SJ, Home Buyer in Burlingame, CA

If you had a choice, where would you buy?...Alamo, Blackhawk, or Sanders Ranch in Moraga

Asked by SJ, Burlingame, CA Tue Sep 23, 2008

A little about my self....I am married, have two kids (ages 5 and 2 1/2). Have seen homes in all three areas and all have pros and cons to each. Have three houses in mind, one from each location. Just can't seem to pull the trigger on which one. Help.

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BEST ANSWER
All good, very different locations and all offering different lifestyles.

Blackhawk attracts people who like the Country Club environment. Golf enthusiasts. People who will take advantage of the facilities.

Moraga has the "village" atmosphere. Traditional, sleepy, laid back, older demographic.

Alamo is harder to categorize because it depends on which part of Alamo you are looking at - West side is very traditional, older money, mostly smaller homes (but large lots). Again, more of the village feel. East side has much more modern larger homes in general. Roundhill Country Club or Bryan Ranch and Whitegate are something else again.

Schools in all the areas you mention are excellent (although I would seriously suggest you check out individual schools on http://www.greatschools.net. And check with the school district to confirm there will be a place available in the elementary school - that could avoid a nasty surprise!

I would have thought your commute would have some influence. Where do you work? The commute from Moraga down to 24 in Orinda can be painful at times. So can the commute from Blackhawk to 680. Alamo does not have these problems. How about your lifestyle? If you go to the city frequently, Blackhawk may not be the best location for you. Similarly if Walnut Creek would meet most of your social/cultural needs, Alamo is a great location.

If you wanted to buy in the area that has the best chance of maintaining / increasing values, I would probably go for Moraga or Alamo but a home is much more important than just an investment and real estate will always be a great long term investment where ever you buy in these three locations.

Bernard Gibbons

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Bernard Gibbons, Realtor, e-PRO Certified Internet Specialist
J. Rockcliff Realtors, 15 Railroad Avenue, Danville, CA 94526
Phone (925) 997-1585
bernard@bernardgibbons.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Sep 23, 2008
If all the homes seem equal, pick the one with the best facilities / commute that meet your needs and write an aggressive (not ridiculous) offer. If it doesn't come together, you still have a fall-back.

Bernard Gibbons

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Bernard Gibbons, Realtor, e-PRO Certified Internet Specialist
J. Rockcliff Realtors, 15 Railroad Avenue, Danville, CA 94526
Phone (925) 997-1585
bernard@bernardgibbons.com
1 vote Thank Flag Link Sun Sep 28, 2008
SJ...all three areas are nice. But here's a thought....if one of the three does not jump out at you, perhaps you still have not found the right home......?
Web Reference: http://www.cindihagley.com
1 vote Thank Flag Link Sun Sep 28, 2008
Cindi Hagley, Real Estate Pro in Pleasanton, CA
MVP'08
Contact
Whitegate is a very nice neighborhood. Prices have come down there over the past couple of years but not so much as in many places. I expect it will recover quickly when the market turns.

One thing to be aware of is that there is a mixture of original homes and much updated homes as well as everything in between in Whitegate. You will notice that many have original (wood shake) roofs and quite a few need replacing in my opinion so if you do decide to buy there, a roof inspection is highly recommended.

Have you looked at Bryan Ranch? That is another very nice neighborhood, just beyond Whitegate. If I can help you in any way, please don't hesitate to contact me. You can view all Alamo homes (and homes throughout the San Ramon Valley and Lamorinda) on my web site at http://www.BernardGibbons.com.

All The Best

Bernard Gibbons

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Bernard Gibbons, Realtor, e-PRO Certified Internet Specialist
J. Rockcliff Realtors, 15 Railroad Avenue, Danville, CA 94526
Phone (925) 997-1585
bernard@bernardgibbons.com
1 vote Thank Flag Link Tue Sep 23, 2008
SJ,
I read through a majority of the responses you have received, and it is amazing to see the different perspectives as well as the emotion certain individuals have. I grew up in Lafayette, went to St.Perpetua (a private K-8 school) in Lafayette and then went to Campolindo High School in Moraga. My family was one of the few people that lost their house in the 1989 earthquake and we had to move into Sanders Ranch for a year and a half while our house was being rebuilt in Lafayette. While I agree with some of the others that Sanders Ranch is a bit of a drive (10-15 minutes) to get to Orinda or Lafayette BART or Hwy 24, as Jenny pointed out, Moraga is a small safe community environment where your children will grow up with the same group of friends all the way through high school. Moreover, after they finish college, they will most likely want to move back into the area, because the have fond wonderful memories. I am a product of that. Though I don't have children, I sit on St. Perpetua's school board, I coach youth basketball and I still keep in touch with my friends that I grew up with back in Kindergarten. I realize that you are looking for help on deciding which neighborhood to purchase, and I think Bernard touched upon it. -"Lifestyle". I ask all my clients what they are looking for (i.e. priorities). Most of them that have children want neighborhood. And when I say neighborhood, I mean "tree lined" streets where there isn't much road traffic. Where kids actually play in the street. Where parents can feel comforted that there child is either at Johnny's house next door or down at the local community park. While I have heard the word "sheltered" used a lot of the time when referring to the Lamorinda area, I think that can be a positive thing, if you are a parent.

