What do I need to know before buying a house in Los Gatos Mountains?

Asked by Lovemyhome, San Ramon, CA Wed Feb 24, 2010

I love the mountains but have never lived there. I would love advice on things to consider before we make that decision. Things to consider about having a well, septic tank, propane gas. Internet/cable...what are the options? We also have 2 young kids, no pets... Thanks for your advice

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Brad Gill, Agent, San Jose, CA
Wed Feb 24, 2010
Hi Lovemyhome…not sure where to start, so much to discuss. You’re probably best off talking to a realtor that specializes in Santa Cruz mountain properties and intimately knows the communities so that they can best place your living preferences.

I have assisted homebuyers in the Santa Cruz Mountain communities before but it helps if the homebuyers are aware of each of the mountain communities and the amenities they provide. I would suggest that you do some research to determine the expected lifestyle associated with each community. Some favorites on the Santa Cruz side would be Scotts Valley, Boulder Creek, Felton and Ben Lomond. I would also suggest that you take a few weekends and venture into the mountains to get a good feeling for each community.

Once you get a good lay of the land, then some basics to discuss about each community would be just as you have indicated: Would any utilities not be available at a particular property or in a particular community? How would a well affect your water usage? Would you need a septic system? Is cable or internet available? Is the property on a publicly maintained or privately maintained road?

Many communities in the Santa Cruz mountains do offer limited public utility services with most common being – electrical, public water, phone, and gas is usually provided by a propane tank while your sewer system is usually a septic system. Other considerations may be limited trash service, mail delivery services, public safety services (the mountain communities are usually serviced by the Santa Cruz Sheriff’s Department), privately maintained roads, etc.

Also, will you be commuting over Highway 17, Highway 9, or Bear Creek Road? During the winter seasons, there can be a lot of road maintenance due to winter storms which can substantially delay commute times.

Living in the mountains can be peaceful, enjoyable and rewarding, but having a good understanding of what to expect is essential.

Hope this helps!
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Leili Mortaz, Agent, Campbell, CA
Sat Jun 1, 2013
Our friends gave up their Mountain living after more than 20 years since their young children attending Los Gatos schools required more than a daily commute for school. If ALL of the play date families lived in Los Gatos mountain, that might be something, but commuting back to civilizaation 4 times a day might also fatigue you as it did to our friends.

We have also learned that it takes a special kind of person (Like Magiver) who can live happily in the mountain cause there are a lot of other headaches that comes with Mountain Life; like fixing a water pump, dealing with propane tank,Septic Tanks., or Forrest Fires, Mud Slides, un-marked property lines, ....etc that most of us who live in Los Gatos proper can't even imagine!!

Rent for a while up in the mountains to see how you like it ! That's what I would recommend you do before buying.
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Lovethemount…, Home Owner, Los Gatos, CA
Wed May 2, 2012
Hello! We own two homes in the Los Gatos mountains and wouldn't live anywhere else. We are currently selling one of these homes so come take a look if you like. We love the peace and serenity of the mountains, yet easy commute access of our homes. We enjoy wild life too. We have two children who have grown up in these mountains.
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Are there any Asians, to be precise Indians in the neighborhood? Are they accpted in the community by parents. How do the kids accept new Indian kid in school?
Flag Sun Apr 24, 2016
Ruth and Per…, Agent, Los Gatos, CA
Tue Apr 27, 2010
Hi Lovemyhome:

There are many fine parts of Los Gatos Mountains and can can find many homes without Propane, Septic and with good communications utilities. etc.

One can also get into Los Gatos Top Schools at near 60% of the costs of living in Los Gatos.

The life style is relaxed, peaceful and laid back. In short an excellent quality of life.

We can help you find a home in Los Gatos Mountains close to Los Gatos give me a call at 408-656-5343.

