That being said, the most effective way for someone in your price range to conduct a search for a personal residence in Palo Alto is not by trying to first narrow down your search to a particular neighborhood but rather by looking at particular properties that are available, throughout Palo Alto, in your price range. At this time, there are only ten.
Check out these homes, first online, and then if you are interested, by means of drive-bys. There may be a home that would be a good fit for you that you might miss if you are focusing solely on neighborhoods.
Pacific Century Realty
Buyer Rebates to 50%
Listing Commissions as Low as 1%
As someone who has been living in Palo Alto for ~10 years now, I'd say this: there is no neighborhood in Palo Alto that's undesirable or less desirable. In terms of look, each neighborhood is undergoing HUGE changes and in few years timeframe all older structures (with few preserved exceptions) will see 2-story newer homes. If you are a young family and have schools on your radar, you will live here for ~15 years or so (at least till your kids leave for College). Any street in any neighborhood has people who are professionals or startup owners (read: highly educated) etc. and you will find your share of those who planned on staying for a few years and then decided to move out, and basically pretty much decided to stay put, because of various reasons. I certainly have those right on my block.
Of course, you will find status-conscious families who are dream of moving to Old PA or Crescent Park, but when your kids go to school, and you begin to mingle with the community more, you will see that in general, the community is really warm and friendly to each other.
So my 2c worth of advice is : buy wherever you like or find a house (inventory has been pretty low lately) -- and enjoy.
Palo Alto is a great place to live and raise your family! In the $1,000,000 to 1,300,000 range you will have the most luck finding a home with 3+ bedrooms south of Oregon Expressway. There are several distinct neighborhoods.
1. South Palo Alto is defined as the neighborhood east of Middlefield to 101, and south of Oregon to the Mountain View border. Many of these homes were built by Eichler and have open floor plans and 3-4 bedrooms with 2 baths. The one issue here is that most homes east of Ross are in the flood district so you will need flood insurance with your mortgage. There are some wonderful parks, including Mitchell Park and the new library being built there and Ramos Park . Shopping is convenient with the Midtown shopping center and Piazzas shopping center. Access to 101 and Central Expressway are easy, but 280 is further away.
2. Midtown is a very popular neighborhood and goes from Middlefield west to Alma between Alma and Charleston. There are great parks like Hoover, easy access to shopping (see South Palo Alto), and easy access to 101 and Central. The homes are more likely to be ranch and cottage style and can be anything from
2 bedroom 1 bath cottages, to new 3000+ square foot homes. In your price range it is unlikely you could get 4 bedrooms, but a smaller 3 bedroom home is in range. The one downside to Midtown can be the noise that some homes have from the train and/or Alma (Central Expressway)
3. Ventura: Ventura is the area between El Camino and Alma and W Meadow to Oregon. It tends to be the least expensive neighborhood in Palo Alto so that is a plus. However, there is a lot of commercial development with Fry's, El Camino, and the Ventura Community Center there. The homes are generally ranch style.
4. Barron Park: Goes from El Camino west to Foothill between Maybell and Oregon. Barron Park is another popular neighborhood with a wonderful park, Bol Park, which is home to a neighborhood donkey who was the inspiration for Donkey in Shrek. It has a slightly more rural feel with no sidewalks. There is a variety of home styles including Eichlers, Spanish style, ranches, cottages. It is close to 280 and is one of the quieter Palo Alto neighborhoods.
5. Green Acres: West of El Camino between Arastradero and Maybell. This neighborhood is close to all the west Palo Alto schools so there can be a lot of morning traffic along Arastradero . The homes are generally ranch style.
Occasionally there are also homes in this price range in College Terrace, near Stanford, which is very convenient to the California Ave shops.
Most of the homes in north Palo Alto hare over 1.3 except for some of the tiny cottages on sub standard lots.
I hope this helps!
I'd like to refer you to Ken Deleon of Keller Williams in Palo Alto. http://www.kendeleon.com/
He has every neighborhood in Palo Alto Profiled and is THE number 1 agent. Tell him Terri Vellios sent you.
I don't believe you will find another agent who knows the area as well as Ken.
All the best to you.