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Old 10-01-2015, 02:40 PM
16 posts, read 20,412 times
Reputation: 10


My fiancé has received a very nice job offer from a company in Oakland. We live north of Chicago, IL and are considering this move across the country, and could really use some advice. I have spent weeks combing this forum, and doing other online research.

His job would be in Oakland near the airport; we are looking to rent or buy a home within an hours commute or so. We would really like to buy, but know how competitive the housing market is in the area, so renting may be our only option. We are looking at spending around $2000-$2500 per month max. Our family is small, just my fiancé, our daughter and myself, so we do not need a big place. His company offers temporary housing for 90 days which will give us some time...I have been doing "research" online and I am overwhelmed! I've never been to the Oakland area, and am not sure what city is going to suit us best AND be within our budget.

I keep coming back to Novato in my searches. On some real estate searches I have found homes available within our price range, and I like the closer proximity to the coast, but realistically is it an ok area? We want somewhere safe...obviously...and I am not opposed to somewhere closer to Oakland itself, but naturally all I hear are the bad things; crime, violence etc.

The thought of moving to a place with a more temperate climate fills me with happiness. We've lived in the midwest all our life and are very ready to get away from the snow and cold. We are not big fans of very hot summers either, and have heard that the closer to the coast or bay you are, the cooler the summer? Is this a reality?

Per advice, here is our wish list:
Two bedroom home (don't think I can do an apartment)
Less than hour commute to Oakland airport area
Will need school in the near future (our girl is 3)
Would prefer an area near (ie; can walk to/drive short distance to) parks and other open natural spaces; would love a more rural home but don't know if that with other wish list item is possible
I may work part time, but I have to be close to home wherever I work...thinking retail

Suggestions for this possible midwestern transplant family would be greatly appreciated!

Last edited by ladoodle; 10-01-2015 at 03:27 PM..
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Old 10-01-2015, 03:09 PM
651 posts, read 1,749,106 times
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Definitely not Novato--that is a nightmare of a commute (will often be much longer than an hour, especially in the evenings, and involves a daily bridge toll, too). How much house are you looking to get with your $2500? Urban, suburban, rural? How old is your daughter--are you looking for someplace with strong schools? Will you be working too? I think it's always wise to rent first in a new area, and that's doubly true given the current real estate market. There are lots of East Bay options within an hour depending on what you're looking for in a home/neighborhood, so I'd start there--if you post your wish list, many people will weigh in with ideas. (There are also many safe neighborhoods in Oakland itself, too, although the closer in you are, the pricier it tends to be.) Assuming your daughter is school-age or will be in the not-too-distant future, Alameda would probably be at the top of my list for that particular commute, although whether it's in your price range depends largely on what you need in a home. San Leandro and Castro Valley also have some more affordable family-oriented neighborhoods and would be an easy commute if you're looking for something more suburban.

ETA: You can use Google Maps to choose trip times, too, which is helpful for gauging commutes. If you don't set the time to be 8 am/5 pm/etc. you'll often get overly optimistic estimates--there's not much mid-day traffic in many areas.
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Old 10-01-2015, 03:21 PM
Location: San Francisco
434 posts, read 872,789 times
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Congratulations for your intent to rent before you buy here. It's almost always best to get to know an area before making such a big investment.

If you're willing to look a bit farther out, you should find many rentals in your price range in Concord, and a few in Walnut Creek and Pleasant Hill. One downside: these East Bay suburbs get plenty hot in the summer months.
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Old 10-01-2015, 03:28 PM
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Artemis78, thank you...I have updated with more specifics
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Old 10-01-2015, 03:46 PM
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Alameda would be optimal, and it's pretty safe. A good way to budget is to expect 50% of your salary to be your take-home pay in CA if you're doing standard tax deductions, a decent healthcare plan for your family and a small portion to a 401k account.

The area near the OAK airport isn't very appealing. I don't know much about it crime-wise, but it is quite industrial and very much an eyesore.

