Home remodeling permits: What you need to know

Approved Stamp On Signed Document

When taking on home improvement projects, your first step as a responsible homeowner should always be to check whether you need building or renovation permits.

How permits protect homeowners

City governments grant building permits after carrying out proper inspections and filing the necessary documents to keep your renovation projects on record.

While many consider getting permits an arduous process, its long term benefits outweigh the immediate hassles. The process guarantees that all construction and repair work are done according to local building codes, so homeowners are protected from greater inconveniences in the future, such as:

  • Structural instability due to sub-par workmanship
  • Sub-standard building/repair materials
  • Possible injury or threats to health or life (resulting from the above)
  • Costly repairs and/or reworking
  • Fines and penalties from the local government

On top of these, making sure that your home improvement projects are up to code will prove most beneficial when you sell your property. Buyers may haggle you down, if not back out of the deal, if you can’t produce permits for renovation work. They may fear that unauthorized home improvements may prove unreliable and result in flooding, fires, or any of the inconveniences listed above.

Which projects require permits?

Permits are required when your renovation or construction project involves the following:

  • The property’s general structure
  • Electrical wiring
  • Plumbing
  • Natural gas fixtures

Home improvements that do NOT require permits include:

  • Repairing or replacing a leaky faucet or faulty sink
  • Painting and applying wallpaper on interior and exterior walls
  • Minor electrical repairs like replacing an outlet or a light fixture that don’t involve rewiring
  • Carpeting or installing hardwood, laminate, or vinyl tile flooring
  • Replacing countertops
  • Minor landscaping work

Always remember that the best and safest way to go about any home improvement project is to call or visit your local building permit office. If you’re hiring or working with a contractor, be sure that they are also involved and aware of all discussions regarding your area’s building standards.

Home improvement permits in Silicon Valley

The Santa Clara County and San Mateo County governments enforce the following building codes (with local amendments):

  • 2016 California Building Code
  • 2016 California Residential Code
  • 2016 California Electrical Code
  • 2016 California Mechanical Code
  • 2016 California Plumbing Code
  • 2016 California Fire Code
  • 2016 California Green Building Standards Code (CalGreen)
  • 2016 California Energy Code
  • 1997 Uniform Housing Code

Santa Clara County and certain areas in San Mateo County (San Mateo City) offer Over-the-Counter/Express permit services, which allow homeowners to apply for and receive permits on the same day. These are valid for minor projects, including single-story additions of less than 500 square feet for Santa Clara County.

For more details on building and home improvement permit requirements, follow these links:

For more information about the current real estate opportunities in the Silicon Valley area, get in touch with us today at 650-489-6251. Or email info(at)david&sunny(dotted)com. We offer comprehensive first-class concierge service to ease the homebuying and selling experience.

How to sell in the fast-paced, high-priced Silicon Valley housing market

Housing Market

It’s a seller market in most parts of the United States, and Silicon Valley is no exception. In 2016, median home prices in the region breached the $1 million level for the first time.

If you’re planning to sell your Silicon Valley home, however, avoid making the mistake of thinking your property will sell with the least effort. Keep in mind that with home prices on the high end, homebuyers will be highly discriminating. From the onset, they will want the assurance that they’re getting the best value for their money.

A seller’s market gives you the best chance of making the highest possible profit for your home. But the wrong moves, such as pricing your home incorrectly, may cost you excellent opportunities and result in your home sitting on the market longer than necessary.

Here are some tips to help you close the best possible deal for your home in this fast-paced and competitive market.

  1. Price your home correctly

    Setting the right price for your home can be tricky. If you price it too high, you could be discouraging a good number of buyers from making an offer. On the other hand, if you price it too low, buyers – especially in a high value market like Silicon Valley – might think your home is inferior to others.

    A higher-priced home in a competitive market may actually be more attractive. Buyers generally perceive a higher-priced item, including real estate, to have better quality than a similar item with a lower price.

    A higher price tag also encourages “confirmation bias.” This means buyers tend to justify the price by focusing on the home’s selling points. Additionally, starting with a high listing price will generally result in higher initial offers.

    An experienced real estate agent will help you determine the most competitive and profitable price for your home through a market analysis. The agent will look at several factors in pricing your home, including the sale prices of similar homes in the area, market conditions, and the desirability of your home and neighborhood.

