Finding suitable accommodation in San Jose is one of the biggest challenges facing expats moving to the city. Those headhunted by tech companies in Silicon Valley are often lucky enough to have their employer provide accommodation or assist them in finding a suitable home. But for many others, finding the perfect home in San Jose can be a bit of a struggle.
San Jose is one of the largest cities in California, with plenty of accommodation options of all kinds available for new arrivals. That said, with the influx of high-income earners moving to the city because of its proximity to Silicon Valley, property prices and rental rates in San Jose continue to rise each year.
Areas and suburbs in San Jose
Although San Jose retains a quaint small-town feel, new arrivals of all types are sure to find the perfect neighbourhood for their needs and preferences. The city boasts ten council districts and countless areas and suburbs in each. Newcomers moving to San Jose with children will love neighbourhoods such as West San Jose, Willow Glen and Naglee Park, all home to tree-lined streets, spacious homes and beautiful parks.
Young and single professionals who want to be close to work and have easy access to public transport should look no further than Downtown San Jose. There are many types of accommodation in Downtown San Jose, and new arrivals can also enjoy the myriad lifestyle activities on offer. Those looking to enjoy the luxury side of life would do well in Santana Row, which offers exciting Mediterranean-style shopping and entertainment. Other considerations include Japantown, the Alameda, North San Jose and Little Saigon.
Read Areas and Suburbs in San Jose for more on the city's neighbourhoods.
Types of accommodation in San Jose
Whether one is looking for a luxury apartment in the city centre, a large family home in a leafy suburban area or a skyscraper condo unit, San Jose has plenty to choose from.
Residents living in central areas of San Jose can expect to pay a premium as property prices here are incredibly high. Japantown is also a popular option for those wanting to live close to the city centre. While the buildings in this area are a little older than elsewhere, they certainly have a lot of character. Those looking to raise a family in San Jose opt for housing in the West San Jose neighbourhood. Although properties are by no means cheap, residents do benefit from larger houses and a lot more space.
Finding accommodation in San Jose
The majority of expats initially rent accommodation for a few years before they decide on whether to remain in the city long-term. Expats looking to buy property in San Jose should be aware that demand is high, and suitable properties tend to sell quickly, so it's best to have proof of funds before searching for accommodation.
Whether expats plan on renting or buying property in San Jose, they can get a head start by trawling the internet, even before they arrive in the city. There are many useful real-estate sites, classifieds and online versions of local publications that have property sections. New arrivals can also approach property management companies to assist them in their search for a home.
Expats should always view accommodation in person before committing to anything. While in the city, expats may also stumble on some great housing options simply by exploring a neighbourhood they like on foot and taking note of any sale or rental signs.
Those looking to find their ideal home fast should enlist the services of a real estate agent. These professionals can narrow down accommodation options according to an individual's specifications, provide photos and answer any questions one may have about a property and the rental or buying processes.
Agent fees are generally paid by the person selling the property or the landlord. We do recommend checking with the estate agent before using their services, simply to avoid any hidden fees at the end.
Renting accommodation in San Jose
The demand for property in San Jose is high, and since many of the city's residents are high-earning professionals working in Silicon Valley, landlords are in a position where they can charge high prices for accommodation.
Making the application
As in most of the US, to secure a rental property, potential tenants must obtain an application form from the landlord. Subsequently, the landlord will contact their chosen tenant, and together, they will sign a standard lease agreement. Having a US bank account will act in one's favour when applying to rent accommodation in San Jose, especially for foreigners without a social security number.
Leases, costs and fees
Most rental contracts are valid for a year. San Jose has a mix of furnished and unfurnished accommodation. Furnished accommodation often includes everything from appliances to bedding and curtains. These properties tend to be pricier and usually run on shorter leases. However, unfurnished accommodation rarely means an utterly bare apartment or house, and would still come with large appliances such as ovens, washing machines and fridges. Unfurnished leases usually run for a year or longer.
Tenants will be required to put down an amount equivalent to a month's rent as a security deposit. This deposit is refundable once the tenancy agreement has come to an end. If any damage has been done to the property, the deposit will be used for the cost of repairs.
See Accommodation in the USA for more on the national rental processes.
Expats renting accommodation in San Jose should consult the conditions of their lease to find out the details on utilities. The landlord may assume responsibility for utilities such as gas, electricity and water, but tenants will usually be expected to pay for extras such as telephone services, internet and cable TV packages.
Electricity and gas
New arrivals moving to San Jose would do well to schedule their connection a week or two before moving into their new home. Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) oversees the electricity supply in San Jose, and tenants can begin their electricity and gas service by completing a form on their website. This form will require a social security number or any form of identification, the tenant's address and service start date. This can be done up to 60 days before moving into a new home.
PG&E combines residents' electricity and gas bills. Payments can be automated and recurring via debit card, credit card or bank account; it is also possible to send a cheque via mail or pay by phone using one's account number.
Water in San Jose is supplied by the San Jose Municipal Water System (Muni Water), San Jose Water Company and Oak Water Company. Newcomers will have a different supplier based on where in San Jose they are moving to. Most of the drinking water in San Jose comes from the Tuolumne River.
The options for setting up new service will depend on the water retailer supplying one's area. The most common options include setting up water service via phone, email or in person. Similar to electricity and gas connections, newcomers must provide proof of identity and address along with the service start date. They will then receive a customer number which they can use to pay their monthly bills. Payments can be made online, in person or through the mail.
Recycling and bins
The City of San Jose's municipal website offers information on rubbish collection days across the city. The city also offers a free junk pickup service that allows residents to register for a free pickup of large items such as mattresses, sofas, tyres and refrigerators. There are several collection companies servicing San Jose, so collection processes will differ throughout the city.
Collection is typically done Monday to Friday between 6am and 6pm. For new arrivals living in apartment buildings and complexes, the city will provide green bins for non-recyclable waste and white or blue bins for recyclables. Tenants and property owners will be charged a monthly service fee based on a few factors, including the frequency of collection and the number and size of bins in the complex.
New tenants should spend some time looking into different service providers as one can often find a good range of inclusive deals for telephone and internet services. The rates will depend on the internet speed newcomers choose and where in San Jose they are located.
Buying property in San Jose
To buy property in San Jose, expats will need proof of employment in the US. They must also show that they have sufficient funds or a pre-approved mortgage. Foreigners will need a portion of the cost of the house to put down as a deposit.
New arrivals should hire a real-estate agent to assist them when it comes to buying their first home in San Jose. The agent can give buyers detailed insight into the process of buying a property, do the majority of the administrative paperwork and negotiate on the buyer’s behalf. As property is in such high demand, much of the best accommodation gets snapped up even before it's advertised publicly. Agents will have access to many suitable properties that expats won’t be able to readily find online.
►Read Work Permits for the USA to learn about what paperwork needs to be done
Are you an expat living in San Jose?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to San Jose. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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