So, you've heard the answers from all of the realtors/brokers and they may/may not be objective. We live in Bellevue, near the High School and Downtown. We are in the Enatai Elementary area-one of the nicest in town. But, a budget of only 500K won't usually do it around here. There are some good buys in Surrey Downs (between 108th AVE SE and I-405, just south of Main Street, Downtown Bellevue. You may have luck there under 500K. I would highly recommend it here, it's the best of both worlds. And no, I don't have a house for sale there. (can u tell that I am a bit bitter at the real estate professionals who persist on not telling all the truth?) So, the housing market here has not reached the bottom (IMHO), so you may want to rent of a year and see for yourself. It's a great rental market and a great time to test the waters. Clyde Hill, Medina, Enatai, Beaux Arts, Cherry Crest are all great areas-on the rich side, great schools, no crime whatsoever, but may be a bit snobby at times. Eastgate, Factoria areas have great schools, cheaper houses and more working class people, but you may run into a neighbor who insists on keeping their 4 broken down cars in their yard/driveway, etc. Not often, but it will happen. In the previous snobby neighborhoods, that would never happen. ;-) So, it depends what you want. I had those same parameters, plus the 550 bus goes from a block from our house to downtown Seattle in 20 minutes-easy commute!!! So, we ended up on 108th AVE Se, between Main Street and Bellevue Way, just on top of the hill of Surrey Downs. It took me a TON of research to get here, but after 2 years, we would not go anywhere else. I hope that helps....Keep in mind if buying: the Prime Variable mortgages are re-setting this year, which will cause a slide in home prices in the upper end of the markets (500K-1MM+), so you may want to see what happens...Most Seattle-ites are in deep denial about housing here, but coming from Califaornia, I am sure you've seen that before. We are not from here, so we've watched what the housing denial has done to the people around us. If I had to rate the buying climate here: cautious, but there are good opportunities out there for short sales/foreclosures in the upper markets. Good luck with the move. By the way. there is a park every 1/2 mile around here: nicest in the country...so no worries about that.