Best Regards
Web Reference:  http://www.ruthandperry.com
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Mary Pope-Ha…, Agent, Los Gatos, CA
Thu Apr 8, 2010
Lots of great answers here already and I don't want to be redundant, so will only add a couple of considerations which I haven't seen mentioned:

(1) Fire danger and required clearances - you will be required to clear the brush around your home each year. Notices go out in the mail each spring with a cutoff date. If you live in the mountains, you need an emergency plan for what to do in case of fire, earthquake, mudslide, etc. - things which are much less common on the valley floor.

(2) Light - some parts of the mountain area get NO SUN for part of winter. If you want or need light, be aware of this issue!

(3) Private Road Agreements - many of the homes in the Los Gatos mountains are on private roads and when these streets need repaving or touching up, you'll need to get everyone's assistance.

(4) Road closures in winter due to fallen trees and other storm related issues - in the mountains there's an increased chance of your getting stuck at home or not being able to drive home during severe storms.

(5) Resale - it is often harder to sell a home in the LG mountain area than in the valley. Before deciding to purchase, check the "days on market" of the active listings, pending sales and recently closed escrows to make sure you are OK with the idea that it may be challenging to sell that home later.

I'll attach a link to a post on home inspections to consider when buying a home (in the mountains or elsewhere).

Best of luck to you!

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Lovemyhome, Home Buyer, San Ramon, CA
Thu Feb 25, 2010
Thank you guys!!! Great insights!!
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Mike Scherer, Agent, Los Gatos, CA
Thu Feb 25, 2010
Hello, you can find the answers to many of your questions on our website http://www.MountainMike.com. We are specialists for the Los Gatos and Santa Cruz mounains. You can also set up a search for properties that fit your wants and needs with automated emails whenever anything new comes on the market.
Mike and Ann Scherer
Web Reference:  http://www.MountainMike.com
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Terri Vellios, Agent, Campbell, CA
Wed Feb 24, 2010
Hi Lovemyhome,

I've listed and sold homes in the LG Mountains, I have a listing now pending, and talking to two others as well. I have dear friends who live in the mountains and they would not consider any place else.

All very good answers below, here is what I have learned about the mountains.

You have areas which have a Los Gatos Address but the schools are not, so if that is important you will need to research the school district.

Mountain people either (1) Keep to themselves or (2) Rally together to help each other out. There are two sides of the mountains and peaks and valleys. This affects commuting, weather, fog, sun, etc.

The mountains tend to loose power first and return power last. Not all water sources are equal and each home is different, individual well, community well, water associations, etc. Just because you have water today, you may not have water tomorrow due to someone down the line using the resource, an earthquake changing the water stream, etc.

Some communities actually are communities in and of themselves, such as Loma Chaquita, Redwood Estates, Los Cumbres, and the like.

If you are on the Summit side near San Jose Soquel Road, commuting lends itself to back roads towards the beach and there is the summit store and of Burrel School Winery for wine tasting. Scotts Valley is it's own Town with plenty of restaurants and conveniences to choose from.

Traffic can be an issue in winter and summer, if it isn't weather related, you can have construction and accident delays then there is the beach traffic and motorcycle noise in some areas.

The mountains are beautiful, mature trees, nature in it's full glory, cleaner air, more space and a lifestyle that once acclimated to is hard to leave (or so I've been told).
Web Reference:  http://www.terrivellios.com
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Norman Aless…, Agent, San Jose, CA
Wed Feb 24, 2010
The other agents gave you good things to look for, I would like to add that, one of the main concerns is the commute over hwy 17, the next would be the condition of the well, water pressure?how many people are using it? is it pumped or gravity fed? septic tank, whats it's age? how often have the home owners had it pumped? ( for the well and septic it is a must to have them inspected on any home you purchase). The land is it all useable or is it on a heavily sloping ridge? You need to be aware that there is a grocery store up there ,but if you are looking for anything else it is a commute to Los gatos to get it. ( not bad mind you, but it is 15-20 min. one way depending on traffic).
There are good things about living there, there generally is much less noise. you are usually above the smog lines so the air is much cleaner, the fog burns off faster than lower in the valley, once you get grooved in there is a better sense of community, and it gives you the sense of being away from it all without having to travel for hours to get there.
I hope this helps, as always feel free to contact me with any questions.
DRE# 01397256
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April Tavares, Agent, Campbell, CA
Wed Feb 24, 2010

Another consideration might be the weather. Our winter storms often hit the Los Gatos and Santa Cruz Mountains harder than in the valley. The storms can certainly impact your commute to work or getting the kids off to school. Maybe that isn't a concern if you have the ability to work from home. Power outages often go hand in hand with with the weather. It doesn't happen frequently, but will likely be a part of life in the mountains and you should consider what your tolerances would be.

