Your budget is $2M. Which county do you buy in: Santa Clara, San Mateo or Santa Cruz?

Which county for your primary residence? I’m 35, married and we have a newborn. My office is in Mountain View and I’ll commute 2-3 times a week. COVID has changed things because I feel like commuting 2 or 3 times a week wouldn’t be that bad whereas I wouldn’t do a an hour commute every day.

In Santa Cruz county, specifically Scotts Valley, there are nice houses with a half an acre lot, listed between $1.2M-$1.8M. It seems like nothing in the other 2 counties can come close, when you factor lot size, views, and house quality.

I rent in Sunnyvale and am most familiar with Santa Clara County. I like Los Altos, Los Gatos, and Saratoga. But anything in those 3 cities that I would want to buy, is like $3M+. There are listings in Los Gatos and Saratoga around $2M, but much smaller, not as nice and smaller lot than Santa Cruz county. Anything that I like in Los Altos or San Mateo county seems to be $3M+.

What are the pros and cons of living in Santa Cruz county? Any reasons why I shouldn’t move there and go for the starter home in Santa Clara or San Mateo?


Personally I’d buy in the Belmont and San Carlos area. Schools are great and commute reasonable, in case you’d need to be back on the commute horse. If you are convinced you never have to commute, I’d look at East Bay area around San Ramon and Pleasanton. Cheaper and schools even better.


Thanks, I appreciate the info. I grew up in Ohio and have been in California for 4 years, so I’m not completely in-tune with the Bay Area.

The 4 cities you mentioned were not on my radar. But after a quick Zillow search, I’m intrigued.

The only East Bay city I looked at was Fremont. I wasn’t a fan of because it seemed congested and lots of cars parked on the streets. Maybe I looked in the wrong areas.

which zip code/s in Fremont?

I know someone professionally who lives in 95033 and commutes to North 1st street daily(before covid that is).

We only drove by places. My philosophy is I don’t want to waste an agent’s time if I don’t drive-by it first. I’m not sure of the zip codes. If I remember correctly, the north side of the city felt congested. I sorta liked some stuff on the south side, but the “overall value” didn’t seem right. Maybe I should look again on the south side. I know that I won’t like a street if the houses are close together and there lots of cars parked on the street.

Yes larger lot houses in areas of south Fremont than north.




Check out the links that Roy shared for some Fremont area. I used to live near Falcon drive house and that area is much better than a lot of Sunnyvale neighborhood and schools are great. Just drive by and sit at nearby park and do people watching. I also like San Carlos (but Belmont is too hilly for me personally). South Los Altos with Cupertino district is also great area with lower 2M possible. I don’t know much about Santa Cruz county.

I live in Santa Cruz County since 1998. For a year or 2 around 2004, I rented an apartment in Sunnyvale to have a place to crash when I had worked too late.
I have owned and still own a few properties between Menlo Park and Sunnyvale, but I would not want to live in them. However, I stopped working in tech in 2009.

Scotts Valley is a good choice… good commute to the valley, good police department (safer than City of Santa Cruz) and good schools.

I think I am the only one on this forum who lives in Santa Cruz. Many people fear driving 17, which can indeed be an issue if there is an accident or similar, and one is not familiar with the many back roads.


You have forgotten I live in SC for a short while. His choices feel rural :grinning: hilly with winding roads.

If it was me, I would buy in Santa Clara or San Mateo. My thoughts:

If I buy a home, I want to live in the home for long term. And it is up to me to decide on moving. On the other hand, I feel that job is more temporary. I can/have/might change jobs more often (5-7 years). And sometime employment is out of my control, such as layoffs. So I rather live somewhere central where I can have more options on employment locations. I don’t want to be force to move if my employment changes (either my choice or out of my control).

What is the most important aspects in real estate? Location, location, location. In desirable neighborhood, it is harder to purchase, easier to sell, and more appreciation. I rather get a small house in desirable location, rather than large house/lot in less desirable location. Not say Santa Cruz is not desirable. But it is further away and market is for a smaller subset of population.

But it is really up to you what is important to you.


For that price range, Belmont / San Carlos is spot on, and some good parts of San Mateo. These are all my most favorite areas, so I’m biased. :slight_smile:

Seiously though: the proximity to SF and other parts of peninsula can’t be beat. The weather’s also the best there imo. A close friend recently bought in Belmont. The view is crazy, and both SM /SC downtowns are within 10mins drive.

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Highway 17 is a nightmare. Definitely wouldn’t want to drive it daily. Santa Cruz is very isolating.
It really is outside of the BA. Emerald Hills and Redwood City can give you a rural feeling in the center of the BA… and only 30 minutes to the beach.

Definitely not in Santa Cruz, neither in Scotts Valley unless you know you are in permanently WFH. The only reason is winding road, it may look nice when you commute few times, but regular commute is horrible with back to back traffic, even on weekends.

If you need good schools, choose Belmont side.

There are pockets of willow glen, dry creek area, you can choose near Booksin school. New homes costs $3M, but some small lots costs less

Google complex, Diridon station, areas will be changing fast. There are homes nearby Rose Garden, nice looking homes

Otherwise, try to buy nice locality starter home with large 10k lot in mountain view, Sunnyvale or Santa Clara.

There are pockets of Emerald Hills area, Redwood city, you can choose.

Finally, coming to my area, Morgan Hill, schools are not that great, but homes are too good and too new. Commute to mountain view has tough 1:30 hrs during peak traffic,,

San Carlos. But you aren’t getting 1/2 acre usable land.

/ also from Ohio!

Travel often is ok. Once, after eye dilation, I drove at night back home, couldn’t see the road at all, so blindly follow the car in front speeding at 70 mph - I am used to the winding road so can drive at high speed even if I can’t see the road - highway 17 is kind of ingrained in the brain.

Doubt he is an Asian so those neighborhoods is not suitable. LG, LA, and PA are more suitable for him.

This area used to go above 2M. I guess the price went down a bit over the last year.

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LG, LA and PA , even the lowest, are not coming at 2M level.

The issue with Scott and Santa Cruz, not only traffic, but during rainy season and landslide season, entire city will be cut off from outside.

For that matter, Santa Cruz is better than Scott Valley. In case of emergency, Landslide/roadblocks are expensive lesson !

I like living tree lined, quiet plains large homes like Los Altos (expensive) kind of area or willow glen (affordable).

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South of brittan feeds into another high school that’s not as good.

Yes, though white oak area for some reason has been hotter than the Carlmont high area of san carlos. The area is less hilly + more attractive.