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Old 01-16-2014, 10:53 PM
 
82 posts, read 360,602 times
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Hi everyone,

Our family will be relocating from halfway across the world to the Bay Area, probably in about 6 months' time. We were originally considering the east coast but after a recent visit to CA the Bay Area is now coming up trumps.

As a brief background: we don't have jobs yet (we have just gotten our green cards) so it's a bit tricky and I realise commute will be an issue and will have an influence on where we settle. We have two kids currently age 5 and 12, so as usual our priority will be an area with good schools. Our younger child would benefit from a school that has a program for or otherwise well accommodates gifted children. We don't know many people in the area but have very good friends who live in Pleasanton, as well as knowing people in Orinda and Sonoma, and someone else who has not moved yet but will be heading to somewhere in the east bay. We are pretty comfortably financially though we don't want to over stretch ourselves particularly if we don't get jobs lined up before we move. Our housing budget will probably be around $1.5m (could go up a bit closer to $2m if necessary but would prefer not to) - ideally we would like to rent somewhere with an option to buy to get a feel for living in an area but I believe that's not often available, is this right?

Assuming commute isn't an issue, now this may sound trivial but where we live at present is a very high end local area and we have stunning ocean views from our house. To get similar in the Bay Area would be way more than we want to spend on a house but we want something that will not feel like too much of a downscale. From that perspective, somewhere like Tiburon is quite appealing, although we would probably be coming in at what seems to be the lower end of available property values but we are perfectly happy buying a place that needs renovation if the location is right. Any comments on the area in terms of family friendly, schools etc welcome; or similar places in Marin that we should be considering.

Our other options would be somewhere like Pleasanton or Lamorinda, where we could get more bang for our housing buck it seems, but - is there anywhere in these areas with nice views (even if not the ocean?) Also we don't really want to feel like we are stuck out in the burbs having to travel ages to get to nature or anywhere vibey - would we feel like that here? Anywhere else in the east bay we should be thinking of?

Can someone also please give me an indication of the costs of domestic help, if we wanted say someone to come in and clean the house one or two days a week? Depending on how things go job-wise we might consider/need an au pair or at least someone to help with the kids during the day; what is the going rate in the Bay Area for that?

Finally, are there any pitfalls that new residents should be aware of or any quirks in the local systems? (For example when we were looking in the Boston area we discovered some towns don't have garbage collection!)

Thanks in advance
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Old 01-17-2014, 08:11 AM
 
Location: UK
11 posts, read 25,853 times
Reputation: 15
I'm sure (or I surely hope) your friends that live in the Bay Area have warned you about the commute challenges. Do you have any sense at all where you might be finding jobs? For example, I loved Marin (esp access to hiking trails on Mt Tam, etc) but would never recommend Marin to anyone unless you worked in Marin or in SF financial district where you could take the ferry.

To give you my own personal story as an example. My husband and I worked for a while in the East Bay (Walnut Creek) so to save money we bought up north in Benicia (up H680). I was then transferred into downtown SF so we moved to Danville (which is a great family friendly East Bay town with good schools on H680). I commuted a combination using public transit (BART from Walnut Creek to SF) or drove across the Oakland Bay bridge to SF if I had to have my car to go to clients located elsewhere. With no traffic, I could get into SF within 35 min by car. With traffic, could be 1-2 hours. I bought a prius with carpool stickers so I could save time on the Bay Bridge so Danville to SF is completely doable and we loved living there. Danville had access to SF, good public schools, access to Sonoma and Tahoe up 680, access down 680 to head towards Yosemite Nat'l park (my favorite place in California for hiking/camping).

Meanwhile, my husband got transferred to an office in San Jose. He then did the 680 commute down to SJ every day. Again, perhaps 45 minutes with no traffic and 1 - 2 hours with traffic - average however around 1 hour each way. We also both often commuted to clients located anywhere from oakland to Marin to Palo Alto. Getting from Danville to any location on the Peninsula involves taking a bridge and is typically 1-2 hours one way - terrible!

Deep breath - after our daughter was born I was transferred to San Jose as well. So, even though we LOVED Danville and had a great house within a few blocks of the cute downtown, we gave up and moved to Los Gatos in order to have better access to San Jose, peninsula, and good schools. Los Gatos may not be in your price range however unless you are ok to downgrade substantially what it sounds like you have now and I would only consider that general area if you know you would be working around Silicon valley as right now the Google/Apple/etc money is making the housing market tough in your price range.

