1st time buyers looking for 3bd/2ba house where we can walk to resturants/bars near San Diego. Any location suggestions?

Asked by JLC22, 92101 Wed Jan 11, 2012

My husband works in Hillcrest. We currently live in downtown and love it, mostly for the accessibilty to restrurants, etc. However we may be starting a family soon and would prefer not to buy a condo. We like North Park, but long-term, are wondering if the school district is good enough. We have considered north county areas, but don't want something that feels too "suburban" with nothing but chain stores and resturants. We've also thought about La Mesa. We'd like to stay under $500K and are not opposed to buying a major "fixer-uper". Lastly, we may potentially have to move in 5 years, so would want some place that will have great resale in 5 years should we have to leave.

Help the community by answering this question:

+ web reference
Web reference:


Tina Pankey Grant’s answer
Tina Pankey…, , San Diego, CA
Thu Jan 17, 2013
The city of La Mesa has a lot to offer, especially within your budget: $500,000 won't easily buy a 3-bedroom house in North/South Park, but it will in La Mesa. And La Mesa's downtown is gaining some traction as an entertainment destination. The La Mesa/Spring Valley school district has some very well-regarded schools that your future child may even be able to walk to when the time comes.

I do, however, agree with other posters' advice not to worry overmuch about school districts at this point, since you're 6 or so years away from needing a school. There is one highly desirable district elementary school located in North Park but your budget will not go very far in that particular neighborhood. Quite a few young families in metro San Diego opt for various public charter schools within San Diego Unified. Private schools are of course an option if your funds are not limited...

As to resale, outside of the pricey beach or north city areas your best bet is probably the metro neighborhoods of North/South Park or University/Normal Heights. But any house will sell easily if it's priced correctly!
0 votes
JLC22, Home Buyer, 92101
Wed Jan 25, 2012
Thank you all for the replies! Really appreciate it.
1 vote
Alex Gomez, , San Diego, CA
Wed Jan 11, 2012
Hi Jodi. Seems like you have a dilema with the school and location. In my opinion, I think you should buy where you feel most comfortable. If you guys are having your first born baby, it will be a while till school starts for the child. Therefore having more time on your side. In 5 years perhaps you can then move to a better school district. If you guys already have a child, another option could be private school where the location you reside may not be a requisite. Again, this is my opinion, I am not aware of your current situation. I have attached a link to my website where there is a school search engine to help sort and find the best school for your family.
In regards to moving in 5 years. You have options: 1) buy a fixer cheap.. spend a few on fixing it up.. and move in with instant equity. Plus you will have a home tailored to your liking. 2) you can buy a brand new home that is not finished being built, so by the time it's constructed..instant equity. 3) in 2017 we will be in a better economy so most likely ANY property you buy now will build equity by then.
I want to add 2 more things for your knowledge. There are home rehab loans for first time home buyers; in particular an FHA 203(k). Low down payment and great rates! 2) I reccomend you purchase a house if your goal is to build good equity. Any type of property will build you equity, but a house will build you more in comparison to a condo.
I wish you guys luck in you future. You can always contact me with any questions or to help find you a good property that meets your needs. Happy house hunting!
1 vote
Robert Chome…, , San Diego, CA
Wed Jan 11, 2012
You ask a very good question. The areas of San Diego that have good school districts are generally very suburban and cookie cutter with lot's of chain stores, chain restaurants and strip center shoppin. The few areas of San Diego with a lot of character & walkability (Hillcrest, Mission Hills, Kensington, North Park, South Park, University Heights, Ocean Beach), probably don't have great public schools. In North County the few walkable areas would be west of 5 Cardiff, Encinitas and Leucadia...but they aren't in your price range.

Unfortunately the areas that would work well for good schools and houses <$500k are very suburban in look & feel...Rancho Penasquitos, Poway area.

