Home Buying in Walnut Creek>Question Details

Elaine, Home Buyer in Summit, NJ

Looking for guidance about relocating to the East Bay w/2 school age kids. My husband works in SF. Walnut Creek, Lafayette, Piedmont?

Asked by Elaine, Summit, NJ Tue Oct 18, 2011

We live outside NYC now, so used to easy commutes to airport and work and city life. We need good public schools. Can you recommend best elementary schools in Walnut Creek and Lafayette? We're debating renting vs. buying. Advice on either?

Help the community by answering this question:



A colleague shared your inquiry with me because he thought my own experience in relocating to the Bay Area might be helpful. My husband and I relocated to the East Bay area from Chicago a number of years ago. Having lived and worked in both the NYC area and then the downtown Chicago area, we were both accustomed to using public transportation. Consequently, having access to BART was important to us. Because I used to travel frequently, airport access was also a consideration. And with two young kids at the time, good public schools were a must for us.

After two unsuccessful house hunting trips, we ended up renting in Montclair for a year so that we could get our bearings and familiarize ourselves with the different communities. We ultimately decided to buy a home in Orinda. I live in Walnut Creek, so I am familiar with what Walnut Creek has to offer as well.

If you'd ever like to talk by phone or visit in person, please feel free to contact me.

Best of luck in your move!

Mary Beth MacLennan
Prudential California Realty
DRE #01480008
(925) 324-6246
1 vote Thank Flag Link Tue Oct 18, 2011
If I were you I would rent for at least 6 months, get to know the areas, neighborhoods, schools, commute. Also get to know realtors who can guide you in the selection.

So many questions to ask:

1. Budget -- some areas are much higher-priced than others. Piedmont, for example is top notch and at the high end...and there are fewer properties to choose from. Adjoining Piedmont are desirable sections of Oakland such as Rockridge, Trestle Glen which also boast high-ranked schools.

2. How will your husband commute? Drive? Public transportation? Will he travel frequently that you need access to the airport --- San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose airports? Consider your commuting travel time not only to your husband's work but also to the airports if he is a frequent traveler, and if you need to drop him off or if he wants to take BART.

3. If you're relocating to the east bay, how did you pick the cities you mentioned? There are other cities within good commuting distance to San Francisco that offers many excellent amenities and good schools

4. What are your requirements for a home --- do you need/want a lot of acreage, or would you consider small lots? Do you want newer homes, or do you prefer vintage homes?

We have a really good relocation department who will be happy to assist you in your plans to move to our area. Let me know how I may help.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Tue Oct 18, 2011
Hi Elane and Joe,
Please let me know if I or any other local expert realtor can assist you with a temporary rental or purchase in our wonderful area.
PS, I also look out for your pets too!
Suzanne Looker
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Feb 22, 2012
I am also seeking to buy in WC. I have been following the prices of homes there snd see than many keep reducing their prices monthly! If u go to zillow.com, they will show u activity whereby houses that cannot sell relist it for lower. It scares me to think that if i buy, 6 months later it will be $50k less. I mean, would you buy a stock that continually falls? RE agents seem to be always optimimistic so take their advice with a grain of salt.

As far as schools, WC is divided up into 2 school districts, WC and Mt. Diablo (also includes Pittsburg, Baypoint aka "gunpoint", Concord, Pleasant Hill, etc.). The schools located in WC but within the Mt. Diablo district have API scores over 900 so that's not bad.

It's a given that all the schools in "lamorinda" are over 900 API.

I agree with others that it may be better for you to rent first. I know, it is hard to put down roots only to pull it up again and move, but do you want to buy a house that is depreciating on a monthly basis for the next 2 years?
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Feb 22, 2012
Thank you EVERYONE for all your helpful responses. I know we should rent for probably the 1st year, but i did notice like many of you mentioned that there's a limited supply of rental homes in the prime areas of WC, Lafayette and Orinda. Trying to stay within $4000/month.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Oct 19, 2011
Hi Elaine,

I do think it is a good idea to rent for 6 months to get to know the area. Walnut Creek and Lafayette have good schools and are on the Bart line which is great access to San Francisco. Having access to Bart is a big benefit to living in this area and can make life easier for commuting. There are many areas in these cities that have their own personalities and would be fun to explore. It is a great adventure for you all.

I am from the Bay Area and have lived in most of the local counties. It is a great place to live. Call/email me if you want more information also.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Oct 18, 2011
Lafayette or Walnut Creek or good options since BART is minutes away. There are some differences regarding the communities and School systems. Especially regarding STAR testing.

Other options would be Dublin, Pleasanton or Livermore. It would take your husband an extra 15 minutes on BART but you may prefer the area better depending on your wants and needs and may get more home for your dollar. All of these areas are great places to raise a family.