So, the moral of my story is that your housing location in the Bay Area is 99% dependant on your job location unless you have very flexible hours or are ok with a long commute.

Re: the East Bay. I am not a native Bay Area person so didn't come in with any bias (grew up in Montana Rocky mountains). I really loved Danville, Alamo, San Ramon in that order) as nice family communities with good schools, some hills so it didn't feel too flat and great weather. No fog belt like on the peninsula and SF. More home for your money than Orinda/Lafayette and Oakland Hills/Rockridge which are also great places to live as I'm sure your friends would attest. I don't know where you are coming from so it depends on what your preferences are. I loved Oakland/Rockridge as well and we almost bought a house there but my husband tested out the commute from there to San Jose down H880 and couldn't do it. We HATE driving on H880 - lots of lorries and construction. He much preferred taking 680 from Danville to SJ even if a little longer. If you end up with East Bay or SF jobs, the Oakland/Berkeley hills are great with beautiful views but you have to be careful about school districts and the prices may be too high.

Pleasanton area is nice but I preferred Danville as it was a bit older and more tucked in the hills.

In summary, I recommend you try to get a sense of where your job might be and in the short term, you could consider renting somewhere like Danville or Pleasanton as you can get to most places other than the peninsula within 1 hour on a short term basis. There are maybe not a ton of rentals but there are some if you look. I know this as we rented our Danville home to someone after we moved to Los Gatos and are currently renting our Los Gatos home to someone as we are currently living in Europe). I can tell you that Los Gatos is nice although we only lived there for less than 1 year before we got an opportunity to move to Europe for a few years!

On domestic help. We hired a full time nanny in Danville (this was 5 years ago) and the going rate for a professional experienced nanny was between USD 16-20+ per hour for a live-out depending on experience and whether people paid "under the table" or not. SF or Peninsula was a bit higher (say up to 25 per hour). I think we paid our housekeeper around USD 10-12 per hour but I can't remember for sure.

Most towns have full city services (garbage, fire, utilities, etc) although property taxes can vary a bit and certain "unincorporated" neighborhoods can be quirky so be sure to check (e.g., in Los Gatos some houses were not subject to certain "city" requirements and had different police/fire coverage).


Good luck!
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Old 01-17-2014, 08:23 AM
 
82 posts, read 360,602 times
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Thanks Piersti for that thoughtful answer! Will look into the other places you mention.
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Old 01-17-2014, 08:40 PM
 
Location: Silicon Valley
18,813 posts, read 32,546,743 times
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What about Alameda?

mod cut
Great town, lots of charm, lots of Victorian houses, if you don't want a more modern one. Views of the bay. Easy commute to SF. Good schools. Safe.

Last edited by Sam I Am; 01-18-2014 at 05:39 AM.. Reason: You can use an MLS (realtor.com, etc.) but no specific realty company
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Old 01-18-2014, 07:37 AM
 
Location: Silicon Valley
18,813 posts, read 32,546,743 times
Reputation: 38578
Quote:
Originally Posted by NoMoreSnowForMe View Post
What about Alameda?

mod cut
Great town, lots of charm, lots of Victorian houses, if you don't want a more modern one. Views of the bay. Easy commute to SF. Good schools. Safe.
mod cut Here are some Alameda listings on the MLS, some have incredible views:

Alameda Real Estate - Alameda, CA Homes for Sale - realtor.comĀ®

Last edited by Sam I Am; 01-19-2014 at 05:12 AM.. Reason: no apology necessary!
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Old 01-18-2014, 11:00 AM
 
Location: San Francisco
8,982 posts, read 10,472,334 times
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San Francisco has lots of stunning ocean views. Just so you know.

But since you're interested in the East Bay, you might check out Kensington, a little-known upscale hillside enclave adjoining Berkeley. It's very nice.

