Best little city in Silicon Valley?

In the ongoing crusade to turn data into meaningful information into big bucks, Money Magazine has named Milpitas the 29th most appealing small town in America.  It’s one of only two Bay Area towns–Pleasanton came in 31st–to make the list.

I, personally, have no opinion concerning Milpitas (which might mean “little cornfields”, according to Money) because I’ve been there a few times and made a real effort to not go back.  Which is odd because, in some ways, Milpitas is a natural for most of my clients:  great schools, convenient location, and affordable by Valley standards.  And yet, nothing calls me back.  Not the schools, nor the location, nor the cheap housing, nor even the Great Mall.

Of course, I’m spoiled because I grew up in this house…

atomic samba

…no, sorry, wrong house…let me look on my hard drive again…okay, here it is:

San Luis

Here’s the little gem I grew up in, minus the fountain in the front yard and the vinyl windows and the garage–back in 1959 a carport was fine for starter housing in Orlando, Fla.  Come to think of it, this could be Milpitas.

Before Money’s ringing endorsement inspires you to pull up stakes and move to Milpitas, consider this reader comment:  “If they knew anything about Milpitas, they would know that they have a HUGE odor problem…look it up” and I did and, sure enough, I found online articles with titles such as “Milpitas Landfill Odor Complaints”, “City of Milpitas says odor complaints on the rise”, and “Sewage fumes from San Jose plant waft into Milpitas”.  I’ve never noticed an odor the handful I’ve times I’ve been in Milpitas, but I’ve definitely noticed it the handful of times I’ve been in the adjacent neighborhoods of Fremont, and it smells like rotting garbage, lots of rotting garbage, and not in a good way.

As long as we’re picking on Milpitas, it’s the only city I know of that 1) has great schools, and 2) was hit hard by bank-owned homes and short sales during the Great Recession, suggesting that the correlation between affordable home prices and distressed sellers is stronger than the correlation between highly-regarded schools and stable home prices.  At least in Milpitas, number 29 on Money’s list and number 1 in your heart.

I’m not putting down Milpitas, believe it or not–every city has trade-offs, and you don’t get great schools, good location and cheap housing in Silicon Valley without making a few trade-offs.  I mention all this only because Milpitas is a classic example of “you get what you pay for”.  There are no bargains in Silicon Valley real estate–no end-arounds the high cost of housing here–only trade-offs.

I also mention all this because Money’s enthusiasm for Milpitas is yet another attempt to substitute statistical analysis for real knowledge and sell it on the newsstand.  The problem with purely theoretical, numbers-based knowledge is that algorithms don’t have a sense of smell.  They don’t live in cities.  They don’t buy homes–and they don’t make a living helping people buy homes.

So it should be no surprise that any real estate analysis that relies solely on statistics occasionally has its own “odor problem”.

copyright © John Fyten  2014





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