“Affordable” Housing OptionsMay 1, 2015
With housing prices at an astronomical high, many young Bay Area couples have found themselves “priced out” of the neighborhoods in which they would like to raise their families. Though a couple may have two strong salaries and are able to scrape together a down payment to purchase a home with a price tag between $1M and $1.2M, they are often disappointed by what that amount buys in prime Silicon Valley neighborhoods. So where can these young couples find a good home? Are there local “starter” neighborhoods where a typical working couple without millions to spend can settle down and raise a family? The answer is, “YES!”
In the prized Menlo Park (Laurel Elementary) School District, the Flood Park Triangle is an often overlooked, yet affordable, neighborhood. Quaint, tree-lined streets with flat sidewalks line this charming neighborhood full of 3 bed/1 bath starter homes, often priced at just over $1M. This pocket not only offers an excellent Menlo Park address and access to great schools, but it is also an excellent commuter location given its close proximity to U.S. 101. Just west of the 101, this neighborhood is much more desirable than its Belle Haven counterpart on the other side of the highway, and also boasts close proximity to Facebook.
Another charming neighborhood that is often overlooked by starter-home shoppers is the Redwood City/North Atherton border area, just south of Woodside Road. Here, small homes can sometimes sell for under $1.25M, and these homes border the most expensive zip code in the country. Also a great commuter community with excellent proximity to I-280, this neighborhood has many homes purchased for lot value and then redeveloped, making it a wonderful investment neighborhood. Right now, a couple may take advantage of low interest rates and reasonably low prices by buying a 2 bed/1 bath starter home in this neighborhood with the option to redevelop and build a larger home on the lot later in the future.
Often left out of consideration because of its comparatively remote location, the Skyline area of Woodside also offers beautiful homes at starter prices for couples who want a mountain retreat, only minutes from Silicon Valley and 280. If you don’t mind braving the winding roads, this peaceful country setting affords buyers a much larger home for budgets between $1.2M and $1.5M than they would even dream of finding in the flat neighborhoods of Silicon Valley. Additionally, the privacy and wooded landscape give the impression of living worlds away from the stress of everyday life in the bustling tech community.
Spurred by the stunning revitalization of downtown Redwood City, we also find that young couples covet the charming bungalows of the Mount Carmel neighborhood of Redwood City. Why wouldn’t they? In addition to its close proximity to downtown Redwood City’s restaurants and nightlife, Mount Carmel features homes that boast unparalleled charm, while tree-lined streets with young moms pushing strollers give this area a community feel of a bygone age.
Other neighborhoods that occasionally offer starter-priced homes with all of the desirable qualities of the best Silicon Valley neighborhoods include Emerald Hills, North Fair Oaks, Los Trancos Woods in Portola Valley, Allied Arts in Menlo Park, and, sometimes, even College Terrace in Palo Alto.
As young couples fight their way through the maze of limited inventory and multiple offers in the hopes of locking in their dream homes before interest rates rise, we recommend keeping a close eye on these neighborhoods, which we believe may have great equity potential.