So, I guess the question you have to ask yourself is, what are your priorities? Do you want neighborhood? little commute time to the city? a secured gated community? walking distance to town? etc.

Most people say all the above, and you can get a lot of the above in certain areas of the East Bay, but you will also pay a premium for it, because the demand for those homes is what drives the pricing up!

Hope that helps, but feel free to ask any other questions you have. I have lived in the East Bay almost 30 years (with exception of four - when I attended college). And I would be happy to share my personal experiences on the Lamorinda area as well as give you some ideal neighborhoods to look at depending on what your "priorities" are.

Best of luck hunting!
Brian
Web Reference: http://www.tom-rochford.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Nov 20, 2008
What I mean is that your life style in Alamo may be very different than your lifestyle in Moraga or Blackhawk. Jenny expressed far better than I could, what it is like to raise a family in Sanders Ranch. People who live in other areas may prefer them for different reasons. The Moraga / Sanders Ranch lifestyle is unquestionably different to the Blackhawk Country Club lifestyle. It isn't that one is better than another. It is what is right for the individual or individual family.

Bernard Gibbons

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Bernard Gibbons, Realtor, e-PRO Certified Internet Specialist
J. Rockcliff Realtors, 15 Railroad Avenue, Danville, CA 94526
Phone (925) 997-1585
bernard@bernardgibbons.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Oct 4, 2008
Bernard,

What is lifestyle - it can't be deciding between Alamo, Blackhawk or Moraga. It is having the money for Europe or vacations, education, great food, charity. It is the capacity to spend real "chunks" of time doing the things one loves to do.

To say that too many people look at housing as "what is the best investment" ignores the simple fact that housing is shelter, it is not an investment. Living in the east bay may be a lifestyle choice if one lives in the midwest, but choosing from three nice communities is not.

Oscar
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Oct 4, 2008
And that's exactly what I mean when I say that buying a home is a lifestyle choice!

Far too many people look just for "what is the best investment?" Quality of life comes first. Almost all real estate is a good long-term investment. Decide what lifestyle you want and then go for it!

Bernard Gibbons

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Bernard Gibbons, Realtor, e-PRO Certified Internet Specialist
J. Rockcliff Realtors, 15 Railroad Avenue, Danville, CA 94526
Phone (925) 997-1585
bernard@bernardgibbons.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Oct 3, 2008
I lived in Sanders Ranch in Moraga for about 19 years. I raised 2 children (one graduated from Pomona College 2 years ago and the other is a junior at UC Davis). I can't tell you how much my children loved living in Moraga. It is a small community of primarily educated, professional people who are very family oriented.
Moraga is also one of the safest communities in the Bay Area. Because it does not have direct access from the freeway, we get very little through traffic.
A side note - we relocated to Europe when the children were 7 and 10 years old. Three years later, we chose to move back to Moraga to help the children transition back into their life in the States. When we came back (to Moraga), it seemed that nothing had changed. The kids found their friends again and blended right back in. It was amazingly easy.
I can't speak about Alamo or Blackhawk but I couldn't have picked a better place to raise my kids.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Oct 3, 2008
Wow! Thanks everyone for all your insight. With recent market events, instead of buying one house for $1.3mil, I might consider buying a smaller house AND a cabin up in Tahoe. Why not get two for the price of one. If I were to do this, Alamo is defnitely out because no too many homes under $1m. So it might be Danville or LaMorinda. Hmmm...thoughts?
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Oct 3, 2008
About schools. Just be careful. The "best schools in the state" don't mean much considering CA is rated 49/50 for education. Also, the school data is skewed. Most kids in the "good areas" do extensive extracuricular learnings through Kumon, Sylvan, etc. This makes the schools look better vs other areas where the families can't afford the extra tutoring. Believe it or not; in general schools are pretty similar in most areas; student motivations, parent involvement, etc are factors that are not related to schools but lead to improved performance. of course, I am not saying that all schools are the same; But in general Ayers elementary in Concord is about the same in quality as the best elementary school in Alamo.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Oct 2, 2008
I like Blackhawk the best of all these areas. It is by far the nicest neighborhood in the east bay, but it is too far away from everything. Moraga is also way too far and extremely boring. I would go crazy there. It really reminds me more of "compound" living.

I think Alamo is the best area of all 3. It is very nice, good for commuting, seems private, closer to SF and Walnut Creek. The downside it there is nothing to do there...pretty much only a grocery store.

