How about a reply from someone who is not a real estate professonal vying to get your business. The cost of living in the Napa valley is high. Most people I know, myself included, expect to retire someplace other than Napa (valley) because of the high cost of living. Restaurants are expensive, food is expensive... take a look at the published statistics. Investing in Napa is great - even in the current state of the economy, home values are staying fairly consistent/steady. Sonoma, on the other hand, is a beautiful little town and has some lovely retirement communities - and tends to be more "real", "down to earth", not as pompous as us Napans. I would recommend that you consider Sonoma for your retirement home. Good luck.
I've lived in St. Helena over 50 years and my wife and I have sold real estate here for 20 years. In general, St. Helena is a better investment due in part to the fact that it is much smaller and good properties are scarce. However, it is also more expensive.
Future appreciation can also be a function of whether or not an investor would consider property improvements.
If you would like to discuss the possibilities that exist in the Valley, please feel free to give me a call. I can also email you properties that might fit your budget.
Frank Howard Allen Realtors
I read your question and couldn't help but offer my 2 cents. After spending more than 30 years in the Real Estate business there is one appreciable item that never seems to fail and that is a location on the water. That same fact holds true in Napa. One of our best kept secrets in Napa used to be our waterfront but not anymore. The Napa Yacht Club and River Park offer waterfront opportunities that provide "private docks" and breathtaking views not to mention being 2 1/2 hours by watercraft from San Francisco Bay.
The City of Napa, after a considerable amount of time planning, is developing a waterfront that will offer visitors and Napans alike, 1st class shopping, dining and accommmodations. If you live in San Francisco, you can motor your yacht to Napa and dock at the (soon to be) new 220' dock and then walk a few steps to your shopping, accommodations and restaurants galore. If you'd like to read more you can go to one of my websites at http://www.NapaOnTheWater.com.
My professional opinion would tell me that "Napa Waterfront" could possibly be your best bet. Good luck in your search. You have definitely picked a great area.
You will love retiring to Napa Valley. I am an agent in Napa and have lived here my entire life. I don't think your question is easily answered. It really depends on what kind of property you are looking to buy. I would be happy to discuss this with you further http://www.napahousesales.com
Just thought I'd be the first to respond to your question. I'm an agent in Petaluma and to be honest I'm not extremely familiar with either of those markets. However, I do know that one rule holds the same where ever you purchase - supply. Where ever supply is limited, whether by geographic, zoning, or community restrictions (such as areas like Rutherford - no one ever sells!), demand, and thus appreciation will be realized.
If you take a trip over the hill to Petaluma or Sonoma your dollar will definitely go further, it's practically a fire sale over here! Also, we're a shorter commute to the city. Off the top of my head I'd say St. Helena would be a better 5-year choice...although Napa certainly does get very affordable in certain areas. Hope that helps. Here's a snapshot of Napa - maybe it will give you an idea of what's available: http://www.petalumahomes.com/mls_napa.htm