Check out some price trends:
Cupertino - http://www.trulia.com/real_estate/Cupertino-California/marke
Sunnyvale - http://www.trulia.com/real_estate/Sunnyvale-California/marke
Mountain View - http://www.trulia.com/real_estate/Mountain_View-California/m
Los Altos - http://www.trulia.com/real_estate/Los_Altos-California/marke
Palo Alto - http://www.trulia.com/real_estate/Palo_Alto-California/marke
Menlo Park - http://www.trulia.com/real_estate/Menlo_Park-California/mark
Woodside - http://www.trulia.com/real_estate/Woodside-California/market
Portola Valley - http://www.trulia.com/real_estate/Portola_Valley-California/
Redwood City - http://www.trulia.com/real_estate/Redwood_City-California/ma
Redwood Shores - http://www.trulia.com/real_estate/Redwood_Shores-Redwood_Cit
San Carlos - http://www.trulia.com/real_estate/San_Carlos-California/mark
San Mateo - http://www.trulia.com/real_estate/San_Mateo-California/marke
As you decide where to live, consider not only appreciation, but also affordability, neighborhoods, local conveniences, schools, etc. By the way, even if you don't have children, schools are important because they make a location more desirable for future buyers when you plan to resell.
Hope this helps! Let me know if you need further assistance!
Realtor, Short Sale Specialist
In every neighborhood, a handful of factors and trends have major impact on current prices and demand, like the quality of schools, jobs, commute, views, weather, etc. While some of the factors won't be changing much (views and weather), the relative appreciation potential of a location is primarily driven by the flow of money. If more money is going into an area, schools usually do better as the tax base improves. Jobs, demographic shifts, and even available credit are key contributors to those money flows.
So, if you work with a realtor well-versed in detailed analysis, she/he can help you parse out the underlying trends to reasonably assess which one of those areas is expecting the most amount of improvement in money flows. Otherwise, you'll have to base your decision on mere opinions which are usually derived from gross simplifications like "expensive areas tend to appreciate more".
Before I answer your appreciation question, I would like you to narrow down your list by first talking to a mortgage professional who will calculate how much house you can afford. All those cities you mentioned have multiple condo/townhouse complexes, some will be in your price range, some not. I answered your other question about closing on a home in 3 months. Please read that answer too.
Google search published articles in magazine or local newspaper of the growth in the community which would indicate a potential appreciation of any property.
Crime Police department website
Lynn911 Dallas Realtor & Consultant, Loan Officer, Credit Repair Advisor
The Michael Group - Dallas Business Journal Top Ranked Realtors
One thing that may in demand --- waterfront homes
And as you already know, location, location, location is a constant.
Trulia offers a really good snapshot per city, of the most popular communities. Take a look
Redwood City http://www.trulia.com/real_estate/Redwood_City-California/
Palo Alto http://www.trulia.com/real_estate/Palo_Alto-California/
San Mateo http://www.trulia.com/real_estate/San_Mateo-California/
Have fun exploring!