Home Buying in Fairmeadow>Question Details

Eric, Home Buyer in Rockaway, NJ

I have a final interview in Palo Alto next week and might be relocating from the east coast. Where should I start my home search.?

Asked by Eric, Rockaway, NJ Tue Nov 10, 2009

I would like to limit my commute to under 90 minutes. In addition I need good schools as I have a young family (2 daughters under 3).

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Jonp’s answer
Eric -

If these responses (I'm talking about the housing prices) haven't scared you off moving to the Bay Area, I would say you should spend some time skimming this web site that provides profiles of local Peninsula and South Bay communities. I found it to be very detailed, balanced and factual.


If you have young children, you might want to think think hard about a long commute. It is tough taking 90 minutes out of each day being away from the family (commuting), especially being across a bridge. What if there is a school emergency or if there is a (god forbid) major earthquake? And it's not a easy rural commute either (as one poster noted below). You might get stuck in traffic, raising your stress levels.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Wed Nov 11, 2009
Hi Eric,
I moved here from out of state (actually out of hemisphere) a number of years ago, and was quite suprised at the effect of a long commute in this area. A 90 minute commute in a rural area can be relaxing and enjoyable. A 90 minute commute in city traffic can be frustrating and stressful.
Almost anywhere in the Bay Area will be a city-type commute, and you'll probably want to minimize it as much as possible. I have particularly heard that the commute across the Bay is tedious at best.
Depending on schools and desirability, your money will buy you more or less house acorrding to the area you choose. There's many factors that affect home values.
Someone mentioned Sunnyvale and Santa Clara, and I think I'd agree with that, although the schools API scores may be lower than you'd like. I'd make the addition of some specific areas in Mountain View where there are quite nice homes selling in the $750k range. These locations are strongly family oriented, so they should be ideal for your girls. (I also brought my 2 girls into this area and went through the same processes you're facing.)
I agree with the comments that have suggested you look into financing, and it seems like you've taken the first steps in that regard.
It really will make it easier on you if you hook up with an agent you feel comfortable with, and they'll help you to understand the different areas. Preferably that agent should have some experience with relocations clients, as they'll be able to anticipate some of the questions that you don't yet know you'll need answers to :)
I, too, wish you welcome to the area, and wish you the best of good luck and good fortune in both your home search and your new job.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Tue Nov 10, 2009
Hi Eric, just a few comments:

"I talked with a friend about a mortgage and I will be looking in the 600 - 800K range..."

Friends are good to talk with; however, given the fact purchasing a home is a significant financial commitment you should seek out a mortgage professional to perform a formal Pre-Approval, not a Pre-Qualification. You can read more about the difference here: http://www.Steven-Anthony.com/default.aspx?pp=39377 The result of this effort will help narrow down the "where" of your "Where should I start my home search.?" question. Certainly, In this market, you will not be taken seriously if you attempt to make an offer without a strong Pre-Approval letter.

If you are the type of person who likes to be well-informed before making a financial decision you should enjoy reviewing the two following links as well:

There are three primary conduits that you can use for your financing (retail, bank, broker), which are described here:

If you will be comparing the quotes of different lenders this should be done by asking for a Good Faith Estimate (GFE) from each lender, for the same product, on the same day, at the same time!

"How is the commute across the bay from say San Ramon or Dublin?"

If you click on the weblink located below it will take you to a “Dublin-to-Palo Alto” Google map that estimates a 41-minute commute (may or may not really be possible during YOUR commute time).

EVEN BETTER, if you click on the "Traffic" button you will get real-time traffic; however, to see statistical commute times click on the "change" link right next to where it says "Live Traffic." Next, click the "Traffic at day and time" button and enter the times you want to check for your likely commute time based and historical traffic data!

" I need good schools as I have a young family (2 daughters under 3).

There are a slew of school ranking sites. I particularly like the following site due to its geo-based mapping:

Best of luck in the interview!

