“Silly”con Valley Neighborhoods


More on the saga so far.

This week we spent three days crawling around neighborhoods looking for places that fit the criteria:

  • They are livable – as in, we can walk our dogs in the evening without fear for our lives.
  • We can afford it – We do have an upper limit to what is affordable, after all. I don’t have early Facebook equity.
  • The commute doesn’t completely suck – Probably the hardest of all. The further away you get, the more affordable it is, but this is inversely proportional to the suck factor of the commute.

On Monday we ruled out a few neighborhoods in San Jose. The fear factor and the feel of some of the neighborhoods was pretty bleak. We also ruled out Gilroy and Morgan Hill. Yes, some affordable options there, but my commute would be tied to Caltrain, and it is a LONG drive for when that wouldn’t work.

But we did find some downtown areas that were well within the “livable” and “affordable” category. And it would be possible to commute by bicycle if I wanted, a bonus!

Tuesday we went up the east bay. Started in Milpitas. Very little inventory, (but lots, and I do mean lots of foreclosures) but every neighborhood we looked at was ratty and run down. Likely due to the reduced tax receipts caused by all the foreclosures (people in foreclosure are not paying their property taxes either). A real turn off.

Further up the east bay, we checked a few places in Fremont. The problem here is the neighborhoods were squiffy. Some really gnarly neighborhoods that made me want to drive through quickly, and some that were in the process of gentrification. But that process was not far enough along to make them attractive. Plus the commute from here is getting egregious.

Last place on the east bay was to check out the Hayward/Castro Valley area. A colleague lives up there, and recommended it. Claimed it took him 45 minutes to get to the office. cough He must never do it in the commute hours. It takes 45 minutes with no traffic and being at the speed limit on the freeways. Big negative.

We also went up the peninsula. Some people urged us to look at Redwood City. The few (very few) affordable places were east of El Camino Real. Very rough neighborhoods. Of course, west of El Camino Real are nice, but it starts at $1M and goes up. Apparently that part of Redwood City is the slums of Woodside.

Lastly, there was one house in “Menlo Park” that met our price target. But this finger of Menlo Park is just east of East Palo Alto. EPA often fights for the “Murder Capitol of America” with DC. Yes, EPA is changing, but it is still not a neighborhood to covet.

The Net Results

The trip was a success. We accomplished:

  • We will be able to buy something that is affordable (if we hold our nose and not think about the price).
  • There are some neighborhoods that are suitable and should be in our price range (yay!)
  • We now know what we don’t want. The fact that we were able to cross a lot off our list will help tremendously when we are actually shopping.
  • The move, while scary, is not terrifying. Yes, it will be tough, and yes, we will give up a lot to move back, but it is going to be do-able.

Now to the next phase. Getting ready to sell our house. We will likely need to downsize a lot of the detritus of our lives. It’s as good a time as any to streamline, so they say.

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By geoffand

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January 2014

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