Looking for house with a max 2.2M budget


Nice house, but isn’t the commute to the city pretty bad from down there? Without knowing where the OP works, meaning if close to CalTrain or not, that could be a ugly drive every day into SF. No thanks. Seems like PA or as Elt1 suggested Emerald Hills in RWC might be good compromise locations. I forgot my sis lives there in Emerald Hills. It is nice, hilly with some views but I seem to recall that some said public schools were just ok or not stellar.

Yes I take caltrain to the city.

Excuse me for not being too savvy regarding the schools.

Are people living Atherton and Menlo Park mostly ignore public schools and send their kids to private school?

I guess since I’m not knowledgeable in that regard, it’s easier to just target locations with good public school.

Like you guys mentioned, depending on location my budget probably won’t buy too big of a house. I guess with in law and baby on the way, 3 bed 2 bath will be pushing it. But given the current market, if we want location I guess we will have to sacrifice.

All of our relatives live in the peninsula, so we’ll probably not consider east bay (as mentioned above, west san jose up to millbrae).

It’s a great learning experience hearing what you guys think of certain properties, some active listings in PA below

1 https://www.redfin.com/CA/Palo-Alto/1850-Bryant-St-94301/home/1374374

This is out of our budget, but is this the best location in PA? (old PA / professorvile)

2 https://www.redfin.com/CA/Palo-Alto/1404-Harker-Ave-94301/home/1210618

We’ve been to this house before, although it’s a 5k lot, but the orientation of the lot is very strange, don’t feel like having much privacy (and it’s a really small house).

3 https://www.redfin.com/CA/Palo-Alto/2320-Princeton-St-94306/home/962807

Besides the area north of Stanford, what about to the southwest?

4 https://www.redfin.com/CA/Menlo-Park/409-Central-Ave-94025/home/1285879

I only know that west menlo park is the desirable area, not familiar this part of the city (so close to east PA). But this one has a separate in law unit

5 https://www.redfin.com/CA/Mountain-View/933-Barbara-Ave-94040/home/1561569

Is this one of those crappiest house you can buy in a good location you guys are talking about?
We have been inside, the photos look much nicer than the actual house. So for something like this one would put 100k to renovate (probably take 3 months?)


1 https://www.redfin.com/CA/Palo-Alto/1850-Bryant-St-94301/home/13743741

This house will sell for more than $3M. The listing agent is Deleon. He is well know for listing well below market price. You can look at sold houses on Redfin to get better idea on actual sale prices.

2 https://www.redfin.com/CA/Palo-Alto/1404-Harker-Ave-94301/home/12106181

Very nice and affordable, for your budget. Just be aware that it is $1900/sq ft. Whereas in south PA, you probably can get $1300-$1500/sq ft. And in other cities, you can get $800-$1000/sq ft. I did recommend buying the worst/smallest house in best neighborhood. This house is fits that statement.

3 https://www.redfin.com/CA/Palo-Alto/2320-Princeton-St-94306/home/962807

Again, this house fits worst/smallest house in good city/school. However, I personally do not like College Terrace neighborhood. Because it enclosed, by El Camino, office parks/Page Mill, Stanford, and Stanford housing. The area to southwest is Stanford housing.

4 https://www.redfin.com/CA/Menlo-Park/409-Central-Ave-94025/home/12858792

I have friend that lives in this area. It is great location. You can walk to downtown PA. I believe elementary school is good. But middle and high schools are not so good. You need to double check on the schools.

5 https://www.redfin.com/CA/Mountain-View/933-Barbara-Ave-94040/home/15615693

Great location and schools. MV has 2 excellent elementary schools: Huff and Bubb. I believe this house goes to Bubb. The concern with MV is that they might rezone the elementary school district. Currently, the school boundaries are not contiguous, believe it or not. There is a part of not-so-desirable part of MV that gets bus’ed to Bubb. If there is rezone, it can actually be good for Bubb; but any rezoning can have unknown.

This house is right at border of Los Altos and Mountain View high schools boundary. Both schools are not the best, but both are well above average.

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It really depends on the schools, but generally people think Menlo Park schools are good. Laurel and Encinal are supposed to be good for Elementary. Hillview is good for Middle school. You might want to talk to some parents around there (hang out at a park maybe depending on your kids ages) and see what people think. I know someone who was not happy with Las Lomitas and hadn’t heard good things about La Entrada. Everyone I’ve met with kids at Hilllview has been positive about it (plus it was recently built, so should be updated).

