Five Issues to Think About When Buying a Home That Backs to a Los Altos Creek

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Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Mountain View, Palo Alto and Sunnyvale have many creeks that meander throughout.  The best known are Stevens Creek, Permanente Creek, Adobe Creek, Matadero Creek and San Francisquito Creek.  Living next to these creeks can be a blessing and, at times, a nuisance.

If you are thinking of buying a home next to one of our local creeks here are 5 important issues to think about before you sign on the dotted line:

Roof rat removal, that can't be good!

Roof rat removal, that can’t be good!

  1. Is the home in a designated flood hazard area?  Is it in a flood hazard zone or dam inundation zone?  Knowing the answer will determine whether you are required to have flood insurance as well as alert you to the possibility that you may have water in your home at some time in the future.
  2. Read the title report to determine whether there are water district (and other) easements for the property and where they are located.
  3. If your potential dream home backs up to a creek, know where the property boundary is.  For Example, over the years many homeowners in South Los Altos along Fallen leaf Lane have extended their fences to the top of the creek bank, inadvertently making it look like the lot is much deeper than it actually is.  It would be terrible if you wanted to add a swimming pool or expand the home on your “large lot” only to find out that the lot and its setbacks limit your plans to expand.  I once had a seller who thought they had a huge lot on Brookmill Road.  Unfortunately the lot wasn’t as large as they thought.  After research, it was determined that the fence went through a 6k s.f. lot owned by the water district.  The 18k s.f. lot turned out to be closer to 12k s.f.  Do you think that might have an effect on its value?
  4. Be aware that your privacy may not be as private as it appears.  Many of properties that back up to a creek don’t have fences in the rear of the property.  If you don’t have a fence and your neighbors on the other side of the creek also don’t have fences, each can see into each other’s yard.  Some properties located near roads can be accessed by pedestrians going down a creek bank at the bridge and walking through the creek to the property.  Note: most of the creek banks are fairly steep but some are walkable.  At Fremont Avenue and Belleville Way there is a bridge that spans the creek.  As a kid, that part of the creek was dammed up and used as the local swimming hole.  A few years back and when the creek was dry, there were a couple of people sleeping under the bridge.
  5. You will have more “nature” related nuisances.  Creeks are habitats for rats, snakes, opossums, mosquitoes, raccoons, skunks, gophers, and moles.  It can be quite time-consuming and expensive to have these animals eradicated once they establish residency in your attic, walls or lawn.  They come back pretty quickly if you don’t animal proof your property.

My intent on writing this post is not to scare people away from buying along the creeks, rather its to inform you about some of the issues that may get lost in the euphoria of buying a home.  Living near or backing up to a creek can and does have huge benefits such as privacy and space that other locations can’t give.  If you have any questions or concerns, please contact me directly at 650 917-4250 and I would be happy to discuss them with you.

Lastly, should you end up buying a home that backs up to a creek, the Santa Clara Water District has a good neighbor fence program that may pay half the cost of a good neighbor fence up to $12.50 per lineal foot.  Pretty good deal.

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