I hope this sheds some light on your question.
Please contact me should you have further questions.
Every local agent should provide a superior level of service without any surprise charges. It is simply the level of care expected in this area.
There's no substitute for a local real estate agent who knows the ins and outs of each neighborhood and sub-neighborhood to help you in choosing a home. To find quality agents who won't charge you an arm and a leg (and will even give you a buy-side commission rebate), check out seekingagents.com.
Best of luck!
Then there is the newness factor. Since most of the homes were built some 60 years ago (plus or minus 10 years), the maintenance and updating of homes varies widely. You can find an original Eichler with yellow counters and appliances to match, and right next door a totally updated home with a similar floor plan. Some homes have also been remodeled and expanded, usually greatly enhancing their value. And you may never know any of this from the outside.
Another big factor is lot size. On the Peninsula, land is a constrained resource. There are very few new developments because almost all land that can be developed has been (unlike Southern California where there are substantial new developments in many locations). The lot size not only determines your yard size, but also constrains the square footage of a home that can be built on it. 5000 square foot lots are pretty common. 10,000 square foot lots are pretty rare and command a premium.
Finally, as you indicate, all the schools score quite highly, but some are considered more desirable than others. Of course, this is somewhat like deciding between gold and platinum. Both are great options.
There are naturally many other factors, but these are the high points. The Palo Alto real estate market continues to be strong despite what is happening in the rest of the country.