1 vote Thank Flag Link Tue Nov 10, 2009
Hello Eric,

This is a big move and before you even come here you should consult with a lender or use one of those on line mortgage calculators to get at least a general idea of what you can afford. Then I suggest you go online to check out home prices and listings in several different cities in a radius around Palo Alto. There are large variations in prices in this area, although there is a direct correlation between school ratings and prices (homes in the best school areas are generally more expensive than homes in the poor school areas.) If you need help with trying to decide which cities might fit your needs, I would be happy to meet with you while you are here to give you some guidance. Once you have a good idea of where you should be looking, interview at least 2-3 agents to find one that really knows the area and who will be a good fit for you. You should select an agent early in the process. It takes some time to get a good feel for the area and a good agent can help you through this process. Don't rush it, even if it means renting for a short while until you get your bearings and become familiar with the different areas and the schools.

Congratulations on your upcoming move, and best wishes
1 vote Thank Flag Link Tue Nov 10, 2009
Hi Eric,

A lot will depend on what your budget is, and what type of community you want to live in. Since we are a car oriented society here, you will most likely end up driving, and a 90 minute commute covers a large area.

Your first step should be meeting with a mortgage banker to determine your budget with your new salary, projected equity from your previous home, and tax implications of your new mortgage. I recommend Eric Trailer of Absolute Mortgage Banking in Palo Alto. 650-543-8001 http://www.AbsoluteMortgage.com

Fortunately, Palo Alto and the surrounding communities have excellent schools, so your daughters will have excellent educational opportunities in a highly diverse environment. You will quickly get used to our moderate climate and sunshine!

I specialize in executive relocation, so please feel free to contact me if I can answer any additional questions for you.
Web Reference: http://www.VentouxHomes.com
1 vote Thank Flag Link Tue Nov 10, 2009
Hi Eric!
Welcome to Palo Alto, and the Bay area, a great place to raise a family. The only things missing here are good steak sandwiches and tasty cakes. The first thing you should do is talk to a lender about your price range. I am happy to give you some referrals if you need them. After you figure out your price range then you can start narrowing down neighborhoods. There are some excellent schools all over the west bay area in Los Gatos, Cupertino, Sunnyvale, Los Altos, Mountain View, Palo Atlo, Menlo Park, Portola Valley, Woodside, Atherton, San Carlos, Belmont, San Mateo, Burlingame, Millbrae, Redwood Shores, just as some examples. If you go to my website http://www.marcymoyer.com and click on the link Search for Homes you can look at homes in these cities. When you come out you should put aside a few hours if possible to drive through these neighborhoods, preferably with a realtor so you get a feel for what is available and what you like. Do you want to live near a small downtown area, do you need a large lot, do you want a water view? These kinds of issues can be discussed when you go on a neighborhood tour. You could also look in the east bay which has lower home prices and more newer construction, but the commute is horrible. If you have any questions feel free to ask
Web Reference: http://www.marcymoyer.com
1 vote Thank Flag Link Tue Nov 10, 2009
Definitely a good idea to go ahead and find a good local agent!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon May 2, 2011
Never to early to start your search!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Dec 20, 2009

Don't listen to realtors. Schools in California shamelessly suck. Foreclosure is increasing and increasing even in Palo Alto. Check Foreclosure center on Trulia to find out.. It's just not a good time to buy.

Rent is cheap. Check on Apartment.com Live in apartment in a few years before your kids are ready for Kindergarten. Preschool is not free in California. There are good preschools, especially those smaller ones. If you can afford, by all means, send your kids to private school.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Dec 17, 2009

George provides some great advice.
I have lived in San Calros since 1986 and raised my two sons there.
Wonderful safe community oriented town but not quite as costly as Palo Alto and Menlo Park.

Renting for a period of time is also a good idea. Will give your family a better of idea of the area and what will suit you best.

0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Nov 27, 2009
Definitely consider San Carlos, which has a solid public school system including an established charter school, a great parks and recreation program, youth center and children's theater. The air quality is also comparatively good. It's a very short commute to Palo Alto (15-20 min.)




You may also choose to rent (in Palo Alto) for a while, to get a feel for the Bay Area and decide where you'd like to put down roots.