Also, don't count on living in the Bay Area comfortably on one salary. Housing isn't the only thing that is priced astronomically. You didn't mention anything about looking for a job of your own, which may be due to your child, but do keep that in mind. The salary offer might look great compared to what he makes now in Chicago, but the cost of living difference may actually end up making things worse for you here.

Buying right now is a terrible idea unless you're swimming in money, because we're likely a few years away (if that) from a bit of a market adjustment, so rental is really the way to go here for the time being.

If you can't make the economics work with those things in mind, you're better off staying put if he still has his existing job.

The climate is more temperate here, but one major difference to consider that we didn't when moving from the midwest - it still gets hot here (SF even reached over 90 6-7 times this year) yet most older buildings don't have any air conditioning. So, while the AVERAGE is more temperate, you will suffer in the hotter days making sleep a near impossibility, because even though the temps dip at night, on nights when temps are high, it's usually because wind is non-existent, which means no airflow. Our apartment was around 78 degrees most evenings when it was hotter outside, and sleeping in a bed with no sheets on and still sweating is no picnic. We pay $2,500 a month in rent exactly for roughly 600 sq ft 1BR apt, if that gives you any idea of what you might be looking at. You'll get more for your money the farther out you go, but then his commute times will be awful, and will add to the misery.

The best way to test it is to come out here in a typical work week and have him attempt a commute. The G-maps timing feature only works with public transport, so you either have to check around PST commute hours to test the drive time from different places to and from his office, or come here and sit in the traffic and see what it would be like first hand. Chicago traffic isn't great, but it's nowhere near as bad as it is here. How long of a daily commute could he handle? Living in the outer sunset (where it's the coolest, but most boring) would be a pretty significant commute, but would generally be regarded as a reverse commute, especially if he got off work by 3pm. Practically any traffic in and around the city is a crawl from 5-7pm.
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Old 10-01-2015, 04:40 PM
Location: SF Bay Area
15,591 posts, read 26,002,242 times
Reputation: 9086
Originally Posted by ServoMiff View Post
The best way to test it is to come out here in a typical work week and have him attempt a commute. The G-maps timing feature only works with public transport, so you either have to check around PST commute hours to test the drive time from different places to and from his office, or come here and sit in the traffic and see what it would be like first hand.
You can actually adjust the time and day and get an estimated range for driving time based on typical traffic conditions in Google Maps.

For example, driving from Castro Valley to Oakland Airport at 7am on a Wed:
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Old 10-01-2015, 05:10 PM
16 posts, read 20,412 times
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I love Google maps for that! I'll check it out, although his commute will be off-peak hours. Chicagoland traffic is awful, and I've heard the same for the Bay Area.

ServoMiff, what do you mean by living in the "outer sunset"?
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Old 10-01-2015, 05:22 PM
Location: East Bay, CA
4,927 posts, read 6,468,819 times
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The Outer Sunset is a neighborhood in San Francisco proper. I would NOT recommend living there and commuting to Oakland- the Bay Bridge is awful for a commute and costs $4-6 per trip. If I were you, I'd look at Castro Valley, San Leandro, Pleasant Hill, Concord, Union City, Newark and other Inner East Bay cities. The closer you are to the Bay, the more mild/moderate the temperatures. I hate to say it, but $2000-$2500 is a bit on the low side for Bay Area housing budgets right now.
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Old 10-01-2015, 07:07 PM
Location: San Francisco Bay Area
13,687 posts, read 15,775,500 times
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You would definitely want to stay in the inner East Bay cities: parts of Oakland itself, San Leandro, Castro Valley, Newark, etc.

Heavy commuting will affect your life in a negative way here.
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Old 10-02-2015, 02:31 AM
10,131 posts, read 6,256,315 times
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Your best bet is Castro Valley because it checks all the boxes - safe, schools, commute, price.

Alameda also works, but it's slightly more expensive than Castro Valley.

The Oakland Hills (Monclair, Piedmont Pines, Chabot Hills, etc) may work since the elementary schools are good, but starts getting worse with middle school.

You should explore Oakland, there are some great neighborhoods; although the schools are nothing to write home about.

With a convenient working location like that, there's no reason why you'd want to live further than the Oakland/Castro Valley/Alameda area.
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