We can afford more than a shack, right?
June 18, 2009 4:39 PM   Subscribe

We're looking to buy a house within an hour or so of San Francisco, but we aren't familiar enough with the surrounding areas to even know where to start looking. Where's a good place to live? Difficulty level: under $300k.

We're a youngish couple with a baby on the way, currently living and working in downtown San Francisco. We're looking for a small home under $300k within an hour or so of San Francisco, but our knowledge of anything outside of the city is quite pitiful and we don't even know where to start looking.

So far, we've limited the search to Oakland, but the Officially Nice neighborhoods are a little too expensive, and it's too hard for us to tell which of the other neighborhoods are on the right side of the line between "Pleasant Place to Live" and "Get Shot Walking Outside".

What are some nice, affordable neighborhoods or towns for raising a small family?
posted by logic vs love to Home & Garden (15 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
We live in Richmond near El Cerrito in the north and east neighborhood, where prices are about that right now for a 3/2. We like it, we looked all over Oakland and the surrounding areas when we were house shopping and it our neighborhood is nicer here in Richmond than any we could have afforded in Oakland or surrounding.

Richmond is near 2 - 3 BART stations, and generally a 15-20 minute drive to down town with no traffic, with traffic you're looking at about an hour.

Richmond does have a stigma attached to it and occasionally there are reasons for it, but we've lived here for 3 years, we know our neighbors and we have a house with a yard we can grow our family in to. Point Richmond is certainly nicer, but we found it to be pricier when we were looking, you might have better luck now. There is an active community of home owners in North and East Richmond, we have a responsive police chief and consequently police force and a green mayor.

You might want to look at El Cerrito, Pinole, Hercules for options, although the last 2 will put you out of walking to BART range.

I'd stick with being able to access mass transit in to the city, from BART it's about 35-40 minutes in Richmond, so keep that in mind if you go more than 8-9 stops past the West Oakland station. If you're going to be driving during commute hours it's going to take you 40-80 minutes unless you're in Oakland, Berkeley, Albany, El Cerrito, Pinole, Alameda or Richmond.

Good luck! We know an excellent agent in the east bay if you're looking that we highly recommend who helped us 3 years ago.
posted by iamabot at 4:50 PM on June 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think you'll have to go east or north for this - I honestly don't think there's anything for sale for 300K between San Francisco and San Jose. Have you considered renting? Rental properties are plentiful in the area and are often more affordable.
posted by GuyZero at 6:03 PM on June 18, 2009


Pleasanton, Dublin, and Livermore seem relatively affordable, and they are within an hour of the city. Unfortunately, traffic on 580 is unpleasant, since many people do as your family plans to do and live outside of the city proper. Pleasanton/Dublin is serviced by a BART station.
posted by derogatorysphinx at 6:16 PM on June 18, 2009


Check out Gilroy. It's on the very edge of 1 hour from San Francisco (you might even have to use the HOV lane).

The housing market has dramatically dropped prices there to the point where I know for a fact that you can get a 5 bd room/4 bath, 2 car garage, 2463 sq ft 3 yr old home on a 8712 sq ft corner lot for $336,000. That was a few months ago so a similar house might be in your range today.

People are very willing to come down. If you don't mind the drive it could be good.

I doubt you'll find anything better north of Gilroy.
posted by Lord Fancy Pants at 6:33 PM on June 18, 2009


There are decent areas along the 880 corridor, San Leandro and south. The further south you go (Union City and below, I'd say) the more expensive it's going to be. Pretty much the closer you get to either Silicon Valley or San Francisco, the more expensive it's going to be.
posted by rhizome at 6:51 PM on June 18, 2009


There are houses in my neighborhood in east Oakland that are under $200, or so I'm told. My street is awesome even though I wouldn't walk more than two blocks in any direction from my house. Oakland is weird that way. Feel free to contact me if you would like more details.
posted by smartyboots at 7:35 PM on June 18, 2009


Alameda has a nice combination of (relatively) lower house prices and good schools, but $300K might be pushing it. Bay Area Home Sales in Alameda in April. This 4-bedroom house sold for $300K.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:40 PM on June 18, 2009


Check out Gilroy. It's on the very edge of 1 hour from San Francisco (you might even have to use the HOV lane).