Your question is one of the challenges in all of Southern Cal....finding an area that is safe and has good schools, BUT it ALSO walkable, cool, with character and doesn't have that sterile suburbia chain store car culture feel. The East Coast and Pacific NW of the U.S. have more neighborhoods that have character AND good schools.
1 vote
Kimberly Dot…, Agent, San Diego, CA
Fri Apr 6, 2012
Dear JLC22,

I often tell my first time buyers who are thinking about having a baby but have no baby yet, that school districts should not be their first thought when choosing a house. Reading your answer, the first neighborhood that came to mind was NORTH PARK, and of course you already live there.

The advice I give my buyer clients is: "Can you live in this house for 3 - 5 years?" If so, the house is a serious contender. The super boom of new restaurants and bars in North Park and even South Park is crazy! My husband and I live in UC and we are there all the time. We love West Coast the best and within a few blocks of there are single family, detached homes in your price range.

So make this simple on yourself. Go with the goal of finding a house you can buy now, that allows you to walk to stores, eating, drinking and entertainment, and one that you can live in for three to five years. We can tackle the school district question on your next purchase.

If you haven't already found a house, I am a real estate broker and firm owner and have sold a ton of property in 92103 and 92104 and can tell you which streets to avoid. But you'll need to get pre-approved for a mortgage first, so I can make three recommendations to you and you can interview them on the phone to pick the one you like. Because you can't write an offer without your financing spot on and in order.

I was just named the San Diego Association of REALTORS "Broker of the Year" for 2011, and out of 11,000 members, I hope you'll take that as a vote of confidence if you need someone to help you.

Most sincerely,
Kimberly Dotseth
Green Box Homes
San Diego, CA
(858) 452-2599
info(at) greenboxhomes.com
California DRE #01179760
0 votes
Cindy Davis, Agent, San Diego, CA
Mon Apr 2, 2012
In your price range, you can have good schools or walkability, but probably not both. The best schools in your price range are in Poway, Rancho Bernardo, and Rancho Penasquitos - all in the award-winning Poway school district. If you purchase a home close or Poway Road you may have the ability to walk to shops.

Although the schools are not as good, I recently sold a renovated home in Claremont to a coupld who sounded just like you. It's not quite extreme suburbia.

It's hard when people love the Hillcrest/North Park areas. They are very walkable and fun when you're younger but once you start thinking about families, it's a challenging shift!

Please let me know fi I can help in any way!

Cindy Davis Broker, (619) 379-8616
0 votes
Janet McCart…, Agent, San Diego, CA
Wed Mar 21, 2012
The best school districts are in the North County - Poway Unified and San Dieguito, you could look into magnet schools, however as the mother of 4 children I can tell you from first hand experience that commuting to school is a hard road to handle for you and that kids - even with a carpool, if you're lucky enough to get one.
I think Rancho Bernardo, Carmel Mountain Ranch or Rancho Penasquitos. The homes are affordable, great schools and some areas are within walking distance to schools and shops. Carmel Mountain Ranch would be my first choice for you. Home are within walking distance to schools, shops, library and movies + freeway access is nearby and yet it's quiet. The homes are all built in the late 1990's or later and a golf course winds throughout the area. Inland but you still feel the ocean breeze, and only a 15 minute drive to the beach.
I understand the 5 year plan but I would encourage you to move forward now, because the interest rates are very low and so are the prices. 5 years from now I think we are all hoping that the market will be significantly improved.
Contact me and I give you an inside secret on how to get a really great deal and have the seller pay your closing costs, saving you thousands.
Janet McCarthy
Connect Realty
0 votes
Khrystyna Ch…, Agent, Downtown San Diego, CA
Thu Jan 12, 2012
Hi, Jodi,

I agree with Robert. Shcool districts in San Diego areas are suburban for the most part. You can do Mission Hills, Kensigton, North Park, Point Loma and then commute to the shcools if they are so important to you.

Have you started working with an agent on this purchase yet?
If not, I would like to apply for the job. I don't always pitch in my services in the q&A here, but since I'm buyer's agent, might as well! :)

Real Estate Supergirl
Khrystyna Chorna
Allison James Estates and Homes
7 Horton Plaza,
San Diego, CA, 92101
tel: 619-808-7064
0 votes
Search Advice
Ask our community a question

Email me when…

Learn more