  2. Make sure your property is sale ready

    Keep in mind that you will be competing with similar homes in Silicon Valley. You need to justify a high price by making sure your home is in top shape and includes attractive features. Certain improvements – such as updating your kitchen or bathroom or adding energy efficient features – generally yield good investment returns, as many buyers are willing to shell out more money for them.

    Stage your home. A staged home with less clutter and personal effects will make it easier for buyers to picture themselves living in it.

    Additionally, improve your home’s curb appeal. Studies have found that homes with excellent landscaping are perceived to have higher values. A well designed and maintained front yard is also an excellent way to make a good first impression, inviting buyers to see more of the property.

  3. Market your home adequately

    A survey found that listings with professionally taken photos are perceived to be 11.5% more valuable than listings without photos. The survey also showed that video tours can increase perceived value by as much as 6%.

    Work with a real estate agent who can provide your home with sufficient exposure on various listing sites, including the MLS. A trusted realtor can also supply you with the marketing support you need, including the production of excellent photos and videos, and other sales features.

  4. Offer perks

    In a sellers’ market, buyers will often try to sweeten their offers with such perks as foregoing certain contingencies and offering more earnest money. Conversely, offering benefits to buyers can help you get more money for your home and sell it more quickly. Examples of selling perks are home warranties, paying part of closing costs, and conducting a pre- inspection of the home.

Silicon Valley’s most innovative and unique schools

Unique Schools

Innovation and great education – two of the things Silicon Valley is known for – have been combined by a number of schools in this technology-driven region.

Ranging from pre-schools to universities, these institutions utilize progressive learning techniques and the region’s abundant technical expertise to encourage the blossoming of the next Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs. Along with forward thinking entrepreneurs, a number of public school districts are responsible for some of these innovations, rivaling the models of charter schools.

Here’s a look at a few of the most innovative and unique schools in Silicon Valley today.

  1. Altschool

    Established in 2013, Altschool is open to students from pre-K through Grade 8, with seven schools in total located in New York, San Francisco, and Palo Alto. Known as a lab school, Altschool combines personalized learning techniques with their own technology. The students’ progress are constantly monitored and studied, with the intended end of coming up with an encompassing program for all public and private schools.

    The students at Altschool are placed in mixed-age environments and are given their own gadgets, such as iPads or Chromebooks. Through these devices, the students are assigned individual and group activities, known as playlists, tailored to each child’s strengths and weaknesses. Activities include fun exercises like turning common objects into circuit boards and using 3D modeling to build playhouses. Every student’s progress is monitored using Altschool’s own apps and programs.

  2. Summit Public Schools

    Headquartered in Redwood City, this school district has adapted Personalized Learning Plan (PLP), an innovation that allows students to learn and progress at their own pace.

    The system makes use of an app that features a dashboard, which students
    use to monitor their progress. The dashboard allows students to check the status of their current projects, the academic skills they’ve mastered, and their personal goals.

    Students are given “playlists” or activities that correspond to various knowledge standards. Once they’ve mastered a standard, the students can review the playlists associated with the standard and request for assessments. The assessment results are then recorded in the PLP.

  3. Los Altos School District

    Sixth graders belonging to LASD schools are given exposure to coding through a program called CSTEM. Students learn about programming through such projects as creating digital art and video games, and are given the chance to participate and compete in a school event that showcases coding. Engineering is also integrated into the school’s curriculum.

  4. Burnett Middle School

    Part of the San Jose Unified School District, this school has adopted the “blended learning” approach, in which students learn through digital media as well as traditional instruction. Several online programs are integrated into the curriculum, featuring activities that students can work on at their own pace, individually and in groups. Students are not given letter grades; instead they receive scores based on their mastery of specific learning areas.

  5. Draper University

    Designed specifically for present and future entrepreneurs, Draper University provides students with the chance to bring their start-up vision to realization.

    The school is part of an ecosystem that includes venture capital firms from around the world. It features a co-working space and an accelerator program, and provides students with guidance in various innovative technologies. At the end of the program, students get the chance to pitch their projects to a panel of venture capitalists.

    The university’s curriculum includes traditional lectures, unique interactive programs and activities, company visits, and workshops.

