Lots of questions in one!
1. Yes, the area is not in the heart of downtown, but you are probably about 5 - 8 minutes from downtown. It is convenient to Costco, many businesses, the community college, and the freeway. It is also close to shopping options along the 580 corridor, including the new outlet center opening on Nov 8th.
2. Rating schools is difficult and subjective at best. The same students who go through the elementary and high school also go to the local middle school. Our school district does a good job at providing a balanced education at all levels. Only you can judge whether schools are good for "you".
3. Generally speaking, and over a length of time, real estate does appreciate. There are many experts who try to predict future returns on real estate. One book called "Little Book of Bull's Eye Investing" by John Mauldin, might give you some ideas on real estate investing.
4. When looking at sold price per square foot, I find the number is most relevant if you also include the size of home in question. There can be a great variance in price per square foot, depending on the home's size. Ask a Realtor for more specifics about your potential purchase (and if you are looking to purchase new construction, I would suggest you also get the assistance from a Realtor).
5. During non-commute hours, the drive from Livermore (and the Shea development area specifically) to Sunnyvale will take around 35 minutes. The time will vary depending upon where in Sunnyvale you are headed. Some of my clients, before deciding to move to Livermore, have spent a night in a hotel, in Livermore, and actually done the commute both in the evening and in the morning. As elsewhere in the Bay Area, Monday mornings and Friday afternoons are the most congested times during the week...unless of course it rains!
Good luck in making a decision that is best for you.
Alain Pinel Realtors