Moving to the Bay Area
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Moving to the Bay Area
My husband, two and a half year old daughter and I are relocating to
the Bay Area this December, for my husband's job. We're New Yorkers
who've spent the last two years in LA, and are really, really excited to
move to such a seemingly wonderful, diverse, and WALKABLE place. Our
biggest issue though, is getting our daughter into a preschool/ nursery
school or even activity centered part time daycare, where she could
begin in January.
We understand the process is long, as it would be in
NY, and so far have scheduled tours, etc., for places where she would
begin the following September. She's already beginning part time
preschool here. I'd hate for her to miss out on nine months of
school, friends, interaction, just because we need to move on such short
notice. Does anyone know of any great places that might consider or be
able to accommodate a new child mid-year?
We have a lot of freedom in what neighborhood we choose...although it
can't be outrageous. For now what draws us most is the inner
sunset/Richmond areas, bernal heights, Berkeley, and the safer but more
citified parts of Oakland...we definitely don't want to be driving a
lot. Other than that, we may very well plan where we live around where
we can get her in school!
thanks ahead of time for any suggestions!
If you're relocating to the Bay Area, I hope you'll consider
less expensive than San Francisco, has a few destination restaurants, some
nice shopping areas, a mall with a future despite past struggles. Alameda
has a great climate, has an up-and-coming art scene, and the schools -
despite admitted funding issues - are decent to excellent (as far as I'm
concerned, the distance from ''decent'' to ''excellent'' is as wide as these
three letters: ''P-T-A''.
Alameda was formerly a base town and has been something of a hidden treasure
(some might say a backwater) but more and more young, progressive families
are moving in. Most neighborhoods are walkable. There's a rather sparse but
decent network of buses connected to AC Transit and BART, and on the West
End there is now a bike commute shuttle through the ''Posey Tube''
connecting Alameda to Oakland, BART, etc.
In terms of preschools, talk to Fuzzy Caterpillar, Little Lions, Rising
Star, KinderHuis, KinderCare and Child Unique Montessori - among many
Drawbacks (or benefits, depending on your POV)
- no big-box stores
- occasionally if a drawbridge is up over the estuary, it can be hard to
- 25 MPH speed limit even when I'm in a hurry
- public beach isn't great for swimming, and public pool arrangement is lame
- very limited range of seasons: we get spring, we get something sort of
like fall, no real winter, and summer has cool nights
You didn't say where your husband will be working but you did express some
interest in the Sunset or Richmond area of San Francisco.
If you are looking for a
family friendly and walkable area in SF I highly recommend the Laurel
Heights nieghborhood. It is flat and very walkable to everything you'll
need and I do mean everything! The only issue is the public school
situation. If you're kids are going to be in elementary school soon that is
something to consider. Definitely research the SFUSD process to see if you
can stomach dealing with the lottery. We just moved to the East Bay from
Laurel Heights in SF because we didn't want to deal with the public school
situation there. Other than that, it is heaven! Good luck with your move.
Former city girl
We were in a similar situation last year at this time, when we moved to
Berkeley too late to apply to preschools. We were lucky enough to find a
very good preschool, The Model School, that does not have a college-like
application process. They operate on a first-come, first-serve basis and new
kids can enter when space becomes available. It is on Prince at Telegraph,
in a very walkable neighborhood close to Elmwood, Whole Foods, Berkeley
Bowl, Ashby BART.
Happy Model School Parent
We live in and love the Rockridge
area of Oakland It's highly walkable
and close to BART, good restaurants, etc. though as not as
comprehensively useful as Piedmont Avenue. Admittedly it's not the
cheapest place to buy a house.
We also adore our pre-school, Room to Grow. It's a reggio inspired
program with really caring adults, who go the extra mile for the kids.
You'd be amazed what kids can accomplish given adults who are open to
seeing what they can do. The outdoor space is small, but they make
the most of every inch. You get yoga, lots of art, great science
exploration, cooking, and a gentle place that really understands kids.
It currently has openings.
Our older child who is now in elementary went there for 2 years, and
our youngest has been for six month.
If you are still looking for a preschool you should definitely be in
touch with Betsy at Griffin Nursery School. I just saw on the website
that she's still looking for girls in the morning program. We've been
delighted by Griffin in the year that we've been there. The teachers
at Griffin are warm and deeply experienced. I feel like I learn from
them all the time (and I've spent a good chunk of my adulthood
studying how kids learn!) When I share a behavior that I am trying to
resolve with my son, their answers often surprise me (in a good way!),
and help me think about the issue from his perspective in ways I could
not have otherwise. It's such a safe and sweet setting, really very
charming. We found it easily, since our close friends had sent their
kids there and were very happy with it, but some of the parents of our
son's Griffin-friends checked out many other preschools and at least
two of them have emphasized to me how lucky we were to find our way to
this special place. The big trick is that kids only go for half a day
the first year, and in the second year you can add extra hours, but I
think it's worth it to figure out other childcare for the rest of the
time you need. And yes it's not the co-op I'd always hoped we'd join
once we had kids (we're in South Berkeley and I didn't want to spend
so much time commuting to preschool, but I can understand your
interest!), and I don't know what being in a co-op is like, but I
think this is as close as you are going to get outside of a co-op.
My husband and I and our three young sons are moving to the Berkeley
area from Washington state. Does anyone have any advice as to whether
it is better to rent/lease a home for awhile before buying or just
plunge into the market. It is so much more expensive in a mortgage
payment, almost twice as much, as renting a comparable home. Any
experiences with this?
mom on the move
From someone who runs these type of numbers as part of my job,
I can say that renting clearly dominates. You would need to
know that you are buying right into the house where you want to
live for at least ~15 years for buying to make sense in this
market if you are at all risk averse. You could make a mint if
the market continues or lose your entire net worth if it does
not---this is the nature of highly leveraged investments.
