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.
View Campbell in a larger map
|Map of Campbell and environs. Map boundaries are approximate due to my limitations as a map maker. Boundaries and other information on this Web 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.
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 eighteen (or in the case of CID, twelve) 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.
Campbell estimated average annual appreciation
|area or type||1994-2012||2000-2012||2005-2012||2012|
|condos and townhomes||n/a||1%||-2.7%||8.1%|
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