Affordable Silicon Valley neighborhoods with great schools

San Jose
San Jose in Silicon Valley offers high-end and affordable homes.

As the globally recognized center of technology, Silicon Valley is home to the best and brightest in the field. These high-earning tech gurus have made the area synonymous with luxury homes and high-end lifestyles.

If you want to live and work in Silicon Valley but don’t have the multi-million budget of tech bigwigs, looking for the right home can be a bit of a struggle.

Fortunately, you can still find good options in several neighborhoods within certain Silicon Valley cities. Not only do these neighborhoods offer relatively affordable real estate, they’re also in convenient proximity to the best schools in the area.

East Palo Alto

Located just across affluent Palo Alto, East Palo Alto is a city in transition. Once known as a lowly neighborhood with the highest crime rate per capita, East Palo Alto has transformed into a highly desirable community, boasting amenities that include big store chains and upscale destinations like the Four Seasons Hotel.

Properties: Thanks to its proximity to Stanford University and top Silicon Valley companies like Facebook and Google, East Palo Alto has seen an influx of new residents looking for more affordable options. This has raised the value of homes
here, but the median price of $750,000 (an April 6 to July 5, 2017 estimate) is still lower than those in neighboring communities like Palo Alto and Mountain View, where the median home prices are $2.7 million and $1.4 million respectively.

In East Palo Alto, you can still find homes priced at the $500,000 – $600,000 range, as well as vacant lots that promise great locations for future homes.

Schools: Adding to its attractions, East Palo Alto is also the home of the Ravenswood City School District, which includes several A-rated schools like Aspire East Palo Alto Charter, Edison-Brentwood Elementary, and Green Oaks Academy.

San Jose

Homes: One of the largest cities in Silicon Valley with a population of more than one million, San Jose boasts a widely varied housing stock, including high-end and affordable properties. The median home value in the city from April 6 to July 5, 2017 was $850,000. However, the median value of 2-bedroom homes was $630,000, which should fall within the budget of many homebuyers in the Silicon Valley area.

Schools: San Jose is served by Cupertino Union District and Santa Clara County Office of Education, which counts several A-rated schools in their jurisdiction. These schools include Abraham Lincoln Elementary School, John Muir Elementary, Montclaire Elementary, Bullis Charter, Discovery Charter, and Rocketship Discovery Prep.


Homes: Located just south of Silicon Valley, Gilroy is a tranquil residential city that offers a wide range of housing options – from stunning mansions to expansive single-family homes to cozy starter homes. The median home value in Gilroy based on April 6 to July 5 estimates is $680,000, making the city one of the most affordable bedroom communities in the Silicon Valley area.

Living in Gilroy may mean a slightly longer 40-minute drive to Silicon Valley, but the city is looking into improving their transit system to make traveling to the commercial center faster and easier.

Amenities: Known as the Garlic Capital of the World, Gilroy boasts a family friendly environment, with such features as award-winning parks, a community hospital, and great schools.

Schools: The city is served by Gilroy Unified, and top-rated schools in the area include Gilroy Prep School, Eliot Elementary School, El Roble Elementary School, and Glen View Elementary School.

Why San Francisco is the best place to visit in the fall

As the air starts to cool in most parts of the country, the beginning of the fall season is the start of an Indian summer in San Francisco – with pleasant, warm temperatures lingering all the way until November.

Fall is the time of the year most tourists and residents of the City by the Bay look forward to the most – here are several reasons why:

The incredibly breathtaking scenery

Taking in the beautiful fall colors of San Francisco is definitely one of the best reasons to visit the city during the fall. The city boasts numerous scenic parks, which gives you plenty of opportunities to enjoy a wide variety of outdoor activities.

One of the best spots to visit is Golden Gate Park – an exceptional venue to watch the leaves turn. Free admission to all national parks is also offered during Veteran’s Day, which presents a great opportunity to visit popular destinations such as the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park or Muir Woods.

The Litquake Festival

Held during the month of October, the annual Litquake Festival is a week-long literary festival that showcases the work some of the best writers from around the Bay Area.

Events during the festival include author readings, book signings, panel discussions, live musical performances, film screenings, storytelling, and many more. Many of these events are completely free, and are hosted by the city’s local bars, bookstores, coffee shops, and museums.

