i think it is possible to find a small house in a nice neighborhood in Marin county for under $400K, but it will certainly take some time and patience to do so. Competition will be tough but most people want/need at least a 3 bedroom, so being open to 2 bedrooms helps (but there are also fewer homes that are two bedrooms).
The farther north you are from the city (San Francisco), the less expensive homes are. This will translate to Novato in Marin county as it is the north most town in Marin. We have some homes that fit the criteria but you have to be vigil in searching and be very on top of things in order to get the house. You will also want to be open to look at short sales and foreclosures but some homeowners are realistic about market condition and will list their homes very competitively.
We also have some very nice condo complexes with relatively low HOA fees that you might want to take a look. I have clients who rather buy condos than homes, there are certain advantage of doing so.
Petaluma, Rohnert Park are both cheaper than Novato. However, if your husband might work in the city, than Novato might be the farthest North you want to look at.
I will be happy to discuss all these to you. Look up my profile for contact information.
Thanks and good luck!
Your questions shows your address as Novato, so don't know if you are visiting there or have already moved and maybe are renting now.
I sold a condominimium in Mill Valley earlier this year for $350,000 with 2 bedroom and 2 baths, about 1350 square feet with a water view and very nice neighborhood. It was a bank owned property, and there are not a lot of these "deals" at any given moment. In the past 12 months, if you were patient and diligent in looking and responding to possibilities quickly, you might have purchased a small home or condominium in Marin for $400,000 or less. But today there is low inventory, not as many bank owned properties and more competional among buyers, so its even more difficult. But, as we know, circumstances change and the market may have more bank properties and better deals and more inventory 6 months from now. There are no guarantees. But if you and your husband have a good down payment, good credit and are willing to work at this it's possible to succeed absolutely.
you say "in California" not , "in Marin". If you will be happy outside of Marin there are LOTS of homes under 400k that you would love. Best of luck to you and don't give up! maryann
Google the 3 cities, I am sure you could get a good feel of what each town are about.
Here is a link to an article the local Novato paper wrote on my real estate partner and I.
Once you are focused in on an area then it can be narrowed down. In Marin county it is very difficult to find a house in that range but within 15-30 miles away you can find a cute house .
I would be more than happy to give you more information.