The south half of Atherton is zoned to various Menlo Park schools. North part is zoned to Selby lane which is not a great school. But most of Atherton is out of your price range, so you might as well stick with Menlo Park.

Emerald Hills has great views, windy streets, and given both of your commutes, I’d probably stick to the flatlands to cut off that 15-20 minutes unless you really want the hills. But the schools are a mixed bag.

I would rank the princeton house higher than the rest. It’s in college terrace that is right next to stanford and it will never be out of favor. Lot size is reasonable and from the pictures it looks like there is a separate unit in the garage with bath (probably no kitchen, but for in-laws it’s fine). The description says it comes with approved plans for expansion so it’s a nice option to have.

From my observation it looks like the prices in Palo Alto are getting a little soft lately due to the increase in inventory, especially on the higher-end with lots of new constructions getting onto the market. Now might be a good time to get into Palo Alto if that’s where you want to buy. Compared to the price of the house the cost to do expansion is relatively small so you always have that option as long as the lot size isn’t too small if you are not satisfied with the size of the current house. For your level of income, coming up with the cash to do expansion shouldn’t be a problem even if you empty your savings on downpay.

Harker location is very good, but it’s a smaller lot and it’s on a no-street-frontage lot (not sure if it can be called a flag lot in this case since the access is through a shared driveway in the back). I wouldn’t want to buy that but I could be wrong.

Your income level is very high, and eventually you would want to live in a place that matches your income. I know you set a limit of 2.2M but you probably can afford a higher number if you want. Buying a small house on a decent lot in Palo Alto seems to be the right choice for your situation. If later you feel more comfortable investing more into the house you can expand or rebuild, or just enjoy the small house and the feeling of financial security from your savings. The situation you want to avoid is to buy in a less desirable area then be forced to move later because your under-bought on the area due to fear of making a large commitment on housing even though you had the means to.

Another thing is Palo Alto is in a central location between south bay and SF so if your future employment location changes it’s usually still ok that you aren’t forced to move because of that. I live in (South) Palo Alto and was in a similar situation like yours 10 years ago that I worked in the south bay and wife worked up in the city. We toured up and down the peninsula and met our agent in Foster City in her open house then she suggested that we just look in Palo Alto and nowhere else, What we could afford at that time was entry level in Palo Alto (around 1 mil at that time, similar to your 2.2 mil now), but the agent convinced us that we should just buy and be set, which we did and never looked back. Soon after we bought my wife switched her job to Palo Alto and started riding her bike to work for her 15-min commute. Based on my anecdotal experience, it’s easier to switch job from sf to south bay (SC county including PA/MV area) than the other way around, so Palo Alto is more likely to be future-proof in that regard than say, Millbrae. Commuting by train everyday to the city takes a lot out of you, which my wife did for 3 years when we lived in Milpitas before we moved to Palo Alto. It’s very stressful if you have kids to pick up after the train ride (and traffic to beat), and the time spent on the train is a big chunk of daylight hours of your life that could otherwise be spent with family.


agree with maluka that the Palo Alto Caltrain stop is a bit better than the Menlo Park stop as the bullets stop there more often. But MP has a nice feel to it.

Pinch me. I work in a world of less than $50m/year average household income and they constantly harp about “the rich”. I empathize but don’t pity them. They would be appalled at this thread. They outnumber you 10 to 1. Their SJW advocates would toast you over a roaring fire.

The revolution may yet come after all.

Who with that kind of income comes to an anonymous internet forum to seek advice? Is this what they teach in college now days? Are we so becoming like Ancient Rome before the fall?

These are Encinal/Hillview zoned (not necessarily large enough with inlaw, but also way lower than $2.2M):

Close to train tracks, a lot of apartments and duplexes, but walking distance to the Caltrain and to Encinal, and M-A High school:

Father from tracks, walkable to Caltrain/Encinal/Menlo Atherton

A bit more secluded, but off a major street which has a bike route. Still bikable to all all schools and Caltrain is walkable:

If we charged for advice would it be ok for them to ask then?

