Like much of the South Bay, Campbell is mostly a result of the post-World War II housing boom. Post-war Campbell looks like neighboring West San Jose, or Santa Clara or Sunnyvale or Mountain View. That’s great if you’re a pragmatic buyer looking for a livable house in a nice area with solidly-scoring schools. It’s not great if you’re looking for the unique.
But for those seeking the unique there’s pre-war Campbell, a quaint small town with its own identity. A vacant lot where long-disused farm machinery rusts, or a small farm house perched on an acre surrounded by tract housing are some of the reminders of Campbell’s past. Downtown, small but engaging, gives the city a depth and focal point lacking in several of its neighbors. The southern and eastern fringes of the city offer a pleasing semi-rural ambience and big lots, two things in short supply in the South Bay—much like Palo Alto’s Barron Park but on a budget. Add two elementary school districts with solid scores and a location convenient to 85 and 280, and Campbell makes a strong case for itself.
Map of Campbell and environs. Map boundaries are approximate due to my limitations as a map maker. Boundaries and other information on this site should be verified before being relied upon.
pros and cons
· Inviting downtown surrounded by quaint pre-war neighborhoods. There’s nothing generic here—this part of Campbell has its own relaxed look.
· Post-war tracts offer lots of house and neighborhood for the money. There aren’t many bummers.
· Post-war homes are usually ranchers of conventional design, not the contemporaries most buyers love to hate.
· But if you like contemporaries, there’s a pocket of gen-u-ine Eichlers.
· Some tract neighborhoods are surprisingly upscale.
· Lots of relatively affordable new construction. Homes from the 1970s are fairly common and offer more space and amenities than the typical ’50s rancher.
· Semi-rural areas have the large lots rarely found in affordable communities. Land is dirt cheap by Palo Alto standards.
· Sizeable condo market.
· Good market for the multi-family investor.
· Campbell can offer good school test scores for the money. Part of the city is in the highly-regarded Moreland district, and a few of the Campbell district elementary schools test very well.
· What can only be called “Campbell spirit”: everyone I meet who lives in Campbell, or who wants to live in Campbell, really likes Campbell
· Some schools have sub-par scores.
· Pre-war homes tend to be very small, very humble cottages, especially outside the downtown area.
· Post-war neighborhoods look like most others in the South Bay.
· Noise from 17 or 85 intrudes on some of the more interesting neighborhoods.
Interested in buying a home in Campbell? Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Downtown: Campbell Avenue between Winchester and 17, this downtown has an appealing, unforced quaintness. Not big or flashy, there’s enough of the old to give it soul and enough of the new to keep it relevant. The residential neighborhoods surrounding downtown look a little like downtown Mountain View, but the atmosphere is somehow more relaxed. Homes are usually simple cottages in typical Spanish, Craftsman or Colonial styles, with a handful of Victorians. Downtown has new homes as well, with a large Planned Unit Development and a huge upscale apartment complex. Small apartment buildings and condo complexes dot the area, as does the occasional church. The southern and eastern fringes are primarily commercial. Not expensive as downtowns go, perhaps 10-15% less than the cheapest parts of downtown Mountain View and almost half what downtown Palo Alto costs.
“The Campbell part of West San Jose”: I once heard an agent locate her listing in this imaginary area, one that doesn’t show up on any maps, yet it stayed with me because she had a point. Yes, much of post-war Campbell is identical to West San Jose, and that’s fine if you’re looking for what most buyers want: an affordable yet serviceable home, in an attractive (sometimes very attractive) neighborhood, and at a reasonable price. Builders didn’t pay much attention to city boundaries in the 1950s—to them, it was all the same market, just as it is to buyers today. Prices vary according to the usual variables—age, size, local schools—but these Campbell and West San Jose tracts are about as affordable as such neighborhoods get, at least west of Highway 17. Prices are perhaps 30-50% less than those of South Palo Alto yet the homes are similar in size and often a bit newer. They’re the conventional ranchers most buyers prefer, not the contemporaries that populate Palo Alto south of Oregon. Of course, Palo Alto has a lot more going for it than its sometimes-modest housing stock, but Campbell is also significantly cheaper than “affordable” cities such as Mountain View and Sunnyvale.
The Barron Park part of Campbell: Much of southern and eastern Campbell resembles Palo Alto’s semi-rural Barron Park, with its pleasantly funky neighborhoods, small pre-1950 homes on big quarter- or third-acre lots and lack of sidewalks. And like Barron Park, or Cupertino’s Monta Vista, the lots attract new construction, but new homes are relatively affordable in Campbell, about what a nice Palo Alto Midtown rancher would sell for. As a rule you’ll find these neighborhoods near 85 and 17.