Good luck to you!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Nov 27, 2009
Hi Eric,

The best area for your dollar is in either Campbell or the Cambrian area of San Jose. I used to be a Deputy Sheriff in the East Bay and while there are some nice areas, you will be surrounded by some not so nice areas. Palo Alto and the immediately surrounding areas are expensive.

You get more bang for your buck in Campbell or the Cambrian area of San Jose; bigger homes (3-4 Beds/2+ Baths), top rated schools, and nice and safe communities. If you want even more bang for your buck and do not mind commuting, I would suggest Morgan Hill or the mountains, San Leandro Valley or Boulder Creek (you would have to like windy roads). You have a lot of options in your price range. I would suggest beginning your search at http://www.realtor.com.

Good luck in your interview. Should you have any questions do not hesitate to call or email me.

Best regards,
Cappy D. Myers,
Managing Broker
Web Reference: http://www.TimelineRES.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Nov 18, 2009
Hey Eric, building on what Jonp wrote, you can also "wiki" the cities. Here's an example for Palo Alto:

0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Nov 11, 2009

Here's a place you can keep track of Housing stats (Sales ect.) for the Bay area


0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Nov 11, 2009
There are some good options for your price range of $600,000 to $800,000. In Santa Clara County you could look at homes in the Moreland or Campbell School District, in the Cambrian or Almaden neighborhoods, or in the western end of Santa Clara. In San Mateo county there are some great homes in school districts in Millbrae or San Bruno. If you would be ok with a townhome you would have more choices a little closer to Palo Alto. You can go to the website http://www.greatschools.net to find out more about the schools in those areas.
Web Reference: http://www.marcymoyer.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Nov 11, 2009
Well, for elementary schools, Huff Elementary has the highest scores, but the area will be difficult to get into for under $1mill. Next comes Bubb, in Cuesta Park. $800k 'might' get you something decent in that area. After that I'd suggest maybe Monta Loma.

Most of this assessment is based on API scores. My stepdaughter is a teacher, and has very clear opinions on how accurate that basis is. Once again there are many factors which affect how 'good' a school is.

There's a wonderful website called GreatSchools.net that not only gives API scores, but also often has comments from the parents of children at the school, which can be very helpful.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Nov 10, 2009
What are the best communities in Mountain View for schools?
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Nov 10, 2009
You are looking at about 50 to 60 min give or take the traffic...
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Nov 10, 2009
Hi Eric,
Well you got some good information about where to look. I suggest that you put in a few searches with your criteria and price range, that way you can get an idea of whats available to you along with how far away it is from your work ( I hope your interview goes well :). Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, parts of Evergreen, Mt View,Campbell, Cambrian are good areas to begin with. I have a web site( see below ) where you can search these areas and if you need assistance with your search or with finding out about schools just email me and I would be happy to assist you.
If you have any questions please feel free to contact me.
DRE# 01397256
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Nov 10, 2009
How is the commute across the bay from say San Ramon or Dublin?
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Nov 10, 2009
Great, Sunnyvale and Santa Clara are great places to live and are also close to Palo Alto. With traffic you are looking at a commute time of 30 minutes.You can either purchase single family home. or Townhomes. I currently live in Santa Clara and used to live in Sunnyvale and they are both great places to live...

Best regards,
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Nov 10, 2009
Hi Eric

OK good information.....

For $700K to $800K, you can get a small older home - maybe 2 bedroom 1 bath maybe 3 bedroom 1 bath probably 1100sf to 1300sf in a good neighborhood with good schools in San Carlos Belmont Mt. View or Sunnyvale.

If you need or want a larger newer home than the East Bay or in San Jose would be your best best.

I just sold a 2500 sf 17 year old 3 bedroom 2 bath home in Hayward Hills for $682,000.

0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Nov 10, 2009
I talked with a friend about a mortgage and I will be looking in the 600 - 800K range...
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Nov 10, 2009
I just assisted a family from New York to Palo Alto. You will find there are differences in the way real estate changes hands here.

I would recommend the following;
1) Talk with your employer regarding any benefits they may offer
2) Get pre-approved for a loan through a direct lender (I have resources for you if needed)
3) Interview and choose a realtor.

Armed with the above information, you should have the foundation to start exploring our area and decide what price and neighborhood fits your family.