When we finally decide to pull the trigger and buy a place, we are going to buy there or Lafayette. The problem with Lafayette is that many people do not maintain their properties so you could end up living next door to the clampets. The Lamorinda schools are the best in the state though, but Alamo schools are also very good.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Oct 2, 2008
SJ,

We live in Alamo and love it. Whitegate is very nice and quiet as is Bryan Ranch and Roundhill. The west side of Alamo gets early evening shade because of the hills to the west and has more traffic noise. That said the west side is quaint, close to shopping and the Iron Horse Trial.

Happy house hunting!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Sep 30, 2008
I agree with John that prices will decrease significantly over the next couple of years. The ratio of income to home prices will return to historic norms. Alamo is a very wealthy community with median household incomes in excess of $150,000 /year. A normal ratio of income to house price would be 3 or 4. In other words, the median price of homes in Alamo will likely need to approach $600,000 before it would make sense to enter into the market.

If you look at a long term home price chart for Alamo - see Yahoo Real Estate - it suggests that prices will return to the values of 1995 to 2000.

Since the days of easy money are well behind us - bail out or not -cash is king. And the annual cash flow will determine home price levels.

Oscar
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Sep 30, 2008
just to substantiate my answer: 1)Case-Schiller Index. 2) Historic divergence of income/housing prices. (psst...the average household in Alamo does not make 350K, so the "average" home cannot be valued at 3-4 times that price.3) End of cheap, easy money which enabled these prices to shoot up without real underlying fundementals 4) Lots of inventory even in the "nice" areas. 5) Overall downturn in the economy which will effect everything from the prices of socks to homes 6) Bay Area job losses. Yes even, people in the bay area lose their jobs 7) 10 years of appreciating prices. Time to give back a little of that gain. 8) Aging baby boomers looking to downsize, cash out or in some cases, unfortunately, death. 9) Real jumbo rates are near 9%.10) People are realizing that the home prices and mortgage are not the only expenses. i.e. property taxes, maint, utilities are substantial for million dollar house. 11) Lenders are not loaning unless you have 20% or more down. Why? Because they realize these homes are going to come down in price and they don't to hold the bag.

SJ: There is no such thing as a "real estate professional" It is not a profession. A physician, attorney or engineer is a professional, i.e. So don't believe what they say. I've never heard one say "this is a horrible time to buy" Have you?
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Sep 30, 2008
Interesting thoughts SJ and I can certainly empathize. We are certainly living in "interesting" times. I really do refute John's statement that all these areas are vastly overpriceed and that prices will therefore come down there. There is absolutely nothing to substantiate that statement.

Yes I saw that the Bill failed to pass. But only just. No doubt it will be re-presented in a slightly revamped form when it will pass. It is apparent that Politicians are playing Politics because they are worried about losing their seats!

On the subject of where or if you should buy a home in any of these areas, I would re-iterate that buying a home is more of a lifestyle choice than an investment decision (although real estate is still a great long term investment - it should never be considered a short-term investment other than for "flippers"). If you are not convinced that now is the time to buy for you, you are probably right. If you really do want to buy now (as in make a lifestyle change), you probably should.

A question - How will you know when is the right time for you to buy?

Bernard Gibbons

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Bernard Gibbons, Realtor, e-PRO Certified Internet Specialist
J. Rockcliff Realtors, 15 Railroad Avenue, Danville, CA 94526
Phone (925) 997-1585
bernard@bernardgibbons.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Sep 29, 2008
All,

Thank you for your answers and insights. Cindi with your insight as to whether we had "found" the right home. Interested in thoughts of how far the markets will go south, given the recent news that the House did not pass the bill and the Dow is currently down 600pts or so.

Bernard, very helpful in your answers.

Since I'm sitting on quite a bit of cash, maybe I'll just sit and wait it out (thus taking John's advice). Or maybe buy a much cheaper home and also buy a cabin up in Tahoe.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Sep 29, 2008
you will lose substantial sums of money if you buy into any of these areas. They are vastly over priced. I you would like to live there; rent for a few months and see if you still like it. In the meantime you will save $$. People are talking about massive worldwide depression and you are about to pay $400/sq ft. If you are super wealthy, then fine; but if you have to work to pay your bills...watch out.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Sep 28, 2008
Thank you gentlemen for your answers. Yes, all three are great neighborhoods. Just a very difficult decision. Bernard, you mentioned Whitegate in Alamo, that is where we saw the home. Is that a nice area?
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Sep 23, 2008
SJ,

I personally live in Danville, so you know which area I favor, but it's really a personal decision. All three areas are Great. Sanders Ranch is a little more difficult to get to, but other than that, all three are wonderful place to raise a family.

Good Luck.

Jerry Flynn
Old West Realty Inc.
Danville, Ca.
925-820-6550
oldwestinc@yahoo.com
http://housebiz.ca
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Sep 23, 2008
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