Relocating to the bay area

Asked by Jack, Austin, TX Mon Nov 16, 2009

Have a new position in SF and am looking for a new home preferably in the peninsula. Wanted to get more information why palo alto appears to command a premium.
Doing a remote search it appears that communities like saratoga or los altos hills offer larger homes on larger lots with better school districts for a comparable investment.
I am moving from west lake in austin and looking for something similar in case anyone knows the area.

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Kps, Home Buyer, Los Altos Hills, CA
Tue Nov 17, 2009
I'm familiar with west lake hills in austin, and if you are looking for something similar, you decidedly will not find it in palo alto. Homes in PA tend to be on small lots and most are below 4K sqft.
If you are commuting to SF you should consider looking in Hillsborough. It is much closer to the city and you will get much more home for your money, both in sqft and lot size. Schools there are comparable to PA, if you look at scores alone they are actually better.
Another thing, the whole peninsula is undergoing a slow correction. PA is coming down, but lagging the rest of the cities. You will likely face more downside risk if buying in PA at today's prices.
If you are not familiar with the bay area, you should consider renting your first year here. It will give you a sense of where you would like to live and likely secure a better price when you decide to purchase a home.
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Jonp, , Palo Alto, CA
Mon Nov 16, 2009
I would suggest you should spend some time skimming this web site that provides profiles of local Peninsula and South Bay communities. I found it to be very detailed, balanced and factual. It is particularly strong on Palo Alto and Menlo Park.

But you do pay a premium for the superb school district (esp. true for Palo Alto). So paying a premium for PA only makes sense if you have kids you plan to send to public schools.
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Eric & Janel…, Agent, Cupertino, CA
Mon Nov 16, 2009
Hi Jack, You are definitely correct you pay a premium to be closer to town and you definitely get more for your money land wise as you move higher and higher up in the hills. Whether Saratoga, Cupertino, Los Altos Hills the farther from town the better the value.

Also, you will find better value as you go down the peninsula and toward the South Bay cities of Saratoga, Los Gatos and Monte Sereno. If you would like to find out more about any of the communities feel free to browse our website with links to cities and zip codes. Good luck house hunting.

Eric & Janelle Boyenga
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April Tavares, Agent, Campbell, CA
Mon Nov 16, 2009
Hi Jack,

Welcome to California! I too am a transplant, but from Massachusetts. It is a wonderful place to live. I ended up settling on Saratoga. Like Lea, I am bit partial to Saratoga. I would say their schools are on par with Palo Alto. I am pasting the link to the Santa Clara County Academic Performance Index (API). This index will help give you an idea of school performance.…

Because you are doing your search remotely, I also want to point out that you need to be careful when comparing homes. Not all homes within the boundaries of a city or town will feed into that city or town's school district. For example, homes in Saratoga can feed into either the Saratoga, Campbell or San Jose school district. It all depends upon the location of that home within the city limits. If you are looking at homes and wonder why there seems to be a large disparity in pricing for a home with similar attributes that may be the reason.

Many of the communities mentioned in this post are wonderful. I think you also need to factor in what your commute tolerance is. Palo Alto will offer you an easier commute into SF than Los Gatos or Saratoga.

I specialize in Saratoga and Los Gatos and understand the complexities of relocating. If I can be of assistance, please feel free to contact me.