Welcome to Sunny California!
Web Reference: http://www.terrivellios.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Nov 10, 2009

Good luck on your interview!
Hopefully, your new employer will offer you a very attractive compensation package. :-)

The SF Peninsula is a great place to live.

Housing prices are very high - average prices in Menlo Park, Palo Alto, and Los Altos are between $1.25M to $1.5M.

Prices for the communities just north and south of Palo Alto and Menlo Park are lower.

So you can find homes in Mt. View, Sunnyvale, Redwood City, San Carlos, and Belmont for $800K to $1M.

Property values in the East Bay are lower but then you will be fighting bridge traffic both going to work and coming home.

I have been selling homes on the Peninsula since 1978 and would be glad to help you and your family find the best spot for you.

0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Nov 10, 2009
Hi Eric,

Good luck with the interview. I am a transplant from the Boston area. I think you will really love the area. The bay area real estate market is quite unique like our micro climates. As already stated, a 90 minute commute puts you in reach of many great communities with good schools. Budget and the feel you are looking for is going to ultimately drive the decision.

Moving here from the East Coast, I quickly became a fan of the South Bay for its moderate climate, easy access to highways and overall feel. Some great cities to begin researching (in no particular order), Los Gatos, Saratoga, Palo Alto, Los Altos, Campbell, Cupertino, Santa Clara and San Jose.

Your best bet will be to interview a few agents as they will provide you with an overview of the various communities and provide you with real estate sales trends and comps.

If I can be of assistance, feel free to contact me. I understand personally the challenges moving cross country can present and how important it is to have support throughout the process.

April Tavares, GRI, ASP
Realtor, DRE License #01742179
Web Reference: http://www.AprilTavares.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Nov 10, 2009
Hi Eric,

As Mario indicated below, a 90 minute commute would allow you to live almost anywhere in the Bay Area and work in Palo Alto (located almost exactly between San Francisco and San Jose).

You need to decide what is important to you in a home - do you prefer a more urban atmosphere? Suburban? Country? Views?

What hobbies are important to you and your family? Hiking? Travel? Visiting museums?

Budget certainly enters into the picture. There are numerous communities all up and down the Peninsula and Bay Area with very good schools.

You'll want to evaluate what is important to you and then narrow your search and investigate which cities feel right to you.

If you have friends in the Bay Area, I'd talk to them and get their recommendation on places to investigate. Real estate agents can also provide similar information, but your 90 minute commute range probably means you'll want to talk to several agents from various areas in order to get local expertise.

Good luck in your final interview. The Bay Area is a wonderful place to live!

John Barman
Coldwell Banker Palo Alto
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Nov 10, 2009
Hi Eric,

Definitely get pre-approved first so that you know how much of a home you can afford. The price will determine how close/far of a commute it will be. Once pre-approved, interview realtors and work with one you are comfortable with. Request the realtor to take you around so you can familiarize yourself with the area so that you know what neighborhoods are ideal and what are not. If you have a price in mind already, I'd be happy to send you a few listings to preview in the meantime.

Feel free to contact me if you would like to set up an appointment for a free home buying consultation.

Vicky Le, Intero Real Estate
Office: 408-342-3085
Email: vle@interorealestate.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Nov 10, 2009
Hi Eric, Budget is important. Let me know what you think you can afford and I can email over some listings with details and you can start to get an idea what neighborhood might work for you.

Web Reference: http://www.maui4rent.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Nov 10, 2009
Hello Eric,
The first thing that you should probably do is to interview Realtors and choose the one you feel most comfortable with, and you will see in a moment that a lot of agents will reply back to you. Then you should get pre-approved for a loan and make sure you feel extremely comfortable with the payments. Once you had done all that then you will be on your way to home owner ship. If you like you can contact us to help you out or choose from the many that will reply. Everyone will be extremely helpful in finding you the perfect home. Good luck in your venture.

Hector Gamez
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Nov 10, 2009
Definitely budget is an issue. Your commute distance puts almost any neighborhood within reach. What do you think you can afford?
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Nov 10, 2009
Mario Pinedo,…, Real Estate Pro in Cupertino, CA
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