The Willow Glen part of Campbell: Large, handsome ranchers on quietly prosperous streets make this part of Campbell and unincorporated Santa Clara County just west of Willow Glen resemble that sought-after area. Prices are Willow Glen-like too, especially in the beautiful Dry Creek area, but even the more expensive homes are in entry-level South Palo Alto territory. Neighborhood quality can be spotty just off Bascom, but closer to Leigh the area reminds me of Palo Alto’s Green Acres or perhaps entry-level south Los Altos.
Part 1: Here’s how the Campbell SFR (single-family residence) and CID (condo and townhouse) markets have performed since 1994 (2000 for CID). This graph is based on data from the Multiple Listing Service, corrected to eliminate anomalies at both ends of the price range that skew average sales price. The data has also been adjusted to compensate for the often substantial differences in average property size from year to year that can also skew averages. In effect, we’re tracking the same condo and SFR through twenty-two (or in the case of CID, fifteen) years of boom and bust. The base year, 1994, was the last year of the post-1989 bust. 2000 was the dot-com peak, Q4 2001 the bottom of the dot-bust. 2005 is often called the recent market’s peak, although the more sought-after areas peaked in early 2008. Note that like much of the South Bay, Campbell peaked in 2007. 2015 prices are as of May 2015.
Part 2: The charts below are easier to understand than they look, and they have great information. Based on the same data as above, all you really need to know is that “peak” means “peak”, “trough” means “bottom of the market for this city’s SFRs and condos, whenever that was”, and that the more negative the number in the last column, the more volatile this city’s home prices have been during the period covered. I recommend that you scan the chart now, then come back for the more detailed explanations below if you need them.
The charts are formatted in six (Campbell CID) or eight (Campbell SFR) columns covering five (CID) or seven (SFR) time periods to illustrate Campbell home price appreciation in percent since 1994 (SFR) and 2000 (CID), and the size of its recent real estate peaks and troughs. In each case, Campbell home appreciation and depreciation is compared to the average of all local submarkets covered by this site. The last column in each chart is a non-statistician’s attempt to quantity volatility by combining home price depreciation over the two most recent downturns and comparing it to the area average. Here are detailed explanations of the six (or eight) columns in each chart:
- 1994-2013: (SFR only) Campbell home price appreciation from the beginning of the dotcom boom to present, compared to the average of all local submarkets described on this site.
- 2000-2013: Campbell home price appreciation from the peak of the dotcom boom to present. I separate this time period from 1994-2013 because the data I have for some local submarkets goes back only to 2000.
- 1994-2000: (SFR only) Campbell home price appreciation during the first boom with which I had first-hand experience, the dotcom boom, which began as a modest recovery in the mid-1990s, gained considerable momentum in the late 1990s and spiked from late 1999 through the end of 2000, with a sharp but temporary downturn in early 2000.
- dotcom peak to dotbust: Campbell home price depreciation from the peak of the dotcom boom, 2000, to the bottom of its collapse Q4 2001. Note that not every local submarket lost value then (see Belmont CID, below). The handful of local submarkets driven not by stock market wealth but by wages and interest rates (like much of California) actually gained value during this period.
- dotbust to previous peak: Campbell home price appreciation from 2002 to 2007, when that city’s home prices peaked. To facilitate comparison between local submarkets, I say “previous peak” rather than give a date, since our submarkets peaked anywhere from 2005 to early 2008, depending on strength of demand (“brand”).
- Previous peak to trough: Campbell home price depreciation from when they peaked in 2007 (see 5, above) to when they bottomed: 2009 (SFR), and 2010 (CID). To facilitate comparison, I say “trough” rather than give a date, since local submarkets bottomed anywhere from late 2008 to 2011, depending on strength of demand (“brand”).
- Previous trough through 2013: Campbell home price appreciation from either late 2009 (SFR) or 2010 (CID) through 2013.
- Total depreciation 1994-2013: Total Campbell home price depreciation during the two downturns included in the data, compared to the average for all local submarkets covered by this site. Total depreciation greater than average suggests greater-than-average price volatility–in other words, a bumpy ride. Note that Campbell housing has been both less volatile than average, at least according to this indicator, and that it’s also lagged the average in appreciation.
copyright © John Fyten 2004-2014