Welcome to the Bay Area. You will find that there are many fine neighborhoods that fit your needs. My suggestion would be to find the right job first and rent for awhile, so you have a chance to get acquainted with the area. Knowing where you will be working will help you focus on convenient and desirable neighborhoods to live nearby. Iâ€™m not exactly sure what your job prospects are, but I believe it would be easier to find a home near work, rather than find work near home. With gas at around $4 /gal., and traffic congestion extending commute times, most people would agree that a short commute is best.
I agree with John that Santa Cruz Co. is a very desirable place to live. However, I think it only makes sense if you work there. I would not recommend the long commute to Silicon Valley over congested and dangerous Highway 17. Check out IT opportunities in Santa Cruz if you want.
Also be prepared for the fact that $800k will probably get you only half the house you could get in Atlanta for the same price.
Finally, try to get some advice from friends and co-workers. Of course, once you are ready to purchase a home, if you want to settle in Santa Clara County, let me know if you need my help to find the right home for your needs and desires.
The Bay Area is made up of so many great areas to live. Because of the influence of the SF Bay climate is quite different from one area to the next. Unless you have spent quite a bit of time in the area and have a feel for what you looking for, I would spend the first few months renting and getting your bearings on the varying locales.
Here are some areas to consider.
The epicenter of tech is Mountain View (Google, Intuit, Symantec, ILOG). It has a vibrant downtown that maintains much of its older charm. It's popularity has been evidenced by its steady appreciation prior to Y2K. Many of the other areas in the valley increased in value partially because Mountain View prices became out of reach. As a benchmark, you can find some Mountain View opportunities in the $850-900K range.
Sunnyvale is the next neighbor to the south that is enjoying a renaissance of sorts. In the 1970s Sunnyvale leveled much of its old downtown to erect a shopping mall (Sunnyvale Town Center) that was mediocre at best and became outmoded. The great news is that the city of Sunnyvale (urged by the success of Santana Row - http://www.santanarow.com - a residential/retail/restaurant destination in San Jose) has broken ground on a similar project to replace the current mall. The project has taken a bit to get off the ground and had a false start two years ago. It's back on track and you can check out the details here... http://www.sunnyvale.ca.gov/departments/community+developmen
You might include Sunnyvale as a choice in your seach. Sunnyvale may be more in line with your target budget.
When you begin planning a trip out to check out areas, drop me a line. I'd be happy to put together a tour for you of the area. I am an area native and know the ins and outs of the areas you may be considering. In the meantime you search properties and get updates though my website http://www.dreamsbytheyard.com.
If your jobs will be based in the Sunnyvale area there are several options. Some questions I would ask is what lifestyle choices are important to you and your family. If you have children and want good schools, the Los Altos/Mountain View area offers the best. If you are looking for walk-to dining and entertainment, Mountain View fits well. It is also close to the Light Rail and Cal Train systems.
Sunnyvale has some nice neighborhoods as well and Campbell is another option with a very reasonable commute.
Coming from Atlanta, you may want more "land" for your dollar and I agree with posts below that Morgan Hill is a nice option. With a short drive you can still catch Cal Train for the commute up. There are newer homes and yards for your money. Shopping and other conveniences are more "suburban" than further up on the peninsula but it all depends on what you like.
Resale value, on average is better the further north on the peninsula. Morgan Hill has been harder hit in this changing market then areas like Mountain View and Sunnyvale. However, that also means you can buy more house. Because of gas prices, the demand for short commute neighborhoods keep the demand up on the peninsula.
When picking an area in the bay area try to aim to one close to BART ( subway system ) . Even if you will not work in san fran , at least if you have any need to go there you can use the subway system. If i may suggest for you to contact Prudential Relocation Services, they can provide you with a lot of the answers in helping you making a decision. Good luck.
Yes, I agree with a few of the other Realtors that you rent for a while to get accustomed to the area. I co-author the Silicon Valley Real Estate blog and there's a great 'Silicon Valley Home Buyer's Book' (and it's free) that many of my relocation clients have found very useful.
You can find us at http://www.1SiliconValley.com. Any other questions, feel free to send me an email at info@AlexWangHomes.com or call me at 650-384-0676.
I too would rent for awhile, but realize that anything north and west of campbell/west san jose has not been hit hard by the downturn in the real estate market, but rents have risen slightly in these areas. Should you wait more than a year, you may find that 800K today may get you 750k in a year in purchasing power in "good" neighborhoods. That being said, I would focus on the west san jose/campbell border and try to stay in the Moreland school district (both renting and buying). Its probably the best district that you can get for your budget. Also realize that even if you don't have school aged children, the areas in the better school districts tend to maintain their value in down markets. Good luck.
Good luck during this exciting time in your lives!
I live in San Francisco and would not live anywhere in the burbs, but that's just me. Google has opened an office here in the City because they realize that many of their workers want to live here. They also run shuttle buses through Noe Valley and the Mission to take employees down the Peninsula.
For more info email me at email@example.com.