Congratulations and All the Best,
April Tavares, GRI, ASP
Realtor, DRE License #01742179
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Aileen La Bo…, Agent, Los Altos, CA
Mon Nov 16, 2009
Hi Jack,
The principal reason for Palo Alto's desirability is schools. From elementary schools to Stanford University, they're all excellent. beyond that, I'd agree with the other comments that my colleagues have made below.
I'm a certified relocation specialist, and I've worked with a client from West Lake once before - he purchased in Saratoga Hills. Also, my husband spends quite a lot of time in Austin, and from the descriptions I've heard, I'm not sure that West Lake is really very similar to most of the peninsula. I think I'd suggest Saratoga Foothills, Los Gatos Foothills, some areas of Los Altos, possibly Monte Sereno.
I agree with David that it may well be worth spending a little time investigating the different areas before making a final decision.
I would suggest making contact with a knowledgable agent who can anticipate some of your concerns and address them pro-actively.
I wish you the best in your new venture.
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Lea Ann Hern…, , 95070
Mon Nov 16, 2009
Jack: You'll get much more for your money in Saratoga. Palo Alto is quite a snobby community (sorry, Paly). I've lived in Menlo Park and it is much nicer, if you want to be further up the peninsula. Those areas are much more urban than Saratoga. If you look at a map, you will see the difference in population density immediately. Streets are closer together up the peninsula since the lots are smaller.
The Saratoga Grammar School dates back to the 1850's and has an active alumni that annually hosts a fund-raising reunion. Not many communities have this depth of commitment. I'm partial to Saratoga, since I lived there much of my life.
Welcome to California!
Lea Ann
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Blythe Kern, , Santa Clara County, CA
Mon Nov 16, 2009
What a wonderful experience living in the Bay Area. Don't limit your options. Saratoga, Los Altos Hills, Palo Alto and Los Gatos all have wonderful homes. The commute is something you will face no matter where you choose to reside. However, the East Bay (Dublin, Pleasant Hill and San Ramon) also offer lovely homes and BART is a commuter's option from these areas. If you don't mind getting out of your car and taking BART into the City, it's a wonderful avenue in finding a large home in the suburbs. Unfortunately, BART is not an option for the cities of Saratoga, Los Altos Hills Palo Alto or Los Gatos. Your commute time and the area of San Francisco will depend on your location and how willing you are to "do the commute". I would agree that renting would be an option until you decide where you would like to find a permanent home.

Best of luck to you. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.
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Terri Vellios, Agent, Campbell, CA
Mon Nov 16, 2009
In our area values have the "trickle down" effect. Proximity to jobs yet still benefiting by living in more of a traditional neighborhood. Palo Alto is split and you will find value vary depending on neighborhood. A publication declared Palo Alto #4 in the most expensive places to live. Palo Alto benefits directly from Stanford University and the Hospital. You will find prices in Berkeley to be elevated as well.

There is an agent in my office from Austin drop me a note and I'll connect you two if you wish.
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Marcy Moyer, Agent, San Ramon, CA
Mon Nov 16, 2009
Hi Jack,
Welcome to the bay area. This is a fantastic place to live and I am sure you will love it here. First of all, you are correct that Palo Alto home prices are higher compared to other cities with larger lots and larger homes for the same price. However trust me the schools are not better, especially at the high school level in the other bay area communities. I am not saying Palo Alto schools are objectively better, but they are certainly not worse, and many people feel that the schools here are more desireable for a variety of reasons including more AP classes than anywhere else, amazing teachers, and superb actvities. That being said the houses and lots are smaller, and the town of Palo Alto is a little bit more like a city than places like Saratoga or Los Altos. There is a very vibrant downtown on University Ave and a secondary one on California Ave. There is great access to the train and and the two freeways that go to SF, 101 and 280. There is a nice amount of shopping, lots of community activities, plenty of parks, and a wonderful influence of Stanford University in the community. Los Altos Hills does have large lots, one acre minimum, but they are often steeply sloped, or overlooking a freeway. Also, the land is sometimes not stable there. Saratoga and Los Altos are similar in having generally larger lots than most of Palo Alto, but definately a more suburban feel. Hillsborough and Burlingame are other towns with great schools and are closer to SF. Portola Valley is another place where the lots are large, there are a lot of horses, a a very nice community feel. It is rural, but close in. Ladera, on the edge of Portola Valley offers 10K + square foot lots, another close community, and very easy access to 280. So, if you want a big lot, Palo Alto is not the place to be, but if you want a more urban feel and easy acces to services, plus wonderful schools than you may enjoy Palo Alto. My children loved growing up here, but if yours need more outside space then one of the other communities may be better for your family.
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David Tapper, Agent, Burlingame, CA
Mon Nov 16, 2009
A few reasons Palo Alto commands a premium price is because of the downtown area, the schools, location and the weather. It's similar to Burlingame. They have the best downtowns on the Peninsula.

If you are going to be working in S.F. you may want to rent first and get to know the area. Palo Alto, Saratoga and Los Altos are going to be a minimum hours drive each way or more.

You might want to look into Millbrae & San Carlos. They also have very good schools. If you need help finding a place to rent, I will be more than happy to refer you to someone well qualified.

Welcome to S.F.

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