Considering you have small children, you will likely need to come and go from your home often for meeting with friends, getting to and from school, or getting them to their activities. Are the views, the space, the quiet, etc. worth the potential need for hitting those windy roads multiple times per day? A decision you need to weigh.

April Tavares, GRI
Realtor, DRE License #01742179
View Santa Clara County Market Trend Reports: http://april.rereport.com/market_reports
Web Reference:  http://www.AprilTavares.com
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Cappy Myers, Agent, Morgan Hill, CA
Wed Feb 24, 2010
Hi LovemyHome,

I live in the Los Gatos Mountains. It is very peaceful and there are some issues you need to consider before buying up here. If you commute, Hwy 17 can be a bear and there are few ways around if there is an accident. You also have to know that you lose power often but usually only for a short time. Many homes have power generators for this problem. You will definitely want to have the septic inspected.

Most homes are on septic systems that need to be pumped every so often. Comcast has made it up here to many locations so you can have cable and high speed internet hookups, but you must verify this for the house you may be considering. Due to the trees, satellite may not be available.

There are a lot of little communities up here. You should take some time and drive around up here. We love it here. We are renting a nice home near Lexington Elementary, which is a great school. I believe the owner is about ready to sell but it may be a bit small for two kids, but there is room for an addition. Also, I believe the neighbor is also considering selling.

There is a lot to living in the mountains, probably too much for this forum. Since I live up here, I would be happy to speak with you about what I have learned. I promise no big sales pitches, just a friendly and frank conversation.

Cappy D. Myers
(408) 348-3740
Web Reference:  http://www.TimelineRES.com
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Eric & Janel…, Agent, Cupertino, CA
Wed Feb 24, 2010
Hi Mountain Buyer, There are many things to know about purchasing a mountain property. Most of which you have already addressed. Water source, septic system, drainage, propane are all standard variables for mountain properties. Regarding internet and cable, Comcast handles most of the mountains, while there are a few wireless carriers for the more remote locations.

Also since this is under the auspice of Santa Clara county, you will want to make sure the property and any additions have been permitted with the county. Keep in mind because of the topography you will want to to have an experienced property inspector who is very knowledgeable with mountain properties. You will also want to make sure you investigate thoroughly the septic system, water source / well test, pest / inspection, and in some cases may want the help of a soils engineer/geologists.

One more thing you will want to make sure which schools the property receives, and keep in mind that Summit Road is close to the cut off point for the Los Gatos Schools, since Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties merge near the top of the hill.

If you would like more guidance concerning mountain properties in the Los Gatos Mountains, feel free to contact us. We are mountain residents and are very experienced with mountain properties.

Warmest regards,

Eric & Janelle Boyenga
Intero Real Estate
Boyenga team
Web Reference:  http://www.losgatoshills.com
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Carlos Cruz, Agent, Saratoga, CA
Wed Feb 24, 2010
Hi, have you ever lived in a country area? Depending where you want to live in the mountains will depend on what you will experience. Have you decided on an area in the mountains yet? Or are you just still browsing. Please feel free to contact me directly. Have a great day.

Carlos Rafael Cruz
REALTOR | DRE# 01865777

Intero Real Estate Services
12900 Saratoga Avenue
Saratoga, CA 95070

+1 (408) 786-5179 (Cell)
+1 (408) 863.3179 (Office)
+1 (408) 877.1595 (Fax)

eMail: realtor@carlosrafaelcruz.com
Site: http://www.CarlosRafaelCruz.com/
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