Court – are newer homes on mostly 8000 SF lots, and a few places in Belwood have 12,000 SF lots. So it does vary.
What’s for Sale in Belwood, Belgatos, and Surmont of Los Gatos Today
At this time, there are 3 homes actively on the market in this area of about 500 houses. Two of them are on Westhill and one on Belhaven, and all of them are priced at just a little bit under $1.5 million. (Two have been on the market awile – one of them is “by appointment only”, which can make it very difficult to sell a house). One more home will be coming on the market soon: it is a 3 bed, 2 bath home with 1744 SF and will be offered at $1,150,000. (not my listing but I have been in contact with the agent about it so can fill you in on some details if you’re interested).
Why so few available homes? This is not untypical. While most owners of real estate in Silicon Valley may move fairly often, that’s not the case here. People who move to Belwood (or Surmont or Belgatos) tend to make it their long-term home. They move in but don’t want to leave! Turnover tends to be low.
Need more information on the available homes? Or what has sold in recent years? Please visit the “Homes Info” area of this website. There you’ll see descriptions of each home for sale, plus those recently sold and also some historical information on the second page of that section.
Call or email me if you’d like to discuss buying or selling a home here in Belwood, Belgatos or Surmont. I offer a no-cost one hour consultation to prospective clients.
mary (at) popehandy.com