I have lived in the East Bay my entire life and love it. Let me know if you have any further questions. The site below is a great place to preview homes in the East Bay.

With regards to rent vs. buying, there are a few factors. One is preference. How important is it to you to own? The other is taxes. Will Mortgage interest be of value to you? If you are not familiar with the area I suggest either putting the time in before you move to understand what each area offers or rent for a year and buy after you really know the area. There is no indication that home prices will be going up in the next year so that really isn’t a concern.

Best Regards,

Eric Soderlund
Realtor, GRI, SRES, SFR
Steven Anthony Realty
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Oct 18, 2011
Hi Elaine,
I am a 3rd generation Bay Area resident and have lived in Piedmont and Contra Costa county and would be happy to answer your questions offline. The rental market is booming and rents are at an all time high. As you are aware, interest rates are at a historical low and prices have substantially adjusted down, which makes it a prime buyer's market.
Good luck whichever way you go.
Suzanne Looker
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Oct 18, 2011
An east coast transplant! (I am a former as well)

I know WC has 2 districts so depends on where you live (as Steve Dawson mentioned) so check the address before you make your decision.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Oct 18, 2011
Hello again ... if on the other hand you are likely to be here for several years I would suggest purchasing a home in any of the communities you mentioned as well as some others that would also be suitable. As I said in my first response it will take a couple of years to turn you into natives, but you probably won't miss the harsh winters or the humid summers ... and if you do you can go to the mountains in the winter (3 hours drive) ... can't help you with the humidity, we don't do that much out here.

Let me know if you have any further questions, I'd be happy to help.

Steve Curtis
Broker / Owner
Windermere Walnut Creek
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Oct 18, 2011

There are a lot of issue related to how much money you have budgeted for a home. What you want in a School and a community. How much commuting your husband wants to do. The hours he works will certainly impact his commute.

Walnut Creek, where he works is a fantastic community. However, it is also outside of some people's budget for the quality of the home they want. There are many fine local agents in Walnut Creek.

I am a Broker in Brentwood Ca (East County). In Brentwood we have fantastic Homes are very good prices. The drive to Walnut Creek can be 1/2 to 45 minutes, or even more depending on the day and the time. There is Park and Ride Bus Service, they are widening the Highway, and they are putting in light rail.

We love our schools out here too. My MLS area is all of the East Bay (as it will be for most of the agents that respond).

The link below is all Brentwood Homes. But you can search the entire East Bay Housing Market on a Real Time feed from the MLS. Discovery Bay (deep water dock homes) and Oakley are other popular East County Communities.

Good luck and let me know if there is anything else I can do to help you.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Oct 18, 2011
It depends on the school district in Walnut Creek. The Mt. Diablo school district is struggling right now, so you would want to stay away from that one if you could. Lafayette tends to have higher scores in all three levels of schooling, elementary, middle and high school.

A lot of people like Walnut Heights and Parkmead elementary in Walnut Creek, and all the elementaries are good in Lafayette. You get more bang for your buck in Walnut Creek, however, when it comes to real estate.

As far as buying vs. renting, it depends on your situation. Lots of people like to rent for a year while they get their bearings on the area to find out where they would really like to be. Rents are high right now because of supply and demand, so you will be paying a premium in rent at this moment. As you may know, there are advantages to both renting and buying. When buying, you get tax advantages and you are putting money into your own pocket instead of someone eles's, but there are a lot more expenses that comes along with owning like insurance, maintenance... Renting, on the other hand, keeps your costs down more allowing you to save, but you are paying someone eles's mortgage for them instead of your own.

Buying is a huge committment and it would be tough to make that leap when you are unfamiliar with the area. Coming out and renting might be the best thing for you at this point, since it is believed that real estate prices might still come down a bit.
Web Reference: http://www.brokerdawson.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Oct 18, 2011
Hi Elaine ... the short answer is that the schools in all of the communities you mention are top notch. I am most familiar with those in Lafayette, Orinda, Walnut Creek, Alamo and Danville and all do quite well. If your husband will be working downtown he may want to consider BART rather than driving. If that is the case then Orinda, Lafayette and Walnut Creek will have the added benefit of close proximity to the BART stations that will take him directly to SF

As to renting vs buying most areas are experiencing an increase in renters and therefore a decrease in rentals that are also becoming more expensive. If you are thinking this is a short term move (it will take us about 2 years to convert you into honorary CA natives) then you might want to consider renting because while prices are very low (relatively speaking) the rate of appreciation is such that it could take a few years to cover any future relocation costs.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Oct 18, 2011
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