Last edited by pch1013; 01-18-2014 at 11:13 AM..
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Old 01-18-2014, 12:37 PM
 
82 posts, read 360,602 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pch1013 View Post
San Francisco has lots of stunning ocean views. Just so you know.
I know it's finding ones in top school areas in our price range that seems to be more of an issue - maybe I should have mentioned that we are ideally looking for a 4-bedroom house too.
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Old 01-18-2014, 03:01 PM
 
Location: Oakland, CA
69 posts, read 186,023 times
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I would recommend looking into the Lamorinda area which includes Lafayette, Orinda, and Moraga. Beautiful, large suburban homes that they are often nestled in the hills (to give less of a 'burb feel. The public schools are top notch (be prepared to donate $1k per kid per year to the local schools). The commute would be fairly easy to SF and the East Bay, however, if you or your spouse got a job near San Jose/Silicon Valley, you'll want to stab your eyes out within a week of dealing with the traffic. Where you work will very much determine where you'll live (based on what kind of commute the family can handle).
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Old 01-18-2014, 08:37 PM
 
2,145 posts, read 5,074,851 times
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Mill Valley, Larkspur or Fairfax in Marin; look at ferries into the city, or public transit, depending on where your employment ends up being located. If your commute were to the east bay, you could take the richmond bridge in san rafael, across to vallejo/berkeley/oakland-and it wouldn't be too bad. The schools are very good in these towns, ranking wise. And plenty of nature and vibey things; it's the lifestyle there(: Mill Valley has many homes built into the hills.

How much house you can get for your money will vary in these towns.
For east bay, you could check Piedmont, though I'm not sure about schools there.

On the Peninsula, just 20 minutes from Golden Gate Park area of SFO with very little traffic up the 101, is Pacifica-a sweet town on the coast, with a few good k-8 small schools, nice community and plenty of nature/views available. Commute to south SFO or east bay is just over the hill, as is the SFO airport [20 minutes or so]. Commute down to Silicon Valley/San Jose is somewhat of a reverse commute for part of it, and there's public transit in cities nearby to Pacifica, as well.
City of Pacifica - 50 Great Things in Pacifica

Keep in mind that sometimes smaller schools are actually able to cater more and 'differentiate' or scaffold the learning, to suit different levels of kids. So you might find more personalized instruction in a smaller school district, regardless of 'official gifted program'. [Not always, but it's possible.]

Also, if you do decide to look in Sonoma County, I recommend Sebastopol; you won't have ocean views, but it's a bucolic and pretty area of apple orchards, artists, great food, etc. just a short drive from Santa Rosa [largest city in sonoma] and the 101.

The town has numerous public charter schools-arts themed, a couple of Waldorf k-8 charters [yes, two waldorf in a town of about 7500 people] and a couple of others. I believe their regular public schools are also solid, but check great schools dot org for reviews and rankings. The commute from Sebastopol or northern Sonoma county would not be easy, though it's a great area and with your budget you'll have options.

Annadel Park area of Santa Rosa is also nice; SR school districts of Bennett Valley and Rincon Valley are considered the top districts. Sonoma town itself doesn't have the best schools overall. There's also an accelerated or gifted charter school in Santa Rosa, too. (I don't know anything about it other than that it exists), and a French/English dual immersion charter school in SR, as well. [k-8].
Here's a list of Sonoma County Charter Schools:
SCOE: Schools & Districts: Charter Schools

Seems like Walnut Creek might be a good choice, too? Though, if Tiburon is the comparable vibe to where you are now, and you want to remain in that fit, probably Orinda area of the east bay is best. If, however, you didn't get the chance to check out Mill Valley/Larkspur/Fairfax when you visited, it's def. worth researching them. Mill Valley is near Muir Woods (4 miles), Mt. Tam state park and Pt. Reyes National Seashore and the great little communities/towns that are located there. Mill Valley itself has some fantastic restaurants, foods, amenities, parks, community events, etc. It's a great little town, beautiful and so close to the city. Larkspur is also really sweet as far as location and amenities.

Good luck-you have a lot of great options!

Last edited by lrmsd; 01-18-2014 at 09:03 PM..
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Old 01-18-2014, 08:39 PM
 
2,145 posts, read 5,074,851 times
Reputation: 1666
Quote:
Originally Posted by pch1013 View Post
San Francisco has lots of stunning ocean views. Just so you know.

But since you're interested in the East Bay, you might check out Kensington, a little-known upscale hillside enclave adjoining Berkeley. It's very nice.
Yes, and Piedmont is also great-I'm not familiar with the schools at all.
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