? Gilroy is 40 miles from Cupertino and 90 miles from downtown SF. During rush hour it's at least one hour to get through the 101 and up the 85 to Cupertino, and while the 280 is fast enough it can take half an hour to get from Daly City to downtown.

As far as Richmond goes, I grew up in El Cerrito (right next to Albany Hill) in the mid-70s, and I remember my racist great uncle living nearby saying that Richmond south of the overhead BART track is the not-bad neighborhoods. Dunno actually if things have changed much in the 30 years, but I was walking around the El Cerrito flats last week and El Cerrito itself didn't seem so bad. The Berkeley Hills were as nice as always, le sigh.

BART itself terminates in Millbrae so you can also look in that area for convenient commute to downtown. Also, San Leandro's got a convenient BART connection downtown.

Check out redfin.com for your home search needs. They're the best free online tool I've found for looking at listings, though a more advanced tool like propertyshark.com might be necessary for in-depth intelligence on a property.
posted by @troy at 11:25 PM on June 18, 2009


Here's a listing in San Leandro that fills the bill.

I've walked in that neighborhood and it's reasonably nice -- almost quite nice -- though about a half mile north is the 'hood (for quasi-humor you can zoom out in redfin and see the 400 or so houses for sale in S Oakland -- it's like subprime patient zero lived there and wiped out the entire area.
posted by @troy at 11:36 PM on June 18, 2009


^ ach, I see the San Leandro listing is a short sale listing and will probably go for $350K or so. Sorry!
posted by @troy at 11:39 PM on June 18, 2009


my neighborhood's great. i live in north oakland. my area is bounded by mlk, shattuck, 51st, and alcatraz. a few blocks west, you're in rockridge. a few east, it gets hood-y. i have seen some places around $300k lately. just looked on redfin and none right now. i would expect those $300k houses are pretty intense fixers, though. you could probably find something very nice in the $400k range. anyway, if you are living in downtown SF i would not recommend moving to Gilroy or any other far-out suburb. obviously i don't know your whole situation but i would imagine that would be some rough culture shock. the thing i love about my nabe is that it's leafy and pretty (well, some houses are) and walkable to BART. it's the perfect suburban/urban mix. i see lots of families with babies around here too.
posted by apostrophe at 6:39 AM on June 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


Vallejo/Benica have plenty of houses in that price range. It's an hour vanpool or about 1 hour on the ferry to downtown SF.

Benicia is very nice overall, where there are just a few parts of Vallejo that I would consider living in, they do exist.
posted by Four Flavors at 9:55 AM on June 19, 2009


@troy

Hence the HOV lane comment.

I live in Gilroy. Work north of Sunnyvale. Takes me 40 minutes traveling with the traffic in HOV. I can make it to SF in "about an hour or so" (words taken from the top post). You drive too slow or you're stuck outside the HOV lane.

Is it really necessary to nit pick? Annoying, don't you think, in a pedantic kinda way? Why not just leave it alone?

I thought this was MeFi not Daily Kos.
posted by Lord Fancy Pants at 1:22 PM on June 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Have a look here to see real estate listings in the North Bay, and here to check the public transit coverage and travel time during commute hours from cities you're considering.
posted by harmfulray at 8:25 PM on June 19, 2009


Check out the El Cerrito Hills around El Cerrito Del Norte BART. You might want to check out the areas around MacArthur BART. There are a lot of really great pockets in that area (Temescal) and MacArthur BART is the main hub into SF from the East Bay so you'll have more trains available. Plus you'd be just a short walk from lovely Piedmont and Rockridge. I'd also look around Ashby BART on the Berkeley/Oakland border. Again, there are some nice pockets in that area, especially above the BART station. If BART isn't an issue and you want to raise your kid in a small/safe town check out Crockett. It's about a 30 minute drive to SF and a 10 minute drive to El Cerrito BART. It's a funky little town on the Contra Costa County side of the Vallejo Bridge. In the order of where I'd want to live I'd vote for: Temescal, Ashby BART area, Crockett and then El Cerrito Hills. Now's a great time to invest in a house in any of these areas. I assume you know about realtor.com. Good luck and congrats on the baby.
posted by wherever, whatever at 9:28 PM on June 20, 2009


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