If you're willing to shell out for private schools, though, the East Bay is your oyster. I live in Oakland and have sent my kids to several private and charter schools, and feel that there are some fabulous options here for private education.
I can help.
Serving Oakland, Alameda and surrounding Bay Area neighborhoods
SCHOOLS ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE
Since you have children and since you specified your most important considerations as being price and excellent schools, then you should take a look at the academic performance indeces for both Alameda and Contra Costa Counties.
Here's Alameda: http://api.cde.ca.gov/AcntRpt2009/2009GrthAPICo.aspx?cSelect=01
Here's Contra Costa County http://api.cde.ca.gov/AcntRpt2009/2009GrthAPICo.aspx?cSelect=07
Be realistic, however. The cities with the best schools (based on the index) may not be the most affordable (based on your income)
AMENITIES AND PROXIMITY TO WORK/HOME
Once you've decided which school districts appeal the most to you, then take a look at the cities and their proximity to your husband's work. Factor in what you like to do and factor that also among your considerations. For example, if you think you'd like to go to San Francisco frequently, then consider the commute (driving? BART?).
FINE TUNE YOUR SEARCH. HIRE A PRO TO HELP.
Since there are so many cities to consider, and if you're not familiar with where you want to go, or what kinds of homes are offered in your budget range, perhaps you should engage a REALTOR who can give you relevant information that will help you make a decision on where you should focus your search.
Driving around, as you may already know, is not the most efficient way to look around. Set your criteria for your search, and focus on that. Having a target to aim for will help you get there.
Since you also pinpointed 94501 in Alameda, presumably, you've found this island town to your liking.Good for you! If your husband is commuting to Richmond and El Sobrante, be prepared for a bottleneck (in terms of commuting) in the Berkeley/Albany part of 880. After that, it's a reverse commute.
Please feel free to contact me via email with a desired price range; I would be happy to facilitate your preliminary search.
Cameron Platt, JD, CRS
Platt Inc. Real Estate
It appears that you have done your homework and know that Alameda has excellent schools and good real estate values . Alameda is approximately 15 miles away from Richmond, however morning and afternoon commuter traffic on 80/880 can make the distance seem longer.
If you are interested in previewing some Open Homes while in Alameda, you should pick up a copy of Friday's Alameda Journal. In the back pages of the Real Estate section, you will see a list of homes that will be Open. Typical Open Home hours are Sundays from 2:00 to 4:00.
Our Real Estate brokerage provides free maps of our island city. Feel free to stop by 885 Island Drive, Suite 200 for a copy to help you get around. If you would like additional information, you may also Email me at Dania@HBRInfo.com.