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Market Watch

Modern Luxury Silicon Valley editors | September 27, 2016 | Story Real Estate

Silicon Valley is home to some of the most expensive real estate in the country, many with eye-popping extras. In Los Altos Hills, for instance, Sotheby’s International Realty has a listing for an $88 million property, complete with a 20,400-square-foot main house, an indoor swimming pool with a retractable roof, and a freestanding office building. While the 8-acre compound has been on the market since late last year, there’s no shortage of multimillion-dollar transactions around here. (Just take a peek at the chart in the slideshow above.) And despite talk of a cooling housing market, demand is still high for dwellings that exude certain qualities. Amenities that were once considered out-there are now commonplace. Features more typically found in urban locales are becoming popular in the suburbs. Here, we take a look at what’s trending these days, with top real estate agents weighing in.

Location, Location, Location
We’ve all heard this rule of real estate. What does that mean right now in the Valley? Michael Repka, CEO and general counsel of DeLeon Realty, maintains that Los Altos Hills has emerged as a hot spot. A handful of years ago, he says, buyers in the $4 to $5 million range were primarily targeting Atherton or Palo Alto; now, there’s been a shift to Los Altos Hills. “You’re a little further away from things, but you get so much more for your money,” explains Repka, who purchased a home in the latter about two years ago. Trulia’s July 2016 data showed the price per square foot in Palo Alto was $1,497, compared to $1,103 for Los Altos Hills.

In the $2 to $3 million price point, especially among younger buyers, Repka has witnessed a surge in Redwood City. “A lot of companies have taken space there—Stanford Medicine, Google, Box—so you’re seeing more tech workers there,” he says, adding: “The turnaround of the downtown area has made it especially appealing.” Indeed, the restaurant and bar scene in the county seat is bustling. Its access to San Francisco, including a Caltrain station, have also boosted Redwood City’s popularity.

Must-Have Amenities
“Today’s luxury buyers are more independent,” says Alain Pinel, a senior vice president at Intero. “They want their home to be a nest or a refuge to enjoy any time, together with family and guests.” To that end, he notes, the list of must-haves now includes gyms with commercial-quality equipment; temperature-controlled walk-in cellars, preferably with a degustation area; home theaters with plush seating and state-of-the-art audio equipment; and expansive gourmet kitchens with top-of-the-line appliances.

And, no surprise, Pinel insists that tech is crucial here. “Luxury homes are ‘smart homes’ or they are not really luxury,” he says matter-of-factly. “Home automation systems are becoming standard, with remote devices controlling most everything in and out of the house—from lighting to music to temperature to drapes to sprinklers and pool equipment.”

Indoor/Outdoor Living
“We live in such a divine climate almost year-round,” says Katharine Carroll of Pacific Union. “So it’s obvious that our luxury living space would extend outside. Builders are using big nano or sliding doors that completely disappear or slide to one side to allow easy movement from inside to out. When you’re in a living or family room that opens up to a back patio and you can feel the breeze on your face, you get the best of both worlds.”

Additionally, Carroll has noticed an uptick in large cabanas, built to accommodate a covered outdoor kitchen and lounging area. “Since the space is covered,” she continues, “builders are able to wire for TVs to allow for viewing during a party.” (Good to note as the football, hockey and basketball seasons are about to get underway.)

Wow Factor
In addition to echoing Carroll’s sentiment about indoor/outdoor living, Brad Miller of Coldwell Banker calls attention to the glass expanses in a house for yet another reason. “Other interesting, unusual components in homes: increased use of architectural smart glass, which changes tint under differerent lighting conditions; or electrochromic privacy glass walls, which turn from clear to opaque with the push of a button,” he says. “We also sold a home recently with an appliance elevator, which disappears into the kitchen counter when not in use, reducing clutter visually.”

The disappearing act isn’t limited to the interiors. Says Miller: “One of the more innovative solutions we have seen for a smaller property was a backyard pool with a retractable floor which rose to ground level to, in effect, convert the pool into a sport court when desired.” Game on.

Originally published in the September issue of Silicon Valley

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