Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Information Age Causes Boom in Silicon Valley Housing

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Information Age Causes Boom in Silicon Valley Housing

Article excerpt

Robert Andrews did well for himself when Netscape Communication Corp. went public, and put some of his windfall into a $300,000 weekend house.

He plans to spend $40,000 more on improvements, like removing a wall or two to give it an airier, contemporary feel and remodeling the kitchen with granite countertops and bleached oak cabinets.

"I would probably be better off holding on to" the stock, said Andrews, 39, a director and manager of the company's Web site. "But this house was kind of my pressure release for being in an extremely high-pressure position." With an explosion of start-up companies and public offerings, Silicon Valley's high-tech industry is undergoing a boom that is driving up demand for housing. The result: ballooning apartment rents and home prices - some of the highest in the nation. "I have never seen it like this," said John Pinto, a San Jose real estate broker for 23 years. "Vacancy means the period from 2 in the afternoon when one guy is moving out and 5 when a new guy moves in." Silicon Valley has boomed before, notably in the early 1980s, when the personal computer caught on with businesses. A slump followed later in the decade, and thousands were laid off. The current surge started about 18 months ago, driven in part by the phenomenal rise of the Internet and other technology that promises to make computing easier and indispensable. Silicon Valley's economy is growing at an annual rate of about 5 percent, the fastest of any region in the country except Las Vegas, said Stephen Levy, director of the Center for the Continuing Study of the California Economy. Getting the most attention are the new companies that have gone public, turning their founders into millionaires overnight. The best known of these has been Netscape, maker of the most popular browser for navigating the Internet. But it's not just top executives who are making good money and enjoying it. "Engineers out of college going into Apple and Intel and National are getting 60 grand a year. …

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