However, when the house is a home for the long haul you can
ignore such changes. For your situation, renting is a great
option even if it is not quite the ''American Dream''.
We rented for 5 years and payed $2000/mo the whole time. During
that same time we watched a 3 br home go from $350,000 to
$650,000. We just closed on a home for the latter price. Homes
here will never go down so I would say to buy if you can. Even
if you paid nothing on your loan you would make money from
equity. If you need a real estate agent/ mortgage person I can
recommend ours. They are quite tenacious. There were higher
bidders on our house and they still got us in.
We bought a house in Berkeley last year after renting here for
two years. Our mortgage + property tax is 2.5 times our old
rent. It's been a very difficult adjustment and one that we wish
we hadn't made. We dream of the days when we had savings and
flexibility. Now we have a house.
It's really just a lifestyle choice. Since we were very focussed
on owning a house before we did, we selectively blinded ourselves
to what we were really getting ourselves into. Knowing what we
know now, if we could sell it and break even, we'd do it in a
second. My opinion is that this is a great area to be a renter
and invest your money in other ways.
Good luck with your decision. Either way, you're moving to a
very exciting place!
We moved to the Bay Area nine years ago and rented a home for a year before we
purchased. The Bay Area is huge with lots of different kinds of a communities,
climates! Families' needs are different. Renting gave us a chance to figure out
some of the things we wanted in a community and some of the areas we would
enjoy more than others. I have friends who bought a home in the Berkeley Hills
when they first moved here. It was beautiful with fantastic views. But they
living in the hills isolating. So they moved to the Berkeley flats near a retail
where they could walk to shopping and restaurants. When my sister-in-law's family
moved here they purchased a home in El Cerrito. She said it was the coldest place
she'd ever lived--and they moved here from Chicago! So I think if you can find a
comfortable rental home, it's a great way to go while orienting yourself to the
Take your time
As a realtor, my advice is to rent for at least 6 months before seriously
a purchase. Even if you have the means, it's difficult enough for someone who's
been here for years to determine the right setting for them--there are so many
choices between price, transportation, schools, shopping, even climate. Take your
time and explore the east bay--within a 15 minute drive of Berkeley there is a huge
range of communities. The housing market has slowed, so you aren't likely to be
priced out by waiting. If you are used to owning your home and feel like renting
taking a step down, let me assure you that most people in your situation rent, and
between BPN and craigslist, you're sure to find a space big enough for your family.
Buying property in the bay area is a huge investment, requiring a level head and
proper planning, and most importantly, time to find the right home for you. Don't
You don't say how long you anticipate being in the Bay Area,
but that's an important factor in whether you rent or buy. As
you noted, rents are a lot lower than mortgages, so if you may
be short-term, you should probably just rent. If you think
you'll be long-term, I would buy. The market is flattening a
little, making it easier for buyers, but interest rates are
rising, which means even if prices drop, you won't be able to
afford as much at a higher interest rate. Moreover, you earn
100% appreciation on 20% down, and get a great tax break.
There are obviously other factors, such as stability, to throw
into the mix, but those are the off-the-top-of-my-head
observations. I'm a licensed real estate broker and would be
happy to talk to you more about your circumstances and needs if
you'd like. Star
The comments about buying a house vs renting because ''prices
here never go down'' are misguided. Sure, those who've lived
here for 6 years and rented are sorry they didn't buy. That's
short term thinking. My family has held property in the bay
area for over 50 years and there have been several multi-year
cycles where prices declined SIGNIFICANTLY. Sure, if you're
positive you can buy and hold for 10 years, you're probably on
relatively safe ground. But what happens if you buy, and then 3
years later you or a spouse loses a job, or gets a job
transfer, etc. and you have to sell, and the market has gone
down 10% (It's happened here MANY times before). Your entire
down payment can be easily wiped out. (Don't forget that you're
GUARANTEED a 5-6% loss due to agent fees, transfer taxes and
other costs when you sell even if your house holds its purchase
value...and that 5-6% loss is on the TOTAL value...so if you
buy a house for $750,000, and you put down 20%, or $150,000,
and the market goes down 5%, your house will be worth 712,500.
You'd then pay 43,000 in selling costs, you'll owe the bank
$600,000 if you had an interest only mortgage, slightly less
after a few years with a traditional mortgage, so you're left
with 712,500-43,000-600,000=69,500, or a loss of $80,500 or 53%
of your down payment! That's with just a 5% decline! It CAN
happen, it HAS happened, and it WILL happen again. Again, if
you're sure you'll never be forced to sell within the next 10
years, go ahead and buy in...this is a wonderful, special place
to own property long term. But if you're on shaky financial
ground without the savings to support your mortgage, taxes,
insurance if you lose a job, and if you'd be stretching to get
the mortgage, and especially if you'd have to get an interest
only or a short term adjustable or one of the other ridiculous
mortgages out there, DON'T DO IT!! Just for reference, I'm
putting my own money where my mouth is. We've just sold all of
our bay area real estate, including our house, and we're
renting. Renting is NOT shameful..it's a viable financial
strategy. Good Luck.
It is true bay area prices have dropped as much as 10%. They are
down 10% now and the bidding wars are pretty much over. It's a
good time to buy if you can because list price is pretty close
to the price you will pay where 6 mos to a year ago people were
bidding $100,000 or even $200,000 over asking.
I wish I could buy here. I am obsessed with the real estate
sites and zillow (which has been so off for me). I'm just
frustrated that every home we've made an offer on has been
outbid-some by $100,000. If we could buy now we would.
Would love to own in the Bay Area
this page was last updated: Oct 18, 2013
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