On the last night of Litquake, be sure to check out Lit Crawl, which features a huge variety off free events scattered all over the Mission District. This year’s Litquake will be held from October 6 to 14, 2017. For more information, visit this website.

The ice skating venues

While ice skating is typically a winter pastime, it’s one of the best activities to enjoy in San Francisco during the fall. In November, two ice skating rinks in the downtown area open their doors to the public – the Union Square Ice Rink and the Embarcadero Center Holiday Ice Rink. The Embarcadero ice rink is larger compared to the one in Union Square, although the latter is located in a more iconic venue.

You can also drop by the Yerba Buena Ice Skating and Bowling Center, a year-round ice skating rink which also offers figure skating practice sessions, skating lessons, and hockey games, in addition to daily public skating sessions.

The best holiday shopping

San Francisco turns into a shopaholic’s paradise during the fall. Indulge in an unforgettable holiday shopping experience by heading to Union Square, where you’ll be able to see the soaring Macy’s holiday tree, in addition to numerous window displays set up by the shopping district’s biggest department stores.

If you’d like a more laid-back shopping experience away from the big crowds, there are plenty of other shopping districts to visit around the city. You can also check out some of the city’s fantastic seasonal craft fairs, such as the SF Etsy Indie Holiday Emporium or the Renegade Craft Fair.

The hottest San Francisco-based tech startups

Numerous Silicon Valley startups enjoyed a highly successful 2016, with many of them launching incredible new tech, receiving massive funding, or landing partnerships with high-end companies and brands.

The future is bright especially for “enterprise” startups – companies specializing in technology designed for work and business use. These companies are working in a $3.4 trillion worldwide market, according to this report in 2016.

Silicon Valley to the City by the Bay

With more and more startups appearing, it’s no secret that Silicon Valley is running out of space – the new generation of tech workers is looking for to live in areas where they’re closer to (if not within) a city with nightlife venues and cultural destinations.

This is one of the main reasons why tech giants such as Google, Yahoo, and Cisco opened large offices in San Francisco. Back in 2006, Twitter also decided to set up shop in the city due to tax incentives – they have remained here to this day.

The success of Salesforce, one of today’s most successful cloud computing companies did not even consider establishing their headquarters in Silicon Valley. They started in San Francisco 18 years ago, and continue to enjoy amounts of success ever since.

Earlier this year, the company previewed their brand new 61-story office tower, which is scheduled to officially open next year. As the anchor tenant, Salesforce will occupy four floors within the building, which will be added to their existing offices in two adjacent buildings.

Salesforce is currently San Francisco’s largest tech employer – the company is hoping to add over 10,000 more employees within the next three years.

Other startups set to make a splash

Other startups are hoping to reach the level of success achieved by Salesforce, many of them also based in the City by the Bay.

Here are few promising ones worth mentioning:

  • Skymind – Even as an early-stage company, Skymind is poised to become one of Silicon Valley’s top players in the artificial intelligence category. The company specializes in Deeplearning4j-based software and services. In September 2016, they managed to raise $3 million from Y Combinator and Tencent, one of China’s biggest internet companies.
  • Nginx – Nginx’s cutting-edge web server technology is currently being used by over 150 million websites. The company may have been flying under the radar for the past couple of years, but get this – 52% of the world’s top 1,000 busiest websites are currently handled by Nginx.  
  • CodeFights – Established to foster creativity through competitiveness, CodeFights is a company that has designed a way for people to learn how to code through using fun, user-friendly games. As you sharpen your coding skills, the company will assist you in looking for job opportunities. CodeFights raised over $10 million in early funding last November, which will help them further develop their competitive programming concept.
  • Slack – Slack achieved Silicon Valley startup superstar status right out of the gates by reaching $3.7 billion valuation in less than three years. The company currently has over four million daily active users. While it’s primarily a work-chat app, its seamless integration of other features is what separates it from the new competition, which will allow them to continue thriving in a fast-paced market.

What the new Apple Park means for Silicon Valley local communities and businesses

As it enters the final stages of construction, the Apple Park is slowly taking shape as one of the most impressive technology workspaces in the entire planet. Its massive structure is a sight to behold – instead of having multiple buildings scattered around a campus, the new headquarters features a massive 2.8 million-square foot circular structure nicknamed “the Ring,” designed to house over 12,000 Apple employees.

