One way to look at it is if you live in an area without good schools, you may consider private schools. For 2 kids, private schools can cost as much as $1000 per month or more. $1000 in mortgage payments would equate to about $200,000 in a loan amount. So you could pay $200,000 more and send your kids to an area with top flight schools and have roughly the same payment (actually you would be better off, since you can deduct the interest on the mortgage payments, but not the tuition for the private school). And in the long run appreciation is stronger in areas with top flight schools.
It is your call, but those are some things to consider.
Here is detailed information on San Ramon:
The 680 Group at Alain Pinel Realtors
There are various factors to be considered in this situation:
1. Your place of work (from commute perspective)
2. If both husband and wife works
3. How much you make
4. What is your goal from next 7 years perspective as home buying is a long term investment
If I look at your question, looks like commute is not an issue for you.
Looking at the other aspect of your question, looks like you are interested in looking at the good school for your boys, which is a smart decision.
If that is your main criteria, then I would suggest you to buy in San Ramon or for that sake Dublin is also a very good option as the schools are coming up pretty well.
San Ramon Schools are by far considered as one of the best school district in California. Schools are rated very high and have good balanced atmosphere.
As far as first home buyer is concerned, it depends upon your gross income. If you make more than 300K in today's market, you can buy a home of your choice easily for up to a Million. It is due to the fact that interest rates are historic low and affordability has been doubled. I would calculate like this:
You should not spend more than 30% of your gross on the home. That has been the safe haven.
Home & More Inc
Sometimes taking a step back helps one to keep moving forward.
I do not necessarily believe you face a "this or that" decision given you have framed your question along a pretty wide spectrum of property characteristics between the two areas. While I like SR, as Sally mentions below, there are other cities which might provide a better mixed solution for you.
Buying or not buying a home IS an important decision and it would be a good idea to discuss your purchase with a financial planner to identify all of the financial ramifications and benefits. For example, you have three boys; will they attend college? Does your medical plan sufficiently cover your family? What is the state of your retirement savings?
Personally, with mortgage rates at historic lows I would take a conservative approach and finance a portion a subsequent purchase so you have a "rainy day fund" set aside for life's unplanned events. If things go well for your family you can always accelerate pay-off by submitting extra principal payments, and/or a complete payoff.
This online mortgage calculator can help you look at "extra principal payment" scenarios.
But here are some considerations:
You won't own either home for 30 years; probably about 9 years max.
Even if you appreciate at the same, (which you won't) you'll make more money in San Ramon.
There is a reason why San Ramon is more expensive.
If you care more about money, than where your boys grow up, then your decision is made.
If it becomes a borderline decision, I would still say San Ramon is your best bet. Based on experience (I have sold homes in San Ramon for over 12 years) you can expect far better appreciation in value than you would see in Vallejo.
The downside of Vallejo is primarily the quality of schools in comparison to San Ramon but as Rachel points out, Vallejo is also bankrupt so don't expect to see much in the way of infrastructure improvements or maintenance. I would also venture to suggest that San Ramon is more family-friendly and with more and better leisure activities in easy reach.
After you determine your financial options with regards to home purchasing, then research the various communities. There is a big difference between Vallejo and San Ramon...in distance. Perhaps there are other cities / communities you'd be interested in as well. Some of this depends on your interests, commute requirements, weather considerations, etc.
I've sold homes in Vallejo and everyone seems happy with their purchase. I've also assisted clients in San Ramon. They also seem content. And so are clients in Dublin, Livermore, Pleasanton, Castro Valley, etc.
Alain Pinel Realtors
1. The schools are outstanding, keeping property values up
2. The community is family friendly & stable
3. The infrastructure and community activities are top notch
Vallejo, unfortunately, is bankrupt and doesn't have the resources needed to keep up or grow the community. Their school scores come in below San Ramon's.
Prices are higher in San Ramon, but it sounds like you have enough to put down a 20% down payment. San Ramon offers older and newer homes, and I'd be happy to show you around San Ramon and all it has to offer. Please call on me any time.
Rachel Knight, Realtor
J. Rockcliff Realtors