Vallejo houses 3/2 with 1800 sq ft appear to be around $350K plus or minus some. Income $50K, not too much income tax. Ratio 7:1

Menlo Park houses are $2.5M, their income is $430K but taxes will eat up 40% of that=258K. Ratio is 10:1. Granted that food costs don’t follow that ratio, but…

Seems to me the situations aren’t all that different. The cost of living in Menlo Park is simply higher than Vallejo’s by a lot.

tjh, a little cheer and welcome ok? We’re just starting up and are glad to have people looking for advice. Keeps our minds off the work we need to be doing instead. :slight_smile:

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No need to be unnecessarily harsh or cynical. The income/price numbers are indeed high if you compare it to national average (or even bay area average), but we are talking about starter homes 3bd 2ba under 1500 sq ft. What’s wrong with a regular guy (I am simply guessing) seeking advice from other regular guys on an anonymous forum? 430k household income in a 2.2M house isn’t all that special in silicon valley (above average of course, but still very common), and it’s definitely not enough to support a rich man’s lifestyle even if one wants to.

We might be becoming like Ancient Rome before the fall, but the clue is more in the events like the Orlando killing than bay area housing prices. The innovations that are rapidly coming out of the area is astonishing, and it’s not showing any sign of a slowdown yet. I, for one, am eager to see self-driving cars on roads as quickly as possible.

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I remember someone from Malaysia saying he could eat there for only $1 meal–not the “I got it from Food for the Poor” meal, but food truck meal. I found it interesting that the costs of living could be so vastly different. I think at the time, our food trucks were $5.

I think of the Bay Area and NYC in comparison to the rest of the US in a similar way. These areas are 10x as expensive as some midwestern town. Maybe more. But instead of the “rich vs. poor” thing, it’s more interesting to think about it in terms of when and where it makes sense to outsource work to. For example, if I want to do manufacturing in the USA, the Bay Area is the absolute last place I should be looking for workers. But the mid-west would be great. On the other hand, if you’re designing software, finding your workers in the Bay Area may very well be worth the extra cost if you have plenty experienced ones to choose from. If you’re Amazon, and you want to set up a warehouse that can offer same-day delivery, you want to find the cheapest places to live within an hour of the most expensive places.


This is my personal take on this site. This site was formed, thanks to Manch, as a continuation of a community for people interested in real estate, either for current owners/investors or, as in the case of the referenced OP, a potential buyer. We may occasional delve into chinese food battles but real estate is king here. And with real estate being king here, it would be natural for one to ask real estate questions. No one truly expects to get the one and only correct answer on here but when one has thoughts of putting down a pretty penny on some of the most expensive real estate in the country, well, it may just make sense to go hog wild on the data mining. One can never, ever, have too much data. You can quote me on that one.

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Pitchforks are banned on this forum. :slight_smile: Should have written it up on the founding document…

Even people making 50K a year is ultra high income for people from coal country West Virginia. It’s just a matter of comparisons.

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Now going back to the 2.2M question, Palo Alto is indeed a great town. But if @guile wants something more ready-made and doesn’t want to bother with constructions and contractors, San Carlos would be a great choice too. For 2M I believe one can get at least a 2k feet house on a pretty big lot. Like this house:


or this one:


I seriously looked into San Carlos 6 years ago. I bid and lost. I remember the elementary and middle schools are all great. For high school, houses north of Brittan feed into Carlmont, which is better than Sequoia. (Do double check though.)

Does the baby bullet stop at San Carlos station?

San Carlos is not as prestigious as Palo Alto, and much lesser known, but your money will go much farther.

I have also heard that Carlmont is excellent, and I don’t believe that Sequoia is even the best of the Sequoia school district. Sequoia’s only draw is the IB program. If I had to choose, since I’m not into the IB, I’d rank it Carlmont -> M-A or Woodside HS (not sure which is better) -> Sequoia.

Caltrain: http://www.caltrain.com/schedules/weekdaytimetable.html

San Carlos has more options going south, but fewer going north than PA or Hillsdale. (I guess that’s true of Menlo Park as well… )

PS: You can always apply for a transfer in the high school district. It’s a lottery–you have no guarantees though.

With 2.2M budget, you should look at Lynbrook neighborhood than Prospect if you are interested in West San Jose. You can search open houses in Lynbrook boundary at Redfin. Prospect rating used to be 7 before common core test inflated school ratings. Lynbrook is comparable to Monta Vista, Gunn, Saratoga, Harker and Mission San Jose in terms of top college admission and it is top10 STEM school in nation. So is Miller middle.

7 Bayview is pending…looks like you are looking at competitive well priced houses. .time to start making offers