The flying-saucer shaped campus was one of the late Steve Jobs’ final projects. He submitted plans for the mega structure to the Cupertino City Council back in 2011. Encompassing approximately 176 acres of land, the circular building surrounds a meticulously landscaped outdoor campus, and is designed as one of the most self-sustaining and earth-efficient buildings in the world.

With its sheer magnitude – both as a structure and as a technology complex, the Apple Park is sure create a significant impact throughout Silicon Valley’s residential and retail options.

How it affects real estate

Since its approval back in 2013, properties within a mile from its location has experienced a 20 percent increase in median price. An official report from the City of Cupertino expected a whopping 284% increase in housing demand after the approval of the project.

According to a article published in October 2016, even properties located within a 5-mile radius reflected a noticeable price increase, with a 4.4% increase recorded in communities within a three-mile mark, and a 7.3% increase for homes five miles away. Some of these communities included West San Jose and Sunnyarts, as well as cities such as Loma Linda, Santa Clara, and Cupertino.

The article also mentioned that back in October 2016, there were only 14 homes available for sale within two miles of Apple Park. A few realtors even went as far as going door-to-door to find out whether some of the residents living in the vicinity were willing to sell their home.

To put it simply, home prices in the immediate vicinity are likely to soar, so if you’re thinking about relocating somewhere close to the campus, it’s probably best to act immediately before you get priced out.

Next-level green credentials and energy-efficiency

In one of Apple’s events in 2016, CEO Tim Cook stated that Apple Park is “one of the most energy-efficient buildings in the world, and will run entirely on renewable energy.

Most of the campus will be powered by an on-site low carbon Central Plant, and the entire top of the structure is outfitted with solar panels. The Cupertino power grid will only be used as the campus’ backup electrical supply.

In addition, there are about 7,000 trees that surround the entire property. Apple even hired a renowned arborist from Stanford University to help with landscaping and to restore indigenous plant life in the area.

Apple Park will also use recycled water, which Cupertino will benefit from as well, as 13,300 feet of pipeline will be shared between the campus and the city.

Why Silicon Valley is a Haven for Startups and Small Businesses

Silicon Valley

Launching a startup? Silicon Valley is home to some of the world’s most successful companies. Here’s why it’s a haven for entrepreneurs:

    1. High concentration of tech companiesApple, Facebook, Google, HP, Intel, and Cisco have their headquarters in Silicon Valley, along with several other Fortune 500 companies. You’ll also find “unicorns”, or tech startups with billion-dollar valuations, around every corner – Uber and Airbnb are just some of them.

      Opening a business here isn’t just about having a prestigious office address. The thriving business climate will give you a head-start in the industry. Tech titans play a significant role in the Valley’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. They often collaborate with startups, helping them develop products and create revenue streams. Some also acquire promising startups, giving founders and investors profitable exits. High-profile examples include Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram and WhatsApp, and Google’s collaboration with AI (artificial intelligence) startups.


    1. Business and networking opportunitiesCountless corporate innovation events and networking meetups take place in Silicon Valley throughout the year. Major events like The Innovation Summit, Corporate Venturing Summit, Lean Startup Week, and the Silicon Valley Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship Forum bring corporate innovation leaders and startup founders together, fostering collaboration and lively discussions.

      Weekly and monthly networking meetups like 106 Miles, Startup Speakers Toastmasters, and Bootstrappers Breakfast give attendees opportunities to develop their leadership skills or have conversations about business-related challenges they face.


    1. Access to incubators and acceleratorsEntrepreneurs can gain valuable skill and insight from business incubators, which provide shared working spaces, networking opportunities, access to investors, and mentorships with some of the tech industry’s revered leaders.

      500 Startups, Sandbox Suites, and Y Combinator are some of the most sought-after incubators in the world, and they’re all based in Silicon Valley. Their educational programs help small business owners refine their pitch to investors and fine-tune their marketing efforts, among others.


    1. Access to financial resourcesNetworking and having a strong local presence in the Valley will make it easier for angel investors, venture capital funds, and marketing specialists to spot you. Setting up residence right next to companies with whom you’d like to establish partnerships is also advantageous. If your tech startup has tremendous potential, establishing your company in Silicon Valley will help you attract venture capitalists and get the financial boost you need.


