I'm originally from Massachusetts and can say that Berkeley is very similar to Cambridge. It's a college town yet has a great deal of diversity, culture, and close knit neighborhoods.
The high school is centrally located, well respected, and has a terrific theatre/arts program.
With a budget of $700K, you should be able to find a nice home in a decent neighborhood.
Tomaj Trenda, 415-505-3536
For us in NJ, we have to pay about $20,000 extra no residence fee each year, and of course need to pay another $10,000 to $15,000 for living at campus, so, if you moved to Berkeley, you will be able to save $100,000 for each of your kid, that's, $300,000 for all 4 years.
So, for us, just that $80,000 no residence fee for 4 year is better invested to buy a $400k house there with this as 20% down, and use the room and board cost to pay monthly fee.
My kid just got admitted by UC Berkeley, and I am planning to buy a home at Berkeley as well. I have done lots of search and analysis and documented them in a blog as you are welcome to share http://berkeleyhousing.blogspot.com/
We went to Berkeley Alumni lunch for newly amitted and their parents for Greater New York City area, and they found that just click around on this blog will get lots of feeling about Berkeley Housing.
You can also find some nice hotels at great price. Ideally, if you visit Berkeley, you can book airticket to SFO Airport, cheaper tickets and more flys and it has new BART terminal to take BART to Berkeley with one easy on station transfer in many stations. And you can get off Downtown Berkeley.
I know many top students come to Berkeley High School trying to get into UC Berkeley from Taiwan and China, and if you prefer more rural, two stops north, El Cerrito is also very good. I know many students from that high schools also got admitted by UC Berkeley.
I can tell you that raising kids in a place like Berkeley will give your kids advantages and sophistication that they won't get being raised in other suburbs.
I am a father of two girls raised in SF. They have had less peer pressure put on them because there are so many different people making different life choices there is a greater acceptance of difference than other teens I know that grew up in Marin, Contra Costa or San Mateo.
There is only 1 high school is Berkeley, so all the kids go there. While it is possible to get an excellent education at BHS, because it is the one school for all the kids, BHS does not score well on rankings of Bay Area High Schools. BHS is forced to be all things for all the types of Students who go there, both college bound and challenged kids.
Berkeley also has some of the highest property taxes in the area, so that is deffinately something to consider.
You might have to squeeze your family a little to find a house in Berkeley for 2 parents and 3 kids, but it is possible. The only way you will find out is by looking.
I am headquartered in Berkeley. Drop me a line if you want to see what you can get.