    1. Top talentElite talent come to the Valley in search of career momentum and a stimulating work environment. An anti-trust hiring lawsuit has also dissolved non-poaching agreements between tech giants like Apple and Google, giving employees more mobility within the industry and enabling them to seize career opportunities. Your company stands to benefits from the abundance of high-quality talent in Silicon Valley.

      What’s more is that monetary compensation is the least of their considerations when making a career move. They weigh workplace relationships, corporate culture, and perceived value when making career choices, which means that even small businesses have a chance to secure top talent.


  1. Legal supportLocal laws are favorable to businesses and employees. Silicon Valley has an advanced legislative and legal infrastructure that can ease the creation and dissolution of a company, help you form and allocate capital, and ensure fair compensation and hiring practices.

    Moreover, the Valley is governed by efficient policies and regulations that protect trade secrets, business interests, and intellectual property – a boon for startups that bank on ideas, services, and applications for success.

Why Silicon Valley is a Haven for Startups and Small Businesses
For more information, visit The Silicon Valley Organization’s website.

7 Shopping Districts of Los Altos

Woman enjoying the day in the shopping mall

Los Altos is a unique shopping destination, offering a wide array of commercial districts:

  1. Downtown Los Altos
    This six-block shopping district features over 150 storefronts. Come here to run some errands on any given morning – a number of banks and grocery stores can be found within the vicinity – then get some much-deserved pampering at any of the salons. Grab a bite at a restaurant or have afternoon coffee at a corner café before ransacking the boutiques for bargains. Visit the galleries to discover local talent.

    Seasonal events take place at the Downtown Community Plaza throughout the year, while Los Altos First Fridays give you countless opportunities to join in-store activities and socialize with other residents.

  3. Loyola Corners
    Loyola Corners boasts a wide selection of mom and pop stores, restaurants, coffee shops, offices, and salons. Its rustic, laid-back atmosphere and neighborhood location make it ideal for families with children. Go out for ice cream on a Sunday afternoon or get a massage while the children go to dance class. There’s plenty of parking space, so you can expect to find a slot in a matter of minutes.

  5. Rancho Shopping Center
    Rancho Shopping Center is more than a retail complex – it’s a community gathering place. You’ll likely run into some neighbors while shopping for groceries or dropping your child off at the play center. There are several restaurants and cafés that offer quick food options like stone baked bagels and pizza. Stores that carry fine jewelry, skincare products, and women’s apparel can also be found here.

    Drop by for annual events like Wine Walk, Trick-or-Treat, and Photos with Santa. The shopping center’s grassy lawns, shaded walkways, and convenient parking will make your visit an enjoyable one.

  7. Village Court
    Here you’ll find major retailers like H&M, Zara, and Uniqlo. Shop the latest fashion trends then sit down for a scrumptious meal at any of the restaurants that serve Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, and Italian cuisine. Dig into some pancakes A Good Morning before hitting the sales racks or get some takeout from The Pasta Market on the way home. There’s ample parking, so you can bring your car without having to worry about finding a slot.

  9. Woodland Plaza
    Woodland Plaza mainly serves southern Los Altos residents. This small commercial area has a limited but sufficient number of shops for your basic needs, as well as a handful of offices that offer professional services. Pick up some groceries at Lucky Supermarket, grab a quick bite at Alotta’s Deli Café, or get a facial at Yelka Day Spa.

  11. Foothill Crossing
    This shopping center features several restaurants, a drug store, a grocery store, and a salon. Enjoy a warm cup of tea and a hand massage while a stylist attends to your hair at Honey & Sage Salon, an Aveda concept store. Buy medicinal supplies at Rite Aid and pick up some groceries at Trader Joe’s. Foothill Produce, a mom-and-pop market, sells locally sourced produce and herbs.

  13. El Camino Real
    The business corridor of El Camino is lined with retailers and offices. Some of the best restaurants in the Bay Area can be found here – Su-Dam serves Korean favorites like chicken wings, spicy kalbijjim, and bibimpap, while Noodle Talk Home Cuisine is lauded for Hunan dishes such as smoked pork belly with pickled radish and cabbage stir fry.

7 Shopping Districts of Los Altos
For more information on Los Altos’ shopping districts